Procuring proper pint glasses

Seriously, where does one do this?

I find it a little odd that I want a few more, because I’ve always derided having specialty dining ware in favor of “do-it-all” items. I still have no desire to own silver flatware that requires special care or polishing, nor do I really want special fancy plates that require extra care or caution. But who knows? That could change. Because I’ve gone from laughing at having separate red and white wine glasses to contemplating getting some of my own, and I’ve already picked up a set of Glencairn glasses just for kicks.

Of course, some of this simply comes down to me liking glass that’s in cool and different shapes. The geometry and form of it just fascinates me. But the reason I want a proper, British style pint glass is because I spent three years stationed in the U.K. when I was in the Air Force and I’ve already got two that I stole liberated from pubs there. There’s nothing wrong with the American style pint glass, really. It’s just as manly, stacks just as well, and honestly it’s more versatile due to being an even simpler design. But I’ve got two “proper” pint glasses complete with the etched official crown pint seal, and I’d really like to have at least four more in case one breaks. Especially since the UK gov’t is such a bunch of ninnies that there’s serious talk of banning the traditional pint glass in favor of plastic shatter-proof designs that can’t be used as weapons. Because the rim of the glass can’t be used as an impact device, apparently… /snark.

Update: I found them while writing this post! Apparently the traditional ridged glass (I always thought is was more of a bulge than a ridge, but whatever) is known as a Nonic glass. I’m going to order several before they’re no longer available.

Fat Head, Fat Sick, and The Paleo Diet

Well here’s a post I’ve put off for over a week. It started with watching the documentary Fat Head, which is a fantastic counter-point to Super Size Me. From there? Well…

At this point I need to stress that I am not a nutritionist, physician, or personal trainer. Most of my medical knowledge comes from watching House, M.D. I’m just a guy that has experimented with his diet and discovered what works for me. If I actually do it. My blog = my opinions.

So, if you haven’t seen Super Size Me, let me just say that it is worth seeing. I question Morgan Spurlock a little bit because at the end he goes back to eating meals made by his “vegan chef” girlfriend and I fail to see how somebody can arrange lawn trimmings in enough variety of ways to earn the title “chef”, but whatever… Having seen Food, Inc. before hand wouldn’t be bad either, but neither movie are really pre-requisites for getting good info out of Fat Head.

See, what makes Fat Head so good is that it approaches the fast food topic with a far more realistic approach than Spurlock did, is far more transparent, actually explains how our body processes different foods and things like insulin response, gives historical and educational information, and it’s entertaining. That’s five reasons it’s a good flick, and only two of them relate to Super Size Me. I really do recommend it pretty highly. And this gist of it is this: at the end of 30 days of eating only fast food, Tom Naughton actually lost weight and he didn’t have to order a bunch of salads to do it. He did it by limiting his sugar and carbohydrate intake, and going on walks.

Let me repeat: his exercise was as simple as walking. You know, that thing we all started doing around a year old but gave up on once we got our driver’s license.

Initially I was just going to post up a review of this and call it good, but I enjoyed it so much I went on to watch Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. (Both of these are available for streaming on Netflix as I write this.) I’ll sum this one up a little bit better, since it’s not quite as worth watching. The filmmaker begins as overweight, but also sick enough that he’s on constant medication. Steroids and stuff, due to autoimmune issues. So he begins a juice fast, and sticks with it for 60 days. Nothing but fresh fruits and veggies, and he juices them because trying to eat the sheer amount of produce he consumes through juice would very likely be impossible otherwise. (All the fruit and veggies cure his malady, by the way.)

I have to critique Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead a little bit though. It’s not a bad movie, so much as… well… After the educational material presented in Fat Head, Joe Cross’s attempt here is a bit simplistic. He only talks about “micronutrients” vs. “macronutrients” (defines them incorrectly while he’s at it), and it strikes me as a bit silly to think that the only we can get real nutrition is by juicing produce. Don’t misunderstand, I think its a fantastic practice and I’ve ordered a Vitamix for myself. But he glossed over some important aspects of his diet/experiment.

Joe Cross should absolutely be commended for upping his fresh fruit/veggie intake, and it’s something I think is sorely lacking from most American diets. The reason I want to buy land and a homestead is so I can grow fresh produce myself, and the health benefits are irrefutable. But Joe missed two things in his flick. First, I don’t believe his diet provided enough protein and that’s why the other fella in the movie that starts juicing loses 200 pounds but never really begins to look very fit. I think the modified food pyramid graph they show is still unbalanced. But second, what they never mention is that juicing also cut out cereal grains. He was so focused on eating whole foods that weren’t processed (which is ideal), that they never talked about how heavily processed “healthy” grains are.

Which leads me (almost) finally to The Paleo Diet. I bought the book and I’ll tell you right now not to bother. It’s good information, and it absolutely works for me and is an easy diet to adopt for life. I am 100% a believer, but you can just Google the info you want rather than spend ten bucks on a book that is repetitive, not fun to read, and all the info is available for free online. Better to buy a Paleo cookbook, if you want.

The evolutionary perspective of what mankind as an organism is suited/designed to eat will likely be a source of consternation to Creationists, as I’ve outlined I am, but the science behind the book and the effect modern agriculture and cereal grains have on us today is pretty compelling. Especially in light of how much more processed our foods are these days and how sedentary Americans have become at “work”. It’s like a trifecta for diabetes, obesity, and any other number of physical ailments.

Side note- you know why red meat is so “bad” for you? Because we’ve altered the cows’ feeding to make ’em fattier for marbling, and started shoving cereal grains (most notably corn, which I avoid like the plague) into ’em, which in turn has altered their fat balance to Omega-6 away from Omega-3 found in free range cows allowed to graze naturally. The same stuff that makes us fat (carbs and insulin response weirdness) makes the cows fat, and their fat stores all the lectins and becomes “bad fat” as opposed to “good fat”.

I hate to jump on a hippie bandwagon about whole and organic foods, but what we’re eating (combined with a lack of exercise) is killing us.

Now, I refuse to believe God gave me incisors so I could rend the flesh of artichokes from their leaves (although that is an awful handy use for ’em). And soy ain’t as great as vegans wish it was (there’s good reason your average male vegan usually seems kind of feminine)… It’s a legume anyway, which Paleo rules out. But I’m getting distracted and digressing.

So here are my two real points and/or conclusions:

  1. In the absence of physical exercise, cereal grains, starches and similar carbohydrates are actually quite harmful and should be avoided.
  2. Physical exercise improves insulin response, so if we’re not cutting carbs we’d better be working out.

I’ll be the first to admit that Paleo is a little more strict than I’d care to be, and I don’t follow it with religious devotion. But the Primal Diet is pretty close and even easier to stick with (dairy is still allowed, for example). Plus, if you follow that link to Mark’s Daily Apple you’ll find lots of exercise ideas (no gym needed) and recipes that actually taste good.

For all that reading, viewing and educating myself I’ve done, in the end I’m going Primal. There’s a great big world out there, and I plan on living long and healthy enough for Caveman Eric to conquer a whole lot more of it.

Real food

While I’ve still got motorcycles on the brain (I found a cool old ’73 Triumph I’d like to buy if I can sell the KLR), a change of pace felt really needed here. So it’s been quiet while I’ve not known what to write about and then last night it hit me: real and tasty food.

Blog followers will recall my review of Food, Inc. not long ago. I’ve also been reading (and only partially adhering to) The Paleo Diet. I’ve been enjoying going Paleo for the most part and really do feel better than when I eat cereal grains. But at other times it can be very difficult to kick the refined sugars and salts that’s in so much of our food today. Let’s face it: that stuff is tasty! Well last night I found the solution I needed to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Previously, I’ve been using frozen fruits and berries (thawed, of course) thrown into some plain Greek yoghurt. (I spell it that way because then it’s manlier and has “hurt” in it’s name.) But it’s still been pretty bland. The fruit just hasn’t tasted… fruity enough. The frozen peaches were so tasteless I thought I should add honey. The problem according to Jack Spirko on an episode of the Survival Podcast is that modern produce from a supermarket is so overproduced and overwatered that it actually begins to be watered down in flavor. He contends that a big, juicy blueberry is far less flavorful than a smaller blueberry grown in the wild. After trying some organic strawberries I bought at a farmer’s market, I think he may be right.

They were so sweet and delicious! No added sugars, and they’re perfectly sweet enough to offset the tart flavor from the yoghurt. So now I’ve got a delicious snack that replaces ice cream or other sugar-heavy treats and I get fiber (avoiding grains this is what everyone brings up) and an outstanding amount of protein.

It’s hard going back to the Paleo Diet, I won’t lie. When I hurt my foot two years ago I fell off the wagon of regular exercise, but I’d made so much progress working out that I thought I could afford to cheat a little bit in my diet. Pretty soon the “cheats” became my regular diet, and I’m 50 pounds heavier than I’d like to be. This is not ok, but I’m hooked on eating junk again. Finding organic fruits that taste so much better than the frozen stuff in the local grocery megastore is just what I needed.

I love salt, and in order to drop it I have to use lots of salsa and other spices/herbs to “sex up” what would be an otherwise plain meal- but every time I find that perfect replacement that’s both healthier and tastier, getting back into the swing of things and eating right becomes that much easier.

The best part is that I find the vegetables and protein (lean meats and nuts/seeds) are much more filling and satisfying longer. It negates the “it’s more expensive” argument because I eat less now.

Now, it’s a little early to start proclaiming my triumphant return to eating Paleo but it’s never too soon to make one’s declarations public and invite a little public pressure to help maintain them. Right now my only specific goal is get back down to 200 lbs. (with 180 the goal after that) and back in to pants with a waist no greater than 34″. And the more reading I do, the more convinced I am that real food is the key.

And it doesn’t hurt that it tastes better.

I don’t know the dietary or physical goals of my readership, but I strongly encourage you all to seek out a local farmer’s market. It’s likely only a Google search away. And yeah, they’ve got a dirty hippie vibe a lot of the time that kept me away for years. Birkenstock-wearing granola munchers just make my skin crawl. But if you remember you’re there for Paleo reasons and they were hunter-gatherers, just go in there with a warrior mindset ready to pillage the weaker soy fans like the viking/valkyrie you can be. It’s worth it in the end.

Now if you’ll pardon me, I’ve gotten myself all psyched up while writing this and I’m gonna go find something to do pull-ups on.

Food, Inc. – Missing the Mark

I’m watching the documentary Food, Inc. and for the most part I think it’s something more people need to be aware of. It’s just frustrating at times.

Around 40 minutes into the movie a Hispanic family is featured that buys most of their meals (we’re led to believe) from fast food drive thru dollar menus. This whole sequence is incredibly maddening, but not for the reasons I think the film producers intended. The matriarch of the family says something incredibly stupid when she claims she used to think all the food was healthy. What kind of moron ever truly believed fast food was healthy?!?! Then they’re shown shopping in the produce section of a grocery store and the father says, “Look at the price of the broccoli. It’s too ‘spensive, mang.” And the film goes on to talk about the statistic of low income levels being linked to obesity, claiming it’s because these foods are cheaper due to being heavily subsidized.

I don’t doubt obesity and low income levels share a link, but I’ll argue that the cases/rates where the correlation is greatest, you’ll also find these people aren’t very intelligent.

Sounds harsh, I know, but you have to be an idiot to really believe eating from a dollar menu will save you any money, and here’s why:

  • Do the math. I spend an average of $40 a week on grocery shopping if I don’t buy any treats like the occasional beer, etc. Now let’s factor the dollar menu diet being $3 each meal (sandwich, fries and drink), three times a day ($9), and for argument’s sake seven days a week. That’s $63 a week, or 1.5 times more expensive to eat garbage than I spend on fresh produce, eggs, etc.
  • They have no concept of food quantity. The father complains about broccoli being priced at $1.29 per pound. The daughters weigh a pound of produce and complain they’ll only get three of the item…. How much does a small, $0.99 hamburger weigh? How much does a Hungry Man frozen dinner that proudly advertises itself as being a whopping “1 pound of food!” cost? These idiots are being exploited by the filmmakers because they have no clue how much food they’re really getting.

I believe in the point of the film, that we should be eating healthier and more “real” foods. But when it’s so blatantly exploitive with ominous music in meat packing plants and making a family look like victims of anything other than their own lack of critical thought…? I wish the movie hadn’t taken that turn, because it becomes harder to take seriously. I resent the obvious attempt at manipulation.

From time to time the movie comes back to making valid points about the consequences of manufactured food. The parts on the over-production of corn and how it’s synthesized was fascinating. This is the stuff that the movie really should have focused on a little bit more, because the synthetic and manufactured foods are what really affects, and I believe eventually afflicts, the population at large. Complaining about “corporations” and other liberal hippie scare words that hate business and capitalism only drives off the very audience they should be trying to reach. Real, nutritious food is an issue that should transcend the “Occupy” liberal’s frame of mind.

However, there’s a section of film roughly between the 45-50 minute marks with a chicken farmer. Heck, maybe he’s just a farmer, period. I think every American should see more stuff like this, because he begins to do a much better job at outlining the problems and falsehoods in mass produced foods.

Unfortunately, around 55 minutes in the movie just takes another political swing to show illegal aliens as being the victims of the evil corporate fat cats. This is where they lose me again and why I’m typing this up. Because I’m a bad person and I don’t care about these people. I really don’t. Altruism is for suckers, and I’m a big fan of capitalism. I don’t agree with unchecked profit-at-all-costs and harming people to turn a buck, but the movie (and Occupy zombies) don’t ever really clarify and just blast “big business” at any chance. They come off as saying mega-corporations are inherently evil and harmful to people, and I simply disagree and would like to be making that kind of money. I’m a mercenary. I am reward-driven. And Starbucks is a major corporation that treats employees well. This movie needs to get off the “corporate = evil” bandwagon if they want me to listen, and focus on telling the audience about the harm “enriched flour” can do to our bodies. Make it matter to me.

I will say, some people might cringe at the sounds of the animals in the meat processing plants. There’s some kind of gross stuff shown that would make PETA members cry but grateful the public can be exposed to it. I think it’s good, too, but for other reasons. I want to learn to hunt, because I think it’s both healthier and more natural food, and that meat-eaters should take accountability for ending a creature’s life. We’ve become too far removed from the process and live in an unnatural age where meat comes in plastic wrap from the store. I won’t go vegetarian and PETA, the Humane Society, and any other anti-hunting group of vegan whackos can get stuffed. I like meat. I simply believe taking accountability for the unpleasant task of ending an animal’s life is the moral thing to do.

Right at the 1 hour, 30 second mark, Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield Farm CEO) outright states “We’re not going to get rid of capitalism. Certainly we’re not going to get rid of it in the time that we need to arrest global warming and reverse the toxification of our air and our food and our water.” THAT is what angers me about this movie. Sell me on the health benefits of organic food or the negative health aspects of the mass-produced stuff. SELL me. He talks about the growth of the organic food industry. He is in business, making money serving a market demand. That’s capitalism, you idiot! I freaking hate liberal hypocrites!!!

Capitalism is an economic system, determining the flow of money. Production methods are physical labor with measurable effects on the environment. And either can drive the other due to the moral/ethical demands of producer or consumer. Blaming capitalism for environmental problems betrays liberal bias toward being a retard, because 20% annual growth in the organic food industry is being driven by consumer demand, met by marketplace response and it capitalism at work. Socialism and/or gov’t mandate plays no part in it.

This movie verges on being dishonest. -Eric R. Shelton

Eventually Gary Hirshberg starts to talk some sense about producing good food and still being profitable, and Wal-Mart purchasing agents are shown to not be evil bastards out to poison the world but simply in the business of providing what the customer demands. If these stupid hippies would get off their anti-corporate, “damn the man” high horse and simply put forth a societal message for people’s health, it would go so much further. Attack my aspirations to make lots of money, and you’re a villain. Provide natural food for me to live a long and healthy life, and you’re a hero.

And of course, old harvesting equipment drawn by horse is shown romantically, while modern tractors are portrayed as belching gasses into the air.

Finally, well over an hour into the movie they start talking about Monsanto. THIS is where the movie finally gets good and talks about real issues and threats to the U.S. food supply and system. If this movie would have cut-out the blanket “corporate = evil” hippie crap and focused on Monsanto, the ownership of GMO food, and how Monsanto has used patent infringement law to cripple traditional farming methods, I would recommend this movie to everyone I know.

By the end, it finally gets on point and is worth watching. The end sequence, where they appeal to the consumer and tell us about the power we have with our spending choices is really great. I am absolutely a believer in locally grown, organic foods. Where the movie makes its greatest missteps is simply saying “Oh, bulk food and corporations are bad! Evil!” without spending enough time explaining how or why a can of Green Giant green beans is virtually nutrient depleted. They say “corporations are bad, but organic food is healthy” without realizing the converse statement is “this food lacks nutrients, and that farmer is a nice guy”. The food’s nutritional value is a separate and distinct quality from the size of a business, but the hippie environmentalist wackos confuse the topics.

Ultimately, the point of the movie is valid and I recommend it. Just realize you’ll be wading through knee-deep propaganda, just like the cows featured in manure, before you get to the good stuff.

If this article strikes a chord with you, and you are interested in healthy and organic food, I would encourage you to plant a food garden for yourself, listen to Jack Spirko’s podcast, and learn about permaculture. There’s a lot of good stuff out there.

No good drink goes unfinished

Don’t you just hate wine snobs? You know who I mean, the people that sit around discussing everything about about the wine except the grape. “Oh, you can really taste the shady porch these grapes were grown under with just a touch of the vinter’s old Volvo station wagon…” It’s ridiculous, they’re pompous blowhards, and I have never tasted hints of ladybugs and daffodils in a glass of red wine.

I need that preface before I start talking about Scotch, because there are Scotch snobs as well. I’m not really one of them but for some reason I find myself more willing to hob-nob with ’em. I can tell the difference between Scotches, but I’ve never thought one tasted like apples and cinnamon while another one had light notes of vanilla. This is a much more blue collar look at Scotch whisky, and why I prefer it to American bourbon. (Although after years of mocking different shapes and sizes of wine glasses, I did buckle for my love of a good single malt and got a set of Glencairn glass. More here.)

My last post detailed my awful experience with Jim Beam that led me to avoid liquor for over a decade and become a microbrew snob (where, incidentally, you can taste hints of orange and honey, etc.), and the eventual conquering of my fears. During that decade, I feared and avoided whiskey above all else. Just the smell of a whiskey made me ill. Little did I know that not all whiskey is whisky…

I find it hilarious that we mock the Brits for extra letters in their words like colour, honour, or shoppe but when it comes to whiskey, America has added an “e”. Since we’re talking about Scotch, but may refer back to American stuff, I’ll be using the spellings interchangeably depending on the spirit’s region of origin.

Bourbon comes form the United States, Scotch comes from Scotland, and they’re both whisk(e)ys. The big differences are in how they’re made. You can read up on their respective histories and methods in more detail with the provided links, and there are lots of good sites that talk about it more detail, so I’m just going to make some broad generalizations here for the basics. Bourbon is made from 51% or greater corn mash and aged in new charred oak barrels. Scotch malts are pure barley, typically smoked with a peat fire, and aged in used barrels from sherry or bourbon production. I can only guess the root grain used to create the mash makes a significant difference in the flavor, and the barrels certainly do. The longer a whisky is aged in the casks, the darker and more flavorful it becomes as it extracts flavor from the wood. It also mellows as some of the alcohol evaporates off. Longer aging drives up the price significantly as it’s longer the distiller has to sit on the product and the 1.5-2% of volume lost each year to evaporation or the “angels’ share” means there’s simply less to go around. Supply and demand at work. Single malts come from a single distillery, where blended malts can come from several.

One of my favorite things about single malt Scotch? The cap has a cork. You get that fun little pop! every time you open it, and it just feels more substantial and classy than a twist cap like the American whiskeys have. Where Maker’s Mark (not even 60 years old at the time of this writing) wax dips their bottles in an ostentatious attempt at class, your average Scotch is far more understated and simply is classy. Nice.

A quick note on etiquette- There are all kinds of opinions on how to drink Scotch, what’s acceptable and not, etc. I prefer a really old single malt, neat. However, I see nothing wrong with an ice cube or two in a 12-year served in a lowball or Old Fashioned glass if that’s how you like it. Some people like a splash of water to dilute it, and kind of “spread out” the flavors and make them easier to taste or discern. The ice cube or two will have the same effect, but also chill the whisky and inhibit the flavor; so I’d be wary of ice in an 18-year and avoid it entirely in anything older. Splash of water and glassware is up to you. Just please don’t use a single malt as a mixer- that’s what Jack and Jim Beam are for.

  • The Glenlivet– The biggest selling single malt in the U.S., and second largest worldwide. It’s a Speyside (meaning it’s water is from the River Spey), and the oldest legal distillery in the business. I began my venture into single malt Scotch with their 12-year, over ice. It’s easy to see why this is the number one seller in the States, as I think it mostly closely straddles the line between being distinctively Scotch but tasting somewhat of the American bourbon whose casks it ages in. I find it a little boring now that I’ve tried so many others, but it sells in such volume for a reason. Fairly light in color, I understand why people call it “fruity”. I never thought about the bottle being tinted green until I sampled more and realized it works to hide how light in color the 12 year is. While this is definitely a beginner’s Scotch, there’s nothing wrong with that. Think of it as Levi’s in a world now populated in jeans ranging from Wal-Mart to high end designers. The 18 year was predictably darker and more flavorful, but simply a more intense sampling of the 12.
  • Glenfiddich– Another Speyside, and my personal favorite, the name is Gaelic for “Valley of the Deer”. Best selling single malt worldwide, I’d like to believe it’s for the flavor, but more likely for the aggressive marketing in duty-free shops. Regardless, I enjoy this more than Glenlivet and tend to find bottles of equivalent vintage to be darker and more flavorful. The 12 year is still fairly basic, but with how fast prices jump for more aged bottles I think an 18 year bottle is where I would stop spending for something I plan to keep in inventory. It’s not a bargain, but I figure the price/quality is acceptable for the occasional dram. But my very favorite that has never been topped is the 30 year. At $200 a bottle, it’s not an everyday sampler. But the flavor and complete lack of burn make it divine- like nectar of the gods. Dark, mellow, and I want to get all hoity-toity and declare it’s smoky undertones. I loved it.
  • The Macallan– I’m just going to say it: I find this one to be grossly overpriced. It’s the Prada of whiskys: high end because they say it is. The Macallan declares it’s “original and spiritual home” to be Speyside… Except that it’s a Highland, when pressed by the 2009 Scotch Whisky Regulations. I don’t know or care, really, other than it furthers my belief that Macallan is more claim than actuality. The third largest selling single malt, they’ve issued some claims to make me question who’s the biggest and if claims are by volume or profit. In the end, it doesn’t matter, and this is the third of the Big 3, in whatever order they should appear. I’d have liked to have tried the original Sherry Oak line from which they built their reputation, as the Fine Oak series is fairly new (introduced in 2004), but the newer triple casked variety isn’t bad by any means. The 10 year is actually very nice. Elegant, if I can get away with saying so. Honestly, it’s a very good whisky and I’d take this before the Glens Livet and Fiddich 12 year bottles. The Fine Oak 25 Year is highway robbery, though. At over $500 a bottle it was very smooth, but not nearly as flavorful as a Glenfiddich 30 and more than twice the cost. I’ll skip the Cinderella satin box lining that says this is for royals and stick with the less pretentious, less costly, and far tastier ‘fiddich 30. It’s woodsier/smokier, manlier, and they want you to be pioneer with their Explorer something-or-other that’s also manly sounding. Anything manly enough to take over the end of this paragraph wins.
  • Johnny Walker– In contrast to the single malts I generally prefer, this brand is a blended Scotch whisky. I was going to link to their site directly, but Wikipedia has such a great write up of their history and labels I opted to give you that instead. The blended nature of their whisky produces a very consistent flavor from bottle to bottle and year to year. They maintain that blending allows them to achieve the flavor they’re after. True enough, but I can’t help but feel like it leads to being… boring. Just like any other national chain or brand from Budweiser to Applebee’s- it will always be the same, and therefore it will never be special. Not bad, mind you, just… well… A glass of Black label with a few ice cubes is an uninteresting but dependable drink. I tried a glass of Blue label, but it doesn’t live up to it’s price: I found it to be very smooth but far too plain and flavorless. Verdict– Stick with the Black label in the absence of anything more interesting.
  • The Balvenie- Another Speyside, their DoubleWood 12 Year is one of the best deals I think I’ve ever had in single malt Scotch. It’s only a 12-year, but it has great flavor, is very smooth, and was bargain priced. I would take this over a Glenlivet or Glenfiddich 18 year any day of the week. I loved this one. Two thumbs up regardless of price, but when the price is such that it can be an “everyday” dram, how can I not recommend it?
  • Grangestone- This one caught me totally off-guard. It’s a 12 year single malt sold 50% off retail at Total Wine. Not to sound like a snob, but a $20 bottle of Scotch just makes me nervous and sounds like mixer-only territory. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Flavorful and comparatively smooth, this Highland is better and darker than an utterly forgettable 18 year bottle gathering dust on my counter and I feel like I stole it for the price/quality. If I were to make an introductory recommendation to Scotch, this and the Balvenie would be my choices both for flavor and low cost of admittance.
  • anCnoc- I had their 12 year and absolutely hated it. Some say it’s a Speyside, but they don’t even have a website to tell their own story or confirm. It’s definitely a Highland region, and supposedly the water is from a Knock Hill spring. Bland and burning, the only way I could tolerate it was with generous ice in the glass to dull the regret swirling between the cubes. I won’t link to it, I won’t recommend it, and I won’t serve it somebody I dislike. Others love it though, so this is strictly my opinion and worth as much as you paid to read it.
  • Grants- Another blended whisky, I don’t know what I had but it was… Well, I won’t be studying up on or sampling any more Grants. Let’s leave it at that.

I’m sure I’ve missed a few, but this is getting to be a really lengthy post. The long and short of it is that I hate Jim Beam, tolerate Jack & Ginger on the rocks (with a squeeze of lemon, no lime), and would encourage anyone who hasn’t tried a good single malt to give it a whirl. While you can get bombed with it if that’s the intent, I find it a very easy drink to enjoy in moderation, the company of friends and good conversation. I hope you’ll do the same.

Christmas bacon

Hey, when you don’t have a honey-baked ham, bacon should be considered an acceptable pork product substitute. At this time, I will once again declare the inferiority of “turkey bacon”, as it would fail to live up to the festive demands of the holidays and bacon is a cut of meat that appears nowhere on fowl. A pox on you, turkey bacon. May the ground where your hippie creators are buried remain barren and plagued.

I like turkey. Just don’t try to tell me it’s something that it’s not. But I digress.

I’m not going to go on a long-winded ordeal about why hippie-ish food substitutions are lame (although that’s an idea for a later post), so much as a shorter Thanksgiving post redux. Christmas here was good, but power and internet have been iffy for days. First I was just going to be lazy and not post. Then there was no power to post. Then there was power but no internet. Now there’s power, internet, and a sense of gratitude that I keep a lot of fruit and nuts around and tend to keep a few chicken breasts already cooked for convenience.

And I had saved a bunch of bacon I’d cooked previously. Yum.

So I hope everyone had a good Christmas, and that post-holiday parties and get togethers with family are fun and festive in this bizarre week where it still feels wrong to go to work between the holidays. Take time again to count your blessings (water never quit working!) and I hope you all have a happy new year.

Red wine and “gay” bacon

Sometimes, life is really good.

One of my roommates here in our deployed “bunker” is a reluctant wine snob and not a half-bad cook. We’ve traded some recipes, ideas, and favorite ingredients and it’s been a lot of fun. Due to unforeseen issues at work, all of us were at the house at the same time (a rare occurrence) and chef roomie cooked chicken with cheese and bacon for all of us- like a poor man’s chicken cordon bleu with the stuff on top rather than stuffed inside, and using Kraft singles for cheese. Hey, we’re limited to ingredients on-hand and it was delicious.

So I’m learning enough about wine to… appreciate it? Not mind it? The word I’m looking for escapes me…. Oh! I-can-drink-a-red-without-gagging-or-making-faces. That’s the word I was looking for.

What? Three years in England makes you a beer snob. Doesn’t mean I’m classy enough to care about wine.

But I decided to experiment today and tried some wines available in the “deli” of the place we’re staying. I thought, “Hey, we’re in [undisclosed African location]. Maybe I should get this South African wine?” It was the Red Jerepigo, and I’m very glad I can type it rather then read it on a podcast because I have no idea how it’s pronounced. It’s from Swartland Winery and it’s awful. I’m given to embellishment, but I promise you this stuff tasted like cherry cough syrup with no exaggeration whatsoever. Reluctant wine snob/chef roomie actually asked if I’d be offended if he didn’t drink it after just one sip. I laughed and said no, because I’d rather just chug NyQuil than drink this garbage and he excused my own desire to pour it down the drain. I don’t know wine, but I know what sucks.

But like the first sentence of this post proclaims, the night got awesome shortly afterward. Because I also bought a bottle of Barton & Guestier Cabernet Sauvignon (which I also can’t pronounce) that wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad either. And then social weirdo/chef roomie proceeded to make “gay bacon” (ed.- candied).

It’s dessert, and it’s bacon. This night could only have been improved with Claudia Schiffer as our waitress telling me the ability to grow a full, manly beard was overrated.

I had just a mite too much wine, and now find myself searching the web for an Airstream trailer to buy instead of a house. I’m not sure what/if that says anything about me. Also, I want to buy some 365+ red wine glasses from Ikea.