Tag Archives: Food

Hop-a-Palooza

India Pale Ale (IPA)

Crafty brew-crafters long ago discovered that increasing a beer’s alcohol and hop content also considerably increased its shelf life. A useful discovery for Imperial Brits trying to concoct a brew stout enough to survive the long journey from England, around the Horn of Africa, to its subjects in India – all without the aid of refrigeration. More recently, Americans have discovered a seemingly insatiable taste for this highly hopped style now commonly referred to as India Pale Ale.

My first introduction to the beautifully bitter American IPAs came in the early 1990s via California brewer Sierra Nevada. For years their Pale Ale was not only my beer of choice but was also the only IPA I could find on east coast shelves – and then only in specialty shops and bars.

Soon, though, Sierra was everywhere and so too were IPA drinkers. About a decade after my Sierra conversion I got a taste of what was to come when I discovered Dogfish Head’s hoppier, and more expensive, 60 Minute IPA (first brewed in 2003). Shortly thereafter, all hops broke loose.

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Some like it Hot

While it’s not necessarily the best economic development, it is fantastic news for those of us who think the domestic palate needs radical de-sissification. For too long we’ve lived in a desert of blandness where food is prepared to coddle the most sensitive tongues. So I have to admit I was delighted to see hot sauce production rank as the 8th fastest growing U.S. industry in a recent IBIS World Special Report.

During our travels we’ve noticed the changes too. From the growing number of hot sauce bars, like Peppers of Key West, to spicy menu options that actually have some spice, our nation’s taste for heat is definitely on an upward trend.

That trend is easily explained by the glorious proliferation of ethnic cuisine making its way through the U.S. along with an expanding population of immigrants from spice loving regions. But what explains our taste for spicy food more generally?

Surprisingly, that question still confounds scientists. Spice isn’t a flavor like sweet or sour. It is pure pain, indistinguishable by the body from the kind caused by a physical burn.

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Is regional cuisine still relevant?

Salt Lick BBQ Pit, Texas

Ever since the dawn of the spice trade, the work of traveling merchants has helped homogenize world cuisine. Migrants, too, bring along traditional recipes and infuse their new homes with tastes from the old country. The effect is a wonderful variety of constantly improving food, but at the expense of regional and national distinctiveness. In America, where people move freely and trade aggressively, the forces of homogenization are stronger then we often realize.

When we set out on our Great American Road Trip, we expected to be wowed by “authentic” regional cuisine. We thought, for example, we’d find the best chicken and dumplings in the Deep South, and the best Mexican cuisine along the Mexican border and throughout the South West. When we rolled into Texas, we felt like we entered the home turf of America’s all-star barbeque team, and had expectations to match.

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The Great Cupcake Chase

Food has gone viral.

The surge in mobile bistros has given rise to the digitization of eateries. Sure, plenty of savvy restaurants have had a virtual presence for years, with slick websites promoting their fabulous fare. But when the kitchen has wheels, the entire establishment becomes virtual – here one moment and gone the next. Connecting with repeat customers isn’t as “simple” as providing great service and offering outstanding value; that’s a given. An even more basic neccessity is providing would-be patrons a way to find them.

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It’s Japanese to Me

Moto-I Minneapolis, MN

Moto-I's award winning Abura Ramen.

They had us at “sake brewery;” but discovering that Moto-I in uptown Minneapolis also specializes in Asian street food made it a completely irresistible stop for us.

Anyone who has followed our travels for any length of time knows we like our drink: beer, wine, scotch, bourbon – it’s all good. We enjoy sake, too, but haven’t really had it often enough to know much about it. What better place to learn, we figured, than at the first sake brewery and restaurant outside of Japan?

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