Monthly Archives: October 2011

My Father's 1928 Boy Scout Handbook

Looking through old photos for our Day of the Dead altar, I found my father’s Boy Scout handbook, issued 1928 in New York City.

Freak Fall Nor’easter October 29, 2011

We got two feet of snow here in the Berkshires yesterday. The wet, heavy snow on the fall leaves bent and snapped many old trees. I’m sad about lilacs, which we estimate were about 50 years old, but we’ll plant new ones–adding our own history to this house.

Campfire circle in our woods

Who needs Andrew Goldsworthy

Sad roses of sharon


Apple tree

Sad hydrengea

Sad lilacs and sad maple

Lest we forget what season it really is

The upside to the storm

Berkshire Fall-Winter: Part Two

Snow’s coming down hard this afternoon and is forecast to go all night. Hello, fall-winter wonderland.

Two Seasons in One: Our Front Yard After The First Snow

And So It Begins: Winter 2011

Last Blast of Berkshire Fall 2011

Our front yard this afternoon. It’s raining not-quite-snow frigid drizzle now. An inch or two of white stuff forecast for tonight. Out come the down parka and insulated-weatherproof boots ’til June. New England winter survival is all about the gear.

In general, I’m not particularly fond of manual labor, but I do enjoy the seasonal rite of stacking firewood. It makes me feel like a pioneer.

Guest Blog Post: Renée M. DeLuca on Chili and Beer

Renée M. DeLuca is the daughter of pioneer microbrewer Jack McAuliffe, founder of New Albion Brewing. She recently launched the Brewer’s Daughter Marketing & Public Relations Agency, which specializes in promoting the craft brewing industry. Renée lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband, Paul, two teenagers, a 100 lb. yellow lab, two cats, and a refrigerator full of beer. You can follow her on Twitter @brewersdaughter or email her at Here’s her advice on chili and beer.

The Perfect Pair: Chili and Beer
By Renée M. DeLuca

Chili and beer go together like, well, chili and beer! It’s a perfect taste combination. But don’t ruin your wonderful chili recipe that you labored over with that yellow fizzy stuff that’s advertised during every break of every football game. You put love in that pot, and the beer you have with it should love it back. That’s where craft beer comes in. Wonderful, flavorful brew with character. It’s a little more expensive, but it’s more than worth it.

If your chili is the fairly standard spicy beef and bean combination, I highly recommend a bourbon style beer, like Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale. The boozy flavor of the beer offsets the spices and brings the taste profile of the chili to a whole new level.

Got white chicken chili simmering in a pot? How about something hoppy for contrast. Stone Ruination IPA has the hops that’ll do it. Or choose your favorite IPA.

A rich vegetarian chili deserves a toasty brown ale to held meld those flavors. Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale has notes of brown sugar and toffee and a warm goodness that will bring out the best in your recipe. Another great pairing would be a pumpkin ale–Dogfish Head’s Punkin‘ is deliciously balanced, and not overspiced.

And if you have a little chocolate in your chili recipe, Rogue’s Chocolate Stout is the perfect complement. The flavors of oats, malt and yes, chocolate will have your guests oohing and ahhing over the combination with the chili. You’ll find a number of stouts in your beer speciality store–see which one is your favorite by holding a taste test with your guests.

Aside from drinking these fine brews along side your chili, it never hurts to pour a little into the pot while you’re cooking and sipping. It deepens the flavor of the chili, and makes those pairings really stand out. So cheers to chili and beer!

Chili Interview: Brooklyn Chili Takedown Founder Matt Timms

My agent gave me a heads up about the 2011 Brooklyn Chili Takedown yesterday and I was immediately smitten by founder Matt Timms’s assertion that “chili is a foul seductress, people” and that “this is a no rulez competition that says rules… are for Texans.” Much as I love a traditional Texas bowl of red, I have a soft spot for newfangled chili rebels and I’ve decided to feature the Takedown’s People’s Choice-winning recipe in my Chili Cook-Off in a Box.

Gina: So what’s your deal, Matt?

Matt: I’m an actor, a filmmaker, an artist, and a party promoter for my events at I throw amazing parties and occasionally someone will cast me in something and I act all amazing, or I will shoot something amazing.  I’m totally a self-taught cook–had to be in NYC–and I don’t give a truck about prochefs too much–I’ve had too much fun partying with home cooks like myself around the country.

Gina: How many food competitions have your thrown and what is your inspiration?

Matt: I guess I’ve thrown about 50-60 Takedowns over the years and across the country–been doing this for like a decade now!!! Chili, cookies, bacon, fondue, salsa takedowns–whatever.  The inspiration was totally assed up boredom, especially when I was a starving actor when I first got to NYC. I have this unquenchable desire to party very hard to the point of an explosion!

Gina: What’s the structure of your chili contest? How many competitors?

Matt: Pretty simple! People line up and try each of the 25 chilies–they get a tasting cup of each–and then they vote on the yummiest!  Judges do the same! Throughout the whole process, I play very brutal heavy music, which is important. Then there’s a big ol’ ceremony where the crowd meets the contestants, and the winners are named, awards given!

Gina: What’s the range of kinds of chili you expect people will enter?

Matt: I run a no-rules chili competition–because if you’re from NYC, the cowboys aren’t down with you anyway, so just have fun.   I see veggie chilis, all the different meat chilis, and then people go bonkers off the map–candy chili, ice cream chili… stupid fun stuff.

Gina Who will judge the chili and what criteria will they use to judge it?

Matt: I get local food writers, bloggers, and food personages to come party, but the major prizes are the People’s Choice. I am the benevolant leader of a tyranical democracy!

Gina: Do you have any tips for chili cook-off competitors?

Matt: Use your imagination and come to have fun.  Think of it like a party and not a competition.  The whole idea of a food competition should be about partying.  It’s a catalyst for hanging out. And a chance to show a wider audience how your food rips.

Gina: What do you think makes the difference between a good chili and a great one?

Matt: How much love you put in that shit.  You can follow a recipe to a T and it could easily be meh.  But people come to a Takedown to show everyone how insane their cooking skills are –and when you come with that attitude, you throw all your positive energy into that batch of chili, and people can taste it.

Gina: What sort of a space is the Bell House?

Matt: Bell House is a rock club, probably the best venue in NYC.

Gina: How many people do you expect to attend?

Matt: I keep it small. 200 is my magic number!

Gina: Why do you love chili?

Matt: My site was originally called–I was only throwing chili parties because they are the raddest.  Basically chili is the most important food group if you are starving.  You can make a huge pot of it, keep it in the fridge all week–and the best part is, it only get better and better over the week as the flavors wed! So when your friends ask you to join them at some re$taurant, you can say naw man I just ate.  And you can put all of that money into drinking.

I used to be a card-carrying member of the ICS (International Chili Society) and loved it, but the rules are pretty serious.  Meat has to be rough ground or cut into 1/2 in. or smaller cubes, no visible seasoning, spoon has to stand horizontally and fall slowly for best texture, blah blah blah. And ask any Texan, they’ll tell you about “no beans” “no tomatoes” etc. etc. I love those big competition chilis, but I didn’t want to see my chili parties like a chemistry experiment of closely monitored chili dumps. Chili is a fukked up improvisation! People should go nuts and throw in the kitchen sink!

Happy 17th Birthday to Annalena

Etta-pus, Dave, Annalena, and Gina -- October 1994, Oakland, California

Newborn family portrait by Kristina Keefe-Perry. File under aw and awe. Tempus fugit (Latin for “time flies”), as my father-in-law Bob used to say. Tonight we’ll celebrate birthday #17 with  Cole’s Creation pizza from Baba Louie’s and homemade pumpkin pie.

Chili Song: Preston Love's "Chili Mac"

I’m compiling the Chili Cookoff in a Box chili tunes playlist. Preston Love‘s “Chili Mac” is a winner and this may be the best album cover of all time.

Goose at Stockbridge Bowl

Happy fella.

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