Monday, September 18, 2017

Food & Drink Part 2

Last weekend Andrew and I were coming back from spending the afternoon in Lancaster and took a slight detour on the way home. We stopped in Canal Winchester at the Brew Dog ( Brewery and Restaurant. This is one of Columbus' newest Breweries that was founded by some Scots, but is pretty much all-American (which I think was a little disappointing to Andrew).

Unfortunately the daily tour was all booked up, so we settled for looking around the gift shop (they have a scale model of the entire facility built entirely out of Lego!) and then sampling some beer inside the restaurant. We ordered a cheese sampler plate that came with a flight of (4) beers that were supposed to be good compliments to the cheese.

I think it only cost like $8-$12 and was probably meant for only one person because it was a pretty small amount of cheese (and maybe four chunks of bread) and a few pickles. One of the cheeses was really nasty, but we were hungry so we ate it anyway. Andrew commented, "Who would have thought you would use beer to wash away the taste of cheese?"
Out of our four (4 oz) samples one wasn't too bad, and I think that one had the nickname of 'Elvis Juice.' Since they have a restaurant, you can also order any other kind of liquor or food, which maybe we'll do on a future visit (or sit outside on their large dog-friendly patio). Still, we enjoyed our visit and it seemed like a nice place to chill out for an afternoon.

This past Wednesday I signed up for this one night class (offered by Upper Arlington Lifelong Learning):

Distiller for a Day: Aging Spirits 101 at Watershed

"Our local Watershed Distillery produces world-class gin, vodka, bourbon and apple cider brandy, using a specialized process and a custom-built copper still. Tour the distillery in Grandview and learn how these popular and potent libations are crafted. Try your hand at something different and enjoy a behind-the-scenes view of their fascinating distilling techniques as you observe a production run from start to finish. Then lend a hand to seal the barrel to begin the aging process. At the end of the tour, sample some Watershed spirits and also nosh on a selection of delicious appetizers prepared by the chef at their new Watershed Kitchen & Bar. Trust us, this is a fun and unique night out!"

It was definitely a fun night out. I only wish my husband Andrew could have joined me, but he had a company event he had to attend. Thankfully I’m not shy about going places on my own because I was the only single person there. There was a family of three, a married couple, and a group of ladies from Huntington Bank.

We started out the tour by going across the street to the warehouse where all the aging spirits in barrels (from Kentucky) are stored. I loved the story our tour guide (who is a distiller for Watershed) told us about how the company acquired the barrels. Apparently the place they drove to down in Kentucky would only sell them wholesale in large quantities. Not wishing to leave empty-handed they went around back to the loading dock and flashed some cash at a couple of the employees hanging out there and were able to leave with a pair so it wasn’t a wasted trip.

Dave carefully removed the cork from a cask of 100 proof apple cider brandy that was slowly aging so we could each try a sample. I think that’s the first time I ever had anything that potent, but I wasn’t afraid and was the first to grab a sample. At first my eyes slightly watered, but I love the way it felt nice and warm going down my throat. I had had a slightly dry scratchy throat all week and that definitely made it feel a lot better. I think after enough of those you not only don’t feel sick anymore, you probably don’t feel much of anything. I wouldn’t have minded perhaps one or two more samples.

I volunteered to help pound the cork back into the cask. A few good whacks and it was done and sealed and I feel I got out a few aggressions, so this was turning out to be a very healing evening.

Then Dave asked for a couple volunteers (at which point  a couple of the ladies from the bank stepped forward) to help transfer some gin from the plastic holding tank into a cask by one person holding the hose and the other assisting in some other way. There was a bit of spillage when it accidentally overflowed, but fortunately they stopped in time so not much gin ended up on the floor. This was just an exercise to fulfill the requirement of being a 'Distiller for a Day,' but Dave said they were going to later just transfer it all back into the plastic container anyway.

After that we went back across the street to the Distillery to learn all about the process of how the different spirits are created and processed. I believe most spirits start out as Vodka and it’s only in what you add to it and how long you age it that you end up with Bourbon and Gin. I think Dave also said something about not all Bourbons are Gin, but all Gins are Bourbon or something (I wasn’t taking notes).

I can tell you that most of their spirits are made from Ohio grown corn, and lots of it. They also try to keep the other ingredients as local as possible (both to save on cost of transport and to support the local economy).

Dave methodically explained what each piece of machinery did and showed us the bottling and labeling room. He explained about the strict laws and taxes governing the sale of alcohol. You have to be pretty precise when filling a bottle. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives says you can be a little over (due to evaporation) when filling rather than under, I believe. Also, the rules regarding bottling and samplings/tastings differ state to state as well. Some of the western states are a bit stricter than Ohio it seems.

We ended our tour by being seated at a large table in the distillery adjacent to the restaurant which we could see through the glass wall separating us. Dave then asked who wished to sample each different liquor they make. I wanted the full experience so I tried them all: Vodka, 4 Peel Gin  (smell & taste the Juniper!), Bourbon Barrel Gin, Bourbon, Old Fashioned (brought back into popularity after “Mad Men”), and Nocino (a walnut based liquor that is supposed to taste lovely drizzled over vanilla ice cream).

I learned that it's better to sniff your alcohol with your mouth open because you can take in more of the subtleties or something. It feels silly, but really does seem to work.

My two favorites were the 4 Peel Gin, which I think would go nicely with a rotisserie chicken and the Nocino (the most expensive since it’s painstakingly handmade in a limited quantity each year) for dessert. When Dave asked if anyone wanted a second sample I eagerly chose the Nocino.

Along with the samples of liquor we were also presented with a smorgasbord of food (another one of those times where perhaps I shouldn’t have eaten dinner beforehand) including pork rinds, potatoes, brussel sprouts, and ​baby back ribs – all cooked in a gourmet fashion to entice us to visit the restaurant in the future (we got to see a sample menu as well). It definitely worked as I was sold; can’t wait to bring my husband Andrew there sometime.

(BTW, the samples were perhaps an ounce or two, so the pile of food we were served more than soaked up our meager rations).

Have a good week everyone!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Food & Drink

When Andrew and I were in Kansas City much of our vacation revolved around Food & Drink. Although I'm not sure I would classify either of us as "foodies" (I tend to think of those with more highbrow tastes rather than someone like me who is quite happy to eat PB & J or pizza & burgers), we do always seem to seek out interesting flavors (though probably more with drink than food).

One of the first things we did after arriving in Kansas City was go on a Food Walking Tour of the City. It wasn't cheap at $45 a person, but I don't think you go on these tours for the food alone (or at least I hope not because you probably won't get your money's worth).

Here's a link to my review on Trip Advisor:

Unless you're actually going to Kansas City, you probably don't care where we ate exactly, so I'll just tell you what we ate instead: Biscuits & Gravy with bits of bison meat in it (would not have been my first choice, but wasn’t bad actually), Flat Bread w/Balsamic Vinegar and mozzarella cheese (yummy!), a gluten-free roll, shredded beef pot roast, a side of cilantro, Chimmichuri, and a small pot of passion fruit pudding, and lastly, a macaroon of our choice (I selected a white choc raspberry whilst Andrew tried a poppy seed one).

The majority of the places were at the City Market, which is one of Kansas City's gems and similar in size to the North Market we have here in Columbus (and most restaurants aren’t open in the evenings either same as ours). Aside from picking up a pizza one night we never did make it back to the market to try any more of the tempting KC fare.

You can't leave Kansas City without trying some of the barbecue, so based on Andrew's research we decided to eat at Jack Stack’s Barbecue in the Country Club Plaza (Kansas City's answer to Easton Town Centre, but much, much older and with a Spanish architectural theme). Our waiter, Eugene, helpfully suggested trying a sampler plate with each of us ordering different things so we could share, so we did that. It didn't take me long before I started filling up, so I suggested leaving enough for another meal to reheat at our Air BNB (since we had a full kitchen) not wishing to push myself to the breaking point.

Guess who ended up eating all the leftovers? I am ashamed to say I polished off every last shred of pulled pork and brisket, etc. and a 4" cheese pizza on the side. I didn't fancy eating a whole plate of meat just on its own. [Andrew wasn't feeling well & we were running out of time to use the leftovers, so it was that or toss it all.]

Our next food/drink expedition was a visit to the Boulevard Brewery for their free, but quite popular tour. They advise you to queue up at 10am when they open in order to book your time slot for the day. Since we did it later in the week it wasn't that busy so we didn't have any problem getting in.

Having already toured a couple other breweries we were no strangers to the process, though we have yet to see an assembly line in actual production (like at the beginning of "Laverne & Shirley"). I especially enjoyed learning about how the head of the company became interested in starting his own brewery after visiting Europe and being impressed with the overwhelming amount of choices of beer you get over there (ale, lager, stout, etc.). One bartender apparently handed him a phone book-sized catalog of choices. It's almost getting to that point here in the states with the explosion of Microbreweries.

(two of those are Andrew's samples)

Even though I'm not a fan of beer (haven't yet gained an appreciation for hops), I did manage to choose a couple flavors for the duo we were entitled to at the end of the tour (I waived off the other generous sample we received while we listened to the history lesson). I selected Bully Porter (roast, toasty coffee flavor) and its exact opposite, Extra Pale Ale (black pepper, peach, grapefruit). I preferred the Extra Pale Ale because it had less of a hop-py after taste. I also liked one of Andrew’s samples, but I forget what it was.

One of my favorite meals was the lunch I had at Rozzelle Court at the Nelson Atkins Art Museum. Although the sandwich was a masterpiece on its own, I have to think the ambiance of eating in a light, airy courtyard with a fountain in the center, surely made everything taste better.

Remembering how much I enjoyed the sample of my uncle's beet salad in Carmel many years ago, I thought I would be brave and order the Beet Reuben Panini: Roasted Beets, Sauerkraut, Fontina Cheese and Russian Dressing on Pumpernickel Rye. I had a cup of cream of cauliflower soup on the side, so I was definitely full after half a sandwich and my soup. Andrew's lunch (though I don't recall what he ordered) must not have been as filling since he went back up and bought a piece of rhubarb cake for dessert. It looked good, but I was feeling over my quota of fat and calories, so I simply watched him enjoy it. I can't help but think this is a meal my uncle would have ordered had he been with us (but he was on a European river boat cruise probably eating lots of Weiner schnitzel and streusel).

On our last day in the city we toured the Roasterie, which is a coffee brewing company that was actually somewhat in production while we were there (Fri a.m.). We watched a short film about the history of the company and about how they select their beans. Having never toured a coffee factory before (closest to that was the chocolate factory we toured in Wales last summer) it was all new to me, though there are some similarities to that of a brewery in that the terroir of the beans will affect the flavor much like the terroir of hops or grapes.

Among other things I learned that coffee actually comes from a cherry and that the bean is the pit. I bet not many people know that, or that hops is a member of the cannabis family. You learn something new every day…

Also, unlike other coffee manufacturers, they roast their beans in an air roaster, similar in concept to a popcorn popper, which apparently gives a more even roasting to each bean, as opposed to the drum roaster that most other coffee factories use.
our talented tour guide, Audrey showing us one of a couple different brewing methods.
After we were done touring the factory we were treated to a sample of coffee brewed using two different methods – the first being a French press, and the second was filtered using a chemex I think. I’m not sure I have a preference, but I really liked the flavor of the coffee considering we sampled it black. It didn’t really need much in the way of sweetening. The name of our sample was Yirgacheffe Hafursa and the beans apparently came from Ethiopa: Lively and bright with a high acidity, we’re tasting fresh blackberry, raisin, and a caramel undertone before a sweet, lingering finish. We also got to sample the Nitro Brew, which is a carbonated coffee with a taste and texture similar to that of Guinness. Not my favorite, but Andrew really liked it (and had one with his lunch when we were there for lunch the day before).

I was a little saddened, but not surprised when I stepped on the scale after returning home to discover that I had gained a pound or two. I think it was all worth it though…

Have a great week everyone!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017
Sorry for the lapse between blog updates but I have been away on holiday in Kansas City, Missouri  to see the eclipse and do a bit of sight-seeing.

Before launching into a play-by-play of our day, I should back up and tell you we did quite a lot of prep for the eclipse. When I say ‘we,’ I mean my husband Andrew did a lot of prep. He read up on it and studied maps and charts and even invested in special equipment (a special lens for his camera). It wouldn’t be an understatement to say he took this all very seriously and was even a little stressed out about it.

My only concern was not wanting to get stuck in bumper to bumper traffic on our way to the eclipse party at the university. Hence, we set our alarm for 7am so we could get on the road to Liberty by around 8am or soon thereafter (a full five + hours before the eclipse was due to start).

We found the university (William Jewell) and the stadium parking lot with no problem and there were still plenty of spaces. Had a quick chat with another early bird before walking downtown to grab brunch at Ginger Sue’s.

Since it was still sunny when we set off we left most of our stuff (including umbrellas) in the car. However, the closer we got to the restaurant dark clouds started rolling in and we heard the occasional rumble of thunder in the distance and even saw a bit of lightning.

We managed to get through brunch (after trying unsuccessfully to each eat two of the world’s largest pancakes) and were walking down the street when it finally started to rain. Since City Hall (where we were checking out a Little Free Library)
was heavily air conditioned and not that big, I suggested we seek refuge in a store called Petals & Potpourri. The proprietor couldn’t have been nicer letting us browse at our own pace knowing full well we were there to stay out of the rain. Partly out of guilt and partly out of liking shiny things, I saw a necklace I fancied that had an interchangeable centerpiece. Since Andrew didn’t seem to object I bought it. He even suggested I pick up several of the centerpieces since they probably wouldn’t be easy to find back in Columbus.

Eventually the rain started letting up a little so we decided to brave it and make our way back to campus. I couldn’t wait to get to the car and put my warm and cozy sweatshirt over my wet shoulders.

I didn’t have the sweatshirt on too long before the clouds parted (just like in the opening credits of “The Simpsons”) and the sun came back out.  We grabbed our chairs and stuff and headed out to the stadium to find a good spot on the AstroTurf field. While Andrew fiddled with his camera I pulled out my book and sunglasses and worked on my tan while stretched out on the canvas chair that came with its own footrest.

The stadium gradually got busier and busier, though nowhere near as crowded as it might get for something like a concert or a big sporting event. Still, it was enough people (though probably half were students) to call the event a success.

While Andrew studied the eclipse almost non-stop for the just over an hour duration, I kept glancing up through my special glasses while also people watching (wondering why didn’t we think to get a souvenir t-shirt?) and reading my book.

As it got closer to totality, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” was piped through the speakers. When the sun got completely blacked out a cheer went up from the crowd.
Then came the climax when we could take our glasses off to see Bailey’s Beads followed by the ultimate in nature’s wonders, ‘the diamond ring.’ I was so overcome with emotion I quite honestly bawled my eyes out. If you’ve ever witnessed that you know how beautiful that was. I don’t think anything else in my life will even come close to how amazing that was. We were then serenaded to George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun,” which seemed as appropriate a choice as any for that moment in time.

I feel triple blessed because technically this was the third eclipse Andrew and I shared together. The first was an annular* eclipse back in May 1994 while we were both still students at Kent State University.

* The name “annular” comes from the Latin word for ring, “annulus.” These eclipses are named for their darkest, or maximum, point even if it only lasts less than a second. If the characteristic ring of fire is visible from even just one location, the whole eclipse is called an annular solar eclipse.

Then in 1999 we booked a coach trip to see a solar eclipse from Rouen, France (home of the Joan of Ark Cathedral). Unfortunately it was a lot more overcast then, so we didn’t get to see as much of the totality (or Bailey’s Beads or the diamond ring either). However, unlike where we were at the stadium, there were quite a lot of birds around and it was interesting to see how they reacted to it. They seemed to be totally confused and flocked to the trees, quieting down quite a lot exhibiting their typical night time behavior.

Andrew has already started researching the next solar eclipse which should be visible from Ohio in April of 2024. See you there!

Here’s a couple links to our pictures on flickr: 

Have a good Labor Day weekend everyone!