From the Bar and the Back Room: nostalgia on my part – Blennd and a new beer

Like most regions, humans come up with foods that are beloved locally but pretty much unknown outside of a day’s travel. I grew up in western PA which has this stuff called Reymer’s Blennd. This is a orange and lemon fruit based syrup that you mix with water to your taste.

It’s been around for a long time and now is made by Byrnes & Kiefer (B&K) Manufacturing, in Callery, PA, just north of Pittsburgh.   It is a bit hard to get a hold of, (horrors, amazon doesn’t carry it!) but one can still get it in various grocery stores in western PA. I have yet to find a place that you can order it from online, without paying a crazy amount for it or having to get an industrial sized quantity.

Blennd is a unique thing. Orange juice concentrate and lemon juice are its flavorings (it contains 15% actual juice, and it’ll give you quite a hit of vitamin C). Despite the acidity of these, Blennd doesn’t have a harsh aftertaste like a lot of juice based beverages, that are marketed as healthy or for kids. Something that is close to the taste, and is a wider distribution is Turkey Hill’s Haymaker Punch in the lemon flavor. If you’ve read the Little House on the Prairie books, you’ll recognize that punch as something Laura and Pa drank when working in the fields. Along the lines of these types of drinks are shrubs, which are vinegar and fruit syrups that one mixes with water. We also indulge in just vinegar to sip, and have tried a lot of infused ones.

just like this one!

Blennd has a very smooth consistency, thanks to some of the chemical thickeners in it (sodium hexametaphosphate, xanthan gum and propylene glycol) . And it has high-fructose corn syrup, which may frighten some people, but heck, if this is going to harm a human, I certainly should be feeling some effects thanks to the gallons of Blennd I’ve drank over the years. It was the go-to drink for any church picnic or family reunion, kool-aid was a distant second.   An aunt had a huge galvanized steel drink cooler that found its way everywhere from the barn when hay was being baled, to weddings. I probably got my zinc quotient for my entire life from that thing.

Since we hadn’t had it in a while, I asked my parents to bring some along when they visited recently. And since we have quite a full liquor cabinet, I decided to figure out what was the best mixer. I think anejo tequila is the best (I use Lunazul) since it works well with the citrus flavor.   Vodka is a close runner up, and Blennd really hides the alcohol, which can be a good or bad thing. Bourbon is okay, but reminiscent of a rather redneck blend of Mountain Dew soda and whatever kind of whiskey one might have. And rum makes what amounts to a very smoothly textured variant on a daquiri.

Blennd, along with chip chopped ham (a loaf of ham bits sliced raggedly and as thin as possible), are archetypical of the western tail end of Appalachia. For me, it’s comfort food. Indulging in a bit of nostalgia can be a remedy for how crazy the world is.

We also made a new beer kit. The kit was Northern Brewers White House Honey Porter kit (ours was a partial mash and it seems they only have the extract kit now). This was from a recipe from the White House during President Obama’s first term (I think) when it was nattered about having a beer with the president. It is a very good porter, but I honestly can’t tell that honey has anything to do with it. Ours is as dark and transparent as a cola soda.   A definite one to make again. And a reminder that there can be decent people as president and not that orange idiot that we have now.

I also bought NBs Don’t be Mean to People: A Golden Rule saison kit. They got together with a bunch of North Carolina breweries to make this to point out that North Carolina’s HB 2 was pure discrimination against the LGBT (and I’m sure I’m missing a few letters) community. NB is donating proceeds from the sales of this kit to the NC LGBT community, which I very much like. Not sure if I’ll brew that soon or if I’ll wait until this fall.

NB also has this nifty, and expensive, toy, a pico brewery!   Ah, to have won the lottery and play with this stuff.  🙂

That’s all. Eat and drink well!

(I don’t get any recompense from any of the companies mentioned.  I just like their stuff!)

From the Kitchen and from the bar – new beers, new food and a tattoo!

Well, we never made it to the March for Science.   I did watch it on CSPAN, and they had pretty good coverage of it.   Some of the signs were priceless. I did like the one that read something like “we knew it was going to rain because of science”. I find it terribly weird that some people are offended that anyone dare have fun making the signs and dressing up, seeming to indicate that we all must be the stereotypical scientists with no senses of humor and no lives outside the laboratory.

This is to catch up on some of our gustatory and other adventures over the last few weeks.

On a visit to the grocery store, I found a “prime” top round aka London Broil. Prime generally indicates a cut that has a lot of marbling in it, and that is just a weird thing to claim for top round which is very, very lean. But there are other ways to determine “prime”, so maybe that’s how it works.   In any case, my curiosity got the better of me and I bought it since it was on sale. I couldn’t tell it was any more tender than a regular top round (the south end of a north facing cow).

I found a marinade on Saveur’s website. Since I didn’t have fennel, I used some star anise that I’ve had lying around.   I generally don’t care for the flavor of anise/licorice but I do like it in combination with other things. Spouse made a very hot fire in the charcoal grill and we had flames licking up around the meat as we like, and grilled it to a nice medium rare. Cut on the bias, it was tolerably tender and had a great flavor. We had it with fried potatoes and onions.

During that same shopping, I also found a pair of small beef tenderloins for about half their usual price. They were netted, which indicated that they weren’t holding together well (being three separate muscles).   But they’ll make a treat for beef stroganoff, or just slices of it raw since I tend to like that kind of thing. Continue reading

From the Bar – wine and beers from our day trip in York and Lancaster Counties, PA

We had a bit of a staycation last weekend. South-central PA has a bunch of wineries, breweries and good restaurants so we picked a direction, York and east to Lancaster, and headed out.  Sorry, no photos.  I’m not much of a photographer anyhow. 🙂

Just a note, these places did charge for sampling as most places do now.

First stop was the Old Republic Distillery in York. They have a small storefront in a strip mall just off Route 30 on the west side of York. They do vodka and moonshine and flavored riffs on both. The vodka is extraordinarily smooth. They also make a blackberry flavored version that has no sugar in it, so I’ve finally found my flavored vodka that doesn’t taste like Jolly Rancher syrup. The gal who was working there suggested it in lemonade which was very good, tasting rather like a Smartie (a small pressed tablet candy here in the US). We picked up a bottle of that and of their Love Potion Black Cherry, a fruit liqueur that is not too sweet at all and you can taste that frisson of bitterness that black cherries have.

We did taste most of their offerings, and do want to go back for the Apple Pie Moonshine. You gotta love a liqueur that you have to shake up since it has real spices in it. It’ll be great hot and buttered in the fall.   I also liked the fact that the gal who was working that day knew her history of the area.

For lunch, we headed to the White Rose Bar and Grill. With two towns 30 or so miles apart called Lancaster and York, we do have a lot of rose references going on. This restaurant is right across from the old town market, which is a lively place on Saturdays, very bohemian.   Parking is a bit of a trial, though we got crazy lucky that there was a parking space in the lot for the restaurant. Driving through York is also a trial since people were complete idiots when it came to just walking out onto the street anywhere. It was like it was the jaywalking capital of the world.

The White Rose is a gorgeous restaurant, with a porch half way around it, and more outdoor seating in its sister business, a cigar bar. We sat inside because I just don’t like the noise and dirt of sitting outside along a busy street. They did have all of the doors open along the porches so it was pretty much like being outside anyway. I got a plate of fresh-cut French fries with an inordinate amount of bacon and chedder on them (I do prefer Cheez Whiz, because it doesn’t harden into a carapace) that was good, and my husband got a cup of cream of crab soup and a pit beef sandwich. Pit beef is a large roast of beef cooked over a wood fire and then sliced up. All was excellent. We also had a couple of beers, mine a Liquid Hero Schweet Ale, which was very refreshing and not too sweet as many fruit beers are, and husband’s a Crystal Ball Coconut Porter, very tasty and gets more coconutty as it warms a bit. Always nice that we can now get the local beers at other outlets, so we don’t have to visit everywhere, although we do want to do so.

East on Route 30, we went to Moon Dancer Vineyards and Winery. Or at least we tried to. This winery is set back into the country a few miles. It’s near a very lovely overlook of the Susquehanna River, and close to some of the biggest houses I’ve seen in a while. It is up one of the worst kept gravel lanes I’ve been on in a very long time. If your car has not much clearance, I would advise not to go unless they do some major grading of the lane. We made it up the lane and went into the house that holds the winery.   Unfortunately, a small bus had got there just before us, an outing from a senior care facility that also advertised that they did memory care too. It was going to take forever to get served, so we left. As we did so, we met a full-sized tour bus creeping its way up the rutted mess of a lane. Good thing we had some room to get over.

Getting back on Route 30, we headed toward Lancaster. The next winery on our itinerary was Tamanend Winery.   The tasting room is along a small road in an older industrial park, in a small warehouse. We were hoping to try their mead but they were out. They had a very odd lime margarita flavored wine that tasted okay but smelled like lime dish detergent. We got a bottle of a sweet red fruit mix wine, Patriot, which should make a good sangria and a bottle of Honeysuckle, a apple and concord grape wine, also sweet.

The Vinyards at Grandview was the next stop, up along Route 283. This winery had more wines that were of the drier, more expensive variety. When we entered the tasting room, there was an oblivious bevy of women at the bar, taking up all of the space with no consideration for anyone else.   The staff was very nice to us in that they told us we could sit at one of the small tables and they would bring the wine to us to sample. All we tried were very good, and much more for a palate used to drier wines rather than the sugar bombs that PA has a tendency to turn out. We got a bottle of the Gruner Veltliner, a dry light white, Crimson Quartette (we do love our red blends) and Pop Umble’s Black Cherry wine, another lovely cherry flavor with just that tiny hint of bitterness.

The last winery on our day tour was the Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey. Due to the eternally weird alcohol laws of Pennsylvania, this is in two separate buildings. The wine tasting room is in what appears to be the old farm house and the brewery tasting is in a steel barn down the hill a bit. The original barn is a kennel and you can hear dogs yapping. The wine was also quite good and we picked up a bottle of Twisted Kiss, a sweet white, and a desert wine Cocoa di Vezzetti. Yes it does taste like chocolate (mixed with port), and anything within spitting distance Hershey inevitably has some candy or chocolate theme.

At the barn, you can get a flight of the beers currently on tap. The quality varied widely, from a supposed Hefeweizen with absolutely no phenolic flavors, to a very good Mexican style lager and a tasty chocolate flavored brown ale. Outside the barn is a nice sitting area with live music. It’s just a shame that most live musicians never check what they sound like after setting up. For gods’ sake, check the balance so we can actually hear the singer and not just the electric piano.

To end the day, we stopped at Lancaster Brewing Company’s restaurant just outside of Harrisburg. Having an alcohol-sharpened hunger, we got appetizers: a platter of bacon done 3 or 4 different ways, egg rolls that were filled with what goes on a Rueben sandwich, and a hot queso blanco and chorizo dip. That stuff was just heaven. I had a Baked Pumpkin Ale, which is one of the few I’ve had where you can really taste the sweet spices.

So, that was our weekend. We did also go see Ant-man, which was loads of fun. Just make sure when you are out tasting to drink lots of water (or my favorite, Gatorade) and pace yourselves.

From the Bar and Kitchen – grilled chicken, shrimp, beer, and random kibitzing

Hello! Finally getting a chance to catch up on posts about food, alcohol and other things. I do get wrapped up in commenting on other blogs and sadly neglect my own. Current blog commenting is with a Catholic, Joe, which has been interesting, especially when I have asked him if he would obey a Christian theocracy, and with Barry, someone who considers religion something other than believing in a deity and worshipping it, the basic definition of religion. That one is a mind-bender and many thanks to my dear friend, Mak, for hosting the discussion.

shrimpsWith the weather being unusually warm, we’ve had a chance to grill out a couple of times. One meal was grilled shrimp, grilled romaine (yes, the lettuce) and a very tasty rice blend, Texmati Royal Blend. We brushed the shrimps with Frank’s Sweet Chili Sauce, and grilled them over a very hot fire for a short amount of time. We also always remove the tails, since saucy tails are rather pointless. I like the sauce since it has a good hit of vinegar in amongst the sweet and heat. The romaine was brushed with olive oil, grilled to get a nice char and then dressed with Gazebo Room Greek Salad Dressing. It’s a Harrisburg original, an oil and vinegar dressing with a fair amount of oregano (I think). I love it on cold cut subs.  The rice is Texmati Royal Blend White, Brown and Red Rice, which smells like popcorn when cooking.

chickenWe experimented on another weekend with cooking chicken legs. It is definitely a time for indirect cooking. We built a pile of charcoal in the center of the grill, and arranged the legs around it in a circle, turning them about every 10 minutes for around 45 minutes. It was the first time I actually got a golden brown, not half rubbery and half charcoal skin on my chicken on a grill.

 

 

 

squirel 1While we were cooking one evening, a squirrel decided to join us. I gave him some roasted peanuts in the shell.

wallWe have been restructuring the backyard. Here’s our new stonewall mostly done, with water pipe and new statue of the three Graces.

Watched a couple of movies recently. The newest Godzilla movie is bad. I love giant monster movies, so suspension of disbelief isn’t hard for me. However, this sorry movie had so many ridiculous, LAZY, plot holes in it, it was ridiculous. Same for X-Men: Days of Future Past. I used to be a huge X-Men fan in the 70s and 80s. Nice special effects, utter nonsense for a story.

 

krampusoverflowing beerFinally, we had brewed some beer over the winter, the Festivus Ale from Northern Brewing. We put a label with the Krampus on it. It was a Festivus miracle since we got nearly 12% alcohol if our measuring device is to be believed. It was a very tasty beer, with fairly sweet with toffee and a good measure of spice. We kept it perhaps too long since it started foaming uncontrollably and did actually blow up some bottles. Glad we had the bottles in a plastic bag lined cardboard box because the glass bottles became bombs, peppering the inside of the box with shrapnel.

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s a cat picture for good measure.cats

From the Back Room: Finally, back to brewing – Northern Brewer’s Assaazin

asaazinAfter a long hiatus in brewing thanks to having a crazy retail work schedule, we are back brewing again.

This batch is Northern Brewer’s kit, Assaazin Belgian Pale Ale. It was a limited run kit with Saaz hops from a Michigan hop yard. And honestly, it may have been wasted on me because I can’t tell that the hops have a unique terroir to their flavor. It is a very good beer though.

We followed the kit and this is after about two weeks in the bottle. The color is a nice dark amber with a off white head. The head starts fairly fine and then turns nicely lacy. The flavor is a lot of the phenolic Belgian side with a nice hit of green herby hops to offset it.

I definitely would make this again, so here’s to hoping that NB makes more. It’s very nice to see a lot of places regaining their hopyards so there are more things to experiment with.

NB now has a Festivus beer kit, something to drink with your feats of strength and airing of grievances. I’m awfully tempted to get it. 🙂

update: and get it we shall.  🙂 it’s on its way.

From the Bar – a pair of autumnal beers

beerIn the midst of starting the new job, so here’s a quick post on some new beers we’ve tried. There were going to be more, but we tossed the other bottles in the recycling bin and I can’t recall them. Here’s the memorable ones.

Elysian Night Owl – probably the best pumpkin beer I’ve had so far. Just the barest touch sweet and a strong spice taste, far more than many other beers supposedly brewed with pumpkin and the sweet spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. Occasionally, I like a half and half blend of beer and hard cider and this would be tasty with a cider like Strongbow.

DuClaw Guilty Filthy Soul – DuClaw’s unusual names are probably the amusement and aggravation of wait staff and bartenders everywhere. It does amuse me to order a “guilty filthy soul” to drink… This reminds me of a cross between a porter and a stout, with the richer mouthfeel added from the cocoa. It strikes me as tasting like a Tootsie Roll. I do like that you can’t really taste that it is a bit higher in alcohol, and it doesn’t end up tasting like a chocolate barleywine.

Now that I have a regular schedule (thank Sekhmet! if she existed), I hope to have a new beer in the fermenter this weekend.

That’s it. Drink well!

From the Kitchen – The Hungry Cat Tavern Cookbook

cat bird woodcut 2I thought I might put all of my husband’s and mines recipes together in one document.  We’ve fantasized for years about having a restaurant of our own so that’s where the title comes from.  Please no stealing it and trying to pass it off as your own.  There may be mistakes in it, though I’ve tried to eliminate them.  Let me know about them if you find something that looks squiffy.  It’s not perfect and just a vanity project for my own amusement.

It has food, drinks, and my tips/opinions at the back.

It’s available in a pdf (top) and docx (bottom).  If printed, it is a 44 page booklet, on folded 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

hungry cat tavern cookbook

hungry cat tavern cookbook

The image is a purchased clipart from

http://ClipartOf.com/1095629