Friday, December 20, 2013

"Breakfast at Zezima's"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate

Beer: It’s not just for breakfast anymore. But the greatest beverage in the history of mankind, which guys often use to hook up with womankind, is the perfect accompaniment to the first meal of the day.

I found this out after making a recipe for Scotch Egg, which I got from “The American Craft Beer Cookbook,” the fabulous new culinary and libational bible by a guy with the best job on the planet, beer writer John Holl.

For strictly journalistic purposes, I decided to talk with Holl about his laudable purpose in life, which is to spread the gospel of beer. So I met him at Alewife, an estimable establishment in Long Island City, N.Y., that serves vast varieties of the aforementioned brew.

“Millions of guys would give their right arms to have your job,” I told Holl, adding that they’d then have to drink beer with their left hands.

“It’s not as glamorous as you might think,” he replied. “I don’t go out carousing. In fact, sometimes I’m in bed at 10 or 10:30 at night. In Seattle, on my book tour, I was sitting in a hotel room with the curtains closed, eating olives out of a box. Still,” Holl added with a smile, “it’s not a bad gig.”

The dedicated journalist showed that he has a nose for brews by sniffing a Riprap Baltic Porter and commenting on its nutty aroma. I proved to be a little nutty myself by emulating Holl and ending up with a schnoz full of foam.

Next we tried a Medula, an English Imperial IPA, which like the first beer is made by the Barrier Brewing Co. of Oceanside, N.Y.

“It smells like Juicy Fruit gum,” said Holl.

“Except you can’t chew it,” I noted.

What we could chew was dinner, which we ate at the bar. Holl ordered a salad (fewer calories, less filling) and I had a burger (just the opposite). Holl suggested another Barrier beer, Rembrandt Porter. Like the painter, it was a Dutch treat.

“It goes well with meat,” said Holl, who had a lighter brew with his salad.

“I once made my own beer,” I told him. “Jerry’s Nasty Ale.”

“How was it?” Holl asked.

“It didn’t kill me,” I replied proudly. “It had a smoky flavor. I don’t know why. I didn’t put cigar ashes in it. But it was pretty good.”

As responsible beer drinkers should always do, we paced ourselves and didn’t overindulge. At the end of the evening, I told Holl I had decided to make Scotch Egg, mainly because the recipe came from Half Full Brewery in my hometown of Stamford, Conn.

“Besides,” I added, “I’ve never had beer for breakfast before.”

“An Irish stout goes well with eggs,” said Holl, 33, a warm, funny guy who has tried all the recipes in the colorful, 343-page book and is anything but a beer snob. “Let me know how it turns out.”

A couple of days later, I bought a four-pack of Murphy’s, an Irish stout that is imported by United States Beverage, also in Stamford. The next morning, I opened “The American Craft Beer Cookbook” to page 10, laid it on the kitchen counter and commenced to make Scotch Egg.

“Please don’t burn the house down,” said my wife, Sue.

Easier said than done because somewhere around step 3, as I was heating oil in a deep fryer and had turned my attention to removing pork sausage from its casing and simultaneously boiling eggs, the smoke alarm went off.

The phone rang. It was a nice woman from the home security company, calling to ask if I had burned the house down.

“No,” I explained. “I’m just making breakfast. Want to come over for eggs and beer?”

“I’d love to,” she said, “but I have to work.”

Sue opened the windows to get the smoke out and I finished making breakfast. I put the spiced, sausage-wrapped eggs on a plate and dug in. They were delicious.

I washed them down with an Irish stout. After a cooking experience like that, I really needed it.

Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima

Friday, December 6, 2013

"Christmas Letter 2013"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Since I am in the holiday spirit (and, having just consumed a mug of hot toddy, a glass of eggnog and a nip of cheer, the holiday spirits are in me), I have decided to follow in that great tradition of boring everyone silly by writing a Christmas letter.

That is why I am pleased as punch (which I also drank) to present the following chronicle of the Zezima family, which includes Jerry, the patriarch; Sue, the matriarch; Katie and Lauren, the childriarchs; Dave and Guillaume, the sons-in-lawiarch, and Chloe, the granddaughteriarch.

Dear friends:

It sure has been an exciting 2013 for the Zezimas!

Jerry has had a particularly active year. Because he is often compared to the back end of a horse, he covered a polo match and actually got to mount one of the ponies. A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and no one can talk to a horse, of course. Except, of course, Jerry, who got an exclusive interview with the MVP (most valuable pony). Did the horse want to talk to Jerry? Nay.

Since Jerry has a feminine side, he tried out to be a roller derby queen. He didn’t make the team because that’s the side he frequently fell on.

Jerry took a class for kids on how to be a detective. He was guilty of arrested development. He also took a driver’s education refresher class that was taught by an instructor who has a speeding ticket on his record. For the record, Jerry has two. And Jerry took a class on how to make ravioli. He brought his culinary creations home and fed one to Sue. Fortunately, she didn’t have to be hospitalized.

Jerry also competed in a garlic-eating contest. He gobbled 13 cloves but didn’t win. When he got home and tried to kiss Sue, she raised quite a stink.

Speaking of stinking, Jerry published his second book, “The Empty Nest Chronicles,” an account of life in the Zezima household since Katie and Lauren left the nest but left a lot of their stuff behind. The book is, Jerry is proud to say, a crime against literature. It also comes in handy for propping up a wobbly table leg. You might even want to read it.

And because Jerry has been known to sleep on the job, he applied to be the new snooze director at Sleepy’s, the mattress company. Out of 70 applicants, Jerry was one of five finalists. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the position, which is horizontal.

He did, however, stay awake long enough to help paint a bedroom in Lauren and Guillaume’s house. Jerry, who told Sue years ago that he had hung up his paintbrush, didn’t bristle when asked to come out of retirement and assist Guillaume in painting the room pink.

They did it for a baby girl, which leads us to the best news of the year: the birth of Chloe, Sue and Jerry’s adorable first grandchild. Proud mommy Lauren and proud daddy Guillaume are wonderful parents. Katie and Dave were Chloe’s godparents at the christening and are a loving aunt and uncle to their little niece.

Jerry wrote a letter to Prince Charles to congratulate him on being a new grandfather, too, and received a postcard with a picture of the prince and his lovely wife Camilla. It will be hung above the throne in Sue and Jerry’s bathroom.

Jerry loves to play with Chloe, who not only is the most beautiful baby in the world but is already more mature than her Poppie. Whenever Jerry tells Chloe a joke, she smiles. The first time it happened, Lauren said, “Dad, that’s just gas.”

We hope your family has been similarly blessed and has had a memorable year, too.

Merry Christmas with love and laughter from the Zezimas.

Copyright 2013 by Jerry Zezima