An Orgy of Tomato Goodness as the Garden Comes a Cropper

August 13, 2008

Fresh tomatoes in abundance adorn my daily table. This is my best crop ever. Fresh salsa and tomato-laden entrees are nightly dinner fare. After the backbreaking initial work and the tenacious nurturing the rewards of growing one’s own are many. I’ve been making sandwiches and tortilla wraps with Boca spicy organic chicken patties and combos of my own garden tomatoes, peppers and store-bought lettuce, ranch dressing and cheese. My fresh salsa recipe is simple: cut up a medium-sized tomato and supplement with a couple of grape tomatoes to add a tinge of sweetness, cut up a little onion (I only had some dried onion lately, as the pix attest, but they will do), cut up some of my home-grown jalapeno peppers, add a little black pepper and some cilantro (dried will do)—and that’s it. This is pretty basic, but the freshness can’t be beat, and the chunkiness and texture differ from the slimy store-bought stuff. Note that I had to use a champagne flute for my Sauvignon blanc because I finally broke the last of my wine glass set. Anyway here are some pix from some healthy, low-fat meals of the past few days. -EG

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I Ate Spunk o’ the Otis … But Don’t Misunderstand

July 30, 2008

OK, so I know this is juvenile, but hey, I’m reading Howard Stern’s Private Parts right now so I’m in that mood. Normally I’m a fairly clean-living fellow so eating a processed industrial transfatty type thing like an Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate muffin would not happen. But a co-worker down the hall sells this junk for 50 cents, which is half the price of the friggin’ vending machine, and as I had an unrequited sugar/choco craving it had to be done. The quick and dirty food review: Otis Spunkmeyer chocolate muffins are not bad as plastic-wrapped industrial muffins go. They’re dry, but the list of ingredients is not as heinous as a lot of snack-cake type foods, the chocolate chips lend an extra richness, the portion size is ample and the taste is not overly chemical-like. This seems like damning with faint praise, but I ended up buying another one the next day. When I do things like this, I alter my diet the rest of the day and cut out further sugar or carb portions to help balance things out.

Heh, heh, heh, heh. Hey Beavis, he said ‘spunk,’ eh heh heh heh.

-EG


Tomatoes Beat the Prediction

July 10, 2008

I planted my backyard tomato and jalapeno pepper garden on Sunday May 11, a week and a day after the Kentucky Derby, and predicted a couple of weeks after that upon seeing the fast progress of the growth that I would be harvesting the first ripenings by July 20, but a number of factors seem to bode well for a harvest well before that date. First of all, the climate this summer in Kentucky, so far, has been superb for gardening – not too hot, adequate rainfall, relatively low humidity. Second, I really put a lot of work into proper soil preparation this time. Last year my first batch of tomatoes had to be tossed away due to rot, due to poor soil and underwatering. This past winter I composted a thick pile of leaves and pine needles from my yard and my next door neighbors’ and plowed as much of that under this spring as I could. Excess amounts were shoveled out into a compost pile outside the garden fence. Prior to the first turning of the soil by spade I added a few hundred pounds of peat humus and cow manure ($1.50 a bag at Meijer x how ever many bags) and then turned the soil over three times, once each weekend, before planting. Ever since I have been diligent about daily watering and weeding as much as possible. My weeding methodology is simple and organic and time-consuming: I pull the roots of the errant grass and clover and other undergrowth by hand. As of last week my first grape tomato was turning red and probably will be ready to pick by tomorrow or so, more than a week before my prediction. But let’s see how we do where it really counts: with the regular, full-sized tomatoes. I have some romas that are three inches long and looking about ready to turn. I have a good variety of tomato types: Mr. Stripey, Early Girl, Better Boy, Roma, grape and maybe a couple more. Also, the jalapeno peppers are coming along nicely. The mole who had dug a hole on the eastern edge of the garden has not been seen and evidently has not hurt the garden at all. Here are some pix of the lush garden. There won’t be any salmonella or pesticides in this harvest – just good eatin.’ -EG


Dow’s Port 1994: The Most Expensive Bottle of Wine I Ever Drank

June 24, 2008

It used to be that some male work buddies and I would assemble regularly after work at the home of one of the said acquaintances for drinking and guy films. However, the habit of my good compadres of knocking up their womenfolk led to a new era in which their babies became their new entertainment. Thus, “guys’ night out” fell victim to the monster who eats time and schedules and reasonable logistics. In other words, those days were gone.

Until a few weeks ago, that is. The wives of my buds were out of the picture for at least one night, so the dudes were able to revive the ole tradition and, as it happened, we did so without missing a beat. As usual I picked the films. I had built a good reputation in the group for selecting crowd-pleasing cinematic oddities not generally seen or known by my fellow revelers.

I brought my DVDs of 1971’s Vanishing Point and the 1978’s The Driver, two semi-poetic, vaguely existentialist car-chase cult movies from the decade that defined excellence in the form. The boys picked Vanishing Point as the lead-off, with The Driver as the alternate second movie if we still had the stamina, which we did. The first film, Vanishing Point, was the hit of the evening. The second film, The Driver, was liked by two out of three. I love them both, but consider The Driver the real masterpiece of that selection (and the only film in which Ryan O’Neal is actually a cool badass; I kid you not). I’ll spare you the film reviews for now.

A major reason for our assembly, though, was to enjoy various wines. We had an old vine zinfandel and a cheap sauvignon blanc, as well as some Pacifica beer, along with various olives, cheeses and a wheat-crust pizza.

The monster wine of the evening, though, was a big-boned, ultra-complex 1994 Dow’s Port, a wine that I had put down for cellaring after I bought a half-size bottle in the mid-1990s for about $25 (a full size bottle at the time was selling for $50 or so). In the interim, the value of that wine—considered one the greatest ports from one of the greatest port vintages of the century—had doubled. So, in effect, measured by the standard full-size bottle, we were drinking a $100+ wine. I’m not one with a big wine budget, so uncorking this baby was a special occasion, indeed.

Renowned wine author/critic Robert Parker had given this wine a 96 rating, making it the highest-rated wine I would so far consume.

We were not disappointed.

The first clue was the smell of the cork and sniff of the top of the bottle. The wine, which potentially could age successfully for decades, smelled luscious.

As a wine taster, I’m a bit of a disaster. I’m not the kind who can ascertain the particular herbs or spices or fruits of earthy tones that comprise the constituent parts of a “flavor profile.” But I do know when a wine has layers and complexity, and this one had those in a big way. So in lieu of that, I found this review at a blog called the Repository of Useless Information that does a good job of delineating/identifying some of the flavors I was tasting.

Dow’s 1994 was lifted and dark toned in fruit, mulberry, tar, blue flowers, but also some savoury notes of green tea and peach kernel. Sweet but savoury, very harmonious with no edges sticking out even though it is obviously very young, persistent and the aftertaste grows in the mouth. Lovely.”

Yes, it was a powerhouse. I’m not a fan of dessert-type wines, but there was so much going on in this one, including a cognac-like aspect that made it a lot better than icky super-sweet liqueurs and the like.

This was one of the best two or three wines I’ve ever tasted, about on par with some ’90s vintages bottles of French Burgundy (Pinot Noir) that was rated 95 and French Sauterne that was rated, I think, around 93.

That leaves my amateur cellar completely bare of any expensive, highly rated vintages.

Oftentimes disappointment follows upon tasting the results of a high wine expenditure, but in this case the most expensive wine I ever bought, and tasted, was worth every bit of the outlay, especially when sharing the experience with friends.

-EG


Ethanol Madness: Shove a Corncob You Know Where

June 12, 2008

I’m not a religious man, but I’m pretty sure that if there is a God he never intended corn to be burned for fuel, and to pollute the atmosphere on top of that.

The resulting squeeze on foodstocks and price rises that result in a time when so many are hungry has got to be a sin. (Not to mention the senselessness that producing corn in order to burn it wastes more energy than is ultimately produced). Surely, there must be a limit to the free market when it inflicts this much pain on so many. Those who really deserve the pain for letting this happen—the farmers who sell food to burn, the Archer Daniels Midland-type executives profiting from this insanity, and the politicians like Bush who allow it to continue—should all have big fat corncobs shoved up their asses.

-EG


Copyright Infringement is Your Best Entertainment Value

July 25, 2007

negativlandcopyrightinfringement.jpg(image from the website of that notorious culture-jamming band, Negativland.)

Now that I have your attention with that mildly transgressive idea, I don’t have much to tell you.

A whole lotta stuff in my life is heating up right now (plus I’m becoming a lazy blogger), so the postings during the summer are going to be few and far between.

I state this only in a desperate bid to ward off any thoughts by my regular readers and blogroll buddies (all three of them), to keep me on the radar and on their blogrolls.

Quick stuff and random thoughts:

** This is how an excellent music blog, Electric Mud handled its summer blogging status: He simply posts, “Closed for the Summer.” I won’t go that far, but it’s pretty close to what I’m doing here.

general_patton.jpg ** I remember my parents taking the family to the George S. Patton Museum in Fort Knox, Ky. back in the late ’60s. In those days the museum was in an unglamorous, almost barracks-like warehouse-type building painted a faint green. On the walls above the windows (which were open during the summer; no air-conditioned comfort back then) were painted large scenes of Huey helicopters in action, tilted downward and ready to swoop on the Red enemy (and whomever or whatever else was in the way). Accompanying these images was some kind of banner or tagline that in my fading memory read something like: “The machines that are winning the war.”

It was as ludicrous then as it is now.

scotts-classic-mower.jpg ** Just bought myself a Scotts Classic non-gasoline, non-electric, good ol’-fashioned human-powered lawn mower. They’re officially known as “reel” mowers, but most people I know refer to them as “push” mowers, which doesn’t quite work ’cause even most gas mowers need pushing. I haven’t had time to do the whole yard with it, but a test run on a patch of grass was successful, Anyway, I remember my grandparents having their own version of this, a rusty old hulk hanging in the garage, unused for years. By then they had succumbed to the temptations of the infernal gas-powered machine…

…the machines that are winning the war on weeds and grass.

It was as ludicrous then as it is now.

tomatoes-1-month_0730-11pct.jpg ** After a scary June in which my first batches of tomatoes rotted on the vine and I had to throw out at least two dozen, the veggies have since come in mostly unscathed, starting around July 4 and since then I haven’t had to buy a tomato, and probably won’t have to until September or so. I have 20+ various tomato plants this year, the most I’ve ever planted, including yellow/orange varieties and cherry tomatoes.

tomato-plate_1001-12pct.jpgI used no chemicals at all, the garden is wholly organic, except for the fluoridated & chlorinated tap water I reluctantly had to use for watering due to the sparseness of rain this summer ’round these parts.

That’s led to some good healthy snackin’–and a fresh tomato with dinner every night.

I’m also harvesting the hottest jalapeno peppers I’ve ever tasted…

white-castle-demo1005-13pct.jpg** What you’re seeing here is a very rare occurrence: the demolition of a White Castle restaurant. This is the one that until last week stood at what is now the corner of Westport Road and Hurstbourne Lane. (A new store opened a few yards away; see my previous posting about that…).

white-castle-demo1007-14pct.jpg

I happened to be biking by when the demolition exposed the wall insulation. It’s amazing how many interesting things you can capture when biking around freely and armed with a digicam.

I know when I was driving a car, having the time or inclination to do something like this (when getting through the green light was the most important thing in the world) would not have been possible. The blinders are off…

I leave you with this shot taken from the parking lot of the Kroger at approximately the same location a few weeks ago (July 7, 2007):

parkinglot-2-7-7-07.jpg

Enjoy the summer.

-EG


Rolling Rock: From the Mountain Springs of, er, Newark

June 11, 2007

Pardon me for being out of the news loop on this one, but somehow the whole controversy about last year’s demise of the original Rolling Rock beer and the closing of its Latrobe, Pa., brewery completely passed me by. That might be because I hadn’t really thought about or consumed this beloved product for many years.

A recent sale at Kroger and elsewhere that knocked $2 off the case price (from $11 to $9 for 12 bottles) made it an attractive buy again, so I decided to give the old “33” another try. It always was a nice, refreshing, light summer beverage, and so the timing seemed right.

Not being a connoisseur or of particularly sensitive palette, I had no idea whether the beer tasted any different than it used to. I assumed that everything was the same as before. The bottle looked the same… but then I looked closer.

On the front of the bottle, the locale of St. Louis was there instead of Latrobe, and on the back the famous old “pledge of quality” had a suspicious preface:

“To honor the tradition of this great brand, we quote from the original pledge of quality:”

After which followed the original pledge text: ” ‘From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe / We tender this premium beer for your enjoyment, as a tribute to your good taste. It comes from the Mountain Springs to You ‘ ” ” ’33’ ”

The label changes alarmed me, so I looked at the 1-800 number on the case and noticed the words “Anheuser-Busch.” I called the number and got your garden-variety uninformed customer service rep and asked the question: “Where is Rolling Rock brewed and what is the water source?” And continuing, I asked, “Does Rolling Rock, in fact, come ‘from the mountain springs’ to me”?

After some hesitation, and the old ‘let me ask my manager’ schtick, I was told that Rolling Rock was bought by Anheuser-Busch and its brewing operation moved to Newark, New Jersey.

Rolling Rock is brewed from the municipal water supply of Newark, New Jersey.

That’s right, Newark, an EPA-Superfund site nightmare…

**(see rebuttal)

These are hardly mountain springs.

The customer service rep reminded me that the pledge comes with the caveat of its preface, which I understand, but still I believe it is entirely disingenuous, and fraudulent, to continue to run the old ‘mountain springs’ claims on the bottle.

The one bright spot is that the Newark Municipal water supply is not contaminated with added fluoride, unlike most big city water supplies across the country.

As for the taste of the “new” Rolling Rock, this fellow detected a decided difference.

As for me, I thought the beer tasted OK. Pretty much the same old refreshing summer beverage as far as I could tell.

My palette is not sophisticated enough to discern if the evidently heightened citrus taste is actually dioxin or herbicides or whatnot.

-EG

** I’ve been effectively rebutted on this point, as you can see in the comments below and on this posting issued by our playful ombudsman: Rick Was Misinformed About the Waters of Newark.