Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Boulevard Chocolate Ale Is Back! [Guest Post]

Today's guest post is from my darling partner, Matt. 'Cause you know this pregnant lady isn't gonna be drinking beer, much less writing about it for quite some time.

Boulevard Chocolate Ale, part of the Boulevard Smokestack Series was the surprise hit of last year, the Valentine's Day treat that took Kansas City by storm. Developed in conjunction with Christopher Elbow, the rockstar artisan candy and ice cream creator, this tasty treat kidnapped Kansas City's taste buds and imaginations and held them captive in its basement until the entire city developed Stockholm Syndrome and refused to prosecute.

Image via Boulevard

What I mean is, we all went a little nuts. I went nuts because by the time I clued into what a big deal it was, the beer had vanished from stores and taps. Sure, I heard rumors that you could still find some in Manhattan, or St. Louis, and some lucky folks found (or claimed to find) pockets of it throughout the year, but as someone who lived in Kansas City proper, I found it maddening that I couldn't get my grubby little mitts on that sweet, sweet nectar.

Chocolatier Christopher Elbow (left) and
Boulevard Brewmaster Steven Pauwels (right)
Image via Spanish Chef

So this year, I made extra sure I would get some. For one, I work at World Market in Westport, which has a very extensive wine and beer section ably commanded by Jeff... Something-or-other. Secondly, this year we had a heads-up -- although we didn't know how much we were set to receive, we knew we'd get at least twice as much as we had gotten last year. In 2011, we got two cases of Chocolate Ale. That's 24 bottles, and that was gone within a half-hour, when two customers, who realized what we had even if we didn't, bought up a case each. So this year, planning on receiving at least three, and optimistically four cases, and knowing that I would be at the store before we opened that day (as I am every day I work), I knew I was in a prime position to snag a couple of bottles. What can I say, the perks of working in a dead-end retail job are few but sometimes very powerful.

Let me take a moment to explain how Boulevard's Smokestack Series works (as far as I understand it, anyway). Boulevard has a set series of four Smokestack beers, The Sixth Glass, Double-Wide IPA, Long Strange Tripel, and Tank 7, which are released yearly. These are available mostly year-round, unless they've had an unexpected demand on one type or other, and they're all quite tasty. On top of that, Boulevard releases limited runs and seasonal brews. The limited releases and seasonal releases don't get ordered by the stores that sell them, they're allocated based on your year-round sales of the four main Smokestack beers. So if you sell a ton of Smokestack, you'll get quite a few cases of each limited and seasonal release, but if your clientele mostly drinks Coors and Miller Lite, you might receive just two cases, or none.

I got two bottles! Yay!

Luckily, last year's Smokestack sales numbers had gone up for World Market, by a lot, and so this year we received eight cases. World Market opened at 10 AM, I bought my beer by 10:01, and by 10:40 we had sold out. Marsh's SunFresh, the next closest seller, which unexpectedly received 35 or so cases of the stuff, but didn't put a limit on sales (World Market's was three per customer), ran out by 7 AM. People reportedly followed the Boulevard delivery trucks around town. Madness, in other words. MADNESS.

A golden brown color, it even looks like a chocolate
bar in this picture (but not in the glass, boo!)

Now I've written all that, it's time to get to the tasting. How was it?

It was pretty good. It tastes like a very well-made malty ale, with a punch of cacao flavor in the middle and a tiny hint of chocolate on the finish. Not sweet.

Seriously, that's all I got. A beer I waited a year for, and I have a three-sentence review of it.

The good news is, I still have a bottle in my fridge, which is more than I can say for most of Kansas City. So... ha!


Overall, I'm glad to've gotten the chance to try it; I really am. However, if it came out all year long, I doubt I'd buy it more than once. It's still on tap all around town, too, so if you didn't get a bottle this year, hurry out to the Beer Kitchen, The Foundry, or any other number of KC restaurants that have Chocolate Ale kegs on tap.

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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Seen Around Midtown: Walgreens' Electric Vehicle Charger

I recently noticed that my corner Walgreens re-painted one of their parking spots as an electric vehicle charging spot.

The hook-up at the spot wasn't actually installed until later, though. I finally noticed it was all set up when I went there yesterday.

It made me wonder: is this something Walgreens is doing across the country? A quick Google search quickly proved that it is. According to Consumer Reports, Walgreens started installing the first of 800 electric vehicle chargers at stores across the nation last summer.

And according to the Walgreens website, the company has way more green cred than I realized:
Walgreens has a long-standing commitment to reducing energy usage and expanding its renewable energy initiatives. The company became the nation’s first drugstore chain to install a geothermal energy system at one of its stores in Oak Park, Ill., last November. The company’s Mira Mesa, Calif., location became the first drugstore to receive LEED gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council. Walgreens also plans to have more than 130 rooftop solar installations at stores and distribution centers by the end of the year. In addition, the company utilizes an energy management system that monitors electricity, water, heating and cooling and waste management at more than 3,000 stores to help reduce energy usage and maintenance costs while extending equipment life.

Which is all well and good, but now I can't help but wondering... How many electric vehicles are there in Kansas City?

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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Feast of the Kitchen God (Little Chinese New Year)

Image via Dragon Myths

Happy Chinese New Year! (It was actually yesterday, but what the heck.) We're now in the year of the Water Dragon. I hear it's a good year for having babies and getting married - both of which I plan to do by year's end.

This past Friday, Matt and I celebrated what is sometimes called Little New Year by the Chinese aka the Feast of the Kitchen God. It's part of my whole start-traditions-now-that-we're-having-a-baby deal. We're going to be celebrating select holidays from around the world throughout the year - one for each month.

Zao Jun, the Kitchen God - Image via Wikipedia

For January, I chose the Feast of the Kitchen God mostly because Matt LOVES food and cooking and anything related to it (just one reason he's so excellent at being Head of Gourmet at World Market) and the celebration is supposed to be led by the "man of the house." And you're supposed to go out to eat to give the god the night off, which just sounds like a great way to celebrate anything.

In the Chinese tradition, the Kitchen God watches over the kitchen of the family all year, watching to see who's naughty & who's nice. The feast celebrates his going to heaven to report on what he's seen & is also an opportunity to convince him to say nice things about the family.

Since this is our first time celebrating the feast, we didn't have a picture up all year, but Matt hung one up across from the stove. Then he put an offering of sweet stuff out, covered it in honey, and augmented it with candles.

They burned while we went out with our roomie and some friends to eat at a local buffet. After we stuffed our faces for about an hour, we came home. The three of us who live in the apartment "fed" the offering to the image, smearing honey on his lips so he'll say sweet things.

Then we burnt the image out on the porch, which symbolically sent him up to heaven.

We all agreed that burning stuff is a great way to celebrate and should be done more often.

The next random holiday we'll be celebrating is a Roman holiday called Terminalia, which honors the boundaries of home and land.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Read My Latest Arts America Post

Yesterday my fourth post for Arts America went up! It's about a ~4 minute stop-motion animated video made by artist Allison Schulnik which I saw at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art on a HUGE screen that covered an entire gallery wall.

Here's a excerpt:
“Mound” features intriguing figures, some of which retain their individuality throughout the film, while others morph into each other, or are never fully separate from other clay creatures. The movements among the the conjoined figures mirror the movements of the clay within the figures, creating an overall impression of agitation and transformation.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Event Pics: Troost Art Hop (Jan 2012)

I'll keep this short since I'm suffering with a head cold at the moment. Here's some pics from Friday's Art Hop (during which I felt fine, happily). Enjoy!

(That's my stuff)

(As are these)

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Come See Me at Tomorrow's Troost Art Hop

Sparkling Spiral by ~readheadgirl on deviantART

I'm excited to tell you that I'll be part of the Troost Art Hop tomorrow, Friday the 13th from 7-10 PM! I'll be showing a few paintings (including the one above, which I made at a local music show over 4 hours) and several collages. My stuff will be at the Ubuntu Village Community Center (4327 Troost) with two other local artists and where the local KC Drum Tribe will be playing. You can also see more art at the Emerald City Welcome Center (4334 Troost) and the Jason Turner Gallery right beside it.

The Troost Art Hop is part of the Emerald City revitalization project. Crystal K. Wiebe described it in January 2012 issue of local women-focused magazine her this way:

Kansas City's most notorious street [Troost Avenue] is a boundary line for Emerald City, an area where, a a community organizer, [Franny] Knight would find it very cool for you to invest your dollars, sweat and creative energy. Better known as the Manheim Historic Park Neighborhood, this impoverished section of Kansas City's urban core extends from 39th and 46th streets between Troost and Paseo, and contains about 60 boarded up houses and 50 vacant lots.

The area lies within the 150 square blocks of blight that US Rep Emanuel Cleaver II has identified as the Green Impact Zone. His related initiatives involved some federal and local revitalization money, but Knight, a 46-year-old Wichita native and former motivational speaker and corporate trainer, sees the potential for greater transformation. She wants to create an intentional community in the heart of Kansas City where all kinds of people coexist and cooperate in an artful, safe and sustainable setting. Think community gardening, bicycle sharing, holistic health care, alternative education programs and a functioning "Earth Ship" -- an environmentally friendly demonstration home that functions completely off the grid.

Knight's Emerald City dream already is underway in the form of monthly second Friday art walks along Troost and a couple of neglected houses that are once again liveable.
I'm excited to be part of such an ambitious project & look forward to seeing you tomorrow!

By the way, if you missed it, my latest post for Arts America went up last week. Read it here.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tank Girl: Apocalypse Now

Image via My Comic Shop

Due to a recent haircut (the result of a mishap I had with the clippers), I find myself more than slightly resembling pregnant Tank Girl from the Apocalypse storyline.

Many thanks to Matt for helping me homage the cover art!

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Andi's Travel Journal & Bedouin Thoughts on Women

Wadi Rum Formation
By David Bjorgen (Own work)

A friend's friend's daughter, Andi Enns is a Park University student currently traveling in Jordan, "on grants from America’s Unofficial Ambassadors and United Planet, doing research and marketing work to prevent malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS with Friends of the Global Fund."

She's got some very interesting posts up on Andi's Travel Journal, recording her experiences and impressions. Her most recent post, "Lessons of the Bedouin" chronicles her journey to Wadi Rum and Wadi Musa, where she met Bedouins, "a tribe of desert dwelling people with two recognizable sects in this area: the Nomads and the Gypsies."

She particularly noted the Bedouins' opinions of women:

It’s hard to find a female Nomad in the area – in fact, I never met one. Abdullah said this is because they believe women are weaker than men, and so they must be protected. He said it would be very unattractive if a woman insisted on taking care of herself, because he doesn’t want to court another man. He said he believes in treating women like princesses or like they’re delicate, and he believes this puts women on a socially superior level to men. He is never protected when he goes out, after all.

Another Nomad Bedouin I met in town, Ahmed, also talked at length about women and men. First, he asked me to marry him. (I declined.) Then he asked if it was because I assumed he couldn’t afford my dowry because he is a shopkeeper – he assured me he could pay my family at least 20 racing camels for my hand in marriage. (That’s about $150,000 worth of camel.) He told me that westerners don’t understand the dowry – we think it’s paying for a bride. He said the Bedouins consider a dowry to be a gift of gratitude to a woman’s parents for all of effort they’ve put into raising their daughter.


Mahmoud told me that Gypsy Bedouins believe in having fun, that life is a party. They are not strict Muslims, he said, and they like to drink, smoke, and get rowdy. They believe women are the same as men – in fact, that all people are the same... He said he doesn’t like the Nomad way of life, and thinks they take themselves too seriously. He said he thinks their way of treating women is archaic, and he invites any woman to challenge him on any front.
For more of Andi's first-hand accounts of her travels, click on over!

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Vulcan's Forge, Your Local Sterling Jewelers

I was hired for seasonal help at Vulcan's Forge, a locally-owned & operated jewelry shop that emphasizes sterling silver and gemstones, offers repairs and incredible custom work. I just found out that they're keeping me on for a while longer and am very happy about it!

I really enjoy the employees and customers that I interact with, AND I get to model super pretty jewelry while I'm there! (That's what all these pictures are about).

I have to admit, I've already sold myself 4 rings while I've been there - and had my little brother buy me yet another one for Xmas. But soon I'll have run out of fingers to put them on, so that's a problem that will take care of itself.

It's really been intriguing to see what the jewelers, or "the magicians in the back" as we call them, can create (and alter.) Check out the Vulcan's Forge website for images of some of their custom work. Theirs also several photo albums full of more pictures at the store, as well as a couple cases of custom pieces that weren't immediately taken home by someone.

Vulcan's Forge is located on Broadway Road between 39th and Westport. If you stop by to see me and mention this post, you'll get a free pair of $3 sterling silver earrings with purchase. Free is neat, right?

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