Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Orme Beer Review

Great Orme Brewery
I was really looking forward to the possibility of drinking this stately looking North Welsh beer. Hugging the gentle mineral rich waters sweetly to my palate again, mimics the ageless percolation of waters through the mist imbued rocks of Snowdonia. I had been kissed by Cerridwen’s ales before and refreshed with her mystical cauldren’s offerings, so felt that malty bliss would be a foregone conclusion. Just how wrong can you be! 

This beer is as treacly as a lifelong chain smoker's lung biopsy, with some subtly ironic caramel thrown in (as though to say "look- this is the prize you could have had"). Cancerously camphorous with hints of cardboard. It is hoppy like some teenager’s armpit homebrew skulking under the stairs. There is no appreciable head, and bloating sewerage gas. It is astringent to the point of being acrid which lingers on the tongue as a malevolent aftertaste. It’s a battle of wits to finish it. The gastric pits are pitted against pitiful piss. The 4.2% feels more like drinking 5.2% and its harsh. I feel in a way like Ive had a lucky escape. If this was on draught in a local pub I’d probably have got into a fight trying to swap it out. All of this ‘smokey Joe’ quickly neutralises itself in a tasteless mucoid slime which is crowned by a vapid citric stab, somewhat akin to the crappy tang you get when you pop a cheap vitamin C tablet or change a nappy on a bad day. Gastritis generator. Unpleasant. Dogwash.  

Both the Great and Little Ormes have been etymologically linked to the Old Norsewords urm or orm that mean sea serpent (the English word worm is transliterated from the same term). The Great Orme being the head, with its body being the land between the Great and Little Ormes. Although the Vikings left no written texts of their time in North Wales, they certainly raided the area though they appear to have not founded any permanent settlements, unlike on the Wirral Peninsula. I expect they preferred the beer over in Liverpool.

Marks /10

North Utsire

Beetroot Burger

A while back I blogged my recipe for Black Eye Beanburgers which was actually a formula for making bean & veggie burgers generally, a kind of a template for burgerization forged in the mines of Wizardburg at the dawn of the Age of Burger by The Prince of Mince. But I was round at my friend’s house (who happens to be a distant relative of the The Prince of Mince himself) and he made a different order of burger entirely which was conceived at the Northstar Cafe in Columbus, Ohio and kindly adapted for us lesser mortals by where it was humbly touted as “the best ever veggie burger”. I have jazzed it up into a tabley interface and highly recommend its subtle charms. If your only experience of cancer- busting blood- building Beetroot is as a soggy acetified disc used as an adjunct to an over charcoaled carvery, then you are in for a treat.

3 large red beets (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup brown rice (uncooked)

Heat the oven to 400°F. Wrap the beets loosely in aluminum foil and roast until easily pierced with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, bring a 2-quart pot of water to a boil. Salt the water generously and add the rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the rice until it's a little beyond al dente. You want it a little over-cooked, but still firm (not completely mushy). This should take about 35 to 40 minutes. Drain the rice and set it aside to cool.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Stir the onions every minute or two, and cook until they are golden and getting charred around the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. A dark, sticky crust should develop on the bottom of the pan.
Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the cider vinegar and scrape up the dark sticky crust. Continue to simmer until the cider has evaporated and the pan is nearly dry again. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
Process the oats in a food processor until they have reduced to a fine flour. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Alernatively use oatmeal flour.

2 (15.5-ounce) cans black beans
1/4 cup prunes, chopped into small pieces.
Drain and rinse one of the cans of beans and transfer the beans to the food processor. Scatter the prunes on top. Pulse in 1-second bursts just until the beans are roughly chopped — not so long that they become mush — 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer this mixture to a large mixing bowl. Drain and rinse the second can of beans and add these whole beans to the mixing bowl as well.

Use the edge of a spoon or a paper towel to scrape the skins off the cooled roasted beets; the skins should slip off easily. Grate the peeled beets on the largest holes of a box grater. Transfer the beet gratings to a strainer set over the sink. Press and squeeze the beet gratings to remove as much liquid as possible from the beets. (You can also do this over a bowl and save the beet juice for another purpose.)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons brown mustard
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 large egg (optional for non-vegan burgers)
Transfer the squeezed beets, cooked rice, and sautéed onions to the bowl with the beans. Sprinkle the olive oil, brown mustard, smoked paprika, cumin, coriander, and thyme over the top of the mixture. Mix all the ingredients until combined. Taste the mixture and add salt, pepper, or any additional spices or flavorings to taste. Finally, add the oatmeal flour and egg (if using), and mix until you no longer see any dry oatmeal or egg.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the mixture to a refrigerator container, and refrigerate the burger mixture for at least 2 hours or (ideally) overnight. The mix can also be kept refrigerated for up to three days before cooking.

When ready to cook the burgers, first shape them into burgers. Scoop up about a scant cup of the burger mixture and shape it between your palms into a thick patty the size of your hamburger buns. You should end up with 6 large patties.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of vegetable oil to completely coat the bottom of the pan. When you see the oil shimmer a flick of water evaporates on contact, the pan is ready.

Transfer the patties to the pan. Cook as many as will fit without crowding; I normally cook 3 patties at a time in my 10-inch cast iron skillet.

Cook the patties for 2 minutes, then flip them to the other side. You should see a nice crust on the cooked side. If any pieces break off when you flip the burgers, just pat them back into place with the spatula. Cook for another 2 minutes, then cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 4 more minutes until the patties are warmed through. If you're adding cheese, lay a slice over the burgers in the last minute of cooking.

Serve the veggie burgers on soft burger buns or lightly toasted sandwich bread along with some fresh greens.

Makes about 6 burgers

To serve:
Thin slices of provolone or monterey jack cheese (optional for non-vegan burgers)
6 hamburger buns

North Utsire

The Orwellian Horrors of Going Underground

Afshin Rattansi's investigative journalism program Going Underground on Russia Today is one of the few half decent alternative/ countercultural news peeks at the British establishment at the moment. It can at times be somewhat petty, propagandist, and self seeking, but they are things I can contend with unlike much of their subject matter which is frighteningly engaging, particularly the interviews. Maybe it just seems so garishly jarring because I am used to picking over the obfuscated bones & reading between the lines of the mainstream media lies.

North Utsire

Family Dog Posters

After arriving in San Francisco in 1962, Chet Helms scrounged a living various ways, including selling marijuana, an occupation that caused him to go to a boardinghouse at 1090 Page Street. The house was in Haight-Ashbury, then a rundown, low-rent neighborhood. Having met many musicians in his trade, and appreciating the vibrant music scene in San Francisco, he instinctively recognized the need for a forum for musicians to jam. When he saw the large basement at Page Street, he began organizing jam sessions for the local bands and musicians. Helms made those sessions popular and started charging an admission fee of 50 cents. His career as a rock concert promoter began. Big Brother and the Holding Company formed and Helms functioned as their low-key manager. He teamed up Janis Joplin with Big Brother for jam sessions in the Haight-Ashbury basement.

In February 1966 he formed a loose connection with the Family Dog, a commune of hippies living at 2125 Pine street who threw open dances and wild events. Helms was the ideal person to help this group organize their presentations and he moved into the Family Dog house. Their first formal production was a concert at Longshoremen's Hall. Helms formally founded Family Dog Productions to begin promoting concerts at The Fillmore Auditorium, alternating weekends with another young promoter, Bill Graham. As the concerts became more popular, inevitable "conflicts" arose between the two promoters, based in part on the notion that public conflict and controversy could generate free publicity.

To promote their concerts, Family Dog published a series of innovative psychedelic posters, handbills and other ephemera, created by a group of prominent young San Francisco artists including Alton Kelley and Stanley Mouse (Mouse Studios),Rick Griffin, Steve Renick and Victor Moscoso. Often printed using intensely colored fluorescent inks, they typically featured a mixture of found images and specially drawn artwork. The posters of Griffin, Mouse and Kelly, in particular, were known for the intricate and highly stylized hand-lettering in which the concert details were written out, which sometimes took considerable time and effort to decipher. Original Avalon posters are now collector's items.

North Utsire

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band: Smell of Incense (1967)

The track Smell of Incense is from an album called Volume 2 (Breaking Through) by the psych- rock West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. It is actually the group's third album, it was released in 1967 on Reprise. The group disbanded in 1970. Despite never achieving mainstream success during their existence, the band has garnered interest over the years.

North Utsire

Joni Mitchell: Song to a Seagull (1968)

I was somewhat shocked to hear Joni Mitchell had taken ill today & was in hospital. For the last month, I had intended to post a blog of her 1968 debut album Song To A Seagull so it turned out to be an unhappy coincidence that I should aim to do it today. The news on her website at the moment is:

Joni was found unconscious in her home this afternoon. She regained consciousness on the ambulance ride to an L.A. area hospital. She is currently in intensive care undergoing tests and is awake and in good spirits. More updates to come as we hear them. Light a candle and sing a song, let's all send good wishes her way.

And so that is what I will do. God bless you Joni Mitchell. I am wishing you well today & listening to your haunting music. 

North Utsire

Parisian Parasitical Party Scene: Darling (1965)

Darling is a 1965 British drama film written by Frederic Raphael, directed by John Schlesinger, and starring Julie Christie with Dirk Bogarde and Laurence Harvey. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Christie won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Diana Scott. The film also won the Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and Best Costume Design.

In the above scene [From Wiki] “She flies to Paris with Miles for jet-set sophistication. She finds the  wild party, beat music, strip dance mind game, cross dressing and predatory males and females vaguely repellent and intimidating, but Diana holds her own, gaining the respect of the weird crowd when she taunts Miles in the game. On her return to London, Robert calls her a whore and leaves her, for which she is not emotionally prepared. Ironically, Miles casts her as "The Happiness Girl" in the Glass Corporation's advertising campaign for a chocolate firm.”

My Synopsis: Vacuous lifestyle feminist mannequin uses her inherited looks and waist size to self indulge her way through several men under the guise of faux existential angst and vulnerability. Uncomfortable 60’s film with retro appeal which can still evoke a deflated “Brave New World” sensation in the viewer, of which the grotesque of the parasitical party scene is characteristic.

Someone else's more considered review is here

North Utsire

Tree Spindlation through Filteritic Psychogoggles

North Utsire

Adieu to Cottonopolis

Chanced upon this 1973 reprint of a 1876 classic On Foot Through The Peak by James Croston, whilst browsing the Brierlow Bar Bookstore on a break in Derbyshire. Its only recently I’ve started to edge out further South & East than Kinder Scout & Edale valley which I walked extensively as a yoof.  Its been a real discovery: tight, almost Alpine villages, rocky ridges and escarpments, mountains, moors, valleys rivers and woods. Not to mention the enormous reservoirs to rival the Lakes. I am such a fool lacking in wanderlust, and fail to see those treasures under my nose so often. Anyway, I thought some introductory quotes from On Foot Through The Peak would go with some paintings of Joseph Wright who captured Derbyshire landscapes around the same time the book was written.

But he who would thoroughly appreciate the rich stores of  England's beauty, must leave her iron roads and beaten high- ways, and wander lovingly over her green hills and explore the mazy windings of her secluded and charming dales ; in the early greyness of the morning, when the mists still linger in the vales and the dew lies heavy upon the grass; at mid- day, when the landscape is bathed with a flood of brilliant radiance; and at eventide, when the declining sun fills the glowing west with gorgeous beauty, and the shadows lie in lengthened lines upon the grassy slopes, and the woods and valleys are wrapped in a rich glow of golden light. He must follow the sweet meanderings of her mountain streams, winding hither and thither through shady nooks and fairy glens, all fringed and festooned with greenery, where the tributary rills come trickling down from the mossy heights gladdening the ear with their tiny melodies. He must loiter in her bye- lanes, between banks rife with ferns, foxgloves, and blooming harebells, where the thick hedge-rows and the nodding trees mingle and form a bower over head, and the bright sunbeams playing through the leaves, dapple the greensward with their restless and ever-changing shadows. And so, pace from hamlet to hamlet, and from village to village, inhaling the sweet fragrance of the flowery meads and listening to the joyous warblings of the birds, the mingled harmony of dancing leaves, the lowing of the kiue and the gentle murmuring of sunny music. If he will do all this, then he will understand something of the charms of English scenery, and will learn that travelling at home is not less enjoyable than travelling abroad. 

In the pleasant companionship of cheerful friends, we bade adieu to  the busy, bustling manufacturing metropolis of the north, and some few minutes later were seated in the train and darting along over a mazy labyrinth of house-tops and mill- roofs, and through clouds of murky vapour on our way to the health-inspiring hills and valleys of the Peak.

After passing through, or rather over, Stockport, with its smoke-begrimed mills, its countless factory chimneys and almost suffocating atmosphere, the country assumes a more picturesque and interesting character. On the left we have an uninterrupted view of the long chain of Derbyshire hills Kinder Scout, the highest point of the Peak range looming mistily in the distance ; ere long the prospect opens over the valley of the Goyt, and a charming valley it is with its deep wooded glens and green undulating hills, chequered with stone walls, and feathered here and there with clumps of trees and patches of plantation. On the right the eye takes in the broad flat meadows and rich pasture-lands of Cheshire, and as the train speeds along we catch glimpses of modern red-brick dwellings and quaint old-fashioned cottages with low-thatched roofs, and smiling farm-steads that lie scattered here and there. Every few minutes we stop at a road-side station where there is sure to be some show of life and bustle, and something worth noting or remembering ; then we hurry on rattling over viaducts, rumbling through deep sandy cuttings, and darting past straggling hamlets, past fields of waving grain, and acres of cultivated greenness. Everywhere the haymakers are at work, and as the playful breeze sweeps through the carriage, it loads that air with the rich perfume of the new-mown hay. There are plenty of cattle grazing in the meadows, and as we thunder past, now and then a solitary horse throws up his heels, and with a loud snort scampers off, scared at the sound of our fiery iron steed ; and so we steam along, the changing scenes coming and going, and following each other in quick succession. 

Joseph Wright (3 September 173429 August 1797), styled Joseph Wright of Derby, was an English landscape and portrait painter. He has been acclaimed as "the first professional painter to express the spirit of the Industrial Revolution". Wright is notable for his use of Chiaroscuro effect, which emphasises the contrast of light and dark, and for his paintings of candle-lit subjects. His paintings of the birth of science out of alchemy, often based on the meetings of the Lunar Society, a group of very influential scientists and industrialists living in the English Midlands, are a significant record of the struggle of science against religious values in the period known as the Age of Enlightenment.

North Utsire

Solar Eclipse

Here are a few click clocks of the recent solar eclipse. It was notable because of the confluence of Supermoon, Eclipse, and Spring Equinox heralding some kind of voodoo bewitchment probably. I ended up taking these as a bit of an error of approximation. I was resigned to watching it on telly, being in cloudy Manchester, but as maximum approached, I wondered if I could use the HDR exposure feature of my mobile phone to view a nice solar moment. Unfortunately it didn’t work & I all but blinded myself like the scientist people with big foreheads foretold. The clouds however were parting more sweetly than a purdy girls legs. So I reached for the comfort of my grown- up camera & its lavishly dark UV filter with 85% cocoa solids, and got some good views & thought why the hell not click a few. Worked ok in the end.

My original experience with solar eclipses was in visiting the total eclipse in1999 at Lizard Point in Cornwall. Me and a couple of mates rented a clapped out old Skoda estate, drove from Brighton via Stonehenge by accident (check that out on a map; I still don’t know how that happened), and spent £95 each to get in Harvey Goldsmith’s theme park of shitertainment, Lizard99. Hot Dogs cost a fiver; the main bands welched out of playing presumably because of bad portends known only to wyzarding folk as “being diddled”. Even the standard waiting- a- couple- of- days for the festival portaloos to glug up & overflow was unpleasantly premature. The only thing going for the place was the Mexican Hat ride which ran for about 20 minutes at a time and guaranteed a festulating brain embolism with every go. Standing as we were, in a muddy sewerage nostrilising field the middle of a crowd of dread locks and obscured by clouds of dope smoke, we decided with 15 minutes before the start of the eclipse to make a break for it and get to the coast.

Into the Skoda we jumped, I backed up & met some unexpected resistance. Not being one to take no for an answer, I backed up again to the deft crunch behind. And again & again. I got out & looked at the rear tyre & underneath it was my muddied metal frame rucksack resembling more the shape of a twisted oversized Quaver, but without the reassuring odour of fromage. We had minutes to go. I backed up over the rucksack; got out onto the country roads which blurred & fused into a kind of green & brown froth as fierce as any horses bit. The clouds were grey, sombre above but we pressed on succumbing to eclipse fever. In minutes we were at the National Trust’s Lizard Point. There was a spooky feeling a bit like that scene on Close Encounters when the invited people are waiting expectantly for the aliens to visit. There was a cool and reckless wind which writhed in the electricity of the moment. The eclipse had begun.

It didn’t take long for the full inexorable moon disc to move to about 90%, similar to the recent eclipse. But that last 10%, 9%, 8%... diminishing down to Totality, was so profoundly powerful I will forever remember it. In particular the very last moment before Totality, when compared with Totality itself, was a big difference in light level, as though a bedroom door, previously ajar & letting through weak light was suddenly shut on a dark room. In a linear, violent motion similar to that of an irresistible guillotine, a long shadow ranged along the English Channel, leaving boats with daintily twinkling lights parping horns musically to the accompanying cheers of delighted people. Just as with this recent event, the clouds parted at maximum, and the purdy girl was there again.

North Utsire