Autumn Brew, aka. Oktoberfest Beers

We had a great dinner last night with family and friends at Howells & Hood (which by the way boasts the largest draft been selection in Chicago).  But when the hostess brought out seasonal, autumn beer list, entire table let out a collective sigh.  Chicago summer is now officially over…  Much to our delight, the list did not contain too many hackneyed (not to mention over-played) pumpkin stout or any other pumpkin varietal.  A couple of my favorite darker ales of the fall –

  • Old Brown Dog by Smuttynose Brewing – it’s heavy in alcohol (almost 7%) so perfect for slightly frost-bitten evenings when you feel like ribs or other sauce-rich meat comfort dishes.  It’s deceptively creamy with light on bitterness and after-taste.
  • Indian Brown Ale by Dogfish Head – if you like dark, bitter brew with thick foam resulting from heavy does of molasses during the brewing process, this is the fall beer for you.  Great with rubbed / smoked meats and vegetables.

What are your favorites?

Fall’s Best Draws

 

Excerpts from the fall 2014 addition of Men’s Book…

The most luxurious way to draw out the cast of fall’s flavorful air is through the leaf-wrapped tobacco of a fine cigar.  The best stogies manage to magnify the season’s crisp, smoky air while heralding the rich complexities beneath.  But which smokes go the extra mile?  Some of the well-known Chicago cigar shops weighed in.

  • Up Down Cigar (www.updowncigar.com) – Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Aniversario Toro; one of the most flavorful medium-bodied smokes, its aged wrapper and filler tobaccos are all from the Dominican Republic.  It has leathery notes and saltiness often found in Cubans.
  • Iwan Ries & Co (www.iwanries.com) – Crowned Heads Las Calaveras; robust flavors provided by the refined Ecuadorian wrapper and the Nicaraguan filler, it has oaky, crispy and buttery flavors that pay homage to the festivities of Dia de los Muertos.
  • Hubbard State Cigar (www.hubbardstatecigar.com) – Ashton Virgin Sun Grown; the long-lasting, box-pressed cigar in a good-looking Ecuadorian Sumatra wrapper draws like a slow drive through delicious bouquets of almonds, cedar and roasted molasses.

My favorite?  Partagas 1845.  Asides from its hearty Ecuadorian wrapper, Connecticut binder and Nicaraguan fillers aged in Dominican rum barrels, every time my business partner and I smoke one with prospects / clients, we seem to close a new deal…

Writing Tips 101…

 

Let’s get to the point – I am a poor writer.  When friends find out that I contribute to an SMB blog, they usually do a double-take and ask, “say what?”  I am Jamaal Wallace in Finding Forrester where Sean Connery shoved a typewriter to the shell-shocked African-American teenager and yelled, “just freaking write!”  I would write a paragraph and instead of keep on writing, I’d go back to the same paragraph to make sure all the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed (there, I did it again).  So for all those Jamaal Wallaces and Richard Lees out there, below are some quotes from best-selling authors and luminaries that may help you.

  • “What a writer has to do is write what hasn’t been written before or beat dead men at what they have done.” – Ernest Hemingway
  • “You have to show up.  If you show up, the creativity will show up.  If it doesn’t, I take a walk or meditate.” – Laura Benedict, author of Bliss House
  • “Tell a story.  Everyone loves stories.” – Stu Perlman, now retired 9th grade English teacher at Washington High (Fremont, CA).  A side note – I would not have gotten into college without taking and passing Stu’s English 101 class
  •  “My advice is not to wait to be struck by an idea. If you’re a writer, you sit down and damn well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.” – Andy Rooney, ’nuff said
  • “I would not get into a car unless I Knew where I was going.” – Peter James, creator of the Roy Grace series, comparing driving to working with outlines or other forms of plotting
  • “Just write, maybe in bullet points.  It doesn’t even have to make sense in the first pass.” – Jason Busch, Group Managing Director and Chief Editor of Spend Matters and MetalMiner
  •  “Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.” – Peg Bracken, author of humorous books on cooking, housekeeping, etiquette and travels
  • “I have a self-starter—published 20 million words—and have never received, needed or wanted a kick in the pants.” – Isaac Asimov

So which quote above resonates with you?  What’s your motivation for writing?  Mine – I suck at it, and I’d like to get better.  Not sure about getting better but since I’ve been writing for a few years, I find the process rather therapeutic…

Hope everyone’s having a great long weekend  🙂

What is Bitcoin? (part II)

Continued…

  • What can I buy with bitcoins?  Almost anything…   While some mainstream retailers do not support the currency, many online retailers have embraced the concept.
  • Is it safe?  This is a million dollar question.  While its inherent volatility makes its future uncertain, many technologists much smarter than me are working on making it safer.  Meanwhile bad publicity around currency exchanges either getting hacked or shutting down is preventing the general public from jumping in head first.
  • Can Bitcoin boost my business?  Yet another million dollar question.  Let’s put it this way – if you accept it, you will get publicity.  Is that worth taking the risk?  Many would argue yes.

Draw your own conclusion.  Only time will tell if Bitcoin is a passing fad or here to stay.

Sonoma-Cutrer (SC) Late Harvest Chardonnay

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I consider Les Pierres, The Cutrer and Russian River Valleys collections from SC to be some of the finest craft white wines in the world.  With the region’s dense, gravely soil and even growing season due to cool coastal climate, the area known as Sonoma Coast Appellation has produced award-winning earthy, yet buttery flavored white wines.  But since Brown-Forman (if you have not heard of them, they own Jack Daniels) purchased the winery and my good friend Terry Adam retired as the head wine maker about the same time, I have not paid any attention to their offerings.  Until now…  SC unveiled the first limited edition wine under its SC Winemaker’s Release Series titled Late Harvest Chardonnay.  Produced using grapes left on the vine past ripeness and aged in French oak barrels, it has a sweet (but not overpowering) and exceptionally complex taste profile that pleasantly layers on the pallet.   They are available only in selected markets – I had to ask a friend on a business trip from California to put a bottle in his check-in bag.  I believe this may be the first legitimate hit under the new regime…  Something Terry would be proud of.

Tidbits 18 – Product Review: Patron XO Cafe Dark Cocoa

As finance and accounting professional, this is probably the roughest time of the year with year-end closings, current year forecasting and other time-sensitive fiduciary compliance tasks that should have been completed yesterday.  So after another fun-filled week that entailed one all-nighter and butting heads with a former client who cannot understand why including expenses in 1099 is a wrong thing to do, I met with a friend for a TGIF suds at our favorite watering hole.  After a couple of Stellas however, we decided to switch gears.  The bartender recommended a drink that is less than a year old in the market when we requested an aperitif that’s not too sweet.  Patron XO Café Dark is essentially its flagship silver tequila with coffee and chocolate flavorings, and it certainly hit the spot.  It went down smooth without the usual agave aftertaste that even tequila diehards at times don’t necessarily care for…  Just as the bartender promised, sweet enough but not too sweet, which probably makes it little dangerous since the liqueur has the full alcohol content of normal tequila.  According to Patron’s corporate communications, 2012 sales have exceeded forecast by 20%, and it hopes to ship 50K nine-liter cases in 2013.  Its marketing director attributed the product’s success to carefully crafted tasting note targeted to specific band of consumers.  After a couple of shots (one on the house), I think Patron has developed a niche product that could occupy top shelf for years to come.    tequila

APPetizing: Tidbits #17 – Apps for Foodies

Gotta admit…   I was nowhere near close to being a foodie until I got married.  For me food was means by which we add calories to our bodies so that we don’t fade away.  And the cheaper the fuel, better the outcome…

As I’ve said before, all that changed when I said “I do.”  Now a perfect Friday evening for me is sipping a nicely chilled bottle of Sonoma Cutrer’s Russian River Valley selections with Jenna while mixing up an aesthetically (as well as gastronomically) pleasing bowl of kamut salad with fresh spinach, strawberries, blood orange and, of course, dried kamut.   So when Food and Wine magazine announced their favorite apps for foodies, I had to give their suggestions a try.  Below are my 3 favorites –

  • Intelligentsia Coffee – [Full disclosure, I am addicted to caffeine and I need to give props to this Chicago-based company.]  It’s like having your personal barista – you will always brew up a perfect cup of coffee with this app.
  • WineStein Pro – [Full disclosure, I love wine.]  It’s like having your personal sommelier.  The app provides wine paring suggestions based on ingredients in your dish.
  • Ness – [Full disclosure, I love food.]  It’s like having your personal restaurant concierge.  The app suggests RBC (restaurants, bars, coffee shops) based on your location and food preferences.

PURE JOY!

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Against the Wind – Tidbits #16

Have you ever wondered why planes at times take off and land in a seemingly less efficient direction, e.g. flying from Chicago to Dallas, a typical departure takes off to the northern runway vs. southern and lands in the same trajectory?  Asides from an air traffic controller’s prerogative to better manage the flow of the traffic, the answer is simple (without going into the details of Bernoulli’s Principle or Newton’s Laws) – wind direction.  Since wind flowing over the wing provides the necessary lift to go airborne, headwind during take-off or landing reduces not only the requirement for runway length but also the speed, according to United Airline’s pilot Captain Mike Bowers.  It’s a bit counter-intuitive but he assures, it’s all physics.

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Tidbits #15 – Happy 75th Birthday Golden Gate Bridge!

Growing up in the East Bay area of Northern California, I cannot remember how many times I’ve crossed the bridges that connect the West and the East Bay.  But my favorite of all time is the iconic Golden Gate Bridge that connects San Francisco with the Sausalito / Tiburon area.  Aside from being a beautiful piece of architecture with its “International Orange” color, it was the first suspension bridge ever built, and a marvel of modern technology at the time.  Given all the elements the Pacific Ocean can punish the bridge with day in and day out, her maintenance crew constantly repaints the bridge from one end to the other – a time consuming process that takes 2 years to complete.  But that’s nothing like what they’re planning to ring in the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th birthday: Its crew, for the first time ever, is going to clean, reseal and repaint the full lengths of the two main cables, a process that will take 6 years or so to complete…   Here are a few other stats you may find interesting about the GGB:

  • 7,650 feet – length of each of 2 main cables
  • 27,572 – number of steel wires in each cable
  • 250 – number of vertical suspender cables
  • 24,500 tons – total weight of main and suspender cables

“Happy Birthday” indeed to one of our great national treasures!

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Tidbits #14 – Hollywood’s Best Kept Secret

Well maybe it’s not the biggest secret…  But no one in the industry would completely admit to it…   For all practical purposes, movies have become a series of two and a half hour long commercials.   Hollywood would argue that ticket sales alone would not cut it – that commercial sponsorship is needed to generate quality content.

In reality product placement in films is roughly a $2BN industry.   Ever since Drew Barrymore enticed the alien out of hiding with Reese’s Pieces (versus Skittles), moviegoers have been bombarded with subliminal, if not overtly obvious commercial messages.   What’s next?  Comic strips?  Hmm…   Now there’s a business idea.   😉

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