Category Archives: food & drink

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA

There’s a large package store near my apartment by the name of Manchester Wine & Liquors. You can usually find me there once every week or two, walking along the two huge walls that feature beer from most countries on the planet. Every time I visit, I nearly always try something new. One result is that I’ve narrowed down pretty well what I like, to the point where I’m quite discerning about the qualities of my favorite style: the IPA, or India Pale Ale. Another result is that I find it difficult to remember what I have and haven’t tried, and if I did try it, what I thought about it. Thus I avoided the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA out of faulty memory and prejudice (it’s not particularly rare). This weekend, I rectified my mistake.

Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA Label

While spending the weekend at one of the best Boston bed and breakfast places, I cooled the mixed six-pack of beer we’d brought by putting it out on the window sill. With the fireplace crackling, a classic Seinfeld episode on TV and a nice dinner out to prepare for, my mate and I decided to open up the Dogfish Head 90 Minute India Pale Ale. As mentioned before, we had seen it many times without it ever striking our fancy, so we weren’t expecting anything spectacular. But that’s exactly what we got. The dense hoppiness, the citrusy, floral taste, the warming __ opaqueness of it… it was truly a special beer.

It’s worth mentioning that we had previously tried and dismissed the 60-minute and 120-minute versions of the same brew (the minutes referring to the time spent hopping the beer). At 60 minutes, it lacked the requisite flavor and depth that we look for in an IPA, while at 120 minutes, it was altogether too overpowering. Like Goldilocks, we found the happy medium and a true legend in the Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Crack one open today and see for yourself.

My Top 5 For 2007

After seeing numerous end-of-year lists around the web, I thought it fitting to sum up my Top 5 in each category of The Cookblog. And so, without further ado, here they are:

The Cookblog's Best of 2007

Art

These are the best web sites and artists that I discovered during the past year.

  1. Edward Gorey – I’ve posted about him before, but the maestro of macabre was my #1 artistic discovery of the past year. Meticulous pen sketches combined with a wickedly dark sense of humor make him my favorite by a country mile.
  2. Rockwell Kent – Moby Dick is a terrific book (at least the first few chapters), and these illustrations are great. They capture the majesty of the ocean, the madness of Captain Ahab and the calm of an evening anchorage in attractive woodcut style.
  3. Chema Madoz – There’s something about black& white photography that is just cool. The pictures on these sites juxtapose and re-imagine common elements in interesting ways, like a match set against a plank so that the grain of the wood looks like smoke. Check it out.
  4. BibliOdyssey – A really fascinating site packed with high-res illustrations of esoteric old books. The quality of the images and care with which they’re chosen really sets the site apart.
  5. OldBookIllustrations – I love old books and I love the types of illustrations on this site. On top of that, most are in the public domain, so I definitely plan on returning if I need fodder for any graphic design projects.

Food & Drink

These rate as the best beers I’ve discovered during 2007.

  1. 840 IPA – An absolute classic, this well-balanced but beautifully-hopped India Pale Ale is the standard by which I now measure all others.
  2. Ten Penny Ale – The perfect counterpoint to the hoppiness of an IPA, the malty, smoky Ten Penny is made in East Hartford and finds its way into the refrigerator more than any other beer.
  3. Chocolate Stout – A great beer for a change of pace, this goes particularly well mixed with Saranac’s Carmel Lager or Guinness.
  4. Racer 5 IPA – A tasty brew offered on tap at The Library, a bar near my brother’s apartment in Los Angeles. Nice and floral.
  5. Southampton IPA – A random discovery at the local package store, this IPA with an orange label is thoroughly drinkable and always welcome.

Games

I’ve played a lot of games this year, but only a few stack up against my high standards. They are:

  1. Carcassonne – Board games don’t get more classic than this. Every game is different and the social aspect makes it perfect for beginners
  2. Tichu – A favorite at work and probably the best card game in the world, combining bluffing, anticipation and cooperation. It’s only $7. Get it.
  3. Caylus – The opposite of Carcassonne, involving almost zero luck and total diplomacy, Caylus would be the chess of board games if chess wasn’t a board game.
  4. Foosball – The only non-board game here, there have been some epic shots and games over the past few months with my work colleagues. The laws of physics bow down before our deft control and puma-like reflexes, but we’re still easily beaten by the slow roller.
  5. Ticket to Ride: Europe – The chosen game at home, it’s good for two players and conjures up images of actually riding a train from Edinburgh to Athena. Also, my girlfriend and I can usual overcome our rage at losing after only a few minutes.

Literature

I haven’t had a chance to read as much as I would have liked, but these are the books that I enjoyed at least part of this past year.

  1. Morbo – Phil Ball has a wonderful turn of phrase and the intensely interesting subject of Spanish soccer comes alive with his words.
  2. Selected Verses of Ogden Nash – Perfect for reading to that special someone, the quirk and wit of Ogden Nash never fails to bring a smile to my face.
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – That’s right, I’m a Harry Potter fan.
  4. The Stories of Paul Bowles – Imagine my delight when I found one of my favorite books at a library book sale for 1/4 cover price.
  5. The Devil Drives – A biography of Sir Richard Burton, it’s a gripping account of a man who lived in constant adventure, from India to Mecca to Ethiopia.

Music

There was some great music this year, and though I usually prefer individual tracks to full albums, these were great the whole way through.

  1. Radiohead – In Rainbows – One again, Radiohead has delivered a phenomenal album packed with electronic hooks and human feeling. By far the most played this year.
    Reckoner
  2. Feist – The Reminder – A great discovery, Feist has since come to prominence for her role in an iPod commercial, but the rest of the songs on her album are equally bouncy and catchy.
    I Feel It All
  3. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga – Vintage Spoon and no complaints from me. This is piano rock at its best.
    The Ghost of You Lingers
  4. The National – Boxer – One of the most genuine bands around today, The National’s “Fake Empire” is one of the songs of the year.
    Fake Empire
  5. Peter Bjorn and John – Writer’s Block – According to the Wikipedia, this was a 2006 album, but Rolling Stone put it in their best of 2007 list, so I am, too.
    Up Against the Wall

Soccer

I like to think I have a talent for spotting quality when it comes to soccer players, not that it’s difficult to tell that these five footballers are several cuts above the rest.

  1. Kaka – The Brazilian is the Zidane of this generation. His seemingly-effortless skill has been winning match after match for AC Milan, including the World Club Cup and the Champions League trophy
  2. Lionel Messi – The only player that can rival Kaka, Messi has been carrying one of the biggest and proudest clubs in the world on his shoulders. That he’s already made Ronaldinho dispensable is an indication of his importance to Barcelona.
  3. Christiano Ronaldo – Like the two players above him, he has dragged his team to victory even when they haven’t deserved it. If he can deliver European success to Manchester United, he’ll move higher up the list.
  4. Didier Drogba – His questionable temperament doesn’t take away from his qualities as a player. Powerful and intelligent on the field, he takes his team into a different class when he plays and is worth far more to Chelsea than the rubles they paid for him.
  5. Daniel Alves – A marauding right fullback who has been the impetus behind Sevilla’s recent success, Alves will surely earn a move to a major club soon, where he should establish himself as the best wingback in the world.

Travel

I haven’t taken too many exotic trips this year, but these places have been welcome breaks from the usual routine at home.

  1. Boston – An awesome trip up to watch the Red Sox earn a spot in the World Series still rates as one of the best days this year.
  2. Los Angeles, CA – A great visit with the family for Thanksgiving was the perfect way to spend those vacation days.
  3. Onset – Having returned there for every year since I was born, it’s impossible to underestimate its importance in my life.
  4. Danbury – Always a relaxing and comfortable place to visit, you never know who or what you’ll find at the casa de Angela, Kathleen and Connor, but it’s always a good time.
  5. New York – A weekend in NYC with John, Georgia and Co. was a ton of fun. My only regret is that it was the only one.

Web

I’ve seen a lot of websites in my 25 years on this planet, but these deserve special mention.

  1. Slightly Shady SEO – The best blog about SEO in my opinion. Gives away secrets that are worth plenty, which makes me wonder how much more he knows.
  2. Asobrain Games – A great place to play Carcassonne with no frills, no fuss and no fees.
  3. Strange Maps – Since maps are something of a hobby for me, this site is always full of interesting things.
  4. Coudal Partners – I’m still not sure what they do there, but their features, including Photoshop Layer Tennis and the Museum of Online Museums are worth regularly checking out.
  5. Smashing Magazine – With their fingers firmly on the pulse of web design, this site displays great examples for study and inspiration.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my picks and I hope that 2008 has as much good material to see, read, hear and blog about. If you’ve got something to say about any of my choices, go for it!

Red Sox vs Indians ALCS Game 7

There’s a reason it’s taken me three days to lay down a record of my trip up to Boston last Sunday: it was a day packed so full of fun and memories that I hadn’t even recovered until now. So let’s begin at the beginning.

Trip to Boston

In my line of work, I am rarely but occasionally given the opportunity to purchase tickets for events at expensive-but-not-outrageous prices. Typically, I care nothing for the events featured, but the stars aligned this week and gave me the chance to get Red Sox bleacher seats for their theoretical Game 7 ALCS clash against the Cleveland Indians at Fenway. I managed to secure six seats in a row at $100 each, bringing the full price of my order to $5 more than I paid for my car. It would be me, Angelina, Marta, Dan, Paul and Steve basking in the glow of playoff baseball in Beantown. All that was left was for Boston to win Game 6. This they did with style, 12-2. The stage was set.

My aforementioned car happens to be a 1990 Chevrolet Celebrity Eurowagon, purchased from Craigslist. With comfortable seating for up to 7 people, it was just the vehicle to make the trip north and east. After filling it with some badly-needed power steering fluid, inflating some soft tires and gassing up, we picked up the rest of the crew and piled in, setting out around 1:30 PM on Sunday, October 24. The trip gave everyone a chance to enjoy the rustic appeal of my automobile. The upholstery on the ceiling sags. The front and back bumper both look like they’re riddled with bullet holes and about to fall off. I have to open the door at toll booths since my window won’t open. The front-side passenger needs to bench 120lbs in order to have the requisite strength to open their door. In short, it’s a perfect car for a road trip.

Marta admires the spaciousness of the back seat.

We powered down I-84 and the Mass Pike to the tune of Dan’s iPod, blasting an eclectic mixture of baseball songs and 1990 hillbilly Radiohead esoterica. To everyone’s relief, the car survived the first leg of the journey and we pulled into Riverside station on the outskirts of Boston to ride the “T” into the city.

Ange and I await our metal chariot.

We arrived at Fenway Station around 3 PM, five hours before the game was due to start. There was already a palpable buzz around the place, people looking to score tickets, others just hoping to soak up the atmosphere and some booze. The fact that we already had tickets placed us firmly in the latter camp, and we strolled over to the Boston Beer Works to wet our whistles. It was still early, so the crowds weren’t bad and we sidled into the largest booth I’ve ever seen.

The first side of the booth.

The second, more good-looking side of the booth.

For the next few hours, we ate all manner of nachos, burgers and fries, washing it all down with several pitchers of Boston Beer Works’ finest. Though we fell short of our stated desire to get a pitcher of everything on the beer menu, we made a valiant effort. The food, the drink, the conversation and the shoulders comprised the perfect pre-game program and we walked out well-satisfied around 6:30 PM. The gates to Fenway Park weren’t open yet, so we opted to pass some time playing foosball at the mafia-owned Jillians just down the road. I was able to drop some jaws and raise my social status with a series of powerful goals and miraculous saves en route to a thorough spanking of all opponents.

Marta and Paul fall to the irresistable force of Brian and Dan.

After that exercise, it was time to enter Fenway Park, the night’s theater of dreams. Arriving over an hour before the game gave us ample time to stock up on $8 Sam Adams Oktoberfest and find our seats in the bleachers. For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would want to sit anywhere else. There’s no place in the stadium where the passion and rowdiness is so evident and so enjoyable. New England aloofness is discarded like so much junk mail, and people become friendly.

That early before the game, though, there were only a few people and they were lined up at the top of the wall waiting to catch balls from batting practice. We had to make do with watching the Indians warm up, which turned out fine when Grady Sizemore turned and tossed a ball up in our direction. I plucked it out of the air with my bare claw and gave it to Angelina, like any boyfriend who wants to stay out of the doghouse. She spent the rest of BP showing everyone how she grips her curveball and arguing with me about who Sizemore was trying to throw the ball to (we both grinned in his direction). Just to be safe, I told Grady that he was a bastard and that this girl was taken.

Sizemore prepares to throw like a jerk.

The game itself was a tense affair with the Red Sox scoring some runs, then being pegged back by the plucky Indians. After a rousing rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the 7th-inning stretch, they opened up a 5-2 lead. But it was “Sweet Caroline” in the middle of the 8th that really did the trick, with Dustin Pedroia doubling and Kevin Youkilis homering to send Fenway into a happy sort of chaos. We hung around after Papelbon closed the game out, watching the on-field celebrations, viewing the post-game interviews on the Jumbotron and taking pictures.

A deliriously happy Fenway celebrates.

We took a detour after the game to hit up the convenience store and avoid the crowds at a T station besides Fenway. Unfortunately, it began to look like the trains were no longer servicing other stations, and we hoofed it back, managing to catch the last train out to Riverside. Once again, we piled into the car and started pulling out of the lot when the “Tailgate Ajar” light came on. Despite my half-assed efforts, I couldn’t get the latch to catch, so we headed home with the gate rattling. It didn’t seem to stop anyone from sleeping and no one fell out the back (as far as I know). We even had time to stop on I-84 so that Angelina could enjoy the crisp fall air, the brilliant night sky and the scent of the grass. As I helmed my car Manchesterward, I saw two shooting stars, which effectively summed up the entire trip. Imagine a great thing, and then imagine it doubled.

We dropped off the rest of the crew in Vernon and walked in our door at 4AM on Monday morning. Mocking reason, I woke up three hours later and put in a good day’s work before finally catching up on some sleep. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mock my brother for opting to stay in California instead of flying East for one night. Shame on you, Aaron. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t thank Angelina, Dan, Marta, Paul and Steve for a great day out. You can find more pictures of the day here. Go Red Sox!

A great day out with friends.

A Big Lebowski Wedding

My friends know that I enjoy a White Russian as much as the next man, and they also know I enjoy The Big Lebowski. This past weekend’s union of Christy and Tyler Driscoll gave me a chance to combine both enjoyments into a single cathartic moment: “Another Caucasian, Gary.” Props to Dan for thinking up this stunt.

Here are some pictures from the wedding. First, we have Dan and Marta.

Dan and Marta

Next up is John and Georgia:

John and Georgia

Then we have Jesse and Sarah:

Jesse and Sarah

Followed by the newlyweds, Tyler and Christy:

Christy and Tyler

And finally, me and the lovely Angelina:

Brian and Angelina

It was a great day spent with friends celebrating a very smart match, if I do say so myself. Congratulations to the Driscolls and a big high five to everyone I saw this weekend.

My 5 Favorite Beers

I didn’t finish my first beer until my sophomore year of college. That success followed a few aborted attempts, and I still remember how distasteful it was to me at that time. This image, courtesy of The Onion, pretty well sums up what happened next:

Picture of Beer Cans

My appreciation for beer has followed a predictable trajectory. First, it was forced down can by can. Then, it warped my sense of reality when I finished several. Then it was a reward for my prodigious beer pong skill. Now, Angie and I try new brands and varieties whenever we can. The microbreweries in the area are fantastic, from the local John Harvards to our favorite, Willimantic Brewery.

Despite our adventurous spirit in sampling brews, I have a few favorites. They are:

  1. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale – In my opinion, the best large-market beer available. The flavor of hops and spices is second to none, and it can be gotten anywhere. Always a safe bet, always delicious.
  2. Tiger Beer – The national beer of Singapore, I never actually had any when I lived there. Still, it retains a sentimental value and is an excellent pilsner that pairs well with spicy Asian foods.
  3. Southampton IPA – A recent discovery, this India Pale Ale is full of hops, the bitterness cutting through the summer heat and humidity with a welcome bite.
  4. Blue Moon – A Belgian white ale from Colorado, Blue Moon has a unique, mild flavor that showcases its spices. A good pick for people who typically don’t like beer.
  5. Sea Dog Blueberry Ale – A great dessert beer, with a sweet taste like a rich blueberry muffin. Not for every day, but really hits the spot when craving a sweeter brew.

So there it is. Let me know which beers you recommend and I’ll be sure to look for them. Kanpai!

A Passage to Indian Food

As I tucked into my delicious Chicken Tikka Masala at last night’s game session, I once again thanked my lucky stars for my gorgeous, half-Indian girlfriend. Despite going to high school in Singapore, with its dizzying array of paneers, masalas and kormas, I lacked the requisite courage and palate to appreciate the tastegasm that is Indian food.

Chicken Tikka Masala

Fortunately, my better half helped change my mind, and we’ve spent the last few years finding and sampling almost every Indian restaurant of note between Hartford and Storrs. So far, Wing Express, right at the University of Connecticut, is up there with the best. Big portions and big flavor with an affordable price tag is hard to beat. I particularly like their lamb curry. Ambassador of India in Glastonbury has a glowing reputation, and it’s food is quite good as well.

We’ve also made forays into cooking ourselves, thanks to my mate’s knowledge and prowess in the kitchen, and my willingness to chop onions. Frequently, we end up adding coconut milk and coconut cream to our curries, making them more Thai than Indian. However, we also make homemade parathas, she rolling the dough and I frying them up with the maximum amount of butter.

Since I formerly considered Cool Ranch Doritoes to be spicy, I’ve also seen a great increase in my enjoyment of all things hot, particularly when I’ve got a nice cold beer to counteract the heat. In short, Indian food is an absolute gastronomic delight, and everyone should be so lucky to have someone to show them just that.

In-N-Out Burger’s Secret Menu

I may only have had In-N-Out burger once, when I went with my girlfriend and her mother before a flight back to the East coast, but rest assured I’ll be stopping by on my next trip to California. And this time, I’ll be armed with the secret menu. Which is what, you ask? Which is more than just their regular menu, which looks like this:

In-N-Out Burger Menu

There’s nothing wrong with the normal menu. They make a few things and make them well. But while the “secret” menu is the worst kept secret in the business, it can still make you feel like an “in”sider. Eh? Ehh?

X x Y
X is the number of meat patties and Y is the number of slices of cheese (so 3 x 3 is 3 meat patties and 3 slices of cheese, while 1 x 4 is 1 meat patty and 4 slices of cheese)

Double Meat
Two meat patties with no cheese.

Triple Meat
Three meat patties with no cheese.

Animal Style
The beef patty is fried with mustard and served with tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, extra spread and grilled onions. You can get any burger (like the veggie or grilled cheeses) made this way.

Flying Dutchman

Two beef patties, two slices of melted cheese. Nothing else.

Protein Style
The burger is wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. You can get any burger (like the veggie and grilled cheeses) made this way.

Veggie Burger (aka Wish Burger)
A burger with no meat or cheese.

Grilled Cheese
Two slices of melted cheese, lettuce, tomato and spread on a bun, with no meat.

Extra Everything
Extra spread, extra tomato, extra lettuce, and extra onions.

Fries “Light”
Nearly raw fries that are cooked for less time.

Fries “Well”
Fries that are cooked extra long so as to be extra crisp.

Cheese Fries
French fries with two slices of melted cheese on top.

Animal Style Fries
French fries with cheese, spread, and grilled onions.

Neapolitan Shake
Strawberry, vanilla and chocolate shake flavors combined in one shake.

Lemon-Up
Half-and-half combo of pink lemonade and 7-Up.

Not too bad, right? I’ve got to say the Protein Style sounds best to me. And it’s lettuce instead of bread, so you know it’s healthy.

My First Dumpster Wine Rack

I enjoy transforming things into wine racks. This first started when I discovered several closet doors in a dumpster in Onset, MA. They were perfectly fine, and as I looked at them, I realized that a few notches in the slats would cradle a wine bottle very nicely.

Those fancy wine racks from Create & Barrel are nice, but I like that I make my own and they work just as well. Plus, it’s fun to reappropriate furniture creatively. You should try it.

Here’s my first wine rack. It holds something like 16 bottles, which is why it’s now gathering dust in a closet (ironic, eh?).

wine rack

Now, I keep my wine in a wine rack that I made out of an old dresser. It holds about 24 bottles, and is far more sturdy than its predecessor. Plus, there’s a little cubby in the top where I can keep my bottle opener. I’ve also installed some slats on the “ceiling” of the wine rack where I can hang about 6 wine glasses. It’s very convenient.