Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Pliny the Delicious

Behold Pliny the Younger.
 Last Wednesday, February 16, was a day of celebration for some 50-65 (I'm not sure of the exact number) LA Eastside beer lovers.

There is a brewery up in Santa Rosa called Russian River - they produce several beers year round that are all considered very good. One of them is BeerAdvocate's #2 beer in the world, Pliny the Elder. I have several bottles of this and have tried it on tap, and it truly is great. I'm an IPA person, so I'm sometimes asked to describe my favorites, and sometimes even further asked to describe what's different about them. I think what sets PtE apart is that it's a double IPA that has the smoothness and drinkability of top "single" IPAs like Ballast Point Sculpin. In comparison to Stone's Ruination, another double IPA that I quite like, it seems much more well balanced, not like the flavors are overcompensating for the added hoppiness.

That background all serves the purpose of setting up THE EVENT. Which is that every year, in February, Russian River releases the limited batch of Pliny the Younger, which is a "triple" IPA and falls at #3 on BeerAdvocate's list of top beers. It's difficult enough to get at the brewery and in NorCal, since hopheads clamor for it and make pilgrimages to Santa Rosa to try and get it. It's even worse to try and get it elsewhere. In SoCal, Russian River sends one keg each to several respected beer bars including Father's Office, The Surly Goat, Verdugo Bar, and Blue Palms. Some of these bars tap the keg quietly (Father's Office, Blue Palms) and others put the information on Facebook etc about when they're going to open the keg. The Surly Goat tapped it Tuesday the 15th after (apparently) running radio ads, and was greeted with a line around the block at opening.

I went to Verdugo and got in line at around 5:30 PM for a 6PM opening. I'll cut the drama of waiting in line short and merely mention that there was a scare, but that Casper and I were able to get our hands on the magic tickets that were good for a pour of the good stuff:

sorry the picture is horrible.

We decided immediately that an obviously good choice was to get both the Younger and the Elder versions and do a taste test.

Younger is on the left; Elder on the right

What struck me immediately about Pliny the Younger is that it was delicious. What struck me second about Pliny the Younger was how very similar it was in character and balance to Pliny the Elder, despite being 30% stronger in alcohol and dry-hopped twice as many times. The increased hopping should theoretically increase the bitterness, but actually Pliny the Younger is a slightly sweeter beer.

It's really a shame that this is such a limited release (though I suppose we ought to be lucky that we can get ahold of it at all, compared to the #1 beer on BeerAdvocate's list.) It's insanely drinkable with an 11% ABV that you won't even notice until you stand up (whoops!) Fortunately I live within walking distance to Verdugo Bar! This is the kind of beer that will make you a beer-liever.

"If tech discussion was really about tech, it wouldn’t be sexist."

"More women than men discuss sexism, and it is not because we find the topic more fun, entertaining, or enjoyable than men.[sic] It is because sexism gets in the way of our freedom. I blog about sexism in geek culture not because it’s my passion, but because it gets in the way of my passions. My struggle against my marginalization is not my hobby."

from this post at Geek Feminism Blog.

Friday, February 18, 2011

DineLA Restaurant Week Wrap-Up

In the usual fashion of me doing everything several weeks behind, I wanted to do a little write-up of DineLA Restaurant Week, which happened the last week of January and the first week of February.

Being as I am broke, but with a significant appetite, DineLA's specialty-priced menus appealed to me. There were three price brackets, of which I stuck with the lowest one. For $16 per person at lunch and/or $26 per person at dinner, we were presented with a menu where we could choose one from each of several appetizer, entree, and dessert options.

The first of the restaurants I tried was Starry Kitchen, a precious Asian-fusion cafe with quite an interesting back-story. My appetizer was the Pandan Chicken, which was juicy little bites of chicken wrapped in pandan leaves and then fried. As I was eating this chicken, I was thinking to myself "This could be my whole meal!" it was so good. But before I had the chance to get too caught up in thinking that the chicken was gone too soon, I tried the Spicy Korean Pork Belly Sandwich with onions:

So freaking good. You know I can't argue with pork belly, and their spice blend was pretty awesome. I'm not cultural enough to know exactly what it was, but I do know that it took me less than 5 minutes to eat it. Finally, for dessert, amongst the options, the one that stood out to me in a "I really have to try this" way was the Durian Flan Cheesecake:

Just in case anyone isn't familiar, durian is that notoriously stinky fruit used primarily in Southeast Asian cooking. The smell is strong and offensive to so many people that it's actually banned in a lot of public places in SE Asia; however, many people do enjoy its distinctive flavor. I have not traditionally been one of those people, but I still wanted to try the cheesecake on the principle of trying something new. It tasted pretty much what I expected it to taste like - the durian taste was not overpowering, but just off-putting enough for this non-believer to not want to go clamoring after another piece. Still, I am glad that I tried it.

Overall, Starry Kitchen gave us a lot of food for our measly money, which I was very happy about, particularly since my two proteins and salad were most delectable.

Next, for dinner, we tried Magnolia, a "new American" restaurant downtown right next to The Original Pantry. My appetizer, the Burrata and Artichoke Crostini, was right up my alley and also my favorite part of the meal, which was (unfortunately) otherwise mediocre.

My entree was the Steak Gorgonzola. On the menu it said "Steak Gorgonzola over pappardelle". Even though I recognized that there would be pasta involved, what I was not prepared for was a pasta dish with little chunks of steak in it, smothered in a gorgonzola cream sauce. I mean, from reading that, I was expecting a steak, with some noodles. I guess it makes way more sense the way it came out from a price standpoint, but I still found the dish title to be very misleading. I might have gone for something like "Gorgonzola Pappardelle with Steak" if I wanted to convey that this is, in fact, a pasta dish. Finally, for dessert I had the Marscapone Chocolate Toffee Bar with salted Caramel Ice Cream. The ice cream was good, but I found the toffee bar to be too sickeningly sweet, and I suppose I was just expecting more out of it in general since I really love marscapone.

Finally, we allowed ourselves one last lunch before laying our wallets down to rest. We stopped in at Soi 7, also downtown, which claimed a Thai/fusion menu. On this last trip, we made much more of an effort to try to order different things and get to try a bit of each (not hard to decide on, since everything sounded so delicious.) For the appetizer, I ordered the Spicy Yellowtail Crudo, which sounds Japanese, but the spice was all Thai. Hoo-boy! I was able to handle it, partly because it was otherwise soooo tasty and partly because I'm less of a spice wimp than I used to be. I also was able to try the Tom Kha Gai coconut soup, which was insanely tasty. I'm a huge fan of coconut, which is partly why I sometimes go apeshit for Thai food, and this soup just did it for me. A+, would order again. My entree was a late addition to the DineLA menu, and unfortunately I don't remember exactly what it was called. I know that it was beef/steak (probably to make up for the steak disappointment from the night before) with caramelized onions and SOME MORE OF THOSE OBSCENELY HOT THAI CHILIS (it's kind of like they were trying to kill me.) I would say the sauce was teriyaki-esque, but that description doesn't really do justice to what it actually was, frankly. Bottom line is, it was really good.

I also was able to try the Fish Panang, which was good, as expected, if you're into panang curry. Finally, for dessert, I was able to try the Rua Mit (chilled coconut milk with "exotic" fruit) while others ordered Banana Samosas with green tea ice cream.

The Rua Mit was so good - coconutty, with a hint of what seemed like rose water - although I am a bit picky about textures and got a little squicked at the gelatinous fruit in the bowl. So I just drained the liquid and let my compatriots have at the weird fruit (some of which was lychee, I understand, which - no thank you. Lychee looks like fetus and eating it I cannot abide.) Since I'm not a nanners person, I also refrained from trying the samosas, but the green tea ice cream was very good and not too sweet.

Overall grades:
Starry Kitchen: A. I plan on returning, and since their menu rotates, I'll be interested to see what they've come up with next!
Magnolia: C. I don't plan on returning, and based on how empty the restaurant was at peak dinner hours during DineLA week, I wouldn't be surprised if they don't last much longer.
Soi 7: B. Good food, but given that they're trying to do "upscale Thai" and their prices reflect that, I would really have to consider whether or not I want to pay their prices when I could just go to the hole-in-the-wall Thai in Silverlake that I love and pay half as much for.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This is why America's science education needs to step up its game... NOW

pegd said... I have 4 boys. When I was pregnant with #4 the odds were less than 20% for it to be a boy.

Char said... the chances of having a girl is around 50%. For each pregnancy. No matter how many boys you've had before. (ding ding ding!)

fairylights said... 50% per pregnancy, although there are some, er, natural ways to try and swing the balance in your favor. One of them worked with our third child, but they sure as heck aren't full proof. (?)

Mooshki said... Actually, pegd, if all of your kids have the same father, I think the odds were even better than 50/50 that your fourth would be a boy, because the first three were a sign that he has a genetic predisposition to father sons. (facepalm)

pegd said... Yes Mooshki, you're right, my ob/gyn told me I had less than 20% chance for a girl with the last one (think the actual # was around 15%. My boys have the same father. (Your OB/GYN needs to go back to medical school... or take high school statistics, post haste.)