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Growing Tea in the U.S.

US-Grown Tea Is Incredibly Rare. This Small Farm Is Blazing a Trail. – “A look at why tea has never really been an American crop—and what a tiny tea operation in rural Mississippi can teach us about how that might change.”

When we lived in Hawaii we met someone who grew his own coffee, his own vanilla, his own chocolate, his own cinnamon, cloves, etc. We knew this wasn’t possible on the mainland because of the temperate climate.

But then I wondered why tea wasn’t grown in the U.S. I’ve visited Uji, Japan, which was one of (if not the primary) tea capitals in Japan, and the climate of Uji is similar to much of the mid-Atlantic or southern U.S. And if they can do it, why can’t we? Well, this article explores that question and answers it.

Dairies food Food and Drink

The Best Blue Cheese I’ve Ever Had

Part of getting older is a decreasing frequency of new experiences. Thinking about food specifically, when I was 25, I was tasting new things regularly, perhaps once per week or more. But now months or even years can go by without me trying something I’ve never had before. And when I do, the newness is in degree of flavor and experience rather than in it being wholly new.

So it was with great pleasure that I tried Firely Farms’ “Black and Blue” goat blue cheese. It is creamier and far less astringent than any other blue I’ve had, in a category by itself. I have not tried other blue cheeses mad of goat milk, so I can’t say how this compares.

Firely is located in the interestingly-named town of Accident, MD, in the western part of the state.
Firefly Farms Black and Blue page

When I was a kid, blue cheese was always spelled ‘bleu cheese’ in the pseudo-French fashion, because the French were seen as superior to the U.S. regaring cheese. The fact that ‘blue’ is now the standard spelling is evidence that we no longer need to let others take all the praise.

Food and Drink Travel

Kennett Square Pub Crawl

The first time I was in Kennett, there was one place in town to get a decent beer, Half Moon. Half Moon is now gone, replaced by Grain. Grain also has a location in Newark, DE. The town of Kennett Square is rapidly growing and there are now seven places to get a decent beer, all within a 1-mile walk.


This is Victory’s 3rd brewpub in the area. They have a lot of beer on tap that they don’t bottle. The bar is very long. There is a full kitchen with good food. They have growler fills and 6-packs for sale, so this can be a good place to finish up if you want more beer to go.

The acoustics are bad and the bar and restaurant get very noisy. There is nowhere for kids to run around, but no one will hear them if they’re being loud, either.


This is actually a wine bar at the food court at Liberty Market, but they also serve hard cider and craft beer from Levante out of West Chester.

This place is good if someone in your party wants something to drink other than beer. There are lots of varied food options and live music on Friday nights.


Grain took over where Half Moon used to be.

Live music Wed-Sun, rooftop bar, mixed drinks, full menu, happy hour specials.

Kennett Brewing Company

KBC is the only 100% local beerhall in town, with their own recipes and beer that is not available anywhere else.

There is a kitchen with limited menu and live music almost every night.

The bar is in the basement of the building and can be a bit hard to find. The low ceilings, dim light, and hidden entrances give it a bit of a speakeasy feel


Sawmill Bar and Grill is in a location that has had a hard time holding on to restaurants. As Birch street gets more developed, perhaps this will change. Sawmill is more of a restaurant than a bar, so this may be a good place to line your stomach after having a few.

Brae Loch

Brae Loch is not actually open yet, although it is eagerly anticipated for later this year. Once it’s open, it will change that stretch of town

The Creamery

The Creamery opened in 2016 and was (and remains) an enormous success. $6 beers, food trucks, and a place for kids to run around. A simple formula executed very well.

Open only Thurs-Sun

Thursdays: 5-10 PM
Fridays: 4 PM-Midnight
Saturdays: 1 PM-Midnight
Sundays: 12 PM-9 PM

Unfortunately, The Creamery is open only in the summer, from Memorial Day through sometime mid-fall


Parking is free in the parking garage after 5 on weekdays and free all weekend

Parking at meters is $0.25 for 20 minutes but meters are also free after 5 Mon-Sat and free on Sundays

Parking at the post office is also free in the evenings and on weekends

The borough has info on parking in town

The Creamery is at the eastern edge of the crawl and there is seldom enough parking when the weather is good.

Victory is at the opposite, western end, and often has enough parking although it fills up on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Please have a designated driver

Food and Drink Travel

Brandywine Beer Trail

Here is an ongoing list of breweries and brewpubs in the Brandywine River Valley.

The number of craft beer breweries and brewpubs is growing by the day across the U.S. Pennsylvania, with its strong German heritage (and oldest brewery in the country, Yuengling), is growing as quickly as any other state.

I actually can’t keep up, and every time I go to a beer store, I see brands I had never heard of before. This is resulting in a very regional selection of beer. This is magnified that the preferred style of beer at most brewpubs, hoppy ale, doesn’t maintain freshness well. So drinkers have to go to the source to get the good stuff.

Food and Drink Travel

Brandywine River Valley Beer Trail

Pubs in and around the greater Kennett Square area, including west of Philadelphia, northern Delaware and eastern Maryland. Red beer mug indicates a taproom with beers made by or at the brewpub. Orange mugs indicate craft beer bars.

Food and Drink

New Cocktail Recipe: The Baltimore

In a normal February, cocktail hour would mean gathering the ingredients for an old fashioned or manhattan, or reaching for a porter or stout. But with the weather as warm as it is, I wanted something more refreshing.

And for beverages,
more acidic = refreshing
– it is the citric acid in lemon and lime juice that make a moscow mule or mojito crisp and satisfying, and the pickle juice in a dirty martini that make you smack your lips.

But it didn’t feel right making a summer drink in the middle of winter, so the question became, how can I make a slightly tart (thus refreshing) beverage without resorting to typical citric-centric recipes?.

I thought back to my recent fascination with switchel and came up with what I’m calling a baltimore that is equal parts balsamic switchel and gin.

The Baltimore
Equal parts balsamic switchel and gin

For the switchel:
1Tbsp (1/2 oz / 15ml) sugar, honey, or agave
1Tbsp (1/2 oz / 15ml) balsamic vinegar
4Tbsp (2 oz / 60ml) water

Stir until sugar is dissolved and mix in equal amounts with gin

The gin and balsamic vinegar combine to create a very complex flavor that is not really reminiscent of anything, although the color and the depth of flavor made me think of fernet. The sweetness is enough to counter any bitterness and make the sour vinegar only slightly tart instead.

The baltimore cocktail is for those who like an old fashioned, manhattan, moscow mule, negroni, or boulevardier. It has a lot of flavor. It’s sweet but balanced with the bitterness of the other ingredients.

For the gin, I chose a local gin, Faber, made in Quakertown, PA

The name “baltimore” is because we already have a manhattan (rye or Canadian whiskey with sweet vermouth and bitters) and even a brooklyn, which is the same but with dry vermouth and the words “balsamic” and “juniper” (the principle flavor in gin), said quickly vaguely sound like “Baltimore”.

I tried the same drink with other vinegars, but none had the same depth of flavor. Using a switchel made with plain white vinegar made a passable rickey, but I would opt for balsamic if available, red wine vinegar or cider vinegar if not, rice wine vinegar as a 4th choice and distilled white vinegar as a last resort.

Food and Drink

Vinegar Lemonade, Switchel, and Posca

It began with me trying to make a whiskey sour, but having no lemon juice. Normally, I would have mixed equal parts lemon (or better, lime) juice and regular sugar until the sugar dissolved, essentially making concentrated lemonade, a.k.a sour mix. Then I would have mixed equal parts of that with tap water, and finally mixed equal parts of that with whiskey and a splash of almond syrup. In other words:

1 part lemon juice
1 part sugar
2 parts water
4 parts whiskey
(optional) splash almond syrup

But, without lemon juice, there was no lemonade. As I poked around the kitchen I saw various half-empty bottles of vinegar – balsamic, red wine, rice, cider, and white. It crossed my mind that I could swap out the citric and ascorbic acids of lemon with the acetic acid of vinegar. So, I mixed a tablespoon of cider vinegar with a tablespoon of white sugar and mixed that into an 8 oz glass of water. The result was quite tasty and very similar to lemonade with a slightly different ‘bite’ to it. Looking online later I realized that I had simply re-created switchel, a very old and established drink common in colonial New England, where they would have had access to Caribbean sugar, but far more abundant vinegar than tropical fruit. True switchel needs ginger, so my next glass had a few shakes of powdered ginger, which dissolved fine and improved the drink.

(The predecessor to NPR’s The Salt, “Kitchen Window”, has a tasty recipe)

I next tried balsamic vinegar and honey, mixed with seltzer, and the result was very reminiscent of kombucha, but far easier to make.

I explored more online and found that long before switchel, the ancient Romans, specifically the army, had an essential beverage called posca which manged to hydrate, ward off scurvy, and keep the soldiers happy. Cathy Kaufman, in her “Cooking in Ancient Civilizations” speculates that “An approximate recreation of the beverage can be made by combining 1½ cups of vinegar with ½ cup of honey, 1 tablespoon of crushed coriander seed and 4 cups of water. The mixture should be boiled in a saucepan to dissolve the honey before being allowed to cool to room temperature. After straining out the coriander seeds, it can be served.”

This is essentially the same as switchel, but using corriander instead of ginger.

More research on posca at Pass the Garum

And the idea of mixing vinegar with sugar to make a drink turns out to be very common. People have been drinking shrubs for a long time. From Wikipedia: “The American version of the shrub has its origins in 17th century England where vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season. By the 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over fruit—traditionally berries—which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days; afterwards, the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and then reduced to make a syrup. The sweet-and-sour syrup could be mixed with either water or soda water and served as a soft drink, or it could be used as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails. Shrubs eventually fell out of popularity with the advent of home refrigeration.”

(And then there is verjus, which is the juice of unripe fruit, used as one would use vinegar. In a way, the opposite of what I’m trying to do.)

So now we have a basic recipe for lemonade/switchel/posca that goes like this:

1 part sweet [honey, molasses, sugar, concentrated fruit juice]
1 part sour [lemon/lime juice, cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, etc.]
water (4 parts if mixing with alcohol, 8 parts if drinking straight)
sprinkle ginger or coriander

You could mix lemon juice with molasses and coriander, or cider vinegar with agave and ginger, or balsamic vinegar with brown sugar and end up with merely variations on the same thing.

Food and Drink

Black Tea Port Milk Punch

“adapted from Ruby Punch, a recipe that cocktail historian David Wondrich found in Jerry Thomas’s Bar-Tenders Guide from 1862… features a seriously tasty combination of black tea, ruby port, lemon, and a funky rum-esque liquor called Batavia Arrack. In its original form the tannins from the black tea and port provide grip and add texture, not to mention deep, inky color. After clarifying with milk the result is full bodied, but silky smooth with a rosé-like color and fruitiness.”

Food and Drink

Craft Distillers Tap Pure Sugar Cane For A Southern Rum Renaissance

NPR’s The Salt

“Richland Single Estate Old Georgia Rum is made from cane grown, cut, distilled and rested on the premises of a 100-acre plantation in Richland, Ga. International awards and gold medals have poured in for this field-to-glass rum. Courtesy of Richland Rum Ah, rum, with its legendary pirates bellowing for grog, tiki umbrellas peeking up from neon-colored cocktails, tequila-spiked punch at college parties. Rum, universally imbibed and yet often scorned. Most rum is “the distilled essence of industrial waste,” in the words of Wayne Curtis, author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. That waste is molasses, the byproduct of sugar production. After the molasses has been fermented, flavorings, colorings and sugar are often added in. The Salt Fight…”

Craft Distillers Tap Pure Sugar Cane For A Southern Rum Renaissance

Food and Drink

The Biochemist Behind Light Beer, the Greatest Marketing Gimmick the World Has Ever Seen

Source: Atlas Obscura

Excerpt: “When it comes to products we eat or drink, we love our gimmicks. In the past week alone, Crystal Pepsi has returned to the shelves after a 23-year absence and Burger King tried putting a Whopper in a tortilla wrap. Those are great gimmicks that will win some pretty killer business for those brands, despite the likely high calorie counts of each item. (A 20-ounce bottle of Crystal Pepsi has 250 calories. How? It’s clear!) But the greatest gimmick of all time might have been the creation of light beer—a swill that is widely derided by snobs.”

The Biochemist Behind Light Beer, the Greatest Marketing Gimmick the World Has Ever Seen