The Walking Dead “New Best Friends” – With Friends like These

…who needs Negan.

When we last left Rick and rescue team 6, they had just been bushwhacked (or is that junkwacked) by a new group. Are they new friends? New enemies? Or simply the people you courteously nod to when you pass on the street while you’re out scavenging for the Saviors?

Let’s find out as once again with another non-beer related post (maybe I’ll start to mention the beer I’m drinking while I’m watching to tie it all together) where I run down some random remarks about this week’s episode. As always my comments from this week’s Facebook live chat that inspire these thoughts are in bold. Spoilers.

Morgan wants his stick

Oh man, some douche took Morgan’s non-killing stick. There are rules, douche. Don’t tug on Superman’s cape, etc, etc. And Morgan said “please”.

Seriously, this renders our most prolific non-killer inactive until he gets his non-killing stick back so that he can return to his non-killing ways.

And he will, douche. One night when you least expect it, Morgan will come and not kill everyone between him and you and then not kill you and take his non-killing stick back, because Morgan will not say please again. You’ll be able to feel the non-death in the air.

In the meantime I guess Morgan will just have to sit around and not kill people. What a waste of a non-killer.

NAME!!!

Richard is trying not to let his dick plan go to shit but Daryl’s having none of it. The man with the crossbow asked you a question, Richard. I don’t think he’d have to ask me twice.

And it’s a pretty serious dick plan. Get the Saviors to discover Carol so they can kill her and piss off the guy who thinks he’s king? Holy crap, what kind of ass drain thinks of a plan like that? The kind of ass drain that deserves to have it all go to shit when he’s forced to spill the beans to one of only a handful of guys remaining in the world who would kill him on the spot for even thinking about such a dick plan.

I’d write that scene. Carol gets struck by lightning. Richard shits his pants.

After Daryl gets the name and puts all the pieces together he gives Richard (who we should now just be referring to as Dick) a rundown of things that better NOT happen to Carol, like rug burns, irritable bowel syndrome, even getting struck by lightning – or someone now referred to as Dick is going to get it.

I would totally do that last one just to see the looks exchanged between Dick and Daryl, “Sorry Dick, I said no lightning. Look at the flowers while I get my crossbow.” The comedy element would be hysterical and watching the fans melt down would be more entertaining than this episode was (not that I didn’t enjoy this episode, I just would enjoy watching that more).

A tad unlikely you say? Remember, we’re talking about the woman who walked out into a one lane, one way street and managed to get hit by one of probably only 20 cars that were still running in Atlanta and probably one of only 5 white paneled station wagons still running in Georgia. If anyone can stumble into the way of lightning, it’s Carol.

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We call it Thunderdome.

Yeah, we know there’s no dome here, but Thunderlandfill just didn’t have the right pop, you, know? Still, we have a woman leader with funny hair and combat sports for fun. No, no methane producing pigs or crashed 747s though. Hmmm, guess we’re not at all like Thunderdome.

Synchronized abduction is the new post-apocalyptic Olympic sport.

Did you see the Scavengers walk our gang into their garbage alley and then on command snap together quickly forming two almost perfect concentric circles around them! That’s some high level group capturing choreography right there, folks! It’s as if one of the surviving groups were made up entirely of the more goth inspired members of your local high school marching  band. Stay tuned for the half-time show.

What should we do with this new character? “Give her a Vulcan haircut!” Brillant! And ears!! “No not the ears. Let’s not get carried away.”

Man, I don’t know who Pollyanna McIntosh’s (who I’ve only seen in a horror movie entitled Let Us Prey alongside Davos from GoT) hair artist is but they either had an old, banged, Vulcan wig from any number of old Star Trek shows/movies laying around, or a serious Moe Howard fetish.

I realize that when a character’s life has been reduced to fighting dead people and gathering supplies for others, they may not have the time or motivation to get that slamming haircut that says, “I’m confident, sexy, and the leader of a group of people who live in a junkyard”, but seriously, you could plane wood with those bangs.

Does that one girl have a fucking bicycle pump?

When a scuffle breaks out among the groups I could swear that one lady was leading the charge with an old-time bicycle pump. And I don’t think it’s the non-killing kind of bicycle pump either. That bicycle pump looks like it’s seen some action. My heart aches for a show down between the girl with the killing bicycle pump and Morgan with his non-killing stick. Which could happen soon, because he’s getting that back, trust!

Celebrity death match!!! Rick strikes first with the ice cube tray!

When Rick squares off against Winslow, who is the ZAE (Zombie Apocalypse Event) version of Chopper, the junkyard dog from Stand By Me, (if Chopper were a zombie encased in metal and covered with sharp spikes) it’s in an area that is totally surround by high walls of garbage. The only weapons Rick has are his wits and whatever the Fergusons threw out before the world ended.

It was a kill or be killed moment, so Rick grabbed the first thing that he could, which looked like a large plastic ice cube tray. It shattered pretty easily, so I don’t think it was, but it definitely wasn’t a good first pick from the wall of weapons. But it was a pretty funny moment and staggered this reality’s version of the Tin Man enough for Rick to set up his killer Dim Mak Death Palm, with less than stellar results…

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Your Death Palm Gung Fu is no match for my headdress.

Here we go again folks. I can hear the “this is where Rick finally loses his hand” people now.

I love how this show sometimes dicks with the people who read the comics. Case in point, we all know what happened to Glenn in the TV show, which was the same thing that happened in the comics. And the show twisted that knife several times by having Glenn and a baseball bat intersect several times during the show.

Same can be said with Rick’s hand. Rick gets his hand cut off in the comics and the show has also teased about playing that card several times. This possible time arises when Rick decides to use his Dim Mak Death Palm against Winslow only to be foiled by Winslow’s Metallic Spikes of the Dead.

But eventually Rick gets the upper hand (really, it is upper because it’s stuck on Winslow’s forehead for a bit) and it’s just a matter of pulling a bunch of garbage down on top of the old boy and then dispatching him after some first class coaching from Michonne. Good game guys! Way to play defense!

Drive me home, baby. I’m drunk. Or bleeding out. I can’t tell.

Rick is kind of loopy after his cage match, which is understandable because the dude is losing blood from his hand at about a 0.6 on the Muta scale. Seriously, if you or I had this wound in the real world, we’d have three towels wrapped around it while yelling at the person next to us to drive faster.

But not Rick, he’s a man’s man and even though he’s dropping puddles on the floor like Ric Flair, he still takes the time to have an emotional man-to-man with his priest and go shopping for his girlfriend (more on that below).

The King’s Cobbler, still a better story than The Rock in The Road

Well, it’s taken a ZAE and the loss of her abusive husband, but Carol is final experiencing what it’s like to be one of the pretty girls. She just wants to be left alone, but all the guys keep coming to her house and asking her to the dance.

Here’s a tip for you guys, if you ever have to start a conversation with, “I know you said you just wanted to be left alone…”, then maybe you should reevaluate your decision making process.

But luckily, the man who thinks he’s king has come bearing his majesty’s peach cobbler, which is either simply all the king’s bakers know how to make or the official coin of the realm now. I don’t know which.

I saw that metal cat and I just had to have it! It’s so you! I know, right!

“Victory!! Well, not really. Uneasy understanding!! That’s more like it. So, we got grabbed by this group, I got forced to fight a walker encased in armor and spikes, forged a very, very shaky alliance once I proved my worth and just for the hell of it, I’m taking this metal cat for my girlfriend. Like, I’m not even going to ask. And fuck if it belongs to anyone in this marching band trained, American Pickers group, because I’ve lost half my blood and all I can think of right now is how much I just heart my girl. Whoa! Soooo much blood loss.”

What a missed op, Daryl. If you’d have told Carol the truth she’d have been all, “Really, hold my beer.”

Some people on my FB group disagree with me on this, saying that Carol is broken, needs to find herself, work through her issues, blah, blah. Look no doubt, but here’s the thing, unless the writers deviate from cliche character writing 101, you know it’s going to happen sometime, so my thought is let’s just get on with it.

Carol finding out who Negan killed may be the kick in that ass she needs, because you know, we don’t need mopey, contemplative Carol. No, we need the Carol who goes all John Wick on large groups of evil doers and can blow up a propane tank from 200ft away with a bottle rocket, which was about a 6.5 on the WVIS (white van impossibility scale) but that’s how bad ass Carol is. She could probably even turn Morgan’s non-killing stick into a killing stick. That’s some Baba Yaga level power right there!

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“People keep asking if I’m back. And I haven’t really had an answer. But now, yeah, I’m thinkin’ I’m back!”

I ship Daryl and Shiva

Nothing makes me smile more than when a guy and a CGI tiger bond. It’s so heartwarming. Nothing fake about it what so ever. Well, except the tiger.

The Talking Dead were commenting on how funny it would have been to see Shiva pull Daryl through the bars and kill him, BUT NOT SO FAST BOYS! Save that one for later, because Daryl has to be alive to make my Carol getting struck by lightning scene work.

Tell you what, let’s woodshed in the writer’s room and get this all worked out. Lots to do. Plus we have to figure out how Morgan is going to get his non-killing stick back in the most dramatic and violent non-killing way. We may need to get some coffee in here. Looks to be a long night…

…which means I’m outta here! Was this one more shitty than last week’s post? Let me know in the comments and I guarantee it will have no baring on how shitty next week’s is.

The Walking Dead “Rock in the Road” – Well We’re Walking.

…..and walking.

The Walking Dead continues to be one of my favorite shows on TV and I look forward to it every week. That doesn’t mean that the show sometimes makes me scratch my head, or just confuse me outright.

I watch the show while at the same time participating in “Live Chat” on a WD Facebook page with like minded people. We watch the show while at the same time making inspiring comments about it, some are deep value adding comments on the technical issues of the show while some are just stupid. Think MST3K. But without the talent. Or the budget.

I wrote a buddy who I used to work with when the show went on mid-season break, but moved to another job not long after. He wanted to know what I thought, and after tossing together some musings on the show based on some of the chat comments I made I thought, why not rewrite it and post it.

I’m always wishing to expand the posts on this blog from just beer related stuff and so here we are. You wonderful people, are the benefactors of this whim. I won’t be posting it on my blog’s FB page as I think I should keep that all beer related, so only you fine people who follow through WordPress or get my blog through email get to see this. Yeah, you!! Happy Valentines day!

The comments in BOLD are what I wrote during live chat, the normal text underneath as context to the comment. OH – and spoilers.

“Do happy tears count?”

This was in response to someone who asked if anyone would cry if Father Gabriel died after raiding  (loudly, I mean isn’t anyone on guard) the pantry and driving off in a car. I’ll admit there really wasn’t an out pouring of support from the group for the man, but a tear is a tear, right? But I was told the tears had to be in sadness. Sorry, no can do. I mean, for Jerry who is the new bitchin’ character on this show, yes. Father Gabriel, no.

As for Father Gabriel? He’s dead now because we’ve all seen enough horror movies to know that the person who sat up in the car as he drove away was probably some deranged killer and we all know what happens next.

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I know what you did – 5 minutes ago in the pantry.

“Yeah, a boat, looks like the Minnow…just sit right back”

There’s now a picture of a shipwrecked boat in the opening credits montage – because why not? I guess Oceanside is going to be such a big part of this story this year, that they get their own nod in the credits. I mean, it doesn’t look like that boat from that other show that now doesn’t have a boat, but used have a boat – so I think we’re safe.

“googly eye…no s”

Someone in our group accused Coral of giving Enid googly eyes. I had to correct them. But damn that kid was working his eye patch on her. I think she digs the patch.

“Coral is your second gunman?? The one-eyed kid?”

Really? After Rick states that the group only has two guns we find out that Coral is holding the second one. WTF? The one-eyed kid who has a disturbing habit of siting his guns with the non one-eye?

Negan stated in the previous episode that the kid, “mowed down several of my men with a machine gun”, but I don’t think he should get gun privileges for that since that wasn’t his goal going into the whole situation! His objective was to kill Negan, who he missed in spectacular stormtrooper fashion.

Besides, we’ve already established that most of the women in the group are better shots than him even back when he could make googly eyes. No, give the gun to Sasha and let Coral put his patch to less dangerous uses, like flirting with Enid.

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What could go wrong?

“Pot plants! Pot plants as far as the eye can see”

Come on. Guy thinks he’s king, has dreads (that’s racist) and has a CGI tiger which everyone in the kingdom acts as if it is real (come on guys, we know it’s the emperor’s new tiger). Guys run around in catcher’s chest protectors and think they look cool? And Jerry? Well Jerry is just too happy for a guy who is one mistake away from a Roy Horn type CGI tiger attach. You know they’re smoking something. Those tomato plants are hiding something.

“I’d like to see Ezekiel say, “what the fuck was that story about!!?!?””

The story about the dick king who put a stone in the middle of the road which basically crippled his people. The one who put a bag of gold under it because the person who decided to move the stone should be rewarded. That story. WTF? What was the point?

Oh, and not fair that the little girl in the story lost her family’s beer. That’s boss level dickdom right there! What kind of mother tells this story? But then again, Ezekiel uses Martin Luther King speeches as bedtime stories so I guess that’s just the way the world is in this show.

“OH, and hey Morgan, who did Negan kill? How about the two A list characters that aren’t in the room right now.”

Funniest question of the night was when Morgan asks who Negan killed. Who is not there that you’d care about, Morgan? Carol? No, you know where Carol is. Aaron’s husband? No, no one cares about him. In fact, most viewers were probably like me and totally forgot that Aaron was married because the show doesn’t even care to show much of the relationship because even they know it’s boring. The goat from your award-winning standalone episode? Ask the CGI tiger.

Oh, and I love Rosita throwing shade at Morgan, “think you were right, now?” after telling him who is dead. Ah, he was. He told you not to attack the Saviors. If you’d have listened to him Mother Dick and Pizza Boy would still be alive. But Rosita is bringing the Latino heat tonight (more on that in a moment) so I guess she’s not going to let the facts get in the way of a good burn.

“OK guys what do we want to do for this episode? “Group walking. Lots of group walking.””

Really, this episode puts the ‘Walking’ in The Walking Dead. Cue up the Proclaimer’s “500 miles” at the beginning of the credits and I’m sure it syncs up perfectly with the rest of the show. The group seems to spend 1/3 of the TV time walking in loose group formation. It’s like the scene in Deadpool at the end when they’re epic walking toward the bad guys to DMX. Except none of our group are chrome, has a Sinead O’Conner haircut, regenerates axed limbs or knows DMX. Gripping TV.

“Damn Rosita……”

I always thought fucking the same dead guy automatically made you friends, or at least pinky buddies. I mean, who else are you going to commiserate with at the funeral? Well not in Rosita’s world. The funny thing is just the episode before when the group all re-united, the sisters in blood gave each other a “we cool” nod and I thought Rosita nodded first. Oh well, just goes to show you Rosita don’t give a damn if you’ve fucked the same dead guy – which I’m hoping will become the new running gag for the show where all the women take turns pegging Rosita’s men – and then the men die.

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“This is Negan on 94.7 FM on your radio dial bringing [you] all of the post zombie apocalypse hits”

The team gets a walkie-talkie (courtesy of Jesus because, plot!) to listen in on Negan’s men and we find out that Negan doesn’t really want to be a spaghetti cooking mean girl, husband to 100 women, or ruler of the world. No, all he wants is to be an FM radio disc jockey!  Really, Negan’s over the airwaves eulogizing of Fat Joey was funny as shit, not to mention very important information for his men, because you know, now that fat Joey is dead, thin Joey has been promoted to just Joey. You wouldn’t want to make that mistake at the next spaghetti night.

“that was COOL AS FUCK!!”

As totally impractical and impossible as it was, that Slice Capade (credit to the fine folks at Talking Dead for the name) scene was dope as hell. Just when you think you’ve run out of ways to kill a herd of zombies in one glorious CGI blood bath, Scott Gimble and his gang says, “hold our beer” and we get a presentation of zombie purging that just makes you laugh out loud (as opposed to LOL which is an entirely different thing) plus the most impressive demonstration of cable related carnage since Ghost Ship.

Yeah, it was about an 8.5 on the white van impossibility scale, but it still was an awesome visual and a gratuitous reason to toss zombie guts all over the camera.

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“He went to find Jesus…doesn’t know he’s one town over”

Where did Father Gabriel go? That question was asked many times throughout the night. I suggested he left to find Jesus. The thing is that in this world finding Jesus is easier than you’d think. He’s usually in the next town over distributing communication equipment. Oh, he goes by Paul now because this time around Jesus is way more down to earth.

“HE SMILED!!!!! HOLY CRAP THE GUY SMILED!!”

When they were in the car after the Slice Capade, Michonne asked Rick to smile but he didn’t. I commented that he couldn’t smile, and then in the last shot, he did. What did he see? Or was it who?

The show’s producers say it was because Rick realizes he’s found his army, but I think he was just happy with all the women because it gives him more dating options because you know Michonne has lived well past the “Rick Grimes love interest” shelf life that this show has established.

And there you have it. Just some random stupid thoughts about a show that just seems to ask for them. Not sure if this will become a weekly thing or not, but you never know. If you liked it, subscribe to find out. If you thought it was shit let me know in the comments. I won’t promise that it will make the next one less shitty, but I will promise that you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you made no impact on its quality what so ever.

If nothing else, I’ll probably be doing a review of Iron Fist when it drops in March, which won’t be the first time I’ve written about the Netflix Marvel universe.

Cheers!

Label Art: Awesome Artwork from The Brimming Horn Meadery

We’ve been looking forward to the opening of The Brimming Horn Meadery for some time and it looks like Jon Talkington and Robert Walker’s dream will be opening sometime late February/Early March.

In the meantime, here’s some awesome artwork from them to show you what you can expect to becoming coming out of Milton, DE, very soon.

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Dogfish Head Gives Me Permission to Drink Beer For Breakfast

Although I’m not sure I need it…..

Whether by design or by happenstance, Dogfish Head has been helping me out greatly as of late with a couple of beer releases that apparently have been made specifically to accompany certain everyday activities.

It started with Beer to Listen to Music To, a nice little Belgian Triple that as the name would seem to indicate should pair well with my music listening habits.

But recently DFH took a big leap in the enabling of a more questionable habit by offering up their latest libation in the manner of their stout styled Beer For Breakfast.

Now I don’t have any reprobation about sipping suds at sunrise, after all, I’ve participated in some recreational activities that almost demand you drink a beer regardless of what time it is. You all night BBQers and homebrewers know what I mean, right? That’s right. Get it up there!

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Nobody? Troglodytes.

But unfortunately there was once a time when my forenoon festivities were not the occasional hobby related indulgence, no sadly I’m talking some “8:30am is the new happy hour” level stuff here. Not to say that my experience is unusual. I’m sure many of you out their have similar stories.

Quickly put, I spent a lot of my early work years in north New Jersey working straight shifts that ran from 11pm to 8am, which meant that many of my (and my fellow employee’s) “Friday nights” often started at 8:20 in the morning at the nearest bar that would cash our paycheck and more often than not, ended when the 11am lunch crowd started to file in with a look of both loathing and disgust on their faces as they realized we’d already been drinking there all morning.

Nothing harshes your Long Island Ice Tea induced breakfast buzz like people who have been working all morning taking seats at the bar while loudly nattering about how Steve once again conveniently forgot that it was his turn to bring in the Friday doughnuts.

Nothing harshes your Long Island Ice Tea induced breakfast buzz like people who have been working all morning taking seats at the bar while loudly nattering about how Steve once again conveniently forgot that it was his turn to bring in the Friday doughnuts. So my morning would usually end with me yelling, “You’re an assistant manager, Steve! Spring for some freaking Krispy Kremes once in awhile you cheap bastard!” as the bar’s manager roughly tried to pry my hands off the door jam as I resisted being tossed out into the sunlight like a vampire in a John Carpenter horror movie.

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But I still have money on the bar!!!

But I’m older, wiser (don’t laugh) and my job is now a normal 9-5 gig that contains none of the benefits and almost all of the occupational and social stigma from starting to pop tops when you roll out of bed to the annoying buzz of a 7am alarm clock.

But now here comes DFH with Beer For Breakfast, a stout whose ingredients are so Mrs Butterworth meets Juan Valdez it’s as if the brewer is handing me a plate at the beginning of a Golden Corral breakfast buffet line while reassuring me that nothing bad has ever come from drinking 7.4%ABV beers first thing in the morning. I have experience that says otherwise.

Let’s taste.

This is a coffee stout. Through and through. From the aroma, to the flavor, to the intense blackness in the glass as if like you’re looking into Darth Vadar’s soul.

THEM: From the website, “A stout tricked out with all sorts of breakfast ingredients including Guatemalan Antigua cold press coffee, Maple syrup harvested from Western Massachusetts and for the quintessential Delaware breakfast touch – Rapa Scrapple and their secret blend of spices. 

2-row Applewood smoked barley, Kiln Coffee malt, Flaked oats, Roasted barley, Caramel malt along with additions of Molasses, Milk Sugars (lactose), Brown Sugar, Roasted Chicory lay the foundation for this malty, breakfast-themed concoction. Enjoy huge notes of coffee in the nose and savory layers in the flavor.

Beer for Breakfast clocks in at 7.4%ABV and 30IBU.


THE BUZZ:
Beer Advocate 89%, Untappd 3.88, Rate Beer 97%

AVAILABILITY: Readily available in DE.

ME: Before we address the 800 pound post-processed porcine product in the room let’s get to the heart of this beer and the reason I underlined “coffee” and “chicory” in the above description.

This is a coffee stout. Through and through. From the aroma, to the flavor, to the intense blackness in the glass as if like you’re looking into Darth Vadar’s soul. The sugars play nicely together, with hints of maple syrup and brown sugar popping out in the aroma and flavor every now while supplying  a velvety mouth feel and sweetness for all that roast flavor to play out on, but Beer For Breakfast never strays to far from its roots, from the the first sniff to the sticky iced coffee after taste.

But let’s prattle the pork….the scrapple!  I’ve read a few reviews/comments that say they don’t taste any of the scrapple in the beer. On the one hand, that’s a relief because on the package a Rapa scrapple I opened the other day (by the way, all the women of the Kerper clan from my mom to my great-grandmother salute DFH’s use of Rapa – that’s the stuff right there) listed pork snouts as the third ingredient. Not sure I want to taste that in my beer.

But on the other hand it’s not just the meat that makes scrapple, it’s the blend of spices as well and after about half a glass I could almost convince myself that I was getting some woodsy spices out of the nose, plus a slight warmth like a pepper in the after taste.

If you’re a beer hunter and a DFH fan, you’ve probably already tried this. If you are and you haven’t – there’s nothing here to make me discourage you from giving it a shot, just as long as you remember that the key word here is coffee. As for the casual fan or everyday drinking? Well, at a $15 a six price point I don’t think I’ll be buying too much of it. Your dollars may vary. Having said that, I applaud DFH for at least not dropping it down to a 4-pack. Because in 2017 just like 2016, 4-packs are devil witchery.

Time for another beer.

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THE FINAL SIP: Get it while you can! DFH’s Beer for Breakfast is currently not on their 2017 beer release schedule being replaced by Post Boil IPA as the winter seasonal. Post Boil is described by the brewery as an IPA with no kettle hops added as the beer will get all its hop characteristics from a huge addition to the whirlpool.

English Christmas Pudding – Recipe Update

Two years ago I posted a recipe I found online for the traditional English Christmas pudding that takes center stage at the Cratchet family holiday dinner in the classic tale “A Christmas Carol”.

I’ve now made it several times (my Daughter says it’s her favorite part of Christmas – I’m thinking she means the non-gift part) and as I tend to do with most recipes, I’ve altered it over that course in both ingredients and procedure.

Some changes are simply due to ingredient available and my tastes, while others are simply due to modern conveniences and my laziness.

Also, having pulled that post up to follow the recipe, I realized I didn’t do a very good job in organizing it in a manner that lays it out well for someone who wants to read it off the computer – like me, because printers hate me. Really.

So, with that said, here is my updated recipe for my traditional English Christmas pudding. I know what you’re thinking, “Ah Dog, Christmas is like 363 days away. You trippin’?” No, I’m not tripping!! I want to post this now while it’s fresh in my mind and besides, stop being a slave to your Wacky Weeds Farm calendar (Yeah dude, I see it right there over your shoulder). This pudding is delicious any time of the year.

The Notes:

The recipe and procedure are pretty easy. If you’re even a moderate kitchen troll you should be able to pull this off. I’ve broken the recipe down into sections with the ingredients listed twice, once in an organized shopping list, and then in the actual procedure as they come into play.

The pudding can be done in one day or over several days. I recommend letting the fruit soak overnight, but in a pinch several hours will do. The pudding can be assembled and cooked the next day, or if desired assembled and kept in the fridge for a few days to be cooked later – but don’t forget that it contains raw eggs, so use your judgement.

Traditionally the mixed spice is an English mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. You can substitute pumpkin spice if you wish, or just make your own with whatever strikes your fancy (I love a touch of ginger).

On the day you wish to cook, scroll down to the SAUNA section to see how to set up your bain-maries (fancy French word alert!). In order to get the water level correct you should do this before you start to cook your puddings.

The Shopping List, In My Acme Layout Order (L to R) (Patent Pending):

1 orange (juice and zest)
3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped)

5.3oz (150g) chopped dates
5.3oz (150g) chopped prunes
5.3oz (150g) raisins
5.3oz (150g) chopped apricots
5.3oz (150g) chopped cranberries

2.6oz (75g) chopped toasted pecans
1.8oz (50g) blanched almonds, flaked (slivered almonds work)
1.8oz (50g) chopped walnuts

4 slices crustless white bread (crumbed or chopped fine)

1tbsp mixed spice
6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch)
2.6oz (75g) self-rising flour (you can find self-rising flour in any supermarket)

3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)
6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)

The Fun Shopping List:

3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best)
3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier, or Drillaud.
Brandy

The Hardware:

some string
foil
two pudding basins (use what you can find that will work. Circular is best, but mine aren’t)
two large pans with lids (to make bain-maries)

AND NOW LETS DO THIS:

The Night Before, The Soak:

3 baby carrots (cut into thin strips and then chopped)
5.3oz (150g) chopped dried dates
5.3oz (150g) chopped dried prunes
5.3oz (150g) raisins
5.3oz (150g) chopped dried apricots
5.3oz (150g) chopped cranberries
Juice from one orange
3.4oz (100ml) Guinness (a four pack of cans works best)
3.4oz (100ml) Grand Marnier

First, drink two of the cans of Guinness to insure freshness. If the Grand Marnier has been sitting around for a while or looks suspicious, then taste test some of that as well.

Don’t bother with that “chopped” nonsense if you’re able. Simply stick all the fruit and the carrots in your food processor and pulse until it’s well chopped and mixed. I though the dried fruit might be a little too rubbery to chop in the processor, but my processor had no problem.

Empty the chopped fruit into a bowl and add the OJ, Guinness and Grand Marnier and stir until very well to combine. Let the mixture sit for at least one hour. Longer is better. Overnight is killer.

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The Next Day, The Prep: This All Happens in a Single Large Bowl

The zest of 1 orange
6.2oz (175g) dark muscovado sugar (you can usually find this in specialty food stores. Use dark brown sugar in a pinch)
6.2oz (175g) warm butter (easier to work with when warm)

In a large bowl, combine the orange zest, sugar, and butter. Mix well to combine.

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3 eggs (beaten, or not. See below)

Either beat three eggs with the technique of your choice and add them to the bowl, or just add three eggs to the bowl and beat the whole mixture until it’s smooth like Barry White.

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2.6oz (75g) self-rising flour
1tbsp mixed spice
4 slices crustless white bread (crumbed or chopped fine)
1.8oz (50g) blanched almonds, flaked (slivered almonds work)
2.6oz (75g) chopped toasted pecans
1.8oz (50g) chopped walnuts

Sift the flour and mixed spice into the bowl. If you don’t have a flour sifter, then mix them together the best you can with whatever you have available. Add the bread crumbs and nuts (again, forgo the hand chopping and use a food processor if you have one). Stir until they behave.

Add the fruit from the night before into the bowl and mix together.

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Split the mixture into two well greased pudding basins. Cover with foil and use the string to tie them securely. This year I didn’t have string, so I used cable ties…don’t judge…

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The Sauna:

Set up the bain-maries by putting each of your pudding basins into each of the large pans (or if you have a pan big enough, both into one). Fill the pans with water until the level of the water reaches about 3/4 of the way up the basin. Remove the basins.

Bring the water in the bain-maries to a strong simmer. The water should put off a lot of steam, but it shouldn’t be a rolling boil. Once the water is to temperature, lower one of the filled pudding basins into each bain-maries and cover.

The Cook:

Let the puddings steam for 6 hours, checking the water level in the bain-maries often, and adding more water if needed to keep the level constant – I’ve never had to.

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Once done, carefully remove the basins. The puddings can be immediately turned out and served, or left to cool in the basins and refrigerated for later.

To serve, turn out onto a platter, pour the brandy on top of the pudding (I poke a small dent in the middle of the top of pudding to create a well) and light (My lawyers instruct me that I must tell you to be careful with this step. We are not responsible for tabletops, eyebrows or long-haired pets). Owww and Ahhh until the flame goes out. Slice and serve. If serving hot I suggest serving with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream and a snifter of something good, like scotch or hey, brandy.

PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Pearson's Flickr
PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Pearson’s Flickr account

Now go make merry like the Cratchets!

How Would YOU Like To Be My Favorite Liquor Store?

No, see this isn’t some beer geek pipe dream….

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Over the last couple months as I have traveled my normal routes in life it has become apparent to me that while I frequent quite a few different liquor stores, no one store fits all my needs. It’s not that these stores are bad in anyway, it’s just that each one seems to be missing that one or two items that another store has that makes me stand in front of the cooler or counter and go, “awwww, you don’t have….”.

So, with that in mind I’ve been musing about what items or attributes a liquor store would have to have to be my all-time one-stop favorite liquor store.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Ed, you work 5-minutes from State Line! Surely no liquor store could ever top that!”

Well, yes and no. I mean, it is the store that I grab a shopping cart even if I’m just there to ‘pick up a few things’, spend the most time in (it’s easy to lose track of time in that place), and spend the most money. But even with its vast mind numbing selection, State Line is still missing a few things (unimportant to the rest of the beer buying world but hey, this is my list) that keeps it from being my absolute perfect liquor store.

No, see this isn’t some beer geek pipe dream along the lines of, “my favorite liquor store would sell growlers and Pliney the Younger, Hill Farmstead, Heady Topper, Wicked Weed and Westie 12 would always be on tap, and the coolers would be filled with Trillium –Trillium as far as the eye can see!”

No these are things that liquor stores in my area do actually carry but no one store has all of them but I wish one liquor store in my feeding pattern did.  So, do you want to be my favorite liquor store? Here’s what you need:

LOCAL BEERS – A killer selection of local beer is a must, Mispillion, 2SP, Blue Earl on the shelves, Bellefonte, Dew Point, Big Oyster on the growler station, and 3rd Wave on either. No room because of those two rows of Dogfish Head? Well, I guess that’s just the way it is. No room because of that row and a half of 16 Mile? Yeah, we’ll talk.

ARROGANT BASTARD – And I’m not talking about your counter guy who when I asked, “Hey, do you have Mispillion’s Holy Crap?”, responded with, “WHY? Who said that we did?” I’m talking about the beer. You know, my favorite beer? The one which comes in 6-packs of 16oz cans at a price point of about $2 a can? Please? OK, I’ll take the bombers if that’s all you can get. I’m easy. But seriously, you need this beer.

STEEL RESERVE 211 (Black can, seriously, not the silver one) – Sometimes all a dog wants is a beer to sip on while he’s making dinner, and not something that overpowers the already complex process of slapping together Hamburger Helper. This beer fits the bill – crisp, tolerable in flavor, and just the right ABV kick to dust off any acquired crappiness from the work day. Besides, I think occasionally going into a liquor store and buying one or two beers with nothing more than the change I could scrape out of my truck’s cup holder is great practice in case my company decides next year to pack everything up and move west without me. Any breweries out there in need of Media/Communications Manager whose only education/experience is writing a crappy blog and posting fuzzy pictures on Instagram? No? OK, just curious.

ANDRE BRUT CHAMPAGNE – Sunday mornings were made for champagne. I can’t state it any more truthfully than that, and Andre Brut is my go to. But listen, I know you’ll be tempted to, but don’t try to win any points here by up grading to a more expensive bottle. Andre is cheap and serviceable, which unless you’re having company or celebrating something, is all a peaceful Sunday morning requires. Just make sure it’s Brut, because daddy likes his champagne dry. Oh, and feel free to get rid of those 2 cases of Cold Duck if you need to make room because we both know that no one under 65 drinks that stuff.

PEANUTS – Sometimes I like to nibble on something on the drive home, and those little packs of Planter’s peanuts are the best thing going. Smooth, salty and tasty.  Should there be a joke here? If feel like there should be a joke here.

This is also a major convenience for those rare occasions when a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum mysteriously falls into one of my bags. I’m not sure how this happens to me. Let me know if it’s ever happened to you.

1 LITER DIET COKES – Sometimes I like to nibble on something on the drive home, and those little packs of Planter’s peanuts are the best thing going. Smooth, salty and tasty.  But with or without a joke, the salt will eventually hit and I’ll need something to drink. Since Delaware frowns on me popping open one of my Steel Reserve 211’s on the ride home, a shot of Coke always does the trick. Diet, please. Caffeine free if you can. This is also a major convenience for those rare occasions when a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum mysteriously falls into one of my bags. I’m not sure how this happens to me. Let me know if it’s ever happened to you.

DOG TREATS – A lot of people say that dogs are dumb, but I refuse to believe that. Instead, I simply believe that they’re just picky about the things that are important to them (they’re kind of like nerds in that regard). It’s not that his lack of intelligence or thumbs makes it impossible for him to grasp the fundamental function of a torque wrench and therefore renders him useless in helping you change the head gasket in your truck – it’s just not important to him. But figuring out that when you walk into the house with one of those little black bags from the liquor store there is sometimes a dog treat in it, that’s important to him, and he’ll pick that shit up quicker than a dropped slice of bacon. Some liquor stores sell dog biscuits at the counter, and you should too. I recommend you carry biscuits from Baxter’s American Dog Bone Company. Buddy loves them, they’re 100% organic, and family made right up the road in West Chester PA.

AMERICAN SPIRIT YELLOW PACK – This one isn’t for me, heck it’s not even REALLY a requirement. This is Tracey’s smoke of choice and on rare occasions when she asks me as I’m walking out the door to pick her up a pack, it would be nice if I could buy them at the place I’m most likely going to rather than having to make a second stop. Granted, sometimes that second stop is only the grueling 35 foot walk to the Walgreens next to the liquor store, but it feels a lot farther when you’re muling two bags of booze. Plus, sometimes the wild dogs that run in packs around our town try to steal Buddy’s treat. And let’s not mention the hordes of Girl Scouts that sometimes block the doors while demanding in a Negan-like manner that you buy their cookies.  Yeah, it’s pretty apocalyptic over here.

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“Well, well, well. Now YOU didn’t REALLY think that you were going to buy only TWO boxes of Tagalongs(R) and then just walk away, did you?

Is that it? Well, I think anything else would pretty much be covered under the banner “liquor store”, you know, ice, wine, port, the basic stock items. I would like to ban lottery machines and sports betting from my favorite liquor store, because those people hold up the line and are evil, but that probably would make me a dick, and as you all know, Tracey says I can’t be a dick anymore.

So yeah, that’s it. Short, easy list. And if you can pull it off, then YOU can be my favorite liquor store.

Beer Fiction – Black Cat

Why do cats sit for hours and stare at the thresholds of one room into another? Perhaps it’s due to an old promise.

[Author’s Note – if Oliver Gray didn’t invent Beer Fiction he certainly embraced and championed it. Struck by the torrents of same-old-same-old beer reviews out there, Oliver would often offer a different perspective –  he would open a beer and write a story based off of it. Sometimes the story was just a play off of the title, but a lot of times he tried to capture his experience of the beer (did he like it, hate it) within his words, and as a writer he always seemed to succeed. Check out his story from his experiences with a certain Dogfish Head beer that I was fortunate enough for him to have written for a guest post on my blog.

I’ve tried on occasion, but haven’t done anything along these lines in awhile, but this one spoke to me pretty strongly and since it is the Halloween season, I thought it seemed very appropriate.]

 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The man walked out of the kitchen and through the dining room. The cat, always alert, was already aware of his approach from the vibrations softly reverberating out through the wooden floor beneath him.

As the man crossed the threshold between the dining room and the hallway he spoke out loud to the cat before turning down the hall. The cat, requiring nothing from the man at the moment did what most cats do –  heeded him no mind but instead remained focused on the passageway the man had just transverse.

The hallway was now quiet and dark except for a small streak of light and the sounds of running water, and the cat thought that soon he would be able to rest for the night after all the dwellers of the house retired to their beds.

But just as the cat began to close his eyes he caught sight of something. It was the faintest of movements that would have been imperceptible to most anything else, a dark shape that had begun to appear in the threshold between the dining room and the hallway where the man had just walked through.

The cat froze and stilled its breath as the mist swayed from side to side as if curiously surveying its surrounds. Its movements were both convulsive and fluid all at once as some of parts of the mist slowly drifted from its main body like dew fog creeping through the grass on a chilled morning, while others swirled and eddied much like the smoke from the man’s pipe.

The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.

Finally, as if satisfied by the situation, the mist continued to flow from the opening between the two rooms until it was fully formed in the hallway. The cat watched patiently as the mist coalesced in front of it, some areas appearing nearly transparent through its vapor, while other parts were as dark as the blackest night the cat could remember.

The mist hung motionless for a few seconds and then, as if startled to find it was not alone, began contracting in on itself as its motions became almost like vibrations of a guitar string.

“Welcome traveler! Have you journeyed far this evening?” the cat greeted the mist in a language long since forgotten by all but those who had promised to keep watch.

The mist responded quickly to the cat’s introduction by pulling back several inches, its undulations now less rhythmic as they became more erratic and frenzied.

“Be calm, be calm,” the cat continued, attempting to sound as reassuring as possible. “I only wish to talk.”

The mist continued its frantic convulsions for a bit and then seemed to relax, allowing itself to expand and drift slightly towards the cat’s position.

“Ah, but I see you are young gentle traveler and no doubt weary from your trip. Therefore, I will be a generous host and bid you rest a bit. But once rested, I’m afraid that I must ask you to continue on your travels elsewhere or better still return to your own home.”

The mist floated motionless for a few seconds and then started to slowly drift down the hallway only to stop when the cat quickly sprang to its feet.

“I have shown you more graciousness than is normal for my kind or my post, young one. Surely you would not be so insulting as to return that graciousness by disrespecting my wishes?”

The mist halted its movement quickly, its undulations suddenly becoming more steadied and forceful.

“Stay? No young traveler. That I cannot let you do. You will take my offer to return home, which sadly I most now say is no longer a request.”

Just as the cat finished his sentence the mist began to swirl, violently folding in on itself, all hints of transparency gone while at the same time slowly growing in size until it was slightly larger than the cat itself.

The cat backed up one step not in fear, but to better position himself to drop into a crouch, his ears dropping back against his head which caused his eyes to pull back into slits. “That would be unwise of you little one. For although I too am little, the blood of the first cat flows through me. My claws are shape, and my spirit is bolstered by all the cats that have come before me and I have NOT forgotten my duty.”

The mist froze motionless almost as if startled by the cat’s words. After a few tense seconds the mist’s swirling began anew, but this time almost in reverse as it began to recede back into itself. Once back to its original size the mist pulsed from side to side slightly as if unsure of what to do next.

The cat turned its head slightly in puzzlement at the mist’s motions. “Duty? You ask of my duty? Do they not tell you the stories anymore where you come from? Do they let their young ones travel in ignorance?”

And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.

The mist just hung there, slightly hovering inches off the floor as if it did not have an answer for the cat.

“Ah, such as it is here I’m afraid,” the cat raised its long body back up in a stretch before sitting itself down on the floor. “Then I guess it is up to me, young one.”

And the cat told the traveler a story, a story as old as time, once known by many, now only remembered by few. A story that starts when the world was ruled by animals and the most feared among them were the great cats.

That is until one day another animal, who would later be called man, rose up from the rest with their ability to fashion tools and harness fire. While many of the animals thought that one day they would rule supreme, it was man, who proved the most resourceful and before long began to hold dominion over the world.

But as man grew more powerful and spread throughout the lands they encounted great dangers. Not just the normal dangers brought from everyday living, but other dangers, dangers that traveled in the dark, both unseen and unstoppable.

Where these dangers came from man did not and still does not know, however as oblivious as they were to these danger’s origins, over time they become keenly aware of their existence and the taxing toll they brought.

One day, as the story goes, a priest was visited in a dream by Bastet the Goddess of protection whose worshipers said would often appear to men in a variety of cat like forms, and offered the priest a deal. If mankind would place cats above all other animals, second only to man, the Goddess promised that her and her kind would protect man from many of the dangers that plagued them, include the ones beyond their human perceptions.

The priest waited not until morning, but went directly unto Pharaoh that night and relayed the Goddess’ message. And the Pharaoh, having spent much of his reign watching his people fall to numerous aliments and diseases both known and unknown, accepted the Goddess’ offer and began to elevate cats in his kingdom to a status formally reserved only for the Gods.

“And that was the beginning,” the cat continued a sly smile coming across its up till now serious face. “Soon the number of cats grew in the kingdom. Cats were welcomed in all houses, be it the lowest of workers to the mightiest of Pharaohs. Great images were erected in our honor. We became known as the guardians of the thresholds as our figures adorned the doorways of the most common of buildings and statues in our like guarded the grandest of temple entrances.

“From alabaster to bronze to gold, no material was too valuable or too precious not to be used to fashion into our likeness. To kill one of us, even by accident was to bring death upon a person. We protected man from the dangers they feared, both those they could see and those that they could not, and we prospered.”

The mist, having moved not a wisp as the cat recounted its story, slowly began to pulse ever so slightly.

“No,” the cat said sadly as it bowed its head. “Just as it seems your kind has forgotten to pass on the stories to you, so has it been with man. Although they still adorn our likeness on many of the things they make, the reverence of why they should be doing so has been lost. Our pact has been forgotten by them, our story faded over time.”

“Even by the time of the great death our status among mankind had dwindled. Oh, there were many that still treated us kindly, but others treated us as callously as they treated the vermin that was spreading the sickness within their cities. We were cast out to the streets to fend for ourselves. Children threw rocks at us for sport. Our lives and the lives of our kittens had become insignificant, almost disposable to the race who had once worshiped us. But still we continued to honor Bastet’s promise, to guard the houses of man from the pestilence that would attempt to enter their houses at night.”

And with that, the mist fluctuated violently as if suddenly agitated by the cat’s words, only to finally stop when the cat stood up. “Why? Because Bastet made the pact with the humans. She forged the agreement with her words and bound it with the spirits of all the cats who had come before or have yet to come, and therefore only her words can break it and despite all that has happened, all that we have been reduced to, she has yet to do so. Regardless of what we have become, you will find no cat that will break her promise.”

“So with that said, I have been more than patient with you, young traveler. I have let you stay here longer than I should or than any other of my kind would, so I say for the final time, you will return from where you came.”

The mist did nothing. Not a wisp-like tendril nor a fluctuation from within its dark shape until slowly, quite deliberately it began to recede back to the opening between the two rooms. As the mist began to cross the threshold from whence it first appeared, it began to fade from the cat’s keen eyesight until only a small amount was left.

“Do me a favor young one in return for the courtesy I have shown you tonight. Tell your kind my story. Remind them of the pact my kind has made. Impress upon them that for reasons, that sadly may not even be of their own doing, they are not welcome here. And assure them young traveler, that although mankind may have forgotten our charge, we cats have not.”

The cat straightened up with a sense of pride, “We still guard the thresholds.” With the cat’s final words, the mist totally disappeared into the darkness, back to a place the cat knew not where.

Quite content with itself the cat took a few minutes to do a quick grooming before once again settling down on the hardwood floor. By now the sound of the running water had stopped and the hallway had gone quiet.

Finally, the man came out of the small room and walked into the room where he slept, pausing only momentarily to glance back down the hall and speak out loud in the cat’s direction. The cat turned its head in the man’s direction, not because of the words the man spoke, but to watch as the man walked through the doorway into his bedroom.

And the cat watched, remembering Bastet’s promise. But this time the threshold remained still, so the cat lowered its head and closed its eyes. The dwellers of the house would sleep through the night, so he too could rest for a while.

And just as the cat began to dose off and the last traces of reality slipped from his mind to be replaced by the siren like song of Morpheus, a voice sounded in the distance. It was weak, as if it had traveled untold distances to finally reach him. A voice that he didn’t recognize, but seemed as familiar to him as if it were his own.

“You have kept my promise well, my child. You have earned your rest.”

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Guarding the Threshold…Like every cat does.