In re: homemade ginger ale

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A few months ago I saw an episode of Good Eats that on Ginger. (For years I was a religious Good Eats viewer but I somehow stopped watching as often and eventually not at all, but have intermittently seen a few episodes over the last few months. The gags are a bit more annoying then I used to think- but still I have a soft spot for it. Also doesn’t seem like the show is on very much anymore, oh well the food network basically sucks these days.) At some point after seeing that I was over at the Asian market (one of the three in basically two or three blocks) I can’t believe I don’t shop there more – great prices, amazing stuff – like huge pieces of ginger at cheap cheap prices. So back to Good Eats, saw an episode on ginger and thought why not. So while not being that into the ginger cookies he was making and the stupid ginger bread man story the show was operating around, thought the ginger ale he made looked pretty good and amazingly simple. So that night after dinner I whipped up a 2 liter bottles worth and in 2 days we would get to taste the results.

The recipe/process from Alton Brown is pretty simple, you start by essentially making an infused simple syrup with grated fresh ginger. After you make that and let it steep for an hour you add this along with water, lemon juice, and a tiny bit of yeast into a clean 2 liter bottle and wait for the yeast to do its thing and carbonate it.
(The recipe from Alton Brown is here

So that first batch turned out to be pretty good, it was nicely carbonated, it had good flavor and it was amazingly easy. It was missing something though: more ginger flavor,(disclaimer though – I am a fan of the Bahamian ginger beer (Barritt’s is one of the classic brands – available even here in Columbus), which gets put to good use a dark and stormy – an amazingly simple drink of the aforementioned ginger beer and Goslings Black Seal Rum with a lime for a garnish).

So with all that in mind I had planned to double or triple the ginger the next time I tried it. The other thing that wasn’t quite right in that first batch was the flavor the yeast imparted that made the drink taste reminiscent of bread. It wasn’t as off putting as that might sound, but it wasn’t quite right. The only problem was I didn’t ever get around to making it again, despite being so easy.

Last weekend though I finally remembered we should make homemade ginger ale. Just as before we had in the fridge a giant piece of ginger (this time from an Indian grocery store) but this time I happened to think of making ginger ale at just the right moment – while I was standing in the wine making shop in Clintonville. We had stopped in the store on the way back from the farmers market to look for a good summer beer kit and to finally brew our first batch of beer. As we were checking out with a kit for summer ale I thought of asking about yeast for ginger ale. The clerk recommended champagne yeast and with the little packet in hand we were ready for batch 2.0.

The results were stunning. I doubled the ginger (although it could still use more) but the flavor profile and the bubbles were amazing. It still couldn’t be easier. I still basically used the Alton Brown recipe with the doubled ginger, and of course champagne yeast and two days later we tasted an amazing batch of homemade ginger ale with a clean taste of ginger, a slight hint of the heat and great carbonation. Thankfully a packet of champagne yeast has more then enough for several more batches.

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In re: Winter miracles

January 7th in Ohio doesn’t usually bring with it 50 degree weather – but this year it did and that meant the bike path was full of bikers and walkers, the tennis courts even had people in shorts.  We took advantage of it and headed off on a nice long walk with the dogs in the peak of the amazing weather.  On the way back the urge for a coffee came upon as we neared the Caribou, but alas no wallets were to be found.  Would there be two miracles today?  Yes – just like the miraculous weather we were able to scrounge up $1.67, just 2 cents short of a small cup of coffee and with the kind aid of the staff I was coached into the right answer to the trivia (Caribou Coffee in pig latin, which is Ariboucay offeecay) which brought it down to $1.59 – enough to leave a tip even!  So with a second cup to split up the cup and a dash of half and half we were out on their patio enjoying the amazing day with our coffees and dogs – a winter miracle I’d say.

In re: Home take on Northstar’s ham and cheese biscuit

Northstar is officially a Columbus institituion, having grown from a location in the Short North to having locations in Beechwald and Easton as well as opening Third & Hollywood in Grandview. Northstar does a great job of mixing genres, combining simple with upscale, quality with casual, and mixing healthy with not so much. One of those not so much items is the ham and cheese scone. Like all Northstar’s baked goods they sport a small sign showing what time they were made – although some of us would gladly eat a day old one if one made it so long. The ham and cheese is of course a classic combination that is done to perfection, with some of the cheese getting crusty around the edges and a nice ham that adds without being too hamey.

The sadness of all this is that I rarely get one of these scones because I always get the sweet potato turkey hash for breakfast when we go, meaning only if we splurge for some take out biscuits to eat later will I have one of these – and never in its fresh from the oven state.

A month or two ago while making some biscuits, I thought, hey why not toss in the ham and cheese to these? Not having ham and cheese I had to wait awhile until I remembered the whole affair again at the grocerry store.
Problems emerged immediately though, what kind of ham? what kind of cheese? I thought I’d like to use Virginia ham (to some country ham), a salty, cured ham, which could be added in moderation to deliver texture and intense flavor, but I was foiled when the store doesn’t sell it. (They did have deli ham called Virginia ham, but from my guess it wasn’t what I was thinking of). Instead I settled on a package of pre-diced prociutto (we were at Kroger, so our options were a bit limited in this department – although I should add this was at the new Clintonville Kroger, which is really nice – just not a gourmet destination I guess). For cheese grabbed some gruyere and emmenthal, being unable to decide, so went with the classic fondue duo.

To make the biscuits I made up a batch of biscuits inspired by Sam Sifton’s recipe a while back in the NY Times, been really happy with his recipe, don’t follow it exactly as I am going from memory, but basically I made a half recipe in the food processor, adding the cheese. Into a bowl to add the milk and then in the proscuttio.

I try to minimally handle biscuits and to that end I don’t cut them out with a biscuit cutter, instead cutting them with a knife into squares (in this case 4 big biscuits). The proscuitio and cheese biscuits turned out amazing, I think next time I will leave in some bigger chunks of cheese to get some pockets of cheese (I’ve since done this and can attest it is a good idea), but the little squares of proscuttio were delicious. The recipe is quick enough to make on a work morning if your not a dash out the door person and delicious enough to make for a special sunday brunch.

In re: the strangeness of tariffs

So you probably know that we in the US are part of the WTO, part of NAFTA and that we are generally liberalizing our trade (our tariffs today are really low compared to back when we were protectionist). That’s why its so crazy to learn about all the crazy distinctions in tariffs on goods imported to the US and how much various industry lobbying efforts have led to strange tariff policies. I am all for getting rid of all of these, and the more you hear how crazy they are the more I bet other folks would be. It is kinda amusing to hear about the distinctions polyester vs cotton, water resistant vs not, collared vs. non-collared, holiday/festive t-shirt vs. regular t-shirt and you wonder what impact these tariffs have on what we end up with. One of my favorites things these days is the planet money podcast — if your not listening to it, you gotta check it out, you’ll be learning all kinds of useful stuff about the economy, trade and finance and its amazingly entertaining. Anyway this topic and the strange examples above were featured in an episode of the planet money podcast where they went to a laboratory in LA that looks into what imports are made out of, going so far as to blend t-shirts, cutting apart sneakers and testing waterproofness. That and the value of putting Rudolph the red-nose reindeer (no tariffs) or for office chairs that spin and raise (no tariffs) — who knew?

In re: The pain of losing

I grew up with plenty of losing sports teams in Cleveland, Ohio.  For decades it was the norm and I was fortunate to happen in time when the Indians got hot for more then half a decade.  Additionally I was alive for some good cavs team (although I was young), but then Jordan got in the way and ruined all of that.  So its fair to say I haven’t had it as bad as other Cleveland sports fans in terms of the amount of suffering.  Despite that I know enough, especially from having seen the Indians so good and then so bad to know that we must relish our brief moments.  This year may be one such year for the Cavaliers as they steam rolled most of the NBA on their way to the best record in the league, and a mere 2 losses at home (1 of those was w/ bench players only to end the season and it did go to OT).  Anyway, the point is I think I enjoyed this season a whole lot, its not often that you can expect your team to win every night and they basically do just that.  I enjoyed blowouts and occasional close games and I kept reminding myself that this wouldn’t last forever and to enjoy it.

The playoffs started out as best as anyone could expect them to go, with two 4-0 sweeps of admittedly less then elite teams.  However, these may have set us up for disappointment as we now stare down a 2-1 defeat, and only that because of an amazing last second (literally last second), we in bounded with 1.0 and LeBron hit what will be unless we lose the series is going to be remembered in Cleveland forever (yes ‘we’, when you watch enough games of fat Shawn Kemp and the human turnover Bobby Sura in a Gund Arena that allows your shouts from the upper deck to be heard on the bench, you get the right to say we .)  Which gets me to the point of all this, what if we (there we go again) don’t win?  Of course this 7 game series is still far from over.  Most of the Cavaliers have player very poorly.  Z doesn’t have his shot, Mo and Delonte are off the mark and all 3 games have still been close (thanks of course to James), but we have come to expect blowouts so this pain is rough.  Of course in the end struggling for the championship would only make it that much sweeter, but what if we don’t make it and this turns out to be the Magic and the Lakers years to compete (or Denver).  Then what will I make of this season?  I hate to even think about it, this year was championship or bust, but does it have to be?  Should I not enjoy the thrill of having the most dominate team in the league only because we ended like this (this is hypothetically, I haven’t lost hope yet).  Yet somehow it does ruin everything, the pain of losing would overwhelm most of the joy the season was, the players of course will declare failure, but should I as a fan declare failure as well?  Probably, the reason success tastes so good is the risk of failure, the failure we have known for so long feels so bad, for those of us who invest too much in this religion of sport, it is hard to trick ourselves into saying that we did well this season and we should enjoy it.  Now I need to go wash my Witness shirt and get ready for game 4.  Let’s go Cavs!

In re: Bottle water tax anyone?

Yesterday was earth day and while many of us might have done nothing to celebrate the earth, I did some reading (well most online magazines and news sources tended to put up a few articles so maybe they were forced upon me – heck if Google hadn’t done an earth day image I might not have known it was going on at all)  Anyway, an article in Slate on the horrors, that’s right the horrors of bottled water.  That led me to suggest in a brief chat with someone that a great idea (and the article may have mentioned this as well) that taxing bottled water would be a good idea.  Why you say?  Well its not like we don’t want to encourage water drinking over soda and sugary drinks so we need to be real careful, but bottled water is quite a bad use of our resources.  If you think about it we spend a lot of money trucking, bottling in plastic (most of which ends up in the land fill – even states with deposit laws don’t have them on the plastic bottled water bottles) when we could focus our money and attention instead into getting great water from our taps (I know taps don’t sound sexy, look sexy or have the panache that drinking a Voss does, but we can work to change that).  Maybe the solution for now is getting people to realize that faucet mounted water filters (I use a Pur one and I really like it) can make your tap water taste great and that often times the so called bottled water is sourced from Municipal supplies as well (purified water may be better than the tap water source, so I am not saying this is bad, I am only saying lets get those filters downstream and get the whole bottle out of the transaction.

In re: Oscar boosts stock?

Thats what analysts seem to have been saying and traders in the wake of yesterdays upset best picture win for Crash which was produced by independent film company Lionsgate, who in in trading today saw their shares rise, as sales of the movie are predicted to rise. (see story)