Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Package

So a couple weeks ago, this slightly dinged up box showed up on my doorstep:

Not one to regularly receive parcels, I glanced at the sender.

What could possibly be inside?? Um... Instructions, apparently...

Just slightly south of the instructions, we hit the mother lode.

For interested parties, here's the line-up, diagrammed:

The Pooj can barely contain himself, marveling at the bounty before him.

Being a smart creature, the Pooj makes a grab for the good stuff.

And we dress it up formally with some homemade slaw and melted Swiss for a proper dinner party.

The Steelhead seemed an appropriate dinner guest, seeing as I first became acquainted with Steelhead at my last visit to Kenny & Zuke's kitchen. More on the Steelhead in a later post.

A million thanks to the great people at Kenny & Zuke's and the fine folks at Serious Eats for providing the feast!

For the full story, check
this out.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Johnnie Ryan

The Pooj salutes a patriot.*
(Rocket Fizz Ventura, February 2011)

Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, we present Johnnie Ryan Root Beer. Apparently, Johnnie Ryan Beverages was originally the Keystone Water Company at its inception 1934, and later the Extra Bottling Company in 1935, finally settling on their current name in 1942 because the owners thought that having an Irish-sounding name would attract more business. They also apparently have as many logos and slogans as they do company names: logo-wise, there’s some sort of crest/shield/crown/horses thing on the front, and a top hat and cane on the neck/cap/back; slogan-wise, they are “First for Thirst,” a “Real Refresher,” and also a “Family Favorite.” So apparently they are multi-cultural, of good pedigree, rather dapper, and somewhat schizophrenic…

However you spin it and whatever you call it, though, they certainly make a dang good root beer. All the requisite root beer flavors are there – sassafras, birch, licorice, and then some – and blend together quite well in the initial taste. It’s just sweet enough to not fight with the herbs and still keep the overall beverage from being bitter. There’s also a good root-y smell with hints of vanilla, and a slightly clove-y aftertaste that lingers for a bit longer. On top of that, the carbonation is just right to give a good fizz without masking flavor.

Good show, Johnnie Ryan – I give it a high 4.

*Johnnie Ryan = John Ryan = John Patrick Ryan = Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games = Get it? Nevermind.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Old Town

The Pooj prepares to hit the town.
(Cost Plus World Market, January 2011)

If your store is called the Old Town Root Beer Company, I say you’d better make a good house root beer – otherwise just close down shop and go home. That having been said, I actually did not find Old Town Root Beer at an Old Town Root Beer Company store, so one way or the other, I don’t expect the owners of that store to close down and go home. For that matter, I don’t expect the Old Town Root Beer Company to do so either – quite the contrary, I hope they have a long and fruitful life, because they make quite a good house-brand root beer!

Old Town uses honey very well as a secondary sweetener – it smoothes out the texture and adds a nice flavor that does not overpower the herbs like honey has a tendency to do. The rest of the flavors blend together very well to give a good root-y initial taste that continues to build as you drink more of it. Although cane sugar is the main sweetener, it does not detract from the herb flavors like it can in other root beers. Many of these other root beers hit you first with a heavy sweetness that only fades into root-iness. It’s actually the other way around here – Old Town hits you with a nice rich root-iness, with the sweetness following through with the aftertaste. Even then, the aftertaste is refreshingly herb-y.

Bravo to Old Town Root Beer Company for making their namesake beverage proud. Now all I have to do is find one of their stores and get some from the draught… Old Town gets a high 4.

Death Valley

The Pooj stares down death.
(Whole Foods Market, February 2011)

Here’s an interesting question: does better water make better root beer?

Death Valley Root Beer is made from natural artesian water from the Indian Wells Spring here in my home state of California (not too far from Death Valley, for which this brew is named). I don’t usually pay much heed to craze for “natural” bottled waters, since paying heed usually entails paying money for what I can essentially get out of the kitchen tap. Despite what some people insist, once you pass that stuff through a Brita filter, in most cases I can’t taste the difference between tap water and bottled water (I can, however, state that there are several bottled waters that taste like they were scooped out of my neighbor’s swimming pool…). You would think that once the water, wherever it is sourced, gets brewed into a nice root-y beverage and gets shot with some carbonation, virtually any taste difference in the water would, pardon the pun, evaporate. So it is with Death Valley Root Beer.

Now that’s not to say I didn’t like the root beer, because I actually did like it. The carbonation is pretty hard from a freshly opened bottle, so that pretty much drowned out any flavors for the first few sips. Once I let the carbonation dissipate a little, the flavor becomes a much more pronounced licorice. As I continue to drink, the flavor builds into a nice rich herb-iness. There’s a noticeable lack of wintergreen in the initial flavor, possibly because it’s covered up by the strong licorice taste, but there’s more of the wintergreen in the aftertaste. The missus brushed her teeth prior to her sip, which in her opinion added some wintergreen essence, but since I did not mix my root beer with toothpaste (?!), I can’t say the same.

Overall, I still did like Death Valley – the flavor is rich, so perhaps the spring water does make a difference in flavor and texture (can't really say for sure...). But since I generally prefer a better balance of wintergreen to licorice, with even perhaps a little heavier of a wintergreen and sassafras flavor, it’s not one of my favorites. Nevertheless, Death Valley gets a high 3.5.