Archive for October, 2009

Politics & pints.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

I’d intended to leave politics off the blog, so I won’t dwell on this. Today, Birmingham’s mayor was convicted on all 60 counts in a bribery indictment. I say this to the people who live outside the metro. Those inside already know, and have their opinions of Mr. Langford. Now, our council President moves into the role of interim mayor. It all changes in a month or so when the new council is sworn in. Prepare for a fun ride.

Now, on to the beer and the food….

I had a lovely evening tonight down at J. Clyde tonight for the SweetWater beer dinner to benefit Black Warrior Riverkeeper. If you’ve never been to a J. Clyde beer dinner, you should. However, now that they’re just quarterly, you won’t have as many opportunities.

Here’s what we had tonight:

SweetWater Motor Boat & Corn Chowder with Caramelized Sea Scallops
A fabulous way to start the 5-course dinner! The Motor Boat is a little darker than amber, with a hoppy aroma. There’s not as much hop in the flavour- but combining it with the scallops and the sweet fresh corn in the chowder really brought it out. Very nice pairing.

SweetWater 420 & Asian Egg Roll with Fresh Gulf Shrimp drizzled with a 420-honey reduction
I’d always associated 420 with fabric softener. That’s because the first time I had it, I was sitting outside my building’s laundry room as someone was washing their unmentionables. (Kidding about the unmentionables. Not sure what was in there.) This course may cure me of that.

420 has a light character with a bit of hops, but not too much. That played a nice counterpoint to the reduction sauce, which had darker, richer flavours going on (and still a good soy nose). It also paired well with the fresh Asian-style vegetables in the egg roll. They were cooked to the point where they still had some firmness- perfect. The single shrimp pn the side of the dish also brought out a nice sweet orange-like overtone in the beer.

SweetWater IPA & Okra Salad over mixed greens and shoepeg corn tossed in a Honey Lime Dressing
SweetWater IPA is easily my favourite in their regular lineup. The grapefruit-like overtones and the hop bitterness appeals to the hophead in me.

This was one of the most complex pairings of the night. First, I tucked in to the salad. The honey and lime played well together. When the fresh (grassy even) greens and the sweetness of the dressing met the beer, it turned the flavour a little spicy and almost woody. The light sweetness of the corn was a nice element, but the red beans were a little distracting. The okra (which was thankfully not overdone) had darker flavours, and a wonderful peppery overtone. For such a different flavour from the greens, it also brought out a remarkable sweet and spicy flavour when it met the beer.

SweetWater Georgia Brown & Soy Honey Tilapia served with Alabama grown Sweet Potato mash
I am not a huge fan of nut brown ales. I appreciate their sweetness and their sessionability. They just don’t really have enough zing for me, for I am a hophead. For me to really enjoy them, they need a pairing like this.

The Georgia Brown starts off with a nice hazelnut quality, then morphs to dark caramel and hits a quick hop highlight before the caramel returns to close the deal. Drink it with the pleasantly slightly lumpy potato mash, and all bets are off. It gives you a wonderful pumpkin pie effect. The caramelized grilly-bits of the fish also went well with the mash- but overall, the tilapia didn’t meld at all with the beer. The two flavours were wallflowers at the dance on my palate. Neither would ask the other to waltz. In the autumn of this dish, the fish was summer. That’s not to say it was bad fish; it was certainly not. On the contrary, it was very tasty- but just didn’t fit in.

SweetWater Dank Tank Big Ol’ Belgian Blue Balls & Native American Rice Pudding with golden raisins, dried blueberries, and a Maple butter rum sauce
First off, the native American dish was made by a Canadian. (I know….before the Europeans arrived, even the pre-Canucks were native Americans.) I wanted to sing Oh, Canada! when this arrived at the table. But we’ll start with the beer.

There’s a nice sweet blueberry aroma on the Blue Balls (combined with a brown sugar note), but it’s mostly absent in the flavour. That’s sweet, caramel-y, with a hint of citrus, and a distinct Belgian overtone. The pudding looked like oatmeal with big dark spots. :) The aroma reminded me of bread pudding and oatmeal. The flavour was a little darker than some of the rice pudding I’ve had. It was interspersed with bursts of flavour from the berries, which had reconstituted. I’m not entirely sure there were any raisins. The sauce was mostly maple, with a lurking hint of rum. The highlight for me was the texture- with rice that was almost al dente, a pleasing graininess to the sauce, and a nice smoothness to the blueberry innards. The beer pairing didn’t bring an overwhelming change to the flavours, but did lighten up the beer, and really bring out its yeasty Belgian goodness.

After all that, maybe you can understand why I advise you to get yourself to J. Clyde for the next beer dinner. It’s in February, and there may be a very special guest!



Overheard at J. Clyde…

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

“This is not ‘Nam…there are rules.” – David Dixon



A hidden gem.

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Many people drive up and down Birmingham’s Green Springs Highway, and never see one of my favourite hidden Birmingham landmarks. It’s a sign that’s been hanging on the east side of the road for 60 years, highlighting a natural resource that helped build the city- through economics and through raw materials.

Green Springs Sign


Here’s a closer look. As you can see, most of the paint that may have been on the sign is long gone, making it hard to read- especially when flying by at a good speed. The text follows the photo.

Green Springs Sign




THIS RED
MOUNTAIN
IRON ORE
IS BASIS OF
BIRMINGHAM’S
IRON – STEEL
INDUSTRY

DONATED BY ERSKINE RAMSAY, 1949



I’m pretty sure the Erskine Ramsay is the same person for whom my neighbor, Ramsay High School, was named. I haven’t doen the research on it yet.

I’d love to see the city refurbish the sign- and maybe cut away some of the growth around it so it’s easier to see. I’ve always liked the sign, and I’d love it if more people could see it.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the other sign, just up above. It’s an arrow that points to the top of the ore seam. The text is predictable enough.

Grens Springs small sign


Good to have that pointed out. I’d never have been able to find the seam on my own. (I wasn’t being funny. I really couldn’t easily tell by looking at the side of the rock. Granted, the colours may have changed a bit because of age and exposure.)

If you have any favourite overlooked landmarks in the metro, please send me an e-mail (look under contributors), or comment here to let me know about them!



Overheard at J. Clyde…

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

“You could always lend him your ‘fro.” – Guy at table next to me, advising a friend on how to help me out. (For the record, I am not in the market for anyone’s used hair.)



Protect and serve….OK, maybe serve, if it’s not too much trouble.

Monday, October 19th, 2009

I’ll say up front that I think Birmingham’s police force generally does good work, and I’m pretty happy to have them around. I’ve made a few friends on the force, and they’re good people.

Last night, I witnessed a moment that wasn’t the best for the boys in blue. Granted, this was also a very minor incident. I was driving home, and came across the aftermath of an auto accident, which had shut down my side of an intersection. At least two police cars were sitting in the intersection with their lights on, presumably to keep people on my side of the street from living out their Dukes of Hazzard or Starsky & Hutch fantasies by using the extended tow-truck bed as a ramp. The cross street was one way going to my left- so for people on my side of the street, the only way through the intersection was to turn left. There was no turn arrow on the traffic light, and poor visibility around the wreck, making it hard to see whether a car was coming in the one lane open in the opposite direction. A small clump of Birmingham’s finest was standing at the far left corner, watching the traffic as people tried to dodge one another to get around the wreck. Apparently, not a single one of them got the thought that directing traffic might be a good idea. I’m sure they’re taught this in the academy. Heck, even I can direct traffic. I was tempted to park my car and get out there to do it myself.



A tonic for the troops.

Monday, October 12th, 2009

An interesting picture arrived tonight in my inbox. It’s CPT Daniel Reid of the U.S. Army, standing near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, sporting a couple of clothing items with local interest.

FTH goes worldwide


I’m sure most of you will recognize the Bama cap, but maybe not the t-shirt. It says “Free The Hops | Alabamians For Specialty Beer”. This makes this pic a little bit of ‘Ham, as Free The Hops was formed here in the Birmingham metro, by my friend Danner Kline. He’s also the guy behind another Birmingham-based blog, Beerlicious. (The name comes from a word Danner uttered during an interview on The Daily Show.

BTW, we did get high gravity beer here in Alabama earlier this year- but FTH still has work to do. Next up: getting rid of Alabama’s ban on beer in bottles larger than 16 ounces. Alabama is the only state in the nation that doesn’t allow pint-plus beer bottles.



Rules of Birmingham Driving (#4)

Monday, October 12th, 2009

You are only allowed to use the last 20 feet of any turn lane. If you try to get into the turn lane in this zone and find someone already in the turn lane, you are justified in doing any combination of the following:

  • Honking
  • Making obscene gestures
  • Screaming
  • Giving nasty looks
  • Ignoring the fact the other car is there and getting into the lane anyway, making the other driver take evasive action


The Ham’s off. Today, we have chicken.

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

Actually, yesterday’s ‘Ham was chicken, and I’m just a little late posting it. I’d gotten a ticket to the Kick’n Chick’n Wing Fest- which was a cook-off to benefit Magic Moments, a group that helps grant wishes to terminally ill children- but I got there very late in the fest. This is NOT advisable when the fest involves good eats. A few restaurants were starting to run out of wings when I arrived- including Demetri’s BBQ, which had just won the People’s Choice award.

Demetri's wins People's Choice


I didn’t get to sample the wings from Demetri’s, but I did get to try the awesome guava and habanero hot wings from another big winner:

Sweet Bones wins Best All Around


On the other end of the sensory spectrum, my next-block-over neighbor, Mellow Mushroom, won the Sweetest Thang award, and the Shake Your Tailfeather award, for best booth decoration. (I’m just happy noone made any Tailhook jokes, especially considering the lovely lasses running said booth.) The winning wings are the ones in the foreground of the shot. Oddly, the only ones in the picture I did not try. I guess it gives me yet another reason to make the long one block walk to the ‘Shroom.

Mellow Mushroom wings


Don’t ask what this is all about. I know, but it’s more fun if I don’t tell you.

Feed your goat


Now that you know some of the best wing spots in town (locals, please comment with your faves!), let’s move on to some of the other things at the fest. First, you’ll see a little blue bag flying through the air at the top of the next photo. That’s right- it sounds Freudian but isn’t- the family that cornholes together stays together.

The family that cornholes together stays together.


And what southern fest would be complete without a band playing bad covers of classic rock & blues? OK, that was harsh. They actually are good musicians, even if I don’t care for their playlist.

Covers on a trailer...


“Keep practicing, kid…someday you can also be a creepy bass player in a cover band….”

Creepy bass player.  OK, he wasn't that creepy.


I left after about 30 minutes, as the event was wrapping up. On the way out, I found my stalkers. These Monster folks have their truck everywhere I go- even if it’s just late night in the nearly empty parking lot of my grocery store. This time, they handed me a free can of the stuff. Could come in handy in a couple of weeks, when I get the 3am shift.

My stalkers


Even though I was only there for about 30 minutes, I enjoyed the fest. I was happy to make some new friends, see some old ones, and also to have yet another body on-site for an event to support a group doing some very good work.



If anyone makes a Who Let The Dogs Out? reference, I’ll punch them in the teeth.

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Where’s the beef? Not on my burger. A few days ago, my friend Robbie gave me a tip about Baha Gourmet Burgers, the new lunch spot near my office.

baha


To its credit, it’s also open for dinner. Even more to its credit, it’s one of the best burgers I’ve had in quite a while. I had a chicken burger with arugula and tropical salsa. That’s just the sort of thing you’ll find there. Burgers range from beef to pork to salmon to veggie. You can get them with chutney, remoulade, Aioli, and a variety of other toppings. Each of their regular-build burgers even has a beer pairing on the menu….even the baby burger for kids. It’s paired with root beer. :)

So why post about a new burger joint? Besdies the fact it’s pretty tasty, I was interested to see there are just three lcoations: two in the metro (Hoover, to be exact), and another in Isla Ensenada. Yes, that’s right- it’s in that wonderland of malaria, Panama. Now, the other interesting bit. It was founded by the owners of a small chain of Greek restaurants. Let’s do the math: purveyors of Greek fare open a Hawaiian-surfer-scene themed burger joint, and open one in central America. I don’t really get it, either…but I do do get that the sweet potato fries are very tasty.



Woof.

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

A dog park may seem like a small thing to people who already have one. For dog owners who don’t have access to one, it can be a much bigger thing. Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford just announced that a new dog park will open next week. Work on the park has already started, and seems only held back by the easy availabilty of some materials.

I’m not a dog owner- but I am very happy to see that this is on the way. Many weekends I sit and read in a local park where people bring out their dogs. Many times, I’ve seen dogs run off- and sometimes nearly get run over. Having a nice fenced in area where dogs can run free will be a fabulous thing for Birmingham.