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Alvah Stone

The Bookmill is a fun destination that's just far enough away, that I don't get to it very often. And right behind it, is a little restaurant, the Alvah Stone. Alisa likes it there because they always have interesting cocktails. And I've always liked it because they usually have good beer.

A friend recently had a retirement dinner there and we arrived to discover they'd changed the menu. Rather than serving "meals", they've changed to "small plates". They suggested each person should order two or three. It was a bewildering array of different kinds of things. I started to panic. But then someone pointed out that they have a "feast" option where you don't pick anything: they just bring stuff. It was priced a bit more than two plates, but not much more than three. So we all did that. And that was a great choice.

It was great because we didn't have to waste time deciding. We could just all pass in the menus and not worry about trying to pick stuff, or coordinate with other people to get different things. Or worry if we were ordering too much or too little. We could just socialize and have fun.

The first dish was their famous brown butter cornbread with (honey bacon butter!). Then marinated mushrooms and garlic toast. There was a caesar salad. And sesame noodles. And salt-roasted beets. And beans. And greens! Then tofu. And steak! And scallops! We could all try everything and discuss each thing as it came out. It was paced perfectly. The plates came steadily and everyone had plenty and to spare.

Oh, there was some nasty eggplant too. Boo. But there were so many good things that it didn't matter that one was nasty. And most of the dishes were excellent. The scallops were exquisite and the steak was superb.

Best of all, it meant that we all finished around the same time. I tend to unhinge my jaw and just inhale my food, while Alisa is very very slow, like a loris. When we were on the road together and ate every meal together, we converged a bit, where she speeded up a little and I slowed down some. But since we don't do that anymore we have reverted to our former ways. But having the small plates meant that we were all eating together the whole dinner.

My only disappointment was that they didn't have an IPA to drink. There was one on the draft list, but the keg had just kicked and they didn't have another IPA. They did have an APA by a good local brewery, but it was only OK. Alisa was pleased with both cocktails she got.

I was really skeptical about the whole "small plates" idea at first, but doing the "feast" was perfect and gave us a great experience.

Brewer Stew

Brewer Stew

Today I made a pot of Brewer Stew. This is an invention of my own with two main influences. Several years ago, at the tomato festival, a guy made something he called wild man stew which I liked a lot. And Buzz Hoagland makes a rather different stew that's also excellent. Mine is a sort of synthesis of the two. My recipe is rather simple: fill a big pot about half full with water. Throw in two pounds of italian sausage (I use links that I cook for a while; then remove, cut into slices, and then throw back in), diced potatoes, carrots, and sliced mushrooms to basically fill the pot. Season with pepper, salt, two bay leaves, and rather a lot of red wine. This is why I call it "Brewer Stew" because if you're drinking beer, what else are you going to do with the wine?

After it simmers for a couple of hours, it's ready to eat. And so am I.

A Weekend of Socializing

Reggae at Look Park Craft Beer fest

Somehow all of my social events for the summer lined up on the same weekend. I took Lucy out to the library early so she would be supplied with reading material, and then was picked up by Dave Gross to go to the first Look Park Craft Beer and Wine festival. It was held in The Pines, an outdoor theater at Look Park. I suggested we arrive a bit early to aid in finding a place to park. We were walking up right as they started letting people in. They were efficient at handing out tickets, checking ID, and putting wrist-bands on people. In short order, we were inside.

Dave and I found a place to set up at the end of a table and we started off with a glass of BLDG8. Then we started trying other things. My only peeve was that their printed guide was incomplete and did not correspond with reality. If you held it upside down and looked through the paper, some of the booths lined up with their actual organization. But a bunch did not. Eventually I decided you would need to fold the guide into a tesseract for it to work and discovered that neither Buzz nor Dave had read A Wrinkle in Time. Shocking. Tom Hoogendyk had his children and was able to keep them both entertained AND still have an adult conversation or two.

The music was nice. It was a touch loud for my taste, but much better than almost all similar venues lately. I loved seeing the rasta singer dancing, singing, and carrying his daughter. Charming.

After trying a bunch of things, I began to just go back to the BLDG8 booth to get more IPA. Dave gave me a bit of a hard time about not being willing to try new things. I countered that I had tried at least a dozen things. The next time I came back to the table with a glass and took a meditative sip, "Now that's good!" I said.

Dave looked on with interest and asked "Is that the Hydra?"

"No, it's BLDG8."

We had a great time.

Shortly after I got home, Alisa and I left for a party at Cinda Jones' house. She always brings together interesting and eclectic groups of people. The theme this year was Christmas in July with lobsters. Alisa brought something to share for the party. I took along a case of BLDG8, but Alisa kept it on the QT and doled them out only for the people who would really appreciate them. It was kind of charming and subversive.

I was pleased to meet Monte Belmonte. He was interested to learn I was John Hodgman's official Esperanto translator. He took a picture of me to mention it to John, who promptly sent his salutations.

On Sunday morning, I mentioned to Lucy, in telling her about the party, that lobster was OK, but I liked crab better. Lucy said she's basically never had lobster. I suggested that I should take her for a lobster roll at McDonalds -- a plan we put into action immediately. As you drive toward the Cape, you start seeing lobster rolls advertised everywhere and we'd gotten them a couple of times, so I had some idea what they were supposed to be like. The McDonald's lobster roll is a solid contender: the lobster was good and the roll was fresh and tasty. But I still like crab better.

In the afternoon, I convened our local Esperanto group at Hangar to meet with Julie Schwartz visiting from Boston. She was mostly visiting to attend a party in the evening with another friend who lives in Amherst, but we took advantage of her trip to chat for few minutes. We had Julie and Julie, Rodger, Roger, Sebastian, and Lucy. And me. Julie is also a co-organizer of ARE so it was nice to talk about that face-to-face for a few minutes too.

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