Z – Zymurgy Blessings (NaPoWriMo #30)

Zymurgy (zy-mur-gy; zī mәr jē) is chemistry that deals with the fermentation processes (as in wine making or brewing), There are zymurgy clubs around America, a brew pub called Zymurgy in Torrance, CA, and even a magazine called Zymurgy. It’s a fancy word for something we didn’t know we had a fancy word for. In words like this, experts, specialists, and aficionados find each other.

 

 ***

A toast to the Grog
By Bill Reynolds

Hold your drink high as we all salute,
Stand proud and tall as you toast our success.
Long we have toiled to blog the last dribble,
To the craft of zymurgy, my final tribute.

To the blessings of grog from the art of the craft,
I brought you my twaddle, the sweet and the daft,
With creative support of that spirited guest,
I sent you my poems, the poor and the best.

From the wine to the beer,
The ferment and brew,
The stout and the red
Went straight to my head.

My thanks to my readers,
Both critics and lovers,
And for the crafters of zymurgy to brew,
Grateful to all, I am thanking you too.

***

Wine to the left, beer on the right,
Look both ways and have a great night.
Of the gaps be mindful, it’s been so delightful.

Morality Series: Glutony

I seldom eat the whole pizza any more, at least not in the same evening. My wife may have one slice, but not always. Still, why do some religious folks insist that if, per chance, the wife wants none, I’ll go to Hell?

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Am I gluttonous? I eat more than that guy, but less than that one, and maybe about the same as the other dude. When does eating and drinking become one of the deadly or capital offenses? Where do we cross the line that assures our trip to the inferno?

I’m not going to argue that overeating is good for us. We all know it’s not. But the reason is biological, not spiritual. Besides, I do it more than I care to admit. I don’t think I am alone in my gastronomic fault. In fact, for an American, I’m probably about average.

glutony-1In the Summa Theologiae, Thomas Aquinas said, “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists.” Inordinate? I only know this limit after I am well past it.

Devils, Demons, and Witchcraft says those who commit the sin of gluttony are punished in Hell by being forced to eat rats, toads, and snakes. Are they cooked or raw? Do we get hot sauce? Since these are eaten by people around the world every day, I feel so not threatened.

I posted about Epicurus back in the Spring, so I want to invoke him here. His name and philosophy has been incorrectly associated with glutinous behavior for centuries. I had it a bit wrong. Further, we’ve also bogarted his name to be associated with fine dining.

The word epicure is linked to indulging the appetite, but that is not the teaching of the man to whom we owe the word. That ancient Greek philosopher taught of simple pleasures, friendship, and a secluded life. He believed in the pursuit of pleasure (as do I), but pleasure for him equated with tranquility and freedom from pain (Dude! Try this plant.) – happiness.

Cannabis

Cannabis

Detractors of Epicurus misrepresented his notions of pleasure to material and sensual gratification. When epicure entered the lingo about 500 years ago, his philosophy had been trivialized. Epicure or epicurean became synonymous with “hedonist.” Way back, he showed a lot of wisdom.

“Let no one be slow to seek wisdom when he is young nor weary in the search of it when he has grown old. For no age is too early or too late for the health of the soul. And to say that the season for studying philosophy has not yet come, or that it is past and gone, is like saying that the season for happiness is not yet or that it is now no more. Therefore, both old and young alike ought to seek wisdom, the former in order that, as age comes over him, he may be young in good things because of the grace of what has been, and the latter in order that, while he is young, he may at the same time be old, because he has no fear of the things which are to come. So we must exercise ourselves in the things which bring happiness, since, if that be present, we have everything, and, if that be absent, all our actions are directed towards attaining it.” —Epicurus, Letter to Menoeceus

His philosophy combines a form of materialism with ethics that emphasizes moderation of desires and cultivation of friendships. His world view was optimistic, stressing a philosophy of not fearing death or the supernatural. It can teach us how to find happiness in almost any situation – without moaning after we’ve eaten the whole thing.

glutony-4The opposite of gluttony is abstinence. Once again, from one extreme to the other. Abstaining from food can be a diagnosable eating disorder. We know how much, and of what things we should eat and drink. We must eat, but not too much; we must sleep, but not too much; we must drink. But there’s no such thing as too much fun.

“Moderation in all things, especially moderation.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Eating is an essential part of life.
Eat well, be happy, and enjoy all that life offers.
If we mind the gaps and look both ways, we’ll be fine.

The Art of Aging

birthday 70 2

Forty years ago tomorrow, I was the father of two boys: one age five, the other was two (two years later we added a daughter to the pride). Tomorrow would be my 30th birthday.

I was the navigator on a B-52 bomber crew. I recall that as I was taking a shower about fifty yards (roughly 45 meters) from a nuclear armed airplane cocked and ready to go blow the crap of somebody, I was quietly lamenting my age.

B-52D Navigator's Position

B-52D Navigator’s Position

I would no longer be in my twenties. I thought that I was not young and never would be again. I was knocking on the door of middle age, or so I thought. I was feeling down because I was turning the dreaded big three-zero. “Don’t trust anyone over thirty” was the phrase. I still don’t really know what that means. I just knew it was bad.

A Young B-52 Crew Dog

A Young B-52 Crew Dog

Our society convinced me that I was getting old and that I should be sad about it. In four days, that five-year-old I mentioned turns 45. He and his 42-years young brother really are middle aged, and their baby sister is knocking on that door. I was not old, but I was depressed thinking that I was. Thanks to our shallow, f***ed-up, foolish American culture that values all the wrong stuff in people, my thinking was foolish (and not only about age).

birthday 70 1Is it all that important to be a thin, white, dark-haired, strong, male member of this country? We seem to think so. I hope that continues to change.

We have to pass laws to keep people from discriminating against older people, and the age in the law is 40. WTF? Forty is not old. Again, forty is not old! At most, it’s lower-middle aged.

And if you plan to call this foul-mouthed, hard-drinking, Fightin’ Texas Aggie, Irish-Welshman elderly; you best be certain that you can kick his ass. Because this one is standing straight-up and walking your way (in silence) to demonstrate that old is not elderly!

But, I will indeed become a septuagenarian at midnight tonight. In the game of life, I will be at ‘Level 8.’ I’ve literally been there, done that, and have the scars to prove it (which I wear proudly). I am on a first-name basis with my cardiologists, and if my peripheral vascular surgeon would do a better job, I would be running three miles a day, instead of walking. I ride a Honda Forza motor scooter because my 800-pound, 2007 Yamaha Royal Star Tour Deluxe touring motorcycle got too heavy to pick up (last year). But I still ride on two wheels. I’ve retired from the jobs that pay, but I work every day. I’m a writer and do volunteer work. My only boss is the one I’ve been married to for 50 years.

I like people and I want them to like me. But I also don’t give a flying f**k what anyone else thinks of me or my opinions, politics, religion (or lack thereof), foul language, or beer breath. I do not, and never will, wear socks with sandals. I remain a teenager of the 60s.

birthsday 70 6I am retired. All the shit/crap that I put up with for all those years of school (nuns-groan), yes, sir and no, sir; kissing up to very few idiot bosses (most were great), scrimping and saving and working – it was all worth it. As my wife would say, “Rave on, dog shit!” And so I do. Every day is a weekend and I can do what I want (with her permission—I’m old, not stupid) whenever.

I want to be happy and I am. My last meal will truly be a good pizza (my wife makes the best) and a fine stout brew. When the time comes, I want to walk into Dr. G’s office and say, “Time to shut it down, Doc. It’s been a great ride and I’ve loved it all. Let’s talk about the final git-er-done.” But that day is some ways off. Getting old is not dangerous, driving on our roads is.

Get ready big eight-zero ‘cuz here I come. ~ Me

birthday 70 3

I toast the good health of my birth year (1946) peers: Cher, Barry Gibb, George and Laura Bush, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Linda Ronstadt, Sally Field, Ed O’Neill, Reggie Jackson, Daryl Hall, Jimmy Buffett, Dolly Parton, Tommy Lee Jones, Al Green, Loni Anderson, Cheech Marin, and others. We’re still kickin’ the can down the road.

birthday 70 8

May you have love that never ends, much money, and many friends.

Health be yours, whatever you do and may the universe bless you and yours. Rock on, my friends.

I’ll publish my promised blog on creativity this next Friday. I am also tinkering with one on recovering from middle age (men only, I am unqualified for the experiences of the softer, better looking, and smarter sex) because I have been there and done that too.

Taco Tuesday (Big Block Brewery)

Big Block2Big Block Brewery is a nano-brewery about fifteen miles east of Seattle. When I first visited on a Saturday afternoon, it wasn’t crowded, but it was busy enough. Parking was plentiful and close.

About a dozen customers were either sitting at the bar or around tables. Big Block1 (2)Another twelve were seated in a spacious outdoor courtyard area while a few more played a game that involved the tossing small bean bags into a hole in a wooden target. Several other games were available outside.

The on-tap beer menu was neatly listed on a large, black chalk-board over the bar. Of the four columns, three listed house brews. The fourth column listed several beers from other places. They post this menu on-line so customers can see what is being served.

Big Block 3

I thought the atmosphere pleasant. 1970’s soft-rock music was playing low enough for customers to converse in normal voice, but loud enough to be clearly heard. I have tried taking a book and reading — worked fine when I did it. Who needs Starbucks? Restrooms were clean.

The name Big Block refers to big, powerful muscle-car engines. The industrial décor, which was based on cars, engines, and tools was comfortable and consistently themed. The service was good, but I had to go to the bar to order my second beer and to pay my tab.

The porter and black ale that I sampled were good; the stout was better. One customer told me that he liked the IPA. He mentioned that you need to like the taste of hoppy beer for that (I don’t).

Beer samples served in red tool box.

Beer samples served in red tool box.

The sampler package is cleverly presented encased in a small, red, metal tool box containing five small, four or five-ounce glasses of a variety of the brew on tap. A big part of the business appeared to be filling growlers (one gallon bottles) with beer. Several customers left carrying one or two full growlers.

Big Block1 (6)I am a beer drinker and a bit of a beer snob. I don’t pretend to be a beer aficionado. But based on what I could see, the beer is good—if you drink beer. If you do not, there is an issue. I asked what they serve for people who don’t drink beer (like my dear wife). They have a limited supply of wine, water, and nothing else.

Big Block Brewery doesn’t have food service and offers virtually no snacks. However, customers may bring in anything they want to eat or drink. Making a trip to the convenience store next door seems inconvenient (pun, sorry), but reasonable. So bringing in a sack lunch (open for lunch on weekends only) is acceptable.

Pizza delivery is also okay and Uncle Si’s Pizza is only about 40-paces south. I’m okay with that. I suppose that they have a good reason for the limit (or the freedom, depending upon your point of view). If it works for the owner, I am good with beer and pizza anytime. But there is no in-house point-of-sale for munchies. I think I saw a couple of bags of something on one shelf.

The web page is passable. It has a good backstory about the business and description of beers. It is not as useful as their other sites. The web page beer menu was outdated when I looked at it. The Instagram link from their web page takes you to some great pictures of the establishment. Click the Twitter link from the web page for an updated list of beer on tap. I couldn’t find a link for their Facebook page, but it is useful and has a current menu (Facebook page link).

Big Block4In my opinion, Yelp also does a good job providing information. The reviews were very positive (4.5 stars). There’s a nice review and announcement on Washington Beer Blog.

Anyway, I will be going back and I hope to see you there. Do you have any favorite places like this near you?

Big Block Brewery:
3310 East Lake Sammamish Pkwy SE,
Sammamish, WA 98075

Operating Hours (49 hours per week):
Closed on Mondays.
Open on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (3:00 pm – 9:00 pm),
Friday, Saturday (11:00 am – 10:00 pm), & Sunday (11:00 am – 8:00 pm)

Taco Tuesday (Seattle Beer Week)

Taco Tuesday (Seattle Beer Week)

I grew up around beer. We had several breweries in town. One (Stegmaier Brewing Company) is still in business but is owned by a competitor of many years (The Lion Brewery). My parents drank beer since before I was born, and I was sucking suds long before I was of legal age. I still drink beer. When people see me with the occasional glass of wine, they ask if I am feeling well.

Here’s to a long life and a happy one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A good girl and an honest one.
A cold pint and another one.

No blog of mine on beer would be complete without the wonderful pub song by Tom T. Hall, I Like Beer.

 

seattle beer week1So this week’s Taco Tuesday recognizes Seattle Beer Week, which is actually 11 days long. It is a huge beer celebration in terms of both participation and geography. The Pacific Northwest has more breweries and beers than I can imagine.

When we drink, we get drunk.
When we get drunk, we fall asleep.
When we fall asleep, we commit no sin.
When we commit no sin, we go to heaven.
So, let’s all get drunk, and go to heaven!
–Old Irish toast

Walking down the beer isle in my grocery store I experience sensory overload, and that is just a wee sample of the plethora of brews one may imbibe in these parts. Beer week brings together retail establishments, all kinds and sizes of brewers, and beer aficionados of all levels. This thing runs from the cities of Tacoma and Kent south of Sea-Tac Airport to the city of Lynnwood north of Seattle. It runs from Puget Sound to the west then past Lake Washington to Bellevue on the east side.

Here’s to cheating, stealing, fighting, and drinking.
If you cheat, may you cheat death.
If you steal, may you steal a woman’s heart.
If you fight, may you fight for a brother.
And if you drink, may you drink with me.

The links below are blogs related to Seattle Beer Week, and a few others I thought you might enjoy.

http://seattlebeernews.com/ Professionally presented blog with news about beer.

https://www.facebook.com/washingtonbeerblog Could not get link to blog to work, but the Facebook page is cool. Got it to work (yay) and worth a read: http://www.washingtonbeerblog.com/

http://brewdad.com/ Great blog. It has a long list of other beer blogs and more useful beer information.

http://nwbeerguide.blogspot.com/ Good blog about general Pacific Northwest area, including Alaska.

http://seattle.taplister.com/ Not a blog, but a cool little app site on finding beer.

I included a clip from the Washington Beer Festival that was last month, simply because it looks like fun to me.

Of all my favorite things to do,
the utmost is to have a brew.
My love grows for my foamy friend,
with each thirst-quenching elbow bend.
Beer’s so frothy, smooth and cold–
It’s paradise–pure liquid gold.
Yes, beer means many things to me…
That’s all for now, I gotta pee!

Taco Tuesday

Taco Tuesday

When I was a child, my parents frequently took me out for dinner to bars that had a restaurant or kitchen of some sort to serve food. Many of those places are still there, much the same as over 60 years ago. Today, most places that I enjoy seem to be primarily restaurants with attached bars. This is my second review of such an eatery.

The Raging River Café and Club (I’m dropping “club” from the name) is located Raging River 2in Fall City, Washington. Fall City is about four miles north of I-90 from the Preston exit. The restaurant’s web page has directions. Fall City is about five miles down-river from Snoqualmie Falls. The restaurant is located amongst a line of businesses directly across the street from the Snoqualmie River on Redmond-Fall City Road (highway 202).

Diagonal parking is available on the street, but is only marked on the south (restaurant) side. While parking is available on the other side, it’s a little trickier and can be messy if it rains. Other street parking is available around the corner, but it’s not as convenient. No parking lot is nearby. I have not seen any critiques of parking, but I’m not sure it’s easily solvable or necessary to worry about. I go when they’re not busy, so it’s seldom an issue for me.

IMG_0594The restaurant entrance is in front and opens directly into the dining area. This can be a nuisance on cold windy or rainy days for customers seated near the door. No reception area or waiting area is available. Hostess seating is unnecessary from my experience because you simply pick your table and sit. You can see all tables from the entrance. However, a few customer reviews have complained about this.

IMG_0595The atmosphere is friendly; so are the staff.  The ambiance is county and laid back–so say the locals. Dress code is anything legal. Turning left upon entry and walking about 40 feet brings you to the bar area. There is a smallish stage area and a little space for dancing (but not enough, really), a u-shaped bar with no more than five stools per side, a few tall-boy bar tables, and a walkway to the pool table room. This is a large room with a pool table surrounded by a few tables. I walked in about 5:00 PM on a Wednesday and it was full of customers who might be called ‘biker-bar clientele.’ A few folks were playing pool and there was room for that. County-rock was the music genre.

IMG_0593While my server was not very experienced (or old), she impressed me. When she asked for my drink order, I asked about dark beer. She was able to tell me what she had and even referred to notes in her little order book to tell me. She offered up a draught from the Snoqualmie Brewery, which is in Snoqualmie, about five more miles up highway 202, past the falls. I will be going there for a review sometime soon.

I ordered Spring Fever Belgian Style Ale, which was good. It’s an amber 6% ABV, flavorful, seasonal brew that has now been replaced by lighter summer brews. They claim it has a coriander flavor, maybe a little dry and crisp. It is refreshing and the coriander was not specifically noticeable.

The Raging River Café should do a better job with their web page. The menu is only ‘highlights,’ thus incomplete (specials are not listed in the printed menu, but the server will tell you about it, if any is left). The ‘spirits’ tab on the web page is wrong and has been for months. Admittedly, if they keep changing the beer offerings, it becomes too hard to keep correct (not really, but I am being nice). It lists draught Moose Drool (Big Sky Brewing), which they don’t have. I mention this because I told my server about it long ago and it’s still listed.

IMG_0592

The dinner special on Wednesdays is pot roast. It’s good, more than enough, and comes with carrots and chunky mashed potatoes. If it were me, I would cut back on the meat and add another veggie or side (blue plate special). It costs about 10 bucks and an average eater will have leftovers boxed up to go. So pot roast for two (four meals total, actually) with a 12-ounce beer and a generous tip comes to about $30-something total. And it’s good — lots of gravy.

Raging River1

We had breakfast here a few weeks ago and it was equally good. But go early. If you’re rafting down the river about ten Sunday morning and go ashore for eggs and bacon with toast (you can), be prepared to wait. They get swamped then. One problem this place has is size and the number of tables (sticking more into the space they have would be bad). They do well at times and struggle to accommodate the crowd.

I have not stayed late enough for the entertainment, but they do have it several nights a week. It is listed on the web page. Children are ok until about nine, then it gets more adult.

I neglected to visit the restroom, but my wife reports that the ladies’ room is clean. I assume the mens’ is also. There are restrooms on the bar side, but I’ve not been in them.

Yelp averages out to 4 ½ of 5 stars. One-star reviews mention slow service and greasy food. Sunday mid-mornings are hard to get in. Those complaints are probably accurate, but are more likely exceptions. Trip advisor rates Raging River as the best of eight restaurants in Fall City, but I’m not sure that there are eight. I will keep going back, even if they have a couple of bad days.

If you live in or visit the Seattle area, you can find some great chow in the city or ride east to the Fall City-Snoqualmie-North Bend area for a fun and casual-dining, honky-tonk experience. In fact, The Snoqualmie Casino is the closest to Seattle (they claim) and is right off I-90 (eastbound) after the Highway 18 exit.

Bon Appetite

 

Taco Tuesday Diner Review

How I will do this is covered in ‘About.’ Since today is a restaurant review, I want to go over my specific personal ROE (rules of engagement).

  1. I am doing this to tell you about places, not to rate them. If it was a bad experience, it will not be here. We have Yelp and others for that.
  2. I read reviews and on line web pages (especially menus) before I go. I recommend that, especially the one star reviews. Then, I go anyway. They are frequently not the same as my experience. I don’t usually write reviews, but if I see one that I think may be unfair, I write one to balance it.
  3. Big deals for me are quality of food (within reason), cleanliness of the facility to include restrooms, adequacy of service (I’m not a perfectionist), variety of drinks (dark beer is not yellow and you can’t make a margarita without tequila), comfort, noise-level, parking, staff knowledge, and internet site accuracy (are you as you claim to be?).
  4. Having spent the past few years of my life (prior to retirement) in quality assurance, I’ve developed a philosophy that ‘good’ is good enough, excellent is often BS, and better than that is either a lie (e.g., desserts that claim to be better than sex), manipulation, or both.

Review

J Berry1My first restaurant review is of Jay Berry’s Café in Renton, Washington. Renton is south of Seattle and short ride from the Sea-Tac Airport. But this place is on the northeast edge of town, east of Lake Washington. On-line reviews vary, but most are positive, with negatives possibly being an isolated bad experience or opinion. Parking is adequate, but the lot can get full, causing patrons to park along the roadway.

Getting in

The main entrance takes you down a narrow hall, past the bar on the left (they call it a lounge, but it’s a bar.). It has a long honky-tonk type bar with approximately 12 stools. There are about nine tables, and three or four televisions. Food is served in the bar. A brief walk through this area takes you out onto the patio seating area, which is good, but on the street (west/sunny) side. The two (clean) restrooms are on the right side of the hallway as is a large ‘specials’ board. The hall is barely a ‘two-butt’ wide walkway, so if you stop to read it, you’re in the way. The waiting area is on benches lining the hall. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner; take reservations; and take-out is available. This is down-scale café with a bar. Shorts with a tank-top and flip flops are an acceptable level of dress – so relax. Besides, general dress code in the Pacific Northwest is usually all casual.

J Berry6The receptionist area is where the cash register probably was back in the day. The two inside seating areas are separated by two steps (ADA?) with no visible ramp. Some tables are a little close for girthy customers, but it’s manageable. Ambiance is comfortable and ok, but should be a ready for a little rehab soon. Most tables seat four, but can be moved to accommodate larger parties. There are no booths. The acoustics are average and loud voices are easily heard.

Getting served

J Berry2

We requested and were shown to a table in the lower area. The server was there asking for drink requests before we sat down. I always ask the same question if we are having dinner, “What is the darkest beer you have, preferably on draught?” I picked Mac & Jack’s African Amber. It is a locally brewed amber ale I find acceptable. My wife ordered water.J Berry4

The food

J Berry8The server explained some things regarding the pasta and we ordered a Greek salad and Spaghetti Alfredo (they did not have fettuccini). The wait staff was energetic and service was almost too fast. They are a little blunt and straight-up for some customers, but I think it fits the charm and atmosphere of the restaurant. While I’ve had better salads, it was ok. My wife thought the alfredo white sauce was subpar. The waiter boxed up her leftovers. I tried it the next day and found it on par with what comes in a jar from the store.

J Berry9

Jay Berry’s is proud of their pizza. But I think their strength is breakfast and their special drinks. Check out the menu. The special cocktails with breakfast are a big hit. The breakfast menu is comprehensive. That is when larger crowds show up. Lunch is good, too.

J Berry10Overall

I will be going back. I recommend Jay Berry’s to anyone looking for a family-friendly, laid-back café with a nice ‘honky-tonk’ bar (when the Seahawks are playing, it’s busy). If you are in Seattle, it may be a bit far. Be sure to check out the menu on-line and their specials – especially the breakfast drink specials (mimosas anyone?). I never make reservations, but they do take them. Calling ahead can get you to the front of the line when you arrive.

Excuse me, are you gunna eat that? May I try one of your fries? How’s that pizza? What’s your favorite adult beverage?