Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Hockey Party, Part One: The Mustard
Our annual Gentleman’s Beer Drinking Club end-of-year party was last Saturday at Wes’ house. While I haven’t won in a long time, the party has been at the Stanford Manor every year because, well, we have a little more elbow room. It’s someone else’s victory party, but we have to host the fuckin’ thing. Gay. This year, however, Wes finally won the Gentleman’s Cup and got to hold the much-anticipated party in his San Pedro backyard. As it states in the rules on the back of the Gentlemen’s cards, “The owner of the winning Stanley Cup team has to throw a party for the losers with a keg, meat, ice cream and it better be fun.” Wes has been threatening for the last couple years to have a spectacular spread, and he did: he rented us a Mexican lady to make us tacos. But more on the Hockey Party and the tacos in the next post. This post is about the mustard tasting that went down at the beginning of the Hockey Party.
When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to Candlestick Park every Sunday to watch the Giants play. I would religiously bring my mitt and my scorebook to every game. Like a complete nerd, I sat in my little orange seat scribbling down every play, all the while hoping a foul ball would fall in my glove. Unfortunately, our seats were only ten rows behind home plate, and during the half dozen years we went to games, only one foul ball came anywhere near us. The lady with the mustache in front of us had never caught a ball either. I’ve since lost interest in baseball altogether, but there is one thing from our Candlestick visits I still cheer for: mustard.
The best thing about Sundays at Candlestick was lunch: a couple of hotdogs with Guildens mustard. It wasn’t the hotdog I was interested in, it was the mustard. As most hotdog aficionados will agree, the hotdog and the bun are an integral part of the hotdog experience—the hotdog especially—but ultimately they’re just vehicles for condiments.
So I wasn’t surprised when I recently heard a “driveway story” on NPR about Cleveland’s mustard wars: “Ballpark Mustard” and “Stadium Mustard.” The story got kind of confusing at one point, but I think “Ballpark” is sold at Indians games and “Stadium” is sold at Browns games? The one thing that I am sure about is that the fans were passionate about their mustard. At times during the NPR broadcast it sounded like gang war. There was all kinds of shit talking and apparently there really is a feud between the owners of each of the mustards. I had to try ‘em.
Our friend Heather found them here: http://www.mustardmuseum.com/. After I received a bottle of Ballpark and Stadium in the mail and began looking at the catalog that came with it, I realized I had seen this guy before.
He’s been on The Food Network. He’s a nerd who’s a maniac for mustard. He’s the Dean of Poupon U. Har har. Whatever, he has lots of mustards. They don’t, however, stock a very special mustard from Belgium that Doug brought back with him.
“Wow, if I only knew that there were other mustard fans out there,” Doug wrote in response to my BallPark vs. Stadium mustard tasting announcement, “your wedding gift would have been covered. Long story short: I love mustard. The thicker and spicier, the better. Before we went to Holland and Belgium last month, I saw in my guidebook a spot in Ghent (Belgium) that is world renowned for its mustard. They have been using the same recipe since 1759 or some shit. I knew I had to get there.”
Unfortunately Doug’s story is not a long one made short. It is a very well written story, but it is a very long story. I will try to paraphrase it.
The Johnson family made it to the town of Ghent and inquired about this ancient sacred magic mustard. The lady told him in a very thick accent that it was “15 minutes away.” Because of the heat and the baby, Doug decided to forego the journey. Later that day an opportunity arose where he could steal away, and so he asked the lady again how to get to the ancient sacred magic mustard. Which he had cleverly begun to call his “yellow whale.” Nice.
Doug writes again:
“Hey, how do I get to that mustard place,” I said. “You said it was 15 minutes away?” The lady pointed, and said, “It’s right there.” I was like, “You said 15 minutes.” She said, “I said 15 METERS,” and pointed over my shoulder, and, lo and behold, there she was: the mustard palace.
Doug entered and ordered a couple jars from the lady behind the counter. He continues:
I figured she would pull some jars out of the cabinet, but instead, she pulled out two empty jars and walked over to an oak barrel, lifted the lid, and ladled out my mustard. “Has you ever tried it?” No. “Here you go,” and handed me a spoonful of mustard goodness. WOW! Mind blowing stuff. I thanked her profusely, had a dumb smile on my face, and stumbled into the Belgium streets, mustard drunk and in love.
Doug's mustards. The ancient Belgian sacred magic mustard is on the far left.
So Doug generously brought the half jar he had left of the ancient Belgian sacred magic mustard to the mustard tasting at the Gentleman’s Beer Drinking Club party. And we tasted the mustards. Now to make a long ending short, the results of the mustard tasting:
1. Doug’s ancient Belgian sacred magic mustard won hands down. Every one of our dozen tasters ranked it number one.
2. Surprisingly, Ballpark mustard came in second. I say “surprisingly” because I preferred Stadium to Ballpark. The Clevelanders on the radio had described Ballpark as “sweeter.” Neither mustard is anything close to sweet, but side by side, Ballpark is less tangier, less sour. Hence “sweeter.”
3. I prefer the Stadium mustard as did a couple of the other tasters, but Ballpark was the hands down favorite between the two Cleveland mustards. I, however, would recommend the ancient Belgian sacred magic mustard that you can only get out of a barrel in Ghent.