Food, Beer & Buffoonery - Hops

Update … Long Time Coming

I know, I haven’t updated this site in years. Lately though, I’ve been wanting something more strictly dedicated to my web development and other related projects — and a site that represents some of my current design skills (this WordPress theme design is at least 6 years old).  So, in the next couple of months I’m going to launch a new site here dedicated just to those pursuits.

Until then, here’s a link to a little demo project I started recently. It’s a rudimentary Project Tracking app, written using Node.js, Express.js, MongoDB/Mongoose, Handlebars.js, and Twitter Bootstrap:

Project Tracker app

I’m also just getting started on a project to automate the 10-gallon brewing system I’m setting up — using a BeagleBone Black running a web app using Node.js,, and (maybe) React.js. Not much here yet, as I’m working on the hardware components at the moment:


I’m blogging about the construction of the whole brewery over at

I may take all the content currently here and create a new site dedicated, once again, to Beer, Food & Buffoonery. We shall see.

Till then….


Cake Decorator Can’t Spell

So, last week I ordered a cake from a (normally) great local bakery for a work party. One of our co-workers was moving to Seattle and we were holding a little going away party on Friday. I called and placed the order with verbal instructions to write, “Mary, all the best in Seattle!!!” on the cake.

Well, they got close. For a $55 cake though, I expect spell checking.

Cake misspelling

All the best in Seatle?

Review: Amarcord Amber Ale

Amarcord Amber Ale

I was at Cost Plus a few days ago, and I don’t usually buy beer there, as it’s usually overpriced, but I saw a selection of beers from an Italian Craft Brewery that I’d never seen before, let alone head of: Amarcord.  I couldn’t resist trying one. I chose their Amber Ale. It was a pleasant surprise.

The beer poured a very nice clear, light amber, with a surprisingly think, dense, creamy head. It had a nice malty smell. Slightly sweet smelling, with just a hint of fruit and hops.

The flavor was malty yet crisp. Just a little hoppy. Quite good. Very balanced. Medium carbonation.

At this point I noticed the alcohol content. 9%? Wow! I honestly was not expecting that at all after having had a few sips already. I would have guessed 6-7% maybe. There was virtually no alcohol “heat” or flavor. Very impressive indeed for a 9% beer.

I’m not a big fan of high alcohol beers – I enjoy easier drinking session beers. But this is probably the best high alcohol beer I’ve ever had. I had no clue I was drinking something so strong — which of course could be dangerous.

I’d definitely recommend giving this beer a try it you can find it. It’s quite good. Try a Cost Plus near you…

Smoked Tea Porter?

I just bought a tea from Twining’s called Lapsang Souchong Tea. It’s a tea that comes from China’s Fujian province and Taiwan. The tea leaves are laid out on bamboo trays and smoked over smoldering pinewood.

The tea has a very smoke flavor. Almost like a Scotch.

Of course, the first thing that popped into my mind was a Smoked Tea Porter. Or rather a Lapsang Souchong Porter. Anyone care to brew one? I imagine a strong quart of this poured into the kettle during the last couple minutes of the boil, or just after the boil, might make a really nice smoked porter.

Perhaps I’ll create my own recipe and post here.

Review: Port Brewing’s Hot Rocks Lager

Hot Rocks Lager

Brewed using the (almost) ancient method of heating the wort by dropping “hot rocks” (black granite) straight into the kettle. Pours a deep brown, almost opaque with a decent, though quickly dissipating head. Smells slightly of alcohol, no hop aroma. Mouthfeel and flavor are more ale-like than lager-like. Big, smooth round flavor of malt and toasted grains, with a bitter finish. A little yeasty … and the reason revealed with I poured the last bit into my glass and a slurry of yeast poured out.I have the feeling I’m drinking an English Porter. My only complaint was the alcohol taste was a little too present – surprising for a beer with just 6.5%. Overall, quite good. I do recommend!

Pasta – a little differently

I was trying to figure out something to cook a few nights ago – opened the fridge/freezer, took a quick inventory, noticed the large amount of whole wheat spaghetti on hand and decided to make pasta. I didn’t want a tomato sauce, and I was tired of the tarragon cream sauce I often made, so I decided to experiment.

After consulting my trusted cream sauce recipe and browsing stew recipes in various Italian cookbooks I have, I ventured out on my own and created the following recipe. It turned out fabulous, and my wife requested it again – the next day! Here’s the recipe:

Pasta – A Little Differently


1.5 pounds freshly ground pork
1 pound of whole wheat spaghetti pasta
3 large Carrots, sliced
3 sticks of Celery, sliced
1/2 tsp. + 1 tsp. dried Thyme
1 tsp. dried Marjoram
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground Black Pepper
1/4 tsp. Cumin
1/4 tsp. Cinnamon
1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
1/4 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 tsp. Sugar
4 Tbsp. Flour
3 Tbsp. unsalted Butter
2 cups Chicken stock
4 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
Salt and Pepper to taste


1. Mix the 1/2 tsp. Thyme, the Salt, Pepper, Cumin, Cinnamon, and Nutmeg into the ground Pork.
2. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet and put in the seasoned pork. Break the pork into smallish chunks as it cooks and brown it to a nice golden brown.
3. Add the flour. Stir in completely and let meat cook for 1 minute more.
4. Add carrots and celery. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Start cooking pasta in a large pot according to directions on package.
6. Add chicken stock and stir until it has formed a sauce and has thickened. If sauce is not thick enough, use a sifter to add a little more flour.
7. Add hot pepper flakes, sugar, marjoram, and remaining 1 tsp. of thyme and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes, or until carrots are just tender.
8. Add cream, stir in, bring just back to a simmer and serve over pasta.

Pulled Pork BBQ Sandwich and Arugula-laced Coleslaw

BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwish and Coleslaw

Tonight I decided to delve into some traditional American food. After a friend who’d spent some time in Alabama said they missed the hickory smoked pulled BBQ’ed beef sandwiches, and that nothing on the West coast is quite the same as the real southern BBQ, I took up the challenge to recreate that meal — or something kinda like it.

I started out by buying a pork shoulder roast weighting just over 4 pounds. I made a dry rub for it which I got out of Bruce Aidells’ fabulous “The Complete Meat Cookbook” (p. 375). I let it sit on the meat for about an hour and then seared all sides of the meat with a couple tablespoons of oil on the stove in my large cast iron dutch oven. I then poured enough low salt beef broth in the dutch oven to cover the bottom about 1/2 inch up the sides, covered it, and tossed it into a preheated 275F (135C) oven for about 3.5 hours. The internal temp of the meat was above 190F when I took it out … well past the well-done mark for a pork roast, but since I checked the broth level every 45 minutes or so and kept it at about 1/2 inch, that long cooking time at a low temp made the meat perfectly tender and very easy t “pull” apart.

I took the meat out and let it sit, still covered, in the dutch over while I made the BBQ sauce. The BBQ sauce also came out of “The Complete Meat Cookbook”. (Yes, I like this book!) I used the Bourbon Barbecue Sauce recipe (p. 381), in which I used 1 Cup of Alaskan Amber Ale and 1/2 Cup of a decent “cheap” bourbon, Even Williams’ Black Label. It turned out fantastic, but perhaps a wee heavy on the cider vinegar, so next time I think I’ll use 1/8 Cup rather than 1/4 Cup.

Once the sauce was simmering, I pulled the pork apart with my hands. An extremely easy task as it had cooked so long and was so tender. The clumps of fat slipped right off too, and I tossed those.

To make the sandwich, I just threw some of the meat into a skillet, spooned in some of the BBQ sauce and heated till it was piping hot. I had purchased some fresh buns from the local bakery, since they’re way better than the ones from the grocery store. I just barley toasted the inside of each bun half and spooned the meat/sauce mixture on. It was the best BBQ sandwich I’d ever had. Seriously.

Now for the coleslaw. I first checked out a few recipes. Nothing really made me excited, so I created my own. I didn’t have any buttermilk (a traditional coleslaw ingredient), so I decided to try yogurt, as it’s the closest thing I had on hand. It worked out quite well. I can go into more detail here on the coleslaw as it’s my own recipe. So here goes… 😉

Greg’s Arugula-laced Coleslaw

1/2 head of green Cabbage, shredded or chopped fine
1 large Carrot, grated
1 red Apple, grated
1/3 medium Onion, minced
1/2 Cup chopped Arugula
1/4 Cup chopped flat leaf Parsley
1/4 Cup raisins
1 tsp. Poppy seeds
1/2 Cup plain non-fat Yogurt
2 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. Milk
1/2 tsp. Cider Vinegar
1/2 tsp. fine Sugar
1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste

There’s not much to it. Just mix all the “wet” ingredients in a large bowl and add the dry ingredients, one-by-one, stirring them in. This was the first time I made this particular recipe, but it turned out quite well. The arugula was a nice touch – gave the coleslaw a nice little sharp kick.

British Fish ‘n’ Curry Chips

Good fish ‘n’ chips are almost a delicacy. Problem is, finding really good fish ‘n’ chips. Even more rare in many parts of the country is finding curry chips.  So, tonight I set about making some fish ‘n’ curry chips right here at home. Also in an effort to make this a little healthier, I only pan fried the fish and a did over roasted chips. I know, you may scoff. Real Fish ‘n’ Chips must be deep fried!  Well, I partly agree, and in addition the “healthier” aspect, most people simply don’t own a deer fryer.  So, here we go…

Curry Sauce

I based this off a couple recipes I found on the internet…

2 Tbsp. vegetable Oil
1 small Red Onion, diced
1 small Apple, peeled and diced
2-3 Tbsp. Curry powder
2 Tbsp. Flour
1 small Tomato, diced
15-20 oz Water
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a pan, add onion and apple, and saute until soft. Add curry powder and stir. Add flour and stir in completely, letting it “cook” a couple minutes. Add diced tomato and tomato paste. Stir. Slowly stir in water while stirring. Add enough to make a thick sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Ok, there we have the curry sauce. Then chips don’t require much of a recipe. Just cut some potatoes into thin slices and toss with some oil in a large bowl. Spread the potatoes out in a single layer on a large cookie/baking sheet. Bake them in a pre-heated 450F oven for about 30 minutes.

Now we need the fish. Good Fish’n’Chips requires a good beer batter made with Real Ale.

Beer Batter

5oz (140g) Self-Rising Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
a pinch of Turmeric
1 beaten Egg
150 ml Real Ale (Fuller’s London Pride, for example)

Mix the flour, salt and turmeric. Add the beaten egg and whisk in. Slowly add the beer, whisking the whole time. You should end up with a fairly thick batter. You want it quite thick, as you’re not deep frying and don’t want it to run of the fish too easily. Let sit for 30-60 minutes before use.

Get some nice fresh Cod, preferably some from a sustainable fishery (see Seafood Watch). Rinse it in cold water and pat dry. Before dipping it into the batter, coat the fish entirely with seasoned flour. You can buy seasoned flour, but making your own is easy. Just weigh out about 1.8oz (50g) of flour. To it, blend in a large pinch each of the following: salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, dry mustard. Then a small pinch of dry ground sage or oregano. And finally a couple shakes of lemon pepper.

Once the fish is coated in the seasoned flour, dip it into the batter, coating thoroughly, and drop it into a cast iron skillet filled with enough oil to cover the bottom plus a little more, which has been heated to 350-375F. The right temp is very important! Once the fish has browned on one side, flip over. Hopefully you made the batter thick enough that it hadn’t run off. 😉

When fish is done, remove from pan and “de-grease” on a paper towel. Get your fries out of the oven, sprinkle with salt and a dash of malt vinegar and pour on the curry sauce.  Hopefully you’ll have something just as good as can be found at the local pub.

Strange Recorded Call. Calls me. Hangs up.

Ok, so I’m used to the occasional obnoxious marketing call…in the past year, usually having something to due with a nameless company trying to sell you a warranty for your car or consolidate your debt. However, for the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve gotten 5 or 6 identical calls of a very odd nature.

Phone rings. I pick up. Short pause. Then a recorded male voice says, “Due to a technical problem we’re not able to speak with you personally. Thank You. Goodbye.”  And then it hangs up on me.

Is some companies phone system software going haywire? Is there something malicious hidden in the call? I can’t figure it out, and so far no one I’ve spoken to has gotten these calls. So here’s my question to you … if anyone has had this recording call them and hang up please post a comment. Any idea what these are?

I’m Very Concerned About the EOOUA

“What is the EOOUA?”, you ask.

My response: “You mean you can’t FOWTSF1?”

OK ok ok. So what is EOOUA? That’s an excellent question. Really.

I also hate the Excessive Overuse of Unnecessary Acronyms (EOOUA).

For example, at work the other day I received a two sentence email, where one sentence read:

“AGZ is embarking on another TLM “pilot” with WTG.”

I’ve slightly changed the acronyms so that I don’t disclose any corporate secrets, but that probably wasn’t even necessary, as the sentence was completely meaningless to me (and probably many other recipients). And the first sentence in the email did nothing to clue the reader in as to what it was that its author was talking about or why I was being copied on it. So, what did I do? I ignored it! Maybe not the best decision, but when you get several of these a week, you simply don’t have the time to chase down the meaning of every new acronym that finds its way to your inbox (and 30+ people were copied on this email; by instinct I knew it wasn’t directly related to me or my work – which played a large role in why I ignored it).

Like in my web design work, this is really a “usability” issue. If something doesn’t communicate effectively, people pass it over, get frustrated, move on.

I can’t figure out why people insist on creating a constant stream of new acronyms. Maybe it’s something to do with making the insiders feel elitist, and “in the know”. I think I run into two new ones a week at work. And sure, they save time for the author of the communication being sent, they use less computer memory and disk space (though that’s negligible), and if printed out they’ll use less ink than writing the entire phrase. But at what cost?

The excessive overuse of unnecessary acronyms impedes communication. For those (often few) who are “in the know”, they may serve a time saving purpose, but this completely ignores that fact that in most any organization or occupation, there is a constant influx of newcomers. All these acronyms slow down communication for these newcomers. And in situations like mine, where I’m not even a newcomer but am still bombarded with a constant stream of new acronyms anyway, they continually serve to impede communication and waste a lot of time.

I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve replied to, simply to ask the sender, “can you explain to me what you’re talking about?”  This is time wasted, not time saved. Next, there are times when I just don’t have the time to hunt down explanations for acronyms (as in the above case), so I just pass over them. And I’m sure other people do the same.  What results is the missing of potentially important information. This is certainly not in the interest of the person who is trying to communicate.

At my company, I would be very interested to know the time wasted, and thus money spent, simply on people trying to clear up vague messages or even miscommunications simply due to the overuse of acronyms. I bet it’d be substantial.

My recommendations. If you want to use acronyms, try to stick to ones that are nearly universally understood, like USA, or LOL, or these days even WMDs. If you feel you must use a new acronym (and please do this sparingly) make sure that in every single communication using this acronym you write out the complete phrase on its First Use (or FU, no pun intended). You can then use the acronym a couple times without writing the complete phrase. But if you’ve gone more than a couple paragraphs, you’d better write out the complete phrase again, lest you will lose your reader, who does not want to be scrolling up and down or flipping pages back and forth in a constant struggle to remember what you’re talking about.

Oh, and as an aside. (While I’m ranting.) Another annoying overuse — the word “leverage”. Its like you won’t be taken seriously in the corporate world unless this word is used as often as possible, usually at least once per communication. People have completely abandoned the word “use”. No one uses anything in the corporate world, they “leverage” things.

Or maybe I’m all wrong and just need to start leveraging the EOOUA too. Perhaps there’s even a raise in there somewhere.

1 FOWTSF – Figure Out What This Stands For

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