Thursday, December 08, 2005

Borscht, espresso, cigars, music, beer ... what am I missing?

Ingredients for a successful night spent indoors, looking out at the area's first snowfall of the winter, include ...

... a steaming cauldron of Russian-style borscht ...

... Italian espresso, and a machine to make it correctly ...

... and 27 of your closest friends.

To make the borscht, I used 3 beets, 2 potatoes, 2 onions, 3 carrots, 3 celery sticks, 2 cans of stewed tomatoes, most of a head of cabbage, dashes of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper, and a stock composed of 3 vegetarian bouillon cubes dissolved in 3 half-liter bottles of Spezial smoked lager.

It's simple; substitute beer for any liquid in a recipe, and invariably enjoy the results. Smoked beer is perfect for hearty stews, but different modes of matching are required depending on the dish. Accompanying the borscht was a crusty loaf of sourdough bread from Ermin's (Main Street, New Albany).

The espresso machine is fully automatic. We bought it from Tommie Mudd at Caffe Classico in Louisville; my friends Ed and Jon since have done the same.

Not pictured above are the cigars (Bolivar, La Gloria Cubana) I purchased today at Kaiser's Tobacco in New Albany, or the Shostakovich string quartets playing in the background as I write.

You may have guessed that all 27 "friends" weren't opened and consumed at the same time. In truth, I'd been saving empties that have been sampled since late September, rationalizing that I might write reviews of them, but this hasn't happened. A group photo seemed appropriate before they enter the recycling bin.

Favorites? Bell's Batch 7000, Great Divide's Hibernation and Oak Aged Yeti, Anchor's annual Christmas ale, Jolly Pumpkin's La Roja and Luciernaga ... well, perhaps it would be easier to list the ones I didn't like.

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Coming up this evening: Thiriez Amber, a French farmhouse ale.

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