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Midwinter Resolution: Fair Trade Baking

Posted in Food and Drinks, Green Product Reviews on January 31st, 2013

Something that “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” reminded me of was that chocolate is frequently farmed with slave labor, and that farmers are exploited by the large manufacturing companies who produce and distribute it. I don’t keep a lot of candy in my house, but I do buy chocolate chips and cocoa powder to use when baking fairly regularly.

I like to give Divine fair trade chocolate as a gift, but last week at the supermarket I thought about the fact that the chips in my cookies might be made by slaves too. I knew that there were human rights problems with Nestle and Hershey (although the latter has said they will only be using slave labor for a few more years) I reached for Ghirardelli, which I honestly think is better quality than those other brands, albeit slightly more expensive. Although they claim they do not use slave labor, Ghirardelli is not fair trade certified.

For Christmas, Adam and I received some Dagoba drinking chocolate which is organic and Rainforest Alliance Certified. It’s also the best hot chocolate I have ever had.

The second best hot chocolate I have ever had was made with Guittard Cococa Rouge, which to my happy surprise is both Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certified! (They should put that on the label!)

So I do have some ideas on which brands of fair trade cocoa powder I will like to use in baking. But, what about chocolate chips? I could buy some fair trade chocolate bars and break them up, but looking around online there are several different companies that do sell fair trade chocolate chips.

The previously mentioned Divine, Dagoba and Guittard sell chips or drops. As do Sunspire and Sweet Earth. I have not yet tried any of these, and I hope I am equal to the task! Let me know if you have any recommendations.

Beer Adventures In London and Edinburgh

Posted in Food and Drinks, Pictures on September 12th, 2012

During my recent trip to the UK, I made an effort to sample beers that I haven’t seen in the USA or in New York specifically. Here are some of the hilights:

Cider in London
While in London I enjoyed a lot more cider than I had initially thought I would have. It’s quite popular and was available at ever pub and restaurant we went to. What surprised me is that it’s often served over ice. I’m not a fan of that, because the ice melts and dilutes the cider. Most of the time, the bar tender or server will ask if you want ice, so that only happened to me once, with a Wyld Wood Westons Organic Cider.

We visited the Sherlock Holmes pub with Steve Bowen and @RedDalek. I was quite shocked that someone had mounted their poor bloodhound on the wall, but then I realized that it was the Hound of the Baskervilles! The pub contains memorabilia from Sherlock Holmes movies and television series.

Like many in /r/beer recommended, I made sure to sample Strong Bow Cider on tap. It tasted even better drinking it outside on a sunny afternoon at a pub that was actually a boat.

Photo credit: RPM
Tattershall Castle

I tried Aspall Draught Suffolk Cyder on the advice of @ChardHollis and was not disappointed.

We got to visit The Mayflower, the pub that is said to be where the ship of the same name set sail for America.

While there I had a Joseph Holt Maplemoon, which I think was the beer highlight of London for me. The maple flavor was just enough that you could really enjoy it but it didn’t overpower the beer.

On a day trip to Bath, I had some (nonalcoholic) ginger beer. I see Reed’s extra ginger brew sometimes in the United States, but most American soft drinks are packed with high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Fentimans was very gingery and almost too spicy.

During our visit to the British Museum, I noticed this fascinating piece of beer history:

Cask Ales in Edinburgh
While in Scotland, I tried to always pick a beer from the cask selection, something not often seen in the United States.

When we arrived in Edinburgh, it was cold and rainy. We had lunch at the Halfway House, a small pub on the oddly named Fleshmarket Close. I had a smoked haddock and cheese pot pie and Adam had stovies – corned beef hash to us Yanks.

Dark Munro on the right and Thrappledouser at left.

I had my first cask ale, a Highland Dark Munro. I enjoy darker beers, and this one had a very pleasant flavor of well roasted malt and just a hint of chocolate/coffee. It was definitely appropriate for the weather and a hearty lunch.

That night we visited The Last Drop, a picturesque pub on Grassmarket, famous for being the site of the last ever public hanging in Scotland.

The inside of it was cinematic. The building is hundreds of years old, and the tavern has seen a lot of history. It was crowded even fairly early in the evening and we got a table facing the bar. I enjoyed watching the crowd and looking at the different taps and trying to make sense of the scotch whiskey list. The way the pub was lit, it seemed to suggest candlelight and a glowing fireplace although there were only modern, electric lights. I had another pot pie, but this one was made with steak and ale. I’m not generally a steak and potatoes kind of woman, but it was fantastic. I had a pint of Caledonian ale, the same used in the pie I was eating. It was a very satisfying meal.

On the way home we stopped at Bow Bar, where I was happily surprised to see Brooklyn Lager and Goose Island representing the United States on their bottle list.

The next day I have to admit we were ugly Americans and had lunch at Filling Station but I did have a chuckle at this description of Brooklyn Lager:

We made up for it though with dinner at The White Hart Inn, a pub whose cellar dates back to 1516.

Photo credit: notcub

We had a drink outside before heading in for a dinner.

Independence Ale

Later on we made our way to Brew Dog, passing a night club offering £1 drinks:

Quality cocktails, I’m sure!

But we were greeted with this amazing sight when we arrived:

Brew Dog had a laid back atmosphere with a larger selection of bottles than beers on tap, most of which were IPA’s:

Photo credit: @BrewDogEdin

I had the Dogma, which was very rich and pleasantly medium bodied. There were hints of honey and dark malt. Definitely a beer to savor.

We couldn’t leave though, without trying the infamous Tactical Nuclear Penguin.

It tasted like Port and burning.

It was £5 for a shot (or dram as they say in Scotland) and was served in the glass pictured above. TNP smelled really good at first, like a caramel stout with dark fruit. But when I tilted the glass to drink some, I got a slight burning sensation in my nostrils like I was at a gas station. Technically it’s an imperial stout, and I could see that. It also tasted like a very strong port wine, and had a strong alcohol aftertaste. It wasn’t great, but I’m glad I tried it for the novelty.

One of the things Adam particularly liked about Edinburgh was the churches that had been renovated into pubs.

The Iron Church

The Frankenstein Pub

Cloisters Bar

At Cloisters, I tried a Tempest Cresta Black, which was a pretty decent stout, but a little thin for my tastes.

We had dinner at the Guildford Arms which had been highly recommended to us. It’s a beautiful place, and was built in a very ornate style to try and combat the prevailing notion that pubs were a bane on society. The food was very good. I had the traditional Fish and Chips with an Edinburgh Gold. Edinburgh Gold was light but much too fruity for my taste. I felt like I was drinking a jar of perfume at times. We ordered dessert because we were having such a nice evening. I had an Orkney Dark Island which was nice on it’s own, but much to bitter to be paired with my profiterole. I pushed it aside and sipped it when I was finished.

A view of the Guildford Arms from the upstairs seating.

On our last day in Edinburgh, we had lunch at Teuchters a cozy pub on William Street.

This was where we found (in our humble opinions anyway) the Holy Grail of Scottish beers – Innis & Gunn on tap:

Checkmate, Atheists!

We had dinner at The Canon’s Gait. The restaurant is decorated with famous quotations painted on the walls, like “If God forbade drinking, would He have made wine so good?” The food was good, and I was boring and ordered a Magner’s, but the honey and ice cream parfait I had for dessert was really terrific.

Our final stop in Edinburgh was The Blue Blazer to meetup with some Daylight Atheism readers.

Photo credit: Chris Donia

I tried two really good beers on cask there, Trade Winds and Blathan.

Trade Winds was the only wheat beer I had in the UK, and I enjoyed it immensely. I was interested because it was described as including elderflower, and I love St. Germain elderflower liqueur and champagne cocktails, so why not try that flavor in a beer? It was light and fruity with some nice malt tastes.

Blathan was a challenge to order, mainly because the name is Gaelic and not pronounced how it’s spelled. But it was worth the confusion my labored Long Island accent produced to the bar tender’s Scottish ears. It was crisp, fruity and not too bitter. Very refreshing.

Photo Credit: Craige Moore
Blathan? Blath? Bath? Blan? That one!

I had lots of fun on my trip, and want to give a shout out to /r/beer for recommending many of the fine establishments we visited in Edinburgh. Also I really enjoyed the Daylight Atheism meetups, thanks to everyone who came out!

Trinity Brewhouse, Providence RI

Posted in Food and Drinks on June 13th, 2012

While in Providence, we had a chance to visit Trinity Brewhouse. Both times we ate there, the place was packed with convention goers, so I don’t know what the atmosphere is like on a typical night in Providence, but I did have a good time. Their seafood bisque is divine, and I mean that even by New England standards! We also enjoyed their french fries and sandwiches on homemade focaccia bread. The service was good and we appreciated that there was a lot of outdoor seating. Indoors, you could see the actual brewery, albeit behind a glass covered in bumper stickers:

Their beer list is simple, but has something for everyone.

I had the Hefeweizen (beer on the right in the above picture) which was a phenomenal pint of banana bread heaven, and the Saison, which was also very good and a nice compliment to my meal. Adam had the Kolsch (beer on the left, above), and Sir Perrys Pear Cider which he enjoyed as well.

If I am ever in Providence again I will definitely be heading back to Trinity Brewhouse, to check out the basement bar, try the Russian Imperial Stout I just did not have the time to savor, and to chat with the locals. Check it out if you are ever in town!

Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club March 2012

Posted in Food and Drinks on March 5th, 2012

For Christmas this year, Adam’s parents gave us a three month subscription to Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club. You can read my previous reviews from the January and February selections.

This month featured selections from Casco Bay Brewing Company in Maine and Chameleon Brewing Company in Wisconsin.

Casco Bay Riptide Red by Casco Bay Brewing Company

This beer pours a very pretty red color. It smells of malt, hops and just a hint of caramel. Pleasantly medium bodied and very smooth, the taste is not overwhelming, but it’s definitely flavorful. I mostly tasted mild hops, and a little bread and caramel.

Casco Bay Brown Ale by Casco Bay Brewing Company

When I poured this beer there was a thick, fluffy head. It’s an attractive dark brown color. This beer smells like coffee and dark roasted malt. I tasted mostly dark chocolate with a hint of hops. It’s medium bodied with lots of bubbles. This would be a great beer to have with a dessert.

Chameleon Fire Light by Chameleon Brewing Company

This beer has a thick, foamy head. It’s a very light yellow color and a clean, fresh, malty smell. It’s light bodied and mostly the mouthfeel is just the carbonation. I tasted bread, malt, and a very slight trace of hops. Nothing out of the ordinary here – similar to Bud, would be good for a drinking game, a picnic or a day at the ball park.

Chameleon Ryediculous IPA by Chameleon Brewing Company

I poured this beer and there was a very thick head. It’s an amber color, and appears to be unfiltered. The only thing I could smell was hops – and that’s all I could taste as well. This beer is light bodied and extremely bitter. I did taste just the hint of fruit, but the hops were so overwhelming I couldn’t finish my beer. IPAs are not my favorite, but I can appreciate a good one on occasion. Ryediculous was just too unpleasant for me to continue.

Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club February 2012

Posted in Food and Drinks on February 27th, 2012

For Christmas this year, Adam’s parents gave us a three month subscription to Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club. You can read my review of January’s selections here.

This month featured selections from Mendocino Brewing Company
in California and Lancaster Brewing Company in

White Hawk IPA by Mendocino Brewing Company

Although I’m not a fan of IPA’s I am not one to let beer go to waste. This beer tasted fresh and crisp, and fairly light. It was definitely hoppy but I was able to enjoy it with a meal.

Black Hawk Select Stout by Mendocino Brewing Company

This beer has a rich dark color. It was medium bodied, and has a pleasant mouthfeel. Black Hawk is nicely carbonated black and tastes of black coffee with a hint of chocolate. What I liked most about this stout is that it’s drinkable. You can sip and savor it but you don’t have to. It’s not too strong to drink as you would a lighter beer.

Amish Four Grain Pale Ale by Lancaster Brewing Company

This beer poured with a nice head and pleasant amber color. It smelled fruity to me. It’s medium bodied with a rum rasin taste, and while it’s an American Pale Ale, I did not notice a particularly hoppy taste. There were hops, but it wasn’t the defining characteristic of the beer.

Amish Milk Stout by Lancaster Brewing Company

This beer has a very dark color. It smelled of coffee and caramel. It was more carbonated than the Black Hawk, but not too much. I tasted dark coffee and caramel, with a hint of bitterness and hops.

Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club January 2012

Posted in Food and Drinks on January 17th, 2012

For Christmas this year, Adam’s parents gave us a three month subscription to Awesome Clubs Beer of the Month Club. (Best. In-Laws. Ever.)

This month featured selections from Fordham Brewing Company in Deleware and Boulder Beer in Colorado

Helles Lager by Fordham Brewing Company

Very light and crisp, the aroma was slightly bready and it was extremely drinkable – just a hint of bitterness. I would rate it as solidly average. No frills, but there was nothing objectionable about it either.

Copperhead Ale by Fordham Brewing Company

This beer was outstanding. A delightful copper color, medium bodied and with a rich caramel and nut flavor. A real treat.

Never Summer Ale by Boulder Beer

Very good, and not what I was expecting from a winter seasonal. It tasted like a brown ale; dark and slightly nutty with just a hint of caramel. Good for savoring on a cold night out at the pub or in with friends.

Planet Porter by Boulder Beer

I enjoy a good porter now and then and this one was solid. Pleasantly dark with a hint of coffee. Full bodied, but not so heavy you will be nursing it all night.

Goose Island Brewpub

Posted in Food and Drinks on September 18th, 2011

During our trip to Chicago Adam and I visited the Goose Island Brewpub, Clybourn location. It’s set back away from the road in a cluster of stores. Once we found it though, we had a terrific time.

The food was excellent. I had a Black Earth burger, which was made from organic beef. The toppings complimented each other well. Since watching Food, Inc., I’ve made an effort to not eat beef that was not grass fed, and it was a pleasure to be able to indulge with my beer. Many of the ingredients the brewpub uses are from local farms which were listed on the menu. Adam got the Pulled Pork and also enjoyed his meal. We split an amazing dessert – chocolate malt cake with ice cream.

The Goose Island beer menu is serious business. The descriptions were detailed, down to the type of glassware used for each. The image above is of the 312 and the Hefeweizen. The 312 was about average. The Hefeweizen, however was notable in that the banana flavors were really distinct. The fruit flavor was delicious. Next I tried the Sofie, with hints of vanilla, white pepper and citrus, was just a perfect bliss of a beer. The overall experience reminded me of champagne, in the way the flavor and carbonation went together. I will definitley be on the lookout for it in the future. With dessert, we split a Pere Jacques, a darker Belgian beer. It complimented the chocolate really well. The beer was excellent, and it made a great meal even better.

Dinner at Goose Island felt like hitting the jackpot. Check it out if you get the chance. The brewpub was not sold to Anheuser-Busch with the Fulton Street Brewery. It’s a special place and I hope it stays that way.

Get Real Belgian Festival 2011

Posted in Food and Drinks on July 11th, 2011

On Saturday night I went with some friends to the evening session of the Get Real Belgian Festival at the Altman Building in New York City. The price was a bit steep compared to other beer festivals I have been to, but there was a discount code for 20% off and many people got last minute tickets with Groupon. I think it was worth the price, because the event was crowded but not oversold. I like the idea of paying extra to have room to breathe, to move through the crowd, and not have to wait on ridiculous lines for everything.

I tasted many of the beers and I think I’m really starting to get the hang of the idea of tasting versus drinking. I definitely poured out more samples at this festival than I had ever done previously, and it’s not because there were more bad beers. The sample glasses were a little bigger than what I was used to (and actually made of glass!) and this often resulted in a larger pour. It wasn’t worth the calories/sobriety/stomachache to drink so much of a beer I didn’t absolutely love.

A lot of craft brewers I’m a fan of were there, like Allagash and Ommegang, as well as beers from home brewers, which I though was a really great opportunity for the brewers and festival goers alike. My favorite beer of the night was the Harbinger Saison from Sixpoint, it was just perfect. I also tasted my first Flanders Red Ale, which was an entirely different gustatory experience, that I don’t know if I will seek out again. But I never thought I would like the hoppier beers and they are growing on me, so who knows?

The festival also included some delicious food from Petite Abeille, great tunes from Lifted Crew and I spent some time perusing the brochures and fliers at the Belgian Tourism table. A beer pilgrimage is definitely on my bucket list.

My friends and I checked out the seminar on pairing beer and chocolate. The presenter was knowledgeable and very interesting, but even though he had a microphone the crowd was talking over him. I’ve got nothing against a little cheer and rowdiness at a beer festival, but why would you do while a class is going on? That’s what the main floor is for, really.

Overall, I had a wonderful time. Get Real is planning an “All American Craft Ale Festival” in September and I am looking forward to another well done event showcasing great beer.

Letter Writing Sunday: Grocery Store Slavery

Posted in Editorials, Food and Drinks on June 26th, 2011

My husband and I are frequent customers at our local Stop and Shop. The location is convenient, and they have a large selection of organic produce and meats for a cheaper price than Whole Foods. However, it has come to my attention via this editorial by Mark Bittman that the labor practices used by their supplier of tomatoes is akin to slavery.

Normally we get the “Nature’s Promise” tomatoes, Stop & Shop’s generic organic brand, but the label only reads “Made in the USA.” It’s impossible to tell if they were grown in the conditions Bittman describes, although they may not be as he says the fields in Florida require a massive amount of fertilizer. Luckily out local farmers market will be able to supply us with tomatoes for the time being, and we will be giving this letter to the store manager.

This website has other letters you can give to the manager at your local Giant, Kroger, Martin’s, Publix or Trader Joe’s as well. These chains also sell tomatoes from Immokalee Florida.

My First Beer

Posted in Editorials, Food and Drinks on June 8th, 2011

I was perusing Beerit, and came upon the question, “What was the first beer you ever had?” My Dad had let me take a few sips of his Molson when I was a kid, but the first beer I got for myself was at a frat party my Freshman year of college, in the fall of 2000 that I had gone to with my four suite-mates.

One of my roommates had gotten a pass to a Frat party, an exclusive one, which meant that they were only letting people in who had invitations. This was good because it meant that we could party in the beautiful fraternity house that they lived in – I went to college in a town that had seen better days economically, and there were plenty of large gorgeous Victorian homes available for ridiculously cheap rent. But an invite only party meant that it would not be too crowded to move around, dance or have a good time. A girl in my Math class would be there, her boyfriend was a pledge. She said it was going to be great.

We talked about the party as we got ready. We decided what taxicab company to take, and agreed to keep an eye on one another. Remember, the other ladies warned me, drink the beer, not the punch. I nodded in agreement. The beer was what the guys drank, it might taste like crap, but it wouldn’t make you immediately drunk (As little as I knew about sex when I was seventeen, I knew less about alcohol.) like that punch. We speculated that the punch was mostly cherry Kool-Aid mix, sugar and vodka. See, girls like pink, sweet, fruity drinks and not manly, bitter beer. If they made it sweet enough and strong enough, we tried to guess the fraternity guys reasoning, women would get too drunk and be more likely to say yes to sex…or, as we darkly reasoned, would be less likely to out up a fight if they were being raped. So, drink the beer so you can be sober enough to decide if you want to hook up or not.

The beer tasted like dishwater. But I danced with my friends and some of the guys who were there, chatted with classmates and people I knew at the party, played some pool. I had a really good time. The music was great. And I didn’t think twice about going to a party where I suspected the hosts were actively trying to rape – if not me, my friends or other women there.

I drank my first beer because I was trying to avoid being date raped.

There is no reason to blame myself for wanting to go out and have a good time with my friends. The college frat party is such a cultural touchstone, who wouldn’t want to see what all the fuss was about? We took reasonable precautions, watched our own and each others drinks, looked out for each other, didn’t drink and drive. But I had walked into that party, where I actively suspected that the men throwing it were attempting to hurt women who attended. Now, they might have all been very nice boys. The fraternity in question didn’t have a reputation for assaulting women. They might have only made the punch as an alternative for people who didn’t want a beverage that tasted like mud. It might have had a reasonable amount of alcohol in it. But that’s not what I was thinking when my friends and I planned to go. I was thinking “these guys probably made this punch to coerce women into sex they don’t want to have” and my reaction wasn’t not to go, it was just not to drink the punch.

Not for a minute did I think to question for a moment my assumption that GHB was everywhere, or think that I should be angry about it. It was just part of the dating landscape, I supposed. I did some research online for this post and found that the drug most commonly related to sexual assault is alcohol. Only about 2 or 3% of women who go to the emergency room after being raped were slipped a drug like GHB or Rohypnol. But my mother had warned me about watching my drink since I was a preteen, and this poster was all over my campus. We were acting rationally given the information we had available. Given the facts, would it have been more reasonable for our parents and school to tell us to stay home and never to drink at all? In the same way that telling people they must only ever be abstinent is not an effective way to teach them about sex, “hide under your bed and never touch a drop of alcohol” isn’t realistic or practical either. It would also put the responsibility to stop rape entirely on women, and imply that those who dared enjoy a drink deserved to be assaulted – with no attention paid to the rapists who are actually perpetrating the violence.

Looking back on that night, I feel nostalgic, yet startled at my naivete. Overwhelmingly I feel warmly about that time of my life and happy that it all worked out so well. Eventually, we moved out of the dorms and into those swank houses ourselves. We came of age and could buy our own drinks. There were raucous parties where we genuinely felt safe – those were the best of all – and we drank beer that actually tasted really good.