wine review! 2016 Tesco Picpoul de Pinet

i got this to sauté some spinach with salmon while knowing nothing about the grape, and now i’m not so sure it’ll work even though i enjoy it quite a bit. the recipe just called for ‘dry white wine’, which i took this to be based on the tasting notes on the shelf, but now that i’ve tried it, ‘dry’ is definitely not a word i’d use to describe it. i’ll add an update later once i’ve actually cooked the spinach, but for now, on to the wine.

the back of the bottle describes it as having ‘citrus and lime flavours’ which is sort of true but also misleading because i took that to mean it’d be sharp or tart. instead it’s juicy and just bordering on sweet. when i first sniffed it i thought of lime Lifesavers or SweeTarts (which are more sweet than tart). that’s not a bad thing because it’s actually quite drinkable and not at all cloying, but it is a good lesson in the ambiguity of mass-market taste descriptors. while my favorite whites are dry and mineral-y, this is quite yummy and i’d favorably compare it to a Grüner Veltliner but with lime notes instead of green apple.

[ok time to cook. i’ll come back and finish this after dinner.]

update! it was fuckin delicious. i guess the spinach would have been a little more nuanced if it was a drier wine but the citrus in the wine went very well with the lemon zest in the sauce and if i had been patient enough to reduce it all the way it would have had a very nice texture. i also cured the salmon in a wonderful mix that maybe i’ll actually write down a recipe for some time.

short version, i like this wine and am curious to try more of this grape.

Commander Keen appreciation post

Commander Keen was (maybe) the first videogame i ever played. i can’t remember whether it was that or something on the Sega Master System. if it was the latter, it would have been the Sega Card version of Galaga or Rambo: First Blood Part II. either way, the one that made the biggest impression on me was Commander Keen and specifically the freeware first chapter of Commander Keen in Invasion of the Vorticons.

there was a lot about that game that appealed to tiny me. first was the conceptual association i made between Commander Keen and Spaceman Spiff (aka Calvin) from Calvin and Hobbes, which was my favorite comic growing up. i knew they weren’t part of the same official universe or whatever but i did feel like they were a ‘type’ i could identify with.

overall the game was too difficult for me and i could never actually beat any of the Vorticons that appeared at the end of levels, so at the time i always had to have my brother or dad take over for me once i got to the end. i never finished the freeware version, but i did see the ending once my brother beat it.

the sound design of Commander Keen always stuck out to me as a kid, as the sounds for the pogo stick, ray gun, and teddy bear/free life were so memorable. i also loved the Yorps, aliens that would sort of just bump into you and cry when you jumped on their heads. like Whispy Woods in Kirby’s Dream World, the Yorps forced me to confront my own bloodlust, as they look so tragic if you go past bopping their heads and just shoot them in the face.

it wasn’t until years later that i actually got to play the full game, along with Commander Keen in Goodbye Galaxy. before the days of DRM my friend and i would trade games and that was how i ended up with all three chapters of Invasion of the Vorticons and both chapters of Goodbye Galaxy (that’s also how i first played Rayman, one of my favorite games in terms ambience, music, and art design).

while i already loved Commander Keen, my mind was completely blown by the full game and sequels. in the final chapter of Invasion of Vorticons Keen travels to the Vorticon homeworld, where, in addition to seeing funny domestic scenes of Vorticons at home, there was an entire Vorticon alphabet you could decipher, which meant you could go back to the first chapter and read different signs and stuff.

the sequels impressed me more for the depth of the story and the variety of characters and art, though it was also a very big deal that you could hang from ledges, which felt extremely cutting edge the first time i played it. i also fondly remember the day i finally figured out the inch-worm puzzle that takes you to the secret level.

weed: it’s great!

i haven’t actually smoked/vaped in like, almost a month, because i moved and it’s not legal here and i don’t have any friends, but i still love weed very much and thought maybe i should write about it.

i’ve been lucky enough to live places where the weed you get is a particular strain that corresponds to whatever the person selling it tells you it is (not just like, bAnGiN LeMoN KuSh CrAcK BuBbLeS BEST DANK! or whatever), and, like wine, i’ve been lucky enough to figure out what i like. unlike wine, i enjoy different strains for different purposes and activities, whereas with wine the activity is always going to be ‘drinking’, and maybe also ‘eating’ (or writing a blog).

that said, if i had to pick a desert island strain it’d be Critical Kush because it combines most of my favorite effects into a single super-mellow experience. the Leafly notes for it say it’s a good sleepy-time strain but honestly i like it all day, particularly because i tend to get a lot of anxiety when i’m out and about, some of which is related to various injuries and disabilities that make moving around in a crowd both painful and stressful. i definitely understand people who prefer to stay home/away from people when they’re stoned, but i prefer being high when i have to go outside because 1) everything hurts less and 2) it makes navigating the human world more fun, in that i get a little goofy and thus treat everything like a game, making it easier for me to manage my otherwise debilitating social anxiety. in my experience the balance of THC-to-CBD in Critical Kush is close to an ideal balance because i get the silly lateral-thinking benefits of the THC alongside the pain relief and anxiety-reduction of the CBD. while i enjoy a good old fashioned couch lock, i feel like this strain has been my favorite go-to for daily enjoyment because it keeps me right in the sweet spot.

i should be back to those areas of the earth’s crust where weed is legal this summer, so maybe i’ll do some more in-depth reporting on this important topic later this year. until then, think about how fuckin’ ridiculous it is that weed is mostly banned by all those assholes with a monopoly on violence.

 

wine review! 2016 Tesco Côtes de Provence Rosé

before i moved to the UK i only knew of Tesco as the place that sells horse meat in its hamburgers, but now that i live here i found out they also sell wine. tesco wines really highlight the classist connotations of wine drinking because they sell any number of wonderful wines and grape varieties under their ‘tesco’s finest’ label, but at the same time, if you brought a bottle of tesco’s finest to someone’s dinner party it would probably seem like you’re kind of cheap even though it could be completely delicious and better than any number of more expensive bottles. this particular bottle (partially just because it’s Provençal) is definitely much tastier than most of the rosés that were on the shelf with it.

anyways, the back label describes it this way:

Delicious stone fruit flavours are balanced with notes of fresh strawberries and redcurrants to create this crisp, delicate and dry wine with its signature pink pale colour.

‘strawberry’ is usually a red flag (lol 🍓) for me when choosing rosé because that generally means it’s gonna be on the sweeter side, but a ‘sweet’ Provençal rosé is still gonna be drier than most which is one of the nice characteristics of this region. i sort of get what they mean with the redcurrant because the beginning of it is juicy without being sharp or tart; i’d almost call it watery if that didn’t sound like a bad thing. it does end with the refreshing dryness i like in a rosé, but the whole thing is still a tiny bit too fruity for my tastes.

overall it’s mostly nice, and for £6.50 i’m happy with it. if this was the middle of summer instead of the end of january, i would easily buy a few bottles for a lazy sunday party or something. this would definitely be a fun bottle to compare to a Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence rosé because it’s tasty but also clearly lacking some of the mineraly limestone flavor that (imo) defines Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence wines.

finally, for an extra special treat below you can see the bottle pictured next to my roses, who are only just waking up from their wintertime sleep ❄🌹😴

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The Poisoned Earl (Recipe)

this is maybe the only one i actually have a photo of, because i made it up well after i had stopped working at a bar and actually bothered to take the time to pose it. it’s very boozy and fairly sharp so it’s definitely not for everyone, but i like it as a kind of aggressive aperitif.

The Poisoned Earl
1 sugar cube
3 dashes Angostura bitters

[muddle]

¼ oz. double-strength Earl Grey tea (cold)
1 oz. grappa
1 ¼ oz. gin

[stir with ice]

Strain into a double old-fashioned glass
Garnish with a dried lemon wheel/slice

if it’s too sharp, add a big fancy hand-cut ice cube.

Heartwarmer (Recipe)

this recipe came from a game we used to play behind the bar. the game starts with somebody putting one ingredient into a tin and then passing it off to someone else, who adds another ingredient and passes it back (or to another person) and so on. you’re allowed to taste the mixture as the game goes along but nobody is allowed to say what they put in, so the quality of the drink that comes out of it depends on everybody having a decent palate and not fucking things up along the way. sometimes it ends up in disaster and sometimes it ends up being tasty. this is one of the better ones, with ingredients listed in the order they were added.

Heartwarmer
½ oz. Cardamaro
1 barspoon amaretto
½ oz. Lemon Hart 151
1 barspoon Luxardo maraschino
¼ oz. cinnamon syrup
¼ oz. demerara syrup
½ oz. 100 proof apple brandy
1 oz. Elijah Craig

[stir with ice]

strain into a Nick & Nora or coupe

[image By Nheyob – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0]

Lemon Meringue Gin Fizz Royale (Recipe)

this is one of my favorite drinks to make for people because it seems way more elaborate than it really is and it’s balanced enough that even people who claim to not like gin, sweet drinks, or egg white drinks generally still end up enjoying it. it’s also fine without the lemon bitters, orange flower water, St. Germain, or the ‘royale’ part, but if you’re gonna make it you might as well include the boozy bubbles at the very least just to make it extra fun 🥂

Lemon Meringue Gin Fizz Royale 
1 oz. lemon juice
1 dash lemon bitters
2 drops orange flower water
½ oz. vanilla bean syrup
2 oz. gin
1 egg white

[shake]

Rinse a single old-fashioned glass with St. Germain

[shake with ice]

Strain into glass
Top with champagne
Garnish with a Peychaud’s bitters design

for a simpler recipe that doesn’t require the St. Germain, just add ¾ oz. of vanilla bean syrup instead of ½. eventually i’ll post a recipe for the syrup but really it’s dead simple so you could probably figure it out on your own. 

[image By Scott Akerman – https://www.flickr.com/photos/sterlic/7339730520, CC BY 2.0]