Mar 292009

I recently went to a talk by Sam Calagione, the president and founder of Dogfish Head. Dogfish Head is a small craft brewery based in Delaware. It was accompanied by a small selection of some of their beers; I had tastes of their 60-Minute IPA, Midas Touch, Palo Santo Marron, and Raison D’Etre. These were all well-balanced beers; my favorite was the Midas Touch. I’ve enjoyed Dogfish Head beers for years, I still remember tasting their Punkin Ale years ago in a mid-Atlantic brewing festival in Northern Virginia.

The lecture did not disappoint: Sam Calagione touched on all aspects of his business, including going through the background of several of his beers, discussing the business of craft breweries, and speculating on the future of his business. He was the subject of a profile in the New Yorker in late November of 2008. In the article, Garret Oliver, the brewer at Brooklyn Brewery was quoted as saying of Dogfish Head’s 120-Minute IPA, “I don’t find it pleasant to drink […] I find it unbalanced and shrieking.” During the Q&A; portion of the talk, I asked about the quote, and Sam was nothing but gracious. Sam noted that he felt craft brewers should generally support each other, and that part of the craft brewing movement is drinking what you like and not dictating what others should like. He also noted that he and Garrett were on good terms and regularly exchanged beer.

Hopefully the talk will be posted on YouTube, and I’ll be able to share a link.

Dogfish Head beers
Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head

I am proud to say I am a beer geek, and here is a geeky photo of me with Sam Calagione.
Sam Calagione from Dogfish Head and Sam Greenfield

 Posted by at 9:02 pm
Mar 262009

Yesterday’s New York Times Dining In/Dining Out section, aka the food section, had eight pages. Excluding advertisements by and for the New York Times, there was a single full page display advertisement and two small display classified advertisements. If that doesn’t make the Times management a little nervous, I don’t know what does.

In other New York Times Dining News, Kim Severson and Julia Moskin had dueling dinner parties to see who could cook the best meal. Frank Bruni, the restaurant critic for the Times was the judge. Unfortunately, in a non-critical piece, he ultimately weaseled. Unsurprisingly, it’s more difficult to criticize people you know and work with than it is to visit restaurants anonymously and potentially destroy their livelihoods with your critiques.

 Posted by at 1:31 pm
Mar 222009

When I visit my friends Phil and Karen in Garrison, New York, one of my favorite places to hike is Mystery Point. It’s a small piece of land the juts out into the Hudson around 10 minutes north of Bear Mountain Bridge.

I’ve visited Mystery Point in the past few months. One of my visits was December 27 of last year. The tide at Mystery Point was very low, and the water level was very low. December 27 was relatively warm, but the ground was still covered with snow.
Mystery Point Panorama

A light haze covered the water, and you could see it accumulate as you looked into the distance.
Mystery Point Low tide at Mystery Point
Every now and then you see odd artifacts; this hook was embedded into a large boulder at Mystery Point. Was it used to dock small boats? Was it part of a larger structure? Around 100-200 yards north of Mystery Point is a loading dock; perhaps this was part of that infrastructure.
Hook at Mystery Point

Even in the middle of winter, there are splashes of bright colors all around Mystery Point. The bright red flowers seemingly pop out of the middle of boulders. Mushrooms and other fungi abound.
Lichen near Mystery Point Fungus near Mystery Point

My friend Anne frequently hikes up to Phil and Karen’s house.
Anne near Mystery Point
Phil has been doing quite a bit of hiking–I think he wants to hike the entire Appalachian Trail in New York.
Phil near Mystery Point

Karen, Anne and Phil on the goat trail next to Mystery Point.
Hiking near Mystery Point
Tilt-shift effects can sometimes be fun….
Fun with tilt-shift effects at Mystery Point

I went back up to Mystery Point last weekend. Spring has already arrived at Mystery Point, yet it was a bit surprising how much the weather, water, and land resembled the weather of late December.
Swamp near Mystery Point Mystery Point Trunk at Mystery Point Swamp at Mystery Point

Wildlife abounds at Mystery Point. My friend Kathy took a fantastic photo of an immature bald eagle on the Hudson next to our friends’ house. She was also kind enough to lend me her camera for this most recent trip since I had left mine at home. One of the signs that Spring was arriving were the large number of red-winged blackbirds migrating back. They had a distinctive call and a stunningly sharp and bright swatch of red and yellow on a black body.
Blackbird at Mystery Point Blackbirds at Mystery Point

Metro North and Amtrak share a train line that runs parallel to the Hudson. Near Mystery Point is a bridge where you can see the train motoring North and South. I created two stop-motion images of both trains: Stop motion #1 of train next to the Hudson Stop motion #2 of train next to the Hudson. Of course, I also have the individual photos that made each video.

 Posted by at 10:39 pm
Mar 072009

I returned from San Francisco last week. I’ve been to the Bay Area almost four of the past eight weeks; I’m getting to know my new coworkers at Google. While Google is based in Mountain View, I prefer to stay in San Francisco. It’s reminiscent of home.

One of the places I ate in San Francisco the first time I visited this year was Incanto, Chris Cosentino‘s shrine to offal meats. My friends and I had a fine time at his Noe Valley restaurant. This past visit I stopped by Boccalone, Cosentino’s meat shop in the San Francisco Ferry Building. I purchased a brown sugar and fennel salame. While I had some of it in San Francisco, I brought the rest of it to my friend Phil and Karen’s house. (Happy Birthday Karen!) The salame is chewy and has a strong fennel flavor. The sugar helps balance the strong flavors of the cure and fennel.

Today, I was reading Chris Cosentino’s blog post about receiving a letter from anti-foie gras folks. He and his business partner, Mark Pastore, discussed the letter, and Mark wrote a thoughtful note on the foie gras debate on the Incanto web site. It’s well written, and I agree with the gist of the letter.

If you get out to San Francisco, I recommend checking out Incanto and Boccalone. The folks that work at both restaurants are passionate about the food they make and serve, and it shines in the flavor of the food and experience of dining and shopping.

 Posted by at 11:42 pm
Mar 052009

When I visited Seattle in December, I was lucky to be able to take a tour of Theo Chocolate, an artisanal chocolate maker in the Fremont neighborhood. The previous time I visited Seattle, I had tried to go with my godson and his family, but we were unable to get tickets.
Jen and Samuel
There is a waiting room and retail area in the front of the chocolate factory. In this image, Samuel, my godson, and Jen, my godson’s mother hang out in the front of the store.

Samuel in a hairnet
The front room offers samples of all of their chocolate bars. Samuel enjoyed having chocolate as we waited for the tour to start. Everyone must wear a hairnet on the factory floor.

Dan, Roan, and Audryn
There are frequently people who reserve a space on the tour and don’t show up; Dan, Roan, and Audryn were able to join us at the last second.

Chocolate beans at Theo Chocolates, Seattle
Chocolate beans at Theo Chocolates, Seattle
Theo uses fair-trade and organic chocolate beans to make their chocolate. They produce confections from the bean to the bar. It’s fairly uncommon for a confectioner to make chocolate from the beginning to the end–most vendors focus either on making chocolate or on making confections. My understanding is that even Jacques Torres, perhaps the best confectioner in New York City, uses couverture for his bon-bons despite producing his own chocolate bars from beans.

Theo regularly visits their cacao manufacturers to make sure that they are adhering to fair-trade and organic standards.

Chocolate beans quality control at Theo Chocolates, Seattle
The staff at Theo take quality control seriously. While it’s always important to have strong quality control, it’s especially important at Theo since they produce such small batches of chocolate. In the photo, you can see the device that is used to split the cacao beans in half and inspect the contents. Beans that do not make the cut for Theo but are still good enough to be used for larger production lines may be sold to other chocolate manufacturers.

Chocolate manufacturing equipment at Theo Chocolates, Seattle
Chocolate manufacturing equipment at Theo Chocolates, Seattle
What was striking to me about the factory floor at Theo was that it was actually a factory with heavy manufacturing equipment. While roasting the cacao bean may seem similar to roasting a coffee bean, the process is very different. As distinct from coffee beans, the cacao bean will be processed much more than just a simple roast and grind. Impressively, the factory floor and equipment were spotless. I almost thought there would be a secret door where the “real” grimy, noisy factory was kept. But the one I saw was clearly not for show.

Chocolate at Theo Chocolates, Seattle
While bars are produced using another machine, the individual bon-bons (or truffles) may be produced by hand. There is another room beyond the factory store where people work to temper the chocolate and create bon-bons.

Andrew, Jen, and Samuel
Everyone had a great time at Theo Chocolates. This photo of Andrew, Samuel’s father; Jen; and Samuel was taken just outside of the factory.

Dew on sage leaves in Seattle
I left Seattle the day after the chocolate factory tour; I had a great time there. It gets damp in Seattle, and the dew clings to the leaves of a sage plant in front of Samuel’s house in the morning.

 Posted by at 12:42 am
Mar 052009

I read quite a few food blogs (see the list next to my blog on the right). Recently, I noted that one blog I was reading was plugging Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations, on a regular basis. The descriptions were always written in the first person, but then I noticed in the comments that the author stated he was simply publishing exactly what he received from the producers of the show. I had a hunch and decided to do a quick search for some key phrases, like “rides in a tri-shaw.”

Some of the bloggers I noticed quoted the blurb from the producers as a true quote, others ran the blurb as their own post, and others created their own copy but used supplied phrases. If you have time, check out some of the posts to see what I mean:

I think finding posts like this illustrates how carefully one needs to read what people write. You never know if someone is merely republishing a press release, or even worse, regurgitating a press release without citing the original sources. I would be more inclined to watch the show if I thought people were giving passionate, true opinions.

Ironically, I’m pushing up the search rankings and readership of these blogs by linking to them.

 Posted by at 12:20 am
Mar 022009

My website and email provider, Dreamhost, is having issues delivering email; I haven’t received anything in the last 12 hours. If you need to reach me, you can contact me at or via Facebook instead. If it isn’t fixed at Dreamhost within 24 hours, I’ll be switching email providers. Don’t throw away that or address!

UPDATE: of course immediately after making this post, my email started working again. Please continue to use my standard email addresses.

 Posted by at 12:32 am
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