Sunday, January 30, 2011

Getting my mojo back.

After a rather up and down, somewhat bizarre few weeks, I'm starting to feel my sea legs under me again. A few rocks have turned over for freelance work, and I'm hoping for a few more this week. I am finally moving toward having a web site to put together my work in one place. And I am starting to put words together again.

On the food front, the prospect of late winter and spring has me thinking about what to make. I've had a lot of cooking errors this year, but there have been more than a few fun successes in the land of soup and Swedish meatballs. This past year has brought me closer than ever to understanding the chemistry and magic behind cooking. It's hard to quantify all that I've learned, but I understand the reactions of ingredients and cookware better than I ever have. (To wit, if you don't own a basic Lodge cast iron skillet, get one now and use it regularly.) With a little better time management, I even hope to begin writing more about the cooking adventures — particularly since it looks like our budget crunch will keep us eating at home even more than before.

On the beer front, there is much, much to think about for the coming months. Our weekly brewing rhythm has meant a good pattern of beers coming off. Our early issues with fermentation control and infection have been solved. We'll be helping some friends get up and running on their Brew-Magic and look forward to some good collaboration possibilities. Stay tuned for further details, and perhaps even an account of writing a viable business plan.

And in honor of winter and fun, there's always this...

Saturday, January 15, 2011


As it turns out, the Stillwater Ales beers I'd considered using against the cassoulet course for the beer dinner weren't available in time. Why? One hadn't received Virginia ABC label approval (and I didn't realize I had a close enough connection to the ABC board to help the process), and the other hadn't made it on the truck for the week's shipment.

This left me in a bit of a quandary since I'd pinned the dinner around regional beers and needed something rich that could stand up to the chef's plan for the cassoulet. For a while I looked through a wide portfolio of other options, but availability or packaging (we could use bottles, but not a keg) nixed a bunch of options. For a several days, I tried to find a good alternative without turning to another Blue Mountain Brewing beer. In the end, though, their Evil 8 won out. It had just been released (a plus), and as a good, clean dubbel it would make a nice companion for a rich, rustic dish like the cassoulet.

I look forward to the day soon when Virginia has as rich and vital a brewing community as nearby states.


Thursday, January 06, 2011

Going public

So there is a very big change happening in my life in the next two days... I will be leaving my current company. The end-result of this is yet to be seen, but the short-term plans include helping out some friends with art direction, design and copy freelance work (both web and print) and pushing at a business plan. At the same time, I will be looking at full-time jobs in the vein I've been in for years now, but the business plan is an important side note. The goal I and a couple partners have is to take the upsized homebrewing project legit and open a new brewery in Richmond in the next year.

To that end, I've got a fun little project set up for next week: a beer dinner on Sunday, January 16 at Ipanema.

When I was originally approached about it, I was excited to do it, but then I'll admit I was a little nervous. After all, I'm veggie-friendly but also a committed omnivore. What kinds of beers would not only pair with an interesting vegetarian winter menu but would also be distinctive enough to set the dinner apart from similar events in town. In the end, I opted to stay local with the beer choices, and the menu turned out to be this:
Course 1
Winter vegetable terrine, roasted mushroom pâté, and local cheeses
Foggy Ridge First Fruit Cider — This dry cider from Floyd, VA, with a touch of fruitiness will pair nicely with the local cheeses and rich terrine and pâté.

Course 2
Welsh rarebit with honey roasted radishes and walnuts
Tupper’s Keller Pils — While the first inkling was to go with a brown ale here, the dry taste of the pils should provide a nice contrast for the richness of the rarebit.

Course 3
Root vegetable cassoulet with black-eyed peas and winter greens
Stillwater Existent or Cellar Door — Existent is a deliciously hoppy black IPA fermented with a Belgian yeast, and Cellar Door is a classic saison flavored with a touch of white sage. There's an either/or here based on label approval for the Existent (VA ABC!).

Course 4
Churros with spiced chocolate, Orange/vanilla flan
Blue Mountain Dark Hollow — This is our coup of the evening. The Dark Hollow is traditionally only sold at the brewery, but the kind brewers at Blue Mountain have agreed to release a case for this event.

Kudos to Will at Ipanema for a terrific menu. More details and tickets here, if you're interested in joining us.

Monday, January 03, 2011

a new year, and a thousand things

It's fair to say that a thousand things have been keeping me from the blog and from writing. The pity is that this place has always been a good outlet, as well as a great communication tool. Perhaps that is to say that I haven't had a chance to vent and think through so many of the things that have been going on and put them in context — from food to beer to parenting to travel and life in general.

The last year crashed to a close with a car accident ($8K worth of damage to the Sportwagen, thanks to the woman who rear-ended the guy behind me), news of major changes in the professional arena, lots of lessons about beer and brewing and partnerships, lessons about homeownership, lessons about love and relationships and family, lessons about cooking and wine and life, and a healthy respect for the communities we carry with us and the power of an 8-year old to make you think differently about the world. The new year promises a start with lots of changes and lots of new things to consider and perhaps even old lessons to learn. As a friend put it last night, sometimes we don't see the writing on the walls, and it takes a cosmic slap in the face to realize what you're being told.

Two thousand and ten wasn't all bad by any means. In fact, it was quite good and wonderful at many moments, from Italy to Maine to some of the pieces of daily life. On balance, I'd even call it a pretty good year — a pretty good year with a lot to teach me. And now it's time to put some of that in motion.

I realize that I'm being vague here, but it's on purpose. I'll get to more detail as time permits and life necessitates. In the meantime, here are a few things to chew on:

  • Never underestimate the comfort of a well-made frittata.

  • Immersion blenders are wonderful tools, necessary even, but a good knife or two and a good cast-iron skillet will make your kitchen sing.

  • Listen to the people around you. They love you and deserve to be heard.

  • Simpler is better, from the ingredients in cooking to the grains in beer to the things that make us happy. Always use good ingredients, and only use as many as you actually need.

  • Never forget to be creative. Or patient.

  • Some beers and some meals can never be fixed.

  • Kids keep growing up.

  • A good beer logo does not require hop cones.

And there you have it. A little list to begin 2011. Cheers!