Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chips and Beer (I'm so classy)

I’m on my Capital Corridor Amtrak train going home. It’s my last evening in the 35-and-Under demographic (like how I keep stretching my demo?) and I’m celebrating by enjoying a beer and chips. From the instant the dining car conductor cracked the Dos Equis and squeezed the lime my mouth has been watering. There’s something about essence of lime that’s just delicious. And when it hits hops and barley? Mmmmmmm.

My chips are Cheddar Beer Kettle Chips. They’re new—the ones in the yellow bag. As Michelle, our conductor agreed, “Yum! They’re cheesey and beery and good.” And they are thick and tangy and crunchy. And cover your fingertips in a nice rich coating of oil, so you know they aren’t good for you at all. In fact, one bag has 18 fat grams, but I’m not counting today.

What is it about chips and beer that satisfies me so? Everything is right this afternoon. We’re trucking through Pinole—the gray-green San Francisco Bay to my left, the creeks and eddies and million-dollar swamp grounds of Northern California to my right. There goes the Contra Costa jail, and some small but tidy homes with amazing bay views. Wild life areas and a boarded-up elementary school. Teenagers in red and white striped shirts huddle at the side of the tracks, startling me. They’ve probably started school and are embarking on thrilling and dangerous flirtations.

The Dos Equis wraps around my nerves and relaxes them. I’ve swapped the Hives and the Strokes for Death Cab for Cutie. And it blends perfectly with my respite. Farther east now, I think we’ve hit Hercules, where new houses have popped up like mushrooms grown too close. Old houses and buildings on the edge of town are strangely boarded up. I don’t know why.

All would be perfect if this beer was a Negra Modelo. Oh, how I love my Negra. The flavor is rich and deep and is better without a lime than with. I fell in love with it at Las Mesas, a great little taqueria in the Lower Haight that closed less than a year after it opened, the owner deciding there was more profit in bagels than burritos. Pretty Elizabeth would bring me my Negra Modelo, smiling shyly, knowing before I ordered that I’d ask for it. I’d enjoy it while I waited for our to-go burritos—mine almost always a chicken mole burrito, no chicken, and Juiceboy’s a veggie burrito—they had an amazing number of grilled veggies in their vegetarian items. The Bug tried everything, but loved the shrimp the most.

Las Mesas, this beer’s for you.

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