Sunday, October 25, 2015

Maybe, eventually, they'll take David Hasselhoff AND IPAs

After Strasbourg we returned to Tübingen (where we lived in 2013) for a week of nostalgic excursions (at least that was my perspective; J had already been working with collaborators for several weeks). Sarah joined us too, leaving the three boys in Paris.

We had an amazing apartment with a great view of Tübingen's iconic hill (thank you Betty!).

Of course we made it back to Bebenhausen Monastery.

And of course one night we took a nostalgic trip to our old apartment and local pub, which still serves the best käsespätzle around. 

 Here's Ella at the pub two plus years ago.

And here she is last week, in a more subdued mood.

We had our favorite Calabrian wood-oven-fired pizza.

And, after deciding against a traffic-y trip to Böblingen in search of what seemed, online, to be a German-made American Pale Ale from the Schönbuch Brewery, we trekked up the hill to Schwärzlocher Hof, which was a little cold and rainier than 2013. But the peacocks were impressive.

The beer list was not impressive, however, a classic example of how frustrating German beer lists can be -- especially given the cold reality that Schwabenbräu isn't very good. I need to do some research into the question of whether the problem is not just taste buds (stay tuned below for that thesis), but, like in Mexico, a system in which breweries front money to bars and in return enjoy complete dominance. But I don't think Schwärzlocher Hof, which has been serving beer on the site since 1829, needed brewery capital to open ... and restaurants in Germany are usually dominated by the local brewery, not one of the global giants, as in Mexico.

Mike and I had the flavorless Schwarz (or dark), trying to trick our taste buds into thinking we were drinking, say, a red IPA. I think the Dinkelacker alkoholfrei, one of Joe's favorites, would have been better. The onion tart and the ice cream sundae were good though.

Next, we had a very fun lunch catching up with our language-course group. The cafeteria at MPI is as delicious as I remember .... man I love Schweinebraten.

On our last night, Joe and Betty hosted us to play video games, circa 1983, which Joe has on a reconfigured table top arcade counsel. Apparently the East German state stole some code from the West and made a couple of knock-off games, that they even made available in western-style arcades. The graphics must have been ten years behind, which I think provides a new hypothesis to work on concerning the end of the Cold War ... but then again I sort of enjoyed the ski racing game.

Joe's training Ella to become a computer scientist. Here he is yelling "bubble bubble" whenever she needed to fire.

Ella's perfect bilingualism makes her even cuter, if that's possible. We weren't sure if she ever realized we speak restaurant German at most ...

It took 8 months living in Tübingen in 2013, and a week this time around, but on the very last night, success! We found an honest-to-goodness made-in-Germany IPA: a Dolden Sud IPA, to be exact, brewed in the Bavarian town of Riedenburg. This was a pretty mild IPA by American standards, mind you -- clocking in at 55 IBUs -- ha ha, exactly the same count as Cedar's cherished Goose Island IPA by Budweiser -- but it tasted like a slice of heaven to Mike, who's been living in Germany for over a year.

The one image from this trip I wish I had captured but could not was Joe's expression upon tasting an IPA. Remember the 1990s Keystone Beer Bitter Beer Face campaign? It gives you the idea ...

And even better, Joe's father repeated this face when he tried it. The Revolution is probably going to be evolutionary ... Maybe the Avenues Proper can partner with David Hasselhoff to launch a German IPA.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Kein Duck a l'Orange in Strasbourg

J went to Paris and Strasbourg for the weekend to see John and Sarah and Issac and Jonas, who are living in Paris for the year, and also to see Philipp and Maria, who came over from Stuttgart, and for the romance of Paris in the morning. 

But I went to escape the Trumpen Proletariat, and in search of Duck à l'Orange. Sure, we were warned that the traditional cliched dish is primarily served to tourists and old people (usually one and the same), and sure, it's absurd that in the U.S. we call it Duck a l'orange rather than Canard a l'orange or Orange Duck, and sure, John calls it a "pretty unattractive dish," but whatever, I've always liked the stuff.

John's duck confit with duck fat potatoes (better than my potatoes, I have to concede) only whetted the appetite.

And plus, maybe there's something to be said for chasing the classics in a city (Paris) that now serves this (read the sign above the bun).

Then again, at least the French are willing to embrace new things. Which brings me to ... European beer. That's right baby, we're back in business! Not wishing to start off on a disappointing beer foot (that came a couple nights later in Tuebingen), I decided I'd bring my own American beer for our arrival happy hour in Strasbourg. Then ensued an onslaught of IPAs -- a flight with as little variety as that found at a German restaurant. The Americans loved it, but unfortunately it was something of shock to Philipp, who went into something of a delirious hop coma (before he enthusiastically labeled a couple of the beers "fine").**

** There are some green shoots on the German hop farm. The latest hop market report from hop brokers the Barth-Haas Group reports, "Worldwide hop acreage surpasses 50.000 ha (123,500 acres) for the first time since 2010; continued shift towards aroma/flavour in the US and more varietal changes in Germany. . . . As promised, German growers have planted more of the three new varieties with “New World” aroma character that so many brewers (and presumably drinkers) want."

Strasbourg is well know for housing the European Parliament,

but it's mostly a Rick Steves-approved European play-land of half timber houses and canals and a beautiful cathedral.

For dinner we decided to embrace the Alsatian and went cheese-centric. Philipp and Maria and the boys had fondue, John and Sarah had an absurdly great cheese plate,

and J and I had raclette -- or, for those not familiar, cheese melted with a room heater so that it drips over potatoes, served with various kinds of pork and pickles.

I think we only scratched the surface of the cheese available to us this night.

Now, when you end up at a place called Académie de la Bière, you think you might be able to find a variety of beers. And you know, maybe they could label the taps. But this being Europe, we ended up with an unknown beer that, as Philipp pronounced it, "was just a beer." Of course we were all in cheese comas anyway, each of us vowing not to eat cheese for varying durations of time. I'm telling you, I could hardly walk by the restaurant's booth the next day at some festival, as much as I appreciated the mustache. 

Meanwhile, the search for Duck à l'Orange was proving fruitless. And it's not like Strasbourg doesn't embrace the authentic-meets-old-school. See the cheese above. And while I know a true French bakery is becoming harder to find, I'm pretty sure this place was the real deal. 

And check out the butter a bakery gave Philipp and Maria when they asked for "a little butter"  to bring to our apartment.

And yes, some French people really do still wear berets. And some 8-year-old Americans do, too. Isaac's thoughts on Foucault can wait for another entry ...

But in the end, the only ducks we saw were on the the Ill River, from the more-enjoyable-than-we-predicted boat tour. 

J and I are sure going to miss those perfectly behaved little Enfant Terribles, but on to Tuebingen. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

(most of) Summer 2015

I've been thinking a lot about the environment this summer, or, more specifically, the decline of environmentalism in the U.S. At least I have been since J and I were standing in a creek in Wydaho over July 4th, fly fishing, with the Tetons in full view. A moose came this far from us ... and J said apropos of nothing, "I just don't understand why more people don't want to save more of this."

Of course as a political and quasi-environmental historian, I know some of the reasons why many Americans are indifferent if not outright hostile to environmentalism. A) We still have plenty of land and water, give or take California, compared to most nations. B) During the past 40 years, the great giant sucking vortex of the culture wars has polarized environmental issues like so much else, destroying in their wake a long, proud tradition of conservative and Republican support for conservation and even regulation, and increasing the odds that those actually connected to the land in an increasingly urban society -- ranchers and farmers -- are hostile to environmentalists. C) During the 1960s and '70s, the doomsday Left offered exaggerated predictions of doom and gloom that engendered a backlash far beyond healthy correction. [Commenting dismissively on Malthusians, Reagan said, "We used to have problems, but now we have crises." So my question for Republicans is: what happened to Reagan's problems?] D) Today's environmentalists, with good reason, have doubled down on climate change, which has taken attention away from more traditional issues surrounding public lands and air and water pollution. E) And the Right, meanwhile, has doubled down on climate change denialism, bizarrely taking the rejection of science into the political mainstream.

I wonder what Eisenhower or TR would think about the fact that rejecting science has become normalized within their party's base. As a good piece in Grist just pointed out, climate change denialism unites disparate strands of the GOP; it's a "byproduct of the particular fusion of social conservatives and big business interests that came together to form the modern GOP" and allows moderate candidates tainted with the curse of being college educated to pander to the masses.

In any event, now we've come to the point when idling on a 78-degree day seems to be the norm in Salt Lake, even when we can literally see the bad air around us that's damaging babies' lungs. We've definitely crossed over some sort of tipping point of apathy. Yes, John R., I know that idling accounts for about .0004 of pollution in the valley, and yes, I know that we are all hypocrites. An academic uses more fossil fuel flying to conference on the environment (say, the Ecological Society Meetings I am about to attend) than a non-flyer uses idling all year. But to me it's the symbolism -- the proxy of indifference that people who have some of the best lives in the history of recorded history can't even be inconvenienced enough to sit in a modestly hot car for 5 minutes. I mean, plane rides are part of the good life, the whole point of living. Idling is not. And as my college philosophy teacher always said, "just because we can't perform surgeries in perfect sterility doesn't mean we operate in the gutter."

I could go on forever, of course, but I've got travel photos to show. Maybe the biggest reason of all that environmentalism doesn't even register during election cycles isn't merely the cult of growth but that endless development has homogenized the nation, diminishing our sense of region and place. We need to create more moose watchers, sure, but we also need to find ways to tie people to their little piece of the world ... which is part of the reason, I think, why the local food movement continues to grow. 

Actually, it was two moose.

Gillian is definitely not someone lacking a sense of place. If Michigan hadn't thought of the slogan first, Montana could use this picture in a brochure under the heading "pure Montana."

J had two coaches while we fly-fished.

Which was pretty silly ... Sean's an expert, but I tended to put my hook in either the bushes

or in Gillian's sister Sam's back (not pictured; everyone was ok).

After that episode I was told to stay by myself and drink a Lewis & Clark Brewing Co. Prickly Pear, brewed with real cactus. Delicious. Notice the the three main Teton peaks (a bit hazy from forest fires; look, it's dry out here).

Ho hum, another month, another global temperature record.

Can someone please in all seriousness tell me how one of the denialists' talking points is that "warming has recently slowed"? Has the rate of CO2 increase technically slowed because the curve was already approaching a straight line in 1990?

And speaking of hockey sticks, all I'm asking for is a little intellectual honesty. If you want to argue that ceaseless economic growth is worth the climate change, and that we can adapt to the latter, ok fine ... that's a legitimate if morally-dubious-in-the-long-run argument, and a lot different than pretending you know more than scientists. As far as I am concerned, the biggest story of our time is the battle between two hockey sticks (let's call it the ultimate face-off ... ). On the one hand, there's the hockey stick of climate change, pictured above. On the other hand, we have the hockey stick of GDP per person since the Industrial Revolution (ok it's not a perfect stick, but work with me. And I hereby copyright this analogy; please nobody steal it, as I am working on a larger piece along this theme).

Maybe to move the conversation forward, the good guys need to be more forthright about the revolutionary benefits economic growth has wrought since 1800 ... how would you like to live on $3 a day? ...  and then talk about where we go from here. Whether we can have sustainable growth is a matter for a separate entry (or a shelf of books I could recommend), but clearly buying local beer is an important start, especially when the hops are local, too. 

A certain brewery we've been frequenting has great views from its porch, though this shot doesn't do it justice.

The view looks more like this.

Sam with J. Anyone know of a taphouse with a better view?

In between brewery runs we also got in a good hike up Teton Canyon.

If today's lawmakers have their heads in the sand, at least more than 100 years ago the New York state legislature set aside the Adirondack Park, a very relevant-to-today's-world example of how humans and the environment can coexist (pure wilderness, the Adirondacks are not). We visited for the first time in three years or so. First on the docket was Kristin and Jason and Allison and Will, who sadly recently moved away from SLC. The upside to their move is that they brought some outstanding beer from tiny Frost Brewing. When you're next in Vermont, I also highly recommend Rock Art and Fiddlehead breweries. 

Allison and Will are pretty much peaking (and by the way, there are bigger fish to be found in them there parts).

I think it was the same fish, transferred for photographic purposes.

Uncle Jim enjoyed chatting with Allison about the history of the property tax in Fulton County, and Allison enjoyed a traditional Adirondack soft serve (don't call 'em creamies around here folks).

Her cone was free, despite being about an inch over ...

No trip to the southern Adirondacks is complete without dinner at Saltsman's 200-year-old hotel, complete with a menu completely unchanged as long as I can remember it, which is about 35 years (we love the corn fritter course above all).

Not a lot of local beers at Saltsman's, but I've always been a fan of Saranac beers, and their Pale Ale makes an acceptable session. Better than Will's Shirley Temple.

After Andy and Mary Moore and Gibson come over for dinner with a bushel of herbs in toe (sadly, no pictures; got any Andy?), next on the visiting friends docket were best man Cedar and Rachel and Caleb and Liam and flower girl Amelie. Any jokes about Goose Island beer and minivans will remain strictly private.

A bunch of my family frequents a neighboring lake, so we were able to partake in the FunStation

and also rented an absurd pink paddleboat.

I love when the clouds roll through the Adirondacks ...

but it made for some rugged kayaking. And you should try paddle-boating in high winds and waves.

Another mandatory tradition is black and white cookies from Rauch's Bakery in Gloversville, with the chocolate bottoms, of course.Vanilla base is typical; chocolate is better.

Almost five years since our wedding, I went back to Cooperstown so Liam and Caleb could go to the Hall of Fame. (Seeing Liam on Cloud 9 all day gave us a warm fuzzy feeling about the game, just as MLB intended.) Six years ago in Cooperstown (when we were looking for wedding spots), I saw Pete Rose behind a table at a tiny sporting goods store signing autographs, although he was completely by himself at that moment. This time around we spotted Randy Johnson. I mean, how could we miss him?

Got to love induction weekend.

I'll spare you a bunch of photos of Orioles-cana. Instead, this add was pretty funny. I'm guessing things have changed at Treasury.

It's not like Cedar and I didn't enjoy the HOF, but still, some adult time thereafter was warranted, especially given the Ommegang Brewery was on the way back. The tasting revealed they make some excellent beers beyond Hennepin and Rare Vos.

While Cedar and I were living the dream

the kids were ... well, I'm not sure what they were doing. Though at one point a thoroughly bored Caleb passed right in front of us beyond the window behind the bar. Not sure how they could possibly be bored ... seemed to be plenty for them to do there. 

I concede I can be pretty harsh and snobbish about upstate New York foodways, which essentially are stuck in mid-century Italian-American land. But when the side is plain pasta with, well, butter, I might have a point ...

Luckily, Amelie likes butter, exuberantly buttering her buttered bread rolls. J's Sicilian-born grandmother would be aghast to see what passes for Italian bread in this country. 

But hey, the view from dinner was unbeatable. 

Amelie, unlike Allison, refuses to pose for the camera.

But if you surprise her ...

The parting group shot ... the ones when we were trying not to squint were horrible, so better the one when we are all squinting. Kind of reminds me of an album cover with the band trying to look casual.