Saturday, November 26, 2016

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Ales for the Holidays

Pictured above are the two ales we're tasting today.

On the left is Trader Joe's 2010 Vintage Ale.  Each year the popular grocery store chain commissions a new ale for the holidays.  This year's version is a Belgian style brown ale produced by Unibroue in Canada.

To the right is Zoetzuur, a Flemish sour ale. You've really got to have a taste for this type of Belgian ale. Letty does. She loves them and wishes they were more widely available here in the states. I don't. I'm trying to develop a taste but so far the varieties I've tried are either cloyingly sweet (like Framboise) or tastes like vinegar.
Watch the Video!

Zoetzuur is brewed by De Proefbrouweri in Lochristi-Hijfte, Belgium.  It's a small town near the Dutch border, north of Gent.  The ale clocks in at 7% alcohol and is served in a cork top bottle.  It's head foams up about an inch and has a lighter golden brown color.

For taste, it's a little off.  True, I'm not a sour ale afficiandao, but Letty is and she agrees.  There's a quick taste of, what I think of as, grape soda.  Letty does not taste that but we both agree that there's an off-smell and taste.  Kind of like a skunky beer but different.  Something that we went back and forth on as to what exactly it was.  We ended up agreeing that it is the smell and taste of a horse farm. 

At $10.99 for a 750 ml bottle, it's just not worth the price.  Letty is still looking for a good, sour ale that she can get on a regular basis.  Rodenbach is one of her favorites but hard to find and the Bruery supposedly makes one of the finest sours around but they ran out and it will be over a year (!) till their next batch is ready.

The Trader Joe's Vintage Ale 2010, on the other hand, continues the strong tradition of great ales released each holiday season.  It's a dark, dark beer but not heavy.  Extremely foamy like the time I used regular granulated sugar to ferment some homemade beer, the head grows very fast so you need to do a careful pour.

The taste is smooth, the ingredients very harmonious.  The bitterness just hits the back of your throat on it's way down the way a nice, cold Coke Classic does.  I like this beer quite a bit and at 9% alcohol content, it's no lightweight.  It's also a very good bargain at only $4.99 for a 750 ml corked bottle.  I'll be going back to buy a few more.

Cheers!

-Darryl

The Cocktail Hour: Trader Joe's Holiday Ale Tasting - 2013


It's time for our annual taste of Trader Joe's holiday ale. This year, I missed grabbing the usual holiday ale and got the second ale, the Belgian blonde instead.

Brewed each year for TJ's by Unibroue, the ales are corked and ageable.


Watch the Video!



The blonde this year is like a Leffe with a little more heft and carmelization.

Check out the video above for the full tasting.

Cheers!



Darryl

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

ROUTE 66 - Southern California Roadhouses






There are great landmark restaurants along this stretch of highway that runs from San Bernardino County into Los Angeles.  Here are some of our favorites, going from East to West...


Photo courtesy of the Sycamore Inn

The Sycamore Inn, Rancho Cucamonga - Delicious and expensive steaks served in the classic style.  This place has been here since 1848.  I love the location, on a few wooded acres in the middle of suburban sprawl.  An inexpensive ($10-$15) menu is served on the veranda and in the bar if you don't want to go with the expensive, fancy dining room.


Photo courtesy of Flickr
Chuck "Cavman" Coker under CC BY-ND 3.0 license

The Magic Lamp, Rancho Cucamonga - Across the street, this rambling and quirky tile roofed building is stuck in the 70s...in a good way.  The sign is a kitsch classic with the Aladdin lamp belching flames into the night sky.  Red leather and steaks are the order of the day but save some room for the delicious crab cake appetizer.  A lower priced pub menu is served in their bar, with couches arranged around a circular fireplace.

La Paloma, La Verne - Decent but uninspiring Mexican food in this adobe building.  Come instead for their lively and fun happy hour in the dark and cave-like bar...every day of the week!


Photo courtesy of Flickr
savemejebus under CC BY-SA 3.0 license

Pinnacle Peak, San Dimas - Cowboy steak house in Bill and Ted's hometown.  Suprisingly good, inexpensive, and very casual...most excellent, dude!  Be prepared to wait on busy weekend evenings and don't wear a tie!




Clubhouse 66, Glendora - A new roadhouse has opened up along the stretch of Route 66 in Glendora.  Very good, nice drinks and the best outdoor patio of the bunch.  While they've got great steaks, fish, and chicken, I really like their Tijuana Tacos appetizer.

Golden Spur, Glendora - Another good red leather steakhouse.  Not quite as good as the Sycamore Inn or Magic Lamp but they do have some great early bird specials.





The Hat, Glendora and Upland - Though, not technically roadhouses, historic locations or even fancy restaurants, The Hat is a southern California food landmark, starting from a still-standing greasy spoon stand in Alhambra in 1951, it has expanded in the last couple of decades into a mini-chain in the area.  Not to be missed are their juicy and messy pastrami dip sandwiches.  Be aware that a "small" order of fries here will feed a small family.  The burgers and chili here are also top-notch and a very good deal.


The Derby, Arcadia - Another installment of Route 66's high-end, expensive steak houses.  It is really good.  It was opened by Seabiscuit's jockey and contains a wealth of horse racing memorabilia due to it's location just down the street from Santa Anita racetrack. For The Derby on a budget, come in for their happy hour in the bar or for lunch.

Tops Burger, Pasadena - A year younger than The Hat, nevertheless Tops is..as their web site says...a bit of an institution here.  Your basic Greek burger joint, the food here is good and inexpensive.  Worth a stop by itself is the incredibly delicious Kobe bistro burger.

Don't go hungry along the Mother Road...stop in at any of the places above and have a delicious bite of history.

Darryl
Copyright 2010

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Cocktail Hour...Strange Brew - The Finale!


It's time to wrap up this trilogy. I made it my project to brew a batch of Belgian style dubbel ale.


Watch the Video!



I brewed and fermented it in Part 1.

I filtered and bottled it in Part 2.

Now it's time to see how I did. Tim joins me as we crack open a couple of bottles on New Year's Eve. It tasted very, very good but...

You'll need to watch the video to see how it turned out.

Cheers!

Darryl
Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Cocktail Hour: Strange Brew - Part 2


In part 1, we brewed our Belgian Dubbel Ale.  It's been two weeks, fermentation is complete, and it's time to bottle.


Watch the Video!



We must transfer the completed beer into another tank, mainly to filter out the bits of dead yeast and other bits, and then it's just a matter of pouring into bottles, pressing caps on them, and waiting.

It'll take another couple of weeks of bottle aging and conditioning until it's ready to drink. At that time, Tim and I will taste test them for you. 


Cheers!

Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Cocktail Hour - Strange Brew, Part 1


Once in awhile, I like to really get into creating something to drink. I don't mean just trying to invent a new cocktail, although that is a lot of fun. I mean creating something from scratch, like a moonshiner.

Watch the Video!

  

No White Lightning for me, though.  This is a little more tame.  

Today, I'm making beer. This is the third batch I've ever made and I want to expand my horizon a little.  I've made a basic Pilsner and a Honey Ale in the past. Today, I'm going with a Belgian Dubbel Ale.



With a kit from Williams Brewing, a couple of five gallon tubs, and a few accessories, I'm ready to go.



First, boil the grain syrup from the kit and a pack of brewing sugar in 3 gallons of water for an hour. Add hops five minutes before the hour is up.



Once the mixture has cooled to room temperature, pour it into the fermenting tank. Add yeast, and let it ferment for a couple of weeks when we'll come back for bottling.


That's all a very simplistic explanation of the process that's covered in a bit more detail in the video above, which takes a 2 -hour process and compresses it to 5 minutes...take a look to see how we got the ball rolling on this batch.

If you're inspired to make your own, click the link below to get your own beer making kit.




See you in a couple of weeks for the conclusion to this report.  Cheers!

Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Classic Trip: The French Riviera



The Sky Mirror, Monte Carlo, Monaco

Now that school is over, the traveling can recommence. For a graduation present, we took him to Europe for a two week trip. Coming along on the trip was my mom and my wife’s brother. My mother is in her 70’s and a slow walker so this added another wrinkle to the proceedings.

Watch the video of this trip!



It’s day one and we’re flying to Nice, France via Frankfurt, Germany. Altogether, it’s 15 plus hours, not including arriving early at the airport to see if we can finagle seats together for our group. We are flying on Lufthansa, who does a great job with assistance onto the aircraft but not so well seating us together. The gate agent says two of us are in one row (emergency row, 2 seats) with the rest “one row behind.” That row actually turned out to be 5 rows back and on the other side of the 747’s cabin. Luckily, the people who showed up were amenable to a trade so we ended up together.



Having been to this part of France before, we know that accessibility is an adventure so we left the power chair at home and used a manual. It can be stressful enough with the manual chair…a power chair would present some huge obstacles to overcome unless you are prepared to spend big to do it, like renting a ramp-equipped van.


We like to use A-T-S shuttle service who uses tour guides in their downtime to provide airport transfers. This means you get a nice, big van to take you to your hotel instead of trying to squeeze into a taxi. It’s just a bit more but your driver is waiting at the gate, is very friendly, and a font of local knowledge. A half-hour after landing and we’re at our apartment in Cannes.
Not a hotel this time, it was very hard to find an accessible hotel room for a decent price. The closest was the Citadines…which we used the last time here…who wanted around $450 per night for the five of us.


Using HomeAway.com, which allows you to specify “wheelchair accessible” housing when doing a search of direct-from-owner vacation rentals, we were able to find suitable lodging at an apartment just two blocks north of the heart of town. Still, this was around $300 per night but when divided by 5 people, the cost was pretty manageable. The apartment consisted of 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, and two terraces. The entire building is step-free but there was no roll-in shower. The bathtub was normal size as was the shower and each had the showerhead on a hose. At just under 1000 square feet, we had plenty of room.

Also on site were two swimming pools.

The first day we made the 10 minute walk over to the Marche Forville, which is the big local market here in Cannes. Unbelievable food is what awaits you here. Fresh produce…much unavailable in America…meats, sausages, seafood, cheeses, olives, eggs. It’s all here and we stock up for three days worth of breakfasts plus some fruits for snacks.

 

Grasse

Next, it’s time to take the train to nearby Grasse, which purports to be the perfume capitol of the world. The train station in Cannes (it’s called a Gare in French) has three platforms, one of which is accessible. When a train is arriving on one of the unaccessible platforms, the staff at the station only requests that you contact them half an hour ahead of time at the information booth for help. The baggage handlers will take the wheelchair passenger to an off-limits area of the station where a ramp is installed to cross the tracks to the platform. All other passengers walk down stairs to take a tunnel to the platform.

Today, our train departs from the accessible platform and it’s a quick ride to Grasse. In Grasse, the depot is at the bottom of the hill while the town is at the top. Busses are available to take you up, most accessible via the back door. It is a Euro for each passenger, so make sure you have change…there is no place at the depot to get it unless you buy something at the expensive snack shop.

 


In Grasse, a little exploring leads to a medieval square with many restaurants competing for your Euro. We pick a cafĂ© which had a special (look for the “plat du jour” boards) of entrecote for 10 Euros. This is a rib-eye steak with a sublime sauce service with frites and warm salad. Eating this outside on a warm day with a delicious glass of French wine was quite a way to while away some time.


After lunch, wandering out the square via a narrow little street, we visit one of the famed parfumeries where big jugs line the shelves and the nice lady inside will create a unique fragrance just for you. At the end of the street, there’s a centuries old water fountain to splash your face with for refreshment and the large Fragonard parfumerie where everybody ends up to shop or see their museum.


We decide to walk the mile-or-so down the hill to the depot which was not one of our brightest decisions. The sidewalks are narrow, bumpy, have a way of just ending mid block, and are “beautified” by someone who thinks planting trees right in the middle of your already narrow path is a neat thing to do.

We do make it down with some major work and get back to Cannes where we enjoy a light dinner and some wine on our terrace.

 


The next day is for Monaco. Being jet-lagged, we find it almost impossible to get out early. We make the 11:30 train (non-accessible platform today) and get to Monaco just after the changing of the guard at the palace. I’d seen this before, so it was no big deal, but it would have been nice if the others on the trip could have seen it.


Monaco is nothing if not ever changing and the exit from the train station is completely different from the last time we were here. This is due to large apartment buildings being constructed there, changing the streets we had known from before. No worries, we find the elevators taking us down to street level and quickly make our way to the Place de Armes, the plaza at the bottom of the stairway taking up to the royal palace.

 



I had pushed my son’s wheelchair up this path before, but today I’m not feeling well and we take the bus up instead. Again, most busses are accessible here via the back door and the fare, as it is everywhere we went, was one Euro.


At the top, you’ll swear you’re in Disneyland with the narrow, shop-lined streets and the palace at the end but remind yourself, this is the original that Disney copied. The post office near the palace is a great place to mail postcards home with that exclusive “Monaco” postmark. It’s also a good place to get money at the ATM and to see the picture of Princess Grace walking a young Princess Stephanie to school on the street you are now standing on.

 


After taking in the spectacular views of the entire country (the size of a small town in the U.S.) from the palace, we eat lunch at one of the many eateries up here in the small palace neighborhood. Then, the same bus takes us all the way across the country (a five minute ride) to the famous Monte Carlo casino.


It’ll cost you 10 Euros to enter, you must check your bags (and leave a tip), must be dressed properly, and not bring a camera…but you too can enter this palace of gambling and pretend you’re on Her Majesty’s Secret Service. If that’s a bit much for you (and it is for me), you can visit another casino next door that is made for the commoners.

 


There is a beautiful fountain-filled plaza out (see the picture at the top of this post) front with the cars of the pretty people parked out front. On the slow day we were there, we counted four Ferraris, three Mazaratis, several Bentleys, a Rolls Royce, and too many BMWs and Mercedes to count. One of the Bentleys had a parking lot scrape along its side that I dared not imagine how much it would cost to fix.


After three nights in Cannes, we had to say goodbye to our huge apartment and move into two
small hotel rooms in Nice. This was due to an early morning flight we would take to Munich and we didn’t want to gamble on getting a taxi so we moved to the Campanile Airport Hotel just across from the departures terminal.

We took the time to visit the museum of archeology where the ruins of an ancient Roman bath have been unearthed.
Roman Ruins in Nice

It takes two accessible busses to go from our hotel to the site. The museum is accessible but the ruins less so. A guide tells me there is two steps to negotiate to get to the main bath house and sends me to a more accessible route that only has two steps. Ah yes, welcome to the French way of doing things.


This is not to say that anyone we met in France was rude or arrogant. Everyone we met was gracious and nice, making this the third time that the French stereotype has been shattered for me. In fact, we spent a good part of that afternoon getting to know our guide (who was also a security guard at the museum). It turns out he was raised in Naples, can understand English very well but cannot speak it without many problems. We took turns learning Spanish and English words from us and French and Italian words from him.

I always say, the best part of any good trip is not what you see but who you meet along the way.
The ruins are a nice way to spend the day and, if you have time, the Matese Museum next door is also worth a visit. One last French dinner in Nice overlooking the beach and then it’s off to bed.




Stay tuned for part 2 where we travel to Bavaria and Beyond!

-Darryl
Copyright 2009 - Darryl Musick

All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Caregiver Chronicles



November is National Caregivers Month. A perfect time to start something new here at The World on Wheels.


Welcome to a new occasional series of posts. As you know, our son Tim has cerebral palsy and is severely limited in what he can do physically. As a result, he's very mobility challenged and has to use a wheelchair to get around in.


Tim's been doing an excellent job with his Cerebral Palsy Stories series, trying to explain to us what it's like to be someone who is disabled and has to rely on others for help.


Since I'm one of the "others for help" he must rely on, I thought I'd let you know some of the joys, trials, and challenges of being a caregiver.




Before getting into more details, I just want to first establish a few general ground rules.  First, no pity.  It's just the way life is for us and we've accepted it and adapted to it. Since Tim was born, we've known no other way so, as life is just normal for you, this is just normal for us.


Second, Tim will vet each of these posts to make sure I don't go too far in each revelation. Whatever you read here, be assured that he is OK with it.


And, lastly, this is tailored for our situation. That is taking care of a child who is now a man that cannot walk, dress himself, or do most of the other self-caring tasks we take for granted. Otherwise, Tim is smart, well educated, can talk for himself.


We make no pretensions on understanding what it's like for other caregivers taking care of special needs persons that we have no experience with.  For example, we don't have a clue what it's like living with someone who is on the autistic spectrum, blind, mentally challenged, etc., although I appreciate those who are to comment and help us all to understand those aspects of caregiving also.




So what is a caregiver? Basically, someone who provides care to someone who cannot provide it to themselves be it feeding, bathrooming, dressing, or any number of daily activities we humans have to do for ourselves.


If you're a parent, you know what that includes. Your children were once babies that depended on you for everything.  Not all children outgrow that period and some people revert to it via injury, disease, or just aging later in life.


Caregivers can include family members or professional health care aides or even a combination of the two.


I'll just leave it at an introduction this week and delve into some more details in upcoming posts.


Darryl