18. buckeye beers.


I don’t have anything against Michigan beer. In fact, in terms of quality, I’d put Michigan up against nearly any other geopolitical territory on the face of the planet.

But there’s a unique football thing going on this week and next, and that means sticking to Ohio beer as much as possible. And as you can see from the Tower O’ Beer, shot Friday night in my folks’ basement, I’ll be off to a pretty good start by the time you read this Saturday afternoon.

Here’s your rundown, from top to bottom:

  • It could be that the broad beer style that makes me happiest these days is the unassuming brown ale, largely because it can be a whole bunch of different things. I found Gnarly Brown, from Cincinnati’s Madtree Brewing, on Fourth of July weekend and have picked up a six of it nearly every time we’ve been home since. It’s a bit stronger than many of the browns (there’s a pro football joke in there for you) I’m used to drinking, and the coffee flavor and brown sugar sweetness mix nicely.
  • Panther robust porter, from Rhinegeist in Cincy, is a new one for me. But I’ve been craving porters and stouts recently (see previous post and the Bison imperial stout), so I can’t wait to give it a try.
  • Dear Pittsburgh friends: Grocery stores in Ohio are different. As I wandered through the Sawmill Road Giant Eagle tonight, I came across two sample tables. At the first, I got a generous pour of Bergamot Blue mead from Brothers Drake — great stuff, by the way. At the second, I couldn’t pass up a taste of Beard Crumbs, a just-released oatmeal-raisin stout from Land Grant Brewing here in Columbus. I’ve never had an oatmeal stout like it; the raisins add just a touch of rich sweetness to what would be by itself a very good oatmeal stout. Our mead needs for the week are already set, but I couldn’t pass up a six of Beard Crumbs.
  • The brewery’s name is Land Grant.Their home is Columbus. Their IPA is called Stiff-Arm. The can is scarlet and gray. Duh.

16. bailing with bullets.


  • Samuel Johnson said patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. Bullet posts are the last refuge of a distracted blogger.
  • I’m sitting at the kitchen table in my parents’ house. I have prep work for tomorrow’s tailgate party done, and I’m enjoying the hell out of this bomber of Bison Imperial Stout, from Homestead Beer Co. in Heath, Ohio.
  • This will be a (mostly) all-Ohio beer weekend and, if I have anything to say about it, the full week that follows. That’s what back-to-back weekends of games against teams from the state up north will do.
  • There is an exception to the all-Ohio beer rule in place for tomorrow’s Michigan State tailgate party. Ethel’s brother-in-law Chris is in town and he usually brings along something delicious from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, where he lives. That’s totally worth making an exception.
  • If you’re hungry for grilled cheese sandwiches, our tailgate party tomorrow is the place to be.
  • The other thing I’m making? The Official Queso Dip of the Big Ten Network.
  • I’m going to have to learn how to spell “neuropathy.” I already know how to spell “peripheral.”
  • As I write this post, I’m listening to a Phil Lesh and Friends show from Hershey, Pa., in 2002. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Crappy and I were there for that one — we saw Phil in Hershey several times — but that’s not really what sent me down this path. I’m suffering tinges of regret (yes, I’m sure that’s different from the neuropoahy) over not seeing Dead and Co. in Columbus last week. I know Phil’s dealing with more health problems, but I’d love to see him tour a bit more, even if it’s a last go-round. His bands were always excellent; a full show from the A.J. Palumbo Center in Pittsburgh in 2001 got me nearly all the way from Pittsburgh to Columbus this afternoon.
  • I am missing Mrs. Crappy. And Mr. Charlie.
  • As of this very moment, I am four days behind in my NaBloPoMo efforts. Any bets as to whether I can catch up?


I’ve never been to Rhode Island. I now have a reason to go.

Mrs. Crappy has a subscription to Cook’s Country magazine and we received a new issue last week. The magazine publishes an index of sorts on back cover, and as soon as I looked at the new one, I saw something I knew I had to make right away: a big batch of Rhode Island Dynamites.

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The magazine explained that the sandwiches are a staple of Woonsocket; they’re a bit like Sloppy Joes, but spicier and with a turn towards an Italian flavor profile — in other words, right smack in my wheelhouse.

I can’t link to the Cook’s Country recipe, because they require a subscription; instead, I’ll take you through the modified version I made yesterday.

What you need:

  • 2 pounds ground beef (the magazine suggests 85/15)
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jarred hot cherry peppers, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon brine from the jarred cherry peppers
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 15 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • A bag of deli rolls (6-inch sub rolls are the traditional thing)

What you do:

1) Heat the oil in a large skillet or Dutch oven, medium-high heat. Add the beef and water (which will help keep the meat tender). Season with salt and pepper (about a 1/4 teaspoon each). Break up beef with a spatula and brown until most of the liquid has cooked off and meat starts to sizzle.

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2) Add onions and bell peppers, along with another 1/4 teaspoon shot of salt and pepper. Stir frequently until veggies are soft.

3) Add cherry peppers, brine, tomato paste, garlic, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes. Stir until paste is fully mixed with the rest of the stuff.


4) Stir in tomato sauce. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer. Stir occasionally. When it thickens to your taste, season with salt and pepper to taste, scoop into the rolls and serve.

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What I could have done:

The original recipe calls for a 1/4 cup of the diced cherry peppers, 2 tablespoons of the brine and a full teaspoon of red pepper flakes, but Mrs. Crappy requested a less spicy version, so I toned it down to the measurements in the recipe above. I think I went too far in the safe direction and next time, I’ll go more towards the what the original recipe calls for. Another variation I’ll try: using sweet cherry peppers instead of hot.

Even with my overly-cautious modifications, the sandwiches are delicious — layers of flavor and, as I said before, nearly perfect for my comfort-food sensibilities. I will eat these again and again, even if I never actually make it to Rhode Island.



I should know better than to stroll through the produce section of Whole Foods A) while I’m hungry and B) just two days after I get paid. But in our most recent trip, it worked out well.

Because there it was, a display of good-sized, bright green artichokes. Three chokes for five bucks. And after a quick consultation with Mrs. Crappy, three good ones made it into our cart. And because it had been years since I’d had one — I think just once since our honeymoon — I was pretty excited.

Artichokes are difficult. They’re pointy and tough, and preparing them takes a while, even if the process isn’t especially difficult. Even eating them isn’t intuitive (“Whaddaya mean I scrape them with my teeth?”).

I can’t make them appear any less mysterious, but I can tell you what I did when we cooked and ate all three on Saturday … and I hope that will help.


Get a pot big enough to hold all the artichokes you’re cooking. Fill it about halfway with water. Into the water, you’ll add:

  • A couple bay leaves.
  • Four cloves of garlic, roughly chopped.
  • A couple of lemons, quartered.
  • Some white wine (something between a quarter cup and a half cup).
  • Some parsley (we didn’t have fresh parsley at home, so I put in a handful of dried).
  • A drizzle of olive oil.
  • Towards the end of cooking, melt a stick or two of butter in a separate pan, and have some extra lemon wedges handy.
They look delicious, even in the pot.

They look delicious, even in the pot.

Trim the tops and the stems of the chokes and add them to the simmering pot tops down. Let them bubble for about 30 minutes before you start checking to see if they’re finished. When a knife runs through the stems without resistance, they’re ready to eat. Make sure they’re well drained before you serve.


I misspoke earlier. Eating artichokes isn’t difficult, but it is different. Remove a couple outer layers of leaves before you serve the chokes — they’re generally too tough to be enjoyable. Then you remove a leaf at a time, dip it into a bowl of melted butter (I like it with a squeeze of lemon juice too) and scrape the bottom two-thirds of the leaf across your top teeth.

Yes. Really.

The scraping removes the meat from the leaf — that delicious, butter-soaked meat that’s been stewing in garlic, lemons, wine and parsley for 30 to 45 minutes. And that’s How You Eat An Artichoke (Part One).

Part Two? That happens when you get down to the really flimsy leaves in the middle of the artichoke. You can eat those, sure; you can also ditch them and dig down to the artichoke’s heart. To get there, remove any remaining leaves and then dig out the the thistle-y part that’s covering the heart. Once the heart is exposed, dig out a bite with a spoon — you could eat the whole thing, but I think it tastes better to leave some of the artichoke’s outer layer behind — dip it in the butter and go to town. The flavor is unlike anything else you’ll ever encounter. It is also amazing.

choke dinner

Artichokes were a special treat when I was growing up, and I think they’ll remain that way now that we’ve kind of broken the seal.

But there’s nothing that says we can treat ourselves a little more often than usual.

making a point.

No stinkin' Badgers. Unless I've picked them to win.

No stinkin’ Badgers. Unless I’ve picked them to win.

We have a Final Four — and that means we also have the first set of official standings in the Tenth Annual Uncle Crappy NCAA Final Four Challenge (Brought to you by Bocktown).

At this point, those of us who have made correct Final Four picks get two points per team, and that’s most of what’s behind the initial standings. But I’ve also taken the liberty to look ahead, because some of us are in much better shape than others.

Six points:

With full championship game in play:

  • Bluzdude
  • Jaci
  • Kewyson (Of this group, Kewyson was the only one to pick Duke. If they Blue Devils win, Kewyson cannot be touched.
  • Scooter

With champion pick in play:

  • Jim Hollenbeck
  • Jenny Lee
  • Neilson

Four points:

With full championship game in play:

  • Father Spoon
  • Curl Girl Michelle
  • SportsChump

With champion pick in play:

  • Uncle Crappy
  • Adam
  • AAA
  • Joe Cernelli
  • Michael Fulk
  • Jason Cercone
  • Jenn Strang

No further points possible:

  • Birdshit

Two points:

With champion pick in play:

  • Work Kelly
  • Casey
  • Hoyle13
  • Burgh Baby
  • Matt Noonan
  • Tom Bickert
  • Enzo82
  • Otimemore
  • Daria
  • Saylor
  • Carla

No further points possible:

  • Fred
  • Hellohahanarf
  • Dana Bee
  • Starts with Dish
  • PghRugbyRef
  • Calipanthergrl
  • AJ

There is one more group of contestants, mercifully small this year. I’ve been a member of this group more than once, and I think you can look at inclusion in one of two ways: 1) your performance was so pathetic that it deserves to be singled out, or 2) you get to relax and enjoy the last three games without worrying about contests or brackets.

We are, of course, talking about our annual Blutarsky Award winners. And in the immortal words of Faber College Dean Vernon Wormer:

  • Ethel
  • Abby
  • Juan

Enjoy the final weekend, boys and girls.