New year new country new coffee

Hello from Kyrgyzstan! I have been here for almost a week and am like on the verge of beginning to attain normalcy here. ALMOST. Beginning.


In the vicinity of Ala-Too Square (the main square in Bishkek)

In the course of my explorations today I went to a new grocery store and was deeply delighted to find that they had my favorite instant coffee. Yes, this is the previously untold end of the saga of the instant coffee taste test: I won. I am actually slightly embarrassed by this. Not only did i find an instant coffee I kind of liked, after almost a year of drinking it I have turned into some sort of horrible instant coffee lover. An instant coffee lover who is horrible, that is; not a lover of horrible instant coffee. I love only the finest instant coffee. I will maintain (with deep shame) until my dying breath that this one is actually good. Continue reading

How to: drink beer

Pretty much every time I go out for beers with my friend Sarah, I go, “Wait, what are hops? Are those the ones I like? Do I like lager? What’s an ale?” I don’t know why. She has never claimed to know very much about beer.

The original idea for this post was: It’s hot out this week and I don’t feel like cooking. I should do a “How to: drink beer” post and it will be like, open a beer and put it in your mouth. But then I realized that was dumb and not funny.

I spent a while today reading pretty much every single beer article on The Kitchn, and now I am a beer expert. (I also read this extraordinarily awesome Men’s Health slideshow.) I know things like:

-Hops are the flowers of the hop plant (related to hemp); they make things bitter. (Dear self, for future reference, you really like hops.)
-Lager is like normal beer—Budweiser, Miller, etc. (There are good lagers out there, though!) They are made with bottom-fermenting yeast, and they ferment at colder temperatures. Lagers are described as crisp, clean, etc.
-In contrast, ales are made with top-fermenting yeast and are “robust” and “complex.” (They are better than lagers. But NO JUDGMENT.)
-IPAs (India Pale Ale) are hoppy ales. I like them. A lot. They are hoppy because hops are a preservative, and they were brewed to withstand the trip from England to India (by boat, back in the day). Pale ales in general are made with paler malt—less roasted. I can’t even get into malt right now. OK, fine:
-Malt is actually malted barley. That is pretty much all I comprehend about malt. I don’t even know if it’s the same stuff as in bagels. Hold on. OK. Malt is “the term used for maltose sugar extracted from sprouted barley,” according to Epicurious (trustworthy). So it seems like it is probably the same thing. (Update: It’s the next day and I am still ridiculously confused by this. Help.)

I have totally lost the thread of this post. Right now I’m drinking Tenacious Traveler, from the House of Shandy Beer Co. It tastes like ginger and lemon (it tastes more like a shandy—beer+lemonade—than it does like beer); it’s really, really weird. You can’t really taste anything other than the ginger and lemon. I am mostly just mystified by the fact that they had it in my utterly sketchy East Harlem bodega. I’ve never heard of it before. But the label has a guy with a mustache, so that’s nice.

I have a very minor obsession with seasonal beer, so I may start commenting on them here. (The minor obsession just means that I usually get the seasonal beer when it’s on tap. But I think everyone does this. Also, this is more true in the fall, when I am on the ever-important quest for pumpkin beer.) Good night.

Survival sangría

Part of the mission of this blog is trying things that will probably fail, just to see if they don’t. That isn’t really what I meant. I mean… things that are long shots. Unlikely to succeed. Spectacularly charming messes.

Like me.


So the other day, I had fifteen minutes to get to a picnic to which I had promised to bring “alcohol in a subtle container.” (I think drinking in Central Park is illegal.) I then discovered that, according to the Internet, sangría should chill in the fridge for a minimum of four hours. So I was like, screw it, I will do it anyway, and people will probably drink it.

(Survival anything is something you make under adverse circumstances but that you really really need. See also: survival cheesecake. Well, that wasn’t a post. It’s something that happened in college in the worst-smelling kitchen of all time.)

I chopped up 1 Gala apple and about half a pint (no… are pints the really small containers? Maybe half of two pints, then) of surprisingly ripe-looking strawberries. I put them in my bright red Nalgene, and then filled it to the brim with as much white wine as I could fit. (I bought extremely cheap wine—because I love you, dear friends—figuring that if you’re going to sangría-ize it the quality is maybe not so important. No offense, Barefoot Wine.) It was about 3/4 of the bottle. Maybe 7/8.

I poured in some quantity of sugar, without even remotely measuring, and added some lemon juice, hoping to counteract the sweetness of everything else and maybe add a dimension. (I finally figured out how to open my little lemon thing!)

Then… and this is the truly shameful part… I closed the Nalgene and SHOOK IT OVER THE SINK as if I were making salad dressing. I put it in the freezer for approximately three minutes.

Then we went to the picnic.

Douchey… or THE DOUCHIEST???

It was declared “drinkable” and “not bad.” Well, at the end of the picnic we found a full Solo cup (we’re still young, it’s OK), so someone didn’t like it, but I don’t know who. I was going to make disparaging comments about that unknown person, but actually they might just be a very classy person with good taste in wine.

So the point is, if you really need sangría, you might as well do this. But otherwise, well, you probably shouldn’t. Unless you’re so young that you’re allowed to have absolutely atrocious taste in drinks. (I think I still am? Well, I still act that way.)