the new green economy

marijuana_investmentLawmakers in Washington and Colorado have until December of this year to lay down the rules for the legalization and sale of pot. And one question, ahem, high on the agenda: how does all of this relate to tourists? If Amsterdam is a good example, pot tourism literally brings in the green in more ways than one. Although the Netherlands had tried to enforce a ban on the selling of pot to tourists, the Amsterdam City Council refused to comply, because they are fully aware of how well their coffers are being lined by pot-smoking tourists. In fact, pot sales are doing so well, the Amsterdam City Council wants to be allowed to grow its own weed. It does not seem, however, that either Washington or Colorado are much concerned about waiting around for the lawmakers to set the limits for buying and selling marijuana. There’s a lot of wiggle room in the interpretation of simply enjoying any grass on offer. One of the largest annual events and a big tourist draw in the Pacific Northwest is an event called Hempfest. In Seattle, a marijuana dinner cruise will set sail this summer, while in Colorado, Snoop Lion (the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg) didn’t get into a whiff of trouble for throwing joints out into the crowd at a Denver Center Park event last month. Heck, you can even take a cannabis cooking class in Denver. Who knows, maybe they’re onto something. Maybe pot tourism is the new green economy.


second thoughts

pony and trap

The first sight we see upon docking at Aegina is a line-up of pony and traps waiting to tramp tourists around the main town. Uh oh. Perhaps the proximity of the island to Athens makes it more of a tourist hub than originally anticipated. (Even though by all outward appearances there seems to be at most five identifiable tourists wandering the esplanade, and the klatsch of carriage drivers are too busy smoking and talking to pay us any heed.) We opt for ice cream – pistachio, natch – and a pause to look at our options.

pistachio ice cream


live blog: smoked out

The Burren Smokehouse is a family run business started by Birgitta and Peter Curtain to keep up with the demand which had built up around the house-smoked salmon served in the family’s Lisdoonvarna pub, The Roadside Tavern. Leaders in the local Slow Food movement, they carefully source quality raw materials like trout, mackerel, cheese, and salmon direct from the wild west coast of Ireland to produce award-winning specialties like Burren’s Hot Smoked Organic Salmon with Honey, Lemon and Dill, which won 2 gold medals at the Great Taste awards and was recently served to Queen Elizabeth II as part of a state dinner at Dublin Castle. While widely available via mail order now – as well as at Dean & Deluca – there are few locations as atmospheric in which to enjoy their ruby-red salmon than nearby Burren Wine and Food. The sign in the window promises home cooking and that’s exactly what you’ll find inside the century-old stone coach house. Nestled in the Burren hills, owner Cathleen Connole grows or sources most of the food she serves from local farmers and traders, including fish from the Burren Smokehouse and Liscannor crab. The only exception is the organic house wine. The Galway Bay label is produced in the Languedoc by her brother, Noel.


the gift of pork

To my mind, nothing says love like the smell of bacon.  So it’s kind of ironic that having eschewed red meat for about eight weeks, a four-pound box of the world’s best arrived at my desk this morning. Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Ham out of Tennessee is as artisanal as it gets: hickory-smoked by hand in small batches using a little wood-stove smokehouse. It’s the same process I experimented with last summer on my roof – without fear of the fire department unexpectedly showing up. Seitan be gone – I’m salivating in anticipation of a weekend with this little piggy.


stick to your ribs

Roof-smoked ribs turned out to be an unqualified success. I let the meat marinate in the fridge overnight in my secret BBQ sauce (key ingredient:  a healthy dose of the blueberry jam I made at the end of the summer) before putting them in the oven for an hour and a half at 350°.  What emerged was an act of alchemy: sticky, succulent ribs with just the right finger-licking combination of sweet, salt, and smoke. Neither overcooked nor underdone, the meat had just enough bite to allow the full carnivore experience that it such a fun part of digging into a plate of ribs. At the last minute I tossed a handful of pomegranate seeds on top, too, which made for a light, clean crunch which complemented the layered textures of savory flavors.

All the rigmarole of seasoning the smoker on the fire escape and smoking the meat up on the roof turned out to be more than worth the effort.  And it begs the question:  what next?


all smoked out

Smoking meat on your fire escape is a bad idea.  It might seem smart in theory, but in practice it is a very big mistake.  The process of smoking (meat or fish, or nuts, or what have you) produces an inordinate amount of smoke.  Duh.  It also produces a smell that’s about as fragrant as a forest fire at close range. When smoking in close quarters you are at the mercy of shifting winds, too; meaning smoke, smell and a seemingly benign breeze can suddenly combine into a perfect storm cloud that quickly fills your bedroom at a moment’s notice. Or your neighbor’s. (Sorry, neighbor!) Be warned: it’s a smell that lingers. For days. All I did on the fire escape was “season” the smoker yet my house still smells like a packet of smokehouse almonds.

I wised up the next day and took the smoker up onto the roof, hoping for a better breeze.  After brining and air-drying the meat, I started up the smoker again and let it smolder.  Once it was puffing full-throttle, in went two racks of ribs.  For the next hour I stood at attention watching the smoke, watching the breeze, watching my neighbors in the surrounding buildings for signs of panic or alarm.  Every squawk of a siren in the street froze me in my tracks.  (This whole enterprise being completely illegal, of course)  But lo and behold it all went without incident.  Once the smoke cleared, I pulled out what looked like nicotine-stained beef ribs; golden and smelling faintly of a dying campfire.

Last night I cooked up an experimental barbecue sauce and set the ribs to marinate overnight.  Later today, I will finally  finish these babies off in the oven.  Stay tuned.


smoke this

An unexpected prezzie arrived at my desk yesterday:  my very own smoker!  Which is funny because just last week I was rambling on about how I wanted to smoke my own my meat.  It’s electric, so no open flames or burning coals, thankfully.  The question remains:  do I attempt to use it inside my apartment or snake a power-cord  out onto the fire escape?  Or up to the roof? Plus, there’s the excitement of what do I smoke first!  Stay tuned – my new toy should make for a fragrant fall weekend.


a moment in houston

2009-11-04 14.50.02It is so rare in this country to find any airport facilities that cater to smokers, so I have to take a moment to tip my hat to Houston, where I discovered this civilized smoking lounge the other day in Terminal E at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.  The way the light cut through the buildings, created a perfect rectangle of sunlight, like a stage.  Just out of view, two women – as if preparing an unwilling prop for their entrance – were struggling with an overstuffed suitcase that would not close despite extensive rearranging of its contents.  Eventually as one of the women sat down on the case and lit up a cigarette, the other managed to snap the luggage locks into place.  It made for an an entertaining little smoke break on an otherwise arduous day of layovers.  Thank you, Houston.


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