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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Beer Baron - You Had Me at Stout: Testing the Spiegelau Stout Glass

Post by Matt, the Beer Baron

Like many a good beer geek, I have far too much glassware. What started with a few Chimay chalices has blossomed into several shelves of everything from Aquaman pint glasses to a Westvleteren glass I had to beg the store owner in Belgium to sell me. For the most part, they are mementos from brewery tours and are all variations of a few classic beer glass styles. I’ve got countless pint glasses, tulips, chalices, shakers, steins, snifters and steins, so I really don’t need any new glasses – or so you would think.

Enter the Spiegelau stout glass. If you recall from my post about Bell’s Expedition Stout, I hold stout in high regard, especially Russian Imperial Stout. Actually, that is an understatement akin to saying the aforementioned Aquaman holds water or punching bad guys in high regard. So, when news broke that Spiegelau was following up their IPA glass with a stout glass, I was instantly reduced to an internet meme:

Since the Spiegelau stout glass was developed in partnership with Rogue Ales and Left Hand Brewing Company, I figured it would be apropos to try out my new stout glass using Rogue’s own 99/100-rated Shakespeare Oatmeal Stout. For the sake of comparison – and to drink two stouts rather than just one – I also used an American-style pint glass. The bottles were purchased, stored and refrigerated in the same way and I did my best to pour the beers at the same angle and rate.

As you can see, the stout glass encouraged more of a rich, creamy head. While what little head did show up in the pint glass dissipated quickly, the head in the stout glass remained for the better part of 45 minutes – and would have remained longer if, you know, I wasn’t thirsty.  

The biggest difference I found in comparing the two glasses was in the aromas from the stout glass. While the pint glass presented hints of coffee or roasted malts or caramel, it was relatively subtle. However, with the stout glass, everything has not just amplified, but enhanced – it became the kind of alluring, complex aroma that made you wish you could crawl into the glass for a bath. (The Clockwatching Tart herself joined in the comparison and agreed the aromas were much more complex and full bodied, so you don’t have to be a stout fiend to appreciate the difference.)

As for the taste, the biggest difference I noticed was in the mouth feel. Because the angles of the stout glass helped to create and maintain a better head, the stout glass provided a much creamier, smoother sensation. Personally, I didn’t notice a marked difference in the actual taste of the stout from either glass but because aroma and mouth feel are such important aspects of how you perceive taste and enjoy something, I absolutely preferred the stout from the stout glass. (Your mileage may vary, as they say. I’m no supertaster, so you might notice and appreciate even more of a difference.)

So, should you buy Spiegelau stout glasses? The short answer is yes; the longer answer is absolutely yes, you fool; and the less sarcastic answer is that if you enjoy stout – especially oatmeal stouts, American-style stouts or Russian imperials stouts – and you have room for and can afford a $9 glass, you owe it to yourself to get one, posthaste.

A set of two glasses direct from Spiegelau will run you $24.90. If you don’t mind labels on our glasses (which I don’t, obviously), you can save yourself a few dollars and get them from Rogue for $18.00 or get a single glass from Left Hand Brewing for $9.00. For my fellow hosers, the Canadian shipping from Rogue was pretty reasonable and the package arrived safely and quickly, eh.       


Friday, May 23, 2014

Southern USA Road Trip - Sweet P's Barbeque & Soul House

Back to our trip!  

I'm a planner.  Honestly I don't think there's anything I like better than planning a trip.  I've read research that says planning a vacation can make you happier even than taking one!  

When I plan a trip I start with an excel spreadsheet and Google Maps.  I try not to get too crazy with the spreadsheet, but I do like to plan a rough itinerary for each day, including any travel and pre-booked hotels, shows and activities. 

I use Google Maps to plot out locations we may want to visit and any travel routes.  Bars, restaurants, attractions, shopping, hotels.  This way I can see distances and which places are close to each other.  

This helped us make a few discoveries and plan our trip.  Initially we were going to drive straight to Nashville, but I happened to find Benton's Bacon in Tennessee, close to the Tail of the Dragon - a great mountain driving road I knew Matt would love and that was not far from Asheville North Carolina, one of the best beer cities in North America.  It was not hard to convince Matt to add a few days on to our trip to visit these things - they're right up his alley.  

But first, after our great night in Lexington, Kentucky we were spending a night near the airport in Knoxville to be close to our next day's route.  I hadn't planned anything for the area, so I used Yelp to find the best barbecue in Knoxville and luckily there was a place right near our destination.  

Sweet P's Barbeque & Soul House is located south of Knoxville on a country road near a marina.  There are a bunch of smokers outside.   You order at the counter.  The service was so friendly!

We decided to share the sampler platter of 1/4 rack of ribs, brisket, a pulled pork sandwich and three sides.  We chose mac & cheese, green beans and banana pudding.  On the table were three sauces, a thick East Tennessee tomato-based barbecue sauce, a thin North Carolina vinegar-based sauce and a hot thin sauce with chipotle.  I loved the thin sauce.

The meat was outstanding.  This was a late lunch/early dinner for us and it was so fantastic, we decided to get some take-out to have later on back at the hotel.  

We ordered 1/2 a rack of ribs and a dozen wings but somehow we ended up with a full rack of ribs!  

The wings were delicious and the ribs were perfect but it was way, way too much meat!

This was a very lucky discovery and we were so happy to try all these Southern specialties at such a nice, friendly place.   

Monday, May 19, 2014

Tart of the Month: Asparagus & Gruyere

I have plenty more to tell about our road trip to Nashville, but let's take a break from travel for our tart of the month!  This month we're doing asparagus again. We have a small asparagus patch in our garden and due to the cold winter and late spring, it is just starting to produce asparagus now in mid May.  Asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables so it gets two months of tarts before spring turns to summer and I suspect the tart of the month will turn from savoury to sweet for a while.

This tart is so easy.  Once again, no pastry skills needed, just frozen puff pastry.  Here's what you need for this simple spring tart from Martha Stewart:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Southern USA Road Trip - Benton's Bacon

Benton's bacon is famous.  The best restaurants in New York and across the USA boast that they serve Benton's bacon and it sells in gourmet shops for $16 a pound.  

When we realized that Benton's Country Hams in Madisonville Tennessee was close to the route of our Southern road trip, and would allow us to take one of the twisty-est roads in North America - the Tail of the Dragon - through the Smoky Mountains, we decided it was a must-visit on our trip.   

Madisonville is just south of Knoxville, a small building just off the highway.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Southern USA Road Trip - Lexington, Kentucky

We spent the first night of our road trip in Lexington, Kentucky.  Normally when I plan our trips I verge on over planning.  I research hotels and restaurants and make spreadsheets of the best locations and an itinerary of things to see each day.  We can be flexible, but it's nice to have an outline so we don't miss anything we really want to see. 

But on this road trip we wanted to be a little more spontaneous.  We hoped to make it all the way to Lexington on our first day, about a 7-hour drive and we'd read we could get a hotel easily enough without a reservation so we played it by ear. Unfortunately we don't follow horse racing.  Little did we know, two of the biggest horse events of the year were happening in Kentucky the two days we would be travelling through.  In Lexington, it was the Rolex, Kentucky and the city was almost booked to capacity.  A week later we hadn't learned our lesson and had to skip Louisville because it was Kentucky Derby weekend.  So we've learned to check the calendar for horse events when visiting Kentucky in the future.  

But we managed to find a room for the night, and Lexington was good to us.  Everything came together almost magically without planning.  We used the Rate Beer Places app to find a bar with craft beer that was open nearby.  When we arrived we saw a taco truck in front of another bar across the street.  So we went over and ordered some tacos.  

We were shocked and delighted when the taco guy asked whether which bar we wanted our tacos delivered to.  He said he'd bring them to us across the street!  It was a nice change from our home town where they've just voted not to allow food trucks on city streets at all.  

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Southern USA Road Trip - Bourbon, Bacon, Biscuits, Beer & Barbecue

We just returned from a seven-day road trip through the US South.  We drove through Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina and we ate and drank everything!

Before we left I made a list of regional specialties I wanted to try.  We managed to hit almost all of them.

#1 Cincinnati Chili

The first regional specialty we came across was Cincinnati Chili.  For this we went to Skyline Chili, a chain with locations all over Ohio.  The chili is a thin meat sauce spiced with cinnamon and cloves, served over spaghetti in a variety of "ways".  Three-way is spaghetti topped with chili and cheese.  Four-way adds onions and five-way adds beans.  It's served with oyster crackers on the side.  I have to say, I wasn't expecting much, but this was really tasty.  I was surprised by the warm spice of the sauce and the amount of cheese on top!  Also, the staff couldn't have been friendlier.  When we told them it was our first time, our whole meal was free!  Unbelievable.  

#2 Kentucky Bourbon

We only spent a short time in Kentucky, but we managed to try a bit of bourbon.  We toured a bourbon distillery and tried some samples and bourbon cocktails.  I even brought a bottle home as a souvenir.