Saturday, June 30, 2007

And then there was Emma

A little late with this post, but congratulations to USA Keith & Katie on the birth of Emma Kathryn. USA Keith, being the techno-smart guy he is, started a blog to keep friends and family updated on Emma's first days. She arrived four weeks early, but is doing great. We swung by and saw her in the NICU. She is absolutely beautiful. Nice baby making skills Keith!

What's on the Grill #18



Saturday beer brats with a fresh margarita.

Constipated Chicken


Three Notes:

1. Although you can't see it, this is the only good use for a can of Miller Lite. Sorry USA Keith...

2. There is just something funny about beer-butt chicken that gets a whole lot funnier when you tuck the wings behind the place where there used to be a head. It is almost as if he/she is saying "Ahhhh....."

3. This bird is so big, it doesn't look to be enjoying its "new seat".

Eating at Cityfolk


Eating at Cityfolk, originally uploaded by Another Pint Please....

We went down to Cityfolk last night. Beautiful night and wonderful smells. The Beaner filled in to represent how I spent my time there...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Me and my buddy


Me and my buddy, originally uploaded by Another Pint Please....
Yes it is a keg, but more importantly it is my homebrew kettle. I had some new weld work done on it and just had to photo it on our way home.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Side Burner


Slight rant. I love the 650, but why does every grill with a side burner have to have two settings: high and really, really high? My old Broilmaster was just as much to blame. There is no simmer setting unless you count gating down the valve on your natural gas line...which is exactly what I have to do. Fortunately, tonight I was only using the side burner to make chili. Gating the valve down with the actually grill running obviously wouldn't work. Not everyone with a grill plans on using the side burner to nuke canned baked beans from "Zero to Done "in 60 seconds. Some of us actually want as much heat control on the side burner as we do on the grill. Rant off.

What's on the Grill #17


Chili, originally uploaded by Another Pint Please....

The wonders of the side burner. It keeps the smell outside!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Wired Home...

I have been beta testing Microsoft's new Windows Home Server most of this year and recently upgraded to the new Release Candidate 1. I must say, I am really impressed. I was able to scab together an older PC to run the server, which I now use as the backbone of our home's multimedia hub. With the latest firmware releases for the PS3, I am able to stream pictures, audio and video. I also use Roku's most excellent Soundbridge to stream music from the server. The server even runs back-up's of our home PC's. I suppose I am most anxious to see what sort of 3rd party applications are created for the server. Home Exchange Server anyone?

Weber Satisfaction

Congratulations to Dustin, who after a few trials and tribulations fired up his new 620 last night. I am sure the wait was well worth it.

What's on the Grill #16



Tonight, it was Salmon with a Hoisin-Mustard Glaze on a cedar plank. I love the taste of Salmon on cedar, although for some reason tonight I felt I was missing some of that "woody" flavor. The salmon came from Sam's. My only complaint with Sam's salmon is that it is always skinless. I like having the skin on, especially when I am cooking directly over the grates.

If anything, I have enjoyed posting my grilling exploits because I find it a way to challenge the variety of recipes I am grilling. I am not going to post the same exact meal week after week. I am trying to mix it up more and I think it is working. Although lately, I have heard a lot of "Hey, stopping taking pictures and serve dinner!" Regardless, this is my time of the year. With the weekend coming up, I am already trying to get an idea of what to grill.

What's on the Grill #15


Tuesday night was a Blootered Celebration. Eric and his brood stopped by for an evening of swimming and eating. As always, a good time was had by all. On the grill, were a pair of lemon, garlic and rosemary rotisserie chickens. Each weighed about 6 pounds and did not pose a problem for the rotisserie motor. I am wondering how that thing will handle a turkey.

On the beverage front, Eric and I shared a bottle of Strong Suffolk that I brought back from Greene King. It was just as good here as it was in Bury St. Edmunds. We also had the bottle of Hops, which I need to find stateside.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

What's on the Grill #14

Americana night! Hamburgers with Feta Cheese on toasted whole wheat buns with eggplant and goat cheese roll-ups.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

What's on the Grill #13 Thai Edition


Continuing with my weekend ethnic theme, tonight was Thai. Curry Chicken and Potato with Thai Fried Rice. Since I was cooking for two palettes, the heat was fairly low. Zoe likes a thicker curry, but nonetheless, I am always happy with this dish. The fried rice was new and I really liked it.

Say it isn't so!


Say it isn't so!, originally uploaded by Another Pint Please....

Friday, June 22, 2007

What's on the Grill #12

Tonight, it was Carne Asada Fajitas. I am feeling a little "ethnic" again, so I opted for something a little different. I threw together a grilled corn and black bean salsa and then grilled onion's, peppers and a flank steak for the fajitas.

I am always leery of flank steak, because it has to be grilled just right and then cut just right to be any good. I never order beef fajitas at restaurants because I can almost always guarantee that the beef will not be cooked right. Tonight, I was pleasantly surprised. Although it is not tenderloin, it was really quite good. As usual, I probably ate too much, but hey..it's Friday!

Friday!

After a staggering two days of work, I have finally earned a Friday! Since Zoe is working tonight, I have a very long evening planned of grilling, drinking and tinkering. First up for the evening, a bottle of Blue Moon's new summer brew, Honey Moon Summer Ale. I almost did not pick up Blue Moon. I have typically enjoyed their styles in the past, but I kind of cringe knowing that Blue Moon is really a "stealth brew". In fact, we had a discussion today at work about just that.

Blue Moon is brewed by Coors, although you would never know it by looking at their bottles. If you go to the Coors website, you will see it listed there. There is also the commonality of "Brewed in Golden, CO". It is Coors' way of creeping into the craft brew market and they have been fairly successful with it.

So, how was it? Not too bad...but not great. The nose of the beer is almost non-existent. I am going to blame that on a chilled beer and two weeks of real ale! This beer is one of those drinkable summer brews. It goes down, but doesn't really do much for me. It is most definitely a sweet beer. I can still feel the honey hanging on my tongue. It is so sweet in fact, I think it almost overpowers the hint of clover that I find lingering.

Oh well, I have some Circus Boy in the fridge...

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Day After...

Well, I just finished hammering out a letter to Gerald Grinstein, the CEO of Delta. I am sure that it will do absolutely no good...but I feel better having written it.

Not that I really want to re-hash the event, but.......the weather I can understand. It sucks, but hey, that's weather. What does make me mad is the whole fuel debacle in Atlanta. When you are sitting on a plane for three hours and get one update an hour, that is not enough. Apparently the automatic fuel system had some sort of problem and the remedy was to fuel the plane from the top of the wing, via gravity. We were told that a "fuel truck" was on its way to "top us off". So naturally, everyone kept looking for a fuel truck to show up. After over an hour...nothing.

After we de-planned...because there was getting ready to be a riot, the problem appeared to have been fixed by some guy on a step ladder. Now I do not know squat about fueling a plane, but I do understand redundancy and back-up's. The fact that something as simple as fueling a plane stymied a ground crew at Delta's hub is utterly ridiculous.

So, long story short and bad Treo pictures later, we made it home a day late. What is the first thing I did? Fired up the grill, what else?

Roll on weekend...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Finally

Home...

Back on the Plane...

We sat here for 2 hours...deplaned...and then got back on and now we are "told" we are going....3 1/2 hours late and 59 hours after first walking into Gatwick Tuesday morning...

45 Minutes Late....

But....we were just told that we will be taking off! Good otherwise we would of had an English airline passenger incident...

No Fuel....No Go


No Fuel....No Go, originally uploaded by Another Pint Please....

Well we are sitting here...on the plane...and we were just told they are having problems getting fuel into one of the tanks. The maintenance guys are on their way...they better be able to fix it. I don't feel like staying in Atlanta any longer than necessary.

My Travel Companion

I snapped this photo on our flight from London to Newark. In order to get a better understanding, click the picture to go to the Flickr page where you can read the notes.

Almost there...

Well we are in Atlanta. On this trip, I never imagined we would end up below the Mason-Dixon line...but we have. Although this return home has been bad. It has not been as bad as this or this!

The best purchase we made this trip was a temporary Crown Room membership. This is the fourth Crown Room we have been in and it is by far the nicest. The staff at the Crown Room in Newark were able to wrangle us seats together on the Newark - Atlanta leg...I also credit the Crown Room for our quick booking this morning...even if it was eventually cancelled. If we had not been early in making the arrangements, we would have been the one's on TV this morning sleeping on the floor and brushing our teeth with yesterday's newspaper.

Let's just hope we get out of Atlanta...

Cancelled...again!

Nothing like getting up at 330 in the morning and finding that your fight home has been cancelled...again. Now we are booked from Newark to Atlanta and then Atlanta to Cincinnati. We do not get in until 230 this afternoon. This is how we feel:



I am now going to take a shower and use all of the towels...

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hello Newark!


Well I knew things were going too well...after a great flight from Gatwick, we landed in Newark and made our way to the Crown Room where I checked in with work. Then the announcement, "Your flight has been cancelled". Due to a combination of weather and air traffic control, Delta canned the flight to Cincy, as well as several others. The earliest we can get out of here is tomorrow morning...oh joy.


So, after having already been up since midnight, we had to make our way through the airport with the throngs of other pissed off passengers. We found the hotel reservation phones and on the eleventh attempt found a reservation...for $200 a night!! That was an expense we were not planning on.


So, here we are at the Newark Sheraton Airport. Funny thing, this is the biggest room we have been in during the last two weeks. I am tired, I stink and now I have to burn another vacation day when all I really want to do is get into my own bed. All I know, is that I plan on using every luxury and convenience this hotel has. I already gulped down their complementary lemonade and right now I am contemplating going swimming. We will make this stay worth it. You hear me Sheraton...worth it!

Our travel buddy....

Nobody! This 757 is a 3 x 3 layout...so as a aisle/window couple....one of us loses...but not today!

Home Again...


Home Again..., originally uploaded by Another Pint Please....

Well, we are sitting here in the Crown Room at Gatwick watching a piece of luggage outside that fell off the luggage trolly. It is sitting in the middle of the road and around 20 airport vehicles have driven by it...no one has stopped. I hope this is not an omen of our travel day.



After a nice dinner in last night, Keith & Michelle dropped us off at the airport. They were the best of hosts and we look forward to reciprocating next year.



It has been a crazy two weeks and although it will be good to be home, I know that my alarm will go off too early tomorrow morning.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Greene King


Keith and I had talked about taking a brewery tour last year, but never managed to work it into our schedule. This year, Keith planned ahead and booked us a tour of the Greene King Brewery in Bury St. Edmunds. After getting up this morning and having a quick breakfast, the four of us drove about an hour and arrived in the beautiful...but rainy...town of Bury St. Edmunds.

After seeing the shopping on the High Street, the girls decided that they would rather shop than take the tour. So, we parted ways and Keith and I headed towards the brewery.

Upon our arrival at Greene King, we learned that we would be the only two in the tour. How cool is that? We were fortunate to have Henry as our knowledgeable and accommodating guide. It was an amazing personal experience.

Since I have dabbled in homebrewing for several years, I was quite keen to see a large scale brewing operation. For two hours, Henry showed us the in's and the out's of the operation. To give some perspective, Greene King is known for their Greene King IPA and Abbot Ale. They purchased Morland Brewery several years ago - which I did not know - and brew Old Speckled Hen and Hen's Tooth. Both of which can be purchased in the US.


Greene King has been brewing beer for over four hundred years and since the 1930's, they have been brewing in their "new" brew house which was built across the street from their original brewery. Henry passed on the fact that Greene King does not license other brewery's to brew their beer. So, when you are at home drinking Old Speckled Hen, check the bottle. It was brewed right here in Bury St. Edmunds!

With over 800 employees, there are only 24 brewmasters. The process today is entirely software driven, but the methods are still based on principles of brewing hundreds of years old. We toured the brewery from the top to the bottom. It is a gravity based operation with water pumped to, and stored on the roof, and then led down the various floors. It was a giant version of a homebrew set-up.

After Henry's tour, we headed over to the Greene King pub for beer tasting...nice! Greene King brews only ales and specializes in real ale. Unfortunately, real ale is a "live" product, so the chances of ever enjoying real ale from the UK in the US is about zero. Beer that is placed into kegs is pasteurized and can then be shipped anywhere. However, to me, the differences between the two are immense. On the average, Greene King brews over three million pints...a week!

In the pub, we enjoyed Abbot, IPA, Old Specked Hen, Strong Suffolk and Hop. Hop is a beer developed by Greene King to compete with people who will typically have a bottle of wine with dinner. It is a lighter ale with hints of citrus. Keith and I found it really enjoyable and I could easily picture it as a great compliment to spicy summertime meal. The Strong Suffolk is brewed in small batches and is a combination of a two year fermented 5X ale that reaches 12% ABV that is then mixed with a BPA, a dark lower ABV beer, before bottling. Henry described it as a great sipping beer and I agreed. I just checked and Strong Suffolk is available in the US under the name Olde Suffolk.




Another interesting bit of trivia provided by Henry: How did Old Speckled Hen get its name? The OSH emblem is based on the emblem of the MG. In the old Moreland brewery, a MG was driven around taking samples to different parts of the brewery. The MG was known as the "Old Specklun". When a commemorative beer was brewed to celebrate an anniversary for MG, it was named "Old Speckled Hen".

After some more tastings and some pictures, we headed back to the gift shop where we picked up a few things to take home. I was literally inundated with information and everything I learned is still swimming around in my head. It was a great, great time and a really good bookend to the end our stay in Colchester. Thanks Keith, thanks Henry, thanks Greene King. I know that from now on, every bottle I have of Old Speckled Hen will seem that much better.

Dinner, Indian Style...


Last night for dinner, Keith & Michelle arranged an evening out with a bunch of their close friends. We had already met everyone before on our previous trip for Keith & Michelle's wedding. So, it was great to hook up again and pick up where we left off. Keith & Michelle have a wonderful group of friends and I have always appreciated how their friends made us feel welcome.

Everyone in this group shares a love of Indian food. Of course by Indian I mean the country, not the reservation. I have wanted to try Indian for sometime, but have never gotten around to it. There are a few Indian restaurants in Dayton, but in England they are everywhere. Even on Mersea! The English's appreciation of Indian food shows why the curry is replacing fish and chips as the quintessential English dish.

The twelve of us shuttled down to the local Indian restaurant, Titash. The menu was expansive and I felt once again as if I was spoiled for choice. I also wanted to make sure that I did not get something too hot, because I did not want to ruin Zoe's night sleep...or anyone that wanted to come within 10 feet of me within the next 24 hours. I am sure that you can understand.

I settled on a medium garlic chicken curry and the nice thing was, everyone shared the dishes that they ordered...so I really had a bit of everything. It was outstanding. I really, really liked it. I found it similar to Asian...but in other ways, totally different. Most dishes were a delicate balance of sweet and heat. It was a wonderful experience.


Well I have made a pledge to actually try that out of the way Indian place back home. I am curious to see how it compares.

The evening ended way to soon, but it was great to see everyone again.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

USA Keith = UK Keith

I must be living in some kind of bizarro world...it seems that USA Keith and UK Keith have a lot in common. Besides their go-to personalities, luck with the ladies, boyish good looks and thick locks of hair (which I will forever be jealous of)...they also have the same TV! Isn't that Weird!?!


UK Keith has been looking to buy a new TV for their sitting room and was looking at Sony's. Imagine my surprise when he was looking at a 40 inch Bravia. We talked about it quite a bit yesterday and did some online research. We found the best price at Comet's...which is kind of like a Best Buy. After ordering it online, we picked it up today.

BTW, Comet's is exactly the same as Best Buy. As Keith & I braved the checkout, I witnessed firsthand how their help was the same lot of knowledgeless, slow and extended warranty pushing hacks that we have in the US. They tried to push an extended warranty that cost one third the cost of the TV!

Now UK Keith is quick to point out that he paid the same price in pounds as USA Keith paid in dollars...if you include the exchange rate, that means UK Keith paid almost twice as much! UK Keith not so happy about that.

UK Keith is also going to order the same wall mount that USA Keith has...that will also cost twice as much. UK Keith's is going into a total concrete/plaster wall, so that will present a series of issues probably on the same difficulty that USA Keith and I had. After having literally pawned over both TV's I can tell USA Keith that they are identical...outside of the Europe specific connections.

There is nothing that I love more than unboxing new electronics...or grills.

Stranded in the Beer Garden


After a great night's sleep, we headed off for a late morning walk and lunch. The beach is about a three minute walk from Keith & Michelle's. After strolling down the beach, we took brunch in the village at a nice little outdoor cafe overlooking the village's church. I, of course, had a sausage baguette. Yum!
After our return home, the men and women split up for different mission's. I will explain the men's shortly. Keith and I took off to "do our thing" and upon returning to Mersea, realized it was high tide. I misspoke before, the high tide that blocks off Mersea from the mainland happens every day for one week out of the month, not one month a year. We neglected to check the hide tide guide and as we approached the strood - English for "marshy land" - we saw traffic backing up and realized that we were stuck. So, to make up for the downtime, we headed to the close by Peldon Rose pub. We visited there last time with Keith & Michelle, so I knew for a fact they had Adnams on cask.
As Keith & I hung out in the beer garden, the girls called up to find out what we were up to. Finding out the news about the strood, they stopped by for a quick drink while we waited for the water to subside.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fingringhoe


Pronounced: Fingering Ho. You may have heard of its United States Sister City, Piledrvmycuzin.

Try a little bit of...

Cockles! I finally tired my first cockles today at lunch and absolutely enjoyed them.



We trained up from London this morning and got the grand tour of Keith & Michelle's new house. It is absolutely beautiful. Their kitchen in this house is to be seen to be believed. It is a cook's dream. They live right outside of Colchester on a little 10 square mile island called Mersea. It is pronouced Mer-Ze...not mercy or mersee like I have pronounced it every single time I say it. The island is accessible from a small bridge which during a high - high tide once every four weeks or so, is unaccessible for approximately four hours.

Blue Ribbon

Michelle pinned me this morning with this ribbon:



I am supposed to wear it all day...and even in public, just as long as Keith is not seen anywhere near me.

London

Well, so much as transpired in the last 36 hours, I am not really sure were to begin. First of all, a sincere thank you to all of the birthday wishes that I receive. I really appreciate it.

As I mentioned earlier, we made our way effortless from IOW to Waterloo. Keith & Michelle were waiting for us upon arrival. It was great to see them again. Keith & Michelle still both work in London and we headed off to Michelle's office to stow our bags until we could check into the hotel. Knowing that I am led by my stomach, they took us to lunch at the Seven Stars pub which sits behind the Royal Courts of Justice. The pub, which is over 400 years old, was full of incredible character. I was figuring on regular pub fare for lunch, but when my chicken club arrived looking like this:


I knew I was in for a treat. Besides the tarragon mayonnaise and the ciabatta, there was an entire chicken breast and leg! Oh, and I almost forgot. A pint of Adnams.


After lunch, we cabbed it over to the south bank, next to the London Eye. The Eye is the giant Ferris wheel and was built for London's millennium celebration. Apparently, it was one of the few projects actually completed by the millennium and one of the only ones that has actually been successful. Keith & Michelle booked us a DUKW tour which "launched" close to the base of the Eye. It is ironic that we came all the way to London for a DUKW tour when we have not even taken one at home. Of course boating down the Thames beats boating down the Great Miami River.

We had a really good guide and saw quite a bit of the city. Our launch point into the Thames was right next to MI-6, so it was interesting to see that building up close.

After the DUKW tour, we cabbed backed to Michelle's office and then to the Travel Lodge. We actually cabbed quite a bit. To me, there is nothing neater than the traditional London cab. With the girls sitting forward and the men backward, the five of us (the fifth one being my 200 lb suitcase) easily fit inside.

Our accommodations were convenient (we were on Drury Lane), clean and and priced right. Now everyone knows that we ended up going to Spamalot. Of course, I had no idea this was going to happen...I was told that we were just going to hit some pubs and then wander over to the west end. When on holiday in a different part of the world, I typically go whichever way the wind blows...as long as it blows by a pub.
Our first stop was at Vertigo 42. A wine bar, located on one of the taller buildings in London, that gives a breathtaking view of London and the Thames. We enjoyed drinks, very expensive almonds, and took in the magnificent panoramic view. We have been blessed with having the ultimate tour guides. Since both Keith & Michelle work in the city, their knowledge and understanding of the area was a godsend.
With Keith checking his watch for our "unplanned" evening, we jumped on a doubledecker bus to make our way west. Perched from up high, I watched in amazement as pubs had stacks of just off work businessmen and women five deep to the street. Everyone clutching a pint glass savoring the rarely seen and highly coveted sun that was peaking in through the buildings. It was a phenomenal sight.

As we arrived over in the west end, we rounded the corner of the Palace, where Spamalot was running. I was actually pretty awed because I have always been a huge Monty Python fan, loved Monty Python and the Holy Grail and had previously listened to part of the Spalmalot soundtrack. We walked into a pub across the street and grabbed a couple pints of Adnams and while there, they asked if I wanted to see Spamalot. I of course said, "Hell yes!", and the surprise was sprung. According to Zoe, "others" knew about this as well...but she doesn't remember who she told. They apparently were able to keep the secret.

It was about thirty minutes to show time so the four of us ate two packets of crisps, downed our drinks and headed into the theatre. It was a beautiful theatre, obviously over one hundred years old. In true form, we ordered our intermission drinks before heading to our seats. We sat in the stalls, fifth row, just off center stage. Great seats.

The show? What can I say? The performances and staging were spectacular. If you love Monty Python, you would absolutely love it. One member of the cast seemed to channel John Cleese. We laughed the entire way through. In fact, knowing how much Eric loves MP, I could hear him laughing too. BTW, Spamalot is coming to the Schuster in 2008, so let's make plans now.

After getting out of the show a little after 10, we walked towards Chinatown for dinner. By this time, we were all starving and I was beginning to imagine things since I had not sacrificed anything to my stomach. We settled on a corner place appropriately titled Gerrard's Corner Restaurant. When you are spoiled for choice on a menu and feel like you could eat a cow, ordering can be a bit of challenge.


The food was of course great and the service pretty good too. London, like any large city I suppose, does not sleep. New tables were being readied for guests at 1130 PM. Gerrard's stays open till 2 AM. Gerrard's was about as ethnic as you get. Upon walking downstairs, I about stumbled into the underground Chinese bar...complete with requisite karaoke. It was obvious serving an all Asian populace.


After dinner, we meandered our way back to the hotel. Although most pubs were closing...it was around midnight...nightclubs were still going strong.

It was a pretty amazing night and a wonderful birthday surprise. London is an amazing city and I most certainly enjoyed it today. Tomorrow, we will be off to Colchester...can't wait. Thanks Keith & Michelle!