St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout – Beer Review

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Okay – I know, yet another alcohol-related review. I want to be sorry, but I’m not because but at least I’m providing new content. Also, another plug for my novel: Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. It’s a good summer read and summer is very nearly over!

Before saying anything else, I need to apologize for the picture. I didn’t have the appropriate glass, all of my proper pint glasses were in the dishwasher, and I totally over-poured and had to clean it all up before I could snap the picture. The beer I chose today comes from my wife. She loves the sorts of heavy beers that could have a fist-fight with a stiff bowl of oatmeal and win with one hand tied behind it’s back. She cracked this one open and couldn’t finish it because it’s too bloody hot here for this kind of beer just now.

What we have here is the St-Ambroise Oatmeal stout from Mcaulslan Brewing in Montreal, Quebec. The can advertises 45IBUs and 5%ABV with cascade, Willamette, and Kent Goldings hops. As a home-brewer, these are my favorite go-to hop choices with the exception that I typically add Chinook for aroma. Naturally, this beer had me excited, even though it wasn’t for me.

Before getting into my review, I want to come clean. When I was first learning how to enjoy beer, I got my hands on some French-Canadian beers, and I absolutely hated them, they were heavy and sweet and had unusual flavors. Now I’ve gotten older, lazier, fatter, and generally more exposed to lots of beers, I really like the occasional Quebec beer. I find them to be a lot like Belgians in the sense that they’re bigger than life and having more than one every now and then is just too much.

I’m going to take this one from the angle of a home-brewer. This beer is like sucking on a mouthful of chocolate malt and roasted barley. It’s also surprisingly bitter, not IPA bitter, but not sickly sweet like an imperial stout. The roasted barley adds an interesting bitter note. The nose on this thing is all sweetness and malt –coffee, chocolate, and molasses. You don’t even get a hint of hops until you drink it. The flavor is the same with mild and well-balanced hops. As the name suggests, it’s a heavy beer with a huge foamy head. This beer reminds me of a Guiness, but about 3x as heavy with a lot more punch in the flavor department. Unlike a lot of dark beers, this one is less sweet. Normally, after drinking a beer like this, I’m pretty much over it –I just get overwhelmed by the sweetness. This one, however, I’m finding that getting to the bottom of the glass doesn’t make me feel as though I’ve just had six candy bars.

On the whole, this is an excellent beer. It’s not really the sort of thing you’re going to want to stock in your fridge, and it’s absolutely not a great summer drink, but this is one you should have in your fridge come winter holidays.

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Husky IPA – A Beer Review

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I figured since I’ve got a bit of momentum on this blog now, I’d start by plugging my new (not food or beer-related) book – Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. Now that’s out of the way, I’ve got a second beer review – HEY! Don’t judge me. I’m trying to keep to my diet. I think two beer reviews a couple weeks apart isn’t awful. It’s just that stress, you know? In any case. This review is brought to you by a 4th of July party and a beer hidden behind some truly horrible spiked seltzers that will not be getting a review because if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. I actually caught sight of this brew last week, lurking behind the unmentionables in the beer fridge, but I was looking for something to write about, and I thought – what the hell, let’s give this a go.

What we’ve got here is the HUSKY IPA Mosaic India Pale Ale from Alaskan Brewing. I’m not 100% sure why they had to include IPA in there twice – once spelled out and once in abbreviated form, but it probably has more to do with graphic design and not with a lack of proof-readers. The can advertises a “Tropical, Hoppy, and Fruity” beer at 7.0ABV.

The nose is pineapple and grapefruit, which is a nice start to a summer IPA, in my opinion. The first few sips made me feel like this was a pretty heavy beer, actually, however, once I got into about the first 1/3rd, my opinion changed. It’s a lighter crisper beer than I was expecting from Alaskan. It’s not a brew that threatens to overwhelm with sweetness or from being too heavy. You could easily knock two of these back and not even regret it. Thinking about this from the summer perspective, I’d place this beer on the ‘refreshing’ end of the spectrum, but only just.

The flavors that come through the strongest are the fruity pineapple and hints of spice from the ‘pine-needle’ quality you get from the Mosaic hops. As far as IPAs go, this is not particularly bitter, I’d describe it as a mild IPA, but not disappointing, you still get a satisfying hoppy kick. My one criticism is that the heavy reliance on the mosaic hops and under-stated aroma hops gives this beer a pretty one-note feel. It’s a little disappointing because I think with a bit more diversity in hops –especially with the aroma, it would be a better beer.

In all, I’d call this a pretty good brew. For comparison, it’s a milder version of Deschutes Fresh-squeezed IPA – which is one of my go-to beers. This is a great one to bring to parties or if someone else has brought it in a 12-pack mixer –drink all of these first before someone else gets there.

1792 Small Batch – A casual review

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After a beer-related review, I figured I’d try a whiskey related review, but before I can do that, I need to plug my novel: Wine Bottles and Broomsticks. It’s an excellent summer read.

For this blog, I perused the liquor store shelves for a solid like 3 minutes. There are a lot of mid-shelf options to have a look at. I picked this one after turning a bottle purporting to be bourbon whiskey round to find, in small text, the words: Aged at least 6 months. Now, I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty damn sure 3 years is like the minimum, and I do have a bit of familarity with what whiskey tastes like if it hasn’t been properly aged.

Today, I’m reviewing 1792 Small Batch – this is just one of several types of 1792 you can get. This bottle didn’t have any such BS about only aged a bit more than 6 months sitting on the label, so I picked it up. Plus, I’ve never tried it before. There are a ton of reviews on this bourbon, and they’re all pretty good. Now, I’m not a sommelier for whiskey or anything, so my palette isn’t as developed as folks reviewing on those sites.

The bourbon described: It’s made by the Barton distillery in Bardstown, KY, which is owned by the Sazerac Company. This one rings in at 46.85% ABV. It is a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It’s dark amber and comes in a really spiffy looking bottle.

My initial reaction to this is not super-duper positive. At $32.99 in my local liquor store, it’s not anything remotely top shelf and totally worth the dollars.

The nose on this one is rich, lots of sweetness, I’d call it caramel. If you’re looking for it, you’ll also find some pretty striking orange notes along with the spice from the rye. The vanilla is subtle but present.

As usual, I tried this one neat first. It’s smooth going in with lots of caramel. There is also plenty of spice coming in from the rye. The thing I didn’t care for was the very long finish that is almost too punchy. I’d almost call it harsh and screamed of spice which almost washes out the sweetness. When I put this on ice, it opened up the rye like a can of really pissed off wasps. I’d describe the flavor as almost ashy and just not very pleasant.

My final call on this one: It’s an alright whiskey. To be fair, I didn’t try this one mixed. However, I’m dubious about how it might go in a Manhattan or Whiskey sour. When added to ice, it didn’t do a lot of great things to the flavor. That said, I haven’t ruled it out as workable, especially as an alternative to a straight rye a Manhattan. I would absolutely not do this one on the rocks, but neat is just fine – my final assessment is that this is not my favorite, but for the price, I don’t feel as though I’ve been taken to the cleaners.

Pribilof Pounder – A Beer Review

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I know I promised to do a lot more with this blog earlier this year, but I haven’t managed to get there. Not only have I been busy working the day job, but I’ve also been consumed with book publishing. In June, I released Wine Bottles and Broomsticks, my first novel, and I’m preparing for publication of my second book The Dark Queen of Darkness later this year – That’s a long way of saying I’ve been busy, distracted and I think it’s time for a beer*.

So, here is my firstest EVER beer review. The cool thing is that I think this is a beer I probably shouldn’t have – in any case, when it came into my hands it hadn’t been released yet. What I can tell you is that it was gifted to me and I thought what better way to deal with this beer than to give a review!

What we have here is the Pribilof Pounder by Broken Tooth Brewing (local Alaskan Brewery well known for its association with the Moose’s Tooth Pizzeria and the Bear’s Tooth theater pub in Anchorage, AK.) The beer has a fun little story on the back explaining how it was named for Alaska’s first baseball team on St. Paul Island (details: aleut.com/baseball). It’s a lager clocking in at 4.3% ABV and 13IBUs. When poured, it’s pretty much what you’d expect – the color of straw and fizzy like a soda with a somewhat thin, but persistent head.

Setting the can & details aside, this is, as advertised, absolutely a hot-day baseball beer. I can picture myself at a local midnight sun ball-game sipping. It’s got mild flavor with hints of fruit (you could put a lemon or lime in this, and it would work well – think a heavier version of Carona). I think my favorite part of this beer is the clean, sharp finish. What surprised me was that this was a maltier brew with more body than I was expecting. It vaguely reminds me of a hefeweizen, but without the characteristic banana or clove flavors.

For drinkability – this is going to be a pretty versatile brew. Most of the time, you drink it and beer, and it’s great, other times you want to stick a lime or something in the neck to give it a bit more kick. Sometimes, like at Tex-Mex restaurants, they’ll serve you a margarita with a Carona upended in it. This is the sort of beer that would go well in all three circumstances.

In all, I’d call this a pretty solid specimen of the style. I’m not a huge fan of lagers as it is, and won’t spend a lot of my time investing in this one, but I would recommend this to anyone looking for a craft brew who isn’t a fan of really malty or bitter drinks.

Have you tried it? What do you think?


*Let’s not talk about the diet, it’s time to review beer – Yes I’m still watching my weight/food intake etc… and trying very hard to lose those last pesky 20lbs.

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!

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 a 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/monounsaturated 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, it’s 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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