Monday, March 28, 2011

Beer Adventure :3/25-3/27: Part 2

Saturday morning I was back from the gym and getting ready to drive to Malden to watch my niece* Erika play hockey when a seed of an idea was planted.   Jayne was heading out as well,  to spend the day with her friend Lisa, when she jokingly made a reference to how close Malden was to Redbones (a place she knows I have a history of visiting).  Honestly, up to that point I hadn't made the connection between the Malden and its proximity to the city, but now my wheels were spinning.

Just that morning I had found a new beer bar I hadn't been to:  American Craft in Brookline.  It's owned by the same folks who own the Publick House and just down the street.   So instead of hitting Redbones like Jayne mentioned I could kill two birds with one stone by driving cross town to Brookline.  A plan was formed.

Unfortunately, I arrived in Brookline about 3pm.     That's a reasonable hour for many beer serving establishments but for some reason neither the Publick House or their sister establishment American Craft open for business before 4pm.  I knew that was their Sunday hours (my normal beer drinking day) but didn't learn it was the Saturday hours too until I was standing at their door.  (Like an idiot I didn't read what their weekday hours are so I could make this mistake again.)

Needing to kill some time I walked around some.  I stopped and got more quarters for the meter and while passing a place called 'The Abbey' across the street from the PH I noticed they were open.  I'd always figured the hours of operation of PH was a silly Brookline ordinance or something but clearly this place was open so that's probably not the case.  With a name like 'The Abbey' sitting across the street from reknown Belgian beer emporium like the PH I figured it's got to be worth a look.

So I go inside and it's a cozy place but not a beer bar.  They had Chimay on tap and some Cambridge Brewing Tall Tale Pale and a Dogfish 60 but not much else.  I had never had a Cambridge Brewing product before and it was really very good. I hadn't eaten lunch and and the food looked good so ordered a couple of their small plates:  Deviled Eggs and Smoked Cod cakes.  Both awesome.  Really nice staff too; stunning, statuesque young women behind the bar and a really friendly chap.   If you ever find yourself killing some time before PH opens definitely stop in.

As 4pm nears I join the gathering throng waiting for the PH doors to open.  I'm not first though the doors but I am first to the a bar stool and I belly up.  They have Sommerville's own Pretty Things' Fluffy White Rabbit - a hoppy Trippel style ale on tap  and I order a glass (I just got the connection when writing that sentence - Rabbit, Hoppy. Funny!) .  Great beer but I'm starting to get a little ticked off.

How when I'm sitting in one of coolest beer bars in Boston and enjoying a great beer could I possibly be less than happy?  You guessed it, the service.  At this point I've only had three interactions with the bar tender: (1. Asking for a beer menu.  2. Ordering a beer  3. Receiving said beer)  but I already know the dude is not in a happy place.  I know he's probably tired of beer geeks and college students and has a hangover and whatnot but seriously if you hate your job so damn much quit and let someone who has the common courtesy to smile and pretend to be friendly have the job.  Maybe he was the manager and covering a position for a co-worker who was late or called in sick.  Honestly, I don't give a rats ass.  Just be nice.  It's not that hard.

I ordered the Chacuterie plate and some fries with my second beer a Magruda Obscurant from Jolly Pumpin Artisnal Ales of MI.  It was listed as a Belgian style Stout on the menu and I guess that seems about right.  It was a good beer but not ground shaking, same could be said for the Chacuterie and fries which I hardly touched - all soggy and tiny cuts.  It was a rather disappointing visit.

I had room for one more beer in me and I still wanted to try American Craft.  While waiting outside of the PH I had overheard someone saying less than flattering things about it so my flame was a bit dimmed but I was in Brookline and figured I should give it a shot.

I walk the short distance to American Craft and go inside.  It was a big space but mostly empty except for a few people at the bar  The bar tender was so very pleasant however and even though the first beer I ordered couldn't be served due to some work being done of the tap system he set me up with another choice - a bottle of Short’s Brew Huma Lupa Licious, and was very nice during the whole process.  The Huma Lupa is a nice sturdy IPA.  It was a little more piney than citrusy but had great overall character.  I was still a little hungry and ordered 6 oysters.  Five of them were fantastic but one I had to spit out because it was seriously funky.  I told the bartender and he apologized and went back and got me another.  It was perfect.  Nice guy.  Nice place.  Definitely worth another visit.

Okay, so that wraps up part 2 of my weekend beer adventure.  Part 3 may never get written because this is already way longer than I imagine any of my imaginary readers could stomach.

Beer Adventure :3/25-3/27: Part 1

I have lots of beer news this week.  I tried new beers all weekend.   After 3 months of (mostly) limiting myself to one day of beer this was like a dream come true. 

Friday I was at Harrington Wine& Liquors in downtown Chelmsford and was excited to see the beer isle stocked with lots of new options.  There were far more choices than my wallet could afford so I limited myself to a couple of four packs:  Harpoon Leviathan Quad and Holy Mackerel Panic Attack.

I really want to love Harpoon beers; they're home state boys and Harpoon IPA was one of my earliest craft beer loves but the more I try their Leviathan series and their 100 Barrel series the more I think the accountants are running that ship and not the brew master.  You just can't taste the passion. ( If that's not the case I apologize to whomever I just offended but that's the way it looks from my seat.)  The Quad was very nice and drinkable but it lacked any character.  It didn't sing.  In a word it was dull.

Contrast that with the other four pack: Holy Mackerel Panic Attack.  This powerful Belgian gold ale was all character.  It was slapping me in the face with yeasty goodness as I drank it.  It was probably too sweet but who gives a fuck when you know you're tasting the work of an artist.   One sip in and you know there's some guys who loves beer as much as you do making the choices; not some accountant who rejected a recipe because the taste profile ranked poorly with a target demographic. 

This didn't start out as a rant about Harpoon but it certainly ended that way.  I just wish they made better beer.

Fitness Quest Week 12:

Plum Island 3/27/11
My motivation to exercise is staying strong and in many ways gaining even more steam but the food restrictions are starting to crumble.  I can't keep calling these posts diet updates when I'm clearly not dieting.  'Fifty by Fifty' looked like it was done deal a month ago but now I don't know what to expect.  I'm going to focus on the alternate 'Fit by Fifty' for now and not worry about the weight for a while.

I admit my diet hasn't been as rigid as it was at the peak of my weight loss but it in no way resembles what it did prior to this quest.  With the additional exercise added on top of the better dietary habits I've got to believe that some additional weight loss is in my future.   I have until October.

 One dietary habit that's stuck is the focus on beans.  Most days I eat beans with all three meals.  My favorite bean dish has to be the re-fried beans I make for breakfast.  I've talked about them a lot so as I was cooking up a batch this weekend I snapped a photo because I thought if people could just see them everyone would want them for breakfast. 

Sauteed onion and Poblano peppers till soft.  Add beans and mash up a bit with a potato masher or heavy spoon.  Salt. Pepper.  At the end I added some additional hot Thai chiles for color, crunch and heat.  Serve with an egg and coffee and you are powered up all morning.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Viral: Wile E. Coyote 127 Hours

Wilie Coyote kind of looks like James Franco.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Beer Adventure: Saturday March 19, 2011

I was up in Manchester, NH this weekend to play in my fraternities alumni organizations annual Texas Hold'm tournament.   This presented the perfect opportunity for me to visit a bar I've been wanting to get back to: Strange Brew.  I had lunch there many years ago but that was before I got serious about beer hunting and a lot has changed in the beer world since then as well.

Strange Brew is a pretty big bar but it was mostly empty when I arrived around 1:30pm.  I was happy to see an Ommegang Abbey Ale on the taps by my stool and I ordered one without looking further.  I like Ommegang products but it seemed a little on the light side at 8.5ABV for a brew being offered in only in a 10oz pour.

My next choice was a Unibroue Chambly Noire.   I know Unibroue doesn't get a lot of love in serious beer circles but I think their beers are great.  This brew punched all my chits.  It was packed with yeasty flavors and yet was extremely drinkable (more on that point later). 

I ordered some food: fish tacos and some Buffalo shrimp.  The tacos where uninspired.  I like some contrasting crunch in my tacos either from a crisp veggies or a hard shell but these had neither.  They were just but small soft wraps with a little slaw and small hunks of fried fish.  Don't get me wrong they were tasty but they could have been a lot better with just a little extra love.   The shrimp were pretty damn good however.  An order had a dozen healthy sized shrimp.

The bartender was awesome.  She was very friendly and ready with samples and happy to answer any question.  

I finished up lunch with a couple more beers and headed off to the tournament where more beer was consumed - Sam Adams Noble Pils was the best choice on hand.  I actually played well and came in 3rd.  After the tournament everyone headed back to Strange Brew. 

At night this was a far differnent place.  It was wall to wall people and I even discovered a down stairs area with still more room.  I explored the drinkability of Unibroue Chambly Noire for the rest of the night (I had a hotel room and was walking) and can report it makes a nice session beer as well.   Even though the bar was now packed the bartender from earlier in the evening was still friendly and even remembered me from lunch.  

Strange Brew is a great place and I look forward to heading back soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Viral: Oh My Gosh

I did not know about the exciting sport of competitive cup staking.

Just Read: Suttree by Cormac McCarthy

I think most everyone who reads my blog knows I'm a big fan of Cormac McCarthy.    I've not read all his books however.  I've read all the novels since Blood Meridian but until I picked up Suttree I had not ready any of his earlier books.

I've actually been trying to finish this novel for at least 5 years.  I normally devour his books but this one was a chore.  It wasn't that it was bad but rather I found it difficult.  Cormac's way with words is high art; genius of the first degree, but damn, he can be bleak.  The titular character was so down trodden his day-to-day existence so difficult that the novel made me feel bad.  The last novel that did that to me was Hesse's Steppenwolf and there's certainly parallels to be drawn between the novels.  Isolation and depression imbue both. 

I'm happy I read it and I can see why people consider it one of his finest novels but I'm also happy it's now in my rear-view mirror and no longer nagging me from the unfinished book pile.   I have another of Cormac's early novels: Child of God sitting on the shelf unopened.  A book about a pedophile and necrophiliac.  I'm not sure I dare to start.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Diet Week 11: Lots of Exercise but no Weight Loss

If I'm not on a diet plateau I don't know what else you could call it.  I really ramped up both the cardio and the weights this week - full body, lots of core but the scale did not move.  I did cheat and have beer one day this week when my team went into The Foundry on Elm in Somerville for a milestone celebration for our work on our current project.  (They had Dogfish Head Red White on tap.  How could I resist?)   I only ate a salad with shrimp so I only cheated on the beer. 

Honestly, I don't really care.  Spring is almost here and I'm feeling great.  I know I can't get to complacent though.  Lots of salad next week and let's see if I can move that damn needle.

Family Movie Night #1: Monty Python and the Holy Grail

For a little while now my friends have been hosting a family movie night.  For each event someone is nominated to pick a movie and we gather on a Sunday night to watch it.  The audience ranges in age from 10 to 80 so nothing is going to please everyone but we all watch it anyway.  Last week was my pick.

As soon as I heard about 'movie night' my mind started considering titles.  The first film I considered was 'Jeremiah Johnson'.  It's not my favorite movie but I thought it had broad appeal.  Jayne thought it would bore the kids though so I moved on.  Next up was Blazing Saddles.  It's one of my favorites comedies but I figured it was inappropriate for the youngest kids.  

Finally I settled in on Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  I know the kids all loved Anchorman, Austin Powers and other silly comedies so I thought they would get a kick out of this as well.  I was concerned both Grandmas might not like it but knew they were good sports and just happy to be hanging out with the extended family.

Within minutes of the film starting it was clear I had totally misjudged the movie's appeal.  The kids where shrugging it off as 'adult humor' while the adult ladies who hadn't seen the film were laughing heartily.  By the end half the kids were asleep and Grandma H. was hailing its comedic prowess. 

Is this a generational thing?  Is finding Monty Python and the Holy Grail funny a sign of being old?   I certainly hope not.   I left the kids my copy of the DVD hoping they'll grow into it.  I just hope it doesn't take them decades to do it.  

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Diet Week 10: In A Little Rut (or not)

Motivation wise this wasn't a bad week.  I felt some of the old drive that was missing last week.  I had plenty of opportunities to cheat but for the most part staid the course.  That said, I gained a pound.  Given that I did a lot of strength training and stuck to my diet I'll chock that up to increased muscle mass.  My cardio is still lacking however so it's off the gym right after I finish typing this.   I just wish I could find my iPod Shuffle.

One more thing.  I'm getting a bit sick of just beans and am going to try introducing some brown rice and whole grains into my diet.  It will be interesting to see how that goes.  Now off to the gym.

Updated:  I weighed myself after the gym and was down 2 pounds putting my weekly weight loss back in the red.  The official weight is 281. 

Monday, March 07, 2011

Beer Adventure: Sunday March 6, 2011

There wasn't a big beer drinking adventure this week.  I stayed local and hit the Horseshoe Pub in Hudson for a few.  They had Ballast Point Black Marlin Porter on tap which was pretty good but not awesome  I love Ballast Point's IPAs but I thought the Porter was a little thin on the tongue.  Porter is not in my wheelhouse though so don't hold me to that critique.   It could be the best example of Porter there is and I'm simply not up to the task of identifying it.

Not pictured but also quaffed was a 21st Amendment Brewing Hop Crisis.  I was too busy enjoying it to grab the camera.  I love citrusey hop profiles and this was heavy on the citrus.  I can hear the nay-sayers complaining that it's not balanced enough, bla, bla, bla.  I don't care what other people think, I could drink that brew every day.  Damn, now I want one.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Diet week 9: Lost Some Steam

I lost 1 pound this week and am now weighing 282.  Honestly, I'm pretty happy about that because things have changed.

For the past couple of months I've felt like a man on a mission.  Weight loss was easy, childs play; I was like McCoy operating on Spock's brain.  Something that was inconceivable months before was now simple as pie.

But then something happened.  I don't know what that something was but this week the edge was gone.  I'm now repeating the manta of 'Fit by Fifty' in my head and it's sounding empty.   It's not that I've lost the desire to loose weight it's just that that desire is no longer manifesting as thick sea walls against the pounding surf of wanton indulgence.  The walls haven't crumbled yet but I feel the sands shifting out from beneath them.

I'm approaching this change with an open mind and just a natural progression in the process.  It was inevitable.  No one can maintain single-minded-focus like I had forever.  If I just stick with the beans and increase the exercise I know the forward progress will continue.

Before I end this weeks update I have to tell you, already my lower back feels better than it has in 5 years.  I've been singing the praise of my Teeter inversion bed for ages as a major tool in my arsenal against back pain and now I want to add the Two Arm Kettlebell Swing exercise to the tune.  The Teeter realigned my back and stopped the sciatica but I still had discomfort while walking.  It wasn't major discomfort but enough to make me feel old.  I've tried a lot of things but nothing made it go away till I tried the Kettlebell swing.  It's such a simple exercise but it's had profound effect on how I feel.  It's fun too.

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism