Friday, May 29, 2009

No Such Thing

Working in a grocery store makes for an interesting story. I won't tell it today, but I assure you it is interesting. Fortunately, the grocery store I work in happens to sell really high-quality (this term apparently means nothing anymore), local, artisan, organic, craft, and specialty items. We also have receptacles that house items that are damaged, out of date, or otherwise unsell-able for what ever the reason. For the better part of a decade I have relied on the free-box to supplement my purchases and get me through the hard times. 

Vein-clogging goodness oozing into the abyss.

This sandwich was completely free-boxed. Fresh baked [day-old] baguette, meats [out-of-date], lettuce and tomato [wilted, soft — respectively], and Brazos Valley Local Brie [out-of-date]. This is the new frugality. This is recession eating. I am Dionysus.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lengua en Mejilla

It is no secret that I enjoy offal. I love it so much, I have even made the Hajj to the Mecca of all things offal, St. John. I. Love. Guts. They are good, and good for you. In our new hard times it makes sense to return to eating them. Frankly, if you are looking for flavor, heart and tongue and sweetbreads beat the hell out of a fillet, and they are far cheaper. Waste not, want not. 

Of course, the reality is that people are very turned off to the idea of eating what is politely seen as "left-overs". However, I've seen the same people have no problem eating a hot dog, which is really the "left-overs". There are two exceptions in the world of offal that are worth noting: the heart and the tongue. These are muscles. Most offal consumed, such as liver, sweetbreads, tripe, and kidneys are organs. They have that organ-y taste and texture that made you hate your Grandma for serving you liver and onions. That chalky taste. That bit of giblet that you missed picking out of your stuffing. Chances are you've never had well prepared liver or kidneys or giblets. They are delicate and should be cooked very little. Grandma probably cooked the shit out of that liver, which not only destroys the nutrient content, but also affects the flavor and texture. 

When Amenity invited me over to eat some tongue, I was stoked. I love tongue. And we're not talking some bullshit either. I mean, this was local grass-fed calves tongue. This is a delicacy. And again, this is a muscle, not an organ. The Butcher and I ventured over to Amenity and Adam's house over on the Eastside for what turned out to be quite the spread. A treat really. Homemade tortillas, awesome beans, tostones and sweet plantain, two salsas, and a whole slew of sides and accoutrements for our little lengua tacos. Cooking tongue is an undertaking, so I really appreciated that she wanted to try this for guests. 

Tongue has to be boiled for several hours, cooled, then all of the furry taste-buds must be peeled off before you can do much with it. Or you can simply allow it to cool and slice it and eat it fur and all. That's a pretty standard way to do it for the Brits — cold slices of tongue with mustard or piccalilly. We live close to the Mexican border so it is fitting to want to seek inspiration there in the form of tacos. When peeled, the tongue falls apart, resembling brisket. Amenity  then slow cooked this meaty goodness in a mix of spices and adobo. The flavor was delectable with notes of clove and cinnamon accentuating the delicate flavors of the beefy calves tongue. If I was James Brown, I'd say "Good Gawduh." 

Tortillas frescas.


Those fuckers had some heat!

Big ol' bowl o'tongue!

This was one of my favorite recent meals. For one, I was a guest. I like this. The food was excellent and prepared with care. Adam made the tortillas with locally produced El Milagro masa as we arrived. That's freshness you just can't beat unless you've got toothless old Mexican women stashed around your house grinding corn and mixing it with manteca. Seriously, what a treat! Such a treat that I had to bring a New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red to commemorate the event. 

You've got the power and the glory!

These are hard times for some. I am a firm believer in using all parts of an animal. Indigenous cultures worldwide rely on this practice for survival. Why let it go to waste? You can't eat steak every night! Well, you can. I have done it. But it is at a premium. I digress. My point here is that these commonly discarded parts have utility and there is little reason to avoid consuming them. I don't want to seem pushy, and would never force someone to eat something they wouldn't enjoy, yet I would urge them to try new things and let old social stigmas fall by the wayside. After all, we are in a recession. . . 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Tasting Notes: Little. Yellow. Different.

Despite conventional wisdom, not all pilsners are created equal. The problem—the real problem, is that in our post-prohibition America, pilsners have turned beer into a despicable four-letter word. When you think about an American Pilsner, what comes to mind? Budweiser? Coors? Miller Lite? I live in Texas, so naturally Lone Star pops up amongst those other yellow, fizzy, adjunct-laden concoctions that are being passed off poorly as beer.

Really though. Bud, Miller, Coors. These are poor examples of what a good pilsner can be. When it comes to beer, you can basically break it down to two categories: ales and lagers. This is dependent on yeast type. Top fermenting, warmer temp loving ale yeast—which produces off-flavors that complement the beer depending on the intended style, and bottom fermenting, cold temp capable lager yeast. The pilsner lager has been around since the 1840's, ever since some Bavarian started combining new lagering techniques (keeping beer cool in caves for long periods of time) and paler malts. The result was a clean tasting, clear, refreshing brew. Thanks Plzen.

Fast forward to today. Sure, you can go and get a Pilsner Urquell and experience what a green bottled, poorly handled pils tastes like, or you can have one of the big beer industry's little, yellow, canned darlings. If so, you're drinking an adjunct-grain-laden soda. Big industry beers are full of corn and rice. Despite their ability to make this shit the same every time, it is hardly beer and would definitely not fly under the Rheinheitsgebot. Beer is supposed to be water, yeast, hops, and barley malt. It is only a matter of time before beer starts having soy added to it, and then it's just a short wait for the vitamin fortification. Well, probably not. Healthy bums anyone? Not on Bud's watch.

Oskar Blues' Mama's Little Yella Pils takes a stab at the old, adjunct free style of brewing pilsner in this canned brew. This beer is refreshing and easy to drink, like most of this brewery's beers, and when poured out of its can, it resembles the many fine pilsners of the world: yellow, crystal clear, with a lacy white head. What isn't like the many fine pilsners of the world is the taste. I found it refreshing, sure, but far too sweet. Where was the hop bitterness that comes with a good Bavarian-style pilsner? Lost. Lost to the New World I suppose. This beer is good, but it kinda falls flat for me. I like the hoppy bite of the pilsner (think Live Oak Pilz). I'll buy this. I'll drink it. I'll have it on a hot day. But, realistically, I could just save a few bucks, buy a Lone Star sixer and be done with it. Truth be told, I'm an ale guy anyway. If I'm going to be shelling out ten bucks for a six pack in this economy, I may as well get my money's worth and buy the Dale's Pale Ale.

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