Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Review of Sandor Katz's The Art of Fermentation

When searching for new food-related books to check out, I—ever the twat-snob—always peruse the James Beard awards from years past. That's how I ended up with a copy of The Art of Fermentation, which currently sits on the desk in front of me. The book is emphatically not a cookbook, as it's remarkably devoid of fine-tuned recipes and detailed step-by-step instructions. Instead, it serves more as an exploration of and a testament to the endless variety of possibilities that fermentation presents. For me, a scientist who clutches to the notions of measurement and reproducibility, this could be considered a hard sell. But judging from my countertop and fridge, which fucking runneth-over with fermenting veggies, hot sauce, cultured butter, buttermilk, vinegars, and a cherry country wine1—all wild-fermented—I'd have to say the book is wildly2 successful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Houston Brewery Taproom Guide

I have been fortunate to call Houston home for the past three years, and during that time I have ventured to many of its finest craft breweries. For the past year, I’ve been traveling extensively for work, and each time I visited a new city I meticulously researched which breweries to visit and how their tap rooms work, as it seems each one has its own rules and quirks. As such, I figured, hey, why not write up a summary of all the breweries in Houston in case someone doesn't know where to get started, or wants to figure out how to best spend their limited time in Houston. Or maybe, you are a Houston native just trying to figure out which brewery you want to visit next. To be clear, this article is NOT a power ranking of the breweries in Houston, it is solely about the experience of visiting the brewery and sampling their on-site beers. So before I get in to it, let's get the basics of Houston down.

First, let’s break down how I grouped the breweries. Houston has the urban sprawl and it has it bad. That means you'll be driving pretty much everywhere you go, or Ubering if you've got boat loads of expendable income (which if you're in Houston may very well be true). There are two beltways around Houston: the 610 Loop and Beltway 8. From here on out, 610 will be referred to as the Loop and Beltway 8 simply as the Beltway. While within the Loop, driving anywhere else in the Loop rarely takes more than 10-15 minutes, barring traffic. Traveling from within the Loop to a location within the Beltway can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes. Getting to anything outside the Beltway from inside the Loop can vary from as little as 30 minutes to as much as an hour. Now, I'll get some flak for this but rarely do I try to leave the Loop, so leaving the Beltway can be quite the hike. Thankfully, Houston has a lot of other major highways, so even if you are leaving the Beltway, you're still only 30-45 minutes away from downtown. Keep that in mind when planning your trip! That being said, the Houston metro area covers a MASSIVE amount of land (insert everything bigger in Texas joke here) and for me to visit every brewery in this fine area is difficult. So while I did include 3 breweries in Conroe (a small city roughly 45 minutes north of Houston) on this list, I had to leave some breweries outside the Beltway off the list. This isn't to say they aren't great breweries, it just means I have yet to visit and can't accurately explain what they’re all about. But, I will update this article as I have more time to explore these breweries.


One last piece of information before I jump into it: a beer tour in Houston, and in Texas in general, does not mean the same thing it means everywhere else. Before I moved to Texas, “beer tour” meant we were going to go into a brewery and someone that worked there would tell us the four ingredients, explain wort, and show off their big shiny fermenters. This is not exactly how it works in Houston. There used to be regulations in place stating that the only way a brewery could serve beer in-house was to offer a tour, so many breweries simply ran open houses and called it a tour. The Texas standard is to offer a piece of glassware and some arbitrary amount of tokens that can be redeemed for beer (generally 1 token = 1 beer), although this is not a steadfast rule. One other thing of note, almost no breweries in Texas can sell you their beer to go. In the write-ups below, I explicitly point out any place that offers a true tour if you are interested in seeing how their beer is made. Additionally, I have tried to outline key information that you might find useful if you are planning to visit Houston breweries, including their staple beers, my favorite of their beers, and if they have food on site. Finally, anything marked with an asterisk, I consider to be one of my top five brewery experiences in Houston.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Taco Bell Crunchwrap Sliders Review

It's been a while since I've written anything for the blog but good ole Taco Bell got me to come out of my hibernation1 with its new Crunchwrap Sliders. In a previous post, I gushed about how much I love the Crunchwrap Supreme and, with that being said, I want to gush over it some more. For those who have never had the pleasure of eating one of these hexagons of joy, please stop reading, go to Taco Bell, and try one. For those who are not fortunate enough to be able to do that, it's a large tortilla filled with taco meat, nacho cheese, sour cream, lettuce and tomato topped with a crispy tortilla puck and then all folded to create a hexagon. Then it is placed on a sandwich press to give it a nice browning. When you take that first bite, you get every single food sensation there is. Crunch from the crispy tortilla. Soft from the outer tortilla. Umami from the meat. Salt from the cheese. Fresh from the lettuce. Spice from the seasoning. Richness from the cheese. Sweetness from the tomato. Combined it makes for literally the perfect Taco Bell item. It only has one problem: the price. Depending on your Taco Bell it can range from $2.50 to $3.50 and while I will pay this much for such a perfect entree, sometimes you're balling on a budget.

Taco Bell rolled out three Crunchwrap Sliders and each one retails for only a dollar. That's right, for four quarters, 10 dimes, or 1 Sacagawea you can purchase one of three Crunchwrap Sliders. Since they are a dollar, Taco Bell obviously had to cut some corners. The most obvious change is the lack of a crispy tortilla, a handful of Fritos have been substituted in to provide the crunch and saltiness. Taco Bell rolled out three varieties: BLT, Beefy Cheddar, and Spicy Chicken. Each comes with Fritos along with various fillings detailed below.