Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Penzey's Spices

I recently had the good fortune to find myself in a Penzey's Spice store. My first impression was the delightful smell that met my nose when I walked in. My second was surprise the the entire section dedicated to Saffron.

Really if you are looking for a good collection of spices, dried herbs, and various mixes I say that Penzey's is the place to be. Here are some things that you might want to know before you enter your local Penzey's though:
  1. Everything is alphabetical, even the mixes. You will need to browse the store to find all that is available.
  2. Try out the glass "smell" jars. Each spice, herb or mixture is bottled up in a glass jar (at least the one I found had this). You can pop the top off that jar and get a hint at what you're buying. Good news - no more guessing at what you're getting.
  3. Everything is very informative. They actually described the difference between types of peppercorns - black peppercorns that is. I didn't know there was a difference! I guess they are like a fine wine though, location and harvesting are critical to the taste of the pepper. There goes my pepper vine in the back yard!
  4. Pick up the store recipes. Different mixes have recipes that Penzey's chefs (I'm assuming) have put together. I'm looking forward particularly to the taco mix and taco salad recipe we got.
  5. They are not about the salt. Although Penzey's has started to move into the gourmet salt market, they emphasis saltless mixes. It seems like their take on it is that food can taste good without a sodium base. I tend to agree and here is a story about that...
I picked up the Chicago steak seasoning and tried it on a ribeye. Apart from letting the meat overcook on the grill (still getting back into the swing of things), the taste was wonderful. I bought the mix based on its smoky smell (reminded me of Swiss Landjaegers). I took a very simple approach to the meat so I could really tell the taste of the mix. Here is what I did:
  1. Preheat a grill to high.
  2. In the meantime apply 1-2tsp. of mix per lb of meat. Spread mix on both sides of meat and rub in. Cover and set aside to come to room temperature (or as close as possible).
  3. Oil your grill - so important, but often missed!
  4. Place the meat on the grill over the fire (direct grilling).
  5. Cook till done (I use, or should have used :), the poke test. This takes some time, but eventually you can feel the difference between rare, medium rare, medium and well done - more on this later).
This made a delicious steak. The only thing better would be to season it a little ahead of time. This would taste great on lamb or chicken too. So for any dry rub marinated piece of meat, I whole-heartedly recommend Chicago Steak Seasoning by Penzey's Spices.

Menu Options
  1. Ribeyes with Chicago Steak Seasoning (steaks about 1" thick)
  2. Sweet Potato Fries
  3. Roasted Corn on the Cob with Herb Butter
  4. Paired with Marechal Foch from WineHaven.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tullamore Dew

Tullamore Dew 12 year is a fine Irish sipping whiskey. No, the origins are not the same as the caffeinated drink Mountain Dew whose name comes from the Tennessee mountain moonshine. This sophisticated drink hails rather from the small town of Tullamore in the Offaly County, smack dab in the heart of Ireland.

It's the nose sets Tullamore Dew apart from most American whiskeys and in a distinct class of its own among Irish whiskeys too. In the nose and on the tongue you will notice a rich caramel, just like the delicious treats that grandma used to make. That and a little touch of lemon. Barley grain, which is use to produce whiskey is dried over coal fires in Ireland, as opposed to the peat fires in Scotland. This keeps the flavor pure and clean.

Following the caramel taste that fills your mouth and nose you get a slightly pungent burn that a livens the taste buds. It's not quite to the "kick your butt" stage, but dangerous none the less. It has an addicting, buttery body, with a sweet range of spices and a smoky wooden undertone that doesn't shut your drinking down. The burn starts on the top of your tongue, lingers there and then fades to the deep back of your throat. Throughout you'll find a nuttiness coming through the drink.

Now, down to dinner. If you're going to pair this it will finish off any barbecue quite nicely. However, if I may, let me recommend keeping this drink with something off the emerald shores. Try a grilled leg of lamb with this. Maybe some pears and roasted potatoes on the side. Don't let the lack of a lavish dinner stop you from enjoying this drink though. Its a stand alone, after dinner, sit down with a nice figurado cigar.

*Snob Alert* This may be a bit mellow for a loyal Jack Daniels fan, but for anyone that wants one hell of a good drink that finishes smoother than Jameson and is more robust than Bushmills, try Tullamore Dew.

Now, the true story of how Tullamore Dew was named. What is remembered of the song of olden days is thus:

Down the hills and to the streams
The piper played for sweet dreams
Yet in the valley green
Among the yellow flowers fair
Comes the amber water beams

As it was the land of emerald isles was still new and born to the minstrels of Taglash, the seventh star set in the sky. It was the days before the first rain and the minstrels delighted themselves by playing and frolicking in the hills and valleys. Taglash loved so much the songs that radiated to his place in the sky that he filled his days with it. That was until the Meckrel came to what is known now as Ireland. The meckrel was a beast of the earth and brought with him a consuming fire that was never satisfied. It devoured the grasses of the land and left barren the soils. The minstrels of Taglash faltered in their song and gave way to wailing, for the hills were special to them and they dried up in spirit as the fields did in the fire. Taglash could not bear to have the music halted, for in that time the delight of the tune carried the heavens. So he brought down the clouds upon the emerald isles one morning and blessed them. They covered the fire and consumed it in turn. The waters were so pure that nothing could resist their movement. It was then that the Meckrel came up from the earth to see what had laid waste to his anger. He bent low and took drink from a stream and drew deep of its waters. He soon flooded his belly with it and grew merry as he had never before. Soon he brought out a lute and played a skipping melody. The minstrels came and joined him in harmony. For many years Taglash would decend the dew upon the hills for the Meckrel to drink and the joy continued. The Meckrel and the minstrels honored Taglash by playing upon the highest hill in all the isles to lift the sound up best to him. To this day, the dew that comes from the big hill, or Tulach Mhór in the Gaelic (Tullamore), is revered as a drink which brings lightness to a dark soul.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


There are all kinds of foodie blogs out there. Here's what I would like to do in addition to just sharing recipes:
  1. I'll give my review of local eateries
  2. I'll try to share some of the history of the dishes I make, along with what makes them work
  3. I'll comment on any of the latest drinks or cigars I've had - let you know if they are relaxing or not
  4. I'll even throw in some romance ideas as well as my picks for fashionable attire to work or out on the town
Every so often I'll put something in there about some good music I've heard recently. Maybe a short story or two. I basically don't want you to get bored when coming to this blog - either that or I don't figure I'll have enough info on one topic to keep it going :)

I hope you will enjoy the posts at much as I enjoy making them.

Good times!