Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Sometimes, things just don't work out the way you want them to. When it comes to this photography thing I've been pursuing as of late, I have discovered, that despite my best efforts, I can't get the shot I want.

Take the American Kestrel, for instance. Not much bigger than a Morning Dove, they haunt open field and highway medians looking for food. This time of year, that means mice. Finding them is one thing, but getting close enough for a shot is a totally different thing.

A bird has been hanging out at Lake Erie Metropark for the better part of a week now. On multiple occasions, I have tried to get a good shot, but it never happened. I was at the point where I was almost starting to wonder if the bird knew my car and would avoid me.

Today, I finally got my shot.

"What kind of man...."

"Luke, you really gotta stop trying to be my friend, or I'm going to have to kill you..."

So spoke Sylar last night on Heroes. He carves open the skullcaps of his victims and inspects their brains so he can can steal their super powers.

Luke, a troubled teen who can make things melt or boil with a wave of the hand, has become the travel partner of Sylar who is on a quest to find his real father. Luke knows who daddy is and where he can be found. He is taking Sylar there to see him.

The conversation continued:
"You like birds?", asked Luke.
"Well, I'm just wondering if its genetic 'cause your dad is way into birding. I'd going birding with him sometimes. He'd come get me about 4am. We'd be out walking the trail by dawn. We'd see goldfinch, cormorants, woodcocks. "
The conversation continued with emphasis on a red wagon. Sylar remembered the red wagon when Luke brought him back to reality:
"He sold you for money, you know. He told me once he had a little boy a long time ago but needed the cash. So he sold him."

Sylar, stunned, responds "What kind of man sells his own son?"

Birders. You just can't trust 'em....

Monday, February 16, 2009

#543 and #544

Prior to 1992, restaurants in Michigan basically had two options. Option #1 - serve beer brewed elsewhere or Option #2 - don't serve beer. Anyone with an appreciation of fine dining and fine beer knew that Option #2 was rather dumb.

Keep in mind, this only applied to Michigan. All the other states in the Union agreed that Option #2 blew. They all agreed that a restaurant should be allowed to brew it's own beer. That makes December 18th, 1992 a historic day in Michigan. It was on that day that Traffic Jam and Snug became Michigan's first brew pub. Sure, it had been open since 1965, but that December day allowed them to make a grand step forward. Now and hopefully forever, they brew beer and they do it good.

Saturday night was a great night to head to TJ's. I had been there before (years ago) and I knew I needed to get back. Tucked onto a side street in Detroit, the brewery/bakery/restaurant/dairy (no joke!) is easily overlooked. But the food and beer can't be. Carolina Crabcakes over rice? Super. The Owosso Wheat (#543)? Excellent: easily a 4 out of 5. Golden yellow color with that characteristic cloudiness? Check. Citrusy aroma? Check. On the palate, everything fell into place. Body was in perfect balance. Not too much carbonation. Sweet tones on the tongue. Wow. The only thing holding this beer back from a perfect "5" was the finish. I was expecting something a bit more sweet, but in this case, the slightly hoppy finish was a bit much. It would have been very mild for, say, a pale ale. But for a wheat? Too much in my opinion. (The decor inside, by the way, is awesome. Old lumber and antique sort of stuff you would find in an old barn or warehouse: copper kettles and ancient French doors, to name just two. Very cool stuff. I am very glad the plow, hanging 8 feet over my head, was secure. At least I think it was; it was still hanging there when I left....)

And what do you think is right across the street? Motor City Brewing Works. Funny how those things work out, huh? So what better place could folks go for an different atmosphere and an after-dinner drink? I was only up for one beer on site and knowing I can get some of their bottles to take home (I did) and knowing that I can get some at party stores (I have), I wanted to get something unique for that night. Old Gear Oil (#545) got the call. It was a Flemish beer.

Now, if you happen to be an regular reader of this blog (all six of you), you know I have had Flemish beers before. I am sorry to say that this beer did not live up to the Dutchess. Color was not to be had in the dim light of the place (it was dark), but the smell certainly was - vinegar. Yeah, so what, right? Dutchess smelled the same, right? But from that point forward, the two beers took a vastly different road. I think I could make this beer at home. Add vinegar to grape juice. I swear to you that is basically all I could taste. Vinegar and grape juice.

1 out of 5 is all I could give it. It was just not a good beer.

I found the whole night very contrasting. One brew pub with superior beers. The other? A brew pub whose one beer I sampled might be the reason Michigan was the last to change the brew pub law....

Cilantro Salsa

While I certainly get a chance to cook for others now and then, I basically buy my food and cook for one---namely, me. If you are in my boat, I suspect you can certainly appreciate the frustrations of it all. You need ingredients for recipes "x", but you need only need, say, 2 tablespoons of something and basically can only buy it in bulk. To make it worse, the ingredient is perishable, so basically: use it or lose it.

That is precisely what happened to me. I have a simple and quick recipe for a Sante Fe Chicken Stew. The final ingredient is cilantro. A few tablespoons max, right? Do they sell it in small bunches? Oh, hell no. That would be too easy.

So what options do you have? If you want the stew, buy the cilantro and find something else to do with it before it goes back, right?

Enter Cilantro Salsa.

Secure 2 tablespoons of diced green chiles, 1 minced garlic clove, 1/4 cup of minced white onion, a dash of salsa habanero, 1/2 cup of lightly chopped cilantro, 3 tablespoons of canola oil, 1 tablespoon of lime juice and a tablespoon of sour cream. Schlop it all in a food processor, chop to smithereens, and you are done.

While it may not look like much (yes, it looks like something from a martian's cow), it was actually quite good. It was basically a weird combination of sweet and tart. Very peculiar. For whatever reason, it is just one of those things you can only eat a bit at a time. The recipe make 3/4 cup and that was plenty.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

#536 ---> #542

If you looked at the numbers above, you saw I tried seven new beers last night. 12 ounces each? No way! On an empty stomach? No way! Stone drunk by night's end? No way! Tipsy? No way! How is all this possible?

A beer tasting. Last night was the First Annual Vreeland Mart Beer Tasting, co-sponsored by Easy Pick Party Store.

The evening was simple. $25 gets you a ticket. What do you get? All the food you can eat (quite a spread, by the way: pasta, ham, meatballs, desserts, etc.) plus a chance to sample over 80 species of beer. 80!!!!!! Everyone was given a log sheet with the evening's beers so we could record what we had and what we liked. We were also give our own glass for the night. (Each table, by the way, had a rinse pitcher of water and a "spitoon" to dump it.) Door prizes were raffled off and everyone got a bottle opener. Everything was planned out pretty well. They even had munchies and bottled water to cleanse the palate after each beer.

So, after filling up on masticholi and sweet sour meatballs, the wandering of the tables began!

#536 was the T-6 Red Ale from the Warbird Brewing Company in Fort Wayne, Indiana. 3 out of 5 was my official verdict. The caramel aroma was cool but the color was a bit off. Imagine a red-brown color almost like a juice. Beer shouldn't look like juice, so far as I can tell. The finish was bit dry and I think the carbonation was a bit much. The balance of the beer was off as a result. All that said, I think the idea of naming a brewery and a series of beers after vintage warcraft is just too cool. I look forward to trying more in the future. (Interestingly enough, according to their website, neither sponsor carries this beer. Hmmmmm...)

It was at this table, by the way, that I realized I really needed to stick to my own personel beer listing rules. He was prepared to give me a sip. No joke - a sip. "Well, try it and let me know if you like it. Then I can give you more..." You have to be kidding. No one can really get a solid appreciation of a beer based on a sip. A sip? So, after getting a bit, and then saying basically "Mm, good", he gave me more so I give it a real go. From that point forward, I made sure to ask each "bartender"( for lack of a better word) for a half glass sample (that would be about 4 oz or so); far more reasonable in my opinion.

#537 was the Belgian White from the Point Brewing Company in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. A big "eh" in my book. A short-lived white head on a beer that had pale yellow cast. It was clear, too. Many wheat beers seem to be cloudy and yellow. No so here. The balance was good with a smooth body and a light citrus (orange)finish. All in all, a fair wheat, at best. 3 out of 5.

#538? Sam Adams Blackberry Witbier. It just wasn't a happenin' beer. The color was golden yellow and the aroma of the fruit was as obvious as you could get. The taste itself was too bitter for me. But, not hoppy bitter. It was more like, I don't know... bad bitter. The finish was way too dry as well, almost like some wines. Sure, you have heard me talk about the "have some cheese or grapes with the fruit beer" storyline, but I am not sure it would work here. 2 out of 5. (For the record, the "bartender" asked my opinion and, while not openly admitting it, seemed to understand where I was coming from on this beer.)

Point Brewing Company got the call for #539. The Amber Classic was actually quite good. 4 out of 5 for sure. The red/brown cast was very appealing with a sweet caramel aroma. The malt and caramel balanced nicely on the palate while the malt gave way to the caramel on the finish. Pretty good, but the finish was too dry. In my opinion, that was the dealbreaker. A 5 out of 5 was in reach, but the finish killed it.

#540 was hIPA from the Magic Hat Brewing Company. Based in Vermont, they really do some beers well. I think this one is pretty good by IPA standards, but I admit, they are hard for me to rate because the hoppy bitterness is found from start to finish and I am not a giant fan of hoppy beers. This is one of those beers you do NOT give to someone who is trying to expand beer tasting horizens. A 3 out of 5? Maybe a 4 instead? I can't be sure. I can be sure that the website for this brewery totally honks and is not well done. And, for the record, an IPA is an India Pale Ale. I have not idea wha the smallcase "h" is all about. Not a typo on my part.

Leinengukals Fireside Nut Brown was #541. Oh my- what a good beer. Caramel was a dominant factor in aroma, palate, and finish. The brown/red (not red/brown) color was inviting while the slight creamy body was just about perfect. The finish was sweet and slightly dry. I was originally prepared to give it a 4 out of 5 as a result of a higher-than-desired carbonation, but in this case, I may have been a bit too picky. 5 out of 5!

The final beer of the evening was Matilda from the Goose Island Beer Company. While it certainly wasn't planned, I found it fitting to finish the night with what had to be one of the most complicated beers of the night. A very peculiar orange/brown color with a pale tan head basically alerted us that something was up (I mean that in a good way). Spices were noted with the nose, but I couldn't tell you what. A sweetness was there, too. The creamy palate was great too. Very smooth. 5 out of 5. (As I write this tonight, I have discovered it is a Belgian Pale Ale. The brothers at BeerAdvocate gave it an "A". )

I'm still not sure what the Adam and Eve table was all about. They were basically hocking soft porn. Ummm...whatever....

All things considered, it was a great evening. Good company. Good food. Good beers. I will certainly plan on attending the 2nd Annual. Based on last nights attendance, it is bound to happen!

Thursday, February 5, 2009


For those of you that know me, you know I am an eclectic guy. Sure, I enjoy birding, beer, and bbq's (all things that begin with "B"), but there is alot more to me than just those three things. One other thing that I have been enjoying for a few years now is coffee (as in "B"-eans).

I don't just drink the stuff. I collect antique mills and antique coffee tins. I roast my own beans and certainly try to do the right thing by getting it Fair Trade and organic/bird friendly (you can read what those mean here). I even recently bought a cool 1960's poster for my kitchen that combines my birding and coffee interests (more on that some other time).

So, anyhow, what in the world does this have to do with beer? After all, this is a beer entry!

Well, those craft folks at the Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware did it again. They let their imagination go wild and they came up with something a bit above and beyond - Dogfish Head Chicory Stout. Beer, with coffee and chicory. Now, coffee in beer is not new, but chicory, too?

After the pour, the head swelled up easily to 1" or so. Tan in color, it was a nice contrast with the black body. But it certainly didn't last long. 90 seconds maybe? What about the aroma? Malts, of course (you would expect that with a stout). But something else was really "in your face." Coffee. No doubt about it. Organic Mexican coffee! (No, I did not know it was Mexican from the smell - I read the label.) Subtle undertones of chocolate were there, too. Quite the aroma, eh?

On the palate, the carbonation was a bit light. Barely much at all, really. There was enough present to bite your tongue, but not enough to curl your nose. Overall, the body had a pleasant, light, creamy feel. Nothing heavy. Certainly not watery.

So, what's up with the Chicory? Well, the finish was odd. The coffee taste gave way to something that was beyond a malty taste. It was at this point that I may actually have been getting a feel for the roasted Chicory. I honestly can't sure.

Anyway you look at it, chicory has long been know to be a substitute for coffee. It has a more "roasted" flavor than coffee and has zilcho caffeine. I even have a coffee tin in my collection that specifically advertises the coffee "...with chicory." If you are wondering what this plant looks like, trust me, you've seen it. Check this out. Look familiar? While I would call it a wildflower, others might call it a weed.

So, overall, you might call this a beer brewed with coffee and a flower. Others might call it a beer brewed with mud and a weed.

Call it what you will...I still give it a 3 out of 5.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Arctic Beauty

Yesterday afternoon, I had some time to kill before I went off to dinner. I found myself cruising some reliable fields in extreme northern Monroe County. In years past, some really nice birds have shown up - Gyrfalcon and Snowy Owl, to name just two. So, maybe I can find something cool, too, huh?

I did. I hope the photo speaks for itself. This Tundra Swan was in a field with about 350 of his closest friends.