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Archive for November, 2010

BOS —> IA?

Yep. Except this time we’re going to be road warriors.

Bassador in tow, it’s just a short 1300 miles to our Thanksgiving destination. We’ll be taking the “Northern” route (i.e. I-90 to I-80), and the “Southern” route (I-80 all the way baby) back, to minimize repetitiveness as much as possible.

Unlike most of our trips, this is one isn’t dotted with natural wonders, fine dining establishments, or high-flying adventures. We deemed Niagara Falls not worth the short jaunt north of Buffalo it would require (plus I was afraid that Canadian Border Patrol would confiscate the Bassador), and as much as we tried to justify a 24 hour layover in Kentucky for the Bourbon Trail we just couldn’t swing it. Chicago is tempting, but a few years ago I got stuck in traffic just outside of the city limits so bad that I thought I’d perish there, and the memory of it haunts me. So a straight shot it is, with one night rest in Cleveland  on the way there, and one in Pittsburgh on the way back.

I don’t really have much to say about Cleveland. My apologies, but this city isn’t on my bucket list. Or my top 100 list. Maybe not even my top 1,000. But they’ve got a Starwood that takes pups, so Cleveland it is.

There is one small beacon of excitement in the drive. Can you see it?

Need a close-up because the screenshot is soooo small and you can’t see what I’m pointing at anyway?

Know what it is?

Why, it’s none other than the location of the Southern Tier Brewing Company!

Yayyyyyy. These fine beermakers happen to brew several of my favorite beers, and we will most definitely be making a stop on our way to Cleveland. Because what’s a road trip without a stop at a brewery or two?

And if anyone has any suggestions on how to spice up the rest of the 1,299 miles, just let me know. We’ve downloaded thousands of hours of This American Life and Stuff You Should Know, various books on tape, and converted mix tapes galore. The great fiasco of ’04 won’t occur again (in which I was stuck in the car driving to Michigan with only one cd – The Garden State soundtrack. A good cd, sure, but NOT GOOD ENOUGH for 20 hours of straight listening).

And I’ll be tweeting from the road (@lalaconcierge) to occupy myself, and perhaps you, too. Just in case you’ve been dying to know how a 22-hour, 1300 mile road trip actually unfolds. Cause I know you have.

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So, where has the fall gone? Ah, there it is, swirling in the bottom of my glass.

Just kidding – I’ve had an absolutely lovely fall: leaf peeping, pumpkin eating, walking and hiking over the hills and through the woods, watching prep school football, roasting acorn and butternut squashes, mulling cider, eating massive amounts of Halloween candy, and, perhaps most surprisingly, drinking beer.

My last post was on the beer class I took at the Boston Wine School, and the effects of that experience have lingered on and on, as evidenced by my new kitchen decor:

Aren’t they pretty? I think so too.

First, being obsessed with all things pumpkin, I had to discover which pumpkin beer was the best. It was a tough job, but someone had to do it. And the winner is? Without a doubt, Southern Tier’s Pumking, is indeed KING of the pumpkin beers. One whiff of this potion and you’ll raise your white flag and beg for more. Sweet seriousness.

At an apple and cider tasting at Formaggio Kitchen, I stumbled across J.K. Scrumpy’s Hard Cider, and more importantly, Scrumpy’s Solstice Cider. This stuff is the nectar of gods. Infused with cinnamon, vanilla, and a drop of maple syrup, this is basically a holiday party in your mouth. Drink it cold or drink it warm, but just drink it! This is what you should be drinking after Thanksgiving dinner in a week and a half. Trust me. (NOTE: I know, I know, cider is not beer. I totes agree. But with an alcohol content level hovering above 6%, I think this bottle can hang out with the other cool kids. But that’s just my professional opinion.)

I also ventured out into the other interestingly flavored beers that started getting my attention (hazelnut beer? uh huh. creme brulee beer? sure. beer + bourbon? yes please). And then I met my match: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout. This, this is just something to love. To see life in a different shade. This is a deep, dark, rich, and downright sexy beer.

Here’s the winning line-up of my fall tasting:

And first place goes to…

Need a close up because my photos are blurry? I know, me too.

Isn’t she looooooooooooooooooooovely?

So that’s what I learned this fall. I learned that I do, in fact, love beer. I also learned that price matters – unlike wine, where I can’t distinguish a $12 bottle from a $4 bottle, with beer I really can tell a difference. In a way, beer is kind of like cashmere. It pays to pay for better quality. Now I haven’t ventured into the Loro Piana realm of beer (and audibly gasped when I hit the right side of the menu at Lord Hobo, where glasses start at $20), so this is a tempered conclusion, but one which I promise to explore in more depth in the future.

I also learned that beer and bourbon is really the key to just about everything. This weekend I added a bottle of Southern Tier’s Porter to my chili, another to some macaroni and cheese, and a short pour of Van Winkle’s into my pumpkin pie filling. Verdict? Deeper, more complex flavors in all three dishes.When in doubt, add some stout. Or bourbon. Or whiskey.

What did you learn this fall?

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