Bad News–Good News

The San Jose Earthquakes have announced that construction problems will delay completion of their new stadium. It had been scheduled to open before the start of next season in March; it will now be ready mid campaign. They will continue to play home games at the current venue; which as I can testify after my recent visit is not the area’s best arena.

However, in the story reporting the delay there was a description of the new ground which included the following highlight: the largest outdoor bar in North America.

Published in: on 30 July, 2013 at 6:00  Leave a Comment  

Not a Shot

Hot on the heels of National Daiquiri Day, Wednesday was National Tequila Day. In the UK, the only Tequila available tends to be cheap firewater, suitable only for shots or being drowned in fruit-juice. Here, in the US, however, there are some fine, complex examples of the drink that can be savoured, or used in cocktails that highlight the drink’s flavour.

Tequila is made from the sap of the blue agave plant. Regulations require that at least 51% of the contents are so derived; the other 49% can be corn or cane syrup. These blends make up the cheap end of the market and are those that are shipped to the UK. 100% Agave Tequila is more expensive and far more interesting to taste. There are several categories of aged Tequila. Reposado is aged in oak for at least two months, which barely counts as aging in my opinion, but does create a smoother, more nuanced flavour. Añejo is aged between one and three years in small oak casks. I have tasted Añejo Tequila’s with a smokiness and complexity that compares to decent whiskey.

blue_agave_oasis

To mark National Tequila Day, I made two different cocktails.

Demon of Destiny

1.5oz Gin
3/4oz Sweet Vermouth
1/2oz Absinthe
1/4oz Reposado Tequila
1/4oz Agave Syrup

This is clearly not a Tequila forward drink and it was selected to also reflect the naming of the Royal Sprog. I am not suggesting an Omen like Demonic child, but I used St George Absinthe. The drink’s flavour was overwhelmed by the aniseed from the Absinthe. If I were to try this again, I would cut the Absinthe down to a teaspoon, or a wash.

The second drink was The Dooce Cocktail

1oz Green Chartreuse
1oz Añejo Tequila
1oz Punt E Mes, Sweet Vermouth
2ds Orange Bitters

This was a far better drink in which to taste the Tequila, albeit in a supporting role to the herbal brilliance of the other two ingredients.

Published in: on 28 July, 2013 at 6:00  Leave a Comment  

Fast Food Folly

San Diego is an attractive Southern California city, with a great coastline and Florida’s most recognizable hotel. (The classic Some Like It Hot, set in Florida used the city’s Del Coronado hotel)

The quality and classiness of San Diego makes it strange that a fast food chain should apply its name to one of the most dubious sounding menu items I have ever seen

IMG_1252

Steak and fries go together and steak goes well in burritos, but that does make a steak and French fry burrito a good idea. I shall decline to take Time magazine up on its imperative recommendation.

Published in: on 27 July, 2013 at 11:33  Comments (1)  

Local Derby

I received an email from Sacramento’s new football team, Sacramento Republic FC. The email was an invitation to a competition that offered flights, accommodation, and tickets to a Premier League game at Old Trafford. The text of the message sells this game as “one of the most historic rivalries” against opponents from “..a nearby city”.

Manchester United  v Liverpool is a deep English rivalry and the cities are about thirty miles apart. That game would meet the description, but that is not the match on offer

Manchester United v Leeds United is driven by a bitter hatred that harks back to the War of the Roses. The cities are less than fifty miles apart.  However, Leeds are no longer in the Premier League, so that is not the match on offer.

The game is Manchester United v Chelsea, which is not what I would consider as a historic rivalry. More to the point Chelsea’s ground is over 210 miles from Manchester United’s ground – that is not a nearby city; the only Premier League ground further from Manchester United is that of Southampton.

Published in: on 26 July, 2013 at 5:54  Leave a Comment  

National Freedom from Choice Day

Last Friday was National Daiquiri Day. This is just one of many such days that have been marked to honor one drink or another. I have these events marked in my diary, for they provide a reason to pick a drink for the evening without prevarication.

I now have a well stocked drink cabinet, experience in making a wide range of drinks, and many more that I have yet to try. It can take longer to pick a recipe than to make it or drink it. The browsing of recipes and trying to decide between a known concoction and a fresh experience is part of the pleasure of my mixology hobby, but the occasional predetermined tipple is a welcome change.

Daiquiri is a much abused name; it should be a simple, traditional, straight up blend of white rum, fresh lime juice, and sugar syrup. Granted, that the original recipe cannot legally be reproduced in the US, as it calls for Havana Club Rum; a banned Cuban product. Nonetheless, there are plenty of good quality white rums available. Unfortunately, all too often the name is applied to a slushy mix of fruit flavored syrup and second rate liquor.

I had given up on making Daiquiris, until its National Day rolled round. My previous attempts had not been satisfying, having a taste of just sweet lime juice. I am glad that I gave it one more try, as with an older recipe to which I applied my own twist, I finally made a Daiquiri with which I am pleased.

2oz Flor de Caña Extra Dry 4 Year Old Rum
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Honey Syrup

The use of honey syrup in place of sugar syrup was my own slight variation, which along with the reduction of lime made a Daiquri that I can add to my cocktail rotation.

Published in: on 23 July, 2013 at 6:00  Comments (1)  

Soccer in Sacramento

The Norwich game about which I wrote a couple of days ago had been arranged to promote the arrival in Sacramento of professional football (or soccer as Americans call it, to differentiate from a game in which the ball is carried and thrown and only occasionally kicked)

Sacramento is the State Capital of California and is a fair distance from the population centres of The Bay Area. It is,  however, somewhat lacking in professional sports’ teams. It has an NBA team, that it nearly lost this year to Seattle. The basketball team has a dismal record in recent years, a fact not reflected in the strong attendances. It has a AAA Minor League baseball, which can get crowds that match the Major League team with which they are affiliated.

From next season, which starts in March 2014, Sacramento will have a professional football team. They will play in the USL, the third tier of the sport in the US; beneath the NASL and MLS.

At Thursday’s event, the new team’s name and colours were unveiled. They will be known as Sacramento Republic FC; playing in white or maroon.

IMG_1236

Published in: on 22 July, 2013 at 6:10  Leave a Comment  

Grimsby–USA

I went to see Norwich play San Jose Earthquakes in the second of their pre-season friendlies in the US. It was a little like going to watch Norwich play Grimsby Town in the FA Cup. The ground is not in the town implied by the club’s name; Cleethorpes in the case of Grimsby and Santa Clara in the case of San Jose. Both grounds are fairly shabby. In both cases Norwich lost in a disappointing performance.

IMG_1242

The announcer managed to avoid the risk of mispronouncing “Norwich”, by referring to them as the Canaries. There was no danger of flying the British flag upside down, by using the English Cross of St George.

IMG_1245

At halftime, I saw the Legend that is Darren Huckerby in the line for beer. He played for both Norwich City and San Jose Earthquakes in this career. Being British, I did not go and ask for an autograph or pose for a photograph.

The game in Sacramento had been a mainly neutral crowd. This was, unsurprisingly a much more partisan affair. There was a block behind the goal who kept their singing, chanting, and flag waving going throughout the game. The group call themselves the 1906 Ultras; the year referring to the big Earthquake that shook the Bay Area. They added a vibrant atmosphere to proceedings.

The team-sheet, or roster to use the American term, caused some amusement to the geeky couple behind me. I heard him say about a Norwich player “Snodgrass, that sounds like a Quidditch player”

It was a fun night, minus the result, but if I only enjoyed seeing Norwich when they won, I would have stopped watching the Canaries many years ago.

Published in: on 21 July, 2013 at 9:04  Leave a Comment  

The Cats and the Canaries

On Thursday night I went to Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats to see my English football team, Norwich City, play a pre-season friendly.

IMG_1240

It was a night of firsts

The first time I have seen a football game played in baseball park.
The first time I have been to a minor league baseball ground in California.
The first time I have seen Norwich outside of England.
The first time I have drunk a beer whilst in the seats watching a Norwich game.
The first time I have seen Norwich win a pre-season friendly; they won 3-0 against Club Dorados De Sinaloa

The Sacramento River Cats are the AAA affiliate of the Oakland A’s. AAA is the level below the major leagues, so their team includes many players who have worn the green and gold of Oakland this year.

I have been to four other baseball parks in California; all of them in the majors. The one other minor league park was in Peoria, Illinois. Raley Field is an excellent stadium with a good view across the city skyline.

IMG_1235

At games in England, beer cannot be drunk in view of the pitch. There are no such restrictions here, and there was a bar with a wide selection of beers. I had an excellent drink called “Back in Black” from 21st Amendment Brewery in San Francisco. It is a black pale ale, which may sound like a contradiction in terms, but was a fascinating, tasty diversion from the norm; despite the anti-British rhetoric on the brewers web-page.

There were two games at Thursday’s event; hence the different teams on the pitch in the daytime photograph and the more sparsely populated stands.

After a win on Thursday, Norwich’s next game on their West Coast tour is Saturday night against San Jose Earthquakes.

My only quibble was the stadium announcer pronouncing the ‘W’ in Norwich.

Published in: on 20 July, 2013 at 6:54  Leave a Comment  

All Star Game

Tuesday night was baseball’s All Star Game; an annual event when a team of players from the American League play a team drawn from the National League. This is mainly an exhibition game, but the winner does determine whether the American or National League champions will have home field advantage in the World Series.

The All Star Game helped me narrow my choice of drink for Tuesday night. I wanted a cocktail with a baseball theme. I choose Cooperstown; which is the site of baseball’s Hall of Fame.

1.5oz  Gin
.75oz  Sweet Vermouth
.75oz  Dry Vermouth
2 dashes Orange Bitters
2  leaves Mint

Stir the ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Although the mint leaves were only in the drink for a short time, they have a noticeable impact on the flavour, making it very different from a regular Martini.

Published in: on 17 July, 2013 at 6:00  Leave a Comment  

Derby Day

Monday was baseball’s Home Run Derby Day. This is a competition between baseball’s best sluggers to see who can hit the most home runs. For those not familiar with the game of baseball, a home run is a hit that takes the ball over the fences surrounding the field.  Any hit that is not  a home run is recorded as an “out”; a player has ten of those outs before their turn ends.

This year there was a player from the Oakland A’s participating;  Yoenis Cespedes. He had a massive first round hitting seventeen home runs; tying for third place in the most home runs hit in a round of the competition. He triumphed  in the third and final round with five “outs” to spare; becoming the first Oakland player to win the crown since Mark McGwire in 1992.

YC

There is an oddity in the way that “Derby” is pronounced in the US; instead of saying “DAR-BE”, Americans say “DER-BE”, as though the second letter of the word is an “E” and not an “A’… oh wait… never mind.

I thought I should make an appropriate cocktail for the event. Thus I drank a “Derby”

IMG_1232

1oz     Bourbon (Jim Beam Black)
1/2oz Sweet Vermouth (Punt E Mes)
1/2oz  Orange Curacao
1/2oz  Lime Juice

Shake, strain into chilled glass, garnish with wedge of lime and mint leaf.

It was an excellent drink, with a tart edge from the lime, and a hint of the herbal complexity from the vermouth.

Published in: on 16 July, 2013 at 6:46  Leave a Comment