It’s Strawberry Season Again?

I have food guilt. Not the guilt from having eaten too much food. The guilt of knowing that food is going bad in my fridge RIGHT NOW! I really hate throwing fruits and veggies in the compost because I waited too long to use them. But sometimes I can’t keep up with my own kitchen.

Someone had left two baskets of strawberries in my fridge and I woke up one morning knowing they were on their last little legs. I could almost hear them calling to me, “End it! End our suffering!”

Okay, that’s a little morbid. I did feel the need to use them before they went off, and of course I had a loaf of beer bread eyeing me from the top of the fridge. The pressure was on. I diced up the strawberries and a few other things, tossed them into a sauce pot while we sipped our coffee on the back porch, and in ten minutes we were happily munching on breakfast.

I don’t know what this would be called. I like to think of it as a sweet chutney because of my Indian food background, but I guess it would be closer to a warm fruit spread. I welcome proper classification from a foodie know-it-all.

Ingredients:
1 cup diced strawberries
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup (or less) white wine or dry vermouth

I diced up the strawberries into big chunks, and because they were not completely fresh, they were a little on the dry side. So when I put them into the sauce pan with the sugar, I poured a little dry vermouth in also, just to moisten the sugar and berries. (I always have a bottle of Martini & Rossi extra dry vermouth for cooking instead of wine because the vermouth has added aromatics that give a lovely depth to dishes.) I suppose if you’re boring, you could just add a little water.

The candied ginger can be tricky to dice up because it’s so sticky. I love having a big bag of Reeds crystallized ginger on hand. It’s great for digestion after a particularly heavy meal. And it’s fun to add a little pop of flavor to cookies, oatmeal, and now fruit. If you can find the grain on each piece of ginger, it makes your life easier here. Chop this up to a reasonably small size and mix that into the strawberries.

Then chop up the mint leaves into fine ribbons and add that as well. Mint is wonderful to grow because it hardly needs any maintenance as long as it gets enough water and light. My one plant is actively taking over the front porch. I suspect it makes nasty threats to the other plants when I’m not around.

Anyhow, on a medium low heat, stirring occasionally, this should be done in less than ten minutes. The strawberries will get very soft, but they should remain pinkish in the center, and the liquid will look like soupy jelly. Spread on some thick-cut toast and enjoy.

As for me, I can hear some potatoes and an onion in the fridge asking for Dr. Kevorkian, so I suppose I’ll need to make some soup today.

[Girl21]

Snakebite

Snakebite, Loosey's Pub

Brass monkey! That funky monkey!

If you remember when that song came out, you’re my kind of people. (Beastie Boys, License to Ill, 1986.) I only bring that up because I was looking up the history of one of my favorite drinks, and this fun little fact was flung at me like an unwelcomed booger.

A Brass Monkey is a shandy, which is a drink that mixes beer with some kind of soda or juice, depending on where you are and where your bartender is from. A Brass Monkey is a mix of orange juice and beer. And the version the Beastie Boys were familiar with was where a hard-partying rock and roll youth would drink off the first 1/4 of a 40 of malt liquor or beer, and top off the can or bottle with OJ.

No, that’s not my favorite drink at all. I feel like I just threw up thinking about that. I like a Snakebite, which is a specific type of shandy. It’s a combination of half beer and half cider. Many bartenders will just mix the two willy nilly and hand it over like a dead rat in a glass. But the classy folks will pour the cider first, then float the beer on top. I generally see this done well with a nice dry cider like Strongbow paired with a dark beer like Guinness for the maximum effect and flavor.

At Loosey’s (pictured), you get Donnybrook instead of Guinness, which goes much nicer with the cider because it lacks that slightly burnt after flavor. But I may have to try the version a friend was drooling over which was raspberry cider with Choklat Stout by Southern Tier. Probably best for dessert.

But watch out. Lore states that Snakebites get you drunk faster than the individual drinks that make them. I haven’t seen any supporting evidence, but there’s a long argument at several sites about this. I can only guess the reason for the myth is that originally a Snakebite had a shot of vodka in it in some regions. Which of course would sneak up on you and bite you in the ass.

[Girl21]

Lenny’s NY Pizza Co., Ormond Beach

Lennys NY Pizza Co, Ormond Beach

Thank you, Urbanspoon.

We were road-tripping it down around Daytona Beach a few weeks ago. As we’re coming into civilization out of the swamps into the strip malls, a desperate hunger popped out of nowhere. My job as navigator means I have to magically find the best place to eat (with vegetarian options) within a short distance from wherever we happen to be. So I start flipping through my phone for my Urbanspoon app, while The Man kindly tells some of the snowbirds and early spring-breakers what he thinks of their ability to maneuver their vehicles on a roadway.

The Ormond Beach/Daytona area is packed with tourists and college youths, and local restaurants can get away with murder when it comes to what passes for food. But The Man wanted food. Possibly pizza. Okay, definitely pizza. So… Okay Urbanspoon, nothing? Another mile up the beach and resetting the location offered Lenny’s NY Pizza. Yeah, because people are always honest about their “New York Style Pizza”.

But it got a rating in the mid-90%, and it was not far away. So out of desperation we stopped to give it a whirl. Reluctantly. It was in a strip of store fronts like all of the others that face the condos on the beach. To look at, it was nothing special. But we stood there to look at the menu for a minute. The staff were yelling at each other. And the customers. Pizza ovens were slamming open and closed. It smelled amazing.

We ordered a few slices of cheese pizza, and soda, and took a table at the window to wait. There was one guy who seemed to be running the place. Probably the infamous Lenny. It became obvious quickly that this place was for locals, and Lenny kept them coming back.

“Only one stromboli today?” he nagged one customer. “You always get two. One for dinner. You want two!” The regular nodded agreement finally and waited for his two strombolis.

Lenny craned over the counter at a group laughing on the side. A woman was trying to lift a huge sandwich with cheese falling off the side. “You can fit that in your mouth. It’s not too big,” he laughed, stopping just short of suggesting she had oral skills. She blushed and tried to open her jaw like a boa constrictor swallowing a small boar.

Our pizza came up, still sizzling from the oven. Each slice the size of a legal pad of paper. Exactly right. Thin crust that actually was hand tossed. Cheese that acted and tasted like actual cheese. Sauce could have been a bit zippier but was great anyway. Real pizza. Oh. My. Crap. It was good!

We left with a cannoli in a to-go box because we obviously were working up an appetite from sitting in the car. Lenny’s would be added to our list of places to come back to next time we were down this way. (Vittoria’s pastry shop and Anna’s Trattoria in Daytona are worth the drive on their own, and this is right up the shore.) It reminded me of Lisa Pizza in the mall back in the ‘90s. I had my learner’s permit and had to drive my sister and her friends to the mall for hours. I would get pizza and hide up in the balcony area, reading a book and avoiding the kids throwing cheese. Okay, that makes me feel old now.

Lenny’s NY Pizza Co.
1456 Ocean Shore Blvd
Ormond Beach, FL 32176
(386) 441-8811
www.ormondpizza.com

[Girl21]

Authentic Red, Gnarly Head

Gnarly Head is kind of one of our standards at the house. It’s reliable, nicely priced, and tends to be gentle on the non-aficionado palate. It’s a favorite for my book club ladies, or a random dinner party. I usually grab an Old Vine Zin, or Merlot. Even a Pinot Noir.

We picked up a few bottles of wine last time we were mooching around Ward’s, including two different Gnarly Heads. At my most recent book club gathering, I accidentally pulled out the Authentic Red instead of the Merlot because I was in a hurry. But when we opened it and poured it around, I actually had a “Whoa, what is this?” moment in the madness of female discussion. (The Man often comments about how we all seem to talk at the same time, at the top of our voices, and he can’t understand how we call it a conversation.)

The Man was quite put out that we drank the Red before he got to it, so when we were at Ward’s today he grabbed two bottles. Just to be safe. While we waited for his tomatoes to roast down for a red sauce, we opened the Authentic Red. Which, can I say–if you are making red sauce that takes several hours, have something to eat in the mean time to offset the alcohol intake.

Anyhow, we opened the Authentic Red with some high expectations because of my “hold the phone” experience in the midst of female insanity. Honestly, we were not disappointed. Initially there’s this low, mellow rolling flavor that bursts out into this high, grassy sensation. There are lovely earthy notes of raisins and dates rooting it deeply in the caramel zone, but then you get these big, loopy, rolling spirals of flavor that open up delicious fruit and sunshine flavors.

The high alcohol content (14.5% ABV) gives it some phenomenally long legs (and again, not something for an empty stomach while cooking). It’s mostly a zinfandel, with some merlot and cabernet sauvignon blended in. Even on the bottle, Gnarly Head recommends the wine is paired with big flavor dishes. They’re not kidding. Big flavors. You know when you’re listening to a Maria Callas aria and she just opens up and lays into you with that voice. Huge rolling loops of intensity.

The nice thing was that as we drank this bottle (waiting for the red sauce to cook), the wine breathed out the sharp grassy flavors, leaving a rich, lush velvety flavor curve. Like a true redhead, it was big and bold and loud. Now I’m kind of glad we have a second bottle. I definitely want another taste of the Authentic Red.

Gnarly Head
Authentic Red
Vintage 2010
Lodi, California
About $6-8

[Girl21]

Basmati Rice is Easy

Easy Basmati Rice

Seeing the U-Haul logo still makes me twitch sometimes. We grew up moving a lot, and we always rented a U-Haul trailer to pack everything we owned for our schlep across the country. Everything a family of five needed was somehow crammed into a 5’x8’ box trailer and hooked up behind the station wagon. Suffice it to say, we were experts on things you need vs. things you want.

Usually our whole kitchen fit into three cardboard boxes. Maybe four if we were feeling luxurious and rented a 5’x10’ trailer. Dishes, pots, pans, flatware, dry goods, spice collection, towels, etc. Two of the things that absolutely always made it into the trailer were my mom’s cast iron skillet, and the pot my mom made rice in. To this day, I remember these two things with an awed sense of reverence.

By now you’ve picked up that I had a non-standard childhood, so when I say we had rice at almost every dinner until I grew up and moved out, you probably aren’t surprised. I’m not Chinese or India, which is usually the assumption people jump to. The truth is: Hippies. Vegetarian hippies.

Rice is a very popular option around the world because it’s affordable, versatile, and half of a complete protein. Combine rice with almost any kind of legume (beans, peas, etc), and you don’t have to worry about not wanting to eat meat, or not being able to afford it. There is an amazing variety of types of rice grown around the world. You’re more than welcome to read up on rice in general on Wikipedia, which is where I found out too much myself, such as what ratooning is and that there actually is an International Rice Research Institute.

I am only going to talk about my favorite rice right now. Basmati rice. With so many varieties of rice to choose from, why is this my standard go-to rice? It’s a long grained, fragrant rice (basmati often translates to “fragrant one”), and it gets fluffy rather than sticky when cooked properly. It also has a lower glycemic rating, so when you’re diabetic (or just watching your diet), this is one of the “whites” you don’t have to cut out of your meals.

Growing up, I watched my mom make rice a million times. It’s not difficult. I always felt like I had a rice handicap though because whenever I tried to make it, I ended up with a mess in a pot. Now I know. After all of these years of stubbornly trying and trying and trying. So now when people tell me they just can’t make rice, I can do more than shriek “I know! Me either!” back at them.

And now I know the secret of my mom’s rice pot.

Okay, that’s easy. It’s just a pot. But it was the SAME pot for all of those years. You see, the two things you need to know about making good basmati rice are 1) good rice, and 2) temperature.

Good rice is easy. Frankly, you don’t need to find a good Indian grocery store and buy it there, but I would recommend it. Personally I’ve resorted to buying it at Publix with the rest of my groceries, even though it’s pricier and only available in one-pound bags. You’ll be able to find Mahatma or Vigo brand in most grocery stores. The good stuff is imported from India, and I’m not going to get into how some suppliers mix other long grain rice in with Basmati to keep the cost down. You get what you pay for, and you have to be a bit savvy about what you buy. That’s a blanket statement for everything you do.

So the second thing is temperature. You’re not going to get this down perfectly the first time, but I promise that if you try a few times, and pay attention to your pot, your stove, and your rice, you’ll get the Tao of Rice Cooking. When I moved and had to switch from gas to electric stove, I had to seriously adjust my rice rhythm because, I am not kidding, temperature is key.

I have a rice pot now. It’s a one-quart, stainless steel, copper bottom sauce pan. And now that I’ve adjusted for my electric stove, I’m back to being a rice ninja. I never look at the clock for timing this process either. You know everything by looking at the rice, smelling it, and even listening to it.

So this is it. Rice pot on stove. Turn on burner to medium heat. One cup of Basmati rice and 1 and ¾ cup of water into pot. Stir up so it’s all wet. The rice will settle to the bottom. Put lid on pot at a little angle so steam gets out. If not, you’ll boil over and it’s more mess to clean up.

Yes, yes, yes… I know recipes ask you to start with salt, butter, oil, ghee, spices, bouillion, and whatnot here. You can do this. But learn how to cook rice before you try to do fancy stuff to it. Rice and water on the stove. Keep it simple.

After a while the rice pot will begin to steam, and you’ll hear it bubbling once it finally reaches a boil. Don’t be impatient. Don’t harass your rice. Peek into the pot once in a while if you have to. But I cannot say this strongly enough–do NOT stir your rice. You’re not going to actually do anything to your rice until it’s done. Just don’t.

Once your rice water is boiling, take the pot off the burner and turn the heat down as low as it will go. Put the rice back on the burner only when the burner has cooled down to the lowest heat. With a gas stove, I would give it a minute to let the metal grate cool. Electric stoves are more annoying because they cool slower. Please let it cool off though. Really.

When the burner is actually cooled to the very low temperature, put your rice pot back on the burner, lid slightly cocked still, and leave it alone. It’ll need about 15 minutes for the water to cook off completely. If it takes longer than this, consider turning your burner temperature up a hair.

You can tell your rice is done because the top layer of grains actually will curve a little and start standing upright. I kid you not. Or if you want to be sure without disturbing the rice, you can slide a butter knife down the inside of the pot and gently wedge a little gap so you can see down to the bottom. The water should be gone but the rice might still look moist.

Take your pot off the burner. Gently fluff your rice with a fork. And done.

No? What went wrong? Is it kind of crunchy or gritty? You cooked it too fast, so reduce your temperature next time. Is it mushy and sticky? Try using a little less water next time. Too much water and the rice soaks up too much moisture. Did you get a crusty, dry layer of rice at the bottom of the pot but the rest is fine? Check it sooner and take it off the burner as soon as it’s done. The grains all stick together like glue? You’re probably letting it boil too long, or you’ve stirred it when you should just leave it alone. Only give it a minute or less to actually boil, and take it off the burner completely while the burner cools to low. And don’t stir it. Both of these options bring out the starches which is why it gets gluey.

As I said, there’re more types of rice, and more rice recipes, than I could possibly begin to cover in a blog. Basmati is my go-to rice for meals, and we eat it at least once a week. It goes well with a lot of different dishes, and when your meal includes beans or lentils, you’re getting a complete protein and your belly will love you.

Now that I think about it, we lived in the wilds for a few months and my mom cooked on a two-burner propane camp stove, and she still made rice almost every freaking night. Maybe it was a magical rice pot.

[Girl21]

Sexy Legumes

Well, what do you eat?

Growing up I had the fun, glamorous experience of being a vegetarian in the public school system. Whenever it came up (usually the first day in a new school, during lunch break), the other kids looked horrified and fascinated. From kindergarten through high school I got the same reactions. What do you eat?

It didn’t help that I was a bit chunky through high school. The general assumption was that vegetarians looked like waifs. Like starving heroin addicts. Oh, and that we supposedly smelled like vegetable soup. Huh?

The response of course was, “everything you eat except for the animal parts”. Often waving at my overly generous hips, I would elaborate on pizza, cookies, ice cream, and everything else that tastes yummy and can make you fat. To this day, I know some of those kids didn’t believe me.

Then I found a kid in high school that was trying to convert to being a vegetarian. He confided in me that he had only been eating rice and lettuce for a month and wasn’t sure he was going survive. Well, duh! We fellow vegetarians got together and gave him a quick education on nutrition. Maybe I’m biased, but I think that people with ‘alternative dietary habits’ tend to have a bigger education on nutrition than those ‘normal’ people. Survival skills.

The number one problem with being a vegetarian (besides the weird beliefs of the carnivores) is getting proper protein in your diet. There’s an ongoing argument about protein sources, so it’s a good idea to vary types of protein on a daily or weekly basis. And legumes are your BFF.

Legumes are peas, beans, soy, peanuts (no, they are not nuts), and lentils. There are many more that are not a common food source. They contain the essential amino acid lysine, but lack methionine. Which is nice because whole grains are rich in methionine and low in lysine. When you combine legumes and whole grains, you create the complete protein necessary to keep you going. This doesn’t mean you have to do this at every meal. Your liver stores various amino acids, so by keeping a balanced intake, your body can actually build protein as it gets the necessary parts.

If you look back at history and traditional meals of different cultures, you’ll see that meat at a meal was often a once-a-week thing (if at all, depending on wealth, the season, and environment). A lot of traditional meals already combined these two elements because people aren’t stupid and natural selection picks off the people that don’t eat properly.

In India there are a lot of rice and dahl combinations. Asian cuisine likes to combine soy with rice, and Indonesians like tempeh with rice. The Americas with a lot of Spanish and native influence combines beans with corn. Even kids like peanut butter sandwiches.

(Okay, don’t get all upset if I mention the word ‘tofu’. That’s another five-page essay in itself. People who don’t know it, think it’s like eating slugs. And people who know it too well, think it’s one of the worst things you can eat because it’s over processed. So we won’t even go into tofu right now.)

There’s always a lot of argument going on when you get people who feel passionately about eating ‘right’. So everyone has something to say about what the perfect diet is. I’m more of a moderation kind of person. The Man and I try to eat a wide variety of foods to not only fill our nutritional requirements, but to keep from getting bored, and learn to make different kinds of food. I feel like anything carried to an extreme is unhealthy. Whether that’s food, religion, politics, or even washing your hands.

Being a vegetarian is a challenge for many reasons. But like anything else, if you have a basic education in it, you can make good decisions. You know what GI Joe says about knowledge.

There are literally thousands of ways to bring legumes into your diet. And yes you can make it taste awesome. Don’t forget your whole grains along the way. When in doubt, put some cheese on it. That’s my usual M.O. Yummmmm!

[Girl21]

Organic Cherry Ale, Samuel Smith

It’s all about expectations. This is why relationships fail. And why blind dates end in disaster. Reality mixes with your expectations, setting off an interesting chemical reaction.

Sam Smith Brewery has been making beer in the U.K. since the mid-1700s. Unless you are complete heathen who only drinks Bud Light or whatever is on special at your local gas station, you probably have seen (and maybe tried) something by Sam Smith’s brewery. You probably don’t know that (with one exception) all of Sam Smith’s brews are vegan.

Sam Smith brews tend to be reliably drinkable and traditionally made (yes, you can taste this). We picked up the Organic Cherry Ale at our last trip to the Wall of Beer at Ward’s. I’m a cider fan, but a fruit beer will also do. The Man is very patient with me on this. He likes IPAs and high ABV Belgian beers that are like getting hit in the mouth by a sack full of flavors. He doesn’t take my more timid approach to beers well.

Anyhow, I was tempted first onto the beer path through Lindeman’s lambic beer, often flavored with fruit. I challenge anyone who dislikes beer to have some of this and say it even tastes like beer. There’s nothing beer about it. Lambic beer is a seasonal beer that is very mild because it is spontaneously fermented, and the ingredients are selected to have very subtle flavors.

Not so for any of the Sam Smith brews. I went into this cherry ale thinking of the delicate Lindeman’s kriek (cherry) lambic, which it is not. Lindeman’s is a fair and cultured lady, where Smith’s is her country cousin that wears boots and mucks out the barn. Not that it is bad. It’s loud with sweet and sour cherry flavors, a bold ale body underneath, and a flurry of bold bubbles.

My fault was the expectations I had. Once I adjusted my brain and started drinking it again, the cherry ale went down a bit better. It had a great big fragrance of cherry pie, but the taste of cherry wasn’t quite as strong. The earthier notes of the grains came through better after I got past the shock of the sweet cherry. In fact, as I drank it, it lost the sweetness of the cherries and was left with that super tart flavor which was refreshing.

The Man had a hard time with it because he was thinking of ale when he started drinking it, and he quickly got burnt out on the fruit flavors and the sweetness. The hoppiness came out after a while, which filled out the flavors of grains and fruit. But for him, it has been permanently consigned to the “baby, you finish that so I can drink my good beer” list.

Overall it wasn’t bad. Samuel Smith consistently produces good beer. This is one of those things you can only drink one of. In fact, share it with a couple of people for an evening of beer tasting just for fun. Just be aware that if you invite this girl, she’ll still be wearing her boots from mucking out the barn. I’ll stick to the Lindeman’s lambic.

Samuel Smith
Organic Cherry Ale
1 Pint Bottle | 5.10% ABV
Price: $4.50-6.50

[Girl21]

Boxtastic Breakfast

Cheating is such an ugly word.

The fact of the matter is that I’m not a morning person. I’ve never been a morning person. Ask my friends and family. They have scars to prove it.

If you wake me up in the morning and expect food to magically appear out of the kitchen, it had better involve a box. And preferably something that doesn’t require me to handle a knife before I’ve had coffee. Since there are only two kinds of cereal after a few minutes in milk (mush and gravel), I’ve never been a big fan of that option. Bagels are delish but I can tell you the statistics for people going to the ER to get stitches or parts of fingers reattached because of a stubborn bagel.

That leaves something tasty from the oven. I vote for muffins mostly because they’re supposed to be lumpy. Not all boxed muffins are created equal though. You often get that overtone of chemicals and flavorings that are mixed in 55 gallon drums. I stumbled upon the Krusteaz (because I am a Publix BOGO fanatic), and like to keep a box in the pantry for impromptu muffin cravings.

Specifically, the cranberry orange muffin mix. Yes, feel free to put your thumb over the ‘Fat Free’ part of the label because I hate fat free marketed products, and these just don’t taste like they’re short of anything. The fun thing about this boxed mix is that the cranberries are in a cute, mini can.

Toss the mix in a bowl with a cup of water, and stir it up so it’s lumpy. Add the cranberries and stir a little more. Drop the batter into 10 or 11 muffin cups, and bake for about 15 minutes. Simple, and no one gets hurt.

So this is one of my secrets. If you get these on BOGO, grab a few boxes and you’ll thank me later. It’s easy to remember … Krusteaz… like Krusty the Clown from the Simpsons.

[Girl21]

Zywiec Porter: Polish Beer?

My dad loves to tell Polish jokes. He grew up in Chicago, and as a boy, had a job delivering a Polish-language newspaper in the Polish part of town. This was back in the day that if you went walking through the wrong neighborhood, you got the old stank eye from the old grandmas and the kids on the front steps. So of course being a German kid riding his bike through a Polish neighborhood, he had to duck a few insults, and probably a few rocks. I don’t fault his love of Polish jokes, but I do roll my eyes.

I say that because there’s only one reason I picked up a bottle of Polish beer while we were at the Great Wall of Beer at Ward’s the other day. It was Polish beer. My brain instantly bubbled up a dozen of my dad’s dumb jokes and I had to reach for the bottle. The Man’s mission is to make me like beer, so the minute I show interest in anything beer-related, he buys it. He caught me holding the bottle of Zywiec porter and it was instantly added to our cart.

At $3.99 for a 16.9 oz. bottle, it’s not inexpensive, but it’s also 9.5% ABV so you’re getting your money’s worth of WOO HOO! The Man opened this up to taste when his brother stopped by for a visit, and we split it three ways while I cooked dinner. I certainly felt the 9.5% ABV on an empty stomach, but ‘m also not a professional drinker.

Before you even take a sip, the smell of chocolate hits your nose. And your first mouthful gets you good with molasses, malt, caramel, and rich oaky earth flavors. It’s quite intense from beginning to end. A bit overly sweet and in your face. It leaves a full burnt caramel taste at the end that lingers a bit too long. It has a lovely bubbly mouth feel that seems oddly cheerful contrasted with the very bold and solid flavor profiles.

Not that this is a criticism or a surprise. It is a porter; a Baltic porter to be exact. Porter is named for the people that drank the stuff in the old days. The big fellows who did hard work all day and couldn’t afford a lot of good beer in the evening. They wanted something cheap and strong. The Baltic regions produce a higher ABV porter than their comrades in other regions. Many experts attribute these variations to the commercialization of production, and the supply of ingredients because of wars and regional growing issues.

Okay, that was boring, but I had a fun time reading all about top-cropping, Reinheitsgebot, and John Feltham’s Folly. Suffice it to say that porter tends to be flavorful and packed with alcohol. And Baltic porter is just a little bit more so.

And speaking about commercialization, Wyziec started producing beer in 1852 but is now owned partially (61%) by Heineken, so that’s probably a major reason you can even get it in the US. The label claims they have been using the same porter recipe since 1881. I’m voting for them to continue doing what they’re doing. It was tasty and I’m glad we tried it. It was absolutely on the sweet and powerful side of things. I doubt I could get through a full pint on my own, and The Man is of the opinion that a half-pour is the best way to get at this beer.

So cheers to Polish beer. As for my dad and his Polish jokes… In doing some research on our family history, I suspect that part of our family line comes from a region of Germany that was handed over to Poland after WWII because of that whole invasion faux pas. Technically I think we’re a little Polish now.

Zywiec Porter
9.5% ABV, Baltic Porter
16.9 ounce bottle | $3.99 at Ward’s

[Girl21]

Ketchup and Cheese Sammies

Growing up, I had a friend who had those cool anything-goes parents. My friend got to play in her mom’s make up. The dad gave her brother a full case of Bazooka bubble gum for his birthday with the one rule that it all had to end up in the trash immediately post-chew. They had a black Lab mutt named Cucaracha that would climb the shed in the back and jump up on the house’s roof to bark at neighbors and buzzards. When I slept over there were no bed times, or rules about the TV (which was always on) or when to take a bath. It was very Pippi Longstocking.

On the other hand, there weren’t actual meal times, and no one claimed responsibility for grocery shopping regularly. And although I doubt we would get into trouble for using the stove, we didn’t know how to cook. To make matters worse, the dad was almost always out doing stuff or in his shop, and the mom often wasn’t feeling so good (in retrospect, the word would be ‘hangover’). So we were sometimes left to fend for ourselves in an empty kitchen.

This is the first place I ever experienced a ketchup and cheese sandwich. At six-years-old, it was love at first taste.

I am not talking about grilled cheese with ketchup. Just two slices of bread slathered in your standard ketchup, and then closed around whatever slices of cheese you have handy. I prefer a nice sharp cheddar or Swiss. That’s it.

Over the years, I also grew to love jelly and cheese. If brought to school and left in your backpack for the morning, the jelly soaked into the cheddar and crystallized a little. Or cream cheese and jelly. My sister went in the other direction and developed a life-long love of mustard and cheese sandwiches. And my brother went another route and does Sriracha and cheese.

I brought this up the other morning while The Man was getting his coffee and I was making his lunch for work. He was duly horrified at the thought of a ketchup and cheese sammie. After much dramatics, he allowed me my sandwich because he liked mustard and cream cheese on a bagel.

Not one to let something like that alone, I posted this on Facebook and got back a volley of other personal favorites which included PB&J with hot sauce, grilled cheese with jam, and avocado/cheese/honey. I think everyone has a secret comfort sammie. Something they eat that is fast, weird, and a little ghetto. But hits the spot and makes your belly purr.

My dad was a repair guy his whole life and every day he would take a PB&J to work and leave it in the sandwich baggie on his dash in the truck. It would sit in the sun and heat up and get all soggy and crusty. If he didn’t have time to break for lunch, or it was a particularly difficult afternoon, he would sit in his truck in the shade of a tree for a few minutes and eat that mangled, baked, dripping sammie like it was a cold beer and a pizza. Comfort food.

If you haven’t tried the ketchup and cheese version, I highly recommend it. Preferably at 2AM, in your PJs, leaning over the kitchen sink. Possibly while it’s raining. It’s awesome.

[Girl21]