Thursday, October 20, 2011

Weekend Beer / Okonomiyaki Experiment

Here we are in the cooling season, and I just can't wake up in the morning.  This happens every year when the weather turns, and this year is no exception.  I've awoken progressively later each day.  This morning there was no time for a dog walk at all, which makes me feel terrible, and no doubt makes Bobby feel even worse.  I need a Clocky.

This past weekend we had a rare opportunity to take time for ourselves, in that we had no other obligations.  And so we did just that. I squeezed in a super-fun night of swing dancing at Molly's Friday night, but our greater plan was a cooking experiment/beer tasting.

Two bits of inspiration got me going.

One: The calendar in my office at work features different scenes in different Asian countries.  When we flipped over into October, there was a shot that I recognized immediately, Itsukushima Jinja on the island of Miyajima.  I've been there so many times it was unmistakable. It made me think of my old stomping ground across the pond.  Which made me think of food (because thinking of Japan always makes me hungry). 

Two: I frequent the 365Cincy Site quite often, browsing their calendar to see what's going on or what's coming up.  I came across a wine and beer tasting in Sharonville which sounded fun, and the brewmaster from Moerlein Brewmaster was supposed to be there.  Not only is this right up our alley, D is a home-brewer and it sounded like a great opportunity for him to get some pointers or compare notes.  Well.  We flushed that all down the toilet when we realized that the entry fee was $75 bucks a person.   For that kind of money we could have our own tasting. 

And so our beer/okonomiyaki experiment came into being.     

This was the first time that I finally got up the guts to try my hand at Okonomiyaki. 

The instruction in this video is pretty good, only I'd add that in Hiroshima they add grated Taro root to the batter to give it a bit more body.  We found that at Jungle Jim's, as well as the okonomiyaki sauce (Otafuku, of course), and Kewpie mayonnaise (because standard American mayo is gross). I actually already had everything else in the pantry, other than the veg and meat.  We skipped the tenpura-drippings, and we did not add doritos.  I didn't miss them. 

Okonomiyaki, though requiring some prep work, is deceptively simple to make.  I was pretty proud of myself. 

This was D's first time trying okonomiyaki.  He called it "soul food," and I think that's a pretty good description.  I even found this awesome video on youtube of somebody's trip to Hiroshima's Okonomi-mura.  Makes me homesick, ::sniff::

At Jungle Jim's, we spent an hour or so in the beer and liquor department.  We came away with these:

Boont Amber Ale (my fave from Alefest, in a bottle this time)
Wychwood's King Goblin (English strong ale)
Hitachi no Nest Red Rice Ale (Belgian strong pale ale)
Southern Tier Mokah (Imperial stout)
Belhaven Wee Heavy (Scotch ale)

I am not a beer pro, I am a craft beer fan.  Trying to describe the taste of beer (or wine) in terms that extend beyond sweet/dry/heavy/light/bleh, extends me past my capabilities for description.  I find myself grasping at words that I cannot seem to find.  As though the adjectives were wee little butterflies.  Wait, that makes no sense.  

 Oh sure, when there's a description written on the label of wine/beer, informing to look out for "carmel," or "chocolate," sometimes I can find it on my palate and agree with it.  Sometimes though, they tell me "woody," or "earthy," and I respond "huh?"   Most often there is no key, though.  I can only describe things in the most basic way, and say like or dislike with any confidence.  So I leave it to people who can fake it better than I.  Fan reviewers at Beer Advocate

But I will say that I've never liked a group of randomly chosen beers so much as these.  Boont did not let me down, but I truly enjoyed all of these others.  The Moka was the exception, and I wouldn't buy it again.  I think it would appeal to Guinness fans.  

In keeping with the beer experiment theme, D stocked up on hops, and a vat of thick and icky-sweet smelling malt extract at a Cincy supply store called Listerman's.  He's got a scottish ale fermenting in the basement now.  A few weekends ago, while D was watching the game I cleaned up the cobwebby damp/disgusting mess in a corner of the basement, dried and painted a counter, and set it up as D's brewing station.  D has further rearranged some shelving to accommodate the giant bucket brigade and bottles and access to the utility sink. 

No before photo, but I think you get the idea

It is very important to paint over grossness
Tah-dahh!  Brew Corner!

The weekend experiment was super successful and extremely fulfilling.  Beer and okonomiyaki are a harmonious combination.  I'd have taken photos, only I couldn't find the battery for the camera.  And soon, that is, as soon as the fermentation process finishes, we'll be bottling up D's scottish ale home brew. 

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