Friday, April 29, 2011

Sierra Nevada – Looking for a home on the East Coast

It appears that Sierra Nevada Brewing is looking to open a facility on the East Coast.

Call me crazy, but it also seems to me that Howard County, MD is a great (and centrally located) potential home for them. What with employees wanting quality of life and all. And let's not miss the fact that they are the number two craft brewery in terms of production. And we're the second best place to live. Let's be second together!

Somebody, anybody, please make this happen!

And consider this me applying for a marketing position at the new location…

Glissade – American for Beer

I picked up a six-pack of Sierra Nevada’s spring beer, Glissade last week. If there is one word I would use to describe Glissade, it would be basic. But that’s not a bad thing. It tastes like BEER. It’s has a perfect balance of hops and malt, just the right level of carbonation, a straw color, etc.

Remember that first illicit sip of beer you snuck on a summers day years ago? That strange flavor that was intriguing yet foreign? That’s Glissade. This is what I imagine the once great American beers tasted like before prohibition, before rice, before “Tastes great – less filling.”

I come from a family of non-drinkers. Maybe that explains my fascination (obsession?) with beer, wine, and spirits. However, in the summer, my father enjoyed a beer after he mowed the lawn. He always bought Michelob (in that strange shaped bottle).  Once he let me try a sip.

So crack open a Glissade, pour it into a glass, and close your eyes. And then maybe listen to some John Cougar Mellencamp.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stink Bugs Pt 2

Give me a W! Give me a T! Give me an F! What do you get? Stink Bugs!
That’s right kids, we hit 80 degrees today, so along with creating a hankering for a Fever Tree gin & tonic, I’ve also seen the return of the stink bugs.

In the fall, I regaled you with stories of my great stink bug battles. So far, we only have a few of them on the screened-in deck. I’m sure they will be having a massive party pretty soon. Now to figure out if these guys over-wintered on the deck or if they are still finding a way in. Looks like I will be spending next weekend doing further foam and caulk sealing of the deck. Good times.

Oh about that Fever Tree G&T

Oh, and here is an article from the Post about building DIY stink bug traps.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Mario Batali Veal Ravioli

Thursday. I want a decent meal, but the girls are restless and we’re running late as is. Luckily, Mrs. P90 picked up a package of Mario Batali veal ravioli and Cherry Tomato Marinara at BJ’s. We boiled some water, toasted some bread, and opened a bottle of wine. Voila – decent dinner in 20 minutes!

So, about the raviolis. They’re great. The pasta is firm. The filling is rich and delicate at the same time. And we only had one of those ravioli sacrifices (that is all too prevalent with home-cooked ravioli) where the pasta rips and water manages to break in and remove all of the filling. The ingredient list is refreshing as well - a blend of braised veal, fresh celery, onion, carrot, garlic, olive oil and red wine.

Given Mario’s stance on factory farming and his recent blog post for the Nature Conservancy, I was a little shocked to see that the veal in the ingredient listing doesn’t mention anything about being organic, free-range, grass-fed, etc. But baby steps (get it, veal, baby cow).

The P90 family is doing our best to get locally-produced and humanely/environmentally-raised food stuffs. I’m guessing these don’t fit that bill as well as we would like. But they are good. And they certainly work on a rushed weeknight.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Our first house had a giant patch of mint that flourished from April – November. It was great for a few things. Tea was one of them. But better than that, were Mojitos and Mint Juleps.

When we moved into our current house, we immediately planted mint (along with many other herbs). I noticed last night that the mint is already growing pretty strong. And since there were limes in the fruit basket and it was 80+ degrees, tonight was a Mojito night!

  1. Start by cutting a lime into smallish pieces (I usually cut into eight equal pieces).
  2. Add half of the limes, a few sprigs of mint, and a pinch of sugar to a highball glass and muddle (i.e. smash it all up in the bottom of the glass).
  3. Add:
    1. 1/2 oz. Simple Syrup (see below)*
    2. 2 oz. White Rum
  4. Stir the mixture around a little, add lots of ice, and top off with club soda to taste.
  5. Garnish with a slice of lime and a sprig of mint.
  6. Enjoy.
Mint Simple Syrup – Combine and cup of sugar and a cup of water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and toss in a few sprigs of mint. Allow to cool.

*Traditional mojito recipes call for all sugar rather than simple syrup. I started doing the simple syrup version when making mojitos for groups, and I haven't looked back. The sugar makes a difference in breaking down the mint and lime, so that's why I add the pinch.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Legen(waitforit)Dairy! Pt. 1

The weather is warm. It's staying light later at night. It's time for ice cream! Or more accurately, soft serve or frozen custard. Of all the HoCo soft serve options, I prefer Soft Stuff in Ellicott City. It might be that I've been going there since I was in high school. Maybe it's the anticipation that builds as you stand in the long line on their deck on a hot and humid Maryland summer night. I can't answer this. I can say that I LOVE a regular sized swirl cone with sprinkles! And for some odd reason, I only get sprinkles at Soft Stuff.

These days, we make it to Soft Stuff maybe 2-3 times per summer. The Rita's at the KC Village Center is (for better or for worse) our go to soft serve place. The ice cream is my least favorite, but they are walking distance from my house so I at least burn a few of the extra calories getting to and from... And the girls love Rita's. And the kiddie serving is big enough that we can get an spare cup and they can split it.

And last year, Meadows came onto the scene at the Hickory Ridge Village Center. We didn't make it there often, but the few times I was there, I loved it. 1. They frequently had coconut custard (I'm crazy for anything coconut). 2. They have an espresso machine - custard afogato - yum!

I certainly prefer Meadows to Rita's. But I'm glad it's not in my neighborhood. If so, I'd be pretty fat(ter). It would be like if In-N-Out Burger came to the East Coast. Things would get ugly quick.

And that's my 1-2-3 of HoCo soft serve. hocofood@@@

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Facci, again

The P90 family and in-laws went to Facci last night. As always, it was great experience (or as good as an experience can be when dining out with small children).  The food and service were great (and you can’t beat the whole half-price appetizers from 3:00-7:00 deal).

We got their early (5:00ish) because the kids demand to eat early and start to meltdown by 7:00. We tried to get a table outside but they said they were not seating outside. Oddly, 30 minutes in to our meal we noticed lots of people being seated outside. Who knows? It’s not worth losing sleep over. The girls behaved (for the most part) during dinner and we only had to take one “walk.” Two of my favorite things about Facci - 1. They are very accommodating to families, and 2. There is a Dunkin Donuts a few doors down where I can take the girls, buy a few munchkins, and buy an additional 20-30 minutes of good behavior (a lifetime for a 2 and 4 year-old).

I love the way the half-price appetizers encourage an Italian take on tapas. With seven adults, we split four or five appetizers and get to experience many great flavors. My favorites continue to be the meatballs, shrimp gondola, and the calamari (always crispy and light, never greasy).

For pizzas, the Bianca Neve (white pizza / ricotta / fresh mozzarella / fresh tomatoes /
arugula / prosciutto / shaved Parmigiano), Savarese (our margherita with housemade mini-meatballs / smoked mozzarella / caramelized onions / pine nuts / gorgonzola), and Campagna (baked egg / gorgonzola cheese / fresh mozzarella /imported pancetta) are out of this world. On a side note, the egg on the Campagna has changed the way I do pizza at home.

For entrees, the Pappardelle Bolognese is really good and the girls (and me) are crazy for the Gnocchi Sorrentina. I haven’t yet made it to the chicken, veal, or seafood sections of the menu.

If I were to change anything about Facci, I’d mix up the beers that are available on tap. At this point, I’m done with Stella and about done with Sam Adams.

Also, the expansion should be complete by the end of May.


Friday, April 15, 2011

(Fuzz) Face the Truth

Tonefactor Huckleberry V1
Tonefactor / Mojo Hand Hucklerberry Review

Fuzz! You know, that hairy, gnarly, creamy, magic goodness that a few transistors, resistors, and capacitors can slather all over your guitar signal? I love that fuzz! I’ve spent the last few years seeking out the perfect fuzz pedal and I’ve played a lot of them. But for close to nine months now, my go to fuzz has been the Tonefactor Huckleberry. From what I’ve been able to dig up, the Huckleberry is a Fuzz Face circuit with the addition of a Big Muff tone stack. It’s also a hybrid fuzz – meaning it uses one germanium and one silicon transistor. What this all adds up to is a versatile little fuzz that can cover a lot of ground.

I’m playing mainly a mix of humbuckers and P90s these days so keep that in mind while you read my descriptions. Although, because I play mostly Reverends, I have the bass contour control which allows me to roll off some bass and make my humbuckers a little more fuzz-friendly.

The Huckleberry is my go to fuzz for live use now. It’s the first thing in my chain. I tried it before and after my (buffered) Hot Cake and it certainly sounds best with an un-buffered connection. Coming after the buffer, it sounded thinner and didn’t respond nearly as well to rolling off the guitars volume. That said, the sound coming after the buffer could be great for recording. That’s just my reminder that you shouldn’t be afraid to try your pedals in different (unorthodox) orders.

Back to live use, the Huckleberry cuts through amazingly well (something not every fuzz can do). No, it doesn’t sound exactly like a fuzz face, a muff, or a tone bender. But it can get pretty damn close to those first two. And the folks that come to see my band, aren’t the type to say “he totally should have used a Mk II Tonebender for that part!”

So try a Huckleberry. Tonefactor offers a great return policy, but my guess is you won’t be using it. For $150, you simply can’t go wrong.

For more fuzz reading, RG Keen has a great article on the Technology of the Fuzz Face. If you are into fuzz, you should check it out. It’s pretty technical, but should help to understand how such a simple circuit is so magical. Tonefactor Huckleberry review

Ten Songs for a Sunroof Day

It’s nice out. And while risking life (well sneezing and itchy eyes) I drove to work with the sunroof open. And while my commute is generally only three songs long, here are ten songs that are great for a sunroof day. What are you listening to as you drive around with the windows down?
  1. Here Comes the Sun Again – M. Ward
  2. Asleep on a Sunbeam – Belle and Sebastian
  3. He’s Gone – the Grateful Dead
  4. Walcott – Vampire Weekend
  5. Don’t Look Back – She & Him
  6. Take it Easy – Jackson Browne (far superior to the Eagles version, but the P90 family has a pretty low threshold for Don Henley tolerance)
  7. Mr. E’s Beautiful Blues – Eels (just ignore the irony in the song)
  8. Sausalito – Conor Oberst
  9. Blue Sky – The Allman Brothers
  10. Texarkana – REM
What do you like to listen on a day like today? 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fare (not so well) Michael's Pub Pt. II

A few weeks ago, I discussed why I will not miss Michael's Pub. I also covered what I'm looking for in a new tenant/s.

Now I'm getting more specific. There seems to be some speculation that Kimco already has another tenant lined up and that's why they were unwilling to let Michael's downsize. Time will tell. If that's not the case, it seems like they will need to sub-divide the space.

I also read earlier this week that Mother's is looking for a HoCo location. I'd be ok with that.

Other "dream restaurants" include:
  1. Lebanese Taverna
  2. Dogfish Ale House
  3. An actual brew pub
  4. A sushi place
What would you like to see in the space once occupied by Michael's?


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cell(ar) Outs

I think I’ve posted before about how my beer tastes have changed over the years from dark and malty to pale and hoppy. Well, the same thing that happens every year has happened again. Warmer weather is rolling around and I still have a stock of dark, high ABV beers that seemed like a good idea when I bought them.

Luckily, Draft Magazine has come to my rescue with article on cellaring beer. Read away. So, rather than binge on dark beers, it looks like I’m clearing out a space in a basement corner to let these bottles age gracefully.

And as Poison once said “…lock the cellar door and baby, talk dirty to me.” You can sing the riff to yourself.

And yes, as a nine year-old, I really liked this song.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The More the Merriweather

So, I'm not really digging the Merriweather schedule so far. It's cool that Decemberists and Mumford & Sons are coming. But I've seen Decemberists so many times already (and can't risk hearing the Mariner's Revenge Song ever again). Hint: the Mariner's revenge was that he willed Decemberists to write a horrible horrible grating song and then close every show with it... As for Mumford, I think the album only has about three solid songs.

And I’m totally bummed that the Bright Eyes/M. Ward show is going to Wolf Trap instead of Merriweather. It’s not that I don’t like Wolf Trap. I love it. How can you go wrong with a concert where you bring your own picnic and beer/wine. And where you barter with your neighbors to trade beer for brownies? But I HATE Northern Virginia.  I hate it during the week and I hate it on the weekend. I hate it in the rain, I hate it on a plane. I hate it in a boat, I hate it with a goat.

You get my drift. In fact, I’ve long held that the state slogan accidentally replaced an “s” with a “v.” We all know what they meant to say was Virginia is for Losers.

But rather than sit here and complain about NoVa, I’ll make a list of shows I’d like IMP to pull together for Merriweather for this summer.
  1. Wilco – They will have a new album out and I’ve seen some good Wilco shows at Merriweather. They’ll have a new album out.
  2. My Morning Jacket – Two years in a row? I hope so! They will also have a new album to support and seeing them at Merriweather last summer was one of my music highlights of the year.
  3. Band of Horses with Jayhawks. Yes. These two. Together. They recently played together in the Atlanta area. And aside from me having a hard time coming to terms with Jayhawks opening for BoH, it would be a great pairing. And listening to them in the open air seems like a great idea.
  4. Black Keys – I think they are big enough to play Merriweather. If Mumford & Sons can headline, it seems reasonable for Black Keys. Black Keys seem to always play short sets. Maybe combining them with Iron & Wine (full band version) would work. It would certainly be a cool package.
  5. Ryan Adams – The king of the train wreck! So he quit music a few year ago to be a “writer.” He’s back!? And playing shows in Europe. I’ve seen him 10+ times. You never know who will show up. He might play for four hours and blow your mind with a blistering set of country/rock with Stones and Gram Parsons covers thrown in. He might have the 9:30 Club setup folding and play Madonna songs on a turntable. He might have a nervous breakdown in the middle of the Meyerhoff, leave the stage for an hour and fifteen minutes and then return and stand on a stool in the middle of the auditorium playing acoustic guitar that only the first five rings of people around him can hear. He might play the same songs three times in a row. He might spend 15 minutes of an hour long set rambling about restaurants needing serve eggs after 10 am, and then play four or five Grateful Dead songs. It doesn’t matter. It will be entertaining. You’ll either have your mind blown, think he’ll be dead in two months, or want to punch him. At least you’ll have an experience.
I have not yet given much thought to who the opening acts should be, but I would enjoy Henry Clay People, the Head and the Heart, and Smith Westerns with any of these bands. hocoblogs@@@

My Band is Playing at Second Chance Saloon

While it's not the point of this blog, it's seems crazy not to use it to advertise my band's upcoming show at the Second Chance Saloon in Columbia, MD on Friday, April 8th at 9:30 PM. Right?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dogfish Head Weekend of Compelling Ales and Whatnot Pt. 2

Sam - talking about the old days
So, back to those “special tour tickets” I mentioned in my previous post. The Mrs. and I showed up at the Dogfish Head Brewery a little before 10:00 for our 10:30 tour. And going in the door just in front of us was none other than Sam Calagione (Dogfish Head President and Founder)! A few minutes later as we were gathered and getting protective glasses for our tour, it is announced that Sam is our tour guide.

We’d been on the standard DFH brewery tour a few months ago and were bummed to only see a small fraction of the facility. That was not the case this time, we spent an hour and a half with Sam leading us through the facility and talking (quite frankly at times) about the start of the operation, up through the filming of Brew Masters, and plans for the future of the brewery.

so much beer...
Sam discussed the recent decision by Dogfish to pull out of some markets in order to get more beer into some of their closer territories. He touched briefly on the experience of filming Brew Masters but did not address the angle pushed by Anthony Bourdain that Discovery nixed Brew Masters because of threats from “corporate beer.”

Growler of Black & Red
Sam also re-stated the old, "we don't want to be the 60 Minute or Shelter Brewery. We want to be known for all of our beers." And while I'm not a huge fan of some of the Ancient Ales, I think it's great that they are trying new things. I was super excited to hear Sam talk more about Hellhound on My Ale - the beer they are doing with Sony Legacy for the 100th anniversary of the birth of Robert Johnson. I don't want to scoop them on the details, so I'll hold off on details. I will say that the beer is bottled and ready for an "early May release." And I can't wait to try it...

Sam showing off the "Dr. Octagon" hydraulic keg lifter
Most exciting for me, Sam announced that they will be expanding the Rehoboth Beach Brew Pub next year, adding open fermenters, and moving the distillery to an offsite location. It sounds as though they will be using the open fermenters to do more sours and Begian-style beers. He added that they will be adding a new bottling line that will focus entirely on large format (750 ml) bottles. This will save them from having to convert the line when they switch from 12 oz. to 750 ml bottles (a process which stops the line for 3-4 hours). Thanks to the new line, we should start to see more beers in large format.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Dogfish Head Weekend of Compelling Ales and Whatnot Pt. 1

Sierra/Dogfish Life & Limb
Over the weekend, the P90 family made the trip out to Delaware for Dogfish Head’s Weekend of Compelling Ales and Whatnot (WoCAaW). Somehow, Mrs. P90 was on the Facebooks when Dogfish announced the special tours (more on that later) and managed to score two tickets.

If you are not familiar with WoCAaW, it’s Dogfish’s annual celebration of all things beer and a thank you to the folks who spread the good word about Dogfish. Interesting tidbit I picked up over the weekend – Dogfish does very little traditional marketing and relies mostly on word of mouth and events (think pint nights) to spread the word.

So back to the festivities. Day one of WoCAaw took place at the Dogfish Rehoboth Beach Brew Pub and focused on some special Randall concoctions and limited release beers. I’ve included a picture of the menu below.  The wife, girls, and I headed over the pub around 4:00. It was packed, but we only had to wait about 15 minutes for a table. We got what we now call the "kids table." It’s the furthest back in the room near the stairs and kitchen. We've been placed there the last few times (with kids in tow). My guess is they put people with kids there to keep them out of the way. I’d probably do the same thing.
WoCAaW Menu
We started off with the 90 Minute IPA pulled through the hop randall and the Dogfish/Three Floyds Poppaskull (Belgian Strong Ale brewed with cardamom and aged in brandy barrels). Both were delicious. Not sure how I went so long without having a beer through the randall, but the hop aroma is amazing!

Next, we had my most highly anticipated item of the weekend – Burton Baton pulled through a randall stuffed with hops, oak chips, and vanilla beans. Words can’t describe the aroma of this drink. It was nothing short of amazing. We also had the Dogfish Sierra Life & Limb from cask. Being the product of two of my favorite breweries, I want to love the Life & Limb. It’s too sweet for me though.

Burton Baton Randall
As for the food, we were pleasantly surprised. We’ve been let down by the food at Dogfish on our last few trips, but this time it was pretty good. Mrs. had the veggie burger and I had the indulgence burger (topped with cheddar, bacon, and an onion ring). We’d get either again.

And because the girls behaved through dinner and allowed us to indulge in and enjoy our adult beverages, we finished the evening off at the Blue Scoop opening day. Beer. Ice Cream. Yum.