Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Healthy Cabbage and Bean Peasant Dish for Meatless Monday

Sometimes you just have to go with what you've got.

We've been very busy lately with yard projects (we're building a koi pond, getting our vegetable beds ready to plant, etc), so Meatless Monday kind of sneaked up on us this week. Late Sunday night, Cynthia asked me what I wanted for dinner on Monday. Our usually well stocked refrigerator and cupboard were a little lighter than usual, but there was a fresh head of cabbage staring back at me when I opened the fridge. We decided to make that the star of the next night's dinner. Twenty minutes of internet browsing later, we had our answer. On the New York Times Fitness and Nutrition site, we found a recipe by Martha Rose Schulman, the author of "The Very Best of Recipes for Health". Not only did it sound tasty, but we had all the required ingredients. She called the dish Baked Giant White Beans with Cabbage. Since we followed the recipe fairly closely, I'll simply link to the original here.

We love beans and we always have a good supply of them in the pantry. We also always have Parmesan rinds on hand. They end up in soups, stews and especially pasta e fagioli, very simply my favorite comfort food of all time. Carrots, onion, garlic and the herbs were all on hand so we were set to go.

As Ms. Shulman says in her recipe, the Parmesan rinds really do add an element to the dish that mimics the richness that a more classic version would have due to the addition of a ham bone or salt pork. The slow cooking method really sweetens the cabbage and "melts" it nicely, again adding to the overall body of the dish.  Finally, and this is a brilliant touch, the addition of the garlic in two stages, we believe, added a depth of flavor that we really liked.

During the preparation, Cyn, as usual, made a few, "on the fly" adjustments. A little of the Better than Bullion No Chicken stock was used instead of salt to season the dish, extra carrots and onion were added, and a bit more water than originally called for, so the final dish had more of a soup consistency.  The soup was also cooked in the oven, since no one was home to babysit it and Cyn was too lazy to haul out the slow cooker.  (Cyn is writing this paragraph, so it's okay if Cyn calls herself lazy.  This third person thing is weirding me out.)  6 hours in a 250 degree oven in a tightly covered stockpot.


The finished plate, served with a whole grain french miche bread for dipping, was as delicious as it looks.

 **NOTE - If you're following the original recipe, please soak your dried beans overnight before proceeding with the recipe as written.  It seems that step was missing from the original.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pizza on the Grill? Why Not?

Pizza is probably the most personal of all foods. We all grew up with a particular "style" of pizza, and to a large degree that defines what we think of as pizza for the rest of our lives. For some, pizza was a treat that came out of your Mom's oven. For a lot of us, it came from the local, family run, pizza place. For many others, particularly where there is a less ethnic population, pizza came from the big national chains like Domino's or Papa John's. I've written on this topic before, about the pizza of my childhood, which we referred to as tomato pie.

All that having been said, I'd like to introduce you to a home made style of pizza that, if you take the time to do it once, may change your perception of what a really good pizza can, and should be. I'm fortunate enough to have worked for an Italian company at one point in my career. That allowed me to travel to Italy quite a few times and enjoy the true Italian style of pizza in several parts of that wonderful country. Although there are regional differences, one constant is the crust. Italian pizza, and I'm talking Neapolitan style here, has a thin and very crisp crust. It's cooked at very high temperatures which allow that crispiness to quickly develop.

We like to make our own pizza at home. It's a true comfort food for us. We make it year round and have tried a number of cooking methods to get as close to what we have experienced in Italy as we can. One method that works better than most, is to cook the pizza on a grill! We use a gas grill but I suspect this would work just as well with a charcoal grill.

So, how do you cook a pizza on a grill? It's easier than you think and it all starts with the dough.

Ingredients (dough)
  • 1 1/2 cups regular AP flour (we prefer King Arthur)
  • 1 1/2 cups high protein flour (bread machine flour) (King Arthur also)
  • 1 cup water w/ a tbsp sugar and a package of rapid rise yeast has been dissolved
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp EVOO

Ingredients (toppings)
  • 8 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • tomato sauce (we actually use Hunts plain to which we add garlic powder, marjoram, 1/2 tsp sugar and a pinch of powdered rosemary)
  • meat and vegetable toppings of your choice

Preparation
  • Place flours and salt in a food processor pulse 4-5 times to combine
  • With the blade running, add water mixture and olive oil. Process until a ball forms
  • Dump onto floured surface, knead until soft and smooth.
  • Place in bowl, cover with towel, allow to rise until double in size
  • When ready to use, punch down dough ball, divide into four pieces.
  • Roll each piece out to about 1/8 inch thick (it will take some practice to get it this thin)
 

NOTE: Preheat the grill for at least 30 minutes - get it as hot as you can.

  • Hand place the rolled out dough on the grill (this will take a little practice)

  
  • Cook the dough on the first side approximately 1 minute (this will vary according to your grill)
  • Turn the dough over and start putting the cheese on right away.


  • Spoon on the tomato sauce and spread it around in a thin layer with the back of the spoon.


















  • Add other toppings but note that this thin crust pizza will not support a lot of weight. We occasionally add thinly sliced mushrooms, pepperoni or sausage and peppers, but never in large amounts.

  • Turn the heat down to low (this is important to make sure the crust doesn't burn. Cook on the second side until the cheese melts and the sauce is hot.






  • Remove from the grill and cut and serve immediately! We finish ours with grated parmesan cheese, aleppo pepper flakes and fresh basil. 


This easy to make, grilled pizza is light, extremely fresh tasting and may completely change your view of what pizza can be. Enjoy!

JWsMadeWLuvMondays

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Are You Keen For Quinoa?

Hard to pronounce (it's keen-wa), this pseudo-cereal is not, as many believe, a grain. In fact, it is a crop grown mostly for its edible seeds. It is more related to beets, spinach and tumbleweeds than to a typical grass family grain.Quinoa is a highly nutritious, complete protein source, due to its balanced amino acids. It's high in dietary fiber and magnesium and is gluten free.

I'll admit that I was pretty unfamiliar with quinoa before I started my Meatless Monday quest back in November. Since then, I have been reading about it and have seen quite a few delicious recipes around the internet. When we talked about what to have for Meatless Monday dinner, Cyn suggested quinoa. She dove into her vast collection of cookbooks and found a recipe from one of our favorites, Mark Bittman's, The Food That Matters. Here is his recipe for Spicy Chipotle Quinoa with Corn and Black Beans. As always, Cyn put her personal touches on the dish. I'll note them in italics. The rest is from Mr. Bittman.

Ingredients
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano or 1 tsp dried
1/4 cup quinoa rinsed and drained
salt and black pepper
2 (or more) canned chipotle chilies, minced, with some of their adobe sauce
1 cup cooked or canned black beans drained
1/2 cup corn kernels, frozen is OK
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock, beer or water
lime wedges

Preparation
  • Put the oil in a large skillet over medium heat
  • When hot, add onion and garlic, cooking until onion is soft (about 5 mins)
  •  Add the chipotles and some of the adobo (this is pretty hot stuff, so use it carefully) and the oregano continuing to stir for about 1 minute
  • Increase heat to medium high, add the quinoa and the salt and pepper. Continue to cook stirring frequently, for 3-5 minutes
  • Add the beans, corn and stock and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Cover and lower the heat to low. Cook undisturbed for 15 minutes.
  • Uncover and test the quinoa for doneness. If still crunchy, make sure there is enough liquid to keep the bottom of the pan moist, recover and cook until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm with lime wedges.
  • Cynthia added the following to the plates dish - sliced green onion, sliced avocado, a dollop of sour cream and a bit more of the adobo sauce since we like the heat.
We loved the combination of hot and spicy and cool and refreshing. The quinoa was a revelation to me and I can assure you we will have it again soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Paying It Forward


First, I want to give credit where credit is due. A week or so ago, I saw this tweet: 

Rachel Stephens@rsteph211 {New Post} paying it forward to other

I clicked on the link and saw that Rachel had written a blog post featuring some of the other food bloggers that she admires and enjoys reading. I quickly realized that like Rachel, I have been influence by so many others in my oh so brief blogging career. I started typing these sometimes coherent ramblings back in early November 2011 and, although I know I've made progress in both form and function, I realize I will continue to learn much from those of you that are much more experienced. So, thanks Rachel for inspiring me to do the same -- highlight some of those that have helped me get from there to here.

  • Alecia at Mangia, Gioia writes that she comes from a Sicilian-Cuban family. I can't imagine a better mixed ethnicity for a foodie! Although I am not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, her recipes are interesting, and the food looks amazing . Here is one of my favorites Creamy Open Face Stuffed Peppers.
  • Anneli is a private chef living in Southwest France. Her blog covers a very broad spectrum of foods and always makes me want to try what she is cooking. This post about Patatas Bravas with Spicy Chorizo made me very hungry. 
  • Sivestro over at Silvestro's Salento is writing from southeast Italy. His posts focus on fresh local ingredients, and they are beautifully presented. On top of that, he runs a cooking school! So if you have ever thought of going to Italy to learn more about cooking, he may be your guy. Here is one my favorite posts from Silvestro. Warning: if you read this post, you might as well plan on booking your trip to Italy. Gli scampi: langoustines  
    • Melissa Clark is one of the big names in the food blogging world (yes, there are many others). I like reading her blog because it seems so personal -- like you're reading a note from someone you know well. Her blog, cleverly titled Melissa Clark - Food Writer, is well worth reading. She recently posted about spaghetti with garlic and chiles (and a few anchovies). In it she talks about garlic smuggled in from France and Calabrian Chilies. You want to know more, don't you?
    • Jen writes a blog called Three Little Piglets.  You gotta love that right? Maybe it was the name, maybe it was the pasta e fagioli post. Whatever it was, I try to read all her posts. Check her out.

    This is where I get in trouble because I'm going to call it quits here. I realize I've failed to mention a lot of bloggers that I read either regularly or occasionally. For that, I apologize. There are so many of you that are doing really great work out there and inspiring "rookies" like me to forge ahead.

    To all of you -- thanks and keep paying it forward.





    Tuesday, March 6, 2012

    Tacos for two, Meatless Monday style

    If you read this, you know that this past weekend was a kind of a meat-a-polooza. Heavy (but delicious) German food that featured schweinhaxen (braised ham hock) on top of a spicy sausage dressing. That was my main course on Saturday night. I have to be honest and admit the leftovers were pretty tasty on Sunday too. Good thing Meatless Monday arrived just in time.

    A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about tacos and making the tortillas at home. You can see that post here. What you can't see there is the funny little email I got from one of my coworkers who had read the post. She, who will remain nameless, is from California you see, said something along the lines of "nice tacos, but let me know when Cynthia masters corn tortillas and I might be interested". OK, it was probably worded a little nicer than that, but who can remember such things?

    My wife, never one to back down from a challenge, immediately ran out and picked up some masa (Maseca brand) and was just waiting for the right time to use it. Meatless Monday seemed to be the perfect opportunity. On top of that, it gave Cyn a chance to make something from her very favorite chef, Rick Bayless. Not only is he her favorite chef, but he is the owner/operator of what I think she would tell you without hesitation, is her favorite restaurant, Topolobampo in Chicago. And this from a woman who knows food and has been to a lot of really good restaurants.

    So, she set about to create her version of Chef Bayless's Tacos of Creamy Chard, Potatoes and Poblanos. The original recipe is designed for 16-18 soft tacos, but since there are but two of us, she cut the recipe in half. She also modified a few places based on our particular tastes. Here is Cynthia's version, adapted from the original Bayless recipe.

    Ingredients
    • 2 medium large fresh poblano peppers (about 6 oz)
    • 2 tsp vegetable or olive oil
    • 1/2 medium white onion sliced 1/4" thick
    • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
    • big pinch oregano, Mexican preferred
    • smaller pinch dried thyme
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 2 tbsp to 1/4 cup good dry sherry, or beer, or wine
    • 1 large red skin potatoes cut into 1/2" cubes
    • 1 nice bunch of swiss chard sliced into 1/2 inch ribbons, removing the thick center veins (save them!)

    • 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cream, sour cream or creme fraiche
    • about 1/2 tsp salt
    • (the original recipe also calls for queso fresco to be added, we eliminated it, choosing to use a little more creme fraiche instead)
    • 8-10 freshly made soft corn tortillas
    Preparation
    • Following the directions on the package, mix the masa with the appropriate amount of water until a slightly sticky dough forms. Allow the dough to set, covered with plastic wrap or a slightly damp towel, for about 30 minutes.
    Cynthia added the following touch which was not a part of the original recipe: 
    • Slice the chard stems into 1/4 inch pieces. In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar, 6 tbsp of sugar and 2 and a quarter tsp of kosher salt (pickling ratio thanks to David Chang). Bring to a boil, add sliced chard and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and set aside for later.
    • In a large saute pan, at least a 10 incher, over medium high heat add a tsp or so of oil and fry the potato cubes until crispy and brown on all sides, seasoning the potatoes when they first hit the pan. We used a nice salt blend from Penzeys called Smoky 4S Special Seasoned Salt. (Note, this is where we diverge from the original recipe quite a bit which calls for cooking the potatoes in a broth. We wanted the crunchy texture).
    • Roast the poblanos over an open flame or in a broiler turning them until until the skin is blistered and charred. Remove from the flame and cover in a bowl for about 5 minutes. Pull out the stem and seed pod, then rinse briefly to remove skin and seeds. Slice into 1/4 inch strips.
    • In a large skillet, add the oil and the onion. Cook until nicely brown but still a little crunchy. Add the chard in batches and cook down until fully soft, adding the 1/4 c water and the sherry. Add the garlic add spices, stir for about 1 minute then add the sliced poblanos. Add the cream and still until well mixed. Lower the heat to a low simmer and continue to stir occasionally. 

    • Form the dough into small balls about the size of a walnut (this is approximate and will take some trial and error) and press into flat rounds using a handy dandy tortilla press that you can probably pick up at any Latino supermarket for about $10. 
    • Cook in a DRY hot pan for about 30-45 seconds on the first side and 30 seconds on the other side (again, this will take some practice). Remove and cover with a slightly damp towel to keep warm.
    • Note from the cook: it's okay to use store bought tortillas. Unless you're slightly warped like me, you should not attempt making your own tortillas. It has taken two recipe attempts to get a yummy tortilla hot off the pan - it's not for the faint of heart. If you still want to try something special but don't want to commit to the bag o'limed corn (the masa) and a press, buy fresh corn tortillas and fry them yourself for tostadas (flat) or tacos (use two pairs of tongs to hold the shape you want while frying - it helps to be double jointed and an ex-gymnast).
    Assemble components in a tortilla to your taste. Fold up edges, and there is your taco!

    JWsMadeWLuvMondays

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Frozen in Time - Not that there's anything wrong with it....

    Our goal of attending one of the Northern Virginia Magazine Top 50 Restaurants the first Saturday of each month continued last night as we took the hour long ride to Fredericksburg, Virginia. Located in a charmingly reclaimed Amtrak train depot is The Bavarian Chef, where chef Chef Jerome Thalwitz attempt to transport you from this historic Civil War town to Germany. Cynthia and I agreed that it was an interesting departure from what many would call "modern" dining. It is likely there is no sous vide immersion unit nor canister of liquid nitrogen in this kitchen. The chef is probably not foaming asparagus essence or conjuring up desserts made from ingredients that probably shouldn't be there anyway. No, this is hearty, old world food, served in generous portions in an environment the feels authentic and by a staff that knows their stuff. Here are our individual thoughts.

    Al - First Impressions

    As a kid in Trenton, NJ, my parents occasionally took me to a German restaurant called the Old Heidelberg. I remember this being pretty exotic and very different from the typical pizzerias or Italian restaurants we went to more frequently. Dark wood, low light, big meat filled plates and lots of side dishes that, as a kid, I avoided. Except for the applesauce, I always ate the applesauce. I haven't been back to Trenton in a long time so I looked up the Old Heidelberg and it's gone. In many ways, I think I've rediscovered it in, of all places, Fredericksburg.
    The main entrance of the restaurant delivers you into a club-like bar space dominated by the two sets of beer taps which drew me like a bee to honey. There were about 8 bar seats and a few small tables so if you arrive early or want to linger after dinner, this looks to be a nice place to do it. More about the beer later.

     
    The restaurant has several rooms, divided in a way that each of them felt cozy. The room we were seating in had a fire going adding again to that "club" atmosphere. High ceilings, dark wood and muted light took me back to the Old Heidelberg. 

    Cyn - First Impressions
    As a kid in New Britain, Connecticut, my parents never took me to a German restaurant - my grandparents having been waylaid by the Germans on their exodus from the Ukraine and 'placed' in a concentration camp for a time - it must have been quite a wait as my mother was born there and was three when she arrived stateside.  It wasn't verbotten to dine Bavarian style or mention Germany, but it wasn't exactly encouraged either.  So my first German restaurant experience wasn't until mid high school, when I was invited to a party at the East Side Restaurant

    East Side, as I remember it, was a family run restaurant, as most were in my town.  In a residential neighborhood and frequented by regulars, from their website, it doesn't appear much has changed in the 25 years since I was last there.  This brings me to The Bavarian Chef, a restaurant clearly caught in the same time warp. 

    Al - First Course
    I knew the mains were going to be big, so my plan was to skip a first course and leave room for dessert. Then I saw the Hungarian Goulash Soup on the menu. Out went the plan and I knew I was in for a very full meal. Turns out it was a good choice. The soup was everything a good goulash should be; meaty, spicy, full of carrots, potatoes and onion and served piping hot - a simple but critical point a lot of restaurants miss when serving soup. I can honestly say this dish was excellent and I think they should bottle it and sell it in my local Wegmans. First course - home run. Cynthia's first course was a traditional German cucumber salad, which I tasted and liked a lot, but I'll let her say more about it.


    Let's not forget the beer. There were pilsners, lagers, dunkels, weiss beers and even a maibock, all German, on tap. There was also a decent selection of bottled German beers. I wanted to sample them all. I settled first on a Ettal Dunkel. In German, dunkel simply means dark. Dunkels are usually moderate in alcohol content and can be from a deep mahogany to coppery reddish in color. This particular brew paired perfectly with the goulash.

    Cyn - First Course
    Having perused the offerings, everything from pate to soup, I decided on a cucumber dill salad - which turned out to be delightfully refreshing, both creamy and sharp at the same time, with the perfect amount of bite left to the cukes and just enough enough dill to let you know it's there, but not enough to evoke a pickle memory.  The obligatory basket o'bread appeared before the apps, with a small crock of whipped butter.  Thin sliced rye with raisins (stale), a caraway clothed bread stick and a sweet roll reminiscent of a Parker House roll rounded out the offering.  Nothing exciting, but we're not here for excitement, we're here for tradition.

    The wine selections were heavy on sweeter whites in the Riesling family, a nice pour of Gewurztraminer for me, as I just adore saying the word.  Ever since David Rosengarten introduced it to me on one of his episode's of Taste ---this before chefs had to be pretty or mean, with nails, makeup and good hair. David is pretty fabulous, in my book, and was the epitome of a cool dude with palette to spare, back in the day.  But I digress.....

    Al -  Main Course
    The mains were very typically German. Lots of meat (pork, beef and a few chicken dishes). There were a number of specials and one in particular seemed completely appropriate. Schweinhaxen or ham hock is particularly popular in Bavaria. So,when in the Bavarian Chef restaurant, do as the Bavarian do! I didn't quite know what I was in for. What arrived at the table looked like enough food for several people (as it turns out, I ate about half and brought the rest home). Buried below a small mountain of string thin onion straws was a ham hock braised to a tender perfection. Think ribs where the meat pulls off the bone leaving it starkly clean. Same here. As good as that was, the very best part was under all of that. Partially hidden by the monstrous hock was a spicy sausage stuffing that I wanted to suck up with a straw.  



    Each main was accompanied by two sides from a list of about 10 choices all of which were served in unlimited portions. I picked spatezle and carrots. The spatezle, unfortunately, was dry and bland. It tasted as if it might have been under the heat lamps a little too long. The carrots were interestingly sweet, served mixed with what I thought were apples or parsnips (hard to tell) and in a kind of thickened sauce. We had two other sides, but I'll leave them to Cyn.

    (Cyn's two cents on the carrots:  here's what I think they did - opened a can of pears in heavy syrup and dumped it into a stock pot, added water and baby carrots from a bag, simmered until the pears all but dissolved and the baby carrots were tender.  The carrots had a really nice carrot-y flavor, but the sauce they were in was wayyy too sweet in a cloying sort of way.)

    With my main, I asked for a Hofbrau dunkel and was disappointed to find they were out of it. Having been to THE Hofbrau House in Munich, I had wanted to see if the export version was as good as the local beer there. Instead, I tried a Hofbrau maibock. Maibocks, are usually a springtime beers and are most typically served in May. I've had other maibocks before and found this one good but unremarkable. Should have stuck with the Ettal.

    Cyn - Main Course
    Jager Schnitzel.  Thin sliced veal, lightly breaded and fried, topped with a mushroom, bacon and cream sauce.  It was good, an over sized portion, tons of mushrooms and mushroom flavor, with such ultra 70's garnish, any self-respecting chef of today would blush.  A bi-colored dendrobium orchid to the left, a sprig of kale topped with a slice of cantaloupe (with rind) topped with a slice of beet with a hole in the center clearly made with a implement used solely for this purpose, into which a green olive from a jar (yes, you know the one) inserted into the middle, on the opposite side from the orchid.  I kid you not.  On top of the schnitzel - a slice of lemon with a piped topping of cream, sprinkled with paprika. Could I make this stuff up?  To be fair, the flavors were there and the food came out piping hot and served with a smile and a true wish for us to enjoy our meal.  But really, orchids, and beets and piped cream?  Oh my!


    Two sides were included with each meal, I chose the potato salad and the red cabbage, both of which were perfectly lovely.  The potatoes had a nice tooth to them, the hint of bacon and sugar in perfect balance with the vinegar.  They were garnished with chopped red pepper.  ?  The red cabbage was silky and again in perfect balance, sweet and sour.  Garnished with sliced green onion.  Again I say, ?.

    Al - The Bottom Line
    In the end, we skipped dessert. Our server brought over the dessert tray and explained the pretty broad array of options. As you can imagine, we were both pretty stuffed at this point and nothing on the tray screamed out as "must have" and "forget how full you'll feel after".

    So, what is my verdict? The good news for me is that The Bavarian Chef was everything it purported itself to be. It served traditional, authentic and reliably good food. I truly enjoyed the goulash, schweinhaxen and especially the sausage stuffing. The portions are beyond generous and if you consider that you will likely go home with enough food to put together another complete meal, the value is fair. The server was pleasant and took time to explain the menu items in detail (and she knew her stuff). The beer selection is good, even though I didn't particularly care for the maibock. However, it's not the kind of place I see myself going again unless I just have to have a big German meal. At the end of the meal I realized I had not been surprised once, nor had I been served anything very different from what I had experienced in other good German restaurants. Is that a bad thing? No, not at all. If you're looking for a good, traditional and authentic German meal. this may be your place. 

    Cyn - The Bottom Line
    Dessert.  They make everything in house.  There were at least five cheesecakes to choose from, sacher torte and apple strudel, carrot cake, black forest and some interesting sounding nut ball thing with coconut, nuts and ice cream.  I'm sure I'm missing a dessert or three.  Cheesecakes looked good, as did the other cakes.  Apple strudel was pretty sad looking, about an inch of pretty anemic looking pie crust with a dry apple filling.  Nut thing was clearly a ball of shortening with aforementioned inclusions mixed in - not a pretty sight on the tray.  Had we not seen the dessert tray, we definitely would have ordered the strudel or the torte.  


    Overall, if you're looking to go back to 1974, this is your place.  The food is good, the service friendly and welcoming, the beer cold.  Would I go back?  No, I've already been, thank you.  But if you haven't been, and aren't on a diet, get thee to the Bavarian Chef.  


    The Bavarian Chef on Urbanspoon

    Thursday, March 1, 2012

    Two days and counting down......

     
    I don't write about craft beer often enough even though I really do love it. I love it the way a wine lover loves wine. I particularly love the right beer paired with the right food. So, it is hard for me when, once each year, I pick out a thirty day period on the calendar in which I don't drink beer. It's not for religious reasons. It's not particularly related to my health, although I usually drop a pound or three in that thirty days. It's simply an exercise in self discipline. I do it because I can.

    Well, my thirty days for this year are almost over. In fact, as I write this, there are two days left. This Saturday, March 3rd, I will officially "release" myself from the commitment I made when I returned from Amsterdam. Now, before you get the wrong idea, I don't really drink what I would consider a lot of beer. In a typical week, I might consume 4-8 beers and almost never more than two at a sitting.

    I wrote in an earlier post that I think we are living in the Golden Age of beer. This is because of the craft brewers, the much improved distribution system for these craft beers and the internet. Today, anyone interested in beer beyond what the big national brewers make, can easily educate themselves about what else is out there. There are sites like Beer Advocate that provide a wealth of information to those wanting to know more. Then there is this, which my wife bought me for Christmas. Warning, beer geeks only need apply.