Friday, February 27, 2009

Gilded Recession pt. 3

We drank. Shaddley thought about taking the dog to the dog park, but motivation was lacking. It was a relaxing afternoon; as we sipped our beers, time slipped away into the abyss. We were doing nothing in particular, maybe playing on laptops, and making snarky comments.
"Do you need to go home soon?"
"No." I pulled on my beer.
"Do you want to go to the dog park?"
"I like dog parks."
"That's the hippest."
"Hey, if you don't need to go home, we should cook some gumbo."
"Alright."
"Awesome."

And just like that, it was time for round four of this evil weekend to ensue. Would it ever stop? Where were my stretchy pants? Was my liver ready for more fat and alcohol? Yes. Yes, it was. It has the tenacity of pigs devouring a lifeless body. After some time we went back to store for the second time that day. We listened to an album of our friend Louis from back in his High School days. It was hilarious. I cannot recall the name of the album, or the band.

Gumbo–a multi-species orgy of gastronomical delight. There are many schools of thought surrounding gumbo, ranging from outright orthodox, to free-formed liberalism. The purists tend to argue about the roux, and its color (each stage having a distinct flavor profile), the most. Others argue about proteins. We chose a sampling of animals for ours, representing land, air, swamp, and sea. Duck breast, crawfish, Gulf shirmp, and andouille sausage. I was excited. We picked up some collard greens, bosc pears, a nice variety of radishes, as well as some strawberrys, and dark chocolate.

Back at the North Buda homestead, Shaddely and I got to work. We started the roux. Slow and low, that was our tempo, like the song says. Prep work was done, veggies chopped, sausage cooked, duck breast seared off and alcohol consumed. I slowly stirred the roux from time to time, as it progressed through several very distinct states of being. White, blond, almond, red, peanut butter, ganache... We weren't going for brick, so we stopped it at ganache. The stew was ready for its mate. It simmered, we drank; time passed, life was beautiful.

Peanut butter.

While we were at the store, YogaMarketingBrownieGirl took the dog to the dog park, and had returned while we sat and imbibed. The dog had been a bad boy, and she needed to relax. The house smelled warm and inviting. Acro-yoga was performed.

Uh, yeah right.

Eventually it was time to start working on our sides, and desserts. Rice, natch, collard greens and bacon, red wine poached pears stuffed with goat cheese, radishes cooked in duck fat, and chocolate covered strawberries. After several hours of slowly simmering, the gumbo was ready. It was time to saute the shrimp and add them in, and break out the Tabasco. Ellen of Greenwood had come over, and the four of us sat down and ate this delightful meal.

The spittle is everywhere in rage...

We drank. We ate. Eventually, we had dessert consisting of strawberrys, chocolate angel food cake, fresh whipped cream, and the pears with goat cheese. It was a great meal spent in good company. The gumbo did not disappoint, its flavor deep and rich. The duck and andouille paired nicely with the flavors of the shrimp and crawfish. For some strange reason, perhaps it's just conditioning, I think that the flavor of gumbo is only complete when Tabasco is added. Full, buzzed, and completely satiated, this weekend of decadence and depravity had drawn to a close. All survived.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gilded Recession pt. 2

I woke to the steamy breath of my bed mate. We were spooning, an entanglement of limbs, and hair; our bodies intertwined. For a bulldog, he sure could cuddle. I apparently was in his space. He came and went, his toenails clicking on the hardwood as he made is way from my room into the hall and back again. I felt good. No hangover. Nothing. The true signs of an alcoholic, the absence of pain, and the thirst for more.

I was up for awhile before I got out of bed. YogaMarketingBrownieGirl had gotten up, leaving to go teach an early morning class somewhere. After some time passed, Shaddley could be heard stirring about. I got up. Coffee. I needed some, and he was on it. We briefly discussed breakfast. There was a little bit of steak and potatoes left from the night before, and I really wanted to make a hash with them. We had bacon, but no eggs, so we decided to go to the store.

It was Valentine's Day. The traffic in the store was heavy for 9:30 on a Saturday. We found the eggs, got some English muffins, more bacon and started to make our way back to the front, when we found ourselves standing in front of a massive display of lobster tails. We looked at each other, and thought, "Fuck it!" We took one with us. Shaddley picked up some flowers for the wife, and we were on the way back to his house with our early morning bounty.

Back at his house, we made another French press, and got to work. I diced the steak and potatoes and started frying them with some butter, onion and garlic for the hash. We prepared a nice hot tub of white wine and butter for the lobster tail to poach in. Shaddley got to work on preparing a delicate, and delicious Hollandaise. We fried some bacon, toasted some muffins, and cracked eggs for our Julia Child style omelets. We plated everything up, cracked the lobster tail, finishing the meat in even more butter. It was beautiful, this plate of food; breakfast. Steak and fingerling hash, bacon, english muffins, omelets smothered in Hollandaise, and topped with lobster.

Fuck your recession.

As we ate, we were in awe of ourselves. We both looked anxious. Fearful. I was certain that at any moment the authorities would be bursting through his door, taking us to some secret FEMA camp for those like us. Fiends. Gastronomical terrorists. How could we eat like this? People in the world were starving, and we were simply filling our arteries with fat, delicious, delicious fat. Each bite was like an orgasm for my mouth. One bite of omelet, Hollandaise, lobster, and bacon sat on my fork, poised to enter the gaping chasm through which so much other food had perished, I looked at it admiringly, lovingly, as if it were my lover on the tarmac, striding towards a plane that would take her from me forever. I took it in my mouth, closing my eyes.
"I feel like if your wife walked in right now, it'd be like she caught us having sex."
"I know..."

We cleaned our selves up, did the dishes, and sat there in awe. YogaMarketingBrownieGirl would be home soon. We were still high from our meal. After some discussion, we decided we had to make her something. Fortunately, we still had some lettuce that wasn't used from our dinner the night before, eggs, and bacon. We got to it. Carrots were diced put in a pan, smothered in duck fat, and roasted in the oven. The eggs got the nine minute non-boil method, this is where you boil some water toss in some eggs, turn of the heat and let them sit for nine minutes, resulting in creamy, cheese-like yolk, rather than a gray chalky one. Bacon was cut and cooked. Left over aioli turned into a vinaigrette, and the whole thing was dressed, tossed, plated and covered in Reggiano.

Salads are vehicles for perversion.

We were mad; in some states we would have been committed. The food had gotten to our heads. She came home excited as usual. We asked if she had eaten. She said 'no', just her luck. We presented her with the salad and sat with her at the table. She was excited about the eggs. She wanted protein after her day of leading complicated stretches. We stared at her. She noticed.
"What's wrong with y'all?"
"Nothing."
"Why are y'all watching me eat?"
"Just excited."
"You're kinda freaking me out..."
"Sorry, we're still high from breakfast."
"Oh? What did you have?"

That was a loaded question. We spilled our guts; our forbidden affair laid bare. Adulterous gastronomy, and we were the sinners. She ate. We watched. After she finished, we sat and relaxed. She left again, one of her millions of jobs beckoning to her from the ether. Alone again, Shaddley and I sat there.
"Do you have to be home soon?"
"Not really. It's my day off."
"Want a beer?"
"Of course."

To be continued...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Gilded Recession pt. 1

Austin is one of the top ten best cities to "weather the recession" in according to Forbes magazine. A falling unemployment rate, as well as low median home prices, have landed us on this list, along with three other Texas metroplexes: San Antonio, Houston, and Dallas-Fort Worth. To date, only a few of my friends have been affected by the economic slow down, mostly those who work on the front of the house side of restaurants.

For others, it's business as usual. Wheatsville is growing strongly, which is extremely positive as we head into the final stages of our expansion project. Dan, or GM–and my boss–recently returned from a NCGA conference in New Orleans, where he learned that many co-ops around the country are experiencing a slow down to single digit growth, which is still positive, yet may be harmful to those in the midst of renovations or other projects. We are bucking that trend, so far, maintaining double digit sales growth, and a positive attitude that our owners will shop with us more as times get hard, and we are better suited to meet their needs than the big chain stores.

Even the wine business is doing well. Despite a bit of a lull around the New Year, things seem to be going okay, or so I have presumptuously surmised. Shaddley, wine rep extraordinaire–who is currently touring around France for winning a contest at his work–seems to be doing well, despite the fears being touted by Washington, and the rest of our country. Maybe Texas should secede? We'd be all right. Anyway, we had intended to do our first dinner club on Friday the thirteenth, but due to a change in plans, and then another, I went down to North Buda, to cook for Shaddley and YogaMarketingBrownieGirl. He was in the mood for steaks and fingerling potatoes. He had some big wines open, and that was the driving force behind the meal.

We went to the 'Ville earlier in the day, bought some provisions, including some beautiful locally grown organic brussels sprouts courtesy of Montesino Ranch in Wimberly, fingerlings, bacon, and some beautiful Niman Ranch strip loin steaks. I loaded him up with some other goods that were at my house, some backyard lettuce, aioli that I'd made earlier in the day, and a container of rabbit confit. I eventually made my way down to North Buda.

Once again, this meal was inspired by Shaddley's open wines, and his lust for steak, bacon, something 'garlicky', and fingerling potatoes. For me, that was an easy enough starting point. Big wines, and bacon! Steak and potatoes! I had this. Shaddley wanted to grill the steaks, and alas, grilling is not my strong suit, yet! I left that aspect of this meal to him. The wines we would be drinking that evening were a 2004 Haut-Carles Fronsac from Bordeaux, and a 2005 Pellegrini Milestone from Sonoma.

Oh, happy meat, happy soul!

We got to work. The steaks were seasoned, and seared off; the rabbit confit removed from its protective shroud of duck fat; dressings were made, brussels and fingerlings blanched, as we approached dinner time. I had a secret for the night up my sleeve, and my hosts were unaware of the madness that was brewing in my evil mind. They looked at me strangely as I started to heat up some heavy cream.
"What's that for?"
"This, oh, nothing, do you have any liqueur?"
"Yeah, Kaluha, or Cognac?"
"Cognac."

Ready for the grill, time to see Paul Wall.

As we neared dinner time, we had been drinking some other non-dinner-focused wines, helping to loosen us up, which would be a saving grace for the gastronomical madness that was about to ensue that weekend. The brussels were sauteed in some bacon drippings and finished with bacon; the fingerlings were pan roasted in duck fat, and tossed with some thyme, and parsley. The salad was dressed with a simple blood orange vinaigrette, garnished with rabbit confit, bacon and blood oranges; the steaks, wrapped in bacon, hit the grill to finish. Go time. I find it difficult to get good pictures in these cat's house, but we got a few! After a few minutes on the grill, and a bit of time to rest, the steaks were ready, so we plated up the food, smothered the steaks in the aioli, which over time covered the entire plate, complimenting all the sides with goodness of garlic.

We ate, we drank. The Bordeaux stood out; flavors of dark, ripe fruits, rounded out with that familiar taste of rich soil that I love in French wine, it was as if a child had served me a blackberry mudpie smoothie, and I couldn't get enough. Both wines held up to the richness of the steak, bacon, and duck fat, cleansing my palate and leaving me thirsty for more. The salad was a beacon of hope, full of acidity, sweet citrus notes, and rich rabbit confit. We finished up, opened another bottle, did dishes and sat down.

Confit, bacon, and blood orange... a good way to dress up that backyard lettuce.

. Roasted fingerlings are evil... Photo courtesy of the Scots

After a brief rest, I asked who was ready for dessert. They looked at me, crazed, perverse, and depraved; I knew they were ready. Chocolate and cheese is not just a great Ween album, this combination was our dessert that evening. Out came the Cognac ganache, three years aged sharp Canadian cheddar, and St. Andres triple cream brie. Shaddley, feeling inspired, pulled out a delicious dessert wine; a serious treat worthy of royalty. The 2000 Royal Tokaji, a Hungarian dessert wine, which had a beautiful golden color, a bouquet of apricot, wild flowers and a touch of orange peel. The mouthfeel was like thinned honey, viscous, and sweet. It was times to get our hands dirty, time to make truffles. YogaMarketingBrownieGirl and I got in to it, shaping our little chocolate friends before they were rolled in cocoa powder.

Mwuahahahaha!!!

Truffles are so rich, and delicious, that you need some seriously powerful cheese to help you slow your roll or else quickly you'll quickly fade into the depths of a food coma. Or at least that's what happens to me. After we finished this amazing combination of items, we sat around and drank a little more. Soon, I was nodding out like a mid-seventies Jerry after smoking some China white. Full, content, and drunk on life, I went to bed. 

To be continued...

The Mountain Comes To Me

First I went to the mountain, now the mountain comes to me. Last week I heard a rumor that Leonard Cohen would be kicking off his U.S. tour in Austin, at the Long Center, April 2nd. Roscoe Beck, Austin resident, and musical director for Cohen's nine piece accompaniment, apparently leaked this info to the Statesman. Today, they announced the tour on Cohen's website, confirming that the tour will begin in Austin. I do not know when tickets go on sale, but I will be trying to go see him again on my home turf. 

Friday, February 20, 2009

Teach a Man to Fish

I have been and avid angler for most of my life. Many of my best childhood memories involve fishing with my parents and friends. Being half Bahamian helped. My mother loved to catch and cook fish. She didn't care if they were regulation size, only if they could fit in the pan. Two weekends back, the Woo and I traveled out to Roundtop to fish on the ranch that my Uncle Fuji lives on. It's his brother's ranch, Doug, who is the CEO of El Paso Oil and Gas, and former COO of Haliburton. He lives in Houston and rarely makes it out there, so Fuji takes care of the place.

I love going fishing out there. It's kinda cheating, I mean, it is a small, stocked, private lake so the chances that you will catch something tend to lean in your favor. The Woo hadn't been fishing in about twelve years, so it would be a treat to have him as my companion that day. This wouldn't be the first occasion where the Woo and I did something involving fish and him breaking some streak without it. A few years back, I cooked a meal of fresh fish for three of my good vegetarian friends who were wanting to reincorporate meat back into their diets. All three are full on omnivores now, and don't seem to be looking back. 

We got a little bit later of a start then we had planned, but with things like fishing that doesn't really matter. After a quick trip to Wheatsville for some Dale's Pale Ale, Lone Star tall boys–a must for any proper Texas fishing trip–tamari almonds, and coffee for Fuji, we headed east. Of course, any good day of fishing needs an anchoring meal to sustain such large men as they cast quarter ounce weights countless times with six foot sticks. Fortunately for us, Taqueria Alayna's was on the way out of town.
 
EAT HERE!

Located on Manor, Alayna's is home to the best, yes, best breakfast tacos in Austin proper. This joint is very discrete. It is just a window in a wall next to a laundry mat in a strip mall. The food is unreal; the salsa, divine. I got three tacos, and if you've ever been there, you probably think I'm insane, and I am, so glad we're on the same page here. Their migas taco is the best I've had, balancing out the egg and veg to tortilla ratio perfectly, for tacos with bacon they use huge hunks of bacon–the only kind for a really amazing breakfast taco in my opinion–and there is enough cheese to tie it all together. I fell in love that morning. It was perfect, my new love. My beautiful bean and bacon taco. I will know no other. The Woo had a chorizo taco that left his taco bag looking like it had been submerged in some unknown viscous fluid, covering the other tacos in it's rendered pork deliciousness.

After about an hour long drive out to the La Grange area, the Woo and I rolled up to Fuji's. After a brief round of salutations and introductions, we made our way down to the lake. It was a rather overcast day, but the temperature was nice; shorts and t-shirt weather. The lake is something like five acres, so there are plenty of places to try to fish, including a nice little lake on the other side of the culvert from the main lake. The last time I was out there it was the Fourth of July, and we had slain them over in the little lake. That's where I wanted to be. It wasn't long before we were catching both fish and a buzz. The beauty of Dale's Pale Ale is that it's a great beer in a can. Something that seems forbidden, but oh so right. The danger of Dale's is that it's a great beer in a can, which makes you want to drink it like that yellow fizzy stuff; fast enough to not let it get warm enough to actually taste it. Soon our stringer was looking like a meal or two.

Texas is great. 

The Woo casts.

We tried our luck over in the sluice, but no dice. They just weren't biting over there. On the way back to the dock from the sluice I found a PBR koozie that I had lost to the lake in July. Providence! Now I could drink a Lone Star tall boy with out the fear of tasting the swill. Life is beautiful. After a bit more fishing, we cleaned up our fish, filleting most of them, and went back up to Fuji's. He had retired a bit before us, and had fried up some catfish that he had caught while we were out. It was sweet and delicious, his batter impeccable. I totally envy his fish frying ability. He is a master angler, and has been fishing with me since I was just a boy. 

I'm on a dock!


A few days later, I decided it was time for me to cook my fish. Most of the fish went home with the Woo. I kept only one whole fish, the largest I caught, and planned on making one of my favorite, possibly even last meal worthy, dishes. Stewed Fish. This Bahamian stew is one the most amazing things to eat for breakfast. I know it sounds crazy to eat some fishy stew for breakfast, but it gives you energy all day. It is a fairly simple dish consisting of fried pieces of fish, a dark roux, potatoes, onions, bell pepper, a bit of thyme, salt and pepper. It is usually served with grits (hard or soft), or fresh bread and butter. I don't make this dish often, because access to good, whole fish isn't that great. Red snapper, whole for $17.99 a pound? F that. I'll wait and catch my own fish. Having done this it was time to rejoice. 

Plump and juicy?

Whole fish just tastes better. Bones do something, that I don't understand. They make the meat sweeter, the experience more visceral, naturally slowing down how fast you eat so you can carefully extract bones from your mouth. One thing–a very important thing–that I've learned from time spent in the Bahamas, is a best practice for chewing a mouthful of boned fish. We here in the States, mostly eat fillets, which doesn't really prepare us to handle even the most minor encounter with a bone. The trick is to chew fish cautiously in the front of the mouth, and force bones out with your tongue. You have to try it to really understand, but it works, trust me. If you just go chomping into some nice fish with the speed and intensity of a dog eating it's own vomit, then you may swallow a bone now and again. 

I would eat this for my last meal.

Anyway. Stewed fish. Unfortunately this batch fell a bit flat. I didn't darken the roux enough, causing both the color, and the taste to be just a bit off of what I was going for. Otherwise it was delicious, and had it been made for anyone but myself, no one would have been the wiser, as it often is with culinary mistakes. Sometimes, only you know, and as your guest say great things, you look down, shuffle some food around on your plate and think, "yeah, but I should have used more thyme..." Whatever, you learn, you move on; life is beautiful. So, now, I need to go fishing again and start over.
 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Let Her Sun Never Set

Victoria Diana Carroll–February 12th (15th?), 1959 - June 26th, 1994

Today would have been my mother's 50th birthday. She is alive in the many hearts of those who loved her. She was an amazing woman; her impact on who I am, and who I want to be is tantamount to Life's itself. 

"You are a child of the Universe. You deserve to be here." – Victoria Diana Carroll

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tasting Notes: Dangling My Stash

I haven't cooked much food in the past few weeks. I have been fairly busy; life is moving faster than ever, pulling me along with it, rather than leading me. So are the way of things. I may not be cooking, but I have been drinking, which is similar to eating, right? This installment of Tasting Notes is once again focusing on beer from the land of Wisconsin. Soon I'll be out of these fine beverages, will no longer be able to tease you with tales of untouchable beers, and we'll be right back where we started. 

Original Gangsta.

New Glarus has been getting a lot of play on this blog lately. They should be fucking paying me. All the beers we will be discussing today are New Glarus offerings. Up first is Organic Revolution. Revolutionary indeed. This is an American craft brewed beer that sites the Reinheitsgebot as an inspiration on the label; a far cry from what American craft brewing is all about. New Glarus makes several "crazy" beers, and do them well, yet it is nice to see that they can brew a classy, simple beer perfectly. This beer only has four ingredients, just like those made under the German Beer Purity Law. Organic Wisconsin barley malts, Organic German Hallertau hops, yeast, and water. That's it. Simple, and delicious. The end result is a clean tasting, well balanced ale. The malt and hops are there to lend support to each other like people in AA, and probably do a better job. This is a beer that you would wow a homebrewer with, not some adventurous drinker looking for the next high gravity hop bomb; subtle and refined like Nabokov's prose. This beer is perfect, and it's organic. 

I was very drunk at the time...

I've been fortunate to be able to sample a fair amount of of New Glarus' Unplugged series. The beers in this line are fairly experimental, showcasing the opposite end of the brewing spectrum than something like the Organic Revolution. Recently, I sampled the Apple Ale. I thought that this would be more like a cider, but was astonished at the complexity of this fruity elixir. Apparently Daniel Carey starts with a brown ale base, and adds fresh pressed Wisconsin apple juice, resulting in an exceptionally clear, copper colored brew. Extremely clear. The nose on this beer is phenomenal; sweet, enticing, fresh apple notes hit you before your face even gets near the glass. The taste is a bit tart, but not Jolly Rancher tart; more like a pink lady than a granny smith. There is also a nice element of sourness, and a refreshing effervescence to the mouth feel that I would liken in similarity to kombucha. This is one of the finest fruit beers I've ever tasted, second only to one...

I would marry this beer. 

The New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red. I've alluded to the magnitude of this beer many times on this blog, but haven't reviewed it. This is the Death Star of beers, and I am Alderaan. This beer is very special to me. I can't recall the first time I had it, but I'm sure I enjoyed it more than the first time I had sex. If I had a car, I'd drive to Wisconsin and stock up on it right now. I have shared about twenty bottles of this with my people since 2007. Do you get what I'm saying here people? Hell would be a life without beers of this caliber. So what makes this beer so fucking special? Wisconsin barley, and Wisconsin cherries (a pound in every bottle). Why don't I live in Wisconsin? Anyway, I digress. The malt is present, but merely as a stage for the fruit flavor to play on. The cherry dominates the nose, and the flavor; the sourness helps to add acidity to what would be a sickly sweet syrup without it. The mouth feel is velvety like a nice Malbec, or tussin. The color makes me think of Dorothy and her fancy kicks, and leaves me wishing I could click my heels and be in Madison where this shit flows like water. This is the perfect, perfect, marriage of fruit and beer. I only have one of these left, and no longer have a connection to procure more. Who wants to take a road trip? We could be in Wisconsin in about nineteen hours. I'll pay for gas. 

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Patience and the Art of Procrastination

This year has been a very busy one thus far for your venerable Flapjacks, dear reader. His work has him thinking into the future, yet life has him reeling in the ether of the present. In constant motion the future is. Difficult to see. Back-logged blog posts nip at his heels like irritating little dogs, and time that could be spent typing has been squandered on social activities, reading, working; mostly drinking. It's all productive however, so do not get angry with him, just be patient. He has endured much worse. Inspiration is found in the most peculiar places. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cooking for Couples, Pt. 3: Logistics

In an attempt to figure out some logistics for a potential dinner club in the works, Shaddley and YogaMarketingBrownieGirl came by my house for dinner on Friday night. We discussed our ideas, concerns, and plans briefly during our meal before the night quickly devolved into one of those grand Dionysian affairs that we all know and love.

I had spent that day playing in the garden, harvesting some snow peas, beets, and fennel, as well as making some chicken stock from the chicken carcass from the Friday before. My house smelled wonderfully warming as the stock slowly simmered on the range for hours and hours. I planned on making a mushroom risotto with the stock, but had no idea what else to cook. When I finally made my way to Wheatsville to pick up a few items that I had neglected to purchase when I'd left work the night before, I found myself standing in front of the meat case engaged in a full on mental eye roll. Everything looked good, so what to get? After about ten minutes of picking up and inspecting individual cuts of delectable Niman Ranch meats, I settled on a small, tied, center-cut pork loin.

The fennel finally grew up!

Rock the funky beets...

Back in the kitchen, I had big plans for the beets and fennel that I'd picked that afternoon. The golden beets got roasted in duck fat with a few cloves of crushed garlic, the red ones cut into vibrant little matchsticks; the fennel got delicately shaved and set aside. These veggies were to be used to dress up a salad of freshly picked greens from the backyard. I've eaten more salad in the last two months than I have in the last five years, which is definitely a good thing. With the salad's accompanying components prepped, I carried on about my business.

The pork loin was seasoned with a generous amount of salt, and set aside to rest for about an hour. As a salted roast sits, the salt will draw out the juices, which then combine with the salt before being reabsorbed into the meat, resulting in a more flavorful roast, inside and out. This waiting period allowed me to sit down, drink a glass of wine, and ponder some of the great mysteries swirling in my head that evening. Life is beautiful. After this cool down period, I worked out the timing for the meal based on when my guests would be arriving from North Buda, and got to work rubbing and searing the roast before sticking it in the oven.

With my stock finished, and maintaining a nice temperature on the stove, I was ready to get into the risotto. I had picked up some king trumpet and maitake mushrooms when I was at the market, two mushroom varieties that I find to be deliciously meaty and flavorful. This risotto stemmed from the same recipe as the last batch that I'd made, the only variance was the the use of red wine instead of white. As the risotto got close to finishing, the mushrooms were sautèed in some bacon fat and butter, and placed aside to be added when the risotto had finished. Timing appeared to be on my side, as the North Buda All-Stars rolled up right when the loin had finished resting, and the rice had achieved the right amount of tooth. Providence.

Tossed salad...

I heart risotto.

As always with this pair, we drank. Shaddley had brought two bottles of Sur de los Andes Malbec Gran Reserva, which was a perfect compliment to the earthy flavors of the mushroom risotto. This malbec, like many others that I've fell in love with, was moderately jammy, with a nice spicy backbone, and soft, velvety tannins that didn't over power the subtle flavors of the meaty mushrooms. I would like to have some of this wine laying around to casually sip on during one of these beautiful winter days. Shaddley, make this happen!

Vino.

The all seeing eye.

Choose your own caption.

Flapjacks.

Anyway, when we finished the wine, beers were pulled from the cellar [box in my closet...], and it was time for a tour of my New Glarus cache. A more in depth review of these beers will be featured in the next installment of Tasting Notes, but I'll quickly cover the bases here. We started with the Organic Revolution, which is a simple golden ale produced with organic Wisconsin barley, and organic German Hallertau hops. Malty, yet balanced, this was a great beer to segue from wine to IPA. Up next we tried the Hop Hearty, which I recently reviewed, and it was well received by YogaMarketingBrownieGirl, who loves IPA's. After this delicious citrus bomb we moved on to the mutha of the New Glarus line: Wisconsin Belgian Red. This beer is amazing. Fashioned in the style of a Belgian sour red, with a pound of Door county cherries in every bottle, this beer will make your toes curl faster than a wicked witch's under a displaced Kansas home. More on this abomination later. Full, intoxicated, and becoming increasingly tired, we should have stopped there, but we persevered and drank an Apple Ale from the New Glarus Unplugged line. This beer is not at all like a cider, but rather a nice brown ale with a massive apple nose, and finish. It is almost reminiscent of kombucha; effervescent, fruity, and delicious. Rosy cheeked and thoroughly pushed to the limits of excess, my guests fled for the safety of their South Austin refuge. They think they're safe, but I shall strike again, and next time it may be fatal. There'll be nothing to stop me, this time...

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