Monday, January 26, 2009

The Senator From Beer, A Dream Delayed

You have to give Lew Bryson a lot of credit for a graceful exit and a (somewhat) heartfelt concession. It had to be difficult to give up the dream.

It's OK, Bearded One, we were behind you all the way.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lew Bryson for Senate


According to a post yesterday on his blog, Seen Through A Glass, Bryson is tossing his well-traveled hat into the ring-----in the state of New York. He decided to pen an open letter to Gov. David Patterson, whose task it is to fill the Senate seat that will soon be vacated by Hilary Clinton. In his missive to Patterson, Bryson makes some good ( and appropriately snarky) points:

I understand you have a job opening for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. In light of some of the relatively unqualified people who have publicly expressed interest in the job, I'd like you to know that I am interested and I am available.
I'm doing this booze-writing thing, but with the number of days off Senators get, and the number of aides you get to do the heavy lifting, I don't think it should interfere. It would certainly make it easier to write a new edition of New York Breweries, and require every library in the state to buy a copy.
I'm not just looking at petty perks, either, although unlimited access to that Senate Navy Bean Soup is a draw. I'd like to serve New York and the nation as The Senator From Beer. There are some excellent breweries in New York, and although you've given them the back of your hand lately with talk of putting the beer tax back up (after your sainted predecessor Gov. Pataki lowered it; you should inquire why), I'm sure once you appreciate the employment benefits from increased brewery business you'll be whistling another tune.
I realize it's not a new idea, what with Scoop Jackson having been the "Senator From Boeing," and I think Dick Gephardt was essentially the Representative from Anheuser-Busch, but I'd be more even-handed, and represent the interests of the entire industry. Even that Belgian outfit, you know, the big place up in Baldwinsville. Oh, and those Belgian guys in Cooperstown, too.
Before you dismiss my idea as not having enough to do with representing the people of New York, I'd remind you that Senator Clinton seemed pretty focused on the presidency from the start of her first campaign; the national media certainly seemed to think so, and she didn't disappoint them. She didn't even live in New York until she decided to run for the Senate. My wife's family goes way back in New York, and if Hillary claimed Pennsylvania solidarity based on a vacation cabin in Lake Wallenpaupack, I figure Uncle Johnny's place on Amity Lake, outside of Wellsville should count.
I have no interest in the presidency, either. I'd go so far as to say that if drafted, I will not run; if nominated, I will not accept; if elected, I will not serve. Sorry, but that's how it goes. I have my scruples. I refuse to run for office, because all that fund-raising you have to do compromises your ethics. I'll only accept an appointment.But part of my appeal is that I'm not part of the paste-up new aristocracy that seems to think it has some kind of right to office. I'm not a Clinton, I'm not a Kennedy, and I'm not Ham Fish XVIII. I'm a Bryson, dammit, and we've never held any office, or expected anything handed to us because of something our father or mother or uncle did.
Really, I think I have every bit as much right to serious consideration as the other "candidates."And, lookie here, I have a blog. Which I understand you were asking about when you talked to Andy-boy Cuomo this weekend. I've been blogging for two years, and a lot of it about taxes and policy. There's some serious thought for you.Think about it, Governor.
I could be your man in Washington. I mean, what the hell? Why not?

Lew Bryson
Future Senator from New York

Imagine for just a moment the sound of his girlish laugh echoing off the marbled hallways and onto the Senate floor. Imagine!
But The Bearded One's got a point: Why not?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

EAGLES 23, Giants 11

'Nuff said.

One Guy!

Our beer buddy Guy Hagner, one of the core group of regulars in our Friday night beer chats on (11:30PM EST, the No Bull Inn chat room, you know the drill by now...) started up a really small brewery last year in Berwick, PA (328 West Front St., Berwick, 18603); so small is this brewery that he cleverly christened it One Guy Brewing.

For a long time it's just been him, brewing great beers (some of which you can even find in beer-centric bars in nearby Wilkes-Barre and even in Philly, at places like Earth, Bread and Brewery and the Grey Lodge Pub!) and serving up drafts and hot dogs in the brewery's small tap room on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. It's BYOF otherwise at One Guy, and he has a bunch of menus from nearby places if you get hungry. But a lot of us are hoping that Guy will succumb to one of his passions (no, not the Amish women one) and expand the menu at One Guy a bit.

One thing you need to know about Guy: not only is he one serious, finicky and talented brewer, he is a man after my own heart; he is a pizza fanatic. Not only has he traveled far and wide to try any and all of the great and famous pizzas up and down the East coast, but he is an equally serious home pizzaiolo. He's sourced San Marzanos and extra virgin olive oils from obscure importers to make his tomato sauce and he's experimented with various flours, playing and tweaking in his home kitchen in search of that perfect pie. Well, not too long ago, after a few NBI beers one Friday night, he let it slip that he snatched up a Blodgett commercial pizza oven on Ebay (see above), so that someday....
Well, knowing Guy, we all urged him to get that oven hooked up and to start making pizza at One Guy. We all know it's an itch he needs to scratch.

Last night Guy sent out a 3-part e-mail teaser , with pictures, to let us know that, perhaps, maybe, who knows....Guy is testing the waters, er pizza stones:

Guy's finished product speaks for itself:
Business is good, apparently, at One Guy Brewing; he actually has an assistant helping him in the brewery to keep up with the demand for his beer, and here's hoping he'll be adding some kitchen help to help make what should surely be some damn fine pizza.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The 12 Beers of Winter

I always look forward to the annual 12 Beers of Winter (was "Christmas" so terribly politically incorrect? Used to be the 12 Beers of Christmas....) from Saranac, and this year's dozen has so far proven to be quite tasty: 2 each of ESB, Belgian Ale, Season's Best Nut Brown, and three new brews---Vanilla Stout, Bohemian Pilsner and India Brown Ale. Saranac always tests new beers in this 12-pack, and that makes for some nice wintertime excitement.

I'm not a big fan of the Belgian Ale, but someone in Utica, NY must like it to keep it included here. Saranac's tastes thin to me, and this year's version is no exception. You can salvage this brew by serving it with some steamed mussels with garlic, some ripe brie or gouda, or a field greens or arugula salad. Just my opinion, but you know me with food and beer pairings, it's just an obsession.
The Boho Pilsner on the other hand is quite good, with a bracing, crisp taste and a slightly nutty finish. Good solid beer, period. Grab some pretzels, hot dogs or brats and you'll dig this beer when the Iggles smack down those Jersey Jiants on Sunday.

The India Brown Ale is Saranac's attempt to soften its IPA with more malt, but I don't know why. They make a decent IPA already. And the Season's Best is a very yummy nut brown ale. Experimentation for the sake of experimentation? Maybe a brewer could better answer that question. Still and all, this is a good burger beer.

I do always enjoy the Season's Best Nut Brown; it's my new favorite beer to have with that Christmas ham sandwich. Just a good mild, holiday session beer.
I'm waiting to find the right moment to try the Vanilla Stout. I'm thinking---maybe---beer float! Never had a beer float? Really? Oh sweet Jesus you're in for some fun for dessert! I promise to make that a future post.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Oh Yeah, Happy Hoppin' New Year!

The days and nights have been rough since our trip to Long Island for the Pawlak Family Christmas (never to become a holiday variety show, I promise you, as several of you wiseasses have suggested in private e-mails, cowards that you are to not actually post it). Ben and Sophie came down with horrible colds---fevers, snots, the whole schmear---and it has meant all hands on deck here at home. So much for attending the opening day for Local 44 (the new University City bar from the folks that brought you Memphis Taproom). Well, we tried.

But I have kept my New Year's Day tradition, food-wise: Hoppin' John, collard greens and pork to ring in the new year and bring good luck. I've never had a version of Hoppin' John that I didn't like, and a cursory search on the web, brings up literally hundreds of recipes, with variations of every imagination. This year, I chose a recipe from Emeril Legasse, and man, did this one turn out terrifically. I varied the recipe only slightly, substituting some finely dieced ham from my Xmas ham for the recipe's ham hock, but stayed faithful to Emeril's recipe everywhere else:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large ham hock or some diced ham
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 pound black-eyed
peas, soaked overnight and rinsed
1 quart chicken stock
Bay leaf
1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
Salt, black pepper, and cayenne
3 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
3 cups steamed white rice

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic, cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice. Makes 10 small servings or 5 large servings.

We were talking about Hoppin' John on New Year's Eve, during an impromptu online chat in the No Bull Inn, our usual Friday night beer chat room on (Fridays, 11:30PM EST). There were FIVE of chatting, so I guess I wasn't the only one stuck home on NYE (see above). So we had a few beers (several of us drank Victory Storm King Imperial Stout, in honor of the wicked weather) and at least a couple of us were making the dish the following morning.

On New Year's Day I got an e-mail from beer buddy Mike Gates, who remembered at the last minute to make some Hoppin' John. At such late notice he was able to snag some canned Goya black eyed peas, on whose label he found the very recipe he needed:

4 slices bacon
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup green pepper, chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 can (15.5 oz) Goya blackeye peas, undrained
1 packet Sazon Goya without Annatto
Hot Pepper Sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan, cook bacon until crisp. Drain fat excpt for one tablespoon and add vegetables. Cook until onion is tender. Stir in remaining ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Serve over hot white rice. Serves 4.

Sez Mike in his e-mail:

So I made the recipe on the can tonight. The recipe totally rocks and I have to share it with all of you! Good luck has already struck with this recipe. It's outstanding! I predict a great 2009 with plenty of blackeye peas throughout the year!

Note: I have Sazon Goya Picante (mild) in stock and used that for the recipe along with a few dashes of Habanero Tabasco Sauce. Didn't even bother with the rice. Man, was it ever good!

The kids, despite their colds, kept pretty busy today coloring with some construction paper, as well as with coloring books they got form Grandma for Christmas. So that allowed me some breathing room to cook aplenty. I started the Hoppin' John right after coffee on New Year's morning, and while that simmered, I started up a big batch of sausage and peppers in tomato sauce. I broiled both sweet and hot sausages as well as red, yellow, orange and green peppers and then tossed em in a stew pot with some homemade tomato sauce, let em get to know one another for about a half hour on simmer, and then laid some of that onto kaiser rolls and watched some of the NHL Winter Classic (Blackhawks and Red Wings outdoors at Wrigley!) and some of the Mummers parade.

For dinner (and for additional luck), I sauteed two large bunches of collard greens, chopped into strips, with a fistful of garlic, a swirl of brown sugar and some salt and pepper, my tweaking of the Portuguese dish served at so many rodizio restaurants in Newark. Alongside went grilled pork chops (brrrrrr, it WAS cold out on the deck) and lots of white rice, on top of which went plenty of Hoppin' John. Surprisingly the twins dug the beans AND the collards. Now that's a Happy New Year.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A Pawlak Family Christmas

The rain came pouring down as we headed out on the 27th to younger brother Bob's house in Huntington Bay, Long Island, to celebrate Christmas en famile, with his wife/supermom Claire, and neices Laura, Elizabeth and Abigail; my sis Renee, her hubby John and nephew Ryan and neice Lisa. My mom had been there from the 23rd, celebrating Xmas Eve with Bob's in-laws and extended family for an elaborate dinner, as is Claire's family's tradition. For OUR Christmas dinner, Mom made her justifiably famous gnocchis, along with big pots of meat-filled tomato sauce (meatballs, sausage, pork chops and bracciole, handmade by brother Bob). Mom's gnocchis have a cult following in our extended family; unlike the belly bombs you encounter in many Italian restaurants, hers are impossibly light, made according to the recipe and technique of her mother, Maria, who hailed from Alberobello, a coastal town in the Puglia region of Italy.
Sis-in-law Claire made crabcakes and other snacks to munch on before dinner, Bob opened several bottles of cabernet (he poured a nice glass of Caymus for me), Claire came out with a zippy, crisp, chopped greens salad, and everyone settled down for a great repast. And yes, it IS funny when the twins call them "nookies". And Mom's gnocchis were as good as ever, some got a little overcooked, probably due to the different kitchen logistics Mom had to deal with, but, all in all, gnocchis are the anchor dish of our family, helping to keep the link to our nonna's cooking traditions alive.

But Ben protested during most of the dinner: "I don't like nookies, " he said, as he scooped up dumpling after dumpling. Faker.

We brought dessert, pies from Terhune Orchards here in Lawrenceville, possibly the finest pies made on earth: pecan, pumpkin and an apple-cranberry crisp were our contributions to the dinner.

But first it was time for presents, and all sorts of chaos ensued in Bob's cozy living room. Five kids, two young adults and 7 adults tearing at wrapping paper, it sure wasn't pretty. But the kids got positively spoiled b y their grandma and aunts, and I noticed that both Laura and Elizabeth were quickly riveted by the "Dangerous Books for Girls" that we got them. I love giving kids books for Christmas., and I guess I will always stubbornly do so.

Dessert was good, all the kids got into their respective PJs, and Bob's kids trundled up to bed, I loaded the car and then the kids into the SUV, and off we were into the dark rainy night for the long drive back home.