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Colonel Mustard, in the Kitchen, with a Beer

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Studies have shown that a person’s taste buds change every 5 to 7 years, which explains why one day I woke up and suddenly thought that brussel sprouts were the best thing I have ever tasted.  This also explains why in the past few years I discovered the joy and wonder of mustard.  When I was little I thought mustard was disgusting; bright yellow and tangy, I couldn’t understand why anyone would dredge their burger with something so repulsive.  Ketchup was King, and it wasn’t going anywhere.  

That was until I spent a summer studying in Paris.  I was having lunch at an outdoor cafe, the waiter dropped off my food and said in the stereotypical superior way; “Let me guess, you’d like some Ketchup with your fries.”  I nodded, embarrassed and I SWEAR he muttered “Stupid Americannnnes” as he presented the red bottle of Heinz to the table.  As I smacked the sides of the bottle and the ketchup glopped onto my plate, I looked around me and noticed the effortlessly chic Parisians eating their frites with a fork, not a bit of ketchup in sight.   Being the Francophile that I am, I immediately put down the ketchup, stopped the snooty waiter, and asked for a bottle of the finest Dijon.  If mustard meant that I was cool, sophisticated, and could possibly pass for a Frenchie, then mustard was to become my new thing.  My love and adoration for mustard has stayed, in spite of my bitter realization that I am never going to be as fabulous as the ladies of Paris, no matter how hard I try.

Mustard is magical, it makes incredible salad dressings, marinades, and dips.  But it also has healing properties, it helps with inflammation, and even promotes hair growth.  The ancient Egyptians would bring mustard seeds to the tomb, as it was considered a symbol of good fortune.  If it’s good enough for King Tut, amiright?!

My fridge is normally stocked with at least a few kinds of mustard, a good dijon, a nice spicy brown mustard, and yes even the bright yellow ballpark mustard (it’s cheap, but damn it’s delicious.)  I’ve been on a quest for the best mustard out there, so I decided to gather up as many stone ground, brown mustards as possible and rate them until a clear winner was found.  I went to a speciality grocery store known to many South West Ohioans as a foodie (ugh, I hate that word) paradise:  Jungle Jim’s.  I scoured their condiment section, and selected 8 out of about 300 mustards.  Last night, with the help of Tim and two of my close (and well-palated) friends, we went through the painstaking task of tasting, and tasting, and tasting each mustard in the noble quest of selecting the best stone ground mustard out there.

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We got real serious about it, I created a rating system based on four categories:  Flavor, Heat Level, Spreadability, and Overall Appeal, and judged them all on a scale from 1-5.  I made soft pretzels (which I will never do again), we drank a few delicious wheat beers*, and we sat in judgement, which is basically my favorite thing to do.  I could make it an Olympic sport.

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I’m not sure if the beer is to blame, or if the mustards we were judging were all just too good, but we couldn’t pick just one winner.  Our reigning champs are….drumroll please:  Inglehoffer Original Stone Ground Mustard, and Brucken Dusseldorf Mustard.

The Inglehoffer was nice and seedy, an appropriate heat level with the right amount of tang, and a great depth of flavor, scored fives across the board (except for Tim, who is very keen on giving ½ points…is that a guy thing?)  This mustard would make a kick ass marinade.  

The Brucken was HOT…I mean, really hot, but it really complimented the doughy pretzel and my mouth watered just thinking pairing it with a brat.  My friend Marysa said it was hot, but in a sexy way, which totally makes sense to me.

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So, I’ll admit, our scoring wasn’t an exact science, but it was fun, and now my fridge is stocked with mustards to use every which way…I am currently googling a mustard marinade for pork chops, and how to pack mustard seeds into a sarcophagus.

*We enjoyed Rhinegeist’s Hugh Hefe Hefeweizen, and Troegs DreamWeaver wheat beer.  These beers were the perfect pairing for the spicy, tangy mustards and doughy sweet soft pretzels.   These are both light enough that they don’t overpower the mustard, but can still stand up to the kick.  Plus, neither of them have the overwhelming taste of banana!

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