Friday, September 25, 2009

Canadice Grapes and Shishito Peppers

Love love love Union Square Greenmarket. Today was a gorgeous blue sky sunny cool autumn day, and I enjoyed roaming even the abbreviated Friday market with all its odd goodies. Friday and Wednesday in fact host many farms that are a bit smaller and funkier than the Saturday crowd. Lots more organic/semi-organic produce, and oddball varieties.

Many stands offer Concord grapes and various other lambrusca varieties. I'm a wuss and I like seedless grapes best, and a few years ago I fell in love with Canadice grapes. They're only available for a few weeks starting in September, and only a few stands offer them. They are AWESOME. They taste like sweet juicy spicy mildly grape-flavored candies. The skins are a tiny bit tough but stuff enough in your mouth and you hardly notice. I ate a whole bunch on the bus going home. Spouse ate another bunch waiting for dinner. The bunches are small and very tightly packed, so this is not as indulgent as it sounds. And, y'know, grapes!

Shishito peppers are wholly new to me. I found them at a stand offering lots of other Asian veggie varieties. They look a bit like skinny, dark green pepperoncini. The helpful written sign said they should be seared in hot oil and eaten sprinkled with salt. Folks on line seem to agree. I will try these. I love roasted green peppers more than red peppers, especially in salad, so I'll probably like them. But I cooked gumbo tonight, so maybe tomorrow.

UPDATE: Shishito peppers are fantastic! And super easy. Just heat a little olive oil in a nonstick frying pan, and toss in the washed peppers, stems and all. When they start to brown on one side, shake them up. Turn them and shake them until evenly browned and tender, almost like regular roasted peppers. Sprinkle with salt. Eat while still warm. The clump of seeds is a bit hot, as one would expect, but entirely edible. VERY good eaten with sharp sheep cheese and a crisp Moscato or NZ Suavignon Blanc.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

NYC Craft Beer Awesomeness #1

So it's been Craft Beer Week in New York City this week, and by Saturday we had utterly failed to actually visit any good bars and drink any awesome craft beers. Fortunately our good friend the Uber Queen of Beer celebrated her birthday this week -- how entirely appropriate -- and Saturday a great number of us ended up at Rattle and Hum. This wonderful establishment was at first rather over-crowded with um, Washington Huskies fans?!? when we arrived, but once they were satisfied with the outcome of the game they mostly departed and had only drunk up some of the craft offerings (I was rather disappointed the Allagash White was gone, but o well, I've had it before).

Now Craft Beer Week means no commonplace big-brewery offerings: no Guinness, no Hoegaarden, not even Sam Adams! The lovely things on tap included -- o be still my heart! -- 20 count 'em 20 -- CASKS of OMG awesome things...alas I hardly tasted any tho. I am just not an IPA fan, and most of the casks seemed to contain IPAs. However in between the loud party camaraderie, I managed to order and cadge and taste a total of eight beverages mostly new to me.

Ommegang 3 Philosophers: had this once before in the big Ommegang bottle. Tastes very different on draft. Belgian-style like all the brewery's offerings, it's a sweet, rich dark Quad (that is, even darker than Dubbel or Tripel). The nose is wholly familiar to dark Belgian brews. It's still and calm on the tongue, with plentiful caramel notes. Syrupy and crisp at the same time. Lovely stuff. Best as a finisher, not a starter...practically a dessert.

Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous: this American Strong Ale (per the menu) is as powerful as any Stone stuff I've had...but not as good as Stone Arrogant Bastard. O well! There's a powerful bitter grapefruity Cascade hop aroma. The Cascade assault faded as the beer warmed up (it was served a bit too cold), so we could appreciate the smoky, rich caramel flavors, especially in the finish.

Stone Smoked Porter: I didn't expect to like this...not a fan of smoked beers...but even chilled this was powerful and tasty, rich and smoky without being too overwhelming. However I just prefer smoky charred flavors on steak rather than beer.

Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold: Nice! Very traditional Belgian pale ale. Not really a standout in the growing field of American-Belgians. But quite pleasant, smooth, drinkable. Comparable to Palm or lighter Chimay. I think I missed the orange and spice notes alas, in the heat of the guzzle.

Schmaltz Coney Island Sword Swallower: I love every beer I've had from these guys. This "strong lager" made with 8 hops and 4 malts perhaps does not quite live up to the expectation of such a complicated recipe. It's pleasant enough, made in IPA style. Frankly, I was getting a bit buzzed by the time this appeared, and I gulped it down without thinking too much about it...that probably says it all.

Captain Lawrence Sour: "Golden ale with Cabernet grapes still in the barrel." Well what the hell! I had to try this casker. How could I not?!? Well. Um. That'll teach me to be recklessly adventurous...not that I'm about to take up base jumping...but this stuff. Wow. The smell, not the bouquet, hit me like super-cheap wine that was out uncorked for a couple days. Not to denigrate cheap wine, I drink plenty of it. So the Cheap sweet wine with hops added. Sour and sweet at the same time. Um. I'm glad I had the fairly innocuous Sword Swallower before this. Spouse and I managed to finish it, as Spouse generally finishes his beers. I am not so thorough and decorous.

Allagash Interlude: Ahh! This was the stuff craft brewing dreams are made of!! Billed as an "American Wild Ale" which I took to mean Belgian-lambic style. Yes! Though the brewery's description sounds a bit different from that method, the results are quite similar. Really more gueze-like even. So! The color is bright orangey, cloudy. The strong nose is musty and sour but invitingly so, if you like lambics. The flavor...bold, bright, fruity, cidery, delicious for sipping not slurping. Knowing how it's made, I can't wait to try it again in calmer surroundings. Because by now the party was quite lively, and we'd eaten and drunk a fair amount. I will note, the Interlude actually went quite nicely with both birthday cakes.

Sixpoint Otis Oatmeal Stout: The OTHER Brooklyn brewery, I've quite liked most of their brews I've had. There wasn't anything outstanding about this stout, it's fairly typical of this style but I liked it better than Heartland's as it is less smoky and coffee-like. Really, it's more like a porter than a stout. But I'm not complaining. The sips I cadged were tasty and a fine finish for a busy evening.