Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Taiwanese Aboriginal Cuisine: A Taste of Crickets

The quick scan of Taiwanese history is not short or without interesting stories. From native island dwellers, the influx of mainland Chinese immigrants, and Japanese rule, Taiwan is a melting pot of cultures with a unique cuisine. My cousin took us to an aboriginal themed restaurant. There was a show of singing, dancing, and drumming to entertain us during our meal. We were lucky enough to not get pulled into the line dance so we could observe from afar. I'm not opposed to dancing, but I am a bigger fan of eating.
The dancers were starting their slow descend on unsuspecting diners in order to turn them into dancers. *It was really that bad, but I wanted to eat crickets.
Here's some hot rock shrimp. They shrimp and hot rocks were covered and steamed.
These are baby corn in the husk that have been grilled. It was all the fun of eating corn on the cob wrapped up in a tiny package.
If you're going to squeamish about crickets on my blog, you should probably try some first. Crickets are surprisingly crunchy crouton-like. They add a very lovely dimension to dishes. Think of them like mini-lobsters. 
Squid is a big thing here. Everywhere you turn around, there's squid in a dish. It is a great thing that I'm quite fond of squid. Here it is with some basil.
Whole roasted chicken. This was exceptionally tasty.
Salt crusted whole fish was on the menu, and it was fantastic. I've raved about the quality of the seafood before, and I'll do it again. When you have access to fresh seafood, you can't help but to have it as often as you can and to love it.
Bell peppers, tofu, and sauce. This is a pretty standard Asian style dish.
Another popular set up in Taiwan are personal size propane burners for soup at the table.
And pretty standard Asian barbeque and sausage served with raw garlic and onions.
And this is one of the best noodle dishes I've had. The rice and noodle dishes here didn't look that much different from dishes I've had before. The difference seems to be that the level of umami is through the roof as compared to the same dishes I've had before.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ben and Jerry's Lends a Hand in Locks of Love Donation

Summer has finally hit Austin, and it will not be merciful. Luckily for us, Ben and Jerry's tour debuting two Texas inspired flavors was in town to bring us relief from the heat. The two flavors are Bourbon Pecan Pie and Barbeque Peach. While both of them won a place in my Southern heart, I’m fairly certain that the clear winner was the Bourbon Pecan Pie.

While on the Austin leg of their Texas Tour, Dan Bookmiller and Jana Steele made friends at many iconic locations. The Draughthouse is where @MouseTheDog got to enjoy a few scoops as well.

Here's Mouse and Dan on a Summer Afternoon. I love the pairing of Mouse next to the cows as his historical function is to herd cattle.

And here's Mouse and Jana posing next to the Sprinter. Did I mention that the Sprinter is equipped with a solar panel on top? That's another thing to add to my list of "Dream Sprinter" features.

Last Austin stop at HomeAway Downtown.

As if ice cream wasn’t already a treat, the Ben and Jerry’s good deed mantra struck again on their last day in Austin. @AgentMarshall and I had been planning on donating our hair to Locks of Love for quite some time now, and the Ben and Jerry’s team lent us a hand. At their last stop in Austin, Jana of Ben and Jerry’s traded in her scoop for a pair of scissors to make the Locks of Love haircuts.
Here's Jana about t make the first snip on Marshall.

Marshall is really happy to get that hair cut off!

Good bye, Hair!

I'm next up. This is my seventh donation to Locks of Love. I have two ponytails to make it easier to cut.

I am also extremely happy to get this hair cut. Jana was a pro at cutting hair. The entire process did not take more than three minutes, and that's including the time she took to give it a some style.

And here's the final results. Two ponytails. Two freshly cut hairdo's. And three very happy people.
Thank you so much to Dan, Jana, Ben and Jerry's for bringing delicious ice cream to Austin and helping us donate to Locks of Love.

Mouse thanks you too!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Being a Data Nerd: Using Data to Find Super Cheap Flights

The data geek in me loves to research and research and research before I purchase anything, and airline tickets are no exception. There are plenty of blog posts advising you when you should buy and how to strategically use flight credits. In addition to those, there is another piece of data that will greatly influence supply and demand, more so than purchase date.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t work for all airlines who don’t publish their supply. Because some of my more frequented airlines do not publish their supply, I gather data in there other fashion.

  1. Start looking at flights early and sign up for alert services. Hipmunk.com and Zapta.com are two that I use. I like Hipmunk’s ability to have several searches open, however, their alert emails are much too slow. I like that Zapta that is quick with alert emails.
  2. Once you know the range of flight prices, you’ll know if you’re buying at a low, medium, or high price.
    1. Keep in mind that price fluctuations typically only rise close to the departure date. For domestic flights, it is usually three weeks from departure, and it is typically 53 days from departures.
    2. For domestic flights, I check throughout the day on Tuesdays and Wednesdays for price drops.
  3. If flights are very empty, you can predict that the prices will drop and keep dropping until you are just about to depart. You'll need to get this data by going to the airline website and go through the purchasing process to see the seat selections. Note you don't actually have to buy the seats to see how many seats were available. See my photos for example.
Both flights are about $900. Silly cheap.

The flights going overseas was so empty that the airline pretty much comped the Austin to San Francisco leg of the trip. The top two photos show that the trip originating from San Francisco or Austin at the same price.  The photo below shows the amount of seats remaining on the flights just three weeks away from the flight date. These prices were a 25% (over $300) less than typical prices.

Look at all those empty seats!
Now you know what kind of data to collect. Start collecting data now, and save a respectable sum.

Monday, June 8, 2015

In the Heat of the Summer, You'll Wish You were at Alaska Brewing

Central Market has fun cooking classes with fun guests. When I saw that Alaskan Brewing was going to be hosting a class, I couldn't miss it. A big thanks to Central Market and Alaskan Brewing for having me as a guest.

The first course started with a seafood crostini. Crisp carbs topped with rich cheese and seafood? Yep. That's a win.

This lovely bite of heaven was served with the Freeride APA for a lovely contrast. Something this rich needs to be paired with something that can cut the fat.

For our second course, we had the orange IPA salad dressing over kale and orange segments. This was paired with a Icy Bay IPA which features a surfer on the bottle. Orange and bitter kale was a most excellent pairing for the salad and dressing. The beer was a great cleanser for each bite.

The next dish up was the amber glazed salmon served with veggies and rice. In addition to providing tasty bites and refreshing sips, they also provided us tips when visiting Alaska. There are many cruise options to Alaska. When you are there you can rent a car and blaze your own adventure. Get salmon when you arrive. It'll be super fresh if you visit at the right time of the year. Salmon breeds spawn at different times, so as long as you arrive during the correct window, you might be in for a treat. You can also go on a tour of the brewery. There are a number of ways to get to the brewery, and here are their recommendations if you aren't coming with a tour group.

Alaskan Brewing has only been in Texas for a few years, but they have been around the block and collecting their fair share of awards along the way. The Smoked Porter is absolutely delicious, and I highly recommend grabbing one of the vertical tasting boxes or keep buying the bombers when you see them available.

Central Market's Jordan Knowles and Alaskan Brewing's Terry Nance and Jon Blakley give us a toast!