I barely made it out of Cardiff. I had set an alarm to catch my bus at 8:00 a.m. at the central bus station. As I walked between campus buildings, taking a short cut I had discovered the night before, I thought it would be a good idea to double check the departure time on the ticket. “Seven forty-five,” it admonished in the stern tone of a British bureaucrat who really thinks you should keep a better calendar. I balled up the ticket and stuffed it into my pocket as I ran towards city center. But after a block of sprinting, I stopped. My bus was parked just across the street from where I stood, just on the outskirts of the Cardiff University campus. I uncrumpled the ticket in my pocket and discovered that not only had I made a mistake on the departure time, but also the bus stop location.
Ever on the lookout for opportunities for fun and adventure, Colleen (who is currently writing her own blog about those adventures I’m missing back in New York) heard that Future of the Left would be playing a show in their hometown of Cardiff while I was in the UK. Not only would it be an opportunity for me to see them play new material from their recently released album and two EPs, but it would be a good excuse to go somewhere new.
I settled into Cambridge a bit less than a week ago, and have been slowly acquainting myself with the city since. Since I didn’t pack much other than my clothes, I’ve had to get out and about quite a bit to establish myself in comfort. To some degree the high density of shops, cafes, and restaurants paired with the small extent of the city reminds me of places like Gainesville, FL or Athens, GA, but in truth I’ve never been in an American city quite like this. The streets are narrow and the buildings remnants of another era like historic Annapolis, but every sidewalk is as crowded with pedestrians as Manhattan. Students play cricket, rugby, and soccer in Parker’s Piece while teenagers test their skateboards and bikes in a nearby skatepark. There are bits and pieces of familiar elements of places I’m familiar with, but it forms an incongruent whole, as least for my American sensibilities. Nonetheless I am delighted by it.
In one week’s time I’ll be headed off for England, and either this blog will go on hiatus or its nature will have to change. I’ve got plenty of adventures planned for my time abroad, quite a few of them even beer related (probably not many pizza related; I don’t know what I’ll do for pizza oh no I’ll probably have to make some!). I’ll be sampling many cask ales in the pubs, taking cycling and train trips to old English breweries, tracking down hop farms on the isle and the continent, and chasing lambics and Trappist brews in Belgium. But for now, tasting notes on my last brew until I’m back.
I’ve been baking more bread lately, and most often I will make my dough ala Jim Lahey’s no-knead method with a 24-hour fermentation that develops the gluten and contributes full flavor. However, sometimes I won’t be able to bake bread 24 hours after I assemble the dough and require quicker turnaround. One trick for faking the flavor of a well-fermented bread is to use another fermented product: beer! And I have had plenty of beer on hand that I was in no rush to drink (namely the peanut porter).
After a healthy fermentation with repitched yeast from my pomegranate saison, something seemed to go a bit agly with my honey saison. The beer that went into the bottles tasted like the same as my pomegranate saison before priming, but the beer that came out was changed. It developed more acidity, and I thought I spotted small pellicles in some of the bottles. I tried to snap a photo, but (fortunately) those brown glass bottles are very effective at blocking light.
To clear things up right off, there is no ham on this pizza. All of my pizzas are vegetarian. The smoked summer ham actually refers to my rauchbier, which has an undeniable meatiness bound to the smoky malt. Colleen and I are fans of Futurama, so as I was describing the beer to her, I joked that the beer was “fresh as a summer ham.”
While thinking of toppings with complimentary flavors, my failed attempt at a smoky seitan pizza stuck in my mind as something to avoid repeating. Then I remembered seeing a recipe on SeriousEats for stuffed poblano peppers in a cashew-chipotle sauce that I had been curious to try my hand at. It struck me that it would be very easy to adapt this recipe to a pizza, using the cashew-chipotle sauce to replace the traditional tomato sauce and simply turning the stuffed peppers into toppings.