Monday, July 30, 2018

Hibiscus Rooibos Tea Pairing

I came home today thinking, "I have a need for some herbal tea in my life."

I think it's stemming from the fact that I thought I was getting sick the other day, but it turns out it wasn't anything to worry my little heart over. Still, the idea of drinking herbal tea to cure any ills that may be lingering seemed too appealing. 

Tonight I will be enjoying the Hibiscus Rooibos from Rishi Tea. This was the one that I was all giddy about having the same root that is used in root beer. I can honestly say sitting here smelling it, I can confirm that the likelihood of it tasting like a Barq's Root Beer is pretty slim.

However, let me tell you about the smell. It is quite amazing. The ingredients are as follows: Organic rooibus (obvi), organic hibiscus flowers (yes), organic sarsaparilla root, organic lemongrass, organic rosehips, organic licorice root, natural passion fruit flavor, essential orange oil, organic orange peel, natural pineapple and mango flavors.

You can definitely smell the roots an orange, the pineapple and mango not so much, but I believe they are just overpowered by the overwhelming amount of orange citrus.

Now on to the taste. Again, you get a lot of root/earthy taste but intermixed with that is a strong citrus. While we know most of it is orange, it's not just that. I can definitely taste the orange, but it is mixed with the pineapple and mango, though if there weren't a list of ingredients in front of me I would have no idea that those were the two other fruit flavorings.

The herbal tea aspect gives off a sort of comfort and definitely feels good for my mind and body. While the added fruit flavors give it a more adventurous feel.

It would appear that the only book I can think of right now to pair with this amazing tea is The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.

It is a heavily meta book dealing with all things literature with a sprinkle of mystery and adventure. I'd say the Hibiscus Rooibos and The Eyre Affair were simply meant to be.

I do think it's time that I give that book a second reading and I know that when I do it will be curled up on my couch with this lovely herbal tea.

Coming Soon!
I have many book reviews headed your way. I am still working on finishing Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. That thing is 800 pages. I will get to the end come hell or high water.

I also started some ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) that I received in exchange for reviews. The first is by Devyn Jayse called Supernatural Slayer. It is an urban fantasy and so definitely right up my alley. I'll admit I am excited to read this one and I am thankful that I have been asked to read and review it.

The second ARC is Access Restricted by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. I read the first in his series All Rights Reserved and while it started out as a happy experience I can't say I ended it feeling the way I wanted to feel. I did say in my review of All Rights Reserved that if the second book came out and I found out about it I would give it a shot. Well here's me staying true to my word. Let's just hope I'm not let down by my enthusiasm like before.

Other than that I will also have another tea pairing coming your way soon.

Until then Read, Sip, and Be Happy.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Book Review: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
One of the joys of my audible account has been my new found love of autobiographies or non-fiction. Up until late last year my TBR list gravitated around young adult and/or fantasy. It was a surprise to find I could get into other stories, especially about real people, and it was a treat that one of my book club members chose Anthony Bourdain's book this month.

Kitchen Confidential was Anthony Bourdain's first book, published in 2000. It recounts the story of his introduction into the restaurant business, the moment he fell in love with food, and includes trickles of advice for working and eating in the culinary industry. 

GOOD POINT: The main take away from this reading experience was, have a tough stomach or at least don't be offended by what he writes about, because honestly it's the truth. He sees no reason to lie and so he lays it all to bare, leaving the reader to decide if they should continue reading or give up from shock as they clutch their pearls.

The culinary industry is not some mystical fantastical place where you can go and make your wildest dreams of being a top rated famous chef come true. It is in fact, according to Bourdain, a dark underbelly where the deprived, lustful, lonely, drugged out, and often criminal element go to dwell.

He makes it clear that this is what it is and you either handle it or get the fuck out and find something else to do with your life. For him, there was nothing else. He fit in and he knew it.

GOOD POINT: Accepting who you are and doing it on purpose. Bourdain does not shy away from discribing his excessive drug use or the fact that he was not the best chef at the beginning of his career, even so far as being at the helm of many restaurants that were doomed to fail.

He speaks of this a lot throughout the book. The fact that the every man, the successful business man, the dreamer; these are all men that won't necessarily make it in the restaurant business. He should know, as he watched many of them waste their money and watch their culinary dreams disappear with it.

After reading it's hard to not think of him as an arrogant prick, but once you get past all the bullshit he did you come to realize that he is correct. The fact is dreams don't save a restaurant, hard work, determination, sacrifice, and a damn good menu do. 

GOOD POINT: Despite our worlds being vastly different, there is an element of relatability. It was engrossing and poignant even if you never thought of ever entering the culinary business. The idea that you have to love learning about your passion every day if you truly want to succeed in it. Of sacrificing family in order to do the work that needs to be done. Not many can do it, Bourdain knows that, and that is why he felt the need to say so to a wider audience.

This book doesn't go much into his television career and I was okay with that. I know there are additional published works of his that I am sure tackle that part of his life. I look forward to picking those up one day and getting as invested as I was with reading this one.

As far as the writing goes, I would say that it was pretty good for a first book and also a book of stories that are strung together. As I mentioned I listened to the audio book so that Anthony Bourdain himself could read it to me, but even through that I could tell that the writing was decent and flowed well. Though I did have some issues with the audio, I'm guessing because it was an older recording.

I thought this did well showing a side of an industry that many don't get to see. If you are so inclined, I highly recommend it.

BAD POINT: Accepting the fact that no matter what restaurant you go to vermin and rodents will be abundant.

 5 out of 5 stars

Read this also:   

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain

Open All the Boxes and Drink Every Last Drop

The music starts.

Each note slowly intensifies.

You feel it in your soul.

And the Chorus swells!

Welcome to what will hopefully be a once in this blog's lifetime event. Today, I will commence in opening all the Sipsby boxes I have received thus far. And then finally I will be able to drink all this marvelous tea and find their true loves in book form.

In order of arrival we have first the spring time confections of April.

Again, each box comes with a list of the teas that were put together especially for me. Remember, no two boxes are meant to be the same.

Lets start with our caffeine free teas; we have two for this month.

Hello paradise! Luscious mango, tangy apricot, and sweet passion fruit complement green rooibos, the unoxidized version of the mellow South African "red tea."

I did enjoy my fruity tea from my last box and I imagine I will experience the same results. 

This rejuvenating rooibos blend has fruity tropical Caribbean flavors along with sweet, creamy sarasparilla root - the secret ingredient in root beer - which adds an irresistible aroma.

Oh My Sweet Goody Gumdrops guys! A root beer tea!? I mean I doubt it will taste like a sweet Barq's Root Beer, but a girl can dream. I can't wait to try it.

We now move on to two medium caffeinated teas.

Give an energy boost to your body and mind without the jitters or crash of coffee! Ancient Viking herbs like rhodiola and Icelandic moss lower stress & increase mental stamina.

This sounds like a definite option for a crisp morning sitting on my porch with a book.

Commonly called milky oolong, this Jin Xuan from an award-winnning tea artisan, lives up to its name with buttery notes and underlying sweet vegetal flavors.

This one sounds interesting, definitely not something I have ever come across, though my experience is pretty limited. Still, I will be curious to try a sip of this.

April showers bring May flowers, but that really wasn't the case this year to my utter disappointment.

May did however bring a new caffeine level that is both intriguing and perhaps questionable for a tea. So lets start with that.

Pomegranate Mojito from Zest Tea is a Coffee-level Caffeine tea.

Get ready for a jolt! Zest is the tea industry's answer to a coffee-level cuppa. An amazingly refreshing blend - drink while (imagining you're) lounging on the beach!

I can't say that I don't wish the imagery of a beach were fake, but I have a pretty powerful imagination that I just might be able to pull something off when I get around to this tea. 

We move on to the Caffeine-free of which there is only one for this month.

This healthy chai blend is formulated with Kinkeliba, an herb traditionally used in West Africa to support healthy metabolism. It's caffeine-free, so you can enjoy any time of day!

I am curious to see if this one will actually affect my metabolism in a positive way. Guess it won't hurt to try.

May also brought along two high caffeine teas.

This blend is light on its feet and tangos across your tongue with raspberry and passion fruit. Perfect when you need the energy of a black tea and all the flavor of a fruit tea.

The mango tea from back in March was probably one of my favorites and I am excited that I not only get another fruit tea, but that it is by the same company as the last.

And then there is Matcha by Easthill Tea Co.

Did you know matcha was popular in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) before it became the national tea of Japan? Keep refrigerated for freshness!

Before I even think about attempting a second matcha tea I will most assuredly be purchasing a whisk to go along with it.

Well we've made it to the second to last box that I have received, so lets go ahead and slide right into June.

Again, I am gifted with two caffeine-free teas.

This organic herbal blend promotes clearer skin and stronger hair, making you feel beautiful from the inside out! 

A simple tea it seems, but if the benefits are to be believed it may be more than that. Perhaps a magic beauty potion in disguise.

The second caffeine-free is Guavalicious from Fava Tea

This tart and juicy exotic fruit blend is a summer favorite! Serve over ice for a refreshing, cooling beverage on a hot day.

The weather has thankfully cooled for the moment, but I have a feeling we are due for some more heat this summer. It will be fun to try one of these teas iced. 

We now move up a level to medium caffeine.

A joy for the eyes and palate! This is a beautiful aromatic blend of Chin Mee green tea and three types of flower petals, along with accents of citrus.

There seems to be a lot going on with this tea, but I have to admit everything that description held has me excited to brew myself a cup.

The last for June is high caffeine.

A fine oolong grower's take on black tea. Feel free to brew this tea like you'd brew an oolong (it can be steeped 4-5 times)! A special treat for oolong and black tea lovers alike.

I'm not aware of any love for oolong yet, but I suspect that will come shortly. As for black tea, ours is a long and beautiful relationship and I can't wait to reconnect.

The last box, but also the most recent to be received, July.

I appreciate that they sent another box with two medium caffeine teas. 

The finest green tea leaves are whisked with antioxidant-rich pomegranate and soothing rose petals with an essence of hibiscus to create a remarkable blend. Great hot or cold!

I adore the name of this tea and the packaging is just as adorable. What can I say, I'm a sucker for cute things. With the summer months I am more willing to try as many iced teas as I can. Looks like this will be another winner.

Matcha is packed with antioxidants and L-theanine to help you stay alert, yet calm. To prepare, whisk 1 tsp matcha with 2 oz warm water until frothy, and add 6 0z more water!

Damn, I'm really going to need that whisk!

The last two are polar opposites, one caffeine-free and the other high caffeine.

This refreshing blend helps you cool off on a warm day or simply unwind before bedtime. It also restores nutrients in your body and heals digestive and inflammation problems.

I guess a good nickname for this one would be the tummy ache tea. Plus, finding a nice calm tea to drink before sleep is always a plus.

Picked from wild-grown tea trees, this Lapsang Souchung (what we normally think of as pine-smoked), is not smoked, allowing the farmers to truly show the quality of the tea.

I'm not going to pretend to know, so I will just ask the question - Is this a pine tree tea? Guess I'll have to taste it to find out.

Well, that is it I'm afraid. I have opened all boxes currently in my possession and will now proceed to brew, sip, and enjoy each and every one of them.

Next up: Book Review of Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Coming Soon: Tea tasting and pairing

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Tea-A-Palooza and My Third Tea Tasting

I am about to unleash a tidal wave of teas from my Sipsby subscription and I know what you're thinking, IT'S ABOUT TIME!

Yes, I have been lax in my tea drinking and updating since I moved, but fear not for I have returned and I intend to be more powerful than when you last saw me. For one thing I am changing the dynamic. No More Videos.

Unleashing the power of Me

At least no more videos of me trying to act like I know what I am doing and talking about. The main reason for this is the fact that it was becoming difficult. Too difficult. A Vlogger I am not, nor do I want to pretend to be. Trust I will never get to the likes of my own favorite Youtubers because honestly I don't have the drive like they do. See Markiplier and Alex Meyers as examples of the content I regularly intake.

While I still think drinking teas and discussing books to go along with them in real time is a neat idea, I just think I am far better at expressing myself through the written word versus a video that makes me look like a deer in headlights.

Another reason is that I am having a blast writing book reviews for the books I am reading and I hope to do many more within this format. Currently I am working on getting more up and coming books so as to have my blog provide early information for you, the thirsty book seeker. 

Reading more books also helps the end result in pairing books with teas. The more options I have the better I can adequately play literary cupid. So I hope that you all will stick with me and see these changes through to the end. I want to bring people the best content possible so you too can enjoy my passion of reading and in sub-part, my writing. 

To kick things off I want to discuss the last tea tasting that I filmed, but for purposes of the change, will not be uploading said video. It was in the last phases of my leaving my old apartment and frankly it is in too poor quality to allow me to share it with you.

I will however give you a review of the experience and the book I ended up selecting. The tea was from my March subscription box (crazy!) and it was the Tea Xotics Naked Grass Skirt Matcha Tea. It is described on my information sheet as having medium caffeine and so in an attempt to try and make a deadline for the blog I went for it late at night when I should have probably been heading for bed. I didn't regret it as much as I thought I would the next day thank goodness. 

The first thing I noticed upon opening the packet is that it was a very thin powder. Any person familiar with Matcha Tea is probably nodding with a frown thinking, "duh!" Well I wasn't aware of that aspect of Matcha Tea. My only interaction with it up to that point had been through the means of using a pre-made tea bag from the grocery store. 

Hands up, it was my first serious newbie experience! 

I had no clue what to do and so using the tea bags that the Sipsby Subscription box provides I separated the bright green powder into two separate bags and sealed them. When the time came to actually make the tea I was at a loss because I did not have a proper Matcha Tea Whisk. It was a stomach sinking moment that is highlighted quite embarrassingly in the video I filmed. Another reason it will never see the light of day on this blog.

Thankfully I persevered and was able to get the tea mixed well enough to enjoy. I do enjoy Matcha Green Tea despite the fact that it probably tastes like sticking your tongue out and sampling something akin to damp nature. Regardless I find peace in drinking it and through the blunders I made, this time was no exception.

I happily drank from my mug as the green tea swirled in the heat and it was then that the perfect book for it came to me. It was a book I had read years ago in a book club that has long been disbanded, but the memories of the books read stay with me.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
It is a great read through the eyes of the dog named Enzo as he reflects on his life with his loving owner and race car driver Denny Swift. Not many books get the POV of animals right, but this one gets pretty close. 

The reason I felt strongly that this was a good match was I think the comfort that the Naked Grass Skirt Tea gave as well as the sensation of sticking your tongue out in the rain and taking in the aroma that nature gives. Noting says comfort like a dog, and nothing says nature like taking a drive in the rain.

I would rate this tea at around a 3 and I highly recommend reading this book while you enjoy it.

Next up: All my boxes that I have yet to open, that's April thru July! 

Upcoming Book Review: Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Book Review: Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

The question that keeps coming up since I started reading this book, which was only a short two days ago, is what makes this different? What makes Theranos different from any other company (e.g. Enron) that went wrong and was charged with fraud? Why is Elizabeth Holmes now synonymous with failure while Mark Zuckerberg is only known as a young genius?

I'll never forgive what he did to Andrew Garfield
I'm not here to delve deep for that answer, but what I will say is that no matter how you slice it this was different. Even just in so far as Theranos was not simply a tech company that pushed the "fake it til you make it" model of Silicon Valley. No, it was first and foremost a Healthcare company that had patients and doctors that relied on the data it spewed. Fraud that can potentially affect lives to the point of death automatically should slot you into a category all your own.

Bad Blood follows the Healthcare/Tech startup Theranos and its CEO Elizabeth Holmes from its insurrection all the way to its unavoidable demise, which the author helped facilitate. John Carreyrou is the journalist that broke the initial story of the company's bad faith dealings in the Wall Street Journal. Following that is his book that takes a deeper look into all that went wrong with this "Unicorn."

While there can be claims that the book spouts a bit of sensationalism for drama's sake, it's hard to look at the players involved and not be overcome with frustration at the steps each took to deceive. Elizabeth Holmes most of all.

The story is essentially multiple paths that include former employees of Theranos, employees of Walgreen's and Safe Way (two companies who had contracts with Theranos), military personnel, Doctors, and families of patients who used Theranos's blood reader cartridge that all ultimately converge on the company and its illustrious CEO when the light is finally shown on the heap of lies.

GOOD POINT: I enjoyed getting a sampling of stories from various people with various connections to the company and Elizabeth. It showed that no matter how you tried to swing it the common factor of bad was Elizabeth and Theranos. It made it easier to believe and swallow the story.

Theranos purported to conduct multiple disease and wellness tests using a single drop of blood. This tech simply put, does not exist. But this didn't stop Elizabeth or Theranos from claiming that it did. This resulted in her revolutionary blood reader cartridges to come back with faulty data that couldn't pass basic inspections. Still, they managed to get it out to the public for use, mostly because the red flags were simply ignored.

The book is well researched and just as well written. I had a hard time pausing to do things that I couldn't avoid. I needed to know what happened, even though I had read reports about what ultimately does.

The level of manipulation, threats, and lies is almost comical. How could someone get this far and not get caught? And it wasn't like there weren't people who were suspicious. There were plenty who were and by some moronic miracle they were all brushed aside like their complaints weren't even the least bit valid.

GOOD POINT: The tension in this is great. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Every time I thought she had finally gotten caught or someone was going to stop her she was able to swerve out of the way and come back stronger. It was frustrating but oh so juicy that I needed to keep going until I saw her get crushed.

Elizabeth Holmes even managed to keep herself from being removed as CEO when it was clear she didn't know what she was doing. After she was sure her throne was secure she went about firing those that tried to stop her and made the board of directors powerless without her. Remember folks, there were other people and they stood by and let her do this.

We are led to believe that it was her charm, her charisma, her HUGE deep blue eyes that could hypnotize, and her startling baritone voice that made the people around her complete idiots. And mind you these weren't complete idiots, these were they top of their field Silicon Valley bros.

GOOD POINT: I enjoyed the fact that Carreyrou didn't hold punches even when it came to his sources. One source in particular, while helped bring Elizabeth down, was not an angel himself. In fact I would have loved a way for him and Elizabeth to just take each other out. However, the sources that were good people and were ultimately hurt in getting this story out he defended and helped as best he could. 

Clearly if they didn't see anything wrong with her creepy eyes and unsettling voice then not only was there absolutely nothing to worry about, but no need to question anything either.

Look into my eyes...deeper
Ultimately, she is caught and is currently facing 9 counts of wire fraud and 2 counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud along with her number two executive and ex-lover Sunny Balwani. Theranos is all but bankrupt and all we can hope is that the investigation doesn't come up with any deaths her company may have left in its wake.

I am also giddy at the prospect that movie rights have been purchased for Carreyrou's book where Jennifer Lawrence is slated to portray the CEO sociopath herself. I can't think of anyone better to play Elizabeth Holmes as the coo-coo bananas manipulator that she is. My wish at this point is that she goes to prison for a long long time.

BAD POINT: Black turtlenecks.

5 out of 5 stars

Read this also: