Category Archives: Food/Drink

10-second beer review: let’s hear it for Ballast Point Brewing

Ballast Point’s visit to Beer Junction in West Seattle was a hit, and the Rum-Aged Victory at Sea Nitro stole the show.

Periodically Okay, this is going to be more like a 30-second review.

Beer Junction in West Seattle will have one of the region’s craft brewers in to showcase their products. Last night the special guest was San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing and Spirits, and for a mere $4 you could sample five of their varieties. You can’t beat that with a stick, as we used to say back home.

Up first was the Grunion Pale Ale. Now, understand, I don’t like hops. Or, at least, I don’t like hops out of balance, and that’s what America’s brewmasters are all about these days. Read more

10-second beer review: Elliott Bay Brewing Batch 1000 Flanders Style Ale

Oh. Muhgod. If I blindfolded you and held this to your nose you’d think you were smelling a tart red wine vinegar. But give it a taste. Pure magic.

Brewed back in early 2010 to commemorate Elliott Bay Brewing’s 1000th batch (hence the name), this anniversary brew was divided into four separate barrels. This year’s release has been aging since then in Merlot casks after having brettanomyces yeast and a souring bacterium added. Notes of vanilla and grape.

Please, please, please, save enough to take to the Great American Brew Festival. They have a gold medal waiting for you. Read more

Maker’s Mark illustrates the importance of thinking BEFORE you act

CATEGORY: FoodDrinkIn case you haven’t been tracking along, the folks at Maker’s Mark (which is owned by Beam, Inc.), faced with more demand than they could meet, recently announced that they’d be lowering their alcohol by volume (ABV) from 90 proof to 84 proof. You won’t even notice, they assured us.

The backlash was swift and loud. Makers Mark customers pitched a hissy fit, and at least one marketing analysta (Roger Dooley, writing at Forbeswondered if the company had committed “brand suicide.”

Do you really want to go on the record as saying the palates of your customers are so unrefined that they can’t tell the difference when the whiskey is diluted? In reality, in blind taste tests most people probably can’t tell the difference between similar colas, beers, whiskeys, etc. Nevertheless, brands still strive to maximize their taste differentiation. Can you imagine Coke saying, “We could change our formula a little, or even put Pepsi in our cans, and not many of our customers would notice.”?

To their credit, MM leadership today changed course, announcing in a public letter that:

…effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

Good for them. The thing is, we shouldn’t over-congratulate them because this was a butt-stupid mistake to start with. Dooley had commented on their missed opportunity last Thursday:

Maker’s Mark could have used their looming shortage as an opportunity to make their brand stronger. If they encountered sporadic shortages for a period of years, they could raise prices and leverage the scarcity to take the brand up a notch in prestige.

And all he was doing was stating what every smart marketer in America knew instantly: you never give people less. If the choice is between raising prices or cutting portions, for instance, raise the prices. Customers may not like it, but they react worse when they find themselves getting less for their money. Psychologically, when you do so you are taking something away from them.

Same thing with the MM trainwreck. The shortage was arguably even good news from a brand perspective because the unanticipated shortage (whatever that may say about your forecasting operation) emphasized the demand for your product. You could have responded with something like this:

Wow, folks, you like our product so much that you bought more than we expected. It’s going to take us about five or six years to get caught back up because we will not sacrifice the quality of our fine whiskey, no matter how much it costs us. In the meantime, we’re grateful to our customers and salute their discernment.

Instead, you miss the obvious opportunity, you violate the customer’s trust, and you dilute your brand by far more than the three percent you’re cutting the ABV in your now somewhat less prestigious liquid refreshments.

Given that Makers Mark had committed the gaffe, today’s announcement was precisely the right move. But there was no excuse for the mistake in the first place. Now, thanks to a moment of unfathomable stupidity, they’re faced with the challenge of restoring their tarnished reputation.

Maybe Makers Mark will be just fine. Maybe this won’t even register a blip on their sales numbers – time will tell. In the meantime, though, the company’s need to understand what they have done. Leaving the product as is, running a new ad campaign, dumping money into PR aimed at assuring us that everything is hunky-dory, none of that can undo one simple fact: a few days ago, they announced to the world that they can water down their whiskey with no noticeable impact on quality.

That’s a hell of a brand promise, and it’s a bell that you can never unring.

Think. Act. In that order.

It’s the end of the world: how will you spend it?

As you probably already know, the world ends tomorrow. If you didn’t know this, you might want to Google “Mayan calendar” and start getting right with Jesus. Anyhow, the end of the world is a pretty big deal, and we’d like to know how you plan on spending it. Also, we want to know how you’d spend it if you had your druthers. No answer is too fanciful, too fantastic, too outlandish. I mean, take a swing here, folks. The world will be over, so it’s not like anybody will be able to hold you accountable, right?

I’ll go first. What I’d like to be doing when the world ends… For dinner I’d like a big cut of prime rib from the Chop House, start it rare, then pan-blackened. Bourbon Stout. And I’d like a taste of Port Ellen, to boot. For dessert a generous helping of bread pudding with vanilla bean ice cream and bourbon sauce. After dinner, I’d like to retire for the duration with the lovely Kaley Cuoco. Oh hell, dream big, Sam. Kaley Cuoco and Zooey Deschanel and Hannah Simone and Stana Katic.

What I probably will be doing is watching TV with the dog. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Your turn.

And now, let’s hear from some of our favorite musical artists. Here’s REM:

And Rob Dickinson, with a romantic take for those of you lucky enough to be ending it all with the one you love.

So, bye, I guess. It’s been nice knowing everybody.

Doc Sammy’s Three-Meat, Three-Bean and Molasses Crock-Pot Chili

Oh, yum. I’ve been working on this recipe for awhile now. I hope you enjoy it.

Prep time is about 45 minutes, then four or five hours in the crock pot.

Ingredients

  • Ground beef: 1 1/2 pounds
  • Chorizo (beef or pork): 1 1/2 pounds
  • Premium bacon: 8 strips
  • Green bell peppers: 2 large
  • Onion, yellow: 1 large
  • Tomatoes (diced): 2 28-oz cans
  • Beans, kidney: 15-oz can
  • Beans, pinto: 15-oz can
  • Beans, black: 15-oz can
  • Corn, frozen: 10 oz
  • Beef broth: ~8-12 oz
  • Salt: 1 tblsp
  • Black pepper: 1 tsp
  • Cayenne: 2 tblsp
  • Oregano: 1 tsp
  • Cumin: 3 tsp
  • Ancho chili power: 2 tsp
  • Coriander: 1 tsp
  • Cinnamon: 1 tsp
  • Garlic, minced: 1 tblsp
  • Grandma’s sorghum molasses: 1 cup

Instructions

1: Pour tomatoes in large crock pot and turn on high.

2: Cut green peppers into strips and chop onion. Set aside.

3: In large frying pan, fry bacon until it’s done but not yet crispy. Remove from pan, leaving as much of the grease as possible. Put bacon on some paper towels to drain and cool.

4: Put chorizo into frying pan and cook until thoroughly browned. Remove from pan, against leaving as much of the juice as possible, and put into crock pot. (I prefer beef chorizo, but pork works great, too.)

5: Put garlic into frying pan and then add the beef. Brown in the remaining grease. Again, remove the meat and place in crock pot, being careful to leave as much grease as possible. (Beginning to detect a theme here?)

6: Put onions and peppers in frying pan and saute for three or four minutes – ideally until the onions are cooked down a bit but the peppers still look fairly crisp. Dump everything into crock pot. (Yes, everything – you can stop worrying about leaving the grease in the pan now.)

7: Now that bacon has cooled, cut it into roughly 1-inch squares.

8: If your house is like mine, there has been a dog in the kitchen ever since you opened the first pack of meat. Give dog a small piece of bacon and some ear scritches. Add the rest of the bacon to the crock pot.

9: Add the molasses and all of the spices. Pour beef broth into crock pot until the liquid level comes almost to the top of the meat and vegetables. Stir thoroughly.

10: Cover and cook on high until you can see the liquid bubbling/boiling. Reduce to low, cook for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally.

11: With about an hour remaining, drain the beans and add them, along with the corn.

Serve with tortillas, add shredded cheeze and/or sour cream if you like.

And by all means, let me know in the comments below what you thought of it. If you have suggested improvements, I’d love to hear them. I’m a guy who loves chili, but I’m hardly a chef, so anything that helps me become a better cook is welcomed.

Kudos to Denver: city government gets one right

I think some of us are so used to the frustrations of how local governments sometimes work that we’re shocked when a municipality gets one right. Here in West Denver, for instance, a lot of us have been incensed by the way our elected officials are siding with developers against the needs and express wishes of the people who put them in office.

But by golly, it looks like we can put one in the win column for common sense. Like many cities, Denver has an ordinance aimed at keeping places that serve alcohol away from schools. The thing is, these regulations can result in some utter silliness once you get past the philosophy and begin examining the specifics. Since you can’t very well force existing businesses to close when you pass a new ordinance or when a new school opens nearby, you wind up with a situation like we have in my neighborhood. Read more

Dining alone: a single guy’s note to restaurant owners everywhere

Dear Manager:

Hi. I just left your restaurant after waiting in line for maybe 45 minutes or so, and unfortunately I left extremely frustrated.

I’m a regular. I’ve probably been in ____’s an average of once a week since I moved to the Highlands last May. I bring friends there, and a couple of weeks ago I even scheduled a business lunch there with a potential colleague. Most of the time I’m alone, though, as I was this morning.

It was busy, as always for Sunday brunch, and I expected to wait. No problem – it’s worth it. I got my name on the list and kept my eye on the bar, which is where I’ll wind up, being a single. As my name neared the top of the list a booth opened up. The hostess calls my name and says she can seat me there now, but she asks if I’d be willing to wait for the counter since the couple on the end looks like they’re getting ready to leave. Read more

American microbrewers: can they be saved from Hopsessive/Compulsive Disorder?

I love microbrew. Ask any of my friends and they’ll tell you that I’m a proud beer snob and have been since first moving to Boulder in 1993. Colorado, along with states like Oregon and California, led the micro revolution in the ’90s and when I landed here I was absolutely staggered by the number and quality of local beers available to me. The state continues to be one of the the nation’s brewing leaders, with Denver/Boulder (as you’d expect) being at the epicenter. Some interesting facts:

  • Denver ranks first in the nation in per capita beer production.
  • Denver is second in the nation in number of total breweries in a city. Read more

You call this swill chile verde? (Why consumer review services like Yelp are useless)

Whom do we trust when we’re looking for information? Increasingly, research shows that Americans are more likely trust friends, peers and word-of-mouth over “experts.” For instance:

  • A 2007 eMarketer survey of the most trusted sources of information for US consumers was topped by “friends, family and acquaintances” and “strangers with experience.” These sources outranked “teachers” and “newspapers and magazines.”
  • A CDC study shows that moms trust pediatricians the most, but that they trust “friends and family” more than everybody else, including parenting books, employees in the doctor’s office, and newspaper and magazine articles. Read more
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