Miss Ginsu: About/Bio

 

Hopping with anticipation

Remember the anticipation of childhood? The upcoming birthday. Christmas morning. Summer camp. Children are capable of an eagerness so passionate, you can almost watch them vibrate when they ponder certain approaching moments.

Of course, we soon learn that the anticipation is often strangely sweeter than the ultimate gratification.

But I must admit, I'm feeling some great, giddy excitement since visiting the Brooklyn Flea recently and picking up one of Brooklyn Brew Shop's dandy little homebrew beer kits.

Gallon Brew Kit from Brooklyn Brew Shop

Check it out: freshly cracked barley, yeast, hops, sugar and an adorable gallon-sized glass carboy that'll actually fit in a New York City-sized apartment. Genius.

You may be thinking I'm an alcoholic or wondering whether I'm unaware that NYC features both terrific beer pubs and excellent beer shops. Why make it when you could just buy it and be assured of a good product every time?

Valid thoughts across the board. But what I'm really amped about, that is, my true reason for excitement... well, it isn't really about the beer at all — it's the thrill of discovery. If this little kit produces a gallon of nice beer at the end of the process, that's just a satisfying bonus.

I chose the Belgian Tripel kit, though the Brew Shop also offers a Grapefruit Honey Ale, a Berry Red Ale and a Chocolate Maple Porter — which may be next on my to-do list if all goes well with the Belgian.

In this video, you can watch Brooklyn Brew Shop's gregarious brewmaster/millmeister Stephen Valand crushing (gently, so gently) my newly purchased Belgian barley. He'll also tell you why this is important to the brewing process.



I'll report back once my little yeasty beasties have done their work.

Cheers!
Miss Ginsu

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10.06.2009

The Untold Delights of Duluth

Gooseberry Falls

The Big View

Ah, Duluth... So much easier to say than, say Keegewaquampe (though in truth, the Chippewa kind of had first dibs on naming rights).

Mum and I met up in Minneapolis and pushed north to take in the promised delights of the Lake Superior region. And delight there was.

We were only there overnight, so I won't be revealing any state secrets here, but I will say that if only famed Kentucky Representative J. Proctor Knott had been able to join our foray, his bitter (though humorous) rant on The Untold Delights of Duluth might have contained more odes to pie and fewer snide remarks about the natives and the bison.

But we'll get to the pie soon enough...

First Stop: Pine City. Every road trip needs a coffee break, and you could do worse than to stop by Java Joe's Bistro in Pine City (take the town's second northbound exit unless you're amped to take the ten-minute town tour).

Java Joe's

With a charming moose head on the wall, homey decor and a fine baker at work in the kitchen, Joe's is welcoming for the road-weary traveler. I recommend splitting one of their enormous muffins over your java.

From Joe's you can cruise along historic Highway 61 (if you're a Bob Dylan junkie) or get back on 35N and make for the lake.

Historic Brass Tubing at Fitger's Brewery

Mom and I splurged for this trip and stayed at Fitger's Inn, an 1880s brewery that was renovated into a hotel with an attached complex of shops, restaurants and an operating microbrewery.

It was a fascinating place to stay, with heaps of historic detail as well as Fitger's very modern microbrew pub built right into the experience.

Immediate access from our room to Duluth's lakeside boardwalk made for both a charming twilight stroll as well as a gorgeous morning jog the following day.

The Bites

Just down the way from Fitger's you'll find Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake, a sweet little pub with an exceedingly friendly staff who served us tasty soups and high-piled sandwiches (don't miss their spicy honey mustard).

Al Fresco Lunch at Sir Benedicts

As you can see in the photo evidence above, I got the bacon-avocado sandwich and chicken wild rice soup with a seasonal Leinkugel's, and ate it under the canopy of a gorgeous spring day... a pairing I'd recommend without reservation.

When visiting Duluth, you really can't miss a lakeside drive to see the lovely, lonely lighthouses, Gooseberry Falls State Park and, of course there must be a stopover at Betty's Pies when you're done hiking "those vast and fertile pine barrens."

Betty's serves other stuff, of course. You can get a full meal there if you want to. But clearly, you'd do well to save space for dessert. The place isn't called Betty's Meatloaf.

Betty's Pies

And yes... you do want it a la mode. The ice cream is real and it's real good. Mom and I sampled the Bumbleberry (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries) and the Great Lakes pie (a combo of apple, blueberry, rhubarb, strawberry and raspberry), and both were superb.

When dinnertime rolled around, Duluth offered up a cornucopia of interesting options (check Chowhound for the frontrunners), but we opted to stay on Superior Street and entrusted ourselves to the historic Pickwick Restaurant.

I was dying for a plate of simply cooked trout and tender-crisp vegetables alongside a quality beer, and the Pickwick provided. Mom chose a barbecued shrimp dish, which was far too sweet and gooey for me, (though I admit that might have be someone's ideal preparation). They do seem to offer a wide variety of American classics, and the beers are good.

The Takeaway

While swooning over the tangy fruit and pastry crust of Betty's Pies, I realized that it'd been forever since I'd eaten a slice of pie that wasn't my own or the work of someone I knew personally. And there's one big reason for this: canned fillers.

It's a darn shame, but most places make pies with gelatinous canned pie filler. Why? It's cheap, easy and few people complain.

In fact, if restaurants charged what Betty's charges for its slices of pie (get ready to shell out six bucks a slice) people would complain.

But the truth is... when it comes to pie, you get what you pay for. So if you love pie, find a trustworthy baker and pay well, or make your own. Betty's inspired me with their multi-fruit combinations, so here's a pie inspired by their delicious Bumbleberry Crunch, a combo that happens to be in season at the moment

Betty's Pie a la mode

Quadberry Crumble Pie (Makes one pie)
1 9-inch single-crust pie shell
4 cups (1 quart) fresh berries (any combo of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest (optional)
Crumble Topping (see below for recipe)
Vanilla ice cream, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2. In large bowl, blend together the sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice and zest (if using).
3. Add the berries to the bowl and toss gently to coat.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pie shell and sprinkle evenly with the Crumble Topping.
5. Gently place the pie on a baking sheet, and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown color and the juices are thickened and bubbling.
6. Move the baked pie to a wire rack to cool for several hours. Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream.

Crumble Topping
3 Tbsp flour
4 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1 dash salt
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup pecans, walnuts or pistachios, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chilled butter, cut in 1/2" pieces

1. In a mixing bowl, blend together flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, oats and nuts.
2. Cut the butter into the mixture with a fork until the blend resembles a uniform gravel. Sprinkle atop the pie filling and bake as directed above.

Love pictures? Who doesn't? You can see the full Duluth Photo Set here.

Meanwhile, Happy Trails!
Miss Ginsu

Java Joe's Bistro
Java Joe's Bistro on Urbanspoon
1300 Northridge Ct NW
Pine City, MN

Fitger's Inn
Fitger's Brewhouse on Urbanspoon
600 East Superior St
Duluth, MN 55802
218.722.8826

Sir Benedict's Tavern on the Lake
Sir Benedict's Tavern on Urbanspoon
805 E Superior St
Duluth, MN 55802
218.728.1192

Betty's Pies
Betty's Pies on Urbanspoon
1633 Highway 61
Two Harbors, MN 55616
218.834.3367

Pickwick Restaurant
Pickwick on Urbanspoon
508 E Superior St.
Duluth, MN 55802
218.727.8901

Gooseberry Falls State Park
3206 Highway 61
Two Harbors, MN 55616
218.834.3855

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7.22.2009

Recession Proof: Rumsford's Soup

If you read much food writing, you may have encountered writer MFK Fisher's notes on thrifty cuisine.

In her 1942 recession-proof tome, How to Cook a Wolf she wrote of an inexpensive, nutritious meat-grain subsistence loaf (writer Jeffrey Steingarten later taste-tested that very recipe in The Man Who Ate Everything).

But far earlier than that, in the late 1700s, a remarkably multi-talented scientist/inventor named Benjamin Thompson (later known as Count von Rumford) was also interested in nutritious subsistence food, which led him to the creation of Rumford Soup.

Soup Bowl

The original Rumford Soup was composed of nothing more than pearl barley, yellow peas, potatoes, salt, old, sour beer and maybe a bit of vinegar. Cheap eats, indeed.

In today's prices, Rumford's recipe makes a meal for less than $1 per person, the most expensive ingredient being the beer.

This soup (as well as his efficient stove innovations) caught on in Europe and America and led to the establishment of the soup kitchens that nourished generations of the poor.

The traditional version of the recipe goes something like this:
Classic Rumford Soup (Serves 6)

1 cup pearl barley
1 cup dried yellow split peas
4 cups diced potatoes
1 tsp salt, or to taste
3 cups water
3 cups (2 12oz bottles) wheat beer (hefeweizen)
Malt or cider vinegar (to taste)

1. Put the barley, split peas, potato cubes, salt and water in a large stockpot. Slowly simmer the mixture for 1 to 2 hours, adding additional water, as necessary.
2. When the soup begins to thicken, add the beer and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
3. Season to taste with a little vinegar and more salt, if needed. Serve with bread.

I think this recipe could be improved immensely by replacing the beer with some flavorful stock and adding some ground black pepper, a liberal sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of fresh parsley... but all that would obviously add a few cents onto the per-person price.

I've come up with a revisited version of Rumsford's famous soup, which is a little more dolled up and comes out to about $2 per serving if you make your own stock.
The Rumsford Redux (Serves 6)
4 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 1/2 cups split yellow peas
2 medium potatoes, diced
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 cup pearl barley
1 to 2 bay leaves
1 to 2 carrots, peeled and sliced (1/2")
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

Soup Garnish (optional)
1 small red onion, minced
1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Juice of 1 lemon

1. In a heavy-bottomed stock pot, combine the 4 cups broth with the peas and the potatoes.
2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Covered and cook until the peas and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion in the oil about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to the potatoes and peas.
4. Add the barley and carrot and continue simmering until the barley is tender, about 40 minutes.
5. Prepare the garnish by combining the chopped onion, parsley and lemon in a small bowl.
6. Remove the soup from the heat, and if it seems a bit thin, add a little more water. Stir in the grated cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with small spoonful of the garnish (if using) atop each portion.

Obviously, Rumsford's soup was vegan-friendly, and my modernized version can certainly be made vegetarian or vegan as well... just make sure the stock is veggie and skip the cheese.

AND as promised, here's the solution to yesterday's soup crossword.

Yours in tasty thrift,
Miss Ginsu

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1.14.2009

FoodLink Roundup: 09.29.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was located among the pumpkins in Red Hook Farm, Brooklyn. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Kick off Rosh Hashanah with Sephardic savories
Sephardic treats for the New Year holiday.

Ancient Yeast Reborn in Modern Beer
Best thing to come out of amber since the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.

An Urban Farmer Is Rewarded for His Dream
How refreshing it is to read some good news this week...

What the 21st Century Will Taste Like
Chef David Chang has an epiphany about a diet for a smaller planet. Once again, old ideas become new realizations.

Mediterranean Diet Declines, and Weights Rise
An increasingly "American-style" diet produces a generation of tubby Greek kids. So sad!

T. rex's closest living relative found on the farm
Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

New food links — and another postcard from Cupcake — every Monday morning on missginsu.com

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9.29.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 07.28.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake took a break in the Central Park Sheep's Meadow. (Fine spotting to the Beast and Hazard both.) Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post your guess in the comments.

Apizza Scholls: Top Five Pizzeria in America
Slice puts its hands on one of America's best pies. You can bet I'll be stopping by the next time I'm in Portland.

Reviving the Ramapo
"The market is ripe for the return of the Ramapo because there is a sizable group out there that wants their tomato to taste good." It's like finding something useful up in the attic.

Slideluck Potshow
A surprise hit in cities around the world, simply local folks sitting around watching slides and eating potluck food.

A Locally Grown Diet With Fuss but No Muss
And now, friends, we return to an era of surfs raising premium crops for the lords...

I Hate Cilantro Haikus
Wow... I had no idea this was a haiku genre.

NutritionData.com
Some good visualizations of individual ingredients in the Nutrition Search widget.

Italy's creative microbrew movement gets noticed
"Outside of the U.S., Italy probably has the most exciting brewing scene in the world," says Garrett Oliver. And yes, he's talking about beer, not wine. That's just crazy.

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7.28.2008

Mi Chelada Es Su Chelada

Nearly 10 years ago, I visited the Yucatán Peninsula for the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival and discovered a drink they called the michelada. It was a refreshing cocktail of sour, savory and salty flavors with brisk carbonation... just the thing for an afternoon of snorkeling, sunbathing and snacking on fresh fish tacos beside the sea.

I didn't see another michelada until I moved to NYC and rediscovered them at Barrio Chino, where the staff poured micheladas just the way I remembered, not to mention great fish tacos. But Barrio Chino is nearly always busy when I'm hankering for a michelada, so I learned to make them on my own.



Through much experimentation, I found that Clamato, a tomato-clam juice, makes the most balanced michelada. Unfortunately, Clamato is also made with high-fructose corn syrup — an additive I actively try to avoid.

So go with Clamato if you can take the MSG and HFCS, or just use your favorite tomato juice. Standard V8 works fine and R.W. Knudsen also makes a nice vegetable blend without corn syrup, but their juice is pretty tart, so you may have to notch down the lime you'll add to the michelada recipe to get the right flavor balance.

One more thing: this is a salty drink. Maybe don't serve it to friends with sodium-sensitive hypertension, okay?
Miss G's Michelada
A small bowl or dish of kosher salt (for salting the glass rim)
1/2 cup Clamato or your favorite tomato juice
juice of 1 lime
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 dash soy sauce
1-2 shakes of hot sauce or 1/2 tsp Sriracha sauce
1 bottle Negra Modelo, Corona or Sol, chilled

1. Dampen the rim of the glass you intend to use (a pint glass is perfect) with water or lime juice, and dip the dampened rim into the bowl or dish of salt.
2. Pour tomato juice, lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce and hot sauce into the glass and mix well.
3. Add ice, if desired, and pour in the beer. The beer will froth in the glass, so pour slowly. You may not get the entire beer in the glass. This is fine. Sip your cocktail and pour in the rest of the beer when you have space.

Last year, I saw that Budweiser was marketing a savory beer based on the same concept: The Budweiser Chelada. I haven't had one, but I can't help but think that fresh-squeezed limes have a lot to do with the charm of this drink. And if you ask me, canning a highly acidic beverage in aluminum sounds like a recipe for nasty off-flavors.

All I'm saying is this: don't try the Bud Chelada (or, similarly, the Miller Chill) and think you've had the genuine article. A real michelada needs to be freshly prepared, and it has a flavor that's somewhere between a Bloody Mary and a Corona with lime. Wait for a sweltering hot, crushingly humid day and make yourself a michelada based on the recipe above.

Salud!

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6.19.2008

Beer Respect: May Edition

I'm trying to stick to domestic beers. I really am.

As I continue my "new beer each week" resolution, the price of import brews (and just about everything else, it seems) also marches onward and upward.

Beer Pour

Meanwhile, I know there's plenty of high-quality U.S. beers to sample... I just keep getting sucked in by exotic things like the Innis & Gunn English Pale Ale which is a rich, smooth brew aged in oak barrels. But really, can you blame me? How exciting is that?

So three out of four beer reviews this month cover domestics. The Goose Island and I will definitely meet again. Hair of the Dog scores one yes and one Amy Winehouse-style no, no, no. The last is that crazy oaky Englander... a bit dear at $4.99/bottle. (The cashier at my local grocery store seemed to think I'd separated it from a four-pack or six-pack and was being charged the entire pack price for a single bottle. Sadly, I had to fess up to being the dumb schmuck that willingly pays $5 (plus bottle deposit) for 11.2 ounces of beer at Key Food.)

Matilda
Goose Island
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Grade: A / 4.35
I love the farmhouse Belgians, and you could pour me a pint of one of these and I'd be absolutely delighted and fooled into thinking it was an import. Goose Island just keeps doing me right.

Fred
Hair of the Dog Brewing Company
American Barleywine
Grade: B+ / 4
It's thick-bodied with a sweet, rich molasses flavor, but it remains entirely drinkable, thanks to some bright balance from the hops.

Ruth
Hair of the Dog Brewing Company
American Pale Ale (APA)
Grade: C+ / 3.15
Despite a sweet, fruity scent this beer is quite dry with a sour-bitter hoppyness. Frankly, I'm not crazy about it. I feel like it's off-kilter.

Innis And Gunn Oak Aged Beer
Innis & Gunn
English Pale Ale
Grade: A / 4.45
A really fascinating flavor! It's a bit smoky and savory... almost vegetal. There's a lot of aroma in the nose.

Cheers, ya'll!

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5.29.2008

Beer Respect: April Edition

Belgians in Montreal
Now that the Euro is at a record high exchange rate against the dollar, exploring domestic beers seems all the more prudent...

The dollar's drop is depressing (hahaha) for Americans in a number of ways, but it's an especially great sadness for those of us who love Belgian beers. Combine our economic decline with high prices on grain (thanks a lot, biodiesel laws...), and it's practically an act of treason to drink beer these days.

That said, I'm selfishly pushing forward with my goal to try at least one new beer each week and record the findings over at Beer Advocate.

Last month's beer roundup featured two Belgians among crew of domestics. This month, I'm diving into yet more domestic selections from Southern Tier and Smuttynose alongside one cheap local (a Polish import, actually) and a very surprising Irish Stout.

Phin & Matts Extraordinary Ale
Southern Tier Brewing Company
American Pale Ale
Grade: B+ / 3.8
"I'd happily drink it again, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it."

Smuttynose Shoal's Pale Ale
Smuttynose Brewing Company
American Pale Ale
Grade: B+ / 4
"A sip is crisp with a nicely bitter, dark grain bite at the midsection and back of the tongue."

Lomza Wyborowe
Browar Łomża Sp. z o.o.
Euro Pale Lager
Grade: C / 3
"Lots of carbination... it seems like it might be a nice brew served cold on a hot summer day."

O'hara's Celtic Stout (Irish Stout)
Carlow Brewing Company
Irish Dry Stout
Grade: A- / 4.2
"...there's a lingering flavor that's like moss, tobacco and ashes. It's a fascinating beer... it sort of reminds me of a scotch."

Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale
Smuttynose Brewing Company
English Brown Ale
Grade: A- / 4.25
"A very friendly, drinkable beer. I think it might be nice with grilled meats or barbecue."

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4.29.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 04.28.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was found (thanks to the sharp mind of Mr. Hazard) in the blossom-filled lanes of Prospect Park, Brooklyn. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

A Guide to Bakeries in Manhattan's Chinatown
A handy guide for the gweilo, myself included.

Book-Beer Pairings
Slightly less reading comprehension, slightly more giggling while you turn the pages.

The In Vitro Meat Consortium
I've said it before: The future is yucky.

The All-Natural Taste That Wasn’t
“Isn’t it amazing how many additives it takes to make something taste natural?”
Oh, Pinkberry, you haz betrayed my tiny trust.

Manhattan Milk Company
All new... it's retro.

Guide to Kosher Imaginary Animals
A good "just in case" guide.

When Neighbors Become Farmers
Lawn? We don't need no stinking lawn.

The great British breakfast is a killer
Hilarious. Read through to the response at the end.

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4.28.2008

Foodlink Roundup: 04.14.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was, as surmised, in Bryant Park, Manhattan. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

Cookie Monster: Is Me Really Monster?
McSweeney's takes a peek inside the mind of an addict.

Pacific Coast Salmon Fishing Shut Down
This year's low fish stocks mean bad news for salmon lovers.

This Is Just To Say
So long, and thanks for all the fish. One of my favorite food poems, re-imagined.

Ever Had a Nice Bottle of Greenpoint?
Garage bands, underground art scenes... and now, warehouse wine. (via WineHazard)

pintprice.com: the price of beer anywhere
A handy tool for comparing the true cost of living.

Carl Warner: Photographer
Click the orange box for the fantasy food photos. (Via MUG)

FoodFilmFest.com
Who knew there were enough films and docs on food justice to fill up an annual fest?

Aqua Ban at NY Hot Spots
Bottled water, is like, sooo last year...

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4.14.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 04.07.08

Cupcake's Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake was located out in the black mining hills of Dakota. Where in the world is Cupcake this week? Post a guess in the comments.

Antarctic Cafeteria Chef Can Boost or Bust Morale
"Sally in the Galley" creates happiness (or misery) for hundreds with canned, dried and preserved foods.

Food riots feared after rice prices hit a high
Eight BILLION people rely on rice, now at its weakest stock level in 30 years. Kind of terrifying.

Frito-Lay Angrily Introduces Line Of Healthy Snacks
"It's a brand-new taste sensation unlike anything you've ever experienced, unless you've ever eaten sisal twine."

A chunk of feta keeps tummies in fine fettle
Beneficial bacteria wins again!

Whatever Happened to Sumerian Beer?
More proof that there's nothing new under the sun... Hamurabi's bureaucracy closed the tap on ancient beer production.

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4.07.2008

Beer Respect: March Edition

I've been a fan of Beer Advocate for a while. After all, their official slogan is "Respect Beer." So simple. So direct. So reverently hedonistic.

glowing hefe

As one of my recent resolutions was to drink a new beer every week and record my thoughts about it for future reference, I discovered that Beer Advocate's online review system provided a terrific tool for this purpose. (Though sadly, my daily running resolution hasn't been half as easy to maintain.)

I'm hoping to be able to post my beer explorations here each month. Below you'll find the beer name, the brewery, the beer type and the letter grade I ended up bestowing on each. (Be forewarned that I naturally skew toward Belgian farmhouse styles and creamy dark stouts, so MGD and Pabst aren't likely to earn high marks over here at Chez Ginsu.)

Overall, I was very pleased with what I found this month, though I'm sorry to report that the Raspberry Porter from the Southern Tier Brewing Company ended up being a low point.

Gulden Draak (Dark Triple)
Brouwerij Van Steenberge N.V.
Belgian Strong Dark Ale
Grade: A / 4.45
"A beautiful beer. And damn fine with barbecue!"

Smuttynose Hanami Ale
Smuttynose Brewing Company
Fruit / Vegetable Beer
Grade: B / 3.7
"This one's a challenge. Could be great with roasted duck."

IPA (India Pale Ale)
Southern Tier Brewing Company
American IPA
Grade: A / 4.3
"A very drinkable IPA. Great with curry (go figure)."

Raspberry Porter
Southern Tier Brewing Company
American Porter
Grade: D / 2.2
"Not really sure what this beer would go well with..."

Brooklyn Local 1
Brooklyn Brewery
Belgian Strong Pale Ale
Grade: A / 4.4
"A lovely brew with tiny, delicate, champagne-like bubbles that zip up the glass in long strings"

Foret
Brasserie Dupont
Saison / Farmhouse Ale
Grade: A / 4.45
"Ace. This crisp blondie is one of my all-time favorites."

You can read any of the full reviews at BA. Meanwhile, if you're already a beer advocateer, make me your buddy! I'm MissGinsu, naturally.

Cheers,

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3.25.2008

FoodLink Roundup: 03.17.08

Link Roundup
Last week, Cupcake turned up in Muir Woods, CA. Where in the world is cupcake this week? Got it nailed down? Post in the comments...

Guinness good for you... officially!
Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, Guinness gets the backing of some scientific research. Sláinte!

Roundup Bonus: Check out the glowing ad copy in this old-school Guinness advert.

Can the World Afford A Middle Class?
Consequences of the global consumption boom? We all pay more for bread, milk and chocolate.

Restaurants Feel the Bite
The stay-at-home mom trend hits the restaurant industry.

More Than Salad
This looks to be a great travel resource for veggies on the wing.

Jack: an occasional restaurant
A fellow NYC food blogger opens an "occasional restaurant" in the totally cool Brooklyn Lyceum.

How the World is Eating...
As food costs rise, some families share how they're dealing with dinner.

10 New York classics
The Guardian fires back after New York Magazine issues its latest list of food & drink favorites.

Red Hook Vendors Get 6-Year Permit
Hooray! Soccer tacos for everyone! Or at least, everyone in Brookyn...

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3.17.2008

Bottle and brew for the bird (and you)

If you're reading this in the US, you're very likely celebrating Thanksgiving with a turkey. If you've heard this tune before, you may have noticed by now that the turkey can be a tricky dance partner.

When the breast meat is done, the legs are overcooked. When the legs are perfect, the breast is raw.*

A whole turkey takes up most of the oven for most of the day, leaving little room for side dishes or desserts.

And how are you going to raise a toast when the light meat is clearly calling out for something crisp and light and the dark meat demands something big and juicy?

I might not be able to help you out much with a crowded oven (though you could consider making the pie the day before and doing the sides on the stovetop), I will add my voice to the masses recommending beverage pairings for your feast.

turkey

Some people just split the light/dark difference by bringing a juicy Beaujolais Nouveau to the feast, but why not pick up a nice rosé or cava for the light bits and a berry-filled red for the dark? The flavonoids provide good antioxidant effects, right?

Here's a few tasty bottles (in a wide price range) I've recently sampled. Everything's drinkable with or without food, the reds are bold with berries, and the bubbly is slightly sweet and simply fun to drink.

Cave d'Ige Bourgogne Rouge $15
Flying Fish Merlot 2005 $12
Villadoro Montepulciano $9
Fattoria di Lucignano Chianti $15
Bodegas Muga Rioja Reserve $27
Oriel "Hugo" Russian River Valley Zinfandel $32
Goyette Cabernet $24
Invictus Cabernet $40

Beer makes a good choice for those who can't take the sulfites (and for brewheads, naturally). Personally, I'm wild for a bunch of the food-friendly Belgian brews, and both Goose Island and Brewery Ommegang domestically craft some very fine beers that would complement bird.

Those crazy folks at Beer Advocate also suggest recipes for actually cooking the whole Thanksgiving feast with beer. Ambitious.

However you choose to kick up your heels your Thursday, I bid you bountiful good cheer and a boisterous bon appétit from over here at Chez Ginsu.

*Some people try to solve this issue by chilling the breast meat with ice packs before cooking it or keeping the breasts covered with foil during baking. I think just butterflying (splitting across the front and cooking flat) the bird solves the breast/thigh issue pretty neatly.

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11.20.2007

Not actually baking for the bake sale

the cupcake meeting

I mentioned a while back that I was heading up a weekly office bake sale to raise funds for SOS (Share Our Strength).

Not surprisingly, summertime makes for some tough recruiting. From an operations standpoint, I can't really think of a worse time to run a bake sale. It's hot. It's humid. People are on vacation. People are seeing themselves in swimwear and reconsidering the wisdom of noshing on cookies... even if said cookies happen to be for charity.

Despite all that, it went pretty well. We made over $1020. (Not including a very generous online donation from my mom... thanks, mom!)

But truthfully, I have a shameful secret... for most of the summer, my own oven didn't work. The landlord kept putting off getting it fixed, and I kept forgetting to call that repair guy I saw on Craigslist, so I found myself heading up a charity bake sale without an operational oven.

Thus, as you might imagine, I've come up with a few great strategies for not actually baking for the bake sale:

1. Let someone else do the cooking. I don't mean purchasing premade cookies and bars and passing them off as your own stuff (though I've seen this done). There are actually a lot of recipes in which store-bought graham crackers, pound cake or cereal provide texture without requiring oven time on your part. Consider, for example, the graham crust in no-bake cheesecake bars or the ladyfingers in tiramisu. Still tasty... just not oven-dependent.

2. Cool desserts! One caveat: Do you have on-site refrigeration? Icebox Cakes and the like tend to get melty if they're not kept cool.

3. Think modern appliances. My waffle iron, untouched at home, became the belle of the bake sale ball. I used the "My Mother's Waffles" recipe from Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeek (see below). The beguiling yeasty scent of sizzling DIY waffles drifted throughout the office and the accompanying bowls of sliced berries and fresh-whipped cream made for easy advertising.

4. Rice Krispy Treats. The classic. They take 12 minutes to make, they use three ingredients and the nostalgia factor dives widespread love (not to mention cravings). Dress 'em up with a handful of chocolate chips, a dollop of peanut butter or a sprinkling of dried cranberries for color and zip.

5. Buckeye balls, peanut brittle, taffy and other stovetop candies also make good no-bake candidates. Now that it's fall, I'd throw caramel apples in the mix. Mmm... caramel apples...

And now: The afore-mentioned awesome waffle recipe:

My Mother's Waffles
by Ruth Van Waerebeek
(Makes about 40)

4 packages active dry yeast
6 cups milk, warmed to 100°F
6 large egg yolks
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) margarine, melted and cooled to lukewarm
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
8 cups all-purpose flour
6 large egg whites, beaten to soft peaks

1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 cup of the lukewarm milk.
2. In a large, deep mixing bowl (the dough will double or triple in volume), whisk the egg yolks with 1/2 cup of the remaining milk and the melted butter and margarine. Add the yeast mixture, sugar, vanilla, and salt.
3. Gradually add the flour to the batter by sifting it in. Alternate additions of flour with the remaining 4 1/2 cups milk. Stir with a wooden spoon after each addition.
4. Fold in the beaten egg whites.
5. Cover with a clean towel and put in a warm place. Let rise for 1 hour. The batter should double or even triple in volume. (While you wait, you have time to brew the coffee, set the table, and heat up your waffle iron.) Check the batter from time to time to make sure it isn't about to erupt like an impatient volcano. Stir it down once or twice.
6. Bake the waffles in a hot waffle iron. The easiest way to get the batter onto the waffle iron is to do what my mother does. Transfer the batter (by batches) into a water pitcher and pour the batter from the pitcher.
7. Serve the baked waffles with confectioners' sugar and butter, or whipped cream and fresh fruit. Allow any leftover waffles to cool on a rack before storing.


(PS: If you happen to be anywhere near Cooperstown, NY this weekend, Brewery Ommegang is doing their annual Waffles & Puppets fest. Belgian waffles, fantastic Belgian-style beers and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow interpreted with puppets. Crazy fun. Really wish I could be there. Cheers!)

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10.09.2007

Beer. Garden. Sausage. What more could you want?

A sausage in Astoria

For the few New Yorkers not heading out of the city for the weekend, the City conspires to treat you to its richest display of hospitality. Stinky piles of garbage? Gone. Stuffy, crowded subways? Fuggetaboutit. Stifling heat and humidity wafting up from the asphalt? A fuzzy memory.

The weather promises unparalleled beauty, the streets will be uncharacteristically quiet, parks and restaurants will be joyfully unpopulated and Czech beer will flow in a big backyard in Queens.

Sit under the trees, observe the rich cross-section of humanity at nearby tables, eat a juicy sausage, drink a cold beer and offer up a toast to yourself. You've had the foresight to realize that zipping around on the subway is superior to sitting in a hot metal box on the L.I.E.

Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden
29-19 24th Ave
Astoria, Queens
718-274-4925
bohemianhall.com

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9.02.2005