December 2010 Archives


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The inspiration for this blog is that Erica and I consider ourselves adventurous eaters and drinkers, and we wanted to share some of those adventures. In that vein, I'm intrigued by a new social networking site that's started up very recently: Untappd. It's a social networking site for drinkers and lets you see what beers your friends are having. The site is optimized for mobile browsers, to make it easier to check in your drinking while out and about. There are, I'm sure, pros and cons to sharing that information with the world (and the site does let you take your profile private, which is good, but by default that setting is off and anyone can see what (and how much) you've been drinking). But the "if you're drinking this you might like these" recommendations it's been offering up are pretty intriguing. If you sign up, I'm "fuzzy".

All I Want Is a Perfect Cappuccino, Just Like the Ones I Had as a Youth, Is That Too Much to Ask?

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You can't try everything on every menu at every restaurant, so it's good to have indicator dishes that you can try out to see if they meet your tastes or specifications, I think. I heard somewhere, for example, that you should always get a tamago nigiri at a new sushi restaurant. The cooking of an omelet isn't, of course, exactly related to the handling of raw fish, but it's just complicated enough that if a restaurant can't handle this staple of Japanese cuisine then you might want to be wary of the rest of their offerings. (That's the theory, anyway.)

Aside: This is the same idea, by the way, behind Van Halen's (in)famous "no brown M&Ms" tour contract provision. Rather than being evidence of rock star diva-ness, the line was a test. If a venue didn't read the contract carefully enough to handle this odd-but-easily-accomplished request then it was a warning sign that they might not have complied with more serious sections of the contract, like those dealing with electrical power or the load-bearing requirements of the stage.

Eating at so many different kinds of restaurants, as we lucky big-city dwellers do, I don't have any universal indicator foods. But I'll definitely always go for something called a 'specialty of the house' or named after the place itself. "You say this is what you're good at? Bring it on!"

These musings are inspired by a cappuccino I had this morning. Cappuccinos are, in themselves, my favorite coffee drink, but they're also my test beverage for a coffee place. Anybody can make drip coffee, and espresso is usually a push-button affair on most modern machines. But a cappuccino actually requires mixing some elements in some semblance of care. A properly made cappuccino is a delicate balance of the earthly espresso, the sweetness of the milk, and the airiness of the foam. The biggest flaw in most places' cappuccinos, in my opinion, is a more-is-better philosophy that leads to huge, milky cappuccinos that might as well be a latte-with-a-touch-of-foam. Sometimes I can tweak my order by asking for a "dry" cappuccino (if the barista is worthy of the name and knows what that means), but at Starbucks, at least, I've given up and I just get macchiatos that are themselves over-milked for what that drink should be, which then approaches my cappuccino ideal.

All this, just because I had a bad cappuccino at the new coffee shop in my office building this morning, which doesn't bode well for coffee runs of the future. Oh well.

Piwo grzane: Hot Beer with Syrup

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Our friend Kenner just returned from a trip to Poland with intriguing tales of heated alcoholic beverages and as the weather chills here as well those are sounding very attractive. We're already fans of toddies, Glögg, Quelque Chose, etc. so we're very open to the whole concept. One of Kenner's finds was a warm mead, which sounds great. The only problem with mead is that the same word is applied to a lot different things, so I feel like we'd need to find the same brand or style to make sure we were trying the same thing.

The other drink he described was both more re-creatable, but had a certain dangerous sound. Piwo grzane--hot beer, with a flavored syrup, that you drink through a straw. Let's break that down for a second.

Beer. Yay! We like beer.

Hot beer. Huh. I know I just said we like Quelque Chose, but to an American palatte warm beer sounds odd, and saying the words "hot beer" out loud just sounds wrong.

... with a syrup. Here again--we drink plenty of fruity beers--lambics and fruit-flavored beers, but we tend to prefer the tart-er ones and there's something about adding a syrup that sounds a little weird.

... that you drink through a straw. You drink soda with a straw. But Kenner was very insistent--it's better through a straw.

OK, well we were ready to give it a try. Kenner said there were lots of variations--different beers, flavored syrups, etc (but the straw was important!) but that they had liked Okocim lager with raspberry syrup.

Our local liquor store didn't have any Okocim (this being Chicago, I'm sure I can find some eventually) so I thought I'd go with a tasty but simple lager and picked up a six-pack of Red Stripe.

We already had some Torani Raspberry Syrup, which is mostly sugar-water with flavor, but our local grocery store happened to have real Polish Polonaise Raspberry Syrup (Syrop Malinowy), which is made with raspberry juice. Our cashier gave us the thumbs up as we were checking out. "Very good with just a little water," she said. Noted.

Supplies for Piwo grzane (Hot Beer with Syrup)

The actual preparation was dead easy. I poured two bottles of lager into a big Pyrex measuring cup, heated it up in the microwave for about three and a half minutes, then poured it out into two pints glasses. I gave a healthy pour of raspberry syrup into each glass -- which fizzed up and mixed nicely on its own. And then two straws.

The verdict: very nice. Warming, tasty. Maybe a little too easy to drink fairly quickly. Definitely an addition to our winter-drink list.

Piwo grzane: Hot Beer with Syrup

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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