St-Ambroise Oatmeal Stout – Beer Review


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.

Husky IPA – A Beer Review


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.

Proper Twelve Irish Whisky Review


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.


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

Alaska Knit Nat

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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Homemade Garlic & Ginger paste


I like to cook with ginger, and against all odds, the kids like eating stuff with ginger. The problem, as is always the case, is that I’ve got 45 minutes or less to prepare and serve dinner. When a recipe calls for ginger root it basically knocks the meal out of contention for an easy after work/school meal. I suppose I could go and buy one of those $5 tubes of pre-pureed ginger, but really, it goes about two meals and it’s so full of other preservatives to maintain color and whatever, I don’t actually feel like I’m doing the right thing. Plus, that would require planning, and I can tell you good intentions (aka: grabbing a ginger root off the shelf) are way easier than planning. At least for me. Anyhow, I’ve got a middle-ground that also manages to sort out the problem of garlic at the same time. It’s a piece of cake and you can totally knock it together after a day of mopping, sweeping, cursing and threats of death and destruction.

img_1815All you need is a decent sized ginger root, peeled and cut into 3/4″-1″ cubes – you’re aiming for about a dozen of these. Also a medium sized garlic clove, peeled. Toss the whole mess into a food processor until it’s as pasty as you want it. If you want to get pastier, add a bit of olive oil after you’ve minced it, stir that around with a spoon and go back after it with the food processor.


Then, use 1-2 Tbsp in whatever recipe is calling for ginger. I also use it extensively in stir-fry. It keeps for weeks in the fridge and while it does acquire a sort of greenish tinge, I assure you, it’s still perfectly fine. unless it’s been there for a year and also has a small colony of semi-sentient beings taking a foothold on the surface.


When the kids get old enough

Today I totally forgot to pull anything from the freezer for dinner. If it weren’t for the two very nearly expired packages of tofu and a huge bag of stale rice, we’d have all starved. Well not really, the kids would have eaten marshmallows and I would have counted the 500 or so calories contained in a beer sufficient for a meal.

In addition to the tofu, we also had some veggies. Veggies + rice + tofu, topped with whatever sauces came out of the Asian section of the grocery store = Stir Fry.

Literally the hardest part of cooking stir fry is cutting stuff up. But!!! My kids are now old enough to be handed a knife and pile of veggies and told to proceed in whatever fashion they deem sufficient. Victory. All I had to do was fry the tofu and poof cut up zucchini, peppers and squash magically appeared on the cutting board.

It really feels like all those nights of cutting up pork chops into pieces so small they require an electron microscope to actually see have finally paid off. Best part – they didn’t bitch about dinner. If only every night could turn out so well.

Homemade Mustard

**This article first appeared in the 10/19/2016 edition of the Seward Journal**

I was digging around trying to work out what might be a good recipe
for the week, and I got to thinking about Christmas looming just a
couple months down the line. I think this is mostly because I’m the
sort of guy who sets three alarms to get up on time. I’ve got my
super-optimistic 4:45, then the more conservative, but equally
unlikely 5:30, and then there’s the 6:05, “no-seriously” alarm that
usually does the trick. I think about Christmas gifting in the same
way. In October, I start thinking stuff up and typically find myself
scrambling around the day before the Christmas party with the gift
exchange to find something interesting. One year, I was so desperate
that I just stuffed all of the things necessary for beer and brats
into a gift bag and called it an ‘Authentic German Taco’ kit. Without
the fancy made-up label, it would have looked vaguely like I forgot
about the gift exchange and simply chose a bag at random from my most
recent grocery trip and labeled it a gift. Which is, in fact, what
happened there. Also, don’t Google “German Taco.” It will not go well.

Anyhoo, to get on with it, hunting season never really seems to end in
Alaska. Just a quick review of ADF&G regulations is a tangle of
confusing times, dates, geographical areas, and species. The bottom
line is that someone is always hunting moose or caribou in Alaska.
Always. Two highly popular products of those hunts are jerky sticks
and summer sausage. If you were one of the lucky ones to have gotten
game this year, odds are good you had some of these done up, and
there’s an equally good chance you’re going to give a bunch of them
away. I love these things. What I really love about them is the
giftable factor. However, I tend to think, when it comes to gifting
food, a kit is better than, say, a bag of dried meat. This is where
the mustard comes in. The best part of mustard is that you don’t
actually need moose jerky sticks to go with it. Any mix of sausage,
crackers, and cheese will accompany just fine, and will simultaneously
allow you to procrastinate right up to nearly the last second, while
still managing a thoughtful and creative gift.

Depending on how you do it, mustard only takes a couple of days, plus
the time it takes to dig up the mustard seed, probably something like
an online order. So, with about two months to go before actually
needing your awesome homemade mustard, and plenty of time to worry
about it, you can safely procrastinate and still have more than enough time
to get it all together.

Now, a word on the physics of mustard. The spiciness of your mustard
depends largely on two factors. The first is the temperature of liquid
you soak it in. In the world of mustard, cold liquid equals hot
mustard. Second is the type of mustard seed, going in order of
spiciness from yellow/white to brown to black. You can adjust the
recipe as desired to control for how spicy you want it.


  • 2/3 cup yellow/white mustard seed
  • 1/3 cup brown mustard seed (again, more brown or add some black for a
    spicier mustard)
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. honey (add more if you want a sweet/spicy mustard)


Put whole mustard seeds into a large jar with vinegar and water. Use
icy liquid for more heat. Close the jar, shake well, and set in a
cool, dry place for about three days. I put mine on the counter, but
if you keep it in the fridge, it should help develop the mustard
flavor better. Keep an eye on the mustard. If it starts looking dry,
add a bit more vinegar; my experience is that you’ll need to splash in
something like another tablespoon in total. After about three days,
put the mustard and the rest of the ingredients into a food processor
and blend. The less you blend, the chunkier your mustard will be. I
like to guarantee some texture, so I set aside a few tablespoons of
whole, un-ground seed after it’s soaked and hand-mix them back in.
When you’re mixing, if you find it’s a bit too dry and evades proper
blending by sticking to the side of the food-processor, add a bit more
vinegar. If you’re inclined, add a few splashes of bourbon to this mix
– it adds a nice flavor. With all of the salt, vinegar, and mustard
seed, this should keep for a considerable amount of time at room
temperature, but it can go bad, so it’s best to refrigerate.