Whispering sweet somethings

I don’t know how many times I’ve said it, but I still maintain there are only two food groups: chocolate….and that other stuff that keeps me from falling down.

Now, not all chocolate is good. The I’ve-never-heard-of-this-company Easter bunny maker? Not good. Whitman’s or Stover’s? Near bottom rung. Ghirardelli? Second tier. And the best somewhat commercially available chocolate is See’s candies. Yes… I’m a chocolate snob. Not a connoisseur, but a snob nonetheless. Quality local chocolate makers are a treat and one of our delightful finds is a boutique chocolatier here in the Dallas area. They make exotic combinations and I got one of my favorites this past weekend.

Oh…and I got beer. Good beer (snob, remember?) Which leaves me with two stories to share about my Fathers’s Day and the decision as to which is first…

Chocolate! …. Whoa, Dude! … Sweet!

Hmmm… chocolate first…. Makes sense – I mean, there are times when you can’t drink a beer, but you can always eat chocolate, right?

Dude sweet albatross fudgeSo, in the middle of a great weekend, Andrea hands me a bag from Dude, Sweet Chocolate … with my favorite, Albatross Fudge. It’s a supremely dark fudge with blue cheese (yes!) and sea salt. Also in the bag was some dark chocolate covered applewood smoked bacon, a box of Especial Soft Butter Toffee (made with toasted cashew and blackberry), and a box of Fungus Amongus Soft Butter Toffee (made with porcini mushroom and pumpkin seeds – I did mention they were exotic!). Thinking out loud, I said, “Fungus Amongus? That’s your favorite!” To which my lovely bride replied, “Well, you’re not going to eat all of it, are you?”

I’m not sure what switch was flipped in Andrea’s head, but tasting the Dude, Sweet toffee made her want to make some herself…which is cool. She spent five hours…five hours!…researching recipes and finally found something called a Scottish Tablet that sounded close with similar ingredients. So…off she goes.

Now, for those of you who aren’t one of the thousands of Andrea’s Facebook friends, I should say that she likes to post recipes she finds, tries, adapts, invents. So, on Monday, she posted

Attempting to replicate Dude, Sweet’s Soft Butter Toffee. Involved? Why, yes. Yes it is.

And within minutes someone jumped in with, “Haaa it is really kinda easy. I swear!!”, to whom Andrea implored, “Spill yer guts…” At one point during the detailed exchange over the ensuing three hours, Andrea mentioned, “Here are the ingredients from the box:….” The reply was a stunner … “My box?”

You see, the person offering candy making tips to Andrea was Katherine Clapner, the chef and co-owner of Dude, Sweet Chocolate! How awesome is that? Andrea had this to say on Gourmet Babylon (a Facebook group):

Katherine Clapner, chef extraordinaire of Dude, Sweet Chocolate, was kind enough to give me tips on how to make her soft toffee which we love. This is NOT it – the texture is a bit grainier and my recipe adds milk and cream. Still, this turned out to taste amazingly like See’s Butterscotch Squares, another of my all-time fave candies!

Scottish Butterscotch SquaresAndrea dubbed her creation “Scottish Butterscotch Squares”and they are really, really good.

She wants to try again…oh, darn.

Katherine was pretty cool in helping Andrea. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend a visit, and whether you are or not, give them a like over on Facebook.

A Beery Nice Surprise

Story #2 involves beer…um, a more than a bit of it. As all four sons were not available all at the same time on Sunday, Brandon and Colin had plans for me Saturday afternoon. So, Colin drives me to meet Brandon. I couldn’t figure out why we were going a strange way through Garland, and then…

We pulled into the parking lot of the Lakewood Brewing Company! They have tours – events, actually – every Saturday and for $10, you get a souvenir snifter and (as long as you get there before 2:00 p.m.) four samples of anything they’ve got on tap. They’ve also got live music and a food truck.

What we didn’t know was that “samples” meant four full beers. Yep. Music was great and Colin got some very good tacos from the food truck – thoughtfully, sans cilantro for me.

I started with a La Dame du Lac, the second in their Legendary Series, on the recommendation of one of the staff when I said I like hops. A dark amber pale ale, I was not as impressed as they wanted me to be…and totally unaware that its ABV (alcohol by volume for the uninitiated) was a rousing 7.5%.

Us at Lakewood Brewing CoThe second “sample” I tried was a seasonal, Till & Toil, a lightly fruity blonde with an equally deceptive 6.4%, followed by their Hop Trapp, a Belgian-style IPA. That, by the way, was a good deal hoppier than the recommended La Dame du Lac. And also 6.4% ABV.

I think it was at that point I texted Andrea, “Was it your plan to get me looped before 3:00 p.m.?” “Nope. But you are cute when you’re looped!”

TemptressAnd I saved the best for last…The Temptress. I’ve mentioned it before a few times, and it’s still one of my favorites. But… it’s a sipping/savoring beer – an Imperial stout with a whopping 9.1% ABV – and to follow three other full-sized samples?

Yikes. There being some serious loopage going on!

Anyway, awesome gift, because my family knows me well enough to know that I probably wouldn’t have gone there on my own…I can talk myself out of things like that pretty easily.

And More Beers

Because everyone thought the Lakewood Brewery tour samples were just samples, Andrea and Colin hand-selected a custom six-pack from World Market, intending for the taste-testing to continue after the tour.

Clown ShoesAnd … because I enjoyed all four of the non-samples, such a secondary tasting was going to be lost on me. I did have/share one that screamed, “Pick me!” – a Clown Shoes Chocolate Sombrero… It’s an Imperial Stout with…wait for it…a 9.0% ABV. Great lacing on an opaque pour, dark brown sugar aroma, chocolate/espresso/hops flavors. Pretty kicking. And recommended.

Father’s Day Continued Plus FitBIT

Finally, while waiting for the fantastic dinner of ribs (that had been slow cooking for five hours), my favorite macaroni salad, corn on the cob, baked mashed potatoes and apples pie, Brandon, Colin and I played multiple many rounds of Xbox Kinect volleyball. The beer might have had something to do with me really getting into it – and paying for it the next few days (intercostals…jeez), but that’s another story.

On top of the chocolate and beer, I also got a new Fitbit One. I have been wearing a pedometer for years, which I use as an loose gauge of my activity level, but the Fitbit is pretty cool. In addition to the standard steps counting, it has a three-way accelerometer that tells me how many stairs I climbed. A sleep mode returns a rudimentary log of sleep and restlessness, and the same log can be used for other specific activities. It has Bluetooth which can link to my iPad Mini (unfortunately not my iPhone 4…needs a 4S or higher). Very cool!

the Bookshelf (part of, anyway)

I’m stubbornly trying to finish The Talent Code: Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Anything, by Daniel Coyle. A (psychologist) colleague told me he was listening to an audio version and found it fascinating and said I should really read it (he knows a lot of my reading list). I find it not so fascinating as irritating because Coyle’s evidences seem to be constructed to fit his conclusions – some hasty generalizations, unrepresentative samples, cherry-picking, pretty much an entire book of causal and explanation fallacies. But, I will finish it, because perhaps he vindicates himself at the end.

I also can’t recommend Matthew Hutson’s, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. Where Coyle is a sports writer trying to sell a pet theory with convenient stories, Hutson  – a former editor of Psychology Today and boasting a Master of Science in Science Writing (who knew that was a real degree?) from MIT – is trying to sell a pet theory with at least one logical fallacy per page. Disappointing.

Teaser: I was contacted on Goodreads by an author from Sweden who wanted me to read and comment on his book. I did and I’ll share that in my next post.

World War Z was recommended by a friend, so I’m giving it a shot. I, too, am baffled at how they 1) made a movie about it, and 2) made the movie that they did, when from the trailer it appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the book. I checked – Peter Jackson did not direct the movie.

Random Shots

Massage Note#1: Trying a new therapist is tough. Not knowing how she works, whether the deep tissue pain now will reap rewards later or just be more pain. Wondering if “medium” pressure to her is the same as to another? Tough.

Massage Note #2: It occurred to me only just today that part of massage therapy training must certainly be on time management. Full body in an hour? Focus on upper back only? And add delts and forearms? Hmmm.

Soundhound: I was pleasantly surprised to see that Soundhound can now identify some classical music. It found three out of four when I tested it…not the exact recordings, but at least the names of the pieces.

Page traffic: Stephen Hawking continues to be the search term of choice and my posts on Robert Anton Wilson continue to get hits. Cue the gratuitous tags for the search engines…

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