Philly Beer Week 2013 from a Phirst-Timer

This time last year, I was JUST getting geared up to move from NC. I ogled Philly Beer Week 2012 from afar, following Twitter and Facebook like a stalker. Fast-forward to 2013 and I was ready for what was touted as “The Biggest Beer Week in the Nation”. With over 1,000 events during the course of 10 days (because 7-day weeks are for suckers and saps), I had to curate my week carefully (and, you know, continue to attend class, do homework, work at my internship, and maintain some semblance of responsibility). Luckily, I’m Type-A to a T and had lists on lists of beers I wanted to try, events I wanted to hit up, food pairings I was interested in, and a careful spreadsheet of my REM cycles to maintain appropriate homeostasis to sustain life (Fine, I didn’t track my REM cycles. But I DID fully engage in several naps to make up for lost night-sleep).

My first sight of PBW2013!

My first sight of PBW2013!

Friday, I had a whole schedule planned. I’d mapped out where I was going, had a time-frame, and a buddy to escort me from place to place. But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, so after a quick bite to eat, my beer buddy got a bit of tummy troubles and I was on my own.

One is the loneliest number (though Sixty-One by Dogfish Head does help the loneliness a bit)

One is the loneliest number (though Sixty-One by Dogfish Head does help the loneliness a bit)

Luckily, this was not an issue. Because during Philly Beer Week, if you’re a fan of beer, you’re NEVER alone.

Varga Gals and The Hammer of Glory make great buddies

Varga Gals and The Hammer of Glory make great buddies

And over the course of the next ten days (only 6 of which I partook in any beer shenanigans, a girl’s gotta rest sometimes) I basked in the glory of Philly Beer Week and all that it had to offer.

Let’s try this by the numbers (well, a few numbers)

Number of New-to-Me Beers Consumed: 27

Best Beer I Tried: Allagash FV13 Tart, rich in flavor and body, beautiful copper color, can’t beat it.

Worst Beer I Tried: Evil Twin Blind Eye PA Belgian IPA? I don’t think so. This was a mistake to order with dinner, and a bigger mistake to drink the whole thing. Some things just don’t go together. This is one of them (IMHO).

Number of Times I Visited Varga Bar: 4. I think I’ve established my new favorite bar in Philadelphia for beer, ambience, and cheese fries (that I need to try according to the internet)

Coolest Event: BBQ (Broads, Brews, and Queens) at Smokin’ Betty’s

Oh hell yes.

Oh hell yes.

Nothing goes better with beer than drag queens

Nothing goes better with beer than drag queens

Ultimate End of Beer Week Event: Bathed in Victory Beer and Cheese Pairing at Dibruno Brothers

Talk about some Summer Love.

Talk about some Summer Love.

And here's your cheese pr0n for the day.

And here’s your cheese p0rn for the day.

And this is how I felt at the end of the week:

WIPED City, USA!

WIPED City, USA!

Full Disclosure: It was an INTENSE week, and I didn’t even participate in all the days I could’ve… Looks like I’ll need to train a little harder for next year. But I don’t think I’d rather train for anything else.

Cheers to everyone who made PBW2013 incredible, to my new friends, to my new favorite bars and my new favorite beers, and to a year to prepare for PBW2014. That’s right, the dates are set and starting May 30th, we’ll do it all over again.

Spring Break 2013: You’re Doing It Wrong

Oh, Irony. I see what you did there.

This is NOT the welcome wagon I was expecting.

Welcome to the DR, JP!

Welcome to the DR, JP!

Picture this: My roomie Nancy and I spent a solid 2 hours in the sunshine. Rotating, re-applying sunscreen (talk about an exercise in futility, currently crispy and pink), gabbing the day away, reading US Weekly scholastic textbooks. All that good stuff. And, since I dream of living some sort of reverse-Little Mermaid experience, I knew I needed to get into the tepid ocean water to swim around like a fish. I collected perfect conical shells, I did handstands, I floated like a buoy, I ran out to Nancy proud of my discoveries and demanding a water-buddy. She obliged, wanting a dip herself.

Moments later, she was marveling at the brave manner in which I drag my feet around in the ocean trying to pick up any bits of coral or shell my toes can feel. I commented “Yes, obviously I’m very courageous. Not just anyone could/would do such a heroic deed.”

Cue: Sea urchin. Yup, stepped on a sea urchin within thirty minutes of diving into the deep blue.

Human crutches

Human crutches

I thought I could “walk it off” assuming the best, maybe an under the sea splinter. And then, as we went to go grab a bite, I felt a blinding searing pain best described as being stabbed with a metal rod. Only the rod is being heated at a near-melting degree from the inside and continues to radiate pain.

I need a doctor.

“Sure,” said Nancy. “We’ll find you one, just sit tight.”

What is happening?!

What is happening?!

Enter Dr. Delarosa. Exit: dozens of tiny sea urchin spines. Apparently, my body had an allergic reaction to the spines and WHAM, inflammation, a pain like a thousand tiny spiny suns, and a hazy vision.

Slightly less searing pain? Yes, please.

Slightly less searing pain? Yes, please.

I expected that, if I was going to be doing any hobbling whilst on vacay, it would be due to inebriation from the all-inclusive drink situation. I did NOT expect to receive an intramuscular injection of anti-histamine in my butt cheek. I did NOT expect to be a wobbly fool due to a spiny critter of the sea.

According to the resort, sea urchins never swim that close to the shore. Well, joke’s on me, I guess. Good one, sea urchin. Had me fooled.

Luckily, the benadryl and lotion they gave me are making a dent in the pain. And my starvation is pulling me in the direction of the dinner buffet like WHOAH. So, despite the best efforts of the ocean’s porcupine, I can’t be stopped. Nice try, little one.

I’ll make sure to eat extra Uni next time I get sushi.

(Also, big ups to Nancy for recognizing that, though this was a terrifying experience, the ONLY reasonable response was to take zillions of pictures.)

2013: The Year of Cheese

It’s no secret, I’m a bit of a cheese head. Not this kind of a cheese head. But, maybe, this kind of cheese head:

Ha, get it. Cheese head.

Ha, get it? Cheese head. (Don’t worry, that’s not me. Almost had you, didn’t I?)

I can’t get enough of the curdy, creamy, smelly, salty stuff. And, this year, I decided to legitimize my love in some fashion.  I claim 2013 to be Jordan’s Year of Cheese. Feel free to celebrate along if you’d like, you have all year.

Last year was all about abstaining from something. Soda. No soda for one year. And what did I get from that? An appreciation of soda, to be honest. But, also, the realization that I don’t NEED a Coke with every sandwich, I don’t need soda for energy or as a mixer. It can be an occasional treat that is savored, and not a stable of my fridge or lunch. Great job, Jordan. But I wanted 2013 to be about something else.

I don’t take resolutions lightly, and normally don’t even make them unless I have something I’m really feeling serious about. Well, this year, at this point in my life, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more serious about cheese. And so, with the help of Steven Jenkins and his Cheese Primer, Fromage (the ultimate cheese app for the iPhone, apparently), and the cheese mongers of Philadelphia (and beyond), I’ll be making my way through a self-taught cheese education.

What I've learned so far: These ones are smelly.

What I’ve learned so far: These ones are smelly.

Luckily, Philadelphia has an abundance of cheese mongers just itching for a guinea pig to feed cheese to. And I’m more than happy to oblige.

Also luckily, my friends (whether they intended to or not) have been enthusiastic enablers for this education.

A massive cheese party for me? You shouldn't have. [Side note: they didn't, but it felt like it.]

A massive cheese party for me? You shouldn’t have. [Side note: they didn’t, but it felt like it.]

Though, I’ll admit, after a few too many tiny cups of wine, the cheese was less of an edible education and more like a sponge for vino. But don’t worry, I had plenty of time earlier in the night to enjoy a few specifics.

Primarily: Adelegger, an alpine cow’s milk cheese that is nutty and sharp, washed in white wine (and dusted with angel tears, I think). I originally was looking for Tete de Moine, and Amanda, my very favorite cheese monger at DiBruno Brothers, suggested this gem instead. It had more bite than the TdM, and a lot of body. She implied a nutty flavor, I said it almost tasted meaty in heartiness. And the best thing? We’re both right. Cheese, like beer, is a subjective delight to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone (except lactose intolerant people, whom I pity during The Year of Cheese). Speaking of beer, I paired it with a Belgian Quad, which cut right through that meatiness and made a spicy beer shaped imprint on my heart.

Cheese on Cheese

Cheese on Cheese

I’ve got a few dream cheeses that I’ll be seeking out in the city, and have already found that Reading Terminal Market alone hosts something like 4-5 excellent cheese shops featuring international and domestic cheese options galore. And, since I’m apparently some sort of grownup, people are always suggesting to get together and drink wine. And nothing goes better with wine than cheese. (And sometimes beer, when you refuse to bring wine to a Wine and Cheese party. [cough ME cough cough]).

I’m ready for you, 2013.

Give me your Gouda, your Morbier, your Chevre. I’m looking at you, Shropshire blue, you chameleon of curds. Wensleydale mixed with ANYTHING, and Ossau Iraty, you sexy beast. I’ve got a cheese plate, a set of cheese knifes, and enough lactase in my small intestine to be cheese tolerant for a woman five times my size (which would be over 30 feet tall….)

Come at me, brah.

Come at me, brah.

You trying to try some new cheeses? Just let me know. I’ll be there, cheese in hand.

It’s going to be a good year.

Any recommendations for must-try cheeses?

What’s your favorite cheese pairing (food or drink included)?