Friday, July 29, 2011

Col. E.H. Taylor Bourbon

As a nightcap to a wonderful birthday planned by my wife, she took me to a BBQ joint on South St. bc/ she knew they had Col. E. H. Taylor Bourbon.  I knew I married her for a reason.  Col. Taylor is a 9 year special release bourbon from, you guessed it, Buffalo Trace distillery.  They basically gathered up a bunch of old heads and retirees who helped them recount an old method of sour mashing that is no longer in use, and then recreated it to honor Col. E. H. Taylor, whisky pioneer and one time owner of what is now called Buffalo Trace distillery.  Apparently it's one of their standard rye recipes and the same yeast they use, but environmental factors are manipulated to create a slightly sour effect, and a less sweet in your face bourbon that may appeal to scotch drinkers (I am paraphrasing Chuck Cowdery for some of this info, his post about the bourbon can be found here).  The packaging is very cool, as they've taken cues from retro Taylor bourbon bottles and put them in canisters like the ones we see often with scotch.  I've never seen it on the shelf, and while it retailed for around 60 bucks you can only get it on ebay for more than twice that.  So 18 bucks for a shot is not all that bad.  And we enjoyed the hell out of it.  It kind of reminded me of Pappy a bit, though it's not wheated.  It was very mellow.  The finish is where the unique version of sour mashing might be noticeable.  I couldn't quite place the taste, a bit of tartness and dryness.  It was very nice stuff.  Thanks honey.

I got other info for this post here- Bourbon Blog

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Pizza

Here are my top five favorte pizzas of all time.  I don't have a scoring system, just a, ahem, gut feeling about them.  Places don't get extra "points" for having more or less toppings, or for any specific style, though I do prefer thin crust.

5.  Mama Nuccio's, Somerdale, NJ-I haven't had this in a while, who knows if it's the same as when I lived near it, but for me this was quintessential South Jersey pizza.  Thin and gooey, with the sauce not too sweet not too salty.  I honestly prefer this to much of what I can get in South Philly.

4.  Chicago-I don't remember the name of the place, I'll have to track it down, but though it's not my typical preference Chicago style pizza can be awesome, and if a good version was available on the East Coast I might get hooked. The crust is ridiculous, like a bakery pie crust, with cheese resting inside of the lip.  Very filling.  I got out eaten slice by slice by a friend half my size who lived in Chicago and was used to putting that stuff away. 

3.  Osteria, Philadelphia-This is an upscale Italian joint on North Broad St..  The pizza is wonderful.  Cooked in a wood buring oven, super thin and crispy.  We got the polpo, which had a spicy sauce and octopus on top.  It was sensational, maybe the single best pizza I've ever had.  The others rank out higher bc/ for me, at the end of the day, pizza is more of a takeout experience.

2.  Slice, Philadelphia-Slice is amazing.  Great ingredients and toppings, like clams casino, grilled eggplant, fresh basil.  The crust is "well done," which I love, as it's all crackly and a bit burnt.  I could order from this place every night, money and calories aside.

1.  Mack and Manco's, Ocean City, NJ-This is my favorite favorite favorite.  Is it the salt air?  The perfect sause that they shoot on out of those weird tube things?   The brick oven?  Thin crust?  Salty cheese?  The overall effect is that I am always so sad after the last bite, as it's generally a once a year meal for me.  There's a place in Philly called Mack's Jersey Shore pizza, but I promise you it's not the same.

Honorable mentions: Pizzeria Stella, Philadelphia.  Celebre's, Philadelphia. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tequila Old Fashioned

You may have noticed an absence of photos on Urban Grain.  My digital camera has been broken since New Year's--it's a long story--and I'm figuring we'll probably join the smartphone society when our upgrade comes around in the fall.  So for now, you'll have to be entertained by my smart and witty prose alone.

I made a new drink last night, the Tequila Old Fashioned.  I picked up some Bittermans Xocolati Mole Bitters at DiBruno Bros. in the Italian market the other day, and sought to put them to use.  They are made in Brooklyn.  They make all different flavors that look interesting, e.g. their Grapefruit bitters uses hops to ramp up the citrus flavor.  I've read a bunch of compicated recipes using mole bitters, but the natural match has got to be tequila, right?  Mole is Mexican, Tequila is Mexican, you get the point.  The recipe I found is pretty straighforward but you could experiment.  The bitters quotient may seem hight but the Bittermans comes with a nifty dropper that allows for maximum control, so 6 drops is probably more like 2-3 dashes of another brand.  It's a neat recipe in that it's a mirror of a traditional old fashioned, which uses rye, sugar, and bitters.

Tequila Old Fashioned
2 ounces reposado tequila
1/4 ounce agave syrup
6 drops mole bitters

You could garnish this in different ways, I used some cilantro.  But maybe a jalepeno pepper?  An orange slice?  Or maybe some cactus!  If you want to get real cute you could infuse the tequila with jalepeno for a spicier version.  I was pretty happy with this, I used slightly more than 1/4 ounce of the syrup, which made it too sweet.  If anything I would round down on the syrup, maybe even 1/8 of a ounce to be sure not to over-sweeten.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Summers Old vs. Old Weller Antique 107

I missed my chance to restock my Pappy Van Winkle 15, my all time favorite bourbon.  Apparently it comes out in the spring and fall, and maybe not at all this coming fall, as the stock used to make it was from an old distillery called Stitzel-Weller, and there is none left.  Buffalo Trace is making the recipe now for the Van Winkle family, but it may be a couple of years before another bottling of the 15.  I hunted for a "dusty" bottle of it in a bunch of local liquor stores, but could only find the 20 and 23 year Pappys, both being more than I want to spend.  So I figured I could cry over spilt milk or try some other bourbons from the Van Winkle line, which are available.  I picked up a bottled of the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year and one of Old Weller Antique 107.  These two bourbons are probably the same recipe, with the Weller being aged a few years less and the Van Winkle being selected by Julian Van Winkle himself.  Thus the difference in price: 20 bones for the Weller vs. close to 40 for the Van Winkle.  Theoretically the Van Winkle 10 should boast the same flavor profile as Pappy 15, which is also the same whisky, but do those extra 5 years make all the difference between mediocre and superb?  We'll get to that, but first the comparison.

The Weller was nice, nicer than I remember.  It's a wheated bourbon, so it has that soft, round mouthfeel that you get from Maker's, but at 107 proof, a bit more heat and bite, in a good way.  It poured an amber-brown color, the Van Winkle in the glass next to it looked quite red compared to it.  I'm not one for a ton of descriptors but the Weller had a nice mellow flavor, easy to sip but not so simple that you almost forget what you are drinking, as you do with some bourbons in this price range.  The finish on it was substantial, maybe a little longer than even the Van Winkle, which surprised me.  Overall, solid bourbon at a solid price.  Maybe not my favorite $20 bourbon, but a nice entry point to wheated bourbon.

Now, the Van Winkle 10.  Wow, from the nose to the first sip, this boasted of quite a bit more complexity and intrigue than the Weller, both of which come in at 107 proof.  The Van Winkle 10 tastes exactly like Pappy 15 to me, at first, but it's not quite as honeyed and rich.  Pappy has an almost syrup-like nature where this Van Winkle is a bit thin by comparison.  But it did indeed have the same flavor profile and many of the same characteristics, rich and fiery yet soft and round, sweet, lots of vanilla, some spice, and easy to sip at 107 proof.  On the whole I liked it quite a bit more than the Weller.  Is it worth twice the price?  Probably, but there was a part of me that wished with each sip that it would magically barrel age 5 years in front of me and the picture on the bottle would morph into Pappy with his big cigar.

Yes, the 5 years was a huge difference.  But, I think the 10 year is a great whisky in its own right, and well worth adding to your collection.  There's something to be said for availability, too.

I'll have to try the 12 year Van Winnkle Family Reserve next, but that comes in at 90 proof, so I worry that what you might gain from 2 years of age you lose a bit of by watering it down.  Only one way to find out.  It'll be my next bottle.