Sunday, November 30, 2014

Cider and a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner.

Blue Bee is Virginia's first and only 'urban' cidery. Located within the city limits of Richmond, Virginia, in the city's Old Manchester neighborhood, Blue Bee is also one of the few such 'urban' cideries in the entire nation.

Charred Ordinary is one of Blue Bee's regular offerings, and the 'hard' cider I poured at this year's Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving meal, with cider (04)

An old-fashioned style of cider, Charred Ordinary is dry and assertively sour, with earthy aromas of hay, mushrooms, and bruised apples. A strong citrus and salt finish. 8.3% alcohol-by-volume (abv).

Me:
Charred Ordinary has apple-skin tartness and flavor, some earthy and smoky flavors, and a nice finishing slug of minerality.

Thanksgiving meal, with cider (01)

From the 12 o'clock position:
P.S. There was a turkey served for the Thanksgiving carnivores (just not pictured here).

******

Not your Nana's Kugel

Potato Kugel, an eastern European staple, has been historically plied with eggs, milk, and pork. Here, new-world, it's a kugel, cooked 'vegan': un-egged, un-cow'ed, un-pigged ... and served with 'hard' cider.
  • 3 Russet potatoes, peeled
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 2/3 cup olive oil (or vegetable shortening)
  • 2/3 - 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 TBSP Ener-G Egg Replacer 1
  • 3 TBSP matzo meal
  • 1 TBSP Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 1 tsp marjoram
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 380 °F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 shallow cake pan with oil.
  • 2. Grate potatoes into thin strips. Keep the gratings submerged in water, with a dash of lemon juice. This prevents the kugel from turning gray.
  • 3. Sautée diced onions in oil, over medium heat, until just soft. Add chopped garlic in the oil. Sautée until golden. Set aside, and cool.
  • 4. In a bowl, mix together onions, garlic, grated potato (drained), olive oil, and spices until the oil just coats the potato mixture.
  • 5. Add the stock.
  • 6. Mix in the flour (+ baking powder + Ener-G) 1/4 cup at a time, until the 'batter' around the potato and onion becomes 'just' thick. Add more flour as needed.
  • 7. Spoon into greased casserole dish, 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle top with Panko bread crumbs.
  • 8. Set oven at 380 °F. Bake for 45-60 minutes, uncovered, or until the top of the kugel is brown and crisped.
-----more-----

Missed it by that much.

This NaBloPoMo posting-every-day thing proved difficult. Some ideas for posts required reading books and reviewing them. (Required is a strong word. This was fun.) Some involved greater questions about 'craft' beer in general. (Is this really important?) There also were a few posts on wine, a whiskey post, a cheese post, a vegetarian post, and a 'guest' post.

But, by the Friday evening following Thanksgiving, the third-to-last evening of the month, my thoughts were trending more toward enjoying beer than critiquing it.

And, I forgot to post.


Missed it by that much.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: By the light of a saison

By the light of a saison (02)

A photo of a beer —and the folk, who, by enjoying it, were honoring a slain veteran of the Iraq and Afghan campaigns— that was tapped and served on Veterans Day, 11 November 2014, at William Jeffrey's Tavern, in Arlington, Virginia, in honor of slain Marine Lance Corporal Daniel R. Bennett. Some of the proceeds from each pint sold were donated to organizations that benefit injured veterans and families of slain military personnel. Read more about the program, at Honor Brewing.

The beer was Honor Saison, from Honor Brewing (of Chantilly, Virginia).
Aromatic flowers, lemon, noble hops and a dominate [sp] yeasty nose. Delicate pilsner malt flavors, grassy hops, tart hibiscus, lemon, herbs, and farmhouse yeast. Crisp mouthfeel with elevated carbonation that produces champagne like bubbles. Easy drinking.
Alcohol by volume: 4.9%
International bittering units: 25


About the photo, itself

I took the photo without a flash. Using photo editing software, I altered the original to leave only the beer in color (and the candle behind it), but the beer appears slightly out-of focus. In a second shot, I focused on the beer; now, the man at the table is in blurry motion.

By the light of a saison ale

Here is the original photo, unmanipulated, taken without a flash.

PB111211

-----more-----

Thursday, November 27, 2014

The true story of Beere, the Pilgrims, and Thanksgiving.

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, by Jennie A. Brownscombe

There's a famous passage from a 17th century collection of recollections by Pilgrim leaders William Bradford and Edward Winslow that's often quoted in reference to Thanksgiving:
That night we returned again a-shipboard, with resolution the next morning to settle on some of those places; so in the morning, after we had called on God for direction, we came to this resolution: to go presently ashore again, and to take a better view of two places, which we thought most fitting for us, for we could not now take time for further search or consideration, our victuals being much spent, especially our beere, and it being now the 19th of December [1619].
[emphasis mine]

That debunks a late November landing, in time for what we know call 'Thanksgiving.' And, that part about the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock because they had run out of beer? Not so fast, says beer historian Bob Skilnik. 1 That's not exactly what transpired.
Land was sighted on November 9 [1619] but [the Pilgrims] didn't attempt to set out a landing party until days later, when they also realized they were no where near the Virginia Colony but instead were off Cape Cod. By December 4, they knew they had to quit being picky about where they were and settle down. Cold weather and disease were starting to take their toll. After an armed run in with some more Indians, the Mayflower headed south and another expedition found "running brooks," cornfields, and after sounding the depth of the harbor, realized this was about as good as it could get in the middle of December and the dead of winter. Despite what looked like prime territory, they took yet another look around, finally resolving that it was time to make a decision, pick a spot and start a settlement.

That was some seriously unfortunate dithering by the Pilgrims.
So what we have here, my friends, is NOT a party of starving Pilgrims who simply pulled up to Plymouth Rock because they were out of beer, had no water and no "victuals" on hand. No, what has been described instead was a group of naive individuals who called a little bit too much on God for direction, failed to heed the philosophy that "God helps those who help themselves," took too long to pick a spot to settle down, even if it was to only to be for the winter, and as a result of indecision, watched as more than half of them died through the winter.

Despite this, the Pilgrims would survive. That they, passionate Christians, prized their supply of beer as an essential foodstuff, that they did indeed drink beer, stands in contrast to some less-tolerant modern-day religious views of alcohol.

By the way, the ship's crew —hired hands— had not run out of their beer. The crew had stored a stash for their return trip to England, after winter storms had abated. It was not for the passengers. Water was not always a healthy drink in those days; sanitation was far from pristine. Beer could be a potable substitute. On shipboard, however, that beer would not be low-alcohol or 'small' beer, as has often been reported. It was 'Ship's Beer', which, according to Skilnik, was "brewed to a high alcoholic content in order to keep it viable during a prolonged sea passage."

It wouldn't be until two years later, in 1621, that the Pilgrims would first observe a Thanksgiving, if not calling it that, celebrating the colony's first successful harvest, with the Wampanoag, the local Native American tribe.

In the ensuing decades, several local governments would proclaim days of thanksgiving, and, then, over a century later, President George Washington would declare a national day of Thanksgiving, in 1789. Several succeeding presidents would, as well.

Vintage Thanksgiving Day Postcard

Advocacy by Sarah Josepha Buell Hale —a supporter of women's rights, a co-founder of Vassar College, an influential 19th century literary critic, and the author of Mary Had A Little Lamb— would convince President Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War, to officially declare the fourth Thursday of November 1863, as Thanksgiving, a national holiday. In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt would sign a bill legally stipulating the holiday to fall on the fourth Thursday of November. 2

Be safe in your travels this Thanksgiving ... and, once you get there, stay put, give thanks, and enjoy your beer(e).

I'm not shopping on Thanksgiving Day

-----more-----

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

To give thanks is a matter of joy. Should that be confined by excessive sobriety?

To give thanks is a matter of joy. Should that be confined by excessive sobriety?

That was how Michael Jackson commented upon American Thanksgiving, in A Twist on Tradition: The Right Beer, Dish by Dish, a 1983 Washington Post byline on choosing beer, not wine, for the Thanksgiving meal.

That would be the 'other' Michael Jackson, a British beer writer, the ungloved one, the Beer Hunter, who, in his long career, set a very high bar for modern beer writing, across all borders. That I feel it necessary to identify which Jackson I mean pushes me into 'kids-these-days' territory.

As quotidien as the idea of good-beer-with-good-food may appear today, three decades ago it was an epicurean epiphany, a "twist" against the style-makers. Jackson didn't personally conjoin these taste-companions, but he did certainly nurture them.

'Serious' meal?

Tomorrow, with the Thanksgiving meal, I will open a bottle of cider, gueuze, or Trappist ale; maybe a barleywine with pie. I will attempt to avoid excessive sobriety.

-----more-----

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

It's a 'craft' beer world, baby!

The beginning of the end? Xerxes defeated at Salamis and Plataea?

Word came out in the last few days that the combined might of the tiny 'craft' beer industry had outsold Budweiser in 2013, 16.1 million barrels to 16 million barrels. Not all of Anheuser-Busch InBev, mind you, just one of its beers.

But not just any beer: it was AB-InBev's mighty icon, Budweiser, "the Great American Lager." According to the Wall Street Journal:

"Budweiser volumes have declined in the U.S. for 25 years, from its nearly 50-million-barrel peak in 1988 to 16 million barrels last year."

This regicide took not one, or two, or even several 'craft' breweries to accomplish. It took the entire total sales of every single one of all 'craft' breweries in America, all 2,768 combined, to dethrone this already ailing one beer, Budweiser.


To look forward, look back in history.

Did the Greeks rejoice less because they needed a combined effort of disparate Greek tribes, at 480 B.C., to defeat the Persians, the mightiest army and navy then yet seen in human history? Uh, no.

Mark the day, today. It's a 'craft' beer world, baby!

-----more-----

Monday, November 24, 2014

The best beer photo of 2014 might be yours.


Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog has announced the Xmas Beer Photo Contest for 2014. At least that's what he's calling it now. In years past, he has elongated the name as the deadline approached: Yuletide Christmas Hanukah Hogmanay Kwanza and Festivus Beery Photo Contest.

Send Mr. McLeod five of your best photos of beer(s) by Friday, December 12, before 4 pm eastern time zone North America.

Email to beerblog@gmail.com.

If Mr. McLeod judges your images worthy (should we call them photographs anymore?), you'll win his published acclaim, and some beery prizes. He'll reveal what those goodies are as breweries and beery folk actually donate them. Attention: breweries and beery folk!

In years past, there have been grand prize winners, runner-ups, and honorable mentions. This was 2013's winning entry:


You could do that, couldn't you?

Hint: Do NOT enter photos of beer-with-food. McLeod doesn't much care for them; he really doesn't.
Your food is still no better looking than your dog. Sorry to break the news. And beer and food pairing has failed. It's so past it that it's still done in Toronto...still! Unless the photo is really good.

FYI: McLeod has recently published three books, each and all available, ahem, for purchase.
Have fun. Good luck. Snap!

-----more-----

Sunday, November 23, 2014

(Some of) the best beer writing of 2014: The NAGBW Awards.

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) was active from the 1980s on, but would disband in the early aughts. In 2013, beer writers Jay Brooks, Lucy Saunders, Don Russell, and others resuscitated the organization, and brought back the annual competition for beer writers, bloggers, broadcasters, and authors.

Today's post is an overdue one: honors for 2014's best beer writing were announced in ... October! Congratulations to all.

NAGBWOctober 7, 2014 - The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) is pleased to announce the winners of its 2nd annual competition for writers, bloggers, broadcasters and authors. Results of the NAGBW Awards were announced on Friday, October 3, 2014, during the Great American Beer Festival at the McNichols Civic Center Building in Denver, CO.
This year, over 140 entries, published between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, were submitted to the contest in eight categories. Winners represented 13 states across the U.S. and three countries. Congratulations to all of the winners.

Best Beer and Food Writing
1. John Holl, “Roast Masters: Exploring the Art of Brewing Beer with Coffee.” All About Beer Magazine.
2. Evan Rail, “Where What Is Brewing Is a Recipe.” The New York Times.
3. Mark Dredge, Beer and Food. Dog 'n' Bone Books.
Best Blog
1. Oliver Gray, “Literature and Libation.”
2. Bryan Roth, “This is Why I’m Drunk.” 
 3. Jessica Miller, “Hey Brewtiful.” 

Good Beer Guides (to Belgium) on sale in Washington, D.C.

Best Book
1. Patrick Dawson, Vintage Beer. Storey Publishing.
2. Tim Webb/ Joe Stange, The Good Beer Guide to Belgium. Campaign for Real Ale Ltd.
3. Evan Rail, Beer Trails: The Brewery in the Bohemian Forest. Self-published.
Best Brewspaper/ Free Zine Writing
1. Ken Weaver, “Getting Hopped Up -- Again.” Bohemian.
3. Randy Clemens, “Mark Jilg: The Craftsman.” West Coaster.
Best Magazine Writing
1. Evan Rail, “Born Again in Berlin.” All About Beer Magazine.
2. Joshua Bernstein, “Of a Certain Age.” Imbibe Magazine.
3. Aleszu Bajak, “Of a Certain Age.” Beer Advocate Magazine.
Best Newspaper Writing (Paid Circulation)
1. Ronnie Crocker, “Crafting a Houston Icon.” Houston Chronicle.
2. William Bostwick, “Build a Beer Collection.” The Wall Street Journal.
3. Tom Acitelli, “Rising Hop Prices Make Craft Brewers Jumpy.” The Wall Street Journal.
Best Online Magazine Writing
1. Gerard Walen, “The Death of Hunahpu’s Day.” All About Beer Magazine.
3. Christian DeBenedetti, “A Brief History of Sour Beer.” The New Yorker.
Best Podcast
Thanks to new and returning judges representing 11 states in the U.S., two provinces in Canada and Europe. The judges for the 2014 NAGBW Awards included:
Tom Acitelli, Michael Agnew, Jeff Alworth, Ray Bailey, Steve Beaumont, Jessica Boak, Erika Bolden, Jay Brooks, Astrid Cook, Ray Daniels, Christian DeBenedetti, Pat Fahey, Oliver Gray, Steve Hamburg, Stan Hieronymus, Edward Lordan, Alan McLeod, Randy Mosher, Ryan Newhouse, Josh Noel, Evan Rail, Don Russell, Zak Stambor, Heather Vandenengel, Joe Wiebe.
ABOUT THE NORTH AMERICAN GUILD OF BEER WRITERS – The Guild has members from USA, Canada, United Kingdom, and Europe. Guild membership is open to all writers and content producers who cover beer and brewing, although industry and associate memberships are both non-voting categories. For more information, visit http://www.nagbw.org or follow on Twitter @nagbw.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Bedell & Cizauskas

This blog is about good fermentables and the folk who make them. It's a matter of internet record. It's not about me, or shouldn't be. I tell their stories. I take photos of them and their good fermentables. No selfies.

Today's an exception.

Tom Bedell is a long-time chronicler and reporter of good beer. He has won two first place Quill and Tankard awards from the North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW *); he was a contributing editor to The Encyclopedia of Beer. He writes a blog about golf and beer. To the best of his knowledge, he is the only writer who is a member of both the Golf Writers Association of America and the NAGBW.

He lives in Vermont; I, in the mid-Atlantic. We had never met, except through the scary wonder of the interwebs. That is, until recently.

Bedell & Cizauskas

In late October 2014, Bedell travelled to my part of the world to tour a new golf course. He contacted me (via Twitter, of course), and we would finally meet, not golfing, but beer-drinking, at Rustico Restaurant, in Alexandria, Virginia. That's Tom Bedell on the right; me, on the left.

To top it off, another fellow at the table that evening was Don Was. (I'm amused at being able to phrase it that way.) Mr. Was, née Weiss, is a music producer, who, in the 1980s/90s, was one-half of the 'art' dance music band, Was (Not Was), parentheses included.

We talked about golf that evening (me, not so much), music (more so), and, well, yes, beers (several of them).

The photo was taken by Doug Honker, a good beer fan who lives in the area, and who, not coincidentally, is Bedell's nephew. I've posted it here with his permission.

-----more-----

Friday, November 21, 2014

The ... best ... beer ... in ... the ... nation! (and in your state)

What are the best 'craft' beers in every state of the nation (and the District of Columbia)? Who are the best breweries in each state? What are America's top 'craft' beer styles? Which of the states are best for 'craft' beer?

To find out, Bryan D. Roth, at his blog, This is Why I'm Drunk, crunched October 2014 data from Beer Advocate —a crowd-sourced online beer-rating site— using the popular site's algorithm of weighted measurement for beer ranking.

He found answers —some expected, some surprising— and quantified some current trends.

THE TOP BEERS AND BREWERY FOR EACH STATE

To establish a minimum quota of scores that any beer, in any given state, needed to be considered as a top beer (somewhat analogous, say, to Major League Baseball's requirement of 506 plate appearances for any player over one season to be eligible for the batting title), Roth averaged the number of ratings for every beer in that state. From there, he referenced each qualifying beer's weighted rank and came up with each state's top ten most highly rated beers.

To decide upon the top brewery in each state, Roth looked at the number of times a brewery's beers appeared in the top ten, and, in the case of a tie, chose the brewery with the higher total ratings in the top ten (or, if needed, tossed a coin).


For instance, in California, the top brewery was Russian River; in Colorado, Great Divide; in Oregon, Deschutes; in Texas, Jester King; in Pennsylvania, Tröegs; in Vermont, Hill Farmstead.

Here, in the 'DMV,' the tri-'state' home of YFGF:
  • In Washington, D.C., DC Brau took top honors with seven of the ten top beers, and the number one beer, On the Wings of Armageddon, a double IPA.
  • Flying Dog placed first in Maryland, with four of the top ten beers. The most highly rated beer, however, belonged to Stillwater Artisanal, for its Gose Gone Wild.
  • In Virginia, the results were less cut-and-dried. Hardywood and AleWerks dominated the Commonwealth's ratings, producing four beers apiece in the top ten. Hardywood's most highly rated beer, Gingerbread Stout, placed second, while AleWerks' milk-stout, Café Royale, placed third. AleWerks, however, nudged out Hardywood as tops in the state by virtue of a higher total of weighted ratings. The number one beer was Resolute, a bourbon-barrel 'Russian Imperial' Stout, brewed by Three Brothers.

HOW EACH STATE'S NUMBER ONE BEER FARED NATIONALLY

Roth ranked the top beer from each state (and Washington, D.C.) by giving each state equal status despite population (as do, by the way, our U.S. Senate and presidential Electoral College), and then using the BA's weighted rank for the top beer in each state. The top 3 beers, nationally, by state, were:
  • Hunahpu (barrel-aged Imperial Stout), from Cigar City, in Florida. 11% alcohol-by-volume (abv).
  • Kentucky Brunch (Imperial Stout), from Toppling Goliath, in Iowa. 13% abv.
  • Heady Topper (Double IPA) from The Alchemist, in Vermont. 8% abv.
At the bottom, at number 51, was Pile of Dirt (porter) from South Dakota's Crow Peak Brewing (6% abv). But remember, using these metrics, that beer is still 'better' than 90% of the top ten beers from all the other forty-nine states, plus D.C. See the full list: here.

[Here, in the DMV, Stillwater's Gose Gone Wild finished at position number 21; Three Brothers' Resolute at 23rd; DC Brau's On the Wings of Armageddon at 27th.]


THE TOP BEER STYLES IN THE NATION

Again giving equal importance to the best ten beers in each state (disregarding sales or population), Roth pie-charted the nation's top beer styles.


IPA (India Pale Ale) —at 18% of the total— is, of course, the most popular beer style; combining its percentage with that of DIPA (double IPA), the figure becomes 31% of the total. Pumpkin? At 1.5%, it's near the bottom of the heap. Well, that's not exactly fair on my part. Pumpkin beer is, after all, only seasonal —even if that season seems to run from Independence Day through Thanksgiving. There's also a catch-all "Other" category, in which there are other, less popular beers. 'Popular' might not be the correct word. Roth uses the phrase "lauded and sought after."


DOES ALCOHOL PERCENTAGE MATTER?

What about the correlation between alcohol and scoring preference?
The top-25 clearly has a higher ABV against both the bottom-26 and the overall average, not to mention a rather large difference in Beer Advocate’s weighted ranking score. I was rather surprised the the bottom-26, even though it’s the “best of” what states had to offer, barely beat the “all beer” average in weighted rating.

Roth looked at the average alcohol rank of the top ten beers of each state with the average weighted rank of its top ten beers versus all other states. They seemed to correlate, but not one-to-one. The average alcohol percentage of all 506 beers Roth surveyed was 8.1%; the average of the top beers from each state was 9.65%.

California was tops in both average of alcohol percentage of its top 10 beers (11.18%) and of the average weighted rank of those beers. Delaware, 2nd in alcohol (11.174%), was 27th in weighted rank, and Alaska, while 3rd for alcohol (11.08%), was ranked 15th for the average of its top ten beers. Only those three —California, Delaware, and Alaska— had alcohol averages surpassing eleven percent. Interestingly, Vermont, while number two, nationally, in average weighted rank of its top ten beers, was only 26th in average alcohol level (8.1%).

A more pronounced alignment of alcohol and score did occur at the bottom rung of the state rankings. There, alcohol levels were markedly lower, as were weighted ranks. The lowest alcohol average belonged to South Dakota (5.21%) whose weighted rank position was 50th out of all states. Obviously, strength matters.

[Washington, D.C. was 41st among all states in average weighted rank and 43rd in average alcohol percentage: 6.17%. Maryland was 28th in average weighted rank and 22nd in average alcohol percentage: 8.035%. Virginia was 23rd in weighted rank and 12th in average alcohol percentage: 9.39%.]


HOW TO BREW THE BEST BEER IN THE NATION

What if a savvy brewer were to look at all these data, and want to brew a beer to conform to the prejudices of Beer Advocate's voters? Well, then, Roth has a recipe for her:
  • It has to be 18 SRM [a measure of beer color], the average number for all 506 beers on the “best beers” list.
  • It has to have an ABV of 8 or 8.1 percent, per the average of the list.
  • It must be hopped like an IPA.
  • From there, two optional aspects:
    • It can be hopped like a DIPA.
    • It can be barrel aged.

Get to it, brewers. Brew the ... best ... beer ... in ... the ... nation!

Roth's analyses —fascinating stuff— bring some data-driven sense back to the 'craft' beer zeitgeist. This series —a lot of work— demonstrates why Roth was deserving when the North American Guild of Beer Writers selected his blog as one the three best in the nation for 2014.

-----more-----

Thursday, November 20, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday: An animal-free kugel. (Sorry, Nana!)

VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and ecological issues.

Kugel is a hearty, stick-to the ribs, potato pudding —'soul food' for Eastern Europeans, and Americans like me of their descent, whether Ashkenazy, pagan, or Christian. For Thanksgiving, this year, I'm going to try again to successfully concoct a completely vegetarian kugel. No eggs, no milk, no cream, no butter, and no pig parts, of course. Just potatoes and accoutrements.

Here's the recipe of my grandmother, Nana Ambraziene, a first generation Lithuanian-American. In the past, I've substituted for her eggs and cream with silken tofu and soy or almond milk. (Recipe: here.) Good enough, but not worthy of Nana's kitchen. So this year, trying again, but with a few new tricks, I'll either do it and succeed, or fail and respect the original.

Potato Kugel (03)

Have a happy Thanksgiving next week. Enjoy the squashes, crucifers, cranberries, nuts, legumes ... and the potatoes.

UPDATE: Success!

************

Vegetarian Recipes for Thanksgiving

  • Recipes for 'vegan' kugels.
  • 25 Reasons to Host a Vegan Thanksgiving This Year. + Recipes.
    Via Healthy. Happy. Life.
  • Preparing for Vegan Thanksgiving (60+ Plant-Based Recipes)
    Via Happy Herbivore.
  • Big or small, vegetarian dishes worth Thanksgiving centerpiece status.
    Via Joe Yonan (Food editor of Washington Post).
  • A vegetarian Thanksgiving.
    Via YFGF.
-----more-----

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Cheeses fight with dry wines," says the Wine Spectator. "Try beer," I say.

Wine Spectator_Encyclopedia of Food

If you had turned to page 132 of the Wine Spectator's The Encyclopedia of Food "With Exclusive Wine Matching Advice," in September 2005, and read the chapter on cheese, you would have seen this:
Cheese and wine have long stood at the top of the gourmet pyramid.

But then, on the very next page, you would have seen this:
The mouthcoating texture of soft cheeses can make red wines taste thin and tough, but the sparkle of Champagne cuts through beautifully. Crisp, aromatic whites such as German or Austrian Riesling also do well, especially if they have a bit of sweetness.

And, of blue cheese and wine?
Many people find that the moldy flavors of these cheeses fight with dry wines. Their creaminess is especially tough on reds. Sweet wines are the answer.

And, with washed-rind cheeses, which the Wine Spectator refers to as "extreme cheeses"?
Over-the-top flavors make these cheese irresistible to some, but few wines can retain much personality when paired with them. [...] As much fun as these cheeses are to eat, in most cases only very sweet or fortified wines can hold their own against them.

To be fair, the Wine Spectator did, with no hesitation, praise the pairing of red wines with hard cheeses like Cheddar, and of Sauvignon Blancs and fruity reds like Zinfandel with goat and sheep's-milk cheeses. But, with the other great cheeses of the world —soft cheese (like Brie), blue cheese (like Stilton), and washed-rind cheese (like Meadow Creek's Grayson)— the magazine struggled to find gastronomically logical pairings, relying on sweeter dessert wines and their antithesis, tart Champagnes.

Even though this 'bible' of the wine world didn't suggest beer as a mate for cheese (now, really, would it?), it is indeed beer which is the answer.

Beer doesn't 'fight' with cheese; and vice-versa. The flavors of the two complement each other: fermentation character, spices and herbs, fruits and fungi, and the flavors of the kitchen and cooking. And, both share a unique affinity. Wine is like fruit jam slathered on the cheese, but beer, made from grains (such as barley and wheat), is like the cracker served with the cheese, already there, liquid in the glass.

Storm King & Stilton

Some combinations of beer and cheese might be more delightful than others —goat cheese with a pilsner, washed rind cheese with an abbey ale or an American IPA, blue cheese with a stout or barleywine (no 'fight' there!), cheddar with a pale ale or brown ale— but one would be hard-pressed to find a poor pairing of the two. Simply apply the the first rule of serving cheese-with-beer: there are no rules, only enthusiastic suggestions.

And remember that Wine Spectator suggestion of Champagne with soft cheese? It's all about bubbly texture and acidity, to cut through the milkfat. Why not, next time, with your Camembert, drink a tart/funky gueuze-lambic instead? Same idea, only with more flavor in the beer. Or why not try that same funky gueuze but with a stinky (in a good way) Epoisses? Or ... so it goes. This is such an easy and rewarding thing to do with beer.

As Stephen Beaumont and Brian Morin wrote, in 2009, in their gorgeous —not coffee table book; kitchen counter book?— The BeerBistro Cookbook:
Any honest wine professional will admit that the motto in the grape trade is "taste with bread, sell with cheese." [...] Beer and cheese, on the other hand, well, that's just a match made in gastronomic heaven. [...] So put away your corkscrews and break out the beer the next time cheese is on the menu. You may get a curious sideways glance from the wine snobs in the crowd, but everyone else will likely enjoy themselves immeasurably more.

Hold the cracker. Hold the wine. "Cheeses fight with dry wines," says the Wine Spectator. "Try beer," I say. (And, how about an update?)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The top 100 Wines of 2014, according to the Wine Spectator.

For better or for worse, beer has crowd-judging; wine has experts-judging. Two of wine's more prominent 'expert' groups are the Wine Spectator magazine —whose most renowned writer, until recently, was James Suckling— and the Wine Advocate newsletter, published by wine critic Robert Parker (who lives north of Baltimore, Maryland).

For better or for worse, Parker popularized the 100-point rating scale, twenty years ago or so. Folk publicly pooh-pooh it, but privately use it.

This time of year, every year, the Wine Spectator releases its choices for the top 100 wines of the year. For 2014, a port, Dow 2011 vintage, took top honors, receiving 99 points.

Powerful, refined, and luscious, with a surplus of dark plum, kirsch and cassis flavors that are unctuous and long. Shows plenty of grip, presenting a long full finish, filled with Asian spice and raspberry tart accents. Rich and chocolaty. One for the ages. Best from 2030 through 2060. 5,00 cases made.

With that best-by, I don't know if I'll be sufficiently chronologically blessed to taste all those "unctuous and long" flavors at their best. The magazine says that the average retail cost is $82 per bottle. I'd expect something a bit (!) higher, now, if you can find a bottle.

At the 100th spot is Saint Clair Pinot Noir Marlborough Pioneer Block 16 Awatere, from Australia, assigned 92 points, retailing for $31.
This offers a good mix of fresh, ripe raspberry and cherry flavors, with details of forest floor, black tea, cigar box and nutmeg, finishing with nuances of warm baking spices and a touch of firmness. Drink now through 2025. 1,000 cases made.

Looking at all one-hundred wines, the suggested retail price ranges from $240 for Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore, a 'Super-Tuscan' from Italy at the 65th position, to $10 for Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Viña Cumbrero Crianza, a Spanish Tempranillo, at the the 62nd spot. And, in confusing fashion, some wines with lower scores finish higher in the ranking than those with greater scores, and vice versa, although all are scored in the 90s. Must be those je ne sais quoi intangibles.
Each year, Wine Spectator editors survey the wines reviewed over the previous 12 months and select our Top 100, based on quality [based on score], value [based on price], availability [based on the volume of cases either made or imported], and excitement. These criteria were applied to determine the Top 100 from among the more than 5,400 wines that rated outstanding (90 points or higher on Wine Spectator’s 100-point scale) this year. Overall, the average score of the wines in this year’s list is 93 points and the average price $47—an excellent quality/price ratio and a slightly lower average price than the 2013 list.

Here's the entire list. For all the scores, tasting notes, and retail pricing, go to the Wine Spectator website itself.

1
Dow Vintage Port +
201199$82
2
Mollydooker Shiraz McLaren Vale Carnival of Love +
201295$75
3
Prats & Symington Douro Chryseia +
201197$55
4
Quinta do Vale Meão Douro +
201197$76
5
Leeuwin Chardonnay Margaret River Art Series +
201196$89
6
Castello di Ama Chianti Classico San Lorenzo Gran Selezione +
201095$52
7
Clos des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape +
201297$135
8
Brewer-Clifton Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills +
201294$40
9
Concha y Toro Cabernet Sauvignon Puente Alto Don Melchor +
201095$125
10
Château Léoville Las Cases St.-Julien +
201195$165
11
Mount Eden Vineyards Chardonnay Santa Cruz Mountains +
201195$60
12
Château Guiraud Sauternes +
201197$50
13
Fonseca Vintage Port +
201198$116
14
Fontodi Colli della Toscana Centrale Flaccianello +
201195$120
15
Bedrock The Bedrock Heritage Sonoma Valley +
201295$42
16
Two Hands Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella's Garden +
201295$69
17
Soter Pinot Noir Yamhill-Carlton District Mineral Springs Ranch +
201295$60
18
Château Doisy-Védrines Barsac +
201195$35 / 375ml
19
Luca Malbec Uco Valley +
201293$32
20
Peter Michael Chardonnay Knights Valley Ma Belle-Fille +
201295$90
21
Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classico Riserva +
201093$29
22
Podere Sapaio Bolgheri Volpolo +
201193$35
23
St.-Cosme Châteauneuf-du-Pape +
201096$59
24
Massolino Barolo +
200995$60
25
Bodegas y Viñedos O. Fournier Malbec Uco Valley Alfa Crux +
201094$54
26
Emeritus Pinot Noir Russian River Valley Hallberg Ranch +
201193$42
27
Quinta do Portal Douro Colheita +
201192$15
28
Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape +
201194$97
29
Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir Hemel-en-Aarde Valley +
201293$46
30
DuMOL Syrah Russian River Valley +
201294$55
31
Tommasi Sangiovese-Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana Poggio al Tufo Rompicollo +
201192$18
32
Hidden Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County 55% Slope +
200993$45
33
Orin Swift Machete California +
201293$48
34
La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva +
200592$30
35
Amavi Cabernet Sauvignon Walla Walla Valley +
201192$29
36
Marcassin Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast Marcassin Vineyard +
200997$125
37
Giuseppe Cortese Barbaresco Rabajà +
201094$55
38
Aubert Chardonnay Russian River Valley Eastside +
201295$80
39
Oddero Barolo +
201093$49
40
Loosen Bros. Riesling QbA Mosel Dr. L +
201291$12
41
Rombauer Chardonnay Carneros +
201292$34
42
Lapostolle Clos Apalta Limited Release Colchagua Valley +
201094$89
43
Charles Smith Riesling Columbia Valley Kung Fu Girl Evergreen +
201391$12
44
Viña Cono Sur Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère Colchagua Valley +
201191$14
45
Tikal Patriota Mendoza +
201291$23
46
Turley Zinfandel California Juvenile +
201291$20
47
Luce della Vite Toscana Luce +
201195$105
48
Fincas Patagonicas Malbec Mendoza Zolo Reserve +
201291$19
49
Trimbach Riesling Alsace +
201291$25
50
Abadia Retuerta Viño de la Tierra de Castilla y León Sardon de Duero Selección Especial +
201092$35
51
Giuseppe Rinaldi Barolo Brunate +
201097$129
52
Herman Story Grenache California On the Road +
201193$42
53
Ponzi Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Tavola +
201291$25
54
Mumm Napa Brut Napa Valley Prestige +
NV91$22
55
Veramonte Cabernet Sauvignon Colchagua Valley El Caballero +
201190$12
56
João Portugal Ramos Alentejo Ramos Reserva +
201290$13
57
Viña Bisquertt Syrah Colchagua Valley La Joya Gran Reserva +
201290$13
58
TwentyFour Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley +
201093$112
59
Peter Lehmann Clancy's Barossa +
201190$15
60
St.-Urbans-Hof Riesling QbA Mosel Old Vines +
201290$16
61
De Martino Cabernet Sauvignon Maipo Valley Legado Reserva +
201192$17
62
Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Viña Cumbrero Crianza +
201090$10
63
Buitenverwachting Sauvignon Blanc Constantia Bayten +
201390$15
64
Cune Rioja White Monopole +
201390$15
65
Ornellaia Bolgheri Superiore +
201196$240
66
Fowles Shiraz Victoria Are You Game? +
201291$17
67
Tohu Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough Single Vineyard +
201390$13
68
Godelia Mencía Bierzo +
201092$21
69
Feudo di Santa Croce Primitivo di Manduria LXXIV +
201091$22
70
D. Kourtakis Assyrtiko Santorini Greek Wine Cellars +
201290$13
71
Roar Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands Rosella's Vineyard +
201293$52
72
Château Lilian Ladouys St.-Estèphe +
201190$19
73
Gérard Bertrand Syrah-Grenache Languedoc +
201190$19
74
di Majo Norante Molise Ramitello +
201190$18
75
Disznókó´ Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos +
200694$49 / 500ml
76
Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne +
201290$17
77
E. Guigal Côte-Rôtie Château d'Ampuis +
201097$206
78
Acrobat Pinot Noir Oregon +
201290$20
79
Marqués de Griñon Cabernet Sauvignon Dominio de Valdepusa +
201093$40
80
Nino Negri Valtellina Superiore Quadrio +
201090$20
81
Domaine de Triennes Vin de Pays du Var St.-Auguste +
201090$20
82
Mulderbosch Faithful Hound Stellenbosch +
201191$25
83
Round Pond Estate Sauvignon Blanc Rutherford +
201390$24
84
Bodegas Marqués de Murrieta Rioja Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva Especial +
200594$89
85
Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo Marina Cveti S. Martino Rosso +
201091$25
86
Pali Wine Co. Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County Huntington +
201290$23
87
Firriato Sicilia Santagostino Baglio Soria Red +
201191$23
88
Christian Moreau Père & Fils Chablis +
201291$31
89
Carol Shelton Zinfandel Mendocino County Wild Thing Old Vine +
201190$19
90
Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel Trocken Wachau Terrassen +
201290$14
91
Domaine La Barroche Châteauneuf-du-Pape Pure +
201295$78
92
Vecchia Cantina di Montepulciano Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Incanto +
201090$15
93
Recanati Cabernet Sauvignon Galilee +
201290$17
94
Château Lamartine Cahors +
201190$19
95
Antonio Barbadillo Manzanilla Sanlúcar de Barrameda Solear +
NV90$15
96
Domaine Gerovassiliou Epanomi White +
201390$22
97
Tenuta delle Terre Nere Etna +
201290$22
98
Domaine Terlato & Chapoutier Shiraz-Viognier Victoria +
201290$19
99
Loimer Grüner Veltliner Qualitätswein Trocken Kamptal +
201291$22
100
Saint Clair Pinot Noir Marlborough Pioneer Block 16 Awatere +
201292$31
-----more-----