Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters: “Bedford”(Espresso Blend)

For Christmas this year, my wife surprised me with a high-end coffee/espresso combination machine.  As a fan of coffee, I am now able to make all kinds of delicious beverages and practice my amateur barista skills on a daily basis.  I have such a passion for good coffee.  No creamer, no bullshit.  I want to taste and experience only the coffee itself.  To me, it’s almost like tasting wine.  There is so much to look for in different roasts, and they keep getting better and better.

Today I picked up and an espresso from Toby’s Estate Coffee Roasters out of Brooklyn, NY.  This blend is called “Bedford” and was roasted on December 18, 2017.  Toby’s Estate Coffee is more expensive then I usually get,  as this bag was about $15.00 for 12oz.

 

The first thing I noticed when I ground up these beans, was how red the were.  Typically the espresso beans I usually get are dark brown.  These grounds were almost a rust color and the beans are a combination from Columbia and Ethiopia.  The aroma from the freshly ground beans had subtle notes of a brown sugar sweetness.  Once the brewing began, the citrus aromas came right out.  The color of the brew was just as red as the grounds.

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This definitely isn’t your old grandpa’s espresso, there is a lot going on here.  I am used to a more traditional roast myself, this is an ambitious blend.  The citrus flavor in this, along with it’s syrupy body, make for delicious experience.

I am more then impressed with this roast and look forward to trying it in a latte.  Others who tried this say the flavors come out more intensely when combined with milk.  I will be trying more from Toby’s Estate in the future.

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Graft Cider: Endless Fields Gose Cider

Some of my favorite ciders, like Woodchuck or Downeast, are sold in containers with very basic designs. I’ve always thought these companies’ inattention to artistic details was a positive sign. They’re so busy making delicious ciders that they don’t have the time to focus on such picayune details as the quality of the artwork on their cans and bottles. So whenever I come across a beverage that features a highly creative label, I’m instantly skeptical. How terrible must this cider be that its creators focused so much attention on the can? In the case of Graft Ciders Endless Fields, my worries were completely unfounded.

The Endless Fields label features what at first appears to be an idyllic portrait of 19th century rural life, apparently a time when fields stretched to the horizon and animals serenely mingled with humans. But upon closer inspection, it appears that the woman shooting an arrow into the distance isn’t attempting to hunt these animals, but is instead trying to kill a hapless farmer.

 

 

Putting this troubling tableaux out of my mind, I turned my attention to the ingredients list. This cider has a lot going on. To begin with it’s a radler, featuring a likely 50-50 mix of gose and cider. Graft attempted to enhance the natural sourness of the gose by adding elderflower, coriander, lemon zest and especially grapefruit zest. After taking my first sip and instantly puckering my mouth as though I had consumed an entire pack of SweeTarts at once, I found that they had succeeded. This cider is by far the most sour I’ve ever tasted. But it’s flavor profile doesn’t end there. It’s not only tart but moderately spicy, almost like a strong ginger beer. And though it’s unhopped, there are definite hoppy notes, possibly from the coriander.  Endless Fields is also notable in its smell and appearance. When I first started pouring, it appeared there had been a mistake and that a can of Country Time lemonade had been mislabeled. But the strong floral and citrus smell quickly disavowed me of that notion. With an ABV of 6.9%, this is also a relatively strong cider, which is readily evident after taking one sip.

I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Endless Fields. Many ciders with a plethora of ingredients lack balance and are usually overwhelmed by a specific flavor. But Graft did a very nice job of choosing ingredients that complement each other and combine to create an extremely unique taste. I will definitely be trying this one again!

4.5/5

Coffee Rubbed Strip Steak w/ Lemon and Parsley Skillet Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

This dinner recipe is fantastic.  Typically if I have a steak, I only put salt and pepper on it.  But sometimes during the week I’ll pick up 3oz “perfect portion” strip steaks.  When I get these, sometimes I will use a coffee rub to change it up a bit.  If you haven’t tried a coffee rub, its actually awesome.  It doesn’t make your steak taste like Starbucks, but the roasted grounds are great for adding a smokey, unique flavor.  The fingerling recipe that I paired with this is one of the best recipes I’ve found.  These potatoes are insanely good.

Take your steaks and season both sides with a little salt and pepper.  Then start sprinkling fresh coffee grounds on both sides, rubbing it in, and spreading it out until both sides are covered.

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Leave the steaks on the cutting board for now, we have to do the potatoes next which takes some time.  Here is the recipe:

Lemon and Parsley Skillet Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

Ingredients:

    • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes, scrubbed, halved lengthwise
    • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
    • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces, divided
    • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley

This recipe makes 12 servings, you can obviously cut it down a little.

Combine potatoes, lemon juice, kosher salt, and 3 Tbsp. butter in a large straight-sided skillet or a Dutch oven; add cold water just to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until potatoes are tender, 20–25 minutes. Increase heat and boil rapidly until pan is almost dry, 15–20 minutes more (there will still be a sheen of butterfat).

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Using a slotted spoon, transfer about half of potatoes to a plate and arrange potatoes remaining in skillet cut side down in a single layer (if your skillet is smaller, you may need to work in a few batches). Reduce heat to medium and cook potatoes undisturbed until water is evaporated and cut sides of potatoes are deeply browned, 5–10 minutes.

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Using a thin metal spatula, scrape skillet to cleanly release potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Return skillet to medium heat, add 1 Tbsp. butter, and repeat browning process with reserved potatoes. After scraping skillet to release potatoes, return first batch, along with parsley and remaining 2 Tbsp. butter, to skillet and toss until potatoes are well coated. Serve sprinkled with sea salt.

Recipe from epicurious.com

After I had these ready, I started to cook my steaks on an iron skillet I had heating up.  Obviously cook the steaks to your preferred desired temperature.  Right before you pull them off, squeeze a little lemon juice on them and rub the lemon onto the tops of the steaks.

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I added a little side of green beans because I like having one green vegetable with dinner if I can.  This is a recipe I will make time and time again.  It was my first time cooking potatoes this way, and they came out rich, buttery, and delicious.  The whole family loved them.

Let me know what you think!

MackJac Hard Cider: Black Currant Passion

Whenever I see a new hard cider at my local booze store, I’m always compelled to try it. Whether it’s a standard, run of the mill cider with a 5% abv or one with an exotic, multi-flavored mashup of ingredients, I’m going to imbibe. As ciders constitute only a small segment of the overall alcohol market, new offerings aren’t available with any sort of regularity. So I was intrigued when I saw that American Cider Co.’s MackJac Hard Cider had created not just one but three different flavors of cider, “Empire Red,” “Blood Orange Ginger,” and “Black Currant Passion.” Of course I bought them all, but today I’ll be reviewing the last in that delectable sounding list.

The Black Currant Passion is a fairly effervescent cider, a quality I rarely encounter in relatively mass produced 12 oz bottles, but it was not unwelcome. The color is a nice, rich amber, similar to an unfiltered apple juice. I’ve never had a cider flavored with currants, but it definitely compliments the apple flavor without overwhelming it. I was also immediately struck by the intense tartness, which is balanced a bit by the sweetness of the currants.  At first this sweetness is really enjoyable but about half way through my drink, it started to become a bit cloying and the aftertaste is fairly strong and long lasting. At 6% abv, the Black Currant Passion is moderately potent for a cider.

While I’d try it again, this offering from MackJac is an interesting concept but ultimately not a very memorable one.

3.75/5

 

 

Toys That Aren’t Bullshit

“I want a flashlight for Christmas.”

This is what my kid blurted out on a routine visit to Home Depot.  That comment made my brain hurt.  I started thinking about all of the insanely cool toys I had growing up.  I remember sitting down on a Saturday morning, and watching commercial after commercial of insanely cool toys.

Now, every time I head to Target to get my kid a surprise toy or something, it’s super difficult.  Everything is garbage.  I can’t tell you how many toys consist of a hundred tiny pieces that will get lost forever in my shaggy carpet the instant they are free’d from their packaging.  I won’t lie, occasionally I’ll get so fed up cleaning the house that ill just grab a handful of bullshit accessories from random toys that I haven’t seen in months, and just toss them in the garbage.  Not once has my kid said, “Hey Dad, where is that tiny comb that came with the stupid Pony.”

Stepping away from Target, or any of the other mega stores, you can find some really cool things if you think outside the box.

1) Probably my favorite toy for my daughter, is the “Kids Karaoke Machine” by KidzLane.  I love music, and I take every chance I can get to introduce my 4 year old to the classics.  Sometimes the music can be a little controversial, like Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” or “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett, but it hasn’t been an issue.  This device is awesome.  It stores up to 100 songs on its internal memory that you can add from your mp3 collection.  It also works with Bluetooth, it has an AM/FM radio, and can work off a USB stick as well.  With two working microphones (not the greatest), you and your kid can sing along to the Ramones for hours.  I get the biggest kick out of watching my daughter clean her room while listening to her music.

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2) The “Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit” by Elenco is a ton of fun.  I remember owning a more archaic version of this toy back in the 80’s.  This toy comes with a booklet featuring a hundred different things to build using circuits, resisters, motors, etc.  It is awesome.  Getting to see your kid’s face when she gets to see the fruits of her circuitry labor is priceless.

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3) The “Magformers Intelligent Magnetic Construction Set” is another awesome toy.  These things are pretty expensive, but sometimes you can catch deals on them.  I think my wife scored a good deal on a set from Zulily.  These things come with a little booklet outlining different things to build with these magnetic pieces and supply hours of interest.IMG_8677

Finding a cool toy isn’t too hard, you just need to think outside of the box.  There is more to life then tiny plastic bullshit, pretty dolls with hair, or expensive baby dolls with stupid background stories.  Science!  Science will always be the most fun, and now more then ever there are loads of options to choose from.

One thing I do want to try soon is one of the many science subscription boxes.  Just Google them, there are loads of them including one that Amazon does called, “STEM Club Toy Subscription.” They have them for different age groups, and basically you get a new science related toy every month.

Let me know if you have ever tried any of these and what your thoughts were on them!

Evil Twin Brewery: Molotov Surprise

This imperial IPA is really out there.  I don’t even feel comfortable giving it a bad review because I’m not entirely certain it’s bad.  Calling this an “imperial IPA” is very generic.  There is a ton going on with this beer.

This beer pours a nice orange amber, emitting strong notes of citrus and tropical fruits, a little caramel, a slight hoppy pine, and alcohol.  This beer has an ABV of 12%, but it’s not smooth.  The boozyness of this beer is about as straight forward as the name itself.  Aside from the boozy taste of this beer, you do get some hops, but also a sweet citrus.  It’s almost tangy.

This isn’t your normal imperial IPA, but if you like more of an experimental element to your beers, this is worth a shot.  I wouldn’t buy this again for myself as it’s not my cup of tea, but I would speak highly of its accomplishments if asked.

A well done beer that I won’t drink again. 4/5

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A Mustache Wax That Works

A few months back, I decided to try pulling off a handlebar mustache.  Some called me brave.  Some called me an idiot.  Some told me not to do it.  I looked in the mirror as it started to take form, and I decided that I looked fucking amazing.  That’s right bro.

In all seriousness, I did actually like the way it looked, but finding a wax that worked was challenging.  Prior to yesterday, I only had one that barely worked.  These things can be expensive too, but like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.

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The first wax I ever ordered was “Fisticuffs Mustache Wax” on Amazon.  It was listed as a “Best Seller” and was $8.99.  It had decent reviews, but I still didn’t know what to expect.  When it arrived, I was happy with how it smelled, almost like a tea tree oil of sorts.  The wax was not at all thick or difficult to remove from the tin.  Minutes after I applied it, I knew it wasn’t going to stand a chance against my thick facial hair.  I also hated how it made my mustache look a little pasty.  This wax would be great for a dude with a gentle, blonde, pube-stache.

Frustrated, I did a little more research.  The next wax I tried was “Firehouse Mustache Wax“, which sold for $19.99 and was Amazon’s “Best Choice.”  This wax was way thicker.  The tin said “tacky” which was accurate.  It was a lot more difficult to remove from the tin, which gave me high hopes that it would work.  The wax didn’t seem to have an intentional smell to it.  It almost smelled like “Black Salve”, that stuff you use to extract splinters.  The hold it gave was decent.  I could get a good hold from it for about an hour.  I still wasn’t super happy with it, but I was starting to think that this would be as strong as it would get.

Last night, I went to the mall with my wife.  As she waited in line for our delicious latte beverages, I walked into “The Art of Shaving.”  This store was pretty awesome, full of expensive men’s products.  It wasn’t just shaving stuff, they had skincare stuff, and I think some hair products.  I took a look at the wall of wax, and decided to ask the shaving genius for his opinion on my situation.  He suggested “Can You Handlebar – Secondary.”  He opened the tin and showed me how dense it was due to the amount of bee’s wax used.  It was so thick and hard to remove from the tin, that I just knew it was going to be the one for me.  At $20.00, I was sold.  This has a similar smell to the Firehouse Wax, but not as strong.  The hold is very good, and I highly suggest you go with this if you have a super thick mustache.  The best part is that it’s only $14.99 on Amazon.