Proper Twelve Irish Whisky Review

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Happy St. Patricks’ day!

According to 23-and-me, I’m about as Irish as a Polack who’s consumed a 5th of Irish whiskey and a pound of Soda bread. However, my wife is more Irish than I am Polish, so we celebrate. Like most Americans, that means corn-beef and cabbage, soda bread, whiskey, and Guinness. As such, it seemed like a totally perfect day to avoid work (I’m supposed to be working on an analysis for social indicators in Prince William Sound, AK – or something, I need to read the investigation plan again. Basically, I’m still pulling data together.)

IN ANY CASE – seeing as how it’s St. Patricks day and I was going to get some anyhow, I decided to review an Irish whiskey. AND NOT because I wanted to start drinking at 4. Which I did. The first thought that occurred to me was to do a review of Jameson cask mates. Those are weird, good, and always worth the money. However, since most everyone is probably already drinking Jameson, I thought I’d show some love to something I’d never tried before.

I went with Proper Twelve. It’s about the same price as a bottle of Jameson and claims to be rich and smooth with hints of Vanilla, Honey & Toasted Wood. Which I’d say is a fair description, mostly.

The nose is a little on the harsh side with a pretty astringent quality fresh out of the bottle but calms down once it’s been open for a minute or two. After it calms down, there is only the very slightest hint of vanilla with lots of honey, even more, toasted oak, and something like pear (reminds me of Jameson Limited Reserve 18, actually).

This one has a full mouth-feel and a bite to match the initially harsh nose. However, it’s not a strong bite, just a bit of spice and alcohol. In spite of having very strong flavors of honey, along with toasted wood and that weird pear-like quality, this one is on the dry side for an Irish whiskey, which I’m finding to be really nice, actually. The finish is when all the sweetness comes through, making for a pretty drinkable product. It’s like getting a burst of sweet in the back of your mouth. As the bottle suggests, it is rich and reasonably smooth, though not quite as smooth as something like Jameson.

As with every time I try something new, I try it neat first, then add an ice-cube to see what that does. Don’t do it with this one. Nothing nice happens to the flavor. It opens the wrong flavors. The bitter tannins of the grain and wood came straight through the otherwise pleasant honey/pear thing it’s got going on. While the bitter tannins are absolutely present in the flavor (even neat), they hide behind whatever else is going on. Super not true once you toss some ice in there.

My pronouncement on this: It’s good, I’d buy again – drink neat. I don’t see this one mixing well, and it really doesn’t go well on ice (maybe granite rocks would be good though.)

Another reason to buy this one is that they donate to first responders for every bottle sold. While this is likely to benefit those blokes in Dublin, it’s still a worthy cause.

Cheers!

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Big D little d, what begins with d?

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The next installment of my diet situation. You can go back to the last one [here].

Most of the time when folks are talking about their diet, they’re talking about what I think of Diet with a big D. When I’m complaining about my diet, that’s what most folks offer up as a solution. Those solutions are the sort of thing that, at their core, are centered around reducing calorie intake. There’s low-fat, Keto, Whole 30 (keto/elimination), and things like weight watchers, which I don’t quite understand, but involves removing calorie counts and inserting points. This blog post isn’t about any of those. They’re not my chief issue at the moment. When I set my mind to it, I can lose weight (to a point). This post is about the other sort of diet. This is one I reckon has a little d and involves the foods you routinely eat to not die of starvation.

My long-term problem involves finding the answer to the question: What do I eat that is nourishing, filling, and will lead to better heart health while maintaining a healthy weight? I’d also like the food to taste good, but really, at this point, I think that’s asking just way the hell too much. As I mentioned before, I had a blood test and my doctor had a PA call me and tell me to stop being fat and unhealthy. Maybe the exact phrasing involved losing weight, stop drinking, and engage in a low-fat, low-carb diet. The ideal situation would have been to give me a referral to a nutritionist or something. Instead, I got the Internet. Thanks US medical system and the $20,000 we pay in every year for absolutely nothing (yes, I paid for that doctor visit too it was like $130, plus the bloodwork).

So, armed with vague guidelines and my numbers, I went to the Internet. What I found was the following:

  • A diet of 1650 calories to lose weight, and 2000 calories to maintain weight (I’ve also found sources suggesting 2200 to maintain healthy weight – I call BS),
  • Carbohydrates consisting of 20-25% (85g-106g) of daily calorie intake*,
  • Fat at 25%-30% (47g-56g) of daily intake**,
  • Saturated fats at less than 7% of daily calorie intake or about 16g on my plan**,****,
  • Dietary cholesterol of less than 165mg***,
  • Avoid trans-fats,
  • Avoid alcohol,
  • The limited fats that I do choose to consume must to be high in poly/mono unsaturated fats, AND
  • Carbohydrates that I do consume need to be high in fiber and low in added sugars.

After all this research, I felt pretty good for a day or two, until I started tracking my foods in a diary. Then reality hit me. This isn’t possible. I’ve been trying for months to figure it out and I can’t even get close. I’ve done everything I can think of. I’ve even spent time looking into high-protein, low-carb vegetarian options. No mix of food-stuffs I can find will allow me to reach these goals. I’ll get into each of the macros and their special problems in later posts. That said, I did manage to find a diet plan, which is designed for heart health first and foremost, with weight-loss being a separate thing. Unfortunately, even that falls short. An illustration of that heart healthy plan, along with some recipes, can be found [HERE].

After reading this, you might say: Dave, its staring you in the face, buddy, this is what you need – just ignore the other stuff you found! Unfortunately, no. Not quite. Recall the thing about my triglycerides? The cookbook in that link recommends carbohydrates should be 45-65% of daily calorie intake. While this is probably a pretty good heart-healthy diet for some, it’s not healthy for me my levels are some eight to ten times higher than what they should be. The key ways to address that are: Reduce Carbs, lose weight, stop drinking. The second two are pretty doable, but are only likely to draw these numbers down by like half or so, provided various sources are accurate. So, this would appear to be a non-starter.

At this point, I’d like to offer a conclusion or some sort of recommendation. Hell, I’d even be happy with an optimistic platitude. I’m afraid I haven’t got any of that. I’m confounded and frustrated. There just doesn’t seem to be a healthy path forward for me, not really and it’s almost certainly a genetic problem. To make matters worse, I’m starting to come to suspect that even healthy advice we’ve all come to take for granted might, in fact, simply be marketing gimmicks, and nothing more. After all, most of the advice I see doesn’t seem to match up with dietary guidelines (I’m calling out oatmeal here, because seriously, that shit doesn’t seem to be all that good for you when you look at it and compare to other options) Really, the most likely scenario is that I’m going to spend my life eating foods I don’t like that cause more than a little bit of abdominal discomfort, and don’t fill me up. Then, after all that being unhappy and gassy, I’ll die of a heart attack anyhow.


* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16685042

** Cleveland Clinic (https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/17583-triglycerides–heart-health/diet)

*** Same as link 2, except I’ve made the assumption that 200mg is based on a 2,000 calorie diet, and scaled it down to fit a 1650 calorie diet

**** https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-cholesterol/in-depth/cholesterol/art-20045192

BONUS FOOTNOTE (‘Healthy’ diet recipes): https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/all-publications-and-resources/keep-beat-heart-healthy-recipes

Black-in-the-box Whiskey

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I’m pretty familiar with Black-Box wine. I might even say I’m something of a connoisseur. However, I’d never heard of Black-Box Whiskey before tonight. If it weren’t for a colleague giving me the heads-up, I’d still be ignorant. It’s been on the market in some places for nearly a year (based on a brief google search and cursory review of result descriptions.  In any case, within 20 minutes of catching wind of such a gloriously incongruous whiskey situation, I’d arranged for a box to be brought home. How could I not?

First, some stats:

  • Price: $31
  • Size: 1.75L
  • Alcohol content: 80pf
  • Aged: 6yrs

This is a generic american style whiskey. It’s a drier whiskey reminiscent of a bourbon, but without the strong sour-mash thing coming through, but it’s absolutely not like an Irish whiskey with their much sweeter qualities. It’s no-doubt a sour mash/corn situation, but it’s not a bourbon. Really, it’s more like a boutique or small-distiller american whiskey.

My first impression is that the nose is all spice, and the tiniest hint of caramel. It almost smelled like the bottle of 1971 Seagram’s Canadian whisky I came into ownership of last year. While I wasn’t sure what to expect with the first sip of black box, I’d rather expected it to have a lot in common with barrel-aged gasoline. This is one of those cases where I was pleasantly surprised. This stuff isn’t bad. Smooth enough to be taken neat, even. However, it’s a bit bland. Not that the spicy notes that call up thoughts of cinnamon aren’t strong, it’s just that overall, there’s not a lot going on. It’s not boring or tasteless though, just unremarkable. Fortunately, an ice cube improved the situation.

With a single ice cube rattling around my glass, the flavor really opened up. That apparent single-note of spice gave some ground to the vanilla and caramels that were somewhat hidden without. Mouth-feel also improved. It didn’t seem so thin on the lips, making it smoother and enhancing the caramel.

I paid just over $31 for this 1.75L box, which puts it at something like $13.30/750mL.  Alaska pricing and taxes aside, this is on-par with the cost of most bottom-shelf whisky, but it’s a much easier thing to drink.

My final word here is that black box is generally retaining expectations in crossing over from the boxed-wine realm. It’s good, drinkable, and solid value. While it’s somewhat unmemorable, I’d buy it again.

My rating comes in at a: ‘drink on the rocks’.

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Now what?

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This post is way over due. I actually wrote most of it, and several subsequent blogs, some months ago, but haven’t devoted the time to actually go over all of it and post. Plus, I wasn’t sure I wanted to post it. After all, when I started this blog, I’d imagined it’d be a place to share mishaps and minor victories with respect to feeding my family. Maybe even toss up a few impressions of booze. Not be a “holy shit I’m unhealthy” blog –if that’d been the case, I certainly wouldn’t have named it after two things that are supposed to be out of bounds for me now. However, this is my new reality, and it absolutely impacts my food-based misadventuring AND I can’t seem to find anyone else really taking this topic on outside of offering up gimmicky diet plans, which I’m not about to do. So, I’m changing course on this blog, at least for a few posts to share my experience and eventually whether or not it worked.

It all started in August right around the time I turned 40 or, as I tend to think of it, reached the top of the hill, planted a little flag and started my way back down. I’d started getting dizzy spells while eating. No amount of internet searching turned up anything helpful. The closest I got was something that happens to very old skinny people with low blood-pressure. Though, some kind of low-level inner-ear infection was also a possibility. Naturally, I scheduled an appointment with the doc, as you do. The doc looked in my ears and eyes and mouth and said I look fine, with directions to come back in a month to see if maybe it’d just go away on its own. A month later rolls around, and the dizzy spells had largely subsided, though not completely. At that point, he sent me in for bloodwork – just the usual old fat-guy bloodwork where you get cholesterol and all that shit checked.

The results came in the very next day while I was explaining to a colleague the dizzy situation. I knew I was going to have to do some work, but had no idea just how bad it’d gotten. My cholesterol and triglycerides were so terrible, it made me realize that I’m now at an age where I’m essentially a life-support system for a paycheck that’s showing signs of wear and very possibly becoming too expensive to maintain long-term.

To be clear, my numbers weren’t just high, they were so bad most websites I’ve been able to find offering information on the topic basically say that I should be on medication. My doc opted not to give me meds, rather directing me to do the following:

  • Lose weight,
  • reduce alcohol consumption,
  • exercise,
  • change to a low carbohydrate and low-fat diet,
  • follow-up in a year.

There were no further instructions, referrals, or information, just bad news and vague hand-waving gestures in the direction of things that might help. A bit. Maybe. Basically, he put me into the position of having to wander off into the digital wilderness for guidance. It’s not going super-great.

Rather than launch into a 25-page ranty-treatise on being old and fat, just this very second, I’ll leave this here. Over the next several weeks, as I try to breathe life into this blog again, I’ll take on this continuing adventure in bite-sized topics. Hopefully, someone will find this useful or at least have someone to commiserate with.

Fusion craziness – Coconut curry fettuccine

IMG_2450A few weeks ago, the kids and I were driving through the neighborhood after grocery shopping and a Domino’s Pizza delivery driver passed us. In typical dad-fashion, I said hey look it’s a Domingo’s Pizza! The kinds all said “Awww. dad, it’s Domino’s, there’s no such thing as Domingo’s Pizza.” I then suggested that WE could start a Domingo’s Pizza and make all sorts of crazy fusion food concoctions. It didn’t take long before this devolved into trying to mix up two of the weirdest foods into something plausibly edible. In any case. The attached recipe is the result of some of that.

What you need

  • 1 Can chicken broth
  • 1 Can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 Chicken breasts (diced)
  • 4 Tbsp Avacado oil
  • 1 lb peeled & cooked shrimp
  • Some powered garlic, maybe a tablespoon or two
  • 2-3 Tbsp Yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 Tsp garam masala
  • 1 Tbsp Cilantro
  • 1 lb Fettuccine noodles
  • 2 yellow or orange peppers (sliced)
  • 1 cup of sliced carrots

Cooking it:

Start by pouring the coconut milk and chicken broth into a large pot, I like using an enamel covered dutch oven, along with the carrots and spices, except the garlic. Saute the diced chicken breasts with 2Tbsp oil and the garlic so they’re just cooked on the outside. Drop this into the pot. Allow this to simmer for 20 minutes or so. You want to allow it to develop the flavors.

Boil the fettuccine in water with 2Tbsp oil and some salt until it’s still soft, but still pretty firm. I’m not talking a bit al dente, I’m talking not cooked. drain the noodles and add to the sauce along with the peppers and anything else I missed. Cover for another 15 or so minutes so that noodles can continue cooking. Add the shrimp & re-cover for another 5 minutes -basically until the shrimp is hot. If you stick it in too early, they’ll become tough.

That’s it. I did this totally off the cuff and so the measurements may be nowhere near correct with the spices, you’ll want to adjust to taste.

 

Wild Alaska Salmon Poke

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If you live in Southcentral Alaska then you’re probably keenly aware it is sockeye salmon season. My husband is getting his hipwaders and dipnets all ready for the coming week where he will camp out on the shores of the Kenai River and make the most of the everlasting daylight by fishing into the wee hours of the night.

We still have some vacuum-packed filets in the freezer from last year so to make way for this year’s bounty we are trying to find creative ways to use it up. Sure, there’s nothing better than simple grilled salmon with a drizzle of lemon, but my dad started preparing poke out of the frozen filets that tops any store bought ahi poke.

Poke is a Hawaiian salad made of cubed sashimi such as ahi tuna, soy sauce, sesame oil, onions and hot chili sauce. It’s a bit like spicy tuna sushi without…

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Everything from a can tacos

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In honor of taco Tuesday, I thought I’d to a taco themed post. That is, a post where I talk about how we make ‘tacos’. You’d think that since I have a moderate stock-pile of ground turkey, I’d just use that. Nope. That takes planning and shit, and during the week I don’t really have the attention span for planning. My solution? Everything from a can tacos. It’s easy and all you have to do is open a bunch of cans and heat them up. Plus add whatever taco shell tickles your fancy. I like this particular dinner because it requires virtually no effort, tastes okayish, and includes vegetables (fruit – actually, tomatoes are fruit). Anyhow, here it is so I can continue being lazy and cooking dinner that’s actually not everything from a can tacos (chicken in the oven, I’m just sitting here waiting for the thingy to ding and tell me it’s time to get off my ass, grab another beer and then point at the food and exclaim CHILDREN, YOU’VE BEEN FED BE THANKFUL YOU DON’T LIVE IN A CARDBOARD BOX YET!)

What you need:

  • 1-2 Cans of chicken breast
  • 1 can of diced green chilies (mild or hot to taste)
  • 1 can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 diced onion (I know this isn’t from a can, but this is essential so cope)
  • 1 small can of salsa verde
  • 1 can of black beans (drain)
  • 1 can sliced olives
  • 1 package of taco seasoning

Directions:

Mix it up in a deep pan and heat until heated. Do whatever it is you normally do with taco shells and serve.

Rising Creek – Bourbon Whiskey Review

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Lookey-loo! I finally got round to doing an actual bourbon review! And only a week late. So, just real quick, to make sure we’re all up to speed. What is Bourbon? To start, the mash (the fermentables in water) must be 51% corn. The rest of the grain is usually a mix of barley and rye. The other thing is that it’s got to be aged in new charred oak barrels – and quite frankly it’s not any sort of whisky unless it’s been aged on oak. Interestingly Bourbon does NOT have to be made in Kentucky, that’s just Kentucky straight bourbon, which has it’s own special marketing designations. Normally, when these are fermented (and this is generally true for the bulk of large modern distilling operations) a sour-mash is used to ferment the mash. In Beer, you’d mash by steeping the grains in water at a temperature of about 150F. Provided you have enough barley (natural source of amylase), the starches in your mash will convert to sugars that can be fermented. In a sour-mash, everything is just dumped into a fermentation vessel of some sort and allowed to slowly convert the starches to sugars and ferment at the same time. Lactic acid builds up in the process giving a distinct sour taste that comes through so strongly in american whiskeys & bourbons.

In any case, that’s enough about bourbon as a thing. On to reviewing this specific whisky. First off, it is smooth like a Canadian whisky, but without all of the heavy caramel flavors you usually get in one of those. Normally, Bourbons tend to be a bit more rough around the edges.

The nose here reminds me of apple, but it also smells ‘raw’, as if it’s just been brought out of the still and into the cup. It’s sort of hard to describe, but it’s like the grain flavor has been reduced into it’s essential grainy bits and fed to you. The flavor is kinda bland actually. A hint of caramel, a hint of oak, or toffee, a bit of something nutty and some spice, but that’s sort of it. The finish is not super long and a wee bit spicy. Really, it’s about as smooth as the taste itself. If I’m being honest, this bourbon reminded me of what would happen if an Irish Whiskey knocked up it’s Canadian Whiskey girlfriend.

On a scale of Mix to Neat. I’d actually put this as shots. (yes, below mix, it mixed plain and din’t add much to the drink). Anyhow, it was cheap, and I wouldn’t say don’t buy it, but meh, sometimes you need to take shots – like when arguing with someone politically diametrically opposed to you on Twitter. Nobody is going to win and you really just need something to bring you off the ledge of apoplectic rage.

Phoning it in – Plain noodles

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So far with this blog I’ve managed to write up some family favorites, but what I haven’t yet done is the misadventure part. I think I’d like to change that, largely because it’s a more significant part of my cooking-dad narrative than this blog might otherwise suggest.

Last week, I failed to write a blog post. There are a bunch terrible of reasons for this more akin to excuses. The largest of which is that I went to a writer’s retreat and didn’t feel like it. I worked on my book, which is a satirical take on the fairy tale of true love, not cooking. I could, of course, have just written and scheduled a post ahead of time like all other studious bloggers, but, well – lazy. In fact, I was lazy all week. My crowning achievement was folding the laundry. I spent most of the week phoning-it-in for dinner, and not the sort where somebody brings you food. Dinner was a product of condensed soup, McDonalds, and plain noodles.

One lament, heard far and wide, by working parents is that about cooking. I mean, after a 10 hour day of commuting, working and generally not sitting on the couch watching TV, the last damn thing any one of us wants to do is cook. Usually, this is where going out comes in, but when you’ve got kids that are starting to eat like teens, that becomes an outrageous expense the minute such a notion pops into your mind.

When I was a kid, about the age of our oldest now, the go-to was hamburger helper. If memory serves, it was the first thing I learned how to cook. The other go-to, for a time, was also TV-dinners. To be clear, this was NOT an every night occurrence, though if you eat enough hamburger helper, it may as well have been. In my family, the solution is plain noodles. No olive oil, or pesto basil with sliced olives, sun dried tomatoes, toasted almonds and mushrooms. None of that. Just plan damn noodles. It takes roughly 5 minutes dirties exactly 1 pot and exactly 1 strainer and it’s slightly more healthy than mac-and-cheese.

At this point, you may be saying, but Dave! You could also just empty a jar of sauce into a pot and have sauce too, then you’d have a veggie to go with. To this, all I have to say is: one pot, one strainer, why the hell would I dirty more dishes if I don’t have to.

What you need

  • Some damn noodles
  • A pot of water

Directions:

Boil the water, add noodles and boil until soft, but no so soft they’re basically mush. You want a bit of firmness in your noodles. And, if you insist on being one of those pinterest parents, you can add the basil pesto, a couple cans of sliced olives, sliced mushrooms, a handful of toasted almonds and half a jar of sliced up sun-dried tomatoes.

French Fry Crawl!

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They* tell you that when you have kids everything changes. The most notable change, in my opinion, is that all the money you didn’t have before to spend on things like food and rent and going out with friends from time to time is spent instead on diapers and a fully new wardrobe every four months as the little spud grows out of everything they own. Another thing that changes is going out. When they’re super little, like within a week or two, you can still go out with your partner, but it’s going to be a restaurant . The whole pub thing is out and was the minute somebody peed a little blue line on the stick. As your kids get older, the amount of going out gets better, then as they approach teenager, you can take ’em out, but it becomes just totally unaffordable. On the bright side, fast-food is usually ‘cheap’, so when you’re pre-teen with a cracking voice asks if he can have two #1 meals instead of the happy meal he was perfectly content with not, how long ago was that a year, two? holy crap, a kids meal, there’s an outside chance you can say yes.

As ‘going out,’ for a meal varies by age, there is one thing remains fixed. You will NOT be organizing a pub crawl with your friends**. Really though, if you’ve ever done a pub crawl, you know that hanging out with friends and jumping from place to place to order a single shot or beer or whatever only to crawl onto the next place until you run out of legs for the night, is an amazingly good time that will result in selfies that never die on the Internet, in spite of their seriously questionable content. While this sucks, I have a solution for you (sort of), that the kiddos will appreciate, provided you only do it once a year.

The Great American French-Fry Crawl!

*Insert crickets*

Okay, okay, it sounds dubious, but it’s a fun and relatively inexpensive night with the kiddos that is memorable, doesn’t involve any sort of real food, and forces the lot of you to sit in the car all night and talk. It’s like being at a restaurant only cheaper, someone is driving, someone is tweeting, and all of us are being as raucous as is possible in a confined space. We started our annual french-fry crawl after a heated kitchen-table debate over the bestest french-frys. Usually, the debate involves star wars or history, but not that day, and it was a great day. Anyhow, here is how to have your own french-fry crawl:

Date:

Last day of school, wherever you are.

Rules:

  • Get a pile of cash
  • Everyone gets in the tactical family transportation unit
  • Go from fast-food joint to fast food joint drive-thru and order 1 (yes just 1) small french-fry.
  • You may order other things – drinks, burgers etc… but save room for fries.
  • Each family member will rate each place according to ‘better than’ ‘worse than’ ratings, so at the end you have a ranking
  • Each stop will be tweeted/facebooked/instagramed (whatever) by the non-driver with the #frenchfrycrawl tag
  • When you have exhausted all of the nearby fast-food places, go for ice-cream. It is acceptable to take-home ice-cream in the event that you’ve got allergies.

If you DO go out for your french-fry crawl. Tag me early in the night @daveskoster, I want to check out your progress and I’d love to know what everyone’s favorite was.

Cheers!

-Dave


* They being everyone who’s ever had children before and some who haven’t, but think they’re providing sage advice.

** In the interest of being honest this is not strictly true, but it’s something you’re going to need to plan for weeks and will cost you 10x what it would have when you were 23.