Lately it feels like food & drink has become like one of those What’s your street name meme where you take the name of the street you grew up in and pair it with the colour of your socks. In the case of food & drink, it’s so random:
alcohol with snacks: champagne and hershey kisses, tequila and ramen, vodka and sour patch kids
beer with chinese food: IPA and orange chicken, stout and spring rolls (Americans: they’re NOT egg rolls, there is no egg), winter pale ale with kung po chicken
wine and pizza: syrah and pepperoni, riesling and hawaiian, pinot noir with cheese
beer and dessert: hefeweizen and key lime pie, double IPA and cr&$232;me brûlée, porter and chocolate strawberries
alcohol with cake: pedro ximenez with coffee cake, rosé champagne with red velvet cake, gin with ginger layer cake
And now, there’s beer and doughnuts. Chefs and masterchef contestants are increasingly making all sorts of weird and wonderful doughnuts. Although I can’t really see beer and doughnuts, I guess why not. They pair fruity framboise with chocolate glazed, sour beer with jam-filled, guinness with boston cream.
My choice is limited because I only like plain doughnuts and even those are too sweet and too stodgy for me. On the chart, cider goes with old fashioned and stout goes with cinnamon sugar, the two doughnuts that most appeal to me.
But wait, there’s more. Pairing alcohol with favourite book. It’s a superficial pairing, like Middle Earth cask ale and Lord of the Rings, as if an intern did some googling and came up with it. There’s a brewery in the Midlands called Middle Earth. Other pairings suggest a little more knowledge of the books, like mint julep and The Great Gatsby, smoking bishop (Victorian-era mulled wine) with The Christmas Carol, and wine, any wine with 1984.
A few of the stuff that’s happened over the past 2 weeks during nano, part 3. Sports and drinks, not sports drinks, two separate topics.
1a. marathons #1 — elites
The headlines all shouted “Galen Rupp is first American winner of the Chicago Marathon since 2002.” And although some of them clarifies that it’s the first American male since 2002 (last American female was Deena Kastor in 2005) it still feels like a huge, huge disservice to Tatyana McFadden, who has won the women’s wheelchair race fo the past seven years. I swear, paralympic athletes get an even worse deal than women athletes, the sort of media attention they get, ie zero. Not to take away Rupp’s victory, but the blatant inequality really needs to be addressed.
In the NYC marathon, Meb, in his last NYC, finished in 2:15:29, putting the 42 year old in 11th place. The women’s race was won by Shalane Flanagan. So the two big autumn US marathons both had American able-bodied winners. That’s good for the US. Much needed good news for them.
Simon Wheatcroft finished the NYC marathon in 5:17:40. An unremarkable time, but what’s truly remarkable is that he is a blind runner who ran the race solo.
I ran a night race a couple of years ago and there were a number of visually impaired runners. They were just as fast and just as good as able-bodied runners. The route was through part of the country park so the terrain was rough with narrow and winding paths; the runners and their guides negotiated those with ease and I could hear the guides telling the runners to make a right turn or there is a hump coming up. I’m full of admiration for them, as I am with all paralympic athletes.
Wheatcroft suffers from a rare genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa, and his sight has gradually deteriorated since he was a teenager. Nowadays, he can distinguish changes in light and darkness, like seeing the world through a fog. He knows when someone stands in front of him, because he sees a blurry shadow, but that’s it. He is also an experienced runner, marathoner and ultramarathoner, previously running with guides and trains by running up and down a straight abandoned road near his home in Doncaster. He memorises routes, obstacles, and navigate along the slightly raised edges of painted double yellow lines along the road.
In recent years, there have been massive inroads made in providing assisted technologies to help visually impaired people “see” by using AI and VR technologies. However, these type of technologies are limited–it requires outside help, or only work in static situations. For instance, a google glass subscription called aira connects the blind person and a sighted person so the sighted assistant can give verbal clues to tell the blind person what they are seeing through the glasses. The subscription costs US$349 per month, which is really expensive. Most assisted technology solutions are built around some sort of visual input and an audio output, but audio output is cumbersome. The Verge:
Imagine a Siri or Alexa-like interface describing every single object in your field of vision. Consider the cognitive overload that it would create on an already loud street crowded with obstacles.
Wheatcroft set out to look for alternatives and came across Wayband, a product from a company called WearWorks that uses haptic technology, which provides output through the sense of touch rather than audio. The company was cofounded by 3 graduates of New York’s Pratt Institute and just finished a 3 year residency at Brooklyn’s Urban-X incubator. Wayband was featured at SXSW and uses two technologies. First, it uses known GPS technology (google maps, OpenStreetMap) to map a route for the runner, the signal is transmitted via bluetooth using an armband which buzzes in a sort of Morse code (eg 2 long taps to turn right). This pairs with an ultrasonic device called the Tortoise that broadcasts and receives ultrasonic pulses. If there is an object or person in range, the ultrasonic waves that reflect back are changed and the device lets the user know using a series of vibrations. This is not new, devices that help people park their cars use similar ultrasonic technology.
During the NYC marathon, Wheatcroft started by using this system, the first time it had been tested in a race. And what a way to test. Not a small local race, but one of the largest marathons in the world, with more than 50,000 runners. During the race he was also accompanied by Kevin Yoo, one of the founders of WearWorks as well as Neil Bacon and Andrea Corak, his longtime friends and guides. They ran behind him and were there as a last resort, to prevent him from running into another runner and ruining their marathon.
It wasn’t perfect: tall buildings affected the GPS which incorrectly told him he was off course, the rain caused the Tortoise to stop working at mile 15, and at one of the water stops another runner stopped abruptly in front of him. Even a sighted runner would have found it difficult to stop in time and there was a small collision. Neither runner was hurt. The team ended the race with guides running next to Wheatcroft as per usual, but the experiment was by and large successful. There is still a way to go before the product can be marketed but the team now knows what those improvements are.
The implications are huge. Not only for running or sports, this system can help a blind person navigate through normal life. Wheatcroft on NYT:
It’s not the end, it’s just a start.”
1c. marathons #3 — grass root runner
The running bubble has popped, says the NYT on the day of the NYC marathon. A strange thing to say, considering 50,000 participated and the success rate for applications was 17%. I got my annual VLM rejection in October, so from my perspective the running bubble hasn’t quite popped.
Thing is, although interest in the big races have held steady, less well known races and shorter distance races have seen a decline in participation. Some reasons:
cost — gone are the days of US$10 or $25 races, now the cost is astronomical, Las Vegas RNR 5k is $79.99!
too much focus on charity running — while an honourable effort, it has become blackmail with too few places available for non-charity runners and huge amounts that needs to be raised
too many races, and competition from speciality races like mud runs
competition from other fitness activities like cross fit
The industry has become a victim of its own success and commercialisation. Once a race gets taken over by corporate interests, something goes missing. Not only will I not pay $80 for a 5k, I won’t ever run a RNR race again whatever the price because they have become pure greed. I remember a long time ago an ex-colleague asked me if I was running the NYC marathon and I said it’s too expensive ($295 now). She was so surprised, she thought it was free and you just showed up. I wish.
What we need, is a return to grassroots. Running clubs are still popular and just look at the success of parkruns in the UK. Another reason I want to go back to the UK.
2a. drinks #1 — alcohol and cancer
The American Society of Clinical Oncological published a report that says even light drinking can cause cancer. Yet another study that tells us not to eat or drink something, so much so that there was a study on the study of what foods are bad for us–in 2013 researchers took 40 ingredients from an ordinary cookbook and found 264 studies on whether at least one of those ingredients causes cancer. We’re talking about ingredients that are in almost everybody’s cupboards: salt, pepper, flour, egg, bread, butter, lemon, onion, carrot, milk, cheese.
We know that heavy or even moderate drinking has detrimental effects. The report says in the US, 3.5% of cancer deaths are attributable to alcohol. But as the NYT says in a more-or-less rebuttal:
this means that 96.5 percent of cancer deaths are not attributable to alcohol. If we eliminate heavy drinking, which no one endorses as healthy…that number climbs. If we also eliminate those who smoke…the number of cancer deaths not attributable to alcohol approaches 100 percent.
These reports mean well, but they tend to be self-fulfilling prophecies and then the media reports them using scaremongering headlines. The traditional image of a researcher is someone who observes or achieves some results and then postulates a theory that explains those results. There are researchers that are basically reverse-researchers, they know what result they want and then they do so-called research till they get those results. I call them hacks.
2b. drinks #2 — bartending in antarctica
Interesting article about bars in Antarctica. There are 45 research stations in Antarctica, with thousands of researchers there in the summer but only a few hundred during the winter. Each station has its own bar with names like Gallagher’s Pub, Southern Exposure, Tatty Flag. The bars had no owners, no official hours, and no price. People shared their stash of personal alcohol and were in luck when one of the researchers also have bartending skills. Bartending in Antarctica is voluntary and requires creativity and innovation, as not all ingredients are available. The good thing is, no fridge is needed, just put the stuff outside.
Drinking can be a problem in Antarctica, because of the monotony of life, especially in the winter months. The bars became social focus points, and bartenders did the job all other bartenders do all over the world. One bartending researcher said he:
swapped out soda for booze when people drank too much…and kept them inside the bar rather than watching them stumble out the door where, completely inebriated, they could hurt themselves or pass out in the snow.
2c. drinks #3 — escape from IPA
I do quick research during nano and I came across this beer called Escape from IPA from Pipeworks brewery in Chicago. What I found hilarious is the label, which is in line with all their other labels. Look at that Han Solo pirate escaping helicopters and red F1 racing cars, kinda comic book cliché.
With a name like Escape from IPA, it suggests that it’s the anti-IPA (scourge of craft beers). But it’s actually a 10% West Coast styled triple IPA made from 3 hops with the fancy names of Equinox, Galaxy, and Centennial.
Some people bet on racehorses based on their names or the colour of their jockey’s shirt. This is definitely one instance where people may pick a beer based on name or garish label. That’s exactly what my character did.
2d. drinks #4 — free beer while shopping
So a Morrisons in Leeds started offering free beer to shoppers while they go about their weekly shop. Not just beer, they have cider and wine too. The beer they serve is Saltaire Blonde ale from a local brewery.
It’s a whole pint, according to the daily mail (not linking to that drek). Sounds like a good idea, except I’d prefer half or 1/3 pints because of drinking and driving. They should put the featured beer on its own display stand and study how sales increase. I’m very sure more people will buy it because they are given a sample.
My tenant moved out. We exchanged emails around 2 weeks ago so I know he’s accepted a job offer in another country but I didn’t know that he’d be flying out so soon. He left the keys in the mailbox.
To his credit, he had professional cleaners come in and clean the flat. He also left his large coffee table, a dirt devil vacuum cleaner, a doorframe pull up bar and a modem which he should have returned to the internet provider. He also left lots of beer and vitamin water in the fridge–there must be 20 bottles of beer and 10 bottles of vitamin water. Now I have to figure out what to do with the flat next.
I didn’t have too much time to spend at the flat, I was rushing to a doctor’s appointment to clear my blocked ears. Yeah, I finally decided to get them sorted. It was nice to live at reduced volume but it’s not ideal. I’ve been to this ENT doc since I was young and he knows my ear health history. He poked and vacuumed the gunk out of my ears, pretty uncomfortable but effective. Expensive though, around USD80 and that was without medicine.
Took a bus back across the harbour to Sam’s. He out-did himself this time. Gave me an even better than normal haircut and within 40mins too. This time he cut it shorter than before and it feels so good to have so much of the thickness gone.
Went to the supermarket and bought a couple of bulbs of fennel. Seeing so many contestants use fennel on masterchef gave me a hankering after it. Organic and imported so very expensive. Almost USD10 for two small/medium bulbs. Ah well. Sis gave me a voucher for this supermarket and I still have quite a lot of balance left.
By then it was around 5.30pm and I’d been running around since 1pm. Have over an hour till meeting mm for dinner. Decided on beer over wine so walked over to frites with their huge belgian beer selection. I wanted to see if they have St Bernadus abt 12, which I came across very often when I was googling Westvleteren 12. The story is shortly after WW2 the owners of St Bernadus brewery and the trappist monks from nearby St Sixtus monastery had an arrangement where they would share equipment and location. More importantly, the brewmaster from Westvleteren brought over the recipes, the know-how and the St. Sixtus yeast strain. The arrangement stopped in 1992 when the trappist monks decided that authentic trappist beer could only be brewed and sold within monastery walls. Nevertheless, St Bernadus continued with the recipe.
The long and short of it is, St Bernadus is the nearest alternative to the extremely rare Westvleteren 12.
I didn’t know enough when I was tasting the Westvleteren 12 to get a bottle of St Bernadus too. So I’m comparing a beer today with one I tasted a month ago. There are similarities and differences. Both are dark, creamy and complex. The Westvleteren was richer, smoother and had more dried fruit notes. The St Bernadus seemed more aerated and towards the end, I felt it tasted like any other dark ale whereas the Westvleteren was fruity and rich even at the end.
I still think the St Bernadus is a top-notch beer. Frites has happy hour monday to friday between 3-8pm and it was half price. With Westvleteren extremely difficult to get, I’ll be back again to taste the St Bernadus and I won’t feel like it’s a second choice.
Today would have been Papa’s 80th birthday. We met at the foodcourt for lunch–korean food at 1/10th the price of jinjuu and the bibimbap actually had crust. The cemetery was very quiet, we were the only people visiting while we were there. Must have been papa looking out for us, our taxi driver was actually waiting at the taxi stand when we were about to leave. He claimed he was taking a break but he did let slip that he figured we would have problems getting a taxi. Smart of him.
One of my regrets is I saved up a bottle of westveleteren 12, the best beer in the world, for a special occasion and never got to share it with papa. Westvleteren has the smallest production of the Belgian Trappist monasteries and sale of this beer is limited to one crate per buyer who had to call ahead to reserve their purchase (if they get through on the phone). It’s been described as the holy grail of beer. This one treasured bottle I managed to find in Brussels five years ago during my chip- and chocwalk with my friend A.
Papa would have loved the beer. It’s dark and strong, at 10% alcohol. Rich, smoky, creamy. Tons of fruity, caramel notes–like it’s been soaked in dried fruit. It’s definitely one for sipping slowly. It’s a small 330ml bottle; but the complexity and higher alcohol content makes it more staisfying. It would have been great shared between the two of us.
I was watching this video about why korean bbq is better in the US than in korea. I disagree, korean bbq in korea certainly has fewer choices–i’ve been to small restaurants where there is literally one thing on the menu, but it was one thing done well–it’s a matter of taste. Americans like lots of choice and lots of everything. That’s not necessarily the way it’s done traditionally.
Anyway, the host was drinking a mixture of soju and beer. I slapped my head, duh!!! Why hadn’t I thought of it before? I’ve drunk soju on its own and obviously beer on its own.
It’s apparently a big thing. They even have specially marked glasses to get the ratio just right. 30:70 soju:beer is popular. There are also other methods to fix the drink, including swirling or mixing with a chopstick to create a foam on top.
And there’s the famous soju bomb, which involves dropping a bunch of shotglasses of soju in glasses of beer, like a domino effect. Very cool.
All I did was mix a splash of soju with beer; I got cass so it’s all korean. The ratio was around 1:4 soju:beer. I can taste the sweet soju in with the mild beer. The alcohol % of the drink is more than beer; soju is 17%. It’s probably something I’ll try in a korean restaurant if there are enough people to finish one soju, otherwise it’s more of a novelty drink for me.
Went to the japanese brewery for happy hour with mm. I hadn’t noticed before, their own beers are a free upgrade at happy hour whereas guest brews are discounted around 20%.
I knew what I wanted because I had their flight last time I visited. Usually when there’s an amber ale, that ends up being my favourite so my choice was beniaka. The staff were also nice enough to let us have a taste, mm described what she liked and the staff recommended an amber lager from Taiwan. It was very crisp, yet with a depth of flavour. I asked to try a sour beer from Denmark, it was more like a sparkling wine than beer.
Nice place, mm took a pic of their storage fridge and called the place our new watering hole.
After happy hour we went to a korean ayce bbq place. Relatively quiet, it’s a weekday. Didn’t eat as much as we used to but still quite a lot of beef, lamb, chicken, tongue which we wrapped in lettuce. We were there quite a while, it was 9pm when we left and it felt like 8pm.
Met my great aunt from Toronto for buffet lunch. Then she and Mum went off shopping and I ran some bank errands.
Met my FA at happy hour. I chose a dark Belgian ale from La Chouffe brewery. Another dark ale, like the milk stout yesterday. Rich with a sweet after taste. Served in a cute glass with the picture of a gnome. Considering they are @lachouffegnome on twitter, it must be their signature theme.
Meeting mm for dinner, decided to go out early: a) to take old clothes for recycling and b) to explore one of the happy hour places near where we are meeting.
One of my newest go-to places is food street, which is going through a revival. We normally go to Simplylife for tea, sis and I went to Minh&Kok for Asian, mm and I went to Coast once for an attempted happy hour (she was so late the place had turned to a restaurant). There are new places serving burgers, steaks, mediterranean food, tapas, coffee, gelato. I ended up at Coedo taproom, which serves craft beer from its namesake brewery located in Saitama Japan. They have 12 beers on tap (5 of their own plus 7 guest beers) and a page of kushiyaki. Everything is quite expensive, I guess it’s the location.
I had their beer flight, 150ml servings of their 5 beers. I had about an hour to kill, so I was able to slowly sip each one. Each had a colour assigned to it:
ruri: blue pilsner — light and crisp, easy on the palate
shiro: white hefeweizen — nice wheat beer smell but a bit bland
kyara: brown IPA — one of the better tasting IPAs I’ve tasted, hoppy but not killed by the hops
beniaka: red amber ale — expected to be my favourite and it was, rich and smooth
shikkoku: black lager — smell and look of very dark beer but not heavy
The beers are about double the price of beers at neighbouring places, especially at happy hour prices. It’s marketing at work: “hand”-crafted beer vs standard tap stuff although the beers at the burger joint looks already quite good: 1664, Asahi, Guinness.
HMV opened up nearby, with almost a whole floor dedicated to a bar-restaurant. Wasn’t very busy when I went up, another possibility for happy hour and to meet up. We normally meet at the sofa section at Ikea, so having someplace else to sit down with a drink is great. They have Estrella on tap. Beer selection will never be as good as a British pub, but is miles ahead of American bars with their beer-flavoured water. I think that’s why craft beers are getting so much attention in the US: people are used to bland stuff (Bud, Coors) and when they are offered a bit of flavour of course they will be wowed. Compared with UK, Belgium, Germany where the beer already taste good and varied, the newer craft beers are merely one more choice.
Dinner plans was originally karaoke, which would have ended up mostly mm singing and me forced to participate in a few songs. We decided it was for another time so searched online and found an AYCE hotpot restaurant. The food wasn’t that good, it’s hard to screw up hotpot but they did it: meat was too fat or looked brown & watery, veg wasn’t washed properly. Definitely not going back there again.
According to a Copenhagen-based brewery, drinking their problem solver beer will help, well, solve creative problems. Apparently an alcohol level of 0.075% is just the right amount to get the creative juices flowing. As the independent helpfully explained,
it is thought to come with a feeling of relaxation that stops you from being ‘too-focused’, but is not drunk enough that your verbal and cerebral ability will be impaired
The 7.5% IPA comes in a 750ml bottle that has a printed scale to indicate exactly how much to drink to get to that sweet spot, depending on gender and weight.
Of course it’s clever marketing, it’s a campaign from agency CP+B Copenhagen.
Now forgive me while I go drink some beer and churn out the Next Great Novel.
Stopped by the supermarket to get some grapes and beer. I prefer bottled beer so the choices are normally:
what I really want: craft beer, ales from the UK — I don’t get these because they are expensive
what I never buy: san miguel, skol, budweiser or a brand name I’d never heard of that is incredible cheap
what I sometimes buy: tsingtao or yangjing — acceptable taste, usually comes with a buy 3 get one free offer which makes it difficult for me because I can’t carry 3 bottles
what I usually get: japanese beer — good middle ground, I like the taste and the price is somewhere between the cheap watery beer and the expensive craft beers
I had pabst blue ribbon in the never buy category, because I’ve never tried it. Today Kirin and Asahi were on bulk buy offers and I really only wanted one bottle, so I thought I’d give PBR a try. It was pretty okay, a bit bland but not as bad as bud or miller. I remember reading that PBR has become the beer of choice for hipsters because of its “coolness” factor. I just have to laugh. I thought card-carrying hipsters won’t be seen dead without an oddly named craft beer.
Our last full day in Vancouver and our trip. We wanted to buy some frozen king crab legs back for my dad, so we’ve been looking for supermarkets and such like. First stop today was Walmart at Norh Vancouver. Breakfast was Tim Horton’s again, I had a cream cheese bagel and a way too sweet iced green tea. We ended up spending a loooooong time at Walmart, and we came away with vitamins, cereal bars, marshmallow and…two new suitcases. Sigh.
The real destination today was Grouse Mountain. We got the cable car up from the car park to the top, caught the end of the lumberjack show and proceeded to the chairlift to go up to the peak. The chairlift was long, took 12mins to get up. The views were great. It was a really sunny day but there was still blocks of ice up there. We didn’t go up the Eye of the Wind windmill, it was fine to go to the top of the chairlift.
After coming down we applied sunblock and saw the birds of prey demo, saw a grizzly bear playing in the water and caught the first part of the lumberjack show. All really interesting and great. Different from Capilano, I must admit I prefer Capilano because there was more nature and trails and things to see rather than shows that came on at preset times.
Got the cable car back down, we were lucky because for some reason they suspended the cable car right after us. May be mechanical issue, may be hot weather. We ate the whole pack of strawberries we bought at Walmart, it was perfect for the hot day.
We saw a leaflet at the hotel for lonsdale quay market so I drove over there with nothing more than what I remembered was on google maps and the small map on the leaflet. Managed fine. The carpark was free for the first 2hrs. The market was smaller than Granville Island and less crowded. One seafood stall, a few fruit & veg, arts & crafts and a few snacks and sandwiches.
Totally unexpected, there was another craft beer brewery. This one was called green leaf brewery and their flight was 4 small glasses. I had sour weissbier, pale ale, magnificent bestard, sour apple. We were hungry so we ordered sandwiches which they called from another stall. The sandwiches took a long time, I had grilled cheese & bacon and mum had salmon.
Drove back to Walmart to get strawberries and swiffer liquid—I should have gotten more stuff as soon as mum decided to buy suitcases.
The final destination was Stanley Park. At 1000 acres we knew we wanted to drive around and may be park somewhere. We ended up driving around and stopping at various points to take photos. After Stanley Park we drove to Chinatown, the old one. By that time it was early evening and everything was closed. Went back to the hotel, wasn’t hungry so I just finished the honey lager I bought yesterday at gib.
With all the hullabub about cruise planning and mum’s birthday cooking, I need a bit of a breather. There was frozen beer at the yacht club, which just hit the spot. Actually it’s not exactly all frozen, ethanol freezes at -114°C so a 5% beer will freeze at somewhere like -10 to -20&$176;C. The frozen beer, developed and introduced this year by Kirin, is more like a cold beer with a Mr Whippy-style frozen head that melted to regular beer top quite quickly. It’s supposed to keep the drink cooler longer, it’s more like a fun gimmick.
Had a few errands to run in the afternoon, was done by around 5pm. All walking today (okay a fair bit on the escalator). Went to a British pub and had a couple of their house draft seafarers ale. Scotch eggs for dinner, I’m on the fence about whether these were made by the kitchen, they look a bit too amateurish to be shop bought. Besides, not easy to find stuff like scotch eggs at the supermarkets. Stayed for a while, reading, while more people came in and the volume increased.
I can’t say I agree 100%. I like wheat beer but chardonnay is my last resort; I like pinot noir but I find lambic too weird. Porter and syrah is okay, and I can see their logic about rich flavours. All in all the whole beer<—>wine thing seems way too simplistic.
Another batch of Christmas present from my sis was a big box of craft beers, which had arrived a week or so ago. I brought one of the bottles to share with my dad. After I took the group picture I re-wrapped them in the bubble wrap they came in so I had no idea what I picked.
Turned out, it was a bottle of aztec sacrifice (second from left at back, with red cap) which the brewery described as a
big, bold malty red India Pale Ale with a wallop of citrus hops and specialty malts. Rich toffee and caramel notes with a hint of roasted barley and firm hop bitterness. This is how red ales are done on the west coast!
Wow. Big, malty and wallop definitely describes it. Extremely hoppy and quite bitter. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love strong bitters, but this one was a tad over the bitterness line for me. But that’s why craft beers are so interesting. Can’t wait to try the rest of the box.
We went househunting, for the fun of it. It started when mm had to look for a new parking space, then she got talking with the agent about the market for apartments. Next thing I knew, she called me and I was out over her area looking at apartments.
Afterwards we returned to the oktoberfest restaurant where we had beer with our friend the other day. Shared a bottle of beer and ordered the eisbein that she wanted to try last time. Berliner eisbein is salt-cured pork knuckle cooked in a spiced brine for several hours until very soft. As the name suggests, it’s a Berlin speciality although I remember having it in Munich. (Or was it the roast knuckle.) The meat was tasty and our favourite was the skin — very soft, gelatinous and not fatty at all. We also ordered a pizza although we struggled to finish it. Should have had a salad or starter instead.
Went out with mm and our friend to a bar and caught their oktoberfest special. Everyone ordered 500ml beers — they had Erdinger weissbeer and dunkel and I had a bottle of Schneider-Weiss tap 7 — an amber wheat beer. We also shared a platter of sausages and sauerkraut. So German, love it. Naturally I finished mine way faster than them, but before I waved down a server and ordered another one, they gave me 1/3 of their remaining glasses. So I had like 800ml total and they each had 350ml or so. Ah yes, I can drink more than my friends in general.
When I was young, as in pre-teen, our grandfather and even my dad would let us kids try a little bit of beer or brandy that they were drinking with their meals. Just a small touch or a tiny sip. No harm done, it meant I didn’t find alcohol a big deal.
I didn’t drink when I got to drinking age. Oh, I think I had the required Newcastle Ale in college, but I don’t remember liking it. I was the one with the car amongst my friends, who weren’t big drinkers anyway, so it didn’t even enter my mind that alcohol should be part of my life. I didn’t drink throughout my twenties. Not the teetotal type of non-drinker, just very, very rarely.
When I learned to drink, was in Switzerland. That was when my group of friends then liked to drink. Eating out was expensive, so our gatherings were always at someone’s apartment. And someone would inevitably bring a couple of bottles of wine. Or vodka. Or something equally strong. We got into Swiss wine in a big way, knowing that it was only available inside Switzerland. Proximity to France, Germany and Italy helped too. Wine tasting at Alsace was one of the highlights of those couple of years. We made watermelon vodka, jelly shots, caipirinha. I first tried this shot with baileys floating on creme de menthe that was extremely addicting.
Moving to Asia gave me access to a new type of drink. Sake and umeshu from Japan and soju from Korea. New World wines dominated the market (and were much, much cheaper) so it was cabs and chardonnay from Australia for a while.
In the US I discovered craft beers. A race in Chicago would be sponsored by 312 or Goose Island and if I ignored the buds and millers, aka water, that are on the supermarket shelves, there’d be another section of wonderful special beers in interesting bottles.
And then came whisky. When RM came to London, he introduced me to world of whisky. And the rest is history. I’ve visited distilleries on 3 continents and developed a taste for Highland Park, Blanton’s and Yamazaki. I now have almost 50 bottles of whisky and whiskey at home, not counting the half-shelf of sample bottles. It’s becoming an interesting, if expensive, hobby.
I’m not drinking as much as when I was in London. I love buying though, so my living room cabinets are filled to the brim with whisky, bourbon, grappas, vodka, limoncello, pear liquor, tomato liquor and a bourbon cream I bought at Buffalo Trace. And a bunch of wines from our trip to Provence or from London that I brought with me in my shipment. They all just sit there, waiting to be tasted…someday.
I’m also seeing my taste develop somewhat as I get older. It can’t be any ol’ wine, beer or whisky, I know generally what I like and what I don’t like. I’m still game for trying new stuff, and there’s so much more to experience. Cheers.
Went over to help sis tidy up her flat, she’s about halfway through unpacking and putting things away only after 1-2 days, yay.
After dinner with parents we headed over to the LKF beer festival. When we were in the taxi it started pouring, so we had to take cover and wait for the rain to stop. The whole LKF area was pedestrianised and there were stalls selling beer and food. We only tried one craft beer stall, got a tangarine and a rather hoppy beer. Some other stalls had quick games. We missed getting bar towels but managed to get some finger lights.
It started raining heavily again. After sheltering under a leaking canopy for a while, we decided to brave the downpour and head home. She went to the FCC to get a taxi and I headed downhill to get a bus.
Feeling depressed. Tried to meet up with mm, did a bit of shopping. Went for a glass of wine at the place where you get unlimited peanuts and you throw the shells on the floor. On the floor, that’s what I feel like right now. In my life, in everything. Not sure what I’m doing here in a place I hate, not sure what I should do, not sure of anything, full stop. Feel like I’m struggling to push myself into a rare timeslot she has graciously made available for me out of pity. Need guidance from angels on what to do now, and what future to look forward to. Not in a good place.
Went to watch my niece at her taekwondo lesson, then we went to dinner at a mussels and beer place. My niece had goat’s cheese pie and mash potatoes. Sis and I both opted for the mussel pots. She had a coconut beer served in a coconut shell shaped bowl and I had a kwak. It’s just like at belgo’s!
Runners are one of the biggest groups of drinkers I’ve known. At least in Chicago races, there will usually be beer at the end. Free, or cheap. The good stuff too, 312 or Goose Island. I mean, we’re not all Chris Hoy, who has Olympic gold in sight.
But too much alcohol isn’t good for marathon training. So for the next 3 weeks, I’m going to limit alcohol to weekends only. This includes the 4-day weekend that is Easter.
Friday after work, I went with RM to the great british beer festival at earl’s court. It’s sponsored by the campaign for real ale, and offers 500+ beers and ales and ciders from regional breweries. Entrance is £10, and glasses are £3. We wisely opted for the small glass and only bought 1/3 pint portions so we can try more. Most were around £1 for 1/3 pint.
It was hot and crowded, getting through to the bar was a bit of a scrum. Altogether we managed to try the equivalent of 2 pints of all sorts — ale, porter, german pilsner, perry. It’s RM’s first outing as a UK resident and I think he had a good time. We also tried kangaroo burger, boar burger, scampi and I couldn’t resist a cup of whelk and a huge bag of pork scratchings.
I like Stella Artois beer for its nice clean taste. Plus, of course, it’s reassuringly expensive. Just a couple of weeks ago, on royal wedding day in fact, they launched their own cider, called so imaginatively, Cidre. I bought one yesterday and tried it today. Pretty clean, not too sweet, quite apple-y. And no longer reassuringly expensive, it was the same price as the Magners and the Koppabergs.
It’s “friday” and a colleague’s birthday, so naturally we went for a drink. I only had 2 beers, one Amstel and an Estrella, nothing too intense. But that was enough for me already. Have I been too used to weak American beer? Age? Not running enough? I’m glad though, the days of 6 pints in one sitting have no appeal anymore. I do find myself missing a good 312 beer.