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Category: Eat Me Drink Me (Page 3 of 6)

Fresh Bruschetta Is What You Make Of IT

I Nuovi Antipasti Italiani

Fresh Bruschetta on homemade Ciabatta

Fresh Tomatoes on homemade Ciabatta

Winter Strawberries. Tomatoes in Spring. Summer Sanma. Persimmons in Fall. Season is everything. And seasonal cooking is big, especially in Japan, where when any kind of produce stops occurring naturally, the hothouse prices set in and flavor takes a dive.

So after a slow(er) then usual Friday night, an early Saturday rise to make the dough for my weekend whiteman ciabatta, I found myself upon my bike heading towards the local farmers’ market where I found a box of the most provacatively-shaped red-as-the-Japanese-sun tomato-fruits to perfectly complement some mouth-wateringly cured Prosciutto Toscano I had found at a gourmet grocer. What began as a morning experiment in breadmaking turned into an entire day of feasting and tasting, laughter and gaiety, all thanks to the serendipitous alignment of weather, food, drink, people and the all-important Lazy Saturday Afternoon.

How To Not Cook Like An Average American

Prosciutto is ham, of course. But when I hear “ham” my body reacts differently than when I hear “prosciutto”. Upon hearing the latter I picture cured legs dangling from hooks in ancient tavernas of wood and smoke where men in hats come for a glass or two of house wine before work. When I hear “ham” my knee-jerk reaction is to picture two slabs of pasty no-name white bread slathered in cheap mayonnaise layered in overly processed slices of “cheese” and some nasty homogeneously flesh-colored square of Oscar Meyer obeisance to fat men with cans of shitty beer on Football Sunday.

A box of just picked organic tomatoes

A box of just picked organic tomatoes

You’ve probably heard of Prosciutto di Parma, which is ostensibly the most popular kind, or at least the most well-known outside of Italy. The truth is not many varieties ever even see the sunlight outside of Italy. To know Italian ham, one must go to Italy (on the way, one would be smart to taste Jamón Serrano in Spain for a true comparison of cured European ham). My idea of Prosciutto leans toward savory so I prefer Toscano (Toscano Prosciutto is cured using rosemary, pepper and garlic) to Parma, whose hams are sweeter and therefore go better with your typical (boring) melon.

Balancing 20 tomatoes on a bag-laden bike is not only fun (and good practice), but tends to remind me of college and bringing home cases of the Miller Hi Life in just the same manner. At least I know I am progressing. I get home, crank the oven up to 250 C, reshape my sticky, frothing dough into a fatty ball with black truffle olive oil and a dusting of herbs, stick it in and crack the wine for a bit of breathing room. If it’s not yet noon, you’re looking good.

I Nuovi Antipasti Italiani

Before the bread’s done, call up a friend or two (females are best). Any reason will suffice. I usually say, “Let’s have a mural painting party!” or something mysterious like, “be at mine by one with a salami, 20 water balloons and a bikini.”

At this point the sun is past its zenith, you should have roasted a few bulbs of garlic, have plucked the best and brightest leaves from your basil plant, 5 or 6 tomatoes should be mandolined and plated and your bread should be done. Open the door, let the fun young creatures of beauty and smiles into your breezy kitchen pour a couple of glasses of a nice chilled white to start it off good.

The Bruschetta You Love:

Fresh tomato on your Roasted Garlic Fennel Wholewheat Ciabata

Fresh tomato on your Roasted Garlic Fennel Wholewheat Ciabata

For Sauce – Refer to the Old School Pesto post or simply drizzle some extra virgin olive oil. The key is not to realize you don’t even own a can opener due to all the fresh stuff you’re using. You feel me? Also, don’t be afraid to chop. Embrace your knife and your whet stone. It’s the Sabbath somewhere so let the Cuisenart rest today.

The secret to good bruschetta is originality. Everyone’s is different. Some are main courses while others are meant as antipasti. Go crazy and try different combinations. Use cheese sparingly, though be generous with tomatoes. Add some balsamic vinegar, squeeze a lemon or better yet, use the zest. Seasalt and fresh milled pepper are great accoutrements. Basil is a must. Goat cheese is sublime. Camembert is subtle. Olives go well with most anything, as do bikinis. And wine. And lip gloss. And crumbs everywhere.

Originally posted on Eat Me Drink Me, several vintages of wine ago.

Craft Beer - What's On Tap for 2015

Craft Beer – What’s On Tap for 2015

Craft Beer – What’s On Tap for 2015

2014 was a blur of craft beer. It feels as if I was finally awakened to all of life’s infinite malt possibilities, but I know that it’s just the beginning. 2015 promises to be equally exciting and full of new and delicious surprises. The big ABV boys were out at play in the barley fields of the lord. Sierra Nevada, Boston Beer, and New Belgium led the way for the craft beer industry, but limited run ales, as well as multiple hopped IPAs from Lagunitas, Rogue Ales, Brooklyn Brewery, Stone, Dogfish Head, Boulevard, Harpoon, Deschutes sold out regularly throughout the US and the Double IPA saw a large showing as well. Stronger beer seemed to be what was on the menu. But in order to grow beyond the roughly 5% market share they currently possess in the domestic market, smaller craft breweries will have to diversify. It looks like we could be in for a wave of lighter, flavored and session brews running anywhere from a demure 4%- to a slightly less timid 6% ABV. 2015 will be the year of the Wheat Shandy and the Milk Stout. Here’s the rundown of what 2014 tasted like. And cheers to the new year!

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

What is Coprinus Comatus?

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

Coprinus Comatus © Arnaud De Grave

Coprinus Comatus, fried in butter and a bit of olive oil, salt (at the end, if not if becomes moochy of course), pepper, a few herbes de provence… sauté the whole stuff for 5 min. Eat on whole wheat toast. Precautions need to be taken when harvesting, for sure…

Read more from by Michael Kuo at Mushroom Expert site:

What is Coprinus Comatus?

: The Shaggy Mane [ Basidiomycetes > Agaricales > Agaricaceae > Coprinus . . . ]

Its distinguishing features include its shape and stature, and the fact that the gills “deliquesce,” turning themselves into black ink as they mature. Shaggy manes are frequently found in disturbed ground, and the edges of dirt roads can produce many mushrooms. In the Rocky Mountains, Coprinus comatus can be seen from the car during monsoon season by simply driving four-wheel-drive roads and keeping an eye on the roadsides.

DNA studies over the last decade make it clear that Coprinus comatus is fairly closely related to species of Agaricus and Lepiota, but only distantly related to most other mushrooms whose gills turn to black ink–for example, Coprinopsis atramentaria or Coprinellus micaceus. The genus Coprinus, which once held all such mushrooms, now holds only Coprinus comatus and a few similar mushrooms–and it turns out that the presence of a ring on the stem and a string-like strand of fibers inside the stem’s hollow cavity turn out to be better predictors of the genus Coprinus than deliquescing gills.

Description:

  • Ecology: Saprobic,growing alone or in clusters, lines, or fairy rings on lawns, wood chips, or hard-packed ground; summer and fall; widely distributed in North America.
  • Cap: 3-15 cm; oval to rounded-cylindrical when young, expanding to bell-shaped with a lifting margin; in age turning to black “ink”; dry; whitish with a brownish center; with large, shaggy scales; margin lined at maturity.
  • Gills: Free from the stem; white, becoming pinkish, then black; turning to black “ink”; very crowded.
  • Stem: 5-20 cm long; 1-2 cm thick; frequently tapering to apex; smooth; white; easily separable from cap; hollow, with a string-like strand of fibers hanging inside.
  • Flesh: White throughout; soft.
  • Odor and Taste: Not distinctive.
  • Spore Print: Black.

There is a history here of searching out fungi in the dark recesses of far-flung countries.

Duvel – Blonde Devil

Duvel – Blonde Devil

Duvel Brewery, Belgium

Pale Ale. The name rolls euphoniously off the tongue almost as smoothly as what it describes. The pale varieties of ale have proliferated in recent years, each branching off into seemingly infinite and opposite directions of the basic characteristics of what defines this most popular of brews: Amber, American Pale, Bière de Garde, Blonde, Bitter, Irish Red, India Pale, Strong pale, American Strong, Scotch. Yet despite their differences–and provenances–all of the following share the singularity of the Pale Malt.

Say “malt” five times fast. A bit of a strange word, isn’t it? From Old Norse, similar to melt, malt is kiln-dried barley that has been germinated. Kilning at higher temperatures than lager malt gives pale malt a toastier flavor well suited to pale ales. Unlike some specialty malts, pale requires mashing, the hot water bath process to hydrate the barley, which activates the malt enzymes, and converts the grain starches molecules into fermentable sugars*. Because the yeast need to eat before they excrete ethanol and they like it sweet.

The other important part of the singularity of pale ale is the Saccharomyces Cerevisiae strain of yeast which differentiates the Ale from the Lager. Cerevisiae, as well as being central to the fermentation of wine-making and baking, likes warm temperatures, and is generally, if not anachronistically, called top fermenting, unlike lager yeast, which sinks to the bottom. There is a joke there somewhere, but I’ll leave it for now.

The prototypical pale (although specifically a Belgian Strong Pale) is Duvel. Produced by Duvel Moortgat Brewery, Duvel is not the traditional Belgian brew. The main difference between other Belgian Beer and Duvel is the Moortgat strain of yeast still which stems from a culture of Scottish yeast bought by Albert Moortgat during a business tour of the U.K. just after World War I. And although surrounded by Trappist beer, the Moortgat family has been brewing delicious beer for generations using a simple recipe of pilsner malt and dextrose, and hopping with Noble Saaz and Styrian Goldings, the Slovenian variety of British Fuggle. Yes, hop names come from the characters in Harry Potter.

Duvel – Blonde Devil

Why so pro Duvel? All expenses paid first-class trips to Belgium? Ha! Are they paying me in cases of beer? I wish…but alas I have to buy it just like everyone else. Truthfully it is the seductive combination of the following:

Appearance: Golden Blonde with a clear body and thick white head.
Aroma: Fruit, Straw.
Flavor and Mouthfeel: Lightly but firmly hopped with a fizzy, almost champagne-y touch of dryness on the tongue. Low acid and lack of bitterness lend ease of drinkability fooling the palate into thinking for itself and ordering ahead of schedule.
Alcohol Content: Strong 8.5 ABV with slight aroma of alcohol present in the head.

Beyond the basic Duvel, they also produce the stronger Triple Hop Pale Ale (adding the American Cascade hops to the 2014 version for a special variety of bitter devilry), and recently they licensed the Maredsous Abbey name to produce the dark, rich-bodied Benedictine brew Maredsous Triple, which at 10° ABV, packs a powerful punch yet remains amicably drinkable and overall gives off an old oak-refined finish with a light tinge of fruit, wrapped in a lush summertime breeze of hops, leaving only its smooth creamy head behind. Once you have entered the Maredsous universe (also a Maredsous 6° Blonde and a Maredsous 8° Bruin) there is little else that can grab your attention. Something your toothless uncle would drink on Tuesday mornings because it’s better than Muesli.

The Duvel Moortgat brewery acquired Brewery Ommegang, the US-based Belgian style craft beer kings in 2003 (which brewed a Game of Thrones series of ales last year…I’ll have the Blonde Khalisi please…) and recently they bought a majority stake in one of my favorite American breweries, Boulevard Brewing as well as California Craftbeer King Firestone Walker Brewing. It is nice to know that with AB-InBev assimilating all of the craft breweries they can, there are some brewing companies that will remain as independent and insulated as possible from the growing onslaught of adjunct lagerfication. You know, heat rises, but this little devil, when mixed with the pale malt and any variety of and combination of hops, will take you down to the baddest place around.

*Thanks to John Palmer’s excellent resource How To Brew.

Westmalle Trappist Tripel - 9.5ABV - Brouwerij Westmalle

Trappist Beer – The Divine Brew

Trappist Beer – The Divine Brew

What does it mean: Trappist Beer and why does it start at six dollars a bottle (if you can get it at all)? After a bit of imbibed research and some hard sought questions in a few local European Beer Pubs, I’ve found out some interesting facts about what makes a Trappist Ale so special, and why they’re themselves worth the trip to the countryside Abbeys of Belgium (plus The Netherlands, Austria & yes, the USA). First, onto the monks themselves.

The Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (O.C.S.O.: Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae), or Trappists (who get their name from the original La Trappe Abbey, named so for its isolation in a Normandy valley), are a contemplative Roman Catholic religious order, that follows the Rule of St. Benedict, summarized in the motto, ora et labora (“pray and work”). That work tends to be the production of bread, cheese and, some of the best beer the world has ever quaffed.

The rules and regulations of Trappist Beer as set down by the International Trappist Association (ITA) in 1997 state that the beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist abbey, by or under control of Trappist monks. The brewery, the choices of brewing, and the commercial orientations must obviously depend on the monastic community. The economic purpose of the brewery must be directed toward assistance and not toward financial profit. And the beer must be kickass.

Trappist Brewery World Map

Trappist Brewery World Map

There are currently 10 International Trappist Association recognized breweries that are allowed to have their products wear the Authentic Trappist Product logo:

  • Brasserie de Rochefort – Belgium – 1595
  • Brouwerij der Trappisten van Westmalle – Belgium – 1836
  • Brouwerij Westvleteren/St Sixtus – Belgium – 1838
  • Bières de Chimay – Belgium – 1863
  • Brasserie d’Orval – Belgium – 1931
  • Brouwerij der Sint-Benedictusabdij de Achelse Kluis (Achel) – Belgium – 1998
  • Brouwerij de Koningshoeven (La Trappe) – Netherlands – 1884
  • Stift Engelszell – Austria – 2012
  • St. Joseph’s Abbey – United States – 2013
  • Brouwerij Abdij Maria Toevlucht – Netherlands – 2014

Why is Trappism so fitting for the brewing of premium beer?

In a word: Quality. Devoted to the Good Work as they are, the monks have long been the key to the survival of the analog ways of classic beer fermentation. The Reinheitsgebot, the Bavarian beer purity law of the 15th century states that beer should only be made with barley, hops and water. The fact that yeast was unknown to the German brewers of the time notwithstanding, it was the peasants of Northwestern Europe (Belgium, France, Netherlands) who began to use distinctly un-beer-like ingredients to add flavor, such as citrus and herbs. to make Saisons and other beer, which remember, dear drinker, was once brewed in open vats, leaving the wind to germinate–and flavor–with whatever happened to fly by and drop in. For the Germans, who developed the bottom-fermenting lagern method of cellaring beer to keep it at a constant temperature (and ipso facto inadvertently gave birth to the modern Budweiser), this method of brewing was messy, undisciplined, unfathomable. So as much as we are dealing with the German certainty that comes with controlled chemical reactions, we are also left to waft in the Gallic wind as the Hand of the Almighty Brewer mixes his nectar for us–by way of the monks who protect his secret recipe–to slip behind the veil if only a wee bit to witness the golden ale light of the divine elixir. Chance or Divine Providence? Depends on your upbringing. Depends on your outlook. But enough flim-flam. On to the drink!

What is a typical Trappist Ale?

Belgian Beer Bubbles!

Belgian Beer Bubbles!

Many of these top-fermented ales are cap numbered (6, 8, 10, etc.) dating from the days before labels, when barrels were marked with one, two or three crosses, generally to denote strength, which translated into three simple categories: Enkel, Dubbel, Tripel. While the Enkel is not really brewed much anymore, some breweries offer more sessionable varieties of the stronger versions on tap at the brewpub. If you have never been to one of these abbeys, then all you may know of the Cistercian brewery is the Dubbel and the Tripel.

Dubbels

The origin of the dubbel bubbled forth from Westmalle in 1856. Hence Westmalle Dubbel is the benchmark and has been imitated by many other breweries worldwide, leading to the emergence of the Dubbel as a distinct style. Apart from the classic Westmalle, the Chimay Red, La Trappe Dubbel, Ommegang and New Belgium‘s Abbey Ale are delicious examples of a strong, dark dubbel.

Dubbels are a strong, dark ale (brown color comes from dark malts) with full flavor flavor and a robust body. And while not as overtly aromatic as one would first notice after pouring the molasses-hued ale into a snifter-like glass with a wide lip and taking the initial sip, swishing the more complex, caramel-textured flavors about one’s mouth, encountering an unexpected dry cereal crispness and fruity complexity, one’s interest is more than piqued. You long for a day reserved for solely for drinking down these dark candy sugared Dubbels while picnicking on apples and grapes and cheese and freshly baked bread in the pastoral sun of a Belgian lea surrounded by wildflowers and bubbly Belgique Belles Femmescooing haughtily into your warm ears. Pour another one sir, for though these bottle-fermented ales are slightly heavy, they go down smoother than panties on well-lotioned thighs.

Tripels

Tripels - So Many Choices

Trappist Beer Tripels – So Many Choices

There you are again, perusing the bottled multitudes at the the high-end organic co-op your wife props up with your paycheck. You’re eyeing a sixer of good microbrew to see you through yet another holiday party. You move to the last shelf and see the individual bottles and Flash! An Epiphany. Chimay Cinq Cents. You see the maple colored bottle and its straw label modestly boasting its diminutive “Tripel”. Triple what? Taste? Creamy Golden-ness? Despite the pale, straw colored ale, triple the strength. Not overly, but perfectly, hopped (Surprisingly, the monks use the American-grown Nugget hop), on opening (or decorking if you’ve got the 75cl bottle) an evanescent aroma reminiscent of a fresh harvest of hops just after a rainstorm issues forth. Send the relatives home, grab your glass and get thee to a comfortable chair. This strong pale brew, evanescent of fruity esters with just a touch of ephemeral bitterness washed away so quickly another sip is quite in order, deserves an audience. It needs a deep rich mahogany coffee table and a warm fire, and a finely-sweatered Northern European female by your side. Swirl. Take another sip. Swirl again. Then one more. Maybe that’s what the “Tripel” stands for. All sips come in threes. Though slow down, cowboy. This is made by monks. Trappist monks. Think Sloths. Slow but strong. They cruise relaxedly chuckling away to God while beer bubbles foam away on upper lips, these giddy brewmeisters, high on hops, fermented to high heaven, they take their time. As should you, mon frere. Letting the creamy head mellow and the rich amber settle, take another whiff and let the aromas pour over your skin, feel the soft bite of apples, sniff again and quickly now, take a deep drink, getting the head all over you as the color of caramelized happy liquid floats so smoothly down your throat. The strong crisp taste of raisins lingers so luxuriously on your tongue, on second (or third) thought, taking another sip too quickly is not recommended. Let it rest. Happy Holidays.

Achel Blonde 8° ABV

Achel Blonde 8° ABV

It is said that he first golden tripel was produced by the Three Lindens brewery, post-war, when, as famed Beer Hunter Michael Jackson says, “brewers of strong, top-fermenting beers were trying to compete with Pilsener-style lagers. When the Three Linden brewery closed, its product, under the name Witkap, was taken over by the Slaghmuylder brewery, at Ninove, west of Brussels.”

Yet it was, once again the Westmalle version that is considered to be the foundation of this beer style as well. Though striking from the label to the glass bin, Achel Blonde proves that those who drink Blondes do have more fun. I am having more fun than before I opened the bottle. One could only imagine what would ensue if this weren’t merely a bottle containing a beautifully crafted tripel brewed by an order of Belgian monks who’ve been chased out of their abbey time and again (first by the French revolution and then the nazis). The smallest of the Trappist breweries, the Achel freres began brewing again in 1998 and seemingly have never looked back. The proof is in the pour. Patience is the key word here, because it takes what must be referred to as a Belgian Minute in the Trappist lingua franca for the thick, creamy head to dissipate. Notable non-Trappist Tripels include Bosteels Tripel Karmeliet 8.4% ABV, Unibroue La Fin du Monde 9.0% ABV, St. Bernardus Tripel 8.0% ABV, Gouden Carolus Tripel 9.0% ABV, St Feuillien Triple 8.5% ABV, Ommegang Tripel Perfection 8.9% ABV, Boulevard Smokestack Series – Long Strange Tripel 9.2% ABV.

Like many of the Trappist (and non-Trappist) breweries of North-Western Europe, there are varieties offered solely within the confines of the brewery itself. Achel offers the lower ABV Blonde 5% and Brune 5% only on tap (and how delicious that must be–“Friar Tuck, pour me another!”), while the Achel Extra, 9.5% ABV Blonde is only available in the 75 cl bottle. The incentive being to get thee to the chapel.

Quadrupels

Chimay Blue, 9% abv Belgian Strong Dark Ale, also known as Grande Réserve.

Chimay Blue, 9% abv Belgian Strong Dark Ale, also known as Grande Réserve.

While the overall style of Trappist brewing is one of strict observance of style and discipline within a world dominated by “beer” brewed with whatever ingredient (soy and corn) happens to most cheaply prevalent, there are a few breweries who don’t strictly follow the traditional enkel, dubbel, tripel format. That’s where the Quad comes in. Quadrupel is a new style loosely based on strong dark ales, well-spiced with notes of citrus and pepper and an ABV over 10%. Just over the Belgian border in the southern part of the Netherlands is the De Koningshoeven Brewery, best known as La Trappe, the most commercial of the Trappist breweries. They produce a Blond (6.5% ABV), a Dubbel (7% ABV), Tripel (8% ABV), a Witte (5.5% ABV), a seasonal Bockbier (7% ABV), and an organic brew named PUUR (4.7% ABV). The brewery also has become known for its La Trappe Quadrupel (10% ABV), following suit in terms of gradually stronger ABV than the dubbel or tripel, while retaining its overall drinkability, despite a boozy tinge of flatness that sets in about halfway point, a slight downer in an generally good drinking experience that could be eliminated with age.

It has been said that The Best Beer In The World is made at the Westvleteren Brewery in West Flanders, and is sold exclusively to individuals (who must promise before god not to resell) at the abbey store, who have called in advance. You probably have to do some push-ups as well. The Trappist Westvleteren 12 (Strong Belgian Dark Ale, 10.2° ABV), sells for 40 Euros per 24 bottles (plus 12 Euro bottle deposit). Quite a deal for locals, but tough for American Beer Enthusiasts to get a glass. The last of the major breweries to hold out to international distribution, the monks of St Sixtus also deem it perfectly acceptable to bottle their brews without labels. That must be some brew if they don’t feel the need to label it nor let most of the outside world purchase it. It goes back to a post-war accommodation between a local brewer who produced a similar yet noticeably different brew for distribution until the early 90s. When the deal ended so did Westvleteren desire to expand. When I went to Brugge several years ago, I was too young to drink anything but Stella Artois. I have not yet been back, but in one of his reviews, Michael Jackson says, “Beers of ‘triple’ strength are said to have been especially associated with the city of Bruges.” Good enough reason to book a return trip.

Moving east through the Ardennes toward Luxembourg it is beer-growing country. Take the locally plentiful crops of barley, hops and wheat, add the monks of Abbey Our Lady of St Rémy and you get the heady brews of Rochefort. Upon opening a lanky brown bottle of Rochefort 10 (blue cap, 11.3% ABV), a dark and immediate bouquet grabs one’s olfactory senses and takes one back to the days of Saint Rémy. Before then even, the Abbey was founded in 1230, and the monks began to brew beer sometime around 1595. Survivors of local invasions, greedy plunderers, monastic and social revolutions–and yes, the nazis–the motto Curvata Resurgo (Curved, I straighten up), which illustrate the three theological virtues: the palm tree (faith), the star (hope), and the rose (charity), does well to demonstrate the resolve of these Trappists in their dedication to beer brewing as the lord’s calling. But don’t go expecting to have a revelatory experience at the tap, because they only bottle to go.

The more pagan aspects of my mind imagines skinny dipping with sirens in vast natural hot springs of strong malt surrounded by oak-boasting mistletoe with wild almonds growing poolside and you have an inkling of how smoothly the 11.3% alcohol volume slides you into a medieval reverie. There you are cavorting like a drunken cherub in the smooth leather-colored waters when you get the urge to dive, to sink down deep into beery abyss and chase the roots of malted hop eddies unseen. You drain your glass and the silt of more than 400 years of utopian brewing ideals sinks into your tongue, penetrating deeper than mere mortal taste buds allow.

Spencer Trappist Ale - Cheers to the Future

Spencer Trappist Ale – Cheers to the Future

Of the Trappist breweries, the monks of the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval are perhaps the most independent, producing only two beers: Orval and Petite Orval (a light 3.2% ABV brew mostly for their own consumption). So they make one beer, fermented with Brettanomyces lambicus, which produces the yeasty and spicily aromatic Orval Belgian Pale Ale, 6.2% ABV. The bottle, though nicely shaped, is uneventful considering its boastful Trappist brethren. But then Orval is not the average Trappist beer, if indeed there could be one described as “average”. It has a smoother, more refined, decidedly English air about its orange caramel body, easily observed as early as the pour. This beer is not malt heavy, though does contain pale barley malt. Rather Orval depends more on two stages of hops: an initial dry-hopping as well as the various Hallertau, Styrian Goldings and French Strisselspalt hops. The first taste, a tinge on the bitter side, rather leathery and unfruity, seems overly yeasty and a bit disappointing. Midway through the beer, still nonplussed, I begin to picture the hard-working monks in their habits and their haircuts, toiling away all these hundreds of years. I consider the fact that there are a mere ten Trappist breweries worldwide and that Orval is exported to the four corners of the globe. Maybe it’s just a bad bottle…? As I ponder not so much why I dislike Orval as opposed to why it’s merely not up to par with its Trappist roots, something happens. The beer shifts and the heretofore untasted bounty of flavors begins to show its Belgian blood. Compelled to continue to the last hop-rich gulp, the last few sips are reminiscent of a crescendo, and a strange buzzing of sorts, an aria if you will, arises upon draining the glass, dissipating only as the eager candy-colored liquid works it way molasses-like down my throat. Orval is an opera. It needs to develop and can stand up well to cellaring. Give it the temperament it deserves.

Having yet the honor to taste anything brewed in Austria’s Stift Engelszell, Massachusett’s St. Joseph’s Abbey, or the Dutch Brouwerij Abdij Maria Toevlucht, no comment will be made here as to the quality of their brew, save for one: Should it be prophesied that these strong ales are destined for a chance in a chalice to dance across my lips, to alight upon the taste buds of my tongue and down into the darkened regions of my belly to enlighten my body and mind to their delicate and divine mysteries, I would be a willing initiate.

Little Baby Jesus In Velvet Underpants

Little Baby Jesus In Velvet Underpants

Little Baby Jesus In Velvet Underpants

Little Baby Jesus In Velvet Underpants

Rivesaltes Grenat wines–blood ruby red–are aged for a minimum of nine months, like a fresh little baby jesus. Paired with Fourme d’Ambert it resembles as we say here in France le petit Jesus en culotte de velours.

Fourme d’Ambert is one old cheese, so revered and venerated (with a lovely stinky French Cheese bouquet) even the Romans used to gorge on it. Made from raw cow’s milk and aged for 28 days out of Auvergne, it’s known for its distinct, cylindrical shape.

Although it has jumped through the various hoops of corporate production and being recognized with an AOC (controlled designation of origin) in 2002, recent artisanal production has been using raw milk, and four farms produce about 35 tons of the raw stinky goodness.

Pairing it with Rivesaltes–an appellation for the historic sweet wines of eastern Roussillon, in the deep south of the French Pyrenees near Cataluña–is a great choice. This area is well-known for its sweet vin doux naturel wines made from Grenache of all varieties (Noir, Blanc and Gris). Vin doux naturel are an aperitif or digestif wine differing from ice wines in that vins doux naturels are made by mutage, a process of stopping must fermenting while a high level of natural sweetness exists. High levels of residual sugar means high alcohol (between 15% and 17% ABV)–this Grenat is sweet and packs a wallop.

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale 8.4ABV from Brouwerij Bosteels

Pauwel Kwak Amber Ale 8.4ABV from Brouwerij Bosteels © Adrian Storey

In the ever expanding brewhead of HESO Magazine’s Beer of the Year of the Beer, we present (as if you didn’t already know and weren’t already awkwardly tilting one back) Pauwel Kwak, or just Kwak to his friends.

Named after an apocryphal 18th-century innkeeper and brewer, Pauwel Kwak, Kwak is an amber ale that is served in a particularly distinctive branded glass–basically a scientist’s lab beaker, stood upright in a wooden stand for easy to grab-and-drink-ness.

Brouwerij Bosteels is a brewery founded in 1791 in Buggenhout, Belgium, which brews three beers: Tripel Karmeliet, DeuS, and Pauwel Kwak, here served in its traditional glass. The brewery claims the glass was designed by Kwak the innkeeper for coachmen who would stop at his coaching tavern and brewery named “De Hoorn”, but weren’t allowed to go in for a drink. The wooden stand stabilized the horsemen’s ability to drink and drive a team of horses on potholed old European dirt roads. Somewhere along the dusty road of history it fell from the carriage of man’s achievements and was forgotten. Until roughly 1980, when it was rediscovered and brought back into the fold of history’s favored children’s favorite beer-drinking devices. It’s carnival-esque for sure, but as far as Amber Ales go, Kwak is one of the best.

The typical Belgian ale is a heady brew with an initial appearance that can foam up a puffy white head quickly upon opening and should solidify into a good inch or two of good mouthfeel as the deep amber colored ale issues forth. Many Belgian brews are spiced, coriander being a favorite herb and Kwak has a strong malty, sweet aroma. With both a hoppy and fruity spice to its medium body, the carmely taste doesn’t overpower, but fades nicely, if a bit dryly, replaced with nothing overly bitter, as Orval tends to do. The drinkability is overwhelmingly positive, but at 8.4abv, wouldn’t suggest more than one 75 cl bottle, even if you need something to help swallow the whole Kwak story.

The (mostly) French Food Roadtrip 9 - En passant par la Lorraine

The (mostly) French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine

French Food Roadtrip 9 - En passant par la Lorraine

My grandma’s signature risotto @ Lorraine, France

En passant par la Lorraine, / Avec mes sabots,
En passant par la Lorraine, / Avec mes sabots,
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Rencontrai trois capitaines, / Avec mes sabots,
Ils m’ont appelée : Vilaine ! / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.
Ils m’ont appelée : Vilaine ! / Avec mes sabots
Je ne suis pas si vilaine, / Avec mes sabots
Puisque le fils du roi m’aime, / Avec mes sabots
Il m’a donné pour étrenne, / Avec mes sabots
Un bouquet de marjolaine, / Avec mes sabots
Je l’ai planté sur la plaine, / Avec mes sabots
S’il fleurit, je serai reine, / Avec mes sabots
S’il y meurt, je perds ma peine, / Avec mes sabots,
Dondaine, oh ! oh ! oh ! / Avec mes sabots.

The (mostly) French Food Roadtrip 9 – En passant par la Lorraine

There is something about going down memory lane and actually stepping back to where you were born and raised. I do not consider myself a rooted person, I am pretty much equally happy (or unhappy, depending on how one wants to consider it) wherever I am located at the time. However, childhood memories are childhood memories. In my case a lot of them are related to food, my grandmother’s mostly…

Because Grandma is one of my main inspiration for cooking. She rocks, as Heso Magazine readers already know from her lesson about gnocchi.

When we arrived at her place, meaning to stay over for the weekend, I had in mind to maybe cook a meal for her and bring her to a restaurant one day. There is a mighty good couscous place not far from where she lives. She is fairly old by now and I wanted to spend a lot of time with her without burdening her too much. However, when I mentioned my plans she said something along the line of: “Dude [she speaks like that, well, almost, that what she meant though…] there is no way on Earth I am not going to cook you stuff… Just shoot what you want and I’ll make it, and if I do not have the ingredients in the house you’ll just have to move your arse to the supermarket and get it! Silly young man…” Did I mention she is 92? So I did. Speak up my mind. And she did. Cook us some stuff.

We settled on two of her trademark dishes: the risotto (which she pronounces “risotte…” alla French…) and some stuff called pizette which is some sort of nan that is eaten with cabbage and sausages. It is beside the point of this series of articles for this particular roadtrip to give full recipes and whatnot but maybe at one point I’ll get myself to do a write up on the art of risotto. Grandma does hers with tomato sauce and some meat pieces in it, a mix of beef and pork. She is renowned to go to the butcher and ask him to mince some real good pieces of beef that one usually eats only grilled. Once she was, er, challenged by a butcher and she told him that if one wants to have a good tomato sauce one needs to put good stuff into it. Period. The poor man probably still has nightmares about it…

The pizettes are small blank pizzas, very similar as I said to the Indian nans… They are cooked in a pan, unlike the pizza and used as bread when eating the cabbage and sausage. After my Strasbourg choucroute frenzy it was a lot of cabbage and sausage.

Memory lane and childhood melancholy always sort of bring one back to the golden age of high school. Ah ah. Golden… Yeah right… High school was pretty dreadful actually. We were all perfect idiots at that time. I remember thinking that the USA was the land of the Free for real, while playing basketball with my Nike Air Jordan outfit, the whole thing, from T-Shirt to shorts to shoes (albeit the good ones, the all black ones from 1990). Quite amazingly I still have some friends who talk to me from that era, believe it or not. So one evening we went to visit some of those high school friends in a small village close to the border of Luxembourg. I mentioned to them we were doing this weird food roadtrip thingy and I was fairly certain we’d be treated with local stuff… I did not expect my friends to go to such extremes though! They indeed cooked a full Lorraine meal from the start to the dessert, including wine.

After an apéritif of Picon-bière –that’s actually sort of an heresy: the beer was a Leffe, hardly something you usually mix with stuff, and the Picon was a new kind with lime flavour or some other blasphemy… strangely enjoyable, probably the level of profanity involved is part of it– and some peanuts, we had an amazing starter. It was a pretty nice little dish made with local cheese and a fresh grape, in a cup. The cup is called “une casollette” and it is sort of cute. It was totally appropriate as an amuse-gueule but also introducing the rest of the meal on a fancy but still traditional way. The combination of savoury with the Munster cheese and sweet flavour of that one grape was pretty nice. It made us very eager to continue the meal…

Of course we had a quiche Lorraine as the main dish. Would it have been possible to do it otherwise? I mean, really, it would be like going to Strasbourg and not eating a choucroute. It needs to be stated that a real quiche Lorraine only includes lardons and certainly not either ham dices or pieces of cheese. Nope. Nothing but eggs, crème fraîche (or milk or both), lardons and a touch of nutmeg. And my friend would not be very happy if I were not to mention that the flour and the butter she used was actually also local products of Lorraine! Now, that’s dedication to the food roadtrip! We were served some local wine as well, from Moselle (one of the four counties that are bundled in the Lorraine region, there is a lot of History in there as some of the counties became German during all the mess around the world wars, etc.) I was not really aware that there was some wine around here and was pretty surprised. To summarize it let me quote my friend: “OK, so we tried it, can we have some real wine now, with the cheese, you know, it would be a crime…” Enough said.

We finished the evening with a clafouti aux mirabelles and some Mirabelle! Ok, so I need to explain this. La Mirabelle (capitalized!) is the king of liquor in my book, probably the queen as liquor is female in French. It is a 51% alcohol content white liquor made out of these nice small yellow prunes. I’d sell my mom for a bottle. Well, almost, you get the point. A clafoutis is a special cake originating from Limousin (another French region) and usually baked with black cherries. Of course in Lorraine cherries have to be replaced by mirabelles… So: clafoutis with mirabelles, fresh mirabelles and some Mirabelle. You cannot get more Lorraine-y than that.

Clafouti aux mirabelles @ Lorraine, France

Clafouti aux mirabelles @ Lorraine, France

That is actually the last post in France. After that memorable weekend we took off to Belgium. Little did I know what was to come. Little was I prepared for the grandeur of the Belgian beers… And I already have had my fair share of Belgian beers let me tell you… But that’s for the next posts in the mostly French 2013 food roadtrip.

Read the Entire French Food Roadtrip

After a couple of train rides we will arrive at our second stop: Txot Sidreria in Figueras, city of Salvator Dalí for the ones amongst you readership with a fancy for psychedelic painting. To be noted that this rather small Catalan town sports the world famous Dalí museum (yes, the one with the bathroom sculpted on the ceiling of some room, go figure…) However we were there to catch a car ride to the South of France but not before stopping for some new-school tapas and Basque Cider! Basque Country cider in Catalunya, you got to be kidding me!

After dragging ourselves out of the Cider-induced madhouse of Dali’s Figueres,we venture to the third stop on the French Food Roadtrip: a small house in the Pyrénées.

What could be better than that – A small house in the mountains? Oh yes, stop 4 on the French Food Roadtrip: Roussillon and the Sea.

After refreshing ourselves at Roussillon and the seaside, now it is time to move on and jump in the mix of French Food Roadtrip 5 – Center of la France!

Once you have a taste of the city, nothing but the best will do. This is where we take the French Food Roadtrip 6 – to Lyon & Grenoble.

This is getting intense people & I think you can feel it. Now that we survived Lyon by protecting ourselves with some of the best local cuisine, wine and beer we venture to French Food Roadtrip 7 – le Buget and Montbéliard in le Jura.

What is Choucroute? Come with us and find out on the French Food Roadtrip 8 – La Maison de la Choucroute in Strasbourg

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