Thursday, September 24, 2009

Give Me Liberty!!!

Give me Liberty! 

Tucked away in the Olde Village section of Plymouth, the Liberty Street Brewing Company is well worth a visit.   Housed in a 100+ year old building, the brewing operation  itself is less than a year old. The inside looks brand-spankin' new, but, at the same time, has that "old pub" a modern way.  Confused?  Get there and you will see what I mean!  The combination of tile work on the tables, woodworking and recessed lighting at the bar, high ceiling, and color scheme makes for an awesome atmosphere.  Instant comfort. I still have no understanding of the ceramic squirrel on display in a brick recess in the men's room.  (I suspect there is a nut joke here somewhere, but I am going to stay away from it....)

Interestingly enough, while they do serve food, the most involved item on the menu is an 8" personal pizza.  They apparently can't manage big meals from their small kitchen. The solution?  They have an agreement with at least 10 different restaurants in Plymouth that will deliver!   Pizzas.  Subs.  Pastas from the local fancy-scmanzy place.  You can get it all. How cool is that?

Then, of course, there is the beer.  That's why they call it a brewery, right?  Even though they have only been open since late 2008, they already have a Gold Medal from the 2009 World Beer Expo Liberty House Pilsner (641), Blonde Ale (642), Red Glare Amber Ale (643), House Mild Brown (644), Clementine Lemon Thyme (645), Foreign Extra Stout (646), and Helles Yes (647) where all on tap.  Hands down, the best beers were the Stout, Pilsner, and Amber Ale.   (If you are a regular reader here, you know I love it when breweries have fun with names that reflect local themes.  The "Red Glare Amber Ale" is perfect given theme of liberty and independence.  They are on the right track but have some work to do here!)

For an after dinner warm-up, you can also get Green Mountain coffee, brewed one cup a time.  If you are not familiar with them, they are making steps to promote better coffee sustainability. Almost half of their coffee Fair Trade. While that alone is not up to snuff from a bird standpoint, it certainly beats a cup of slop from Folger's or Maxwell House!

Consider the Liberty Street Brewing Company for Life, Liberty and pursuit of Good Beer!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Blog Fodder

I have not been out and about lately, but I have spending some time online (too much time, I suspect).  Anyhow, I bumbled into some websites that might be of interest to some of you.

One is called The Raptorphile and is posted by a buddy of mine from the greater Chicago area, Vic Berardi.  He has been a big player in the North American hawk circle for a few years.  He is quite the photographer, too.

I suspect some of that photography has rubbed off on his son, Steve.  Steve's blog, PhotoNaturalist is a killer! Not only does he take awesome photos, but he shows you some tricks of the trade. 

Check 'em out when you get a minute!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Morning Sun

A few days ago, I snapped this pic of this young Sharp-shinned Hawk catching a few morning rays of sunshine.  I think she would have enjoyed the spectacle a bit more if she had nailed that Blue Jay a few moments before....

A Few Birds Today

So with today being my last day off until well into next week, I opted to spend the bulk of the day at Lake Erie Metropark for the Detroit River Hawkwatch.   We saw a few birds...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Owl Predicted My Milestone Beer

Owls are just so awesome. Not only are they one hell of a predator, but the myths and legends that surround them can be very interesting reads and quite varied.

Depending on where you call home home, seeing one on the way to harvest will provide a good yield. Hearing one may mean a child will get sick or someone will die..unless you're a pregnant woman at which point you can expect a girl. For some, however, if you hear it while you are in labor, the child will live an unhappy life. In India, a broth made from owl eyes could be used to help a sick child. In Algeria, placing the eye of an owl in the hand of a sleeping woman will force her to tell the truth. Guess who believes that if an owl flies in your house, you have to kill it because it leaves with your luck? Yup. The Irish.

I think you get the point. I could go on forever.

But, I would rather start my own myth - if you hear a Great Horned Owl calling before sunrise in a suburban Detroit neighborhood, you will consume a milestone beer.

Actually, it is not a myth. It 's true. Really.

Yesterday morning, before sunrise, from the comfort of my warm bed, I heard the calling of a Great Horned Owl. Birders often describe the hoots of this particular bird as one asking a simple question: "Whoooo's awake. Meeeeeee, toooooo !" Seeing that it was 5am, I guess I got to answer the question "Meeeeeee dammit. Thaaaaaaaaanks alot!"

With dinner yesterday (parmesian chicken bake with julien potatoes), I "enjoyed" my 630th beer. What is the big deal with that number? 630 is now a point when my bird list and my beer list are the same! I never thought the day would come, but it is here - I have sampled as many beers as I have seen birds!

So what was the milestone beer?

The Hitachino Nest Beer from the Kiuchi Brewery in Japan got the call. Unfortunately, it was not worthy of such a milestone beer. It started good with a great look (cloudy straw yellow and a shortlived white head). Everything crashed when I smelled it. Lemon, lemon, lemon. On the palate? Guess what? More lemon with a titch of carbonation. The finish was dry, lemony,and tart. There was no suggestion of hops at any point. All in all, I think it could be described as a funny, watered-down, carbonated lemonade. 2 out of 5.

So why would I have chosen a sub-par beer for such a milestone? First, I did not know it was sub-par. Ultimately, I had something else in mind. I simply wanted to have a beer with a bird on the bottle. Nothing more. As you can see from the bottle cap, this fit the bill. I have had it in my fridge for over a week.

Tuesday was kinda interesting if you think about it. An owl in the morning. An owl in the evening. One was a bird. One was a bust.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Stuffed Grilled Chicken and Bananas Foster

Every once in a while, I found myself bumbling into recipe that is so damned good and so damned easy it makes me look like a professional chef.

Take a chicken breast and clean it (you should always to that). With it laid out on a cutting board, cut into the side and create a pocket like a pita pocket. Shove into said pocket a few sun-dried tomatoes, goat cheese and some basil leaves. With an oiled toothpick (I used simple vegetable oil), close up the pocket. While the grill warms up, marinate the breast in olive oil and lemon juice with liberal amounts of salt and pepper. Grill. Done. Delicious. Gone.

For a side dish, it was simply portobello mushrooms stuffed with cream cheese and spinach. Oh sure, at this point, I suspect I could tell you how I spent tons of time preparing them. The actual time involved was the time needed to swipe a card at the grocery store. Sure, they were ready to heat, but don't let that fool you. They were delicious, too.

Dessert was every bit as fabulous and every bit as easy to make. We need, by the way, to square away the name - Bananas Foster (not to be confused with Bananas in Fosters ( I can only imagine how gross that would be!)). While I did not torch the recipe, it was really damned good. Butter, brown sugar, a squeak of vanilla, and a shot of rum in the frying pan. Add some walnut and sliced bananas for a few minutes. Serve over vanilla ice cream. Damned good.

Of course, a full-fledged gourmet meal would not be complete with out a gourmet beer (read: non- junk). I have recently become a fan of saison style of beers, but, unfortunately, the Golden Cap (#628) from the New Holland Brewing Company does not pass muster. Well, let me take that back. It was horrible by any means ; it was just not as good as others of the same style. Average at best. A three.

The dessert beer paired with the Bananas Foster, as recommended by the cook book, was a Pale Ale. Stoudts Double IPA (#629), from the Stoudt's Brewing Company, got the call. An absolutely spectacular coppery color with a solid creamy feel on the palate. The light to moderate hop finish was subdued by the sweet of the sauce on the ice cream making for a solid after dinner beverage. A solid four out of 5.

Total prep time for the whole meal was in the order of minutes. Really. Easy and good.

Friday, September 4, 2009

They Moved The Goal Post!

Don't you hate it when you have a goal set in your mind and you almost meet that goal only to find out that you're really not even close?

Beginning in 1999, I opted the play role of every 4th grader in the country. I went out and bought one of those binders for the 50-State Quarter series that had been set up by the Treasury. I'm sure you have seen them, right? Each state gets its own quarter with some cool design that signifies that particular state (Michigan is the exception here. What an ugly coin...). Anyhow, over 10 years, all 50 states released their coin in the order in which they entered the Union. (On a related note, the Treasury is doing the same thing with the National Parks.)

Anyhow, I decided to make life difficult and get a state coin from each mint (either Philadelphia or Denver). So, instead of 50 quarters, I needed 100. It all had to be done with basically one simple rule - I can not go out and buy the quarter. In some cases, a trade was used to acquire a needed coin or people where operating as...well, operatives and looking, too. I just can't buy the coin. Up until a week ago, I was almost done. I only needed the Denver mint Alaska quarter.

I was complaining to a buddy of mine about how hard it has been to secure that 100th coin. So, yesterday, he brings me a little envelope when I was in the parking lot. Some people might have looked at that little package and the circumstances and thought "Cool! Drugs!" but, that is not my thing. This particular envelope was quite heavy. I dump the contents in to my hand and voila, there it sits - the Alaska quarter from the Denver mint. Coin #100. Woo-hooh! Mission accomplished, right?


The envelope was rather heavy because it was stuffed with a few other quarters - Samoa, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Washington D.C. with both mints accounted for.

Huh? Well, it turns out somewhere in the last 10 years the Treasury department decided to include the United States Territories, as well. So, I acquired #100 only to find out that I now need to get 112 coins. The goal posts got moved. I hate that. I will now be on the lookout for the US Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands coins. Then I'm done. I think........

Oh, speaking like a lawyer or politician, Mike's gift does not violate my rule. I said I can't buy them. The rule doesn't say anything about someone else buying them and giving them to me as a gift.

By the way, guess what the US Territory quarters cost if you buy them from a coin shop?

Fifty cents a piece.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Nailed It

I spent some more time at the Detroit River Hawkwatch today. The season started just yesterday. One advantage of having a hawk count on a lake shore is the opportunity to watch Osprey hunt.

As a fish eater, they soar in lazy circles or hover over water when it is meal time. When a fish is located, they simply crash into the water feet first. If they manage to actually grab it (they miss quite a bit), huge talons (I mean huge!) and rough soles on the feet help them hold on tight. They can even re-position their outer toe to improve their grip. (You can do that, too. Lay your hand flat on the table. Take your pinky and bend it back towards your wrist. Okay...nevermind. I was kidding. If you heard a popping sound, call a doctor.)

This bird did a bang-up job of nailing this fish. There was no hovering. As she(?) was cruising up the creek (maybe 30 feet off the water), all forward momentum suddenly stopped, the body was repositioned for entry, and she crashed right in. Unfortunately, she was just a bit beyond the reach of my lens (I use a 100-400mm f5.6). When possible, I try to ID the fish, too. While this pic does not clearly show it, the fish may be a steelhead.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sitting Pretty

The opening day of September continued to be a nice productive time of year for birding at Lake Erie Metropark. Among the 10 species of warblers this morning was this Chestnut-sided Warbler.

"Wait a minute!" you're saying, right? "This bird does not have chestnut sides!"

No, it doesn't. So when does a Chestnut-sided Warbler not have chestnut on it's sides? When it is a first fall female! (This bird was born this year and is in it's first fall of life. Get it?) Check out the totally clean gray underparts, white eye ring, green back and yellow wingbars. That combo of field marks is a knock down. The park was full of them this morning.

Needless to say, she was quite cooperative.