Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

03 April, 2014

Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Piper!

Our Kätzchen is now a Katze. Here she is a day or two old.



And here she is today on her first birthday.



Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a decent snap this morning. It'll just have to do. I suspect she'll be spending her birthday sleeping, fighting with Marilyn (our other Katze), and causing general mayhem with toilet paper, facial tissue, and the like.
|| Palmer, 8:47 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

31 March, 2014

The Search for General Tso

This looks amusing. Have the filmmakers solved the mystery of General Tso's Chicken?

The Search for General Tso - Trailer from Wicked Delicate Films on Vimeo.

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07 March, 2014

Remembering Stanley Kubrick

It's been fifteen years since Stanley Kubrick died. (Where does the time go?) Here's a tribute by one Alexandre Gasulla.


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Rocket cat, burning out its fuse up there alone

Leave it to the Germans to turn Katzen into medieval siege weapons.



You're a 16th century German prince plotting to crush a peasant rebellion, or perhaps you're leading an army against the Ottoman Empire or looking to settle the score with a rival nobleman. What's a guy looking for a tactical edge to do?

Bring on the rocket cats!

Fanciful illustrations from a circa-1530 manual on artillery and siege warfare seem to show jet packs strapped to the backs of cats and doves, with the German-language text helpfully advising military commanders to use them to "set fire to a castle or city which you can't get at otherwise."

"Create a small sack like a fire-arrow .Iif you would like to get at a town or castle, seek to obtain a cat from that place. And bind the sack to the back of the cat, ignite it, let it glow well and thereafter let the cat go, so it runs to the nearest castle or town, and out of fear it thinks to hide itself where it ends up in barn hay or straw it will be ignited."




Sounds pretty ridiculous but according to Wikipedia, the Russians used anti-tank dogs in World War II and the U.S. military even trained some of their own.
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06 March, 2014

Mmmm...Kasza Jęczmienna po Staropolsku

With the weather getting warmer, albeit slowly, I'll be transitioning to lighter fare from dishes like this.



This is a Polish casserole called kasza jęczmienna po staropolsku which is apparently translates, more or less, as Old Polish Barley, Bean, and Sausage Casserole. It's a tiered affair where layers of barley alternate with those of a mix of navy beans, kielbasa, onion, a bit of tomato sauce, and plum jam. Well, it should have been plum jam, anyway. Plum is apparently not very popular and I couldn't find it at Woodman's when I was shopping for this recipe. (I found Smucker's plum jelly a week or two later.)

Underneath that sour cream baked-on goodness, you get this:



Although tasty, I screwed up and made too little of the bean-kielbasa mixture. There's only so much hot sauce can do against an onslaught of barley. Next time it'll be double the mix.
|| Palmer, 11:02 AM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

04 March, 2014

Happy Pączki Day 2014



It being Fat Tuesday, Poles and those of Polish ancestry are celebrating by eating pączki, Polish filled doughnuts without holes. Lane's Bakery here in Madison has them today.

A few days I ago I listened to podcast from Polskie Radio about Pączki Day which was interesting. They have a show on this every year, in fact. Last year the hostesses decried the trend of baked pączki. This year they noted that rose hip marmalade is the traditional filling ("it has to be rose hip marmalade") and one of the women remarked that a paczek with custard filling is "truly not a paczek."

I also learned that pączki are nicknamed "angels' wings" and that folklore has it that, if you don't eat a paczek, you'll have bad luck the rest of the year. Oh, and Fat Thursday seems to be the big day for Poles to eat pączki instead of Fat Tuesday.
|| Palmer, 3:43 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

Fanning the Spark Kindled by the Whispering Embers: A Rauch Oktoberfest by Valkyrie Brewing



Back in January I first noticed that Valkyrie Brewing (formerly Viking) was distributing down here in Madison again when I saw a lone bottle of their Rubee red lager in the singles section at Woodman's East. The following week I saw four-packs there of two or three flavors. Then I discovered that Riley's carried a beer that Woodman's didn't - Whispering Embers. A quick trip to Riley's and I was hope with a four-pack.

Whispering Embers is a smoked Oktoberfest and, if the brewery's webpage is to be believed, it is released in September when it should be instead of in July when most other breweries are switching from their fall to winter seasonals. A rauch Märzen seems like a splendid idea to my mind. Märzen is the German word for March which was when many beers were brewed there back in the dim and distant past before modern refrigeration. After March it became too cold to brew so these beers were held in cold storage over the warmer months and thusly had a bit more alcohol in them than other brews. The emphasis is on the malt here.

When I poured this beer, I was rather surprised at the color. Don't get me wrong, it's a gorgeous gold but Märzens are usually darker and more copper in color. It was clear as glass with a smattering of large bubbles making their way up to the rather small head which lingered for a while. (I poured fairly aggressively to get a bigger head but failed.) Ooh, the aroma. That ham-like smoky goodness was most prominent and came first. It was joined by a bit of sweetness which reminded me of apricot.

That smokiness in the nose was also on full display in the taste. Despite the color I found that the beer had bready sweetness and stone fruit flavors which were in harmonious balance with the smoke. Valkyrie says they get the smoked malt in Whispering Embers from Bamberg, Germany, home of the rauchbier. The only German rauchbiers I've had come from Schlenkerla who also have a rauch märzen. Valkyrie's take on the style isn't as smoky as Schlenkerla's but the flavor is still much more prominent than you find in – using a local example – Karben4's smoked porter, NightCall.

The light color of the beer did translate into a lighter mouthfeel than your normal Oktoberfest and slightly less alcohol as well – only 5% A.B.V. It still had plenty of malt flavor but it lacks the toffee flavors of many Märzens and so went down more easily. You get a bit of herbal hop flavor as the beer reaches the back of your tongue which becomes more grassy and more prominent in the dry finish. These hop flavors at the end make a nice contrast to all the smoke and sweetness.

Whispering Embers is a fantastic brew. A tasty twist on the conventional Oktoberfest and even more positive alliterations. Wonderful on a chilly winter night, the beer's relatively light body would no doubt go well during the other seasons as well.It's malt forward and has plenty of smoky goodness. Plus there's a bit of hops for contrast and dryness in the finish. The only thing that could make it better would be some rye in the grain bill.

Junk food pairing: Whispering Embers pairs well with processed cheese food products with either salami or bacon.

As I mentioned above, Valkyrie used to be Viking Brewing. I toured the brewery a few years ago and you can read about that adventure here.

A couple weeks ago Robin Shepard of Isthmus wrote about the return of Valkyrie to Madison's shelves. (Riley's has a wonderful selection, including bombers.) Reading this:

Lee still makes beer on nearly the same system that he self-fabricated from used dairy equipment in 1994... Valkyrie Brewing is located in a century-old building that's almost entirely concrete and brick, so all seasons present heating or cooling challenges, and that dictates Lee's brewing schedule. "Summers are hard because you have to fight the building; in the winter it's too cold to make ales," says Lee. Therefore, Lee focuses on lagers in the winter and ales in the summer.

...made me think that it's time to bring back the terms "microbrew" and "microbrewer". Why use the presence of adjuncts in your flagship beer to determine whether you're craft or not? If you built your own brewing equipment and brew lagers in the winter and ales in the summer because your building doesn't have modern HVAC to compensate, I think you are a "craft" brewer in a way that, say, Kirby Nelson at Wisconsin Brewing Company isn't.

Here's Valkyrie's brewmaster Randy Lee standing by one of his brewing vessels.



And here's Kirby doing the same.



This isn't to disparage Kirby. I have been drinking and enjoying his beers for well over 20 years now.

However, there are connotations associated with the word "craft" that I think most people would agree don't apply to a table made of particle board and glue in a mega-factory in China. But what is more "craft-like": A) a table made out of solid wood in a small factory with robotic arms that move and cut all the wood with precision or B) an Amish carpenter with a workshop full of handsaws and a foot-operated table router where no two biscuit joints are exactly alike?

Randy Lee may be a craft brewer in my eyes while Kirby Nelson is a microbrewer, but they both make some great beer.
|| Palmer, 3:08 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

03 March, 2014

Riots in Stoughton, Minnesota Over Obama's Nominee for Ambassadorship to Norway

Norwegian-Americans in Stoughton and all over Minnesota are marching down the streets accompanied by Grieg on the hardanger fiddle, burning and pillaging as they go.

OK, not quite. Those Norwegians are a bit too mild-mannered to riot. But they are highly unamused by Obama's choice of George Tsunis for ambassador to Norway.

In Minnesota, home to the largest Norwegian population in the U.S., Norwegian organizations and public officials reacted with alarm to a series of bumbling answers and non-answers that George Tsunis, a Long Island businessman who raised $850,000 for the president’s reelection campaign, gave to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in response to basic questions about the Nordic nation’s economy, culture and political system.

Tsunis, who has never been to Norway, blanked in response to a question from Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, about how to increase trade with the oil-rich Nordic nation. And when Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, asked him what he thought about the anti-immigration Progress Party that is now a member of the governing coalition in parliament, Tsunis claimed that the party was a fringe element that the government had been “quick to denounce.”

Representatives of the Norwegian-American Chamber of Commerce and the Sons of Norway, both of which are based in Minneapolis, as well as Minnesota’s two U.S. Senators, Al Franken and Amy Klobucher, have voiced dismay at Tsunis’ apparent unfamiliarity with the nation in which he hopes to represent American interests.

And a stop by the Norwegian-American Genealogical Center on W. Main St. in Madison revealed no shortage of disappointment from the local Norwegian community to the perceived slight.

“It doesn’t sound like he knows anything about the culture,” said Solveig Quinney, the head librarian at the center, which keeps records on Norwegian immigration to the U.S. and holds classes on Norwegian culture. “He kept referring to the prime minister as ‘president.’”


Speaking of Norway, when is Pioneer going to open here in the States? And two co-workers of mine are considering starting a lefse wrap food cart. One mentioned meatballs so I asked what the difference between Norwegian and Swedish meatballs were thinking that perhaps one had more nutmeg or some juniper but instead he replied, "Norwegian ones are better." I have helpfully suggested that reindeer and lingonberry be added to the menu.
|| Palmer, 12:28 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

19 February, 2014

Capital to Fire Up the Pork Rocket Tonight

From Capital Brewery's Twitter feed:

Tonight @The_Side_Door try some bacon infused Maibock and mint infused Dark Voyage. Also you can enter to win Bockfest tickets for this Sat

Hopefully putting bacon in a hop rocket for bacon-infused beer will not become a trend. Why ruin a perfectly good maibock?
|| Palmer, 2:36 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post

German Culture Making a Comeback in Milwaukee



The food and drink part, anyway.

Above is the shiny, new dining room at Cafe Bavaria which opened in Wauwatosa earlier this week. It is the latest German food establishment to open its doors in the greater Milwaukee area recently and join fixtures like Mader's, Karl Ratzsch's, and Kegel's Inn. Cafe Bavaria is a more contemporary and upscale place than the mainstays. You can get schnitzel but also Bavarian pho. (?!)

The beer menu looks good. You've got your typical helleses and weissbiers but also two Kölsches (one on tap that you can get in the proper - .2L – sized glass), an altbier, a radler, three rauchbiers, and even a German pale ale. To their credit, there is also a selection of Sprecher and Lakefront brews as well.



The north side's Estabrook Beer Garden, a public bier garten like those in Munich, turns three this year. Estabrook is a sister establishment to the Old German Beer Hall in Milwaukee which opened back in 2005.



And that's not the end of it. Also planned is another bier garten in Bay View's Humboldt Park which is, interestingly enough, just a block from a friend's house. And in suburban Glendale the former Bavarian Inn will be turned into an official U.S. Hofbräuhaus outpost. The Hofbräuhaus will brew on premises so patrons will have fresh bier.



In addition to restaurants and bier gartens, we have the Milwaukee Pretzel Company which opened last year and makes Bavarian-style pretzels.

I wonder why there is this resurgence in German food and drink. Perhaps it's simply a case of what's old is new again. I found this article about Milwaukee rediscovering its German heritage but it really doesn't have an answer beyond the possibility of people just looking back at their and Milwaukee's past. I guess it's a task for an aspiring sociologist.

Concomitant to this, I noticed last month that an upscale contemporary German restaurant has opened in Chicago - The Radler. They even have a couple haus biers including a radler.
|| Palmer, 2:32 PM || link || (0) comments | links to this post