Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Belgian, vegan, sweet


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...


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22 comments:

Village Vegan said...

I have a secret to tell you: I've never actually seen an entire baseball game, either in person or on tv! I'm so not an organized sports person, either.

That beer looks yummy. I'm a philosophy major, so I should definately give it a try ;-) And chocolate...well, what's not to like about chocolate? Glad you had a good trip!

Celine said...

dark chocolate au cafe moulu!!! I can't get over that. I need! I want!

textual bulldog said...

weird coincidence: i drank three philosophers beer just a few nights ago!!! how cool that you got to go to the brewery.

and can i just say that i cannot BELIEVE that baseball hall of fame father-daughter interaction you describe? i mean, what year is this ?!?

Emmie said...

Ok ok, I don't like beer I can admit that, I don't even drink alcohol, but I'll still go 'mmmmm chocolate' at this post. So there.. MMM CHOCOLATE!

It's pretty much the same deal here in Sweden as far as sports go, we have 'real' ice hockey and we have ladies ice hockey, 'real' soccer and women's soccer. It's so absurd, male players can live on their sport alone while women have to find the time to work at least halftime to earn a living as well as getting the worst times for practising and getting virtually no press coverage at all. It's all bollocks in my opinion!

I could rant about feminism all day but I shouldn't hijack your blog for that :D

Veganista said...

Hey Bazu, it's been too long since I've dropped by--but it's always a treat to have a few posts to catch up on. :) It's great to know about these chocolates. I've seen them at a posh kitchen shop I visit but wasn't sure if they were good and worth the price. Now I must try!

Had a chuckle about the bird poop in the earlier post. :) My sister was once blessed with one such gift--on the head.

Vegan_Noodle said...

What a fun little day trip! Breweries and wineries are always a good time, it feels like you're peaking into a big science experiment.
That chocolate sounds ultra-rich and amazing. I may have to seek it out...you can pretty much get anything on the internet these days I'm convinced.

urban vegan said...

I really wish I could learn to like beer. But I'll take some of that chocolate.

theONLYtania said...

Ughh.. bummer about that dumb dad in the hall of fame. Now.. baseball is exciting and all, but when I come visit we can skip straight to the chocolate. Haha.

Kati said...

I love the thought of you going through Customs with a suitcase full of chocolate - hehe! :D

I totally hear you about the Hall of Fame and major league sports in general. J and I have been discussing this issue a lot lately since we often ride the train on Saturdays when it's overflowing with Cubs fans (eek!). Why are sports so absolutely huge in this country? Personally, I think it's an excellent distraction from anything real that's going on. And those salaries?? Please... But I'm sure all the crazy Cubswear wearing fans on the train would disagree with me...

stonielove said...

ooo, that's fabulous that you went to a brewery :) i'm always up for trying new beer...

Chris said...

I certainly wouldn't be averse to going to the baseball hall of fame since I played the game as a kid, but now I think I'd be more into the beer & chocolate. Especially the chocolate. Now you've got me wanting to start shopping for some good dark Belgian stuff...

aTxVegn said...

I'm not into beer and baseball, but chocolate - oh, yeh! You described them perfectly. I may have seen (hope I have seen!)the Neuhaus bar at one of my markets.

b36Kitchen said...

dark chocolate and beer! how lucky for you. I only like beer on really hot days so one would be perfect about now..but as you know that's not possible.

So sorry about your cats..mine are the same and every once in awhile they just fight like hell. And for the bird poop...a few years ago I broke my hand and walked down the street to get a cup of coffee and plop! right on me..i turned around, cried and went home...i'm not sure if it brought me any good luck..maybe it did...i hope it did for you.

Village Vegan said...

P.S. Did you get a new top banner? I like it!

Also, I've been wondering: where's the scallion-clutching revolutionary hand from? It's great-- I want to print out a big version and stick it on my bulletin board :-)

KleoPatra said...

How fantastic! Vegan beer?!!! That chocolate has me swooning, just so you know. Hmmmmmmmmmmmm.

As a long-time baseball fan, a visit to Cooperstown would be interesting for sure for me. Thanks for the last photo, too - that Wrigley's photo was so cool to see!

Really glad to know everybody in Bazu-land is doing well. Weird 'eh?

Theresa said...

What a fun excursion. I love dark beers the best, so that Three Philosophers sounds good to me! Especially considering you got chocolate along with it.

yakimafarmgirl said...

Random poster here - not sure how I found your site, but once I got here I knew it was a good place - talk of quality beer and chocolate and disdain for mega-sports! I like your writing style. Thanks for letting me read!

bazu said...

Thanks for your comments, everybody!

Yakimafarmgirl, welcome and nice to "meet" you!

Village Vegan, yes, I'm playing around with my banner. I think I'll keep this image.
About the scallion-clutching hand image, my friend Tony made it up for me by mashing together a few different graphics. Feel free to steal it!

KathyF said...

Belgian beer and chocolate! What a treat!

And I can relate to going through customs with a suitcase full of chocolate, literally. When we visited Honduras about 20 years ago my s-i-l asked me to bring Easter candy. I went a little overboard, and got a lot. The drug sniffer dogs circled round my suitcase as it went by on the conveyor belt. Fortunately my s-i-l had friends in high places, and we got outta there with the chocolate intact.

dreamy said...

I love dark chocolate :d it has a very rich taste of chocolate yum! My mum dislike dark ones, so I can have a whole bar to myself hehehe..

Our country is very strict and chewing gums are banned, but in Malaysia, it isn't, so sometimes we smuggled it in, and it's always a rare treat here :)

Jennifer BB said...

Great Post! I love Ommegang and have discovered a place at the Shoppingtown Mall where you can get the Dolfin chocolates--can't remember the name but it sells mostly British imported foods.

Tavolini said...

great post--who doesn't love beer and chocolate :) I have to concur with you, three philosophers is about the best beer I've ever tasted! Try some other trappist brews, too. Thanks!