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archive for 'things i should know'

- kentucky derby 2014 -

mint juleps - photo by: ryan sterritt

we are enjoying mint juleps before the kentucky derby! we went with a recipe from the original bartender’s guide by trader vic from 1947 and used rittenhouse rye. they are quite tasty for sure!

rittenhouse is the latest rye whiskey i tried out. i had read a lot about them, including how they won the 2006 north american whiskey of the year award, but had yet to try out their rye. at only $18.99, it is definitely the most economical option for a solid tasting rye out there. the bottle design is nothing to write home about, however it packs a punch at 100 proof and is a great addition to one’s bar.

i would probably stick with mixing rittenhouse in cocktails like juleps, manhattans or an old-fashioned over just sipping the whiskey. it has a little more bite than bulleit or redemption, but for the price, it’s still tasty and great in mixed drinks.

rittenhouse is bottled in bond, which means it was the product of one distillation season by one distiller at one distillery, was aged in a federally bonded warehouse under us government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof. pretty strict standards for such an economical rye!

check our my previous posts on bulleit, 13th colony and redemption rye.

- ryan

georgia mint julep recipe:

1 tsp sugar syrup
4 springs fresh mint
2 oz. brandy (we substituted rye)
2 oz. apricot brandy (we substituted more rye)
shaved ice

- crush mint with sugar syrup in large class and fill with crushed ice
- add liquor and stir gently until glass frosts
- serve with straws and garnish with more mint

- light roasted coffee -

starbucks recently introduced their new line of light roasted coffees called blonde. this is something many smaller roasters have been offering for awhile, so i was intrigued to see how starbucks would compete.

basically, there are certain coffee beans that reach their ideal flavor at a shorter and/or cooler roasting time, hence the term light roasted. the result is a lighter bodied coffee that tastes crisp and clean with a bit milder flavor. it’s easier to over-roast coffee beans though, to ensure potential bad flavors are burnt out, so most companies roast everything really dark. it’s also not as cost-effective to separate the ripe beans for a lighter roast, so you don’t see many options outside of specialty coffee shops.

light roasted coffee often gets a bad wrap for not being very strong or being too mellow, however this is definitely not the case. most people don’t realize that a light roasted coffee actually has more caffeine than a dark roast. beans lose their caffeine the more they are roasted, so a light roast packs more punch then a dark one. it makes sense, but you always hear people requesting a dark cup of coffee when they need to stay awake.

light roasted coffees are also very flavorful, especially when brewed through a chemex or a french press. they are just more subtle when compared to a dark coffee like a french roast. you will still pick up fruity, nutty or even chocolaty notes in your coffee though.

so far starbucks has a willow blend and a veranda blend in the blonde line-up. i’ve tried both and really enjoyed them! i don’t think i’ll switch from my locally-roasted batdorf & bronson when buying nice coffee, but i’ll grab some more if it goes on sale again.

did you know you get a free cup of coffee at starbucks when you bring in your empty starbucks coffee bag? sounds like a pretty good recycling program to me! i noticed the offer on the bottom of the blonde coffee i purchased.

- ryan

- the perfect cup of coffee -

after my recent tour of the batdorf & bronson roastery, i went on a quest to brew a better cup of coffee. i learned on the tour that there are many factors that go into a good cup of joe. these range from the quality and freshness of the coffee, to using the proper ratio of grounds/water, to hitting the ideal brewing temperature of 205°. the problem is most consumer coffeemakers never reach such high temperatures. for that, you need a hand-brewed method where you are in full control and as much as i love my french press, it sounded like a pour over coffeepot was the way to go.

after a little research, i decided on the stylish chemex coffeepot. it’s both a great coffeemaker and a beautiful piece of design, even 70+ years after its creation. plus it only set me back $31.95 at dancing goats in decatur. i did have to buy special chemex filters for it, but they were just $5.95 for a 100 pack, which wasn’t that bad.

for my inaugural pot, i picked up some nice costa rica la minita del sol coffee. the description on the bag was “full bodied & sparkling sweet, maple, almond & orange juice,” which sounded interesting. the beans were 100% sun dried instead of fully washed, like most central american beans, so it’s supposed to be fairly unique.

the brewing process was pretty easy to follow. i put a chemex filter into the top of the coffeepot and added a tbsp of freshly ground coffee for each 5 oz cup, 8 tbsp for a full pot. i boiled 40 oz of water and removed it from heat for roughly 20 seconds until it reached ~205°. i then wet the grounds with 4 oz of water and let “bloom” for 30-40 seconds. from there i added the rest of the water, making sure not to overflow, and composted the spent grounds. voilà, the perfect cup of coffee!

the results were definitely worth the effort! the coffee had that fresh, strong taste you get from a french press, but seemed cleaner and less-bitter since the oils and sediment were filtered out. it was a nice, crisp cup of coffee where I could actually distinguish some of the descriptive characteristics. i wouldn’t say i sensed the orange juice, but i picked up some sweet and nutty elements, especially when sampled next to a cup of french roast. it was some of the better coffee i’ve made at home!

on top of that, the actual coffeepot is gorgeous and looks great on the countertop! it’s on permanent display at moma and was featured in the modern by design exhibit at the high museum of art, further proving its elegance.

for more thorough brewing instructions, or to check out some great mid-century illustrations, head to the chemex website. there are also some slightly different brewing instructions offered from dancing goat, although i tried this method and didn’t care for it. it used almost twice the coffee and was a little strong for my taste.


- ryan

dancing goats coffee bar

419 west ponce de leon ave
decatur, ga 30030


- steel building -

i’ve always loved the steel building near the dekalb farms market on east ponce. you don’t feel like you’re in atlanta when you drive by it.

this building made me realize the pittsburgh steelers logo is just the american steel logo, also called the steel mark. who would have thought it was so simple? the colors represent the three materials used to produce steel, with yellow for coal, orange for iron ore and blue for scrap steel.

- ryan

- kentucky bourbon -

with the kentucky derby on the television and a mint julep in hand, i found myself wondering what exactly defines a bourbon? in general, american whiskeys are classified by the type of grain being distilled. rye whiskey is distilled from rye grain, while bourbon whiskey is distilled from corn. woodford, wild turkey, maker’s mark, bulleit, and jim beam are some of the more popular bourbons.

a common misnomer is that bourbon has to come from bourbon county, kentucky. although most bourbons do come from kentucky, it is not a requirement for classification. if you feel like going on a bourbon adventure, there is a kentucky bourbon festival held every year in bardstown, ky and the kentucky bourbon trail where you can tour 6 distilleries.

tennessee whiskey, aka jack daniels and george dickel, have the distinction of being filtered through a thick layer of maple charcoal before aging.

canadian whisky, aka crown royal, as well as scotch whisky and irish whiskey are generally blended whiskeys. this means they use multiple grains in distilling, often with a large percentage of rye, resulting in a lighter, smoother flavor.

another interesting fact is that whiskey gets its color and flavor from being aged in charred oak barrels. without this, the liquor is clear and known as moonshine.

- ryan

- sea foam green -

what exactly is sea foam? we all know the shade of green, but what exactly is that stuff sitting on the beach as waves pull back to the sea?

basically, sea foam is impurities in the ocean such as salt, chemicals, dead plants or other material that are churned up by the currents and carried to the shore by waves. the bubbles stick together and create the foam you see on the beach.

- ryan

- herb vs. spice -

an item on my things i should know list has come up numerous times while we plant our garden; what is the difference between an herb and a spice?

the answer boils down to herbs come from the leaves of plants while spices come from the seeds, roots, bark, flowers or fruits of plants.

examples of herbs are basil, rosemary, mint, chives, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, etc. examples of spices are black pepper (seed), ginger (root), cinnamon (bark), cloves (flowers), mustard (seed), nutmeg (fruit), etc.

on a side note, salt is actually a mineral and not a spice.

- ryan

- mark it 8 -

gubby and i were recently admiring a lebowski fest sticker with a silhouette of nixon bowling. it got us wondering about the nixon poster hanging in the dude’s apartment in the big lebowski. was it just a joke? did nixon really like to bowl?

after a little research, it turns out the white house has had a bowling alley since the truman era! the original two lane alley was a birthday gift for truman in 1947 and was located on the ground floor of the west wing. although truman did not like to bowl, his staff took full advantage and had a league. in 1955 the lanes were moved to the old executive office building. the space was needed for more important needs, like becoming a mimeograph room and later the situation room.

the current white house bowling alley is located in the basement under the north portico, which is the fancy front entrance to the white house. it was built in 1969 by president and mrs. nixon, who were both avid bowlers, hence the dude’s poster. the one lane alley was supposedly paid for by friends, but who knows with nixon. you can’t help but feel patriotic knowing the president has a private bowling alley!

check out a bunch of great photos of the white house bowling alley!

- ryan

- things i should know -

i’m a person who enjoys keeping lists, although i think i mostly like scratching items off my lists. generally they are for errands and what not, but i have an ongoing list i like to call “things i should know.” it’s basically a list of random things i feel like i should know by this point in my life. it covers basic trivia, for instance what is a harvest moon? or interesting facts i’ve learned and forgotten, i.e. what are the different types of clouds? or intriguing childhood stuff i want to read about as an adult, like what really went down at the bermuda triangle?

when i have free time i try to look up and research the various items on my list. in this new category of the blog i will write about the interesting things i learn.

- ryan

types of full moon:
what exactly is a harvest moon? and i’m not talking about the neil young record. a harvest moon is the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, whether before or after. it normally happens in late september or early october. during this lunar period, the time between a sunset and moonrise is the shortest of the year. this short period of darkness allowed farmers to work late farming at the peak of harvest under an early bright moon, hence the name.

a hunter’s moon, or blood moon, is the first full moon after the harvest moon. it normally occurs in late october or early november. hunter’s used to take advantage of this early full moon to hunt late, especially migrating birds. they would stock up for the winter ahead. similar to the harvest moon, the hunter’s moon has a short time between sunset and moonrise.

you know the phrase, “once in a blue moon“? well, it actually gets its name from a lunar event that happens every 2 or 3 years. most lunar years have 12 full moons, which occur about once every month. the solar calendar has roughly 11 days more than the lunar year though. these days add up and every two or three years there is an extra full moon, or blue moon. the next blue moon is november 21, 2010. be sure to enjoy it, the next one won’t be for a couple of years.

for more reading on harvest, hunter’s, or blue moon:
harvest moon wiki page
hunter’s moon wiki page
blue moon wiki page