Last week was my second time working at Buckeye Brewing this summer. Two weeks ago, all I did was wipe down the bombers before packaging them in cases and transporting them to the coolers. As boring as that may sound, no task is menial at a brewery and it allowed me to keep my ears open and ask a lot of questions about the brewery and its history. My second time round, I worked a 9 hour day: the first half went the same as the previous week and the second half I got to bottle. I was doing alright until I mixed up the buttons. The bottling machine works by placing 2 bombers under the fillers and pressing 2 black buttons at the same time. Then you move the bombers over to the capper and press 2 yellow buttons and 1 bottle is capped at a time.
However, I managed to accidently press the black buttons instead of the yellow when no bombers were under the fillers and so 2 bombers of Hippie IPA went spraying all over the machine, the table, the floor and me while I yelled, “NO NO NO!!! STOP STOP STOP!!!” I pressed the stop button and called over the owner who was very sweet and told me “It wouldn’t be a brewery if you didn’t get soaked in beer at some point”. To insure it didn’t happen again, I wrote in red sharpie on the back of my hands, “Black Beer” and “Yellow Cap”.
That was one highlight of the day, but the real highlight was being shown and allowed to dry hop the Hippie IPA with Cascade pellets for aroma. Hop pellets are so funny looking, they remind me of gerbil food from 5th grade science class. However, they offer brewers a great advantage in that they are more consistent in their bittering and aroma capabilities and more stable during the boil than regular full hops. Anyways, the point of this little story is that even after my little accident I came away feeling like a big girl and one step further on the brewing yellow brick road.
Between the Travel Channel, TLC and the Food Network, I don’t know which channel to blame for making me ravenously hungry at inconveniently late hours. And they always seem to coincide with an empty fridge, lack of cakes and absence of gargantuan novelty menu items in my home. Such a bummer for me. Anyways, Man v. Food is a show that can either turn my stomach in that I’m-about-to-hurl way OR it turns my appetite on in a big fat way.
He recently came to Melt Bar and Grilled in Lakewood and I missed the show. But whatever, because I’ve had the pleasure of eating there in person already, dying and going to Heaven. I’d tried once at their new Cedar Road location but the wait was so long even at 9:30 pm on a Thursday that I bailed for another night and their original location on Detroit Ave. It was a religious experience to say the least. I ordered the Smoky Russian — don’t worry I knew what I wanted before I got there because I’d already perused the menu online about 20 times, while I mopped the drool off my face.
photo courtesy of KH
The sandwich alone is ridiculously good, like I don’t want to talk to you until I’m done with this good. The kind of good that makes you chuckle to yourself because you’re so happy and you can’t believe you have the good fortune to be eating this right now good. But the sandwich is part of a trifecta: the vodka kraut slaw with pickles on top and double fried fries complete the plate, beautifully complimenting its buddies. The beer selection is also very good, obviously not close to the Beer Engine’s offerings but still very respectable. The ambiance reminded me of my dorm rooms: Cranberries playing, plastic light-up lawn ornaments over the bar and a Miss Pac Man cooler for bottled beer. Not to mention the really beautiful blue pressed tin ceiling. If this place isn’t on your list; you’re either crazy, stupid or have just had open heart surgery and don’t wanna push it. I repeat: DROOOOOOOOL WORTHY.
photo courtesy of KH
I spent some time over spring break in West Side Market up in Cleveland where I got my hot little hands on quail eggs and duck breasts. These two ingredients were key to a recipe I’d been concocting in my dreams and of which I was terrified. Sadly pomegranates are not in season and so couldn’t be the color, crunch and sweetness to this dish – which I believe was part of its downfall. Not that the dish wasn’t yummy, it just wasn’t there yet and needs some tweaking. Also there is nothing in this world cuter than a little quail egg or even a dozen.
It’s very simple: place duck breast skin down in a skillet after scoring the skin and let the fats of the bird cook it to perfection while you prepare some stock (either duck or chicken), throw in leeks and shallots in the pan with the duck, serve over pappardelle with fried quail egg on top. I cut the shallots length wise and peeled away the little cups of shallot to create a nest for the quail yolk which formed the center of a flower of sliced duck breast over the pasta, then poured the stock over top. Next time I’d love to use rag cut noodles. It’s more a winter than spring dish and is very comforting but could use some more work. I consoled myself by pairing it with Southern Tier’s Gemini whose sweet hoppy notes complimented the rich game nature of the duck and its buddies.
Got this beaut of a bottle from my one love, The Beer Engine. This was my first mead so maybe my analysis of this style is skewed, or not as well informed. First off, I LOVE the label, the bottle and the process of unwrapping this, my first mead. The bottle is maybe a half inch-thick gunmetal enamel with some serious heft to it. I honestly felt like a little girl at Christmas unwrapping a present she knows is going to be crazy awesome.
The color is a beautiful golden amber, unctuous against the glass like a thinner cognac. The aroma is so complex: honey, grass, a little musty like the inside of a hive or a dried up comb. The flavor is sweet, boozy with a silky mouth feel. Warmed, the flavors are even silkier. Talk about a winter warmer, the warmth down the throat relaxes the body and makes you want to snuggle down in blankets by a fire. It was pricey at $31 but I honestly believe it was worth it — it’s like having a snifter of warmed brandy only better, why shouldn’t we pay for quality? Simply because it’s another style of fermented alcohol — one of the oldest styles of fermented beverages — doesn’t mean it shouldn’t deserve the respect that Maker’s Mark enjoys. I think I just became a mead-head and possibly found my calling — a lady brewer of hard cider and mead.