February 2009 Archives

(From a Private Communique, dated IX XXX MMVIII, found in memorabilia of the
Aloisius Bartholomew Reginald Masterson-Smythe collection. I report with minimal editing; the remainder of the entry follows.)

The Macanudo 1968 Caper
part the third

        Wreaths of smoke crowned our heads and filled the room with opulent aromas. Hasim and I nodded our heads as we bandied. This strange Macanudo cigar left us puzzled: was our long-time foe truly making a gesture of reconciliation, or had the Einrich the Teuton crafted a masterly deception?

        Much debate on either side ensued; we passed the cigar between us, so as to dilute any Frankish poisons it might contain. The cigar seemed to be an innocuous puzzlement.

        "Curious," observed my Arabian friend, "this is at once reminiscient of both old library upholstry and apricots, although that not an unpleasant taste."

        It seemed a strange comparison to me, but when he handed the cigar back to me I pondered his words and found myself nodding in agreement. We exchanged the Macanudo at a mad pace, each trying to understand what was happening and yet avoid any Teutonic poison slipped in by the treacherous Einrich.

        "Einrich's great fondness for fine cigars is not yet so well-grown as his penchant for treachery. I am uneasy that he should not have had some ulterior motive. I begin to worry that he might be... sincere."

        I was nodding in agreement when I exclaimed "Hold! The bitterness is intensifying, and the flavors now are of old stale muffins-- the draw waxes tight! What treachery is this?"

        We smoked more slowly, wondering if this was at last the vile poison we had feared. Yet, the clouds of smoke were not miasmic-- merely too bitter for pleasure.

        I noticed that the cigar had begun to run a little bit, but took a few more puffs anyway. The strength began to mature, and it was soon clear that the only poison in the cigar was a deceptively high amount of nicotine.

        "This begins to bore me, my friend. Clearly it is not poisoned. There is a bit more flavor here toward the end, yet it is the exact same flavor. The acridity comes and goes, the dry taste sometimes more reminiscent of smoking the box instead of the cigars inside of it."

        I nodded. "The burn has rectified itself, the run is corrected. And yet, my head begins to spin a little-- indeed, Hasim, this is far stronger tobak than I had suspected!"

        Hasim nodded sagely, his Arabian eyes drooping thoughtfully.

        "I admit that there is some craft here," I said "yet, it seems to me that this humdrum Macanudo-- though disguised with some art-- remains a naive smoke to the end."

        Scratching my chin, I motioned for my dwarf to bring the tobacco-jar. Long we three talked, planning how best to extend our goodwill to Einrich, who had not poisoned us after all. Peddigrew the albino dwarf brought sherry, and we made merry long into the perfumed night.

        "Soon," I thought to myself, "Soon I shall have my own revenge."

Once in a while, the gentleman makes his way to the ale house with every intention of producing a review of something he encounters there.  It is only the next morning when he finds that his memories of the previous evening are as blurry as the one photo he managed to take at that time.
So it is with the amazing Damnation23.  A strong Belgian Ale, triple-aged in new oak barrels, it packs a whopping 10%ABV, which may account for this morning's bleariness.  Fortunately, I did take a few notes.

This beer presents with a moderate head which quickly dissipates.  One sip makes the reason for this clear: it is a powerful, almost thick ale, one which you could stand a fork up in.  Initial taste is very sweet, but surprisingly not in a cloying way - the taste is very pleasant.  It finishes easily, with a bright and almost tangy end note.  The expected alcohol bite is not apparent in the least, even if its presence is made clear in other ways.

All in all, this ale is a tour de force from one of the region's best-renowned microbreweries.  I plan to do further research this evening and perhaps the one after.

I know it's out of season, but the infamous and controversial Gypsy Blues Bar still has the Lagunitas Imperial Red Ale on tap, so of course I've been drinking it.  Those who have missed out on the sheer deliciousness of imperial and double red ales need to reexamine their priorities.  Unlike plain, boring old reds, these guys pack a whallop full of hops, malty sweetness, and alcohol.  Lagunitas' contribution is no exception: those guys know what they're doing.

Not many beers on tap get talked about here, so I should warn you that it's certainly not the same set of circumstances in which I typically taste.  I was in a noisy bar and my potent pint was in a frosty glass.  I didn't pour it myself, so I didn't have any control over how the head came out.  With that in mind, here's my happy review.

This beer pours a rich, bronzed red.  It's a dark red, maybe even a mahogany, but it's clear, bright, and well-filtered.  In fact, it gleams like a glass full of delicious rubies when it sits there in front of you, tantalizing and teasing with its off-white, healthy head.  The beer was very cold, so I couldn't get a lot of smell out of it, but there was definitely a sweetness and a healthy dose of hops.

Overloaded with delicious sweet, malty flavors, this beer has a thick, rolling mouth feel that belies its glittering red clarity.  And lest one fear that the sweetness overwhelms, be assured that a spicy, refreshing hoppiness balances the malt with a large friendliness that transforms this big beer into something seductively quaffable.  My mouth waters when I think of visiting the Gypsy, contributing to its positive effect on our community, and ordering a pint of the Imperial Red.  In fact, I tremor with terrible anticipation of the day that the keg runs dry and I'm forced to wait until Fall for more of this lovely stuff.  Really.  Don't go there and order this---leave it all for me!

A gentleman of leisure may certainly enjoy cooking, but as the lifestyle tends to lead one in many different and lackadaisical directions, with the cultivation of many different hobbies and interests, I suspect that there are relatively few who truly learn to master the art and science of the kitchen.  This is why, my friends, it is so important to cultivate friendships with experts in various fields of leisure and gastronomy: what we lack the willpower to do, we can have others do for us, and then we simply make up the difference by giving them the canvas of our palettes upon which they may paint their culinary masterpieces.

Such was the case recently, when I had the distinct pleasure of visiting the rustic home of one of the fine cooks from the kitchen of Elements Tapas Bar & Lounge out in the scenic Applegate Valley, where guests were pried open and then filled to the brim with delicious cuisine.  I had the foresight to bring with me a couple bottles of Bison Farmhouse Ale, which I am happy to report tastes far better than that original bottle of mine seemed to suggest.  After finishing breakfast and the first bottle, we all sat around stuffed and groaning, while the cook told us, "Nobody leave!  I'm going to start working on the next meal."

So how does one make friends with chefs?  And should one, really?  Are the stories really true?  Yes, chefs and cooks tend to be crazy, maniacal people, but they are also artists.  It's just that they're forced to be artists at extremely fast paces, repeating the same processes over and over again.  They're usually delightfully quirky and many of them are eager to cook in their off hours, as well.  One head cook once told me that every morning before heading in to the restaurant, she cooks a gourmet meal for her boyfriend, and that in the several years they'd been together, she'd striven hard to avoid repeating her dishes.  Can you imagine that?  A different gourmet meal every day!  Maybe I should change the title of this entry to "Marry a Chef and Get All The Food You Want."

Well, one of the culinary delights that I had on this most recent trip was goetta, a savory, meaty oatmeal dish somewhat similar to a cross between meatloaf and breakfast sausage.  I've looked around on the web and found a number of recipes for this delicious treat, but here's the one that I was given.

1 lb. ground pork
1 lb. ground beef
2 1/2 cups steel-cut oats
8 cups water
2 bay leaves
3 tsp salt
1 onion

First, chop the onion, then brown it with the meat in a large pot.  Once it's all browned, add the water and all the other ingredients.  Boil for two and a half hours, then pour into loaf pans and let cool.  I suppose after cooling, it's set into a sort of loaf, which you can then slice and fry until browned.  Serve with ketchup or maple syrup, poached eggs, and toast.  Plus, it keeps well when frozen.  Enjoy!

Fantôme Hiver

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I was overjoyed to taste the Fantôme Hiver, a delicious winter saison straight from Brasserie Fantôme in Soy, Belgium.  The brewmaster, Danny Prignon, has a reputation in the beer world for coming up with strange and unique brews, and his seasonal line has a different recipe each year.  The Fantôme website is in French, which I do not speak, but from what I'm able to gather, these seasonal brews are typically seasoned with lime, camomile, apples, and even juniper.  I didn't read that list before trying the beer, by the way, and lime is one of the flavors I really wanted to pull out of this, but I just couldn't believe it.

This beer is outstanding.  It underlines all of the yeast, cloudiness, and funk that gives the saison style its charm.  It pours a cloudy, flaky golden color with a thick, white head that really wants to stay around until the last sip.  It has that full, meringue-like quality that many fine Belgian ales possess.

There's a powerful, yeasty aroma to the beer.  Hints of some sort of near-citrus, perhaps lemongrass, and an underlying sweetness also tempt those nostrils lucky enough to grab a whiff of this wonderful brew.

The flavor is full and funky, with notes of coriander and maybe some hints of licorice or anise.  Maybe.  There's also a tart, bitter flavor dancing about in there that must be the aforementioned lime.  Perhaps lime zest?  And like all good saisons, it speaks of earth and substance.  It's a really remarkable beer, and I wish I could drink this one every day.  However, like most saisons that I've tried, I suspect it would go much better with food than on its own, which just makes me want to get more of it and drink it with every meal.


Hand-crafted hot buttered rum

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Hot buttered rum has long been a favorite wintertime libation.  Recently I've noticed that many of my otherwise-worldly peers and acquaintances are not aware of this worthy warm-up, and it would be tragic if such knowledge were to pass into antiquity.  As I prepared to write this article, I was somewhat concerned that the time for it had passed as hot buttered rum is traditionally considered to be something of a holiday beverage.  On the other hand, the local weather report calls for snow on Monday (is there a better day for foul weather?) so I am somewhat more assured that now is as good a time as any other.

For the neophytes, hot buttered rum is a sweet and spiced beverage which as the name implies contains butter and rum, and is served hot.  A brief word of warning: alcoholic beverages served warm are much more potent much more quickly than their chilled brethren, so do start gradually if you have not previously enjoyed such a beverage.  Incidentally, this is one of the reasons sake is traditionally served hot (the other being that sake is only palatable when hot), but I digress.

The typical preparation of hot buttered rum consists of three components: rum, hot water, and "rum batter" which contains all that makes this drink so special.  While rum batter can typically be found at your local package store in small plastic tubs, my personal and somewhat extensive experience has been that quality varies from excellent, to highly-overprocessed (no, it is not called "hot-margarined rum"), to get-a-jackhammer, and all points in between. Therefore, I will offer a recipe for the basic ingredients, and encourage all and sundry to rumbatter.jpgexperiment with variations, substitutions, etc.  Show this recipe to your father or grandfather and he will doubtless exclaim that I have left this or that out etc., as recipes for rum batter are as varied, traditional, and heartfelt as those for pie crusts, except that men of all walks of life tend to be more profane in their expressions of opinion on such matters - so be prepared.  Keep in mind that what is offered here is merely the foundation upon which you are expected to build. 

In keeping with the premise of this site, it's worth pointing out that making a batch of rum batter takes approximately one minute by any gentleman worthy of the name, and a batch is sufficient for many an enjoyable evening by the fireplace.  Hot buttered rum is an excellent companion to a nice pipe or cigar tobacco, particularly those varietals which have hints of chocolate or berries.  It is, in all ways, a fine and very warming nightcap to counter the dark and cold of midwinter.

The Recipe:
1 lb dark brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoon ground cinammon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 pinch salt
1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
1/4 C heavy cream (or half and half, or milk if need be)

Combine dry ingredients first, then add wet ingredients and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Seal any unused batter thoroughly and store in the refrigerator.  Serves 10-20.

Pour desired amount of un-spiced rum into a large coffee mug.  Add 2-3 heaping teaspoons of rum batter and mix well (will be slightly lumpy).  Add boiling water until desired concentration is achieved, and stir until all ingredients are dissolved.  Find a warm fire and enjoy.
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