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Review: Artesano Mead- Essence

27 Jul

Artesano is a small mead company whose facility is located in Groton, Vermont amid the beautiful, flowery landscape of the Green Mountains. They are a small scale operation and by no means competition for bigger companies such as the Londonderry, New Hampshire company, “Moonlight Meadery.” Artesano may occasionally be found at retailers, health food stores and Farmers’ Markets.

“Essence” mead, the company’s only dry variety, costs 16.99 USD for 500ml. It is packaged in a stout looking bottle and sealed with a swirled wax stamp on the cork.

Essence pours smoothly. Thin and silky, it does not coat or adhere, but rather sinks to the bottom of the glass.

The smell is robust, semi-sweet and slightly tangy. It is difficult to sense the dryness through the fruity and effervescent smell. It is pale, with about two more shades of light than a typical chardonnay.

It touches lightly on the tongue and disappears without linger. It is dry, but still allows the distinct taste of honey to surface. By no means is essence as full bodied as it’s smell, it’s effect on the palate is airy, smooth and lacks the fullness that the smell imbues.

Superficially tasteful, but lacking in complexity, this spirit is by far not the finest in it’s class. It is not, “at the top of the game,” but it is enjoyable.
This is the mead that one would not serve at a dinner party, nor use to celebrate a special occasion, but rather one which may be brought on a picnic, sipped to compliment a weekday dinner or paired with light cheese while enjoying sunshine and outdoor scenery.

Not a spectacular value and not a remarkable product, but by no means a poorly made product, Artesano Mead, still up and coming, has a lot of coming up to do.

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Local Review: Prospect Park Gelato-Caramello

13 Jul

The question everyone is afraid to ask: What is gelato? The answer: An ambiguous sort of ice cream [generally] with lower butterfat content.

To properly examine this shop, let us first examine the area. Is this a place that will remind you of where you used to go with your friends after school years ago? No. Is this a place where everybody knows your name and there is always a smiling face; the dairy version of, “Cheers,” if you will? No.

Is this a place with snotty hipsters who over-enunciate all the wrong parts of words in a poor attempt to sound like they are not ordering from a store with all American speaking clientele and employees? Yes.

If you are uncomfortable with pretense, then you will have nothing against this store, it is a wonderful place with wonderful and friendly people behind the counter. The consumers, however, as in many adjoining establishments, are filled with pretense- among other things. You will hear people order “pawna coTTAH,” instead of, “panna cotta.” You will hear people order, “cho-koe-lawT,” instead of, “chocolate,” and you will hear people order “jay-lah-toe,” instead of, “gelato.”*

That being said and not to minimilise the discomfort of hipsters pretending that the trip through the storefront having turned them into Italian natives and transported them to Naples; the place is absolutely terrific.

The flavours are made in-store and are unique and delicious. There are classics like mint chip and chocolate as well as other more unique ones such as tiramisu, toblerone and even olive oil and corn, all made with authentic ingredients.

The ordering process consists of choosing the size desired upfront at the counter and then following the person behind the desk down to where the ice cream is to choose your flavours.

Not to call out any other overrated, underachieving establishments similar in neighbourhood and demographic, don’t think I mean say, Blue Marble Ice Cream, for example; but this place offers a punchcard which entitles you to free ice cream after 9 purchases, they will not refuse to take your order because they want to close early, a pint of gelato costs less than one minuscule soft serve and one root beer float with a single paltry scoop of vanilla ice cream and there seems to never be a big crowd.

The interior is clean and as mentioned before, but is worth emphasis, the staff are polite, friendly, cheerful and willing to deal with annoying clientele and difficult orders. Orders are expediently delivered to the customer in quite ample portions. All in all, despite any claims that convenience must be sacrificed for quality or vice-versa, this place proves that overall efficiency and quality can be succinctly combined to merge great experience and terrific products.

The Caffe Crunch and the Panna Cotta gelato are specifically worth mention. Caffe Crunch is not that much different than coffee ice cream, the true distinction is in the “crunch.” Bits of delicious hard toffee coated in chocolate embedded sporadically within the ice cream, which is inexplicably exciting when one starts out with the belief that they just made the mistake of getting some plain old coffee ice cream.

The Panna Cotta is creamy and sweet, as may be expected; if you ask about it, the misinformed staff behind the counter will tell you that “panna cotta is an Italian pastry and they make it into a gelato like this.” This is not true, panna cotta is more similar to a custard, pudding or flan than a pastry and the consistency of the gelato is very much like a very well made custard, not too sweet, not chunky, just smooth, sweet and pleasant.

Overall, food industry experiences are subjective, one may love this place or not, but the odds are that anyone who dislikes one thing about it can find another two that they like. A clean and friendly atmosphere, with beautifully arranged confections and a taste that is worth the markup from Carvel or Baskin Robbins, Caramello is a great place to satisfy your hunger for human flesh. Or ice cream. Or gelato. Whatever. Same thing.

*To anyone who reads this and says, “that’s so cool, that’s what I do!” Here is what comes to mind to most people who are not you: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/digital-shorts/video/enchilada/1353699/

How to Choose and Enjoy Scotch Whisky

26 May

Scotch Whisky [notice the spelling is distinct from, “Whiskey,” which denotes Irish Whiskey; American spelling varies] is by most accounts the most complex and suitable for whisky aficionados. Malt whiskey is made from malted barley, “Single malt,” is distinguishable from, “blended whisky,” in that it comes from one cask of one specific age, as opposed to being from several casks of varying ages.

Now that we have gone over the basic terminology, let’s move on, shall we?

Whisky is aged for a variety of reasons, in different types of wood barrels, for different periods of time; each barrel and recipe is meant to affect the after-product in its own distinctive fashion.

There is one deciding factor in choosing the greatest whiskey.

Taste.

Whatever be the case, what really matters in the end is, “does this meet your fancy?” If not, move on. If so, then add a bottle to your collection.

Fine whisky is like a fine movie, the more you partake of it, the more you notice about it and the more you realize how much you enjoy it.

It is important before the reader is turned into a complete snob, for him (or her) to understand some basic concepts: A) There is nothing wrong with enjoying inexpensive and even blended whisky. Just like cigars, as your taste matures, you may gravitate toward, “better,” ones. However, even if that never happens, your enjoyment of the product is more important than showing your affluence.

B) Beauty before age. It is what’s on the inside that counts. Your whisky could be older than Keith Richards and taste just as dry as he would and if that is not what you are into, why invest?

C) Converse to what we’ve been saying, there is also no point in being cheap. If you are going to have vices or hobbies, then you must be willing to invest, even if it is never necessary.

Trial and error is a great way to start, because if you have never tried it, then you do not know for what you are looking.

Whisky can be sweet, sharp, bitter, smooth, rough, peaty etc. The main things to look for when trying to appreciate whisky are the, “Nose,” or aroma; colour, palate, and finish. Feel free to use the mnemonic, “NCAPF,” if it helps you to remember these.

The colour is an obvious factor, but one should take adequate time examining it, as it can be very pleasant and add to the experience.

The nose is, to put it basely, smelling the whisky. Otherwise, it is to experience the whisky using one’s olfactory senses. Gently inhale through your nose, do not tense your face or snort quickly inward, move your cup in a circular motion and allow the aroma to travel to your nose, which should be 3-7.5 cm away from the glass.

Let us here note, you may add distilled or spring water to your whiskey if that is your preference, but this is generally done with cask strength whisky, specifically. Not all whiskey. Take care not to drown it, or I will find you.

There are different opinions on how much you sip to properly examine the palate, one medium sip, or quarter mouth-full should be a fine settling point. Gently roll it over your tongue and move it around in your mouth, being careful to remember that it is not Listerine and should not be used thus. Make a mental note of your impressions of the taste and then swallow. This whole process should not take more than 2-4 seconds.

Once swallowed, you are on the last step, the finish. What tastes or impressions has it left? Did it linger or leave an, “after-taste”?

Now that you are educated, time for the fun stuff, yeah?

Let’s go shopping.

“What is this? The Glenlivet 15 Year Old French Oak Reserve Barrel is so inexpensive and 15 years old, I could get it and impress my friends!”

If your friends know anything about whisky, they will not be impressed. If something is cheaper than a, “bottle of Jack,” there is probably a reason. There is nothing wrong with starting with something cheap, but when I see an “affluent” man who pretends to have knowledge of whisky and then starts boasting about his great collection of whisky, only to proceed to pull out a bottle of Grant’s and the aforementioned vintage; (true story) I shudder and feel the need to bite my tongue to keep it from being too honest.

Again, there is nothing wrong with trying those, or even enjoying them; but if you are going to be boastful, if you are going to put yourself and your collection on a pedestal, you had best be better to stand and deliver, so to speak.

Some suggestions, whether you like them or dislike them, (you will likely dislike at least 2) you are making progress in deciding your tastes:
Glenrothes
Laphroaig (I personally enjoy the 10 year old, cask strength* and non-cask)
Glenmorangie
Glenfarclas
and The Bowmore

I do not like all of these, but I do own a few of them, the others are listed for you to expand your horizons, as we have said, all tastes here are subjective.

*Cask strength whiskey is very strong and high in alcohol content. If you drink this straight, be prepared to drink like a Gael.

Great? Horrible? Try anything that you would suggest? Hate the world and want to yell at us for not understanding you? Comment and let us know.

How to Appreciate Cigars and the Art of Smoking

17 Feb

Cigars have been popular in England and the Americas for ages, they were of extreme popularity in the 1800s as seen in their mass consumption by Mark Twain and the fictional character, “Dorian Gray.” They were immensely popular in the 1900s, becoming the trademark of Winston Churchill, after whom the largest size cigar is named; and by many popular entertainers and celebrities of the era.

Cigars, like any hobby or vice, should be used in moderation and should be enjoyable, which it could never be as a habitual practise.

That being said, cheap cigars are not a way to go. They will save you money but you will not get any real value out of your savings, they are made for people who need the nicotine, are sprayed with preservatives and toxic chemicals and do not take the form of an art.

Cigars, for many, are an acquired taste. For some, they cause too much displeasure to ever want a taste for them. Some people enjoy cigars ab initio. Whichever you may be, if only to better acquaint yourself with an age-old hobby, I will lay out the steps to understand and enjoy your cigar to the fullest.

Requisite Investments:
Cigar(s)
A humidor of decent or high quality
Propylene Glycol Solution
Distilled water
Wood Matches
A good cigar cutter

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Suggested Additions:
A good single-malt (I will follow up with an article on whiskey)
A substantial but not overfilling meal beforehand: The nicotine will make you feel ill if you are not used to it and your blood sugar is low, some people enjoy this, but most people do not. Hydration is important too.
Friends: When you start out you will probably be smoking alone. Many people associate cigars with negative stereotypes such as old men or criminals so they dislike them. Others smoke them wrong because they think of character’s like Al Pacino’s “Scarface.”
Either way, you will encounter some resistance but may find some of your friends asking you to introduce the hobby to them and it is a hobby that is more enjoyable in a social environment.

First Step
Purchasing:

Go to your local tobacconist, most people even acquire a favourite after shopping around a bit.
If you do not know the people employed there, then do not trust them completely, they are not your guardian angels, they are salesman.
You are going to want a small cigar with a light and easily palatable flavour. Cigarillos are very good and I most certainly suggest them with one deterrent; if you do not like one, you are stuck with nine to twenty-four more of them.
“Hoyo de Monterrey,” makes a very good cigar, mild, versatile and appropriate for virtually any palate, you will be purchasing the, “Petit Corona,” the small size which is, chiefly in “Hoyo de Monterrey’s,” products, referred to as, “Demitasse.”
Next you will purchase a cutter, do not get the cheapest one, get one that is sharp, nicely constructed and comfortable for you, mine is a guillotine style, double-edged.
Your humidor needn’t be prodigious, start with a small, good quality one and purchase with it an electric hygrometer and a small size bottle of Propylene Glycol with a crystal humidifier. -Tell this to the salesperson, he/she will understand and explain if necessary.
You may save money by purchasing a travel humidor if you do not plan on owning a large amount of cigars at a time, mine is called an, “X-treme,” it was inexpensive and I am thrilled with it. You will, however, have to add your own hygrometer.
Distilled Water and Matches, guess for yourself.

“What? He did not mention Cubans?”
I assume my readers primarily to be within the US, Cuban cigars are terrific. I own some. These I took with me to the United States, I did not buy them here. I have heard that there are a lot of peddlers selling what they claim are “real,” and I have been consulted about this over the phone. I don’t know. If I cannot see them, smell them or examine the packaging, then I cannot verify their authenticity. I also do not know anything about where you can illegally purchase them, I am not in that business.

As for my suggestions, if you are in Cuba and decide to violate federal regulations, or you happen to be from somewhere outside the USA; I would suggest the Montecristo Mini Cigarillos, the Montecristo Number 2, Partagas Torpedos and a few others. Feel free to send specific inquiries relating to suggestions.

Now, on to Part Two of Our Mythical Journey
Setting up your humidor:
The easy answer is to neatly put in your cigars and hygrometer, put a 50/50 mix of propylene glycol and distilled water into your humidifier and close it.

What you will do in actuality is, without “pre-soaking,” your humidor, as some suggest, because this damages the wood; you will take out your humidifier, put in the 50/50 solution, wait for it to absorb, in the mean time place your cigars gently and carefully in your humidor along with your hygrometer, after 10-15 minutes, you will lightly dab with a clean paper towel at the humidifier, replace it, and shut your humidor. Do your best to maintain about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and 65% humidity at all time.

Step Three
Hard Work and Investments Pay Off:
If your cigar is fresh, have your matches ready, carefully cut the sealed end off of your cigar, do not over-cut but do not undercut as this will make it impossible to smoke.

This is a two match process, you are not lighting with the first:
Put the cigar to your lips and light a match, slowly move it across the end of the cigar, warming it evenly to insure that it lights evenly. Light your second match, bring it to the end of your cigar and move it around slowly and evenly as you pull in the smoke, being careful not to salivate onto the cigar. When the end of the cigar is lit in a seemingly even fashion you are done lighting it, it is okay to take it out of your mouth to examine.

Now you are going to pull in the smoke, with your mouth and throat, not your lungs. Remember, cigars are not to be inhaled. Let the smoke roll over your tongue and relax as you enjoy your cigar, try to focus on it intently and appreciate each subtle flavour and texture.

That is it, no more to it really.
The only thing left to do is experience different brands, sizes, types and discover which one is best for you.

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Cuban Cigarillos
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Cuban Cigars to the Left of the Divider Regular Premiums to the Right

Top 10 Worst Ideas of All Time For Men, Women and Mankind

14 Feb

When it comes to reviews, there is only so much people agree on, but it seems better to point out uniquely bad things rather than standard everyday ones like, well, Nickleback and what not.

So without much further ado, the top ten worst ideas (and/or products) for men.

Beginning with number Ten:

The man-purse.

Do I really have to explain this?

Number Nine:

The mullet.

This could be unisex, but categorically I think we’re fine.

Number Eight:

Electronic cigarettes.

I am sorry fella, there are few things people want to see in your mouth less than that.

Number Seven:

Pants that intentionally expose your boxers, briefs or bare posterior.

I am not your proctologist, gentleman.  Pull them up.

Number Six:

Long T-Shirts.

You look like Swee’pea.

Number Six:

Puffy Jackets.

My hero is Bruce Lee.  Yours is apparently the Michelin man.

Number Four:

Vespas.

Tell girls what you will.  Deep down you know that is not a motorcycle.

Number Three:

Shampoo/Conditioner/Body Wash/Face Scrub

Can you really be this lazy?  Do you really think that something that is supposed to remove dead skin cells from your body could effectively clean your face and hair?

Number Two:

Refrigerators

Men will open one of these, gaze blankly inside.  Close it, reopen it and expect it to be reloaded.

Number One:

The Spermatic Truss.

Still applauded by devout religious zealots, this fine device would inhibit erections by containing them in an unerect-shaped copper tube and later replaced the tube with a metal spike lined ring.  Ever wonder why your grandparents stuck to stick-ball and scrabble as vices?

Women:

Number Ten:

Giant Purses.

A poor attempt to fuse style with ergonomic appeal, these leather shopping bags turn normal people into walking tackle practise-dummies.

Number Nine:

Grannie Panties.

Parachute pants were bad, but these took the fight to another battlefield.

Number Eight:

“Modest Swimwear.”

That’s right, there are bathing suits with long sleeves and attached skirts so that women will not be stared at while they are at the beach.  Each one comes with a giant sign to be worn on the head that says, “DO NOT LOOK OVER HERE!”  Just to be safe.

Seven:

Fake Breasts.

If men wanted squishy, round lumps of synthetic material that badly they could easily put silly putty inside balloons or purchase some, “Sno Balls.”

Six:

Fake Nails.

You may find it fun to click these against desks while clicking your gum in sync, but for everyone else in the room it is not a good time.

Five:

Fake Hair.

Alopecia and chemo aside, do you really have an excuse?

Four:

Chastity Belts:

Urinary tract infections, contact dermatitis and other “chaste,” conditions to follow.

Three:

Rap Music Videos.

Is your hip-to-breast ratio really the extent of your depth?

Two:

“I don’t know.”

This is not an answer and the more you say it the more you do not believe your husband, male friend or boyfriend when he really does not know.

One:

Leggings.

Unless you are the woman on the package, you should probably not be wearing these.

Finally, Universally bad, it is the list you have all been waiting for:

The Top 10 Worst Ideas of All Time For All Mankind

Number Ten:

Tofu:

High in phytoestrogenic chemicals and proven to cause breast cancer, this bland, hippie fodder, will bore you and increase your chance of a troubled existence simultaneously.

Number Nine:

Trans Fatty Acids:

Not a single credible source disagrees that these have no nutritional benefit and is positively linked to cancer.  Moreover, they synonymous with, “[Partially] Hydrogenated Oils.”  Present in many popular snacks.

Number Eight:

Cheap Shampoo (and other various products):

Parabens contained in these are known to increase estrogen and risk of breast cancer as well as causing contact dermatitis and rosacia in people with sensitive skin.

Number Seven:

Stupid people:

We all deal with them on a daily basis and we all hate them.  Even those of us who are them.  There is a reason I chose to review “Ideas,” over “Products.”

Number Six:

STDs:

From green oozing goo to cervical cancer, these things are just scary.

Number Five:

New Age:

We get it, you think you are witches and you like organic stuff, hemp and “magic talismans,” now make yourselves vanish.

Number Four:

“Four Loko,” and other energy drink-alcohol mixtures:

You are putting your life at risk so that you can end up vomiting in an alley at the end of the night, well done.

Number Three:

Glee:

You either hate yourself for loving it or hate it altogether, either way you hate the bloody thing.

Number two:

Hawaiian Shirt/Bermuda Shorts/Sneakers/Backpacks/Cameras/Maps all carried and worn at once:

Tourists needn’t have uniforms.

Number One:

The Fanny Pack.

Possibly the one article of clothing that absolutely no one has an excuse for.

Vegetarianism+Organic+Anti-War=The End of the World.

14 Feb

Could a “peaceful lifestyle,” lead to world destruction?

Do not harm others, this our society believes to be of the utmost moral importance and very few arguments could contradict this key principle.

War is generally not categorised as a general type of “harm,” or “murder,” although elements of both are clearly involved in the actions of either side.

Before delving any deeper into discussion point number one of three, let us briefly examine anthropological theory.

We, human beings, are part of a system: The World.

Since the dawn of time, man has been evolving, adapting and fusing that which is necessary for his survival with that which becomes a habit.

The strongest survive, this ensures the continued survival of the human race so that they do not deteriorate to lesser beings and find their way to extermination.  This is always how things have been and natural selection has run its course historically.

This is the part pertaining to our story, to read more on the subject, buy a book.

Now, back to war.

War is a form of natural selection.  The strong and the cunning survive, the weak are, well, not selected.

Our population is growing exponentially with each generation, what are you going to do?  We like sex.

Whether you want to blame religious devotion in the bedroom or mere decadence for our mass breeding, the fact of the matter is that life can only be sustained on our planet in moderate numbers.

It is unquestionable that once we are struck with a high enough population we will not have enough drinking water, let alone food and other resources.

Assuming that we implement world peace and hit a population of seven billion, we have now evolved to the point where we know better than to consume animal products or genetically engineered foods.  Now what?

Now we are limited to consumption of grains and vegetables which are produced in natural quantities with no human intervention, we have limited protein sources and we all rush toward them.  You are thinking of this all wrong, remember that the water that is usable on crops must be spared so that it can be consumed by the masses, so each crop will not be self-sustaining, it will use our drinking water which is at this point more than ever, limited.

As of right now, pre-scenario, .007% of water on earth is accessible for direct human use, keep that in mind.

According to the US Geological Survey, as of the year 2000, the United States alone uses 323 billion gallons of water daily, on average.

Given even a 50% rise in population, assuming the per person volume stays consistent, on a yearly basis we will be using 1.768425 × 1014 gallons of water, quite possibly more than we have available on this planet; and of course we will need to water our crops with some, so that we do not starve to death.  What a fine balance we have the privilege to maintain.

Through basic math and statistics, we have conclusively shown that world peace would be the end of mankind and if we had a single organic granny smith to show for it, we would be luckier than we could ever deserve to be having been so unrealistic and asinine.

Thus our banners must be waves, our differences maintained and our adversities flaunted for the strong to overcome and if we are lucky we will make the cut.  If we do not then our families can tell the tale of how we, at the end of our lives, saved the world.

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