Monday, March 30, 2009

Sage Advice

It is just like Albert said - cook with sage. (That would be in the genus Salvia, by the way. Not Saliva.)

Using a newer cookbook from my arsenal, "Grilling With Beer" , I tried out a Mustard Sage Glaze on grilled chicken. Dijon mustard (1/2 cup), sage (1 tablespoon), amber ale (yeah!) (1/2 cup), melted butter (2 tablespoons), molasses (1 tablespoon), and pepper (1/2 teaspoon) simply mixed together and drizzled over the chicken during the final stages of grilling is awesome. I don't think it gets any easier than that. Needless to say, you had better like mustard.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Need Of A Nosejob?

I had the chance to hit the trails a bit today with my camera in tow. While many of my pics where junk, per usual, I found myself toying with my gear and getting some shots of this American Robin at Crosswinds Marsh. After getting home and going over my photos, I noticed this particular bird had a slightly elongated maxilla (the upper part of the bill).

Elongations are included in bill deformities according to a list at the Rouge River Bird Observatory. Crosses (be it left or right), down curves, up curves, and twists all "fit the bill", too. Sorry....

Monday, March 23, 2009

Pistons and Porters

I have a friend who knows Dave Bing. Really. Dave Bing. If you're not sure who he is, here is a clue. And another one. So, as you might guess, he follows Piston's basketball and has really good seats. Or, he knows people who have really good seats. You can see where this is going, can't you?

After experiencing my first ever Wings game a few months back, I kept the trend alive and got a chance to take in my first ever Piston's game Friday night. We were only about 15 rows back behind the visiting teams bench, courtesy of connections via, .....Mr. Bing. $175 seats as I understand it.

Many of the bigger names on the Piston's roster were not playing. Rasheed Wallace, Allen Iverson, and Rodney Stuckey were all out for various reasons. Shortly before the game, Michael Curry, the Coach, called me on my cellphone. Since, Mr Bing, couldn't dress for the game, Mike was hoping I might be able to help. Losing three starters can be rough for a team that is, quite frankly, struggling. He was hoping I could dress and lend a hand, but I couldn't do it.

"Wow, Mike, thanks, but I'm here with friends. I can't help ya. Sure the Clippers suck, but you'll be all right. That guy that looks like a hobbit next those other guys...Bynum?...yeah, he is ready for break out game. Dice is
always solid, so don't work about him. And, I have a good feeling if you dish out to that tall white guy with the pony tail, he could drop threes all night. Post up. Move the ball. Sink free throws when you can. You're good".

During the second quarter, things were no looking good, but by the end of the of the first half things were starting to turn around a bit. Maybe Coach Curry took my advice? Final score? 108-90. I'll take the credit for this one, too. Still no consultants fee.

As I right this, I am enjoying beer species #555 - Honey Porter from the Motor City Brewing Works. While the meaning of the penguin on the label is a mystery, the beer isn't. I think it would be fair to describe this porter as almost typical. Dark, almost black with a tan 1/2" head. You probably knew that. Malty aroma? Yeah, you probably knew that, too. But, maybe the strong chocolate and sweet aspects of the aroma would catch you off guard. It did me. Pleasant body with a good balance. Dry finish. The honey seemed to straddle the taste and finish. I think it might be what made this a porter that is indeed different from the rest. Not "super crazy wow!" different, but certainly not your typical porter, either (so far as I can tell). Not a bad beer, I guess. 4 out of 5.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ode to Houdini

With my most sincere apologies to Dr. Suess...

A friend called tonight, a voice in despair,
"I've looked and looked, but this just isn't fair."
"You still can't find him?" I said, "Your friend, your pet?"
"My turtle is missing", she said. " I haven't found him yet."

"I checked upstairs already, last night and just now!"
"I gave him a larger tank and he escaped again! How?"
"That doesn't matter ", I said " Escape, he did"
"We need to find him now, and then get a better lid."

There was a witness to the escape, a Mr. Quill, he's the cat,
He probably saw a running turtle, but he just looked, and sat.
Oh, he could have helped us, slapped the turtle like a puck,
But no, he did nothing. Mr Quill, you suck.

Because he was a turtle, we simply looked on the floor,
A snake or a lizard? We would have to check more.
Furniture and pianos, we had to check under them all.
Behinds the doors and in closets, in the bedroom and the hall.

Like the Boreal Owl of the north, as some birders know,
They never choose the same roosting spot, two days in a row.
So the upstairs was checked and again checked some more,
In the rooms we had cleared? We just closed the door.

Now he can't hide in spot "A" and then move to spot "B",
Once a spot is cleared, he has to move on to "C",
But if we eliminate from the mix, that location, the "C" spot,
He will run out of chances, and a turtle we've got.

"Think like a turtle", I knew that would be key,
Tough as they seem, they are really cowardly, you see.
In the wild, they don't want to fight, they're easy to scare,
Where could he dive to safety? The basement stair.

With the upstairs cleared, as best as we could, anyway,
I opted to head down the steps, to the basement, I say.
Rolling down the steps, can he survive, so dinky?
Of course he can, he's a rolling turtle, just like a Slinky!

I checked behind the bar, under cabinets and the rug,
So many places to hide, so many locations, so snug,
The main room was cleared, only two left to do,
A spare room and the laundry room (with Mr Quill's pooh).

I opted for the spare bedroom, lots of places to hide,
I moved boxes and pictures, my flashlight my guide.
A disturbance in the Force, and some clothes at my feet,
"You better check there" I thought, a hiding place so neat.

I pulled aside the clothes, and there he sat, so dry,
Very much alive and well, with cat hairs in his eye.
After a good scolding, and a rinse, he was returned to his tank,
We're lucky we found him, we have knowledge to thank.

So the turtle was A.W.O.L., for 48 hours or so,
Had the run of the house, and his owner on the go.
He said "I'll escape! You wont know how! You'll never find me!"
And thus he earned his title - a turtle named Houdini.

Monday, March 16, 2009

#554 and Sweet, Hot and Sour BBQ

While I did not get the official high temperature for today, I was certainly somewhere in the high 50's. We may have even broken 60! When temps get that high, something important must happen - I have to fire up the grill.

There are only thousands of ways to do chicken on the grill. For tonight, I opted for a simple standby - sweet, hot and sour bbq sauce.

1/2 cup of ketchup
1/4 cup of honey mustard
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup of light brown sugar
2 tablespoons of Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Basically, schlop it all together and you are good to go. It keeps for a month. The taste is exactly what you think it would be. The sweet and sour hits you first and finishes with a bite of hot. This is where I confuse myself a bit. I admit, I don't normally eat spicy hot things, be it salsa, chilis, or the like. But some reason, this recipe goes over okay.

Of course, the best way to deal with the moderately nuclear bite of a hot sauce on grilled chicken is to wash it down with a cold, sweet beer. #554 was the Sam Adams Imperial White. I am normally a fan of "witbiers" (wheat beers), so I had high hopes for this one. The head poured thick(1"+) and slightly tan while the beer itself was a beautiful, hazy coppery/amber color. The sweet "orangey" aroma is obvious. Some subtle spices are there, too. So far, so good, right? On the palate, it all goes wrong. Orange/citrus, coriander, malts, and spices, including a hint of pepper, duke it out for title. They don't really compliment each other so much as they compete. On the finish, you're left thinking "What the hell was that?!" The body was good and the carbonation made for a very pleasant feel, but the taste just didn't do it. 2 out of 5.

For the record, a friend stopped over and I gave her a slug (of beer, I mean). In an instant, her lips puckered and her nose curled up. Now, she is not a beer geek by any means (neither am I, for the record!), but she can appreciate a good beer. She was not a fan at all.

The BBQ sauce is certainly a keeper, but the beer needs some major work...

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Maple French Toast

So, with my recent trip to Canada, I found myself in "maple syrup mode." Its an easy thing to do when you go there in the spring. At Algonquin Provincial Park, I found myself buying another cookbook. Just what I need...

Anyhow, the first recipe I thought I would try would be for a Maple French Toast. Here goes:
2 eggs
2/3 cup of Milk
1/3 cup of Maple Syrup
2 tablespoons of heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon of salt
dash of nutmeg

Whip up the eggs. Add everything else. Add your bread and do what you would do with any old french toast recipe. Yes, in this case, you add the syrup to the batter. You can always add more syrup to the toast when you have cooked it.

The end result is basically a sweet french toast. I don't mean"sweet" like "cool", but "sweet" like sweet. Very easy. Very good.

For the record, you should be adding real maple syrup. Aunt Jemima is not what I am talking about here. Just say no to Aunt Jemina.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bird On A Wire

A few days ago, I had a chance to photograph a very cooperative American Kestrel. Only a two lane road separated us. I was stunned to see the "No Parking At Any Time" sign actually had some fine print - "...unless you are photographing wild birds of prey with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi and 100-400mm IS lens at 1/640 f8.0 ."

I'll have to thank the City of Flat Rock for their foresight on this matter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Every now and then, I pull a book from my shelf and read a few pages. I was struck a few days ago by a quote from John Wesley Powell.

Before you understand the quote, you probably need to consider who Powell was. In short, he was a nature-nut turned Civil War soldier. After dreaming of it for years, he went on to explore the Grand Canyon in an expedition that was sponsored by the Smithsonian. The year was 1869. He, and nine other men, did it. How? By boat. They ultimately started in what is now Wyoming and cleared the Canyon a few months later. Hell's Half Mile, Disaster Falls, Desolation Canyon, and Vulcan's Throne are just some of the places that they named during this first expedition (he went on to do it again a few years later).

Did I mention he only had one arm?

Anyhow, on the morning of August 13, 1869, just before they entered the Grand Canyon for the first time, he wrote the following in his journal:
We are now ready to start on our way down the Great Unknown. Our boats, tied to a common stake, chafe each other as they are tossed by the fretful river. They ride high and buoyant, for their loads are lighter than we could desire. We have but a month's rations remaining. The flour has been resifted through the mosquito-net sieve; the spoiled bacon has been dried and the worst of it reboiled; the few pounds of dried apples have been spread in the sun and reshrunken to their original bulk. The sugar has all melted and gone on its way down the river. But, we have a large sack of coffee.
Go figure. No sugar, the apples had to be "reshrunken" (whatever that means), and the bacon blows. But they had their coffee!

Ahhhh... priorities.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Old, New, and Nowhere

A birthday dinner for a friend was great reason to venture off into the city of Detroit this past Friday night. With daytime temps pushing 70 degrees, it was almost like a summer evening on the town. I'm serious. We both thought it would be good fun to get back to Detroit and see what the town has to offer.

The GPS got us to our destination without any trouble, but man, the drive there was not pleasant. Abandoned buildings at every turn. Piles of concrete were things once stood. "Urban decay " would be an understatement. "Post-nuclear apocalypse" would be more like it. Then, at the end of the street, sat the Roma Cafe. The building was originally built in 1888, became a restaurant in 1890, and still stands on the original grounds (a few blocks north of the GM HQ and right by Eastern Market) serving some of the best Italian food in Detroit. What a gem! Yes, you heard that right, a gem in the middle of a wasteland. And, valet parking to boot!

Of course, the little girl on the tricycle was straight out of a freaky movie. Imagine a scene right out of Terminator. Total urban destruction, and yet we see a kid on a tricycle! We did not see a house for blocks, and yet a little girl was riding down the street calling out to mom! Sure, that appeared to mom on the sidewalk a hundred yards away, but geeze!

Upon checking in, the hostess gave us each a tub of grease. We were expected to lather ourselves in this stuff so we could squeeze our way between the seats to our table. The table arrangement was nothing short of a fire trap. I have NEVER been to a place with so many tables crammed into such a small room. Okay, there were no grease tubs, but this place was not for anyone who has even the slightest hint of claustrophobia. Very, very crammed seating.

But the meal made it all worth it. Pasta with peas in a cream sauce? Strawberry Shortcake for dessert? What was there not to like? I'll definitely be heading back. Our waiter, by the way, looked like Powers Booth with a handlebar mustache.

After dinner, it was decided we should head off to one of three locations: Motor City Brewing Works, Atwater Block Brewery, or Detroit Beer Company. DBC got the nod.

Now, granted, I had been there twice before, so I knew generally where it was. But, "generally" isn't the issue when you have a GPS, right? I input "Brewery" and it could not be found. I had, unfortunately, used the wrong word - "brewery", not "beer" (I found this out after the fact). So, after taking at least 20 minutes of driving around, we found the place. I will, by the way, deny that I blew two red lights and a stop sign in that twisted, ridiculous mess. Whoever is responsible for the layout of those streets should be shot.

Once we settled in, it was time for beer #553 - the People Mover Porter. First, kudos to the brewers for having a name with a local connection. I love that! But, what in the world is the People Mover? Simply put, it's an automated train on a 3-mile loop that meanders its way through downtown Detroit. Ever since it opened (1987) it has never really lived up to expectations. A common complaint is that it only takes you around town, but never gets one in and out of town. You still have to get yourself to Detroit and then perhaps this system could get you to the other side of town once you are there. Few people really use it.

How about the beer? In my opinion, the carbonation was way too high, and the body was not thick enough. I was expecting something more creamy. Chocolate tones were obvious in both the aroma and palate, but almost seemed to overpower everything else. The finish was dry. No, not dry. Way dry. Very dry. Did I mention it was dry? 2 out of 5.

So the night, while spent with wonderful company, was really quite peculiar. We enjoyed an old place in the middle of a scary future world and I had a beer just like it's name sake: it didn't really take me anywhere.

Oh, Canada Photos

While I was in Canada a short time back, I just didn't seem to have much time for photography beyond a quick shot with a point-and-shoot.

However, a buddy mine was able to do much more. Josh Haas and his dad, Dave, have a side business involving photography - Glances At Nature. You really should check out their work. Awesome stuff!

Josh put together some images from Ontario. You can check them out here.

Enjoy! Nice work, Josh!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

No. 65 Imperial

So, as I was making my way to Canada last week, I found myself accidentally inputting "A-N-T-I-Q-U-E" into my GPS. Within seconds, a series of antique malls coordinates were generated. At that point, we accidentally veered off course (only a few miles, I swear) and accidentally found ourselves looking at items from years past. I even accidentally bought a few things.

In the first room of the antique mall, I found myself holding the mill you see in the photo. A few things caught my eye. All metal. Stamped (as in "machine stamped", not postage stamped). Barely 6 inches on a side, but slightly taller (maybe 8 inches). A graceful curve to the grinding handle with a wooden knob. A gentle crank of the handle was rewarded with one of smoothest turns I have ever experienced on an antique mill. Wow! So far, so good, right? Yeah, okay, no label or mark to easily identify the maker, but that is not a bad thing. One last thing I had to check: the condition of the drawer.

One little problem: no drawer.

Now think about this for a minute. If the coffee beans go in the top and are ground, somehow, you have to get them from the mill, right? A simple flip and I had my answer - tucked into the bottom of the mill was a metal receiving cup.

Despite the lack of a label, the all-metal mill with a recessed coffee receiver in the bottom should make my task of identifying the maker pretty easy, right?

It did. According to the MacMillan Index, only one other mill had a receiver in the bottom. So, this one had to be the No. 65 Imperial Mill from Lalance and Grosjean out of Brooklyn, New York. In fact, this mill received Patent Number 312,493 on February 17, 1885! Unfortunately, this is where my history starts to fall short. Just because a patent was rewarded in 1885 doesn't mean it was made in that year. I know from the entry that the company switched back and forth from peacetime construction to wartime construction as the needs arose (over the course of their manufacturing, they ultimatley provided equipment and supplies for FOUR wars - Civil War, Spanish-American War, and both World Wars). But I will never be able to know when this particular mill was made. 1886? 1910? 1894? They are all equally plausible. All I know is that many were made over the decades.

From the standpoint of a collector, I think I did good. No label? Oh well. But, everything is intact and in good shape. The receiver is there (a big bonus in my world) and everything looks about as good as one would hope given the age (we'll say 100 years old). Quoting the Good Book - "...a unique and wonderfully collectable coffee mill..."

Total purchase price? $30.00

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Oh, Canada

Well, I'm back.

It has been an amazingly long time since I have bored you to tears with stories of birds, beers and other nonsense. For the six of you that read this, you might have been wondering where I have been since my last post (mid-February!).

To summarize things, I got a chance to spend a few days in Dorset, Ontario. This town (blink and you miss it) is on the doorstep of Algonquin Provincial Park. Why I was there is not really important for purposes of this blog, but here are some highlights...

... two new birds for the 'ole Ontario list: Gray Jay and Wild Turkey. The list now stands at 246 species.

... two new mammals: Fisher and Eastern Wolf. The wolf situation was especially cool. To make a long story short, a moose was struck and killed in the park. It was eventually helicoptered and dumped into a field about a half a mile away from the Visitor Center. Through spotting scopes, visitors were able to see two wolves chomping away. The photo (at left) was taken with a itty bitty point-and-shoot using a spotting scope as a telephoto lens. Sure, the image is horrible, but you get the point. There are, by the way, two wolves in the image. One is curled up in front of the moose on the right side.

...a few new species of beer. The beer list now stands at 552 species. A highlight was reaching the 550-threshold. Whew! That honor goes to the Black Oak Nut Brown from Black Oak Brewing Company. Very dark, but not black. Chocolate and roasted tones in the nose and very well balanced feel on the tongue. Very good stuff. 4 out of 5, for sure!

Unfortunately, upon my return, I developed Bubonic Plague. No, really. Chills, body aches, high fever (in my case, 102 degrees), and one killer headache. Oh sure, the books always talk about big ugly swellings in your armpits (buboes, they are called, which I did not have), but that only happens in 70% of the cases. Some people will tell you the fleas that carry it wouldn't really be found in the sub zero temps of Ontario in February, but it had to be. Yep, the plaque. Recognizing that I never saw a doctor and I want to have something better than just the flu, I will stick with the plaque. It has a better ring to it.

Now that I am back home, and feeling better for the most part, I hope to get back into the swing of things.

Bye for now!