Monthly Archives: April 2014

Adventures in Locavoring

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Now, this is a somewhat…historical…account.  As in, it took place several years ago, and the names and places have almost certainly changed since then.  I don’t remember the original ones anyway, so if there are any Federal Agents monitoring my Internet traffic, don’t even bother, because I don’t know.

But I digress.

Back in the day, several years ago, Roy and I decided to take a short junket into the surrounding countryside and immerse ourselves in Pastoral Tranquility, with Lunch.  We headed out and eventually found ourselves in a town not too distant from our home base, a town with a reputation as a bit of an artists’ colony, and thus with the massive influx of New Yorkers that appears in any New England burg that gets a rep for being an Artists’ Colony, some possibilities for good dining.

Never let anyone say that New Yorkers aren’t good for anything people would want.  We all know they’re good for certain things, it’s just that many of those things are widely regarded (outside of New York) as Undesirable.  I’m here to tell you it isn’t always that way.  Where there be New Yorkers, there also be High End Coffee and Good Food.  I’m not sure whether this is fleas to dogs, or stink to – well, never mind.  The two come together.

So, since we knew that Village X had acquired a reputation for Artists we hoped that the influx of New Yorkers, and thus, Good Food, had already occurred, and we stopped there for lunch.

We found ourselves sitting outside on a wooden deck, overlooking a Scenic Waterway.  So far, so good.  I observed that the menu had four different microbrews on tap.  Another decent sign, although, really one wishes to see the number of local microbrews on tap in double-digit numbers, not just 4 of them.  But.  I noticed they had a Specialty Drink list.

I love Specialty Drinks.  I keep a huge liquor cabinet with eight different kinds of bitters on hand.  I have three cookbooks that consist entirely of cocktails, especially antique cocktails or those prominently featuring bitters.  It is the closest I come to being a Hipster.  I always ask, and check out, the Specialty Drinks for any bar or restaurant I encounter.

I am also a Brown Liquor Person.  In my world, people largely sort themselves out as either Clear Liquor People (those who like actual real martinis, and drinks made from vodka, gin, and tequila) and Brown Liquor people (those who prefer bourbons, whiskies, rye, and Scotch).  I am a Brown Liquor Person, and have a significant personal collection of single-malt Scotch, and keep three different kinds of rye on hand, and actually have all of the ingredients required to make a proper Sazerac (including the absinthe for rinsing the glass).

So when I saw that the Specialty Drink menu for this establishment featured something called a “Local Manhattan” my interest was powerfully piqued.  I love Manhattans.  I can do lectures on Manhattans.  Manhattans are properly made with rye, dammit, but in a desperate moment, Makers’ Mark or another decent bourbon is acceptable.  There is no substitute for the vermouth or the bitters.  They should have a cherry.  The cherry is the only non-alcoholic component of the drink.  They should be served in a martini glass. Drinking a Manhattan out of a highball glass makes you look like an alcoholic.  And so forth.

If some place has a Manhattan, or variant of Manhattan, on their Drink List, I will always order that.

So, hence, the Local Manhattan.  Featuring, as the menu said “local micro-distilled whisky”.

That’s funny, I thought.  I was unaware that this region had a Distilling Tradition.  But hey, we’ve got a malting floor so that the local beers can be truly “local”, we’ve got steadily increasing numbers of local microbrews, we have local cheeses, we have local maple syrup, we are basically a Locavore Paradise – as long as it’s summer – so why not a bunch of trust-fund hippies from Brooklyn setting up a “local micro-distillery”?

Why not?

I ordered it.  “Give me a Local Manhattan” I said to the waiter.

The waiter said “What?”

I said “A Local Manhattan.”

The waiter said “What’s that?”

I suggested that the waiter desist bothering me with these petty concerns, the thing is on the menu, and the proper response here is to take it up with the bartender. Blasted millennial snowflakes.

The waiter sloped off, and returned five minutes later with the waters we’d ordered.  They came in mason jars.  Mason jars, for the Uninitiated, are canning supplies.  When someone’s granny or mom is pickling things or making jams or “canning” what they’re doing is cooking things in a particular way, and pouring those things into sterilized mason jars, and sealing them up.  Mason jars are those glass jars with embossed things on the outside, and a lip that is threaded for a screw-on lid.  They have “Ball” spelled out on them in raised glass. I don’t know why they’re called “Mason jars” and not “Ball jars”.  It’s a Southern Thing.

This is a mason jar. It says “MASON” but it says “Ball” in bigger letters. It’s still a mason jar. Go figure.

So, anyway, our waters come out in a mason jar.  How very…rustic…I thought.  If I were dining at the sort of place that featured fried green tomatoes, or cornbread in any form, or catfish, or fried corn, I’d expect the mason jar.  I wasn’t expecting the mason jar at a gastropub in a New England Art Colony.

Still. I had hopes.

The drinks arrived.

Roy had a perfectly sensible local beer.

My “Local Manhattan” turned out to be 16 ounces of something clear in another mason jar.

I was…surprised.  Typically, Manhattans are made from Brown Liquor, not Clear Liquor.

As a long-time veteran of situations involving friends with pretensions to alcohol manufacture who stick cups of things in front of one and say, chirpily, “Try this!” I reflexively took a deep breath before sampling my Local Manhattan.

Taking a deep breath is vitally important when sampling Alcohol of an Unknown Provenance.  You never ever want to wind up taking a swallow of Foreign Liquor and then needing to breathe in immediately after.  That’s a good way to scorch your windpipe with Fumes.  No.  You always breathe in first, then swallow, and then breathe out, ensuring that any flammable fumes are directed into the external air supply rather than towards your lungs.

It’s a good thing I have these Instincts, too, because as soon as I took that slug of “Local Manhattan” from the mason jar, I knew immediately what the “local micro-distilled whisky” was.

It was moonshine.

White lightnin’.

Corn squeezin’s.

And there is no alcohol where it is more important to breathe out immediately after sampling than corn squeezins.  None.  You breathe in after slugging down white lightnin, you can send yourself to the hospital.  I’m pretty sure that moonshine is where I learned that rule.

Good thing, too.  I must have had a priceless expression on my face, too, because Roy stopped in the middle of a sentence and started saying “What? What? What is it? What?” over and over again.  I exhaled, and I was surprised not to be breathing flames across the table.

Local micro-distilled whisky.

I don’t reckon I’ve ever heard a description that was both so very accurate, and so very misleading, all in one short set of words.  And there was me, with a freaking pint of white lightnin’, the only beverage that this establishment was appropriately serving in a mason jar, sitting on the table in front of me. I related this priceless tale later to someone who – evidently not understanding the fundamental issue – wanted to know if I’d finished the whole glass.  What the hell do I look like, I said.  Uncle Jesse?  Daisy Duke?  Boss Hogg?  Who the hell drinks an entire pint of moonshine?  I certainly don’t know anyone who would.  No.  I drank as much as I could, for novelty’s sake, and then bailed out.

Years later, I am still baffled by questions.  How did the bartender get hold of enough moonshine to put it on the Specialty Drink list?  Where did it come from?  Who the hell, other than me, ordered this stuff?  And, of course, as an accounting professor, I have a persistent question in my mind about Excise Taxes…or, as I learned about it in my childhood, the Revenooers.  Inquiring minds want to know but, as the book says, one must get used to disappointment.

 

 

 

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It Was NOT a Head-Eating Monster!!!!!!

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I am having a very good time now, because it is being spring, and the Wild Horse Wind is blowing, and all the horses are coming to the barn.  We are being a Very Big Herd now!!!!  And I am not having to work.  My rider was there and she was not smelling right, and I was not wanting to go stand next to her.  I ran away. You are not smelling good, and I am being scared! I am saying to her, and she is saying That is because I am sick, Huey.  I cannot be running after you right now.  You must be coming here.

But I am not wanting to go there.  A Horse Knows.  But then she is walking up to me and I am making myself be a Standing Still Horse, and that is good, because then I am realizing something.  I could not be knowing this before because of the Sick Smell.  But there is another smell too.

It is being the smell of a CARROT.  So that is making it be easier for me to be the Standing Still Horse, and I am getting that carrot, and then she is saying she will be coming back later when she is not being sick any more, and I am just getting a pat.  So that is being OK.

A lot of the other horses are having to work right now, but I am not working because my rider cannot be riding me yet.  Yesterday it was being very cold and there was snow on the ground again, and I am thinking this is not being right.  What is being right when the sun is looking like that is it is being warm and grass is growing, not snow.  When there is being snow there is not being any grass.

The Wild Horse Wind came and made all us horses at the barn be Wild!!  The people were wanting us to stop being Wild but when that wind is blowing, a horse cannot be listening to a person it has to be listening to the wind.  And that wind is saying Horses!!  Run around!! Kick the sky!!!  Go, go, go!!!!

And so we did, we ran around and we kicked the sky and we were all Wild together.

Today there is not being a Wild Horse Wind, but there was being my rider.  But she is not being dressed up for riding.  Riding had special pants and some boots, but these were not those special pants and there were not being any boots.

It was not a Riding Day.

It was being a something else day.  And not being a Good Day.

That is because the something else was the V.  It was being a V day and I am getting shots.  I do not like getting shots because they are stinging my neck.  But my rider says that they will be keeping me from getting sick and making a Sick Smell.  I do not want to be getting sick so I am being a Good Horse and a Standing Still horse to get the shots.  But then I am getting very sleepy and wanting my rider to rub on my forehead.  Usually I am not being that kind of horse.  Then the V is coming back and he is making the big scraping on my teeth.  Then I am realizing it is not just shots time it is teeth time.  That is being good, because my teeth are needing to be done for a long time.  I do not like getting my teeth scraped, but I am being too sleepy to put my head in the air and make it stop, and I am wanting to get my head rubbed more.

Then I am having to go back in my stall!  And the V is holding my tail to keep my butt from falling over!!  That is because my feet are getting all tangled up, so maybe it is being better to go in my stall.  I am being fine there.  And then I am waking up some, and telling my rider it is time for me to be going outside.

She said Yes Huey, it is time, and I am having a very good treat for you!!!

But I am putting my nose on her hands and they are not smelling like a treat.  And I am putting my nose on her pockets and they are not smelling like a treat either.  So I am saying Rider, where is the treat?  And she is saying Just come with me, Huey.

And we are walking outside, and next to the ring, and then!!! I am knowing what that treat is!!!!! And it is being a very good treat!!!!!!

It is being GRASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am not having GRASS for a very long time!!!!  And this is being the very best kind of grass.  NEW grass!!!  And my teeth are good, so I am able to be eating that grass very fast!!!!!!!!

It is being the BEST thing ever.

And then I am being One Smart Horse.  I am eating that grass and my rider is giving me a pat, and I am eating some more, and then I am putting my head up into the sky to look around, but it is not going up!!!!  It is STUCK.

That is when I am being Smart.  Because a Dummy Horse, like some horses I could think of around here, would get their head stuck and they would be thinking it is a Head Eating Monster and they would be PANICKING.  They would be jumping around and yelling and making a big racket and scaring other horses.

But because I am a Smart Horse, I knew that it was NOT a Head-Eating Monster.  I am thinking first that it is maybe being because I am standing on the rope.  And I am knowing this:  If your head is getting stuck because you are standing on the rope, all you are having to do is PICK UP YOUR FOOT.

And that is what I am doing.  I am picking up my foot, and my head is not being stuck any more!!!

Then my rider is saying HUEY!  You are a SMART HORSE!!!  That was very good!!!!  Smart boy!!!! and making a pat on my neck like I have just jumped a huge jump.

And I am saying Rider.  I am not a Dummy.  I am a Smart Horse, and then I am eating some more grass.  She is saying we will be riding tomorrow, but I am thinking maybe I will just be eating some more grass!!

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I am wanting more grass!!!!

Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, Ice, and Ice

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I must have thought a hundred times this year that I don’t seem to have been skiing on anything but ice, all season long. And, I just realized, that’s actually true.

The season got off to an early start, well before Thanksgiving, due to frigid temps that allowed for snowmaking – ordinarily packed powder – but as it turned out, that was just the calling card of the polar vortex. A few days of frigid temps allows lots of snowmaking, but invariably, we then got a couple of days of abnormally warm temps with NFP (non-frozen precipitation), getting all that fresh manmade packed down and wet, and then the bottom drops out of the mercury, and all that wet packed pow freezes the mountain into an iceberg.

I still remember visiting the demo shop before Thanksgiving and telling my ski guy that I hadn’t expected to be able to shop for my new Ice Ski until January, but hey, the mountain is hard as a rock today, so let’s go for it.

Good thing, too, because those new Ice Skis were the only thing I got to ride, all season. In Vermont, it was ice, ice, ice, ice. Sometimes there was a little layer of fresh-blown manmade on top of the ice. But we didn’t have any real fresh snow from the sky until February, so November, December, and January really were just ice. Then we got a couple of big dumps, but the polar vortex pretty much saw to it that the freshies got turned into ice in record time too. Warm, rain, arctic air. warm, rain, arctic air. over and over and over.

In March, we had midwinter conditions pretty much all month. Hard, fast, smooth surfaces, made for ripping, but still, basically…ice. I got about 2 hours of spring snow last week, but it started with ice – and, in fact, since the mountain received a 3-day ice storm last weekend, everything around me was coated with a full inch of ice, and half the runs were closed because of ice. I got another 3 hours of spring snow the day after, this time using my Rossi S3s, for the second time all season.

I said to myself, “It’s April. Time for soft stuff, mush, mashed potatoes, loose gran. No more ice. I shall get my Ice Skis summer-waxed” and did.

Now I’m staring down the maw of my last weekend of the season. Remaining items in the quiver to be summer-waxed on Sunday.

And what’s happened?

Another frickin’ ice storm. Snow report says lifties working hard to de-ice the lifts. No summit access for now. Watch for ice on the runs. It’s April 5, and I’m getting the same snow report I’m used to seeing for Superbowl Sunday. Ice. Ice, ice, and more ice. Even in Steamboat it was ice.

In New England, we’re used to skiing on ice.  That’s why New England turns out some of the best technical skiers in the world.  All that ice, you know.  But this is the first season I’ve had where I literally skied on nothing but ice from start to finish.  Literally.

I’m not exactly complaining.

We’ve had an unbelievably long season this year – five months, start to finish.  Made possible by the bloody polar vortex freezing us out before Thanksgiving.  What the vortex gives, the vortex takes away, though, so we’ve paid dearly for our long, long season.  Too much snowmaking.  Too many death cookies.  Not enough freshies.

My technical skills took a huge leap ahead this year, partly due to getting skis that are really long enough for my size, and partly to spending five months solid of skiing on ice.  I don’t mind ice now, not much.  There are still some kinds of ice I hate: corduroy-shaped ice, and white ice, for example, but I am assured that expert skiers also hate those kinds of ice.  You can’t ski on that stuff, you can only get through it.  So I’m in good company on that.  Some kinds of ice I like – the hard packed stuff I was skiing on week before last, where I could go so fast I was leaving a sonic boom in my wake.  Or, at least, so fast it felt like I ought to be leaving a sonic boom.  I liked that fine.  Mostly now, I just ignore the ice.  Back in the day I’d get rattled.  “OH NO!! IT’S ICE!!!” I’d think.  These days?  Even with boilerplate or blue ice, I’m like “Oh, look, ice.  Better not be on my edges when I hit that, and plan to turn elsewhere.” or even “I think I ran over ice a couple of times on that run.”

Now I have preferences about my ice. Like I said, some ice I actually like.  Other ice, where a thick layer of ice has gotten chewed up by the groomers and left to cover the run like gravel covers a dirt road, pisses me off.  That stuff is really hard on my skis.  I actually got a gouge that was deep enough to require p-tex from riding over that crap.  The ski tech wanted to know where I’d found rocks to ski over.  No, I said, it was the snow that did that.

But today?  Dammit.  I shouldn’t be skiing on freakin’ ICE on the last weekend of the season.  It’s APRIL, dammit.  Time for blue skies and sunshine and nice, soft snow that doesn’t scrape the wax right off the skis.  Today, I’m complaining.  Bloody freaking polar vortex, sending a bloody freaking ice storm in April.  Enough already.