The $10,000 Martini?

I’m not the kind of television viewer that goes out actively seeking shows with titles such as the “World’s Most Expensivest (insert whatever here)”. That’s not to say I haven’t watched shows or read articles about stupidly expensive food, drinks, travel locations, etc. Well, I became aware of a web series that GQ Magazine is doing and their first feature is a must see.

The series is “Most Expensivest Shit” with your host the rapper 2 Chainz. It’s already in its second season! The first episode of season two features 2 Chainz and his buddy Big Sean trying out a $10,000 vodka martini.

The video is only 4 ½ minutes long. You really just need to check this out.

I love how 2 Chainz keeps looking at the camera with a face that says, get out of here, is this for real? He’s hosting the show, and it’s like he’s wondering if he’s being pranked.

Seriously people?

Also, do any of us really think those diamonds are imbuing any flavor to that vodka? I vote no. It is the bar world’s costliest gimmick. Fellas, you want to dazzle a lady, spend that $10,000 on actual, physical, jewelry that she can wear immediately. Not a vodka martini that has a diamond that you’ll need to pay to get set into jewelry at a later date.

With all of that out of the way, I enjoyed “Most Expensivest Shit”. The follow up episode where 2 Chainz checked out a store that specializes in rare and expensive sneakers was a good time too. You can watch it here.

Natural Remedies for Inflammation

Inflammation has been in the news lately thanks to a study out of the University of Toronto that showed evidence of brain inflammation during episodes of depression. However even before that, celebrity watchers were familiar with the concept of battling inflammation by reading about Anne Hathaway’s anti-inflammatory diet that she ate in preparation for her role as Catwoman. So at this point you’ve got to be wondering, what the hell is the deal with inflammation and how does one deal with it? You know I wouldn’t type out the question if I wasn’t prepared to offer you some kind of answer.

Healing Arts Press offers “Natural Remedies for Inflammation” by Christopher Vasey, N.D. Vasey does an excellent job describing inflammation and the different ways it can affect the body. As you can tell from the fact that we’re still discovering things that may be linked to inflammation, it’s still hard to say exactly what can or can’t be directly linked to inflammation. Yet Vasey highlights and explains many things that if inflammation isn’t the sole cause, it plays a large role in the malady. Arthritis, eczema, tendonitis, and gout are all characterized by inflammation.

Then Vasey dives in to discuss how anti-inflammatories work and how you need to decide if you want to block pro-inflammatory prostaglandins or increase anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. From there it’s a discussion of diet, plants, and supplements. (As we’ve recently learned, be sure you’re using plant sourcing and supplements you can trust.)

Of course what always impresses me with these types of natural remedy books is when they’re not afraid of traditional Western medicine. Frequently when describing conditions Vasey says you should see a doctor, or advises speaking with your physician before starting certain supplements. I personally tend to use a blend of Western and holistic/alternative medicine so I appreciate it when authors of natural remedy books don’t look down on Western medicine. Just like when I discuss alternative medicine with my physicians I expect them to listen to me, not just blow me off.

Anyone interested in learning about inflammation, how it works, and more importantly, ways to stop it, should absolutely grab a copy of “Natural Remedies for Inflammation” by Christopher Vasey, N.D.

Favorite Things 2014

Here it is, actually past due for me to get all Oprah on you and give you my 10 favorite things from 2014. This year was really hard to pick just 10 things, and immediately after I did the list more things came my way. So next year you may see some things that were featured on the site late this year. Enough about that, let’s get to the favoriting! (In no particular order of favorite-ness.)

1. “Among the Mermaids: Facts, Myths, and Enchantments from the Sirens of the Sea” by Varla Ventura. As someone who has always loved myths and stories about sirens and mermaids, “Among the Mermaids” was a definite stand out for the year. Not only did Ventura fill the book with lore and legends of merrows, mermaids, and sirens, but the resources section in the back lists books, movies, and shopping. Shopping! Want your mermaid tail?

2. “The Encyclopedia of Crystals” by Judy Hall. I love gemstones, rocks, and minerals. The end. Okay, not the end. This book makes learning more about crystals super easy. The stones are divided up by color, but also listed in alphabetical order in the crystal index in the front of the book, and of course there is a thorough index at the back of the book. Each entry has a fantastic image or two to help with identification and then they list: crystal system, chemistry, hardness, source, chakra, number, zodiac sign, planet, and what it’s beneficial for. After that there is a paragraph with historical and folkloric detail.

3. “The Daemon Tarot” by Ariana Osborne. Based on Jacques Auguste Simon Collin de Plancy’s “Dictionnaire Infernal”, this 69 card deck isn’t just a divinatory tool, but a piece of occult reference. Obviously it cannot be used exactly as a tarot deck, but thanks to a researched and well thought out companion book, you’ll be doing a single card draw or a six card spread in no time.

4. “The Witch’s Broom: The Craft, Lore & Magick of Broomsticks” by Deborah Blake. As one would suspect, there are oodles of nifty, witchy, bits of broom magic to be found in “The Witch’s Broom”. However, it’s the tons of stuff that you can appreciate whether you’re a witch or not that makes this book a favorite. You can learn how to make your own broom, how to decorate store bought brooms, there are get great gift ideas, and there is fun broom folklore and history.

5. “Encyclopedia of Goddesses & Heroines” by Patricia Monaghan. Monaghan published the first encyclopedia of divine females in 1979, and that book has stayed in print in one form or another right up to today. The latest is newly expanded and features more than 1,000 heroines and goddesses from folklore, literature, and religion from around the world. It. Kicks. Ass.

6. “365 Tarot Spreads” by Sasha Graham. A different tarot spread for each day of the year. They’re unique and thought out. If you want a tarot workout in the New Year, get this book now!

7. “The Yoga of Cleaning” by Jennifer Carter Avgerinos. Weird, right? Nope. Avgerinos background as both a certified yoga instructor and having worked in the consumer packaged cleaning tools industry for the past several years indeed gives her a unique perspective on these two seemingly divergent topics. She brings them together in a way that, I swear, makes you want to clean.

8. “Sacred Objects, Sacred Space: Everyday Tools for the Modern-Day Witch” by Dayna Winters, Patricia Gardner, and Angela Kaufman. These are the ladies that wrote “Wicca: What’s the Real Deal?”, and just like with their first book they did a fantastic job a packing an incredible amount of information into an easily digestible amount of book. This trio discuss just about any object you can imagine being used in magic, along with the appropriate care and ways to craft your own or personalize it. They also cover every space in which magic can be worked. This is a must own.

9. “The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences: How Understanding NDEs Can Help Us Live More Fully” by Dr. Penny Satori. There have dozens of books written about near-death experiences, however in my opinion this is the one we’ve been waiting for. Dr. Satori’s book is based off of the UK’s first long term prospective study of near-death experiences and she was awarded a PhD for her research in 2005. That’s right, it’s science. Although the research is grounded in science, Satori also includes many of her experiences from her 17 years as an intensive care nurse. This makes “The Wisdom of Near-Death Experiences” a compelling read.

10. Helderberg Mead. 2014 gets to be the year that I fell in love with Helderberg Mead. As Peter Voelker said when I interviewed him about Helderberg Meadworks, “Most mead that you can buy in the wine stores around here either tastes like a low alcohol honey syrup or a nice soft white wine. While there’s nothing wrong with that (I love a nice Vidal Blanc), HMW takes a different approach. We use techniques that would have been used many moons ago and produce a mead that has big, bold and feral qualities to it. We’ve adapted old world methods to modern day sanitation and palettes without catering to any particular group of consumers. This is mead as we think it should be. With that said, there are 2 major differences between HMWs mead and others. The first is our alcohol content, which has a range on the label of 15% to 16%. Our current “Burgundy Wax” batch is at the high side of that range. Most others are from 8% to 11%. The second difference is our use of oak aging. Back in the days before metals were commonly available, oak would have been the preferred storage vessel for nearly all drinks. We have taken this concept and applied it to our mead. The result is a powerful mead (shouldn’t all traditional mead be POWERFUL?) with a whiskey-like nose and great honey flavor without being overly sweet.”

Making Meal Time Magic

Long time readers know I’ve been a big fan of kitchen witch Dawn Hunt and her Cucina Aurora products for years. We’ve been fortunate enough to share several recipes/articles from her here on the site (Shepherd’s Pie, Spinach Quiche, and Pumpkin Cheesecake) and I got to interview her when the cookbook she contributed to and edited “Tastes From the Temple” released. My husband and I are also HUGE fans of Cucina Aurora Rosemary Oregano Infused Olive Oil. It’s great for dipping bread into and we cook chicken in it. SO GOOD!

As great as it is to read Dawn’s writing, it’s the best to see her cook and talk live. However if you’re like me and had to miss Celebrate Samhain this year (where she was presenting) and want to know what it’s like to see her live, now you can know. There is now an ongoing video series, “Making Meal Time Magic” with Dawn Hunt from Cucina Aurora. These short videos not only feature recipes, but also highlight food folklore and showcase a little bit of Dawn’s kitchen witchery. Try out Spicy Marinara Simmer Sauce:

If this video piqued your interest in Cucina Aurora you can learn more at www.cucinaaurora.com. If you’re inspired to try out some goodies while you’re there, now is a great time! Cucina Aurora is charging no shipping on orders until November 9, 2014! Enter Coupon Code WINGS at check out and enjoy free shipping on all orders. Limited to ONE use per customer. Valid only on online purchase at www.cucinaaurora.com. Offer expired November 9, 2014.

What’s Inside a Red Bull & Vodka

I tried Red Bull once. It tasted nasty. So I stick with my numerous other vices. However, I have always wondered what the heck was in it. I mean, you can read the side of the can, but what does it all mean? Fortunately, for information and entertainment, Wired Magazine’s web series “What’s Inside” answers this question.

When I think of Red Bull I always think of it as mixed in the “cocktail” Red Bull & Vodka. It’s actually why I tried Red Bull, the idea of drinking Red Bulls & Vodkas. Not happening. Anyway, it turns out Wired also did a “What’s Inside” about Vodka so why not complete the combo?

Red Bull & Vodka

Now you know exactly what’s inside those Red Bulls & Vodkas you toss back. I’m sure enough Vodka makes the Red Bull taste okay, but seriously, there are tastier ways to get drunk my friends. They usually involve rum. Mmmmm……..rum.

Visiting Helderberg Meadworks

Some of you may remember that I was lucky enough to interview Peter Voelker, the owner of Helderberg Meadworks. Apparently The Magical Buffet community made a good enough impression that I got invited over to actually see the mysterious, alchemical process that goes into making their varieties of mead! Squeee!

To be honest, it’s no serious mystery as to how mead is made. First you take some of this:

Water

Then you add some of this:

Honey

Although Helderberg doesn’t use any old honey, this is raw honey direct from a local beekeeper. I got to taste it and it was amazing. It was sweet, but then it had a zingy flavor at the end. Peter explained that the zippy flavor comes from where the bees live and travel.

Lastly, you need some of this:

Yeast
Yeast

Then, you let it hang out and ferment.

FYI, it even tastes good while fermenting.

After three months it’s finally ready to be filtered and put into bottles. Then it gets the cool wax top.

Many crayons died to bring you this lid.

They put one of their bad ass looking labels on it.

You can get that on a shirt.

And you end up with something beautiful.

Beautiful.

Two people make all of THIS.

This.
And this.

So that all of us can do this!

DRINK!

Available right now from Helderberg Meadworks is Heritage, which is a honey mead, and apple Mead, which is their honey mead blended with Indian Ladder Farms apples. Both are smooth and very drinkable. Personally, I like the Heritage at room temperature and the Apple cold.

I know what you’re thinking, those sound great, I’m going to go get me some of that! That is fantastic, you should do that. However you should know that in August they’re adding TWO MORE varieties to their line up! Oh and they both sound wonderful!

There will be Maple Mead. Much like the Apple Mead, the Maple Mead will start life with the honey mead base but by working with Wilderhook Maple Farm they will be adding maple to the mix. I didn’t get to try this one but I was told that it maintains a maple flavor without being overly sweet. I’m pretty excited to compare this one with their Heritage Mead.

Now for the grand finale, Feral Mead. This mead is made from yeast that was gathered and cultivated from right outside the Meadworks. Seriously. Peter told us about collecting it. How he would gather some and it would be all weirdly colored and just dump it out. But finally he got something that looked right, and smelled right, so then he set about using it for a small test. And then the last test, he drank the results! That takes some kind of balls people! I’m no longer impressed by the guy who took down the 10 point buck. Have you gathered your own yeast in the wild? No? Then move along. The most important part of this Feral Mead story is this, it tastes AMAZING! Just so, so good. It’s like Heritage Mead’s beautiful sister.

If you want to learn more about Helderberg Meadworks and where you can buy their tasty meads, you can visit their website.

Me with the Helderberg Crew

Kirsten, Peter, and Me

Wychwood’s Scarecrow

Back in 2012 I shared with you my experience trying out Wychcraft from Wychwood Brewery. That’s when I learned that you guys love talking about booze! I knew I liked you guys. Anyway, I’m back again with another bottle from Wychwood Brewery, Scarecrow.

As I outlined in my previous article, I tend to prefer lighter beers like pilsners. Scarecrow is described on the label as a “Golden Pale Ale”; between that and how much I like Wychcraft I had to give it a try. It’s like the pilsner of the gods; light, refreshing, and with just enough body to let you know you’re drinking an English ale. What makes an interesting side note is that Scarecrow is USDA certified organic.

Yep, Scarecrow is an organic beer. The description on the back of the bottle reads, “Scarecrow Organic Ale is brewed using organically grown Plumage Archer barley malt & Target hops to create a refreshing tasting beer of exceptional flavor & character. Ingredients grown to organic standards prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides & fertilizers.”

Is it the organic nature of Scarecrow that makes it so delicious? Proponents of organic food and drink I’m sure would say yes. However I suspect it’s just the inherent magical nature of Wychwood Brewery that makes Scarecrow taste so darn good. It’s just what they do.

10 Questions with Peter Voelker

1. What is mead?
In short, mead is any fermented alcoholic beverage made using honey as the primary fermentable.

2. What makes Helderberg Mead different from other meads?
Most mead that you can buy in the wine stores around here either tastes like a low alcohol honey syrup or a nice soft white wine. While there’s nothing wrong with that (I love a nice Vidal Blanc), HMW takes a different approach. We use techniques that would have been used many moons ago and produce a mead that has big, bold and feral qualities to it. We’ve adapted old world methods to modern day sanitation and palettes without catering to any particular group of consumers. This is mead as we think it should be. With that said, there are 2 major differences between HMWs mead and others. The first is our alcohol content, which has a range on the label of 15% to 16%. Our current “Burgundy Wax” batch is at the high side of that range. Most others are from 8% to 11%. The second difference is our use of oak aging. Back in the days before metals were commonly available, oak would have been the preferred storage vessel for nearly all drinks. We have taken this concept and applied it to our mead. The result is a powerful mead (shouldn’t all traditional mead be POWERFUL?) with a whiskey-like nose and great honey flavor without being overly sweet.

3. Why did you decide to start selling your mead to the public?
After making mead for myself over the past 15 years or so, I was still very disappointed in the lack of commercial meads choices. They are all in the same family of taste, where ours is completely different. The initial investment to start small was small enough that we could finance it ourselves. Our hope all along was that there would be enough people out there who truly appreciate it for what it is. There are always those who are stuck in their little boxes, but it’s those who taste it and say “wow!” who make it worthwhile! Along with that, I also did not want to look back 10 years from now and wonder why I didn’t even try to go full production commercial.

4. Helderberg Meadworks makes several different varieties of mead. Can you explain their differences?
a. Heritage – this is our traditional mead, sometimes referred to as a “show mead” because it’s nothing more than honey and water. Sometimes the simple recipes are the most difficult to achieve because they hide NOTHING in other flavors.
b. Apple – A cyser in meadspeak. We have always been a fan of cysers. Prior to going commercial our second best mead was our own cyser, so logically this would be our next production mead. Introduced in October, the response has been outstanding!
c. Maple (TBD) – This is a mead that is still in the approval process. Following all appropriate federal and state regulations, we have numerous steps of approval before being able to sell it. Suffice it to say though, that we at HMW took a step back and looked at what we enjoy. We like NY and the northeast. We already have an apple mead, so the next step was to look at what else is something of a local pride product. Maple syrup! We are working with a local maple syrup producer to find the best tasting syrup to use in the production of our Maple Mead. Test batches of it are outstanding. Imagine the flavor of our mead followed by maple syrup filling your mouth without all the sweetness of drinking syrup.
d. ?????? Mead. This is going to be something rarely, if ever, done at production levels in the USA. I’m keeping it under wraps for now but it is very difficult to make and will be very unique. I hope to have it available by Fall 2014.

5. What’s the best way to drink mead; chilled, over iced, etc.?
Yep. 😀 Consumer’s choice. Our mead is an “outside the box” beverage so there really are no confines to how you are supposed like it. We encourage people to experiment and see how they like it best. Our preference? The Heritage at room temperature and the apple mead served COLD.

6. How does mead pair with food?
It makes an excellent marinade.

This is a difficult question to answer. We try to steer clear of questions that would be typical when discussing a wine. When we do festivals and tastings, we tell people to try it first THEN tell us what they think it would pair best with. The responses we get from people after they try it are all over the map with respect to what they would pair it with. Some find it as an after dinner honey port. Some think it’s great with poultry, others with a grilled steak. The best thing people can do is try it and decide for themselves. We always post when and where people can find and taste our mead before buying it, so watch our Facebook page if you want to try before you buy.

7. Your meadery has an awesome logo which is not only on your bottles but also on some cool looking t-shirts. How did the logo come about?
I have a friend in Maine who is a graphic designer, Jen Goodwin of Goodwin Glass and Graphics. She had done some of my homebrew mead labels for fun in the past, so I knew I wanted her to design the Heritage label. I gave her some of my ideas and things that I didn’t want. One of which was a Viking image. She sent me some design ideas, all of which were great but somehow didn’t strike me enough. Then she said she had a surprise with the caveat of “I know we weren’t going to use…” and it was done. That was design awesomeness right there. It set our mead apart on the shelf and gave us a whole design concept to work with. It’s a great mead and she gave us the look that gets people to notice it among the other bottles.

8. When not drinking mead, what do you enjoy drinking?
We like local wines and spirits above all. This is the hardest question to answer because there are too many to list! Some of our favorites are KyMar Mapple Jack, Thousand Islands Winery Frontenac (with a shot of cognac), Brimstone Hill Vidal Blanc, Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Warwick Valley Gin, Brookview Station Baco Noir and Cassis Port. We have a long standing favorite with Leonard Kreusch Kabinett Riesling. Plus I have a current fascination with absinthe on top of all that.

9. What’s next for Helderberg Meadworks?
Co-owner Kirsten is developing her own signature mead. All options are on the table for that! We are very excited about it.

Our ????? mead and of course more expansion! Every penny earned is invested back into the meadery. This winter we will be adding new and much larger tanks. Our production goal that we had planned on reaching at the 5 year mark will be achieved in year 2. It’s an amazing accomplishment and it reassures us that there are still people out there who can appreciate a quality craft.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Just 1? I have to ask – what was it that drew your attention to our mead?

We at HMW are always looking for ways to reach great people that may not know about us and learning about our customers helps us to reach them better!

I got to try your mead at the New York State tastings at Exit 9 Wine and Liquor Warehouse. I enjoyed it and took your business card with me. At this point I’ve tried your Apple Mead and your Heritage Mead and they were both DELICIOUS!

About Peter Voelker and Helderberg Meadworks:
Helderberg Meadworks is one of a precious few “meaderies” in the state who only produce mead. Owner and meadmaker Peter Voelker has been making a variety of meads for many years. In 2010 he decided to open the meadery with his wife Kirsten to share what he considers the best mead in the country.

Our philosophy is to create a mead that is as close as possible to mead that may very well have been made hundreds, and even thousands of years ago, while using modern equipment and methods. We use minimal sulfites and minimal production handling. This means that each batch is unique. Every harvest of local honey is different, so every batch will taste a bit different. In order to differentiate batches for our customers, we plan to use a different color wax top.

Lights, Camera, Booze!

I’ve always had a soft spot for the movie “The Princess Bride”. Then when my husband and I got married we made reference to the book at our ceremony so we never officially declared it, but the movie sort of became “our” film. So obviously we did what any reasonable married couple would do with such a special film, we invited our friends over for “The Princess Bride”: The Drinking Game.

Yes my friends, you read that correctly. I received a review copy of “Lights, Camera, Booze: Drinking Games for Your Favorite Movies” by Kourtney Jason and Lauren Metz and illustrated by Amanda Lanzone, and you can’t get a book like that and not take it for a test drive. There were tons of tempting options: “The Goonies”, “Back to the Future”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Clerks”, “Fight Club”, “Monty Python & the Holy Grail”, and so many more! Yet when everything was said and done my husband and I picked “our” movie, “The Princess Bride”.

With the difficult decision of film picked out, we all gathered and prepared for the fun. “Lights, Camera, Booze” tells you when to drink. In this case, drink when….
1. “Farmboy”
2. As you wish
3. Mawwiage
4. Anyone mentions Andre the Giant’s size
5. Inconceivable
6. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
7. True love
8. The grandson interrupts
9. Sword fight
10. The Machine
11. Horse Rides
12. Dread Pirate Roberts
13. Rodents of Unusual Size
14. Man in Black
15. Westley defeats a foe.
16. 6-fingered man.
17. Prince Humperdinck
18. Buttercup is referred to as Highness or Princess

Each movie, along with the “drink when”, has a cocktail paired up with it. For “The Princess Bride” the drink is the True Love Cocktail. A mix of coconut rum (RUM!), peach schnapps, and cranberry juice. The first few to try it proclaimed that it “tasted like college” and others agreed. It was pretty sweet and needless to say, tasted better the more you had.

Being the super hostess, I had provided potato chips. I refer to them as fried sliced potato tapas. Fortunately a few of our friends had other things in mind. One friend brought roasted in the shell peanuts (“Anybody want a peanut?”), and snack size Snickers (to emulate the oversized chocolate Miracle Max pill). A different pair brought beer bread (Yum!) and M.L.T.s, yep, mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches (Miracle Max’s favorite!). They were DELICIOUS!

The book stresses that when you “drink”, it’s a sip, not a pounding back the whole glass. Although even with that rule in place most of us thought we were in trouble with just the plot background at the start of the film. We were like, Buttercup, quit saying Farmboy and for the love of God Westley, shut up on the “As you wish”! Depending on the size of the glass, some folks were refilling by the time Buttercup was vowing she would never love again. It was ugly and it was HILARIOUS!

We all had a great time and when it was over I shared the trivia that “Lights, Camera, Booze” provides. They also have a game, which for The Princess Bride was a toy sword fight. Being adults, full of True Love Cocktails, in our crowded apartment; we opted to pass on the game. There’s also a Hot Topics section with some conversational questions which I totally forgot about and by this point my friends wanted to go through and look at other movies.

By the end of the evening people were talking about what the next movie/drinking game night should be and what other movies should have been in the book. With that in mind, I would give Jason & Metz’s “Lights, Camera, Booze” two thumbs up, way up.