Friday, May 18, 2012

Ballast Point Tasting

Happy American Craft Beer Week!  

This is THE week to drink local beer and praise brewers for all their hard work.  This Monday the Golden Gopher Beer Society was host to Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits from San Diego.  We sampled a ton of beers!  Aside from their classics like the Pale Ale, Big Eye IPA, and the Calico Amber, they brought along some specialty high-flavor brews. Here are two of my faves:

San Salvador
Saison Farmhouse Ale
7.5% ABV

Brewed with local white sage, curacao, and elderflower, this Saison is a pleasant balance of malt and earthy grassiness.  It reminded me of Bootlegger's Chocolate Mint porter, the herbs giving a fresh aroma and a tingly mouth feel.

Tongue Buckler
Imperial Red Ale
10% ABV
107 IBU

Man, oh man.  I am in love with Imperial Styles.  They pack a punch, and the Tongue Buckler is no exception.   A fruity, malty explosion with a serious resiny hop backbone.  I swear to you, to me it smelled like Haribo Gummi Bears. Yum!

So what's the deal with Imperial Styles?  

Think high.  Brewers bump up the hops for high bitterness, but then round it out with more malts, making it high alcohol (whee!) with a ton of flavor.  What's an IBU?  It's an International Bittering Unit, or a measure of the bitterness in beer, a scale from 0 to 100.  The next time you find yourself in the beer section at the liquor store, keep that in mind when you want to try a new IPA.  A great super bitter ale is Moylan's Hopsicle Imperial Ale, or Green Flash Palate Wrecker, both with 100+ IBUs.

Ballast Point Brewing is a mere 16 years old, growing from its origins at Home Brew Mart (built in 1992), and has taken the San Diego beer community by storm.   Ballast Point is available in many pockets of the country: Boston, New York City, and of course San Francisco, L.A., even internationally in Japan and the Philippines.  Come to the Golden Gopher for a few pints of Sculpin or Wahoo Wheat, and take home some bottles from 8th Street Bottle Shop.  Many thanks to Sales Reps Matt Wilson and Laura Slayter for leading the tasting.


Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
10051 Old Grove Road
San Diego, CA 92131

"Real beer lovers, making real good beer." 

Friday, May 11, 2012

What Makes a Stew?

3-lb Young Rabbit

What Makes a Stew? or My Relationship to Meat

Today I was walking down Pico back to my car, amidst the flurry of the Fashion District, and I remembered the first occasion I cooked rabbit. My birthday always falls around Easter, so I made the morbidly-fascinated decision to serve rabbit at my party.  (See previous post for pics.)

At the time I was working at the now closed Fleur de Lys in Monterey Park, which is predominantly Chinese.  I asked around, and the most common response was, "I don't know, a pet store?"  I told one of my regulars Vivian about my conquest for rabbit for dinner.  Three days a week Vivian would come in, order a Double Cappuccino, (extra hot) and try a scone.  She often had comments like, "Not hot enough" or "The scone didn't crumble like it should."  Her daughter was a Pastry Chef in New York.   She was the only one who had an answer to my rabbit question.  "I think I know a place."

She ended up calling me on Saturday afternoon, and told me "there is a market in South LA that sells live ducks.  They might have rabbit."  I wrote down the address, thanked her, and hung up the phone dumbfounded.  "Oh my God," I thought, "She thinks I want a pet?  Does she think I was going to buy the rabbit and kill it?"  Loads of questions ran through my mind.  I wondered what the tradition was at her house, or maybe what was inherited from her family's past.

Binta at the CFCA in Niamey avec poulet
When I was in Niger in 2007 I helped pluck and butcher two freshly-slaughtered chickens.  It was curious, to stare at a chicken (or rabbit) carcass and empathize, feeling like I myself am just bones and meat.  (The year before that I had seen Bodies: The Exhibition in Boston.)  It was humbling and disturbing, to be able to see humans as animals.  Along the same lines, even though the act of turning the "animal" to "meat" is quite shocking, it is also quite human.  It seems to be a challenge in our food culture for people to recognize that fact. 

Perhaps that's what you get living the product-oriented way of life.  "Don't show me the dirty work.  I only want to see the prize." 

And do you know what my family ate for Easter in 2011? Roasted Rabbit.  The tradition lives on. 


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Cinco de Mayo: Fiesta on the Brink of Summer

Cinco de Mayo: Fiesta on the Brink of Summer

Reennactment in the city of Puebla, Mexico Photo: Eduardo Verdugo, AP

Cinco de Drinko. Drinko de Mayo.  Whichever you call it, Saturday was a day for feasting and drinking.   For many it is a "drinking holiday" just like St. Patrick's Day, where anyone feels right scarfing nachos and slamming tequila shots.  

Un poco de historia...

Not be confused with Mexican Independence Day (September 16th), Cinco de Mayo commemoratess the 1861 Battle of Puebla, in which Mexican forces led by General Ignacio Zaragoza drove the occupying French from the city of Puebla, in a symbolic win for the liberal Mexican government.  Cinco de Mayo became popular in the US in the 1960's during the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, and has since become a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage.




Back to the food...

Just off Franklin Ave. in Los Feliz, a good friend's parents held a last-minute fiesta on their front porch, a great place for conversation. (Anne Stothard thinks so, too!)   On the menu: tacos, guacamole, beer, and tequila.  As I arrived my friend Julia was busy de-pitting avocados and mincing garlic.  Grillmaster Richard was prepping the grill for the array of meats.  There is no rest for the vegetarian at this house.  There was Flank Steak, Argentinian & Mexican Chorizo, and Carnitas al Pastor.

Al Pastor means "shepherd style" and is a Shawarma-inspired spice mix adapted by Lebanese immigrants in Mexico.  The recipe includes roasting the meat with pineapple, leaving it to marinate for days, making the meat sweet, acidic, and ohh so tender.  Our batches were purchased for $2.99/lb at the Produce for Less Market on Melrose.  It's just one of the thousands of mercados and carnicerias scattered across Los Angeles.

We warmed up on Cerveza and shots of Tequila Reposado.  We snacked on slices of chorizo covered in lime juice and chopped cilantro.  After I assisted with the grilling of the flour tortillas, we ate.  Freshly grilled meat, smooth avocado, and the cool spiciness of mango salsa always makes a pleasant bite.  Que bueno!  To the first of many cookouts this season!

Photo credit: Salman Jafri

To the brink...

There's a mystery to this time of year.  Just before the heat of summer,  the wind blows the scents of burning charcoal, rosemary, and jacaranda blossoms down LA sidewalks.  Driving towards Downtown after dinner, with the orange Supermoon rising over the metropolis, I could already feel the bittersweet hope of summertime.