Friday, August 28, 2009

What the World Eats- Peter Menzel

We all know that Americans are known as fat gluttons who only eat microwaved, prepackaged, brightly colored artificial blobs that resemble food only because of brainless marketing and food dyes, but what about the rest of the world? What does a family of ten in the poorest regions of Kenya have to sustain themselves versus a middle class family of three in Western Europe? How much depends of cost and availability of fresh produce straight from the earth? What regions depend on what food staples, and how much directs these cultures towards physical fitness, mental health, and more- which in turn tilts the balance of world superpowers?

While these questions might not be fully answered, they are at least explored in the book Hungry Planet by Peter Menzel. In his photo essay in Time Magazine, we are faced with 16 families from across the world in their homes and a week's worth of groceries plus their cost. It's a quick but staggering look at the variety of cultures, what is available, what we take for granted, and how food is directly related to issues such as immigration, poverty, the shaping of communities, and more.

See the photos here, and check out the book here and here. I have every confidence this will open the eyes of millions to the unfathomable concept that there are hundreds of thousands or more people without dairy available to them, much less a cheeseburger. The global diet is a vast network dependent on so many factors, and yet we as Americans take grocery stores, convenience stores, and fast food for granted. I for one am incredibly thankful that I live in a place where I have more than one grocery store I could walk to, and even if times are tight there is no danger of me starving to death. It's an amazing, staggering concept to explore the weekly diet or struggle to simply survive in harsh regions of the world, and yet it's a daily reality for so many. Be sure to check out the photo essay and book for what is sure to be eye-opening and jaw-dropping.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Vermont part infinity- the rib dinner!

There's nothing quite like being in a lake house, surrounded by mountain air, pine trees, friends, and family to work up an appetite. Despite the fact that most of our days were filled with lounging, swimming, and hanging out, we'd managed to become ravenous in between our snack breaks and pauses for a fresh beer. Our last night was our pinnacle of culinary experience during our week in Vermont, with a bounty of freshly slaughtered and prepared ribs from Dakin Farm! Marylou again wowed us with her ability to clog our arteries with just using our eyes, which got REALLY bad once we actually started stuffing our faces!

Slow cooking is key, with constant re-application of the BBQ sauce of your choice. We, of course, went with a local Dakin Farm sauce, which provided a succulence unmatched by even the great masters. We used a charcoal grill, but I'd recommend a nice applewood wood chip smoke to provide a nice smoky flavor that gets absorbed beautifully in every square inch. Don't settle for tough ribs that require tearing from the bone- these should be dripping off the bone with moistness rivaling... well, something moist.

This is the famous tomato pie- decadence beyond belief. Even thinking about it makes my gut sag and my mouth drool. This Marylou Special is famous in small circles for its ability to transform even the most athletic and fit of people into obese monsters clamoring for more. Best with fresh Hanover tomatoes, take a pie crust (no need to get homemade with this, store bought will do) and line the inside with thick slices of tomato, alternating with cheese (monterey jack or a sharp white cheese of your choice) and basil. Coat the top with a generous amount of FRESHLY grated Parmesean and (are you ready for it?) frost the top with mayonnaise like you would a cake.

I promise, even if you hate tomatoes, even if you hate mayo, even if you are gagging and thinking this is the worst dish ever conceived, YOU ARE WRONG. Plain and simple. The mayonnaise provides the ooey gooeyest crisp pie top that you've ever had melt in your mouth. I truly believe this dish was handed down by God himself to say, "Thanks guys. Have fun!"

As if we needed more pure fat. Marylou thought it would be a good idea to add her famous German potato salad, a glorious dish filled with potatoes, cheese, butter, bacon, and god-knows-what-else. Simply marvelous. I can feel my belly swelling just looking at this.

VA from VA was lovely enough to chop up some fresh tomatoes and mozzarella with herbs to make fresh bruschetta to whet our insatiable appetites.

Confession time- I'm not the world's biggest fan of corn. I know this is a gigantic American staple, and I'm hard-pressed to find ANYTHING without some corn of some type in it, but just plain ol' corn of the cob just doesn't make me die with pleasure. Personally, I think it's kind of a waste to eat something that your body doesn't process, but that's neither here nor there. Regardless, if you are going to eat corn on the cob, this is the only way to do it. You can save this until last because after this the coals will pretty much be smothered and it takes a little while. Soak the corn in the husks in clean water for about 15-30 minutes. Remove the grill top and place the ears directly into the coals. Let them soak up all that nice heat for about 20-30 minutes (completely dependent on how hot the coals are, how done you want them to be, how many, etc. When you think they're done, take 'em off!) Once you let them cool for a couple of minutes, unwrap the husk and peel the silk off to enjoy the best damn ear of corn you'll ever have. You don't need butter or salt, just pure corny goodness.

This is what the final result should look like. All those scorch marks = major tastiness.

Finally, the feast! Woe is me, there wasn't enough room for the corn on my plate so I had to go back for seconds- rough life!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Magic Hat- Vermont part 5

This was a quick GIF image I made of the factory floor at the one, the only, Magic Hat Brewing Company! More pictures and comments to follow- this was a must-see!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Otter Creek Brewing Company: Vermont Series Part 4

Whilst in Vermont, soaking up the rays on the shores of Lake Champlain, Ashton, Scott, and I took a respite from our lounging and planned a brewery tour day for ourselves at the some of the finest (and closest!) breweries in Vermont. This is part One of the Vermont Brewery Tour day, and Part 4 in the Vermont Series. Needless to say, Otter Creek was simply our first stop, but what a great place to start!

Home to Otter Creek and Wolaver's Organic beers, this hidden gem is tucked in a small industrial area of Middlebury, Vermont, directly next to the Cabot dairy! We were lucky enough to get a tour right away, with only 2 other guests. Steve was our extremely hospitable and knowledgeable guide on this semi-private tour through the facility, which you can follow below. Also be sure to check out their site for upcoming events, history of the brewery, directions, hours, and beer information!

We're heeeeeeeere! Where's the beeeeeeeeeer?

I have no idea what a "firkin" is, but if it involves free beer samples then sign me up as an enthusiastic participant!

View of the brewery- beer lies within.

Glimpses of the working floor from the lobby.

First sight in the actual brewing area.

Scott and Ashton are PUMPED ON BEER. As are we all.

From the viewing platform, you can see the entire working floor, vats, hoses, storage, assembly, etc.

Here's my cup, where's yours?

This holds 1,200 gallons of delicious substance that will soon be tickling my tastebuds in delight!

Ashton approves of the hop sample.

After taking us through the working assembly area, we re-enter the lobby with Steve to view the final stages of bottling, packaging, and shipping.

A one-of-a-kind automated assembly machine. Great stuff for a small but delicious brewery, run by beer connoisseurs and enthusiasts alike!

I'd only ever had Golden Ales, which were a little hoppy for my taste, but their Copper Ale was just scrumptious. The consensus was "Tastes like pennies, but in a good way".

$1 per beer for a delicious microbrew straight from the plant? Yes please!

Read it carefully... you will be both tickled pink at their whimsy and respectful of their space!

How to decide what to take home?? The only answer is one of each. Actually, make it two...

It was the IPA special day, but they also had one of the first kegs of Octoberfest of the season on draft! Needless to say, I was ecstatic and very receptive to this early-season surprise.

Great stuff coming up, so if you have the chance to stop by be sure to catch what's going on!

The "sample" bar was a great place to mingle and talk beer.

I don't look as pleased as I actually am... beer blogging is serious business.

Otter Creek Brewing
793 Exchange St
Middlebury, VT 05753
(802) 388-0727

Friday, August 14, 2009

Del Mar Beer Fest

Beer Fests are the most glorious fests of all, in my opinion. Del Mar has taken it a step further where their "Beer Fest" is actually plural, and happens Saturdays at the Del Mar racetrack! This week, you can sample a variety of beer from Ballast Point, Coronado, Firestone, Full Sail, Green Flash, Left Coast, Lagunitas, Gordon Biersch and more, while watching the wacky and wild Flaming Lips. All of this is just $6, which is the standard Stretch Run admission price to the track, so you get beer, rock, AND place a few bets! $15 gets you a wristband for 5 sample beers, so don't miss this all day party.

The Del Mar Concert Series has more info about the weekly events and offerings, so be sure to check out the schedule. See you at the track!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Vermont Volume 3: Snacks!!!

When we weren't sitting down to a full spread breakfast or 5 course dinner, we supplemented our starvation with many snack breaks to ward off weakness and fill our shrinking bellies. Let me just say that sitting in a screened-in gazebo with an unfettered view of Lake Champlain in the summertime surrounded by friends is a great place to be. Add snacks to the equation and you've got a damn near perfect day. Take down the ingredients to make your own perfect summer snack afternoon!

Wonderful summer spread- butter pretzels, Dakin Farm horseradish cheddar spread, fresh kalamata olives, thinly (and not-so-thinly) sliced Cob Smoked Vermont Cheddar (also from Dakin Farm) and local brews from Otter Creek!

Otter Creek Summer '09 disguised within these frozen antique Bud mugs.

Contemplating jumping in... and obviously being too lazy and full.

Pleased with the spread.. and quizzical as to why I was wasting time snapping a photo rather than diving in headfirst into snack heaven.

We migrated to the dock... and that is in no way depressing. Bottoms up!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Life and Death of a Northern Pike

Scott caught this guy on his 2nd cast. What a show off.

Scott and Ashton brutalizing the poor fish.

Would NOT want those chompers clamped onto my fingers!

You ready?

After the really manly attempt with a rusty knife, a sharp one was found for the actual decapitation process.

Semi-scaled de-boning process begins.


It wasn't the actual beheading that was gross, it was when it twitched so hard it jumped off the plank of wood afterwards.

Surprisingly colorful guts! Is it weird I find it kind of pretty?

This is a big reason why I love this man.

Scott is getting some nice fillets out of this puppy.

He is pleased.

Scott is such a provider!

Northern fillets, breaded, fresh lemon juice, olive oil, some herbs, and...

Voila! Dinner!