Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Thank you for all your comments and well-wishes about my last post! Bijou and Marble are both doing much better today, and whatever cosmic disturbance was occurring yesterday has passed!
A few weeks ago, Daiku's parents were here for a visit. That led to Daiku and me doing very... uncharacteristic things like agreeing to go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY. As some of you may know, I am in no way a fan of mega-corporate team sports, so it was a strange excursion indeed. For an outsider like me, the whole thing seemed like a shrine to white masculinity. There was a little room discussing female baseball players, and a little room discussing the significance of the Negro League. But the very fact that these got their own separate rooms underscored how far outside of the "main" story of baseball they fall. Here's an illustrative little snippet of conversation I overheard at the Hall of Fame: a group walked into the room, a father and 3 kids, 2 boys and 1 girl. "Daddy, I want to go over there to see the girl players," said the girl. "No you don't," replied the dad. Sigh.
However, Daiku and I had ulterior motives for agreeing to go to Cooperstown. Because only a few miles outside of town is a bona fide Belgian beer brewery that offers free tours and tastings: Ommegang.
We went into the beer tasting room, where an assortment of pretzels and mustards was arranged as a guide poured beers and described them. We asked him if he knew whether the beers are vegan. He said he personally didn't know, but to ask one of the brewers. Daiku spoke to a brewer who told him that indeed, all of Ommegang's beers are vegan, they do not use any filtering ingredients such as isinglass (fish) or gelatin (assorted cow, pig, and horse? I don't even know what gelatin is made of!).
Score! This meant that we could taste the beers. We tasted 4 different beers, of which the White was my favorite. The Hennepin was a little too hoppy for my taste. But the last beer we tasted was a revelation:
The Three Philosophers beer is a dark and assertive brew with hints of dried fruit and dark chocolate. (We also got to tease Daiku mercilessly, since he is a philosophy professor and this beer is only too appropriate for him) Appropriately, the tasting guide handed out little squares of dark chocolate to taste along with the beer, which amplified the tasting experience. (He also made sure to tell us that the chocolate was vegan, which was a much appreciated gesture.)
Here's the dark chocolate we tasted with the beer- it was magnificent, and it was as if the beer and the chocolate were made to go hand in hand.
Which brings me to the best part of visiting Ommegang...
The Belgian chocolates in the gift shop! You know, I consider myself a connoisseur who regularly indulges in pretty darn good chocolates, but I have to admit these chocolates blew me away.
From the top, you have Neuhaus dark chocolate, Dolfin dark chocolate with green aniseed, and Dolfin dark chocolate with coffee. Daiku, his mother, and I all did a taste test of these chocolates and agreed that far and away the best one was the Neuhaus. Its luscious creaminess offsets its intense cocoa content. In fact, its texture and mouthfeel rivals some of the best milk chocolates I have ever tasted, and all this without a trace of animal ingredients.
The dark chocolate with coffee offered up some heavy-duty chocolate and coffee flavors, with both components asserting themselves clearly. But the dark chocolate with aniseed was like nothing I've ever tasted- what a fantastic flavor combination! If I ever go to Belgium, I'm taking an empty suitcase with me just to bring back with chocolates!
Daiku's dad was generous enough to buy us some beers from the brewery gift shop, but a word to the wise: our local supermarkets sell these beers for a much lower price! Overall, it was a really fun experience to see the beers getting made, and meet people truly devoted to their craft. If you ever have a chance, visit the Ommegang brewery, or at least order up one of their creations at your nearest pub.
Ommegang Brewery: 800-544-1809 (open year-round, located 5 miles south of Cooperstown, NY)
P.S. As much as I complained about the Baseball Hall of Fame with its slick corporate feel, there were a few fun things to see there, such as the above poster of an old advertisement for Wrigley's gum. It gives a "firmness" and "vigor" to your body? It "soothes and steadies"? It stops the grinding of your molars...? Did turn of the century baseball players have little-discussed drug addictions or what? Kidding, kidding. Man, I'm being a bit of a crank- better go pop a Wrigley's...