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    Mouthwatering Modern Indian Cuisine at Portland’s Vindalho

    Prawns at Vindalho

    During my college years, I had the chance to study abroad at the University of South Australia in Adelaide, South Australia. Upon arrival, myself and two other international students were shuttled off to the residential building of the Royal Adelaide Hospital in downtown Adelaide. Confused at first, I realized that there were a number of international students housed at the RAH (rah rah, siss boom bah!) and settled into my temporary digs. Every day, without miss, around lunch and dinner, the pleasing smell of curry, coconut, and chutney would float through the hallways. With many of the international students hailing from India and the like, the kitchens were always aflutter with activity and memorable scents. After a while, however, the smells began to wear out their welcome and I avoided every Indian restaurant I could.

    Luckily, I can happily say that the smells at Portland’s Vindalho are less overbearing and more complimentary than the smells at the RAH, much like the mango in my Laughing Buddha Mango Weizen. A wonderful stop in the city’s Clinton neighborhood, Vindalho is a comforting and classy take on an old standby, from the modern design of the dining room to the divine menu options.

    I absolutely had memories of the RAH in my head when I arrived, but the scents were marvelous and the food was even better! With the menu touted as modern Indian ‘spice route cuisine’, I was hoping for more than your standard Chicken Tikka Masala – and was definitely not disappointed. For starters, a wonderful papadum with a tamarind and date chutney arrived at my table along with my mango weizen, and I was immediately smitten. The South Indian Carrot Soup, with it’s savory mix of Indian spices, had me in heaven. For a main dish, I picked the Jhinga Prawns and watched as the prawns were seasoned in a chile, ginger, and herb marinade and hung on a skewer to cook above the grill. When the dish was presented with a pyramid of yummy Basmati rice, I was thoroughly impressed with the perfectly cooked prawns, as most restaurants tend to overcook. As I tried to polish off the Garlic-stuffed Naan on a full stomach (which, as a die-hard garlic lover, could really use a bit more garlic) I noticed the restaurant filling up and took my exit cue before I made it to the dessert options.

    If you’re in the Portland area and looking for something more than your standard Indian food, I highly recommend visiting Vindalho. They have a mouthwatering full menu, and their fantastic Happy Hour menu features a ‘Five at Five’, where you can get a number of their best munchies for $5 or less. The cocktail menu isn’t too shabby either – definitely check out the Mango Weizen!

    2038 SE Clinton Street
    Portland, Oregon 97202

    Was Hitler a Vegetarian?

    My Answer: Who cares?

    I know, I know. It is a popular belief or canard (depending upon your position) found on both sides of the vegetarian debate. And the amount of energy being used to discredit the story is massive.

    What is true? That’s difficult to suss out. What is known is that he did at least play with the idea of vegetarianism for a short period of time. A Slate article from 2004 that interviews noted vegetarian and author Rynn Berry, states:

    While (Berry’s) book doesn’t quote any primary sources, the secondary sources Berry uses—newspaper articles, memoirs, other historical texts—seem reputable. The generally accepted idea about Hitler’s nutritional regime seems to be that he at least tried to be a vegetarian. Sometime in the early 1930s, after the mysterious death of his niece and confidant, Geli, Hitler swore off meat. Some say seeing her corpse turned his stomach away from flesh. Others say his doctors put the despot on a vegetable-only diet to relieve excessive flatulence and sweating.

    After that, there’s little to any reputable evidence to support that he either stuck with the plan, or let it go.

    But again? Why does it matter? The myth exists clearly to illustrate that being a vegetarian doesn’t allow one to stand on a higher moral ground. This is a true statement whether Hitler was a vegetarian or not.

    And what if he was a vegetarian until the end? Does it diminish a movement’s compassionate stance in any way? Not at all. Hitler was a dog lover too. Does that compromise the work of the ASPCA?

    What this is is the worst aspects of Reductio ad Hitlerum in action when people talk about vegetarianism. Hitler’s place in history is well known, and his personal nutritional choices bare little insight to anyone else’s character.

    For the record? I don’t think he was. But it doesn’t change my perspective on meat eaters. After all, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King all were omnivores as well.

    Beer Reviews: Shiner 99 Munich Style Helles Lager

    Shiner is made by a brewery in Texas. The Spoetzl Brewery to be precise, giving us the impression of a distant German heritage. There’s nothing wrong with that, of cours, but let’s face facts. This is a Texan beer, and very much a regional brew. Which likely means that there are a fair amount of devout fans of the stuff. However, it should be pointed out that they’re owned by the Gambrinus Company, an American distribution company that was initially set up to import and sell Corona for the Mexican Grupo Modelo.

    Appearance: An almost brass coloring, otherwise known as gold with hints of orange tones to them. Poured a nice head that was gone within minutes. No lace to speak of.

    Aroma: Sharp acidic tones covering up whatever grain is there. Hops seemingly not present, unless it’s the cause of the acidic smell.

    Taste: light, almost waterlike at first. Grain comes a bit later on the finish. Passable, but not a beer to bowl you over with flavor.

    Mouthfeel: Sharp at first, but the carbonation quickly fades away to a watery limpness.

    Drinkability: I suppose it’s okay. But it seems rather unremarkable. Neither bad not good. I won’t remember what this tasted like in a few hours.

    Overall Rating: C

    Grilled Yogurt Chicken with Tumeric Sweet Potatoes

    This marinade produces some of the tastiest chicken I have every grilled, and the sweet potatoes and peppers are the perfect side dish. Don’t be afraid to use the full 2 tablespoons of salt. It seems like overkill, but the chicken is heavily spiced enough that it really brings out these other flavors.

    Yogurt Chicken

    1 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk)
    2 tablespoons olive oil
    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1-2 tablespoons kosher salt
    1 tablespoon chili powder
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1 teaspoon black pepper
    1 teaspoon garlic powder
    1 teaspoon Aleppo or Ancho chili powder
    1 (3- to 4-pound) chicken, cut into 8 pieces

    Combine the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, salt, and spices, then add chicken and turn until coated well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight, turning the pieces occasionally.

    Sweet Potatoes

    1 large sweet potato, peeled, washed, and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
    1 red bell pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
    1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1 teaspoon kosher salt
    1 teaspoon lime juice
    1 teaspoon ground turmeric
    1 teaspoon dried cilantro

    Combine the pepper, onion, oil, lime juice, salt, and spices, then add sweet potatoes and turn until coated well. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

    The Cook

    Set up your grill for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.

    Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables to a vegetable basket or griddle, reserve the marinade. Grill the vegetables for about 6-8 minutes, until grill marks appear and they begin to soften. Turn and grill the other side for another 6 minutes. Return vegetables to the reserved marinade, toss to coat and set aside.

    Remove the chicken pieces from the yogurt marinade and put on the grill. Grill for about 40 minutes, flipping every 10 minutes or so, until the juices run clear or when a meat thermometer reads 180°F when inserted in the thickest part of the thigh.

    Homemade soft pretzels

    Big, soft pretzels
    Homemade pretzels

    On a blog with as much beer on it as this one, it only makes sense to provide a recipe for a classic beer accompaniment: the big, soft pretzel. But before I go and take any credit for this idea, let me state flat-out that there are a lot of food bloggers posting about soft pretzels these days, and I tip my hat to them all. I especially want to acknowledge Barb from Babette Feasts, whose post on soft pretzels whet my appetite several weeks ago and made me think about very little else in the interim.

    She used this Alton Brown recipe from Food Network, and it worked beautifully. The only problem I found was that the pretzels were damp on the underside after baking, so I flipped them over and gave them a few extra minutes in the oven to dry off the surface. I also used some whole wheat pastry flour to give them a little more depth and chew. Next time I might use even more.

    I’ve eaten soft pretzels for years in ballparks and from street vendors, and I never thought they’d be easy to make, but they actually are. It’s a two-step cooking process: toss the risen, formed dough first in a boiling water/baking soda combo and then bake them in the oven. The results will rival any street pretzel you’ve ever eaten, and I’m originally from New York, so that’s saying quite a lot.

    Recipe for Big Soft Pretzels

    Adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe here with a special h/t to Babette Feasts

    Makes 8

    1-1/2 cups hot tap water, about 110-115 degrees F
    1 tablespoon sugar
    2 teaspoons kosher salt
    1 package active dry yeast (or 2-1/4 teaspoons)
    15 ounces all-purpose flour PLUS 7 ounces whole wheat pastry flour (you need 22 ounces, or about 4-1/2 cups, flour total)
    2 ounces butter, melted
    10 cups water
    2/3 cup baking soda
    1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
    The coarsest salt you can find

    Combine the water, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top, give a quick stir, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Dump in the flour and melted butter.

    Using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until ingredients are combined, then raise the speed to medium and knead for about 4 minutes. (I had to literally hold the mixer steady on the counter because it jumped around. Don’t plan to leave the room.) Alternately, knead the dough by hand until very smooth and no longer tacky, about 4 minutes.

    Coat a bowl (you may use the same bowl) with nonstick spray and allow the dough to rise, covered with plastic, until doubled in size, about 50 minutes. If your oven has a proof setting, use it.

    Remove the dough from the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 and bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a boil in a large pot.

    Oil your counter lightly, and turn out the dough. Divide into 8 pieces, and, working with one at a time, roll each piece into a 2 foot rope. Make a U with the rope, then cross the pieces in the center and press them firmly on the bottom of the U in a traditional pretzel shape. Place on a parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet coated with cooking spray. (You’ll need two.)

    Drop one pretzel into the water for 30 seconds, remove with a flat slotted spoon, and place on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining pretzels. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with the salt.

    Bake until dark brown, about 12 to 14 minutes, reversing the trays halfway through bake time to ensure even browning. If the undersides still feel moist, flip and bake for an additional 2 to 3 minutes, until the pretzels are dry to the touch. Transfer to a cooling rack, and serve warm.

    Craft Brewers versus Industrial Brewers

    Friday I spent on Miller’s brewery tour, what with their 11,000 kegs of beer made daily. Saturday, I spent at Lakefront Brewery, who make approximately 11k kegs a years. The differences between the two brands could not have been more stark.

    While Miller’s seemed polished and straight laced, Lakefront’s approach to their tour was rough and direct, and a little bawdy. Miller’s had us walk around several buildings, each with their own tiled floors. Lakefront was only in one building and their floor looked more like a cross between a warehouse and basement.

    Miller’s threw the crowd large numbers, bragging about how many cases of beer they sell a year, and how many bushels of hops they go through in a day. Lakefront talked more of the history of beer and how much the liked to party.

    Miller’s tasting was a bit sedate and most of the folks whispered to one another as they reviewed the past hour. Lakefront tour participants drank the entire tour, and found themselves shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of other folks who had yet to be on the tour.

    There were far more people at the Lakefront tour. Granted, they run fewer tours per week than the folks at Miller’s. But the scene they create gave an appearance of a party atmosphere rather than a tourist destination. Where else in Milwaukee could someone get four glasses of craft beer for only $6?

    Throughout the Lakefront tour, it was implied that the profit margins were thin. At Miller’s, the cost of the recent Miller’s/Coor’s deal literally was plastered on the wall. But for all of their money, all of their size, MillersCoors (or is it CoorsMillers?) couldn’t reproduce what Lakefront showed me on a rainy Saturday in April.

    What Lakefront had could best be described as soul. The people who ran the tours seemed less like employees of Lakefront and more akin to partners. They didn’t have twenty-one year old women running the tours, they had a forty-something school teacher from the Milwaukee school district who worked at the brewery part time running the show. This somehow made the operation seemed more down to earth, and less of a scripted production.

    All of these thoughts went through my head as I compared the two operations. But there was one that seemed more of an epiphany than the rest. Namely, Lakefront doesn’t compete with Millers and Millers certainly doesn’t worry about Lakefront. They are going after two different markets with two different outlooks on beer drinking and brewing. When one company is struggling to get their product into the state of Washington and the other is trying to figure out how to compete with InBev Anheuser-Busch in Belgium, I think it’s safe to say that the two companies rarely cross path in the markets.

    So while it makes for great marketing when craft brewers put down the practices of the industrial brewers, the reality seems a little different to me. The market the craft brewers are looking at are not the brand loyal consumers of Bud, Miller’s, or Coor’s. They’re looking instead to the one beer drinker out of twenty who looks for something different, OR they look for the new beer drinker who hasn’t established any brand loyalty. In other words, they’re looking beyond the established beer market.

    I’m not sure how accurate of an assessment this is. Had I the numbers, I could probably find a report somewhere that either confirms or denies my hypothesis. I don’t know enough about the beer industry to get a handle on this.

    What I do know is this: Miller’s is to Lakefront as an oil tanker is to a speed boat. One is slow to turn, the other is quick and nimble. One is built to weather rough storms, the other can barely handle heavy chop.

    Oh, and one is far more fun to ride in than the other.

    Adjuncts and Beer

    Whenever you hear people talking about the ingredients that go into beer, you’ll typically hear mention of the following: Water, barley, hops, and yeast. So ingrained (if you’ll pardon the pun) are these ingredients that there is a German Law called the Reinheitsgebot, a purity order that demands that all beers must be made from these ingredients only.

    Outside of Germany, it’s a little more complicated than that. Yes, many people can and do make great beers with only these base ingredients. But when brewers start adding additional ingredients, things start getting very interesting.

    These additional ingredients, called ‘adjuncts’ typically fall into one of three categories:

    1. To add flavor.
    2. To supplement a basic beer characteristic.
    3. To save money.

    It’s that last bit which causes a bit of controversy in the brewing world, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

    Outside of Germany, we see brewers adding all sorts of flavor adjuncts to their brews all of the time. A pumpkin ale is a great example, where a brewer added bits of pumpkin are added to the mash with the goal of getting a distinct pumpkin flavor. The flavor works twofold – both in the mash itself as well as the converted alcohol. The yeasts are not choosy when it comes to they eat, and whether its from malted barley or vegetable chunks, it matters very little.

    Other types of flavor adjuncts one might see include everything from maple syrup to juniper to even oysters.

    The second type of adjunct includes anything added to supplement a beers characteristic. For example, the use of wheat in a pale ale in order to make sure that a sturdier head is delivered would mean that the wheat is an adjunct to the pale ale recipe. The use of roasted grains to deliver a darker color, or oats used to change mouthfeel would also be adjuncts that fit into this definition.

    The final category is the one that most American Mass Brewers fall into – the use of adjuncts in order to save money. Most beer recipes call for barley, it should be noted that there are two other grains that are far cheaper to purchase – rice and corn. Anheuser-Busch, and MillersCoors use these two grains in their beers, some would say to an excess.

    As far as I know, you can relate to the grains this way – Budweiser= rice, while Millers=Corn. The brewers at these companies will say that their using these adjuncts to add sweetness, or to lighten their beers. Most craft brewers say that the benefits that the use of these grains brings don’t outweigh the detriments that come along with their use – mostly the loss of body, character, and the essence of what makes a “true” lager.

    That last bit is really the most contentious of the divisions between craft brewers and industrial brewers. At what point does the recipe have to change in order to create something other than what the initial recipe hoped for. At some point Miller’s made a solid pilsner. At some point, Budweiser was likely a full bodied lager. But over the years, they’ve changed the recipe so much (by adding corn and/or rice) that the result was something other than their intent. For all of their marketing and all of their public relations, there is a difference between a lager made only of barley, hops, and yeast, than one made of barley, corn, hops, and yeast. The craft brewers love to point this out, while the industrial brewers would wish that consumers didn’t notice.

    But that’s a conversation for a later date. All one needs to know at the moment is that adjuncts are that x-factor, that unknown variable that can be put into brews to create something new, or unique. It can the beer cheaper to produce, or more expensive, depending upon the ingredient. It can make the beer taste better, or in some cases, taste worse.