Ben Wilson

Ben Wilson

ben wilson This is the blog of a one Ben Wilson, a Louisville, Kentucky native who enjoys baseball, beer, music, bikes, things that fly and good food. By day he pushes pixels and makes the Internet happen for a local advertising agency. His wife, Kelly is an Ironman, and his baby Amelia is the cutest thing ever.

One of my favorite summertime activities is to head up to my old stompin’ grounds of New Salisbury, Indiana (just north of Corydon) and pick blueberries at Bryant’s Blueberries!

Ben and his blueberry bounty.

Family Run, Locally Grown and CHEAP!
It’s a family-run, u-pick sort of affair, and the prices are low, low, low compared to what you’ll pay in the supermarket. Their pricing varies according to their crop, but last year Kelly and I picked 30 pounds last year and I think the bill was $60!


Blueberry season is short and tempermental, so go early!
The picking season lasts from early June to mid-to-late July. Bryant’s has a number of varities that peak at different times, so choose accordingly. They are also open sporadically due to picking demand, ripeness level and weather. I highly suggest signing up for their email list, so you’ll be in-the-know.

And when you go, pick lots of berries! It seems like every few years Bryant’s crop is decimated by drought (2002), pestilence (2005) or a late frost (2007), so pick enough to save.

Kelly picks blueberries

Things to bring:
1. Hat

2. Sunscreen

3. Comfy, ok-to-be-wet shoes.
It’s pretty grassy and not a far walk, but if they are watering or it’s rainy, it’s a little soggy.

4. Your own pickin’ bucket. They provide some, but you can’t take ‘em home.
Blueberries don’t like sacks, so I suggest big “Tupperware” containers, or even a cooler.

5. Kids if ya got ‘em. Very kid friendly!

FYI: Blueberries freeze very well and are so tasty on winter waffles and in pies.

Cornmeal Waffles with Blueberries!

Cornmeal Waffles with Blueberries!

filed under Food,Louisville,Recipes and then tagged as
Jun 11 2009 ~ 12:48 pm ~ Comments Off ~

Yesterday, Matt and I catered a bridal shower for our friend Katy. My wife Kelly and his wife Sara were organizing the event and we were asked (not drafted!) to cook for it. Never having organized such a thing, we took it as a challenge. Matt and I both reckon ourselves as foodies, so we aimed high and made an ambitious but not totally off-the-wall menu. We wanted more than just your typical whitebread creamcheese pinwheels and little smokies and fruit pizza.

We made a list (collaborating via Google Docs) and organized our menu according to party flow and audience tastes. For the more exotic ingredients (the dates, the endive, some of the cheeses) we went to Whole Foods. Everything else was Kroger. We even organized the shopping list for maximum efficiency in the store. Matt came over on Saturday around 3PM and we started cooking after the grocery run around 6PM. A little break for dinner and we wrapped close to midnight. We still had some cooking to do on Sunday morning – mostly for the stuff that needed to be fresh. Overall we split the responsibilities (including cleaning) pretty well while also trying to keep the ladies out of the kitchen.

Here’s our menu:

Bloody Marys

Ciabatta bread
Cheese tray with crackers, grapes and sliced apples (Cabot Cheddar, Dutch Havarti and Red Band Smoked Gouda)
Caprese (fresh, sliced tomatoes with fresh sliced mozzarella and fresh basil leaves)

Cold Foods
Chicken salad with apples and pecans served in endive cups
Whole grain baguette rounds with sliced meats (pastrami and roast beef)

Hot Foods
Polenta rounds topped with hot sausage topped with sauteed scallions, apricot jam and parmesan cheese (recipe)
Medjool dates stuffed with almond and chevre, wrapped with uncured applewood-smoked bacon (recipe)
Mini-quiches in wonton cups (recipe)

Desserts / Pastries
Maple cupcakes with frosting (cupcake recipe, frosting recipe)
Apple cinnamon and strawberry-rhubarb galettes with vanilla ice cream (recipe)

Everything went great and I think Matt and I worked pretty well in the kitchen together. Matt is clearly the more precise and exacting cook than I am, as evidenced by his perfectly-cubed chicken and apple salad and attention to detail. Me, on the other hand, well, I figured hand-made is hand-made. The mark of a custom job is the imperfection, right? Odd how that stuff translates into our web-development “real jobs”.

In any case, it was a real honor and a lot of fun to give Katy a proper shower with good food. Can’t wait for the wedding!

filed under Food,Friends and then tagged as ,
Apr 20 2009 ~ 8:42 pm ~ Comments (3) ~

Weight, that is!

Cue ominous music… A SEDENTARY lifestyle led this man to WEIGH 1000 POUNDS!

But… I don’t weight 1000 pounds, in fact, I’m pretty average.

NO you aren’t, TUBBY! Your BMI is in the “FAT” range!

Well, yeah, but that’s just a guideline. What’ I’m really doing is…


Hey! No! It’s not that at all. Let me explain:

Two years ago I weighed 180 pounds, give or take a daily fluctuation. In the intervening two years, I’ve been “moderately active”, running two Louisville Triple Crown series and two Kentucky Derby Festival miniMarathons, a handful of triathlons and other local running races. In the last year, I’ve started cycling a fair amount (I did likely 1000-1500 miles in 2008) while helping my wife train for the Ironman, learned to swim decently, started going to gym regularly, joined a cycling team and commuted to work via bike every day in October.

My weight after those two years? 180 pounds. No foolin’! I intend to get to the bottom of that – to understand the why and wherefore of this machine I call a body. more after the jump…


filed under Athletics,Cycling,Food and then tagged as
Jan 22 2009 ~ 7:09 pm ~ Comments (4) ~

Christmas 2008 Booty

Christmas 2008 Booty

Man, when did I become a cooking nerd? I’ll look back later and this will likely be the day. Almost all of my major Christmas spoils were cooking-related, and I can’t complain! I’ve gotten into grilling, bread-making, studying chili-fu and cookie-making in the past couple years and have acquired a taste for tools that are simple, strong and useful.

Sowing the seeds of these (perceived) needs in my gift-giving friends and family I came out with a bounty of culinary prep tools, listed herein after the jump…


filed under Food and then tagged as ,
Dec 26 2008 ~ 11:36 pm ~ Comments (1) ~

This is about 1/3 of what we picked today @ Bryant’s Blueberries in New Salisbury, IN. More info:

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Jun 28 2008 ~ 10:24 am ~ Comments Off ~

Last weekend I cooked up my 3rd-ever homebrewed beer. This time I chose a tasty selection from the annals of The Joy of Home Brewing, Vagabond Gingered Ale. A “deliciously dark, full-bodied ale, with the gentle essence of fresh ginger…uniquely satisfying for the vagabond brewers who journey to places that have no boundaries” (The Joy of Home Brewing, p 214).


I did pretty well with this batch – kept my temps in the right place and tried a couple of new/better steps in the process, including:

  • Used full-leaf dried hops
  • Strained the hot wort (the concoction in the pot on the stove is wort, not beer yet!) into a strainer, which quickly filled with hops, making a much more effective strain (less bits in your fermenting beer means clearer beer, less “odd” tastes
  • Chilled the wort by dropping a few good handfuls of ice into my sparging bucket. Chilling the wort from a boil down to under 78 degrees as fast as possible is CRITICAL to make sure you don’t get contaminated beer! Thanks be to Alton Brown’s Good Brew on that one…

But… there is a possibility I messed this one up a little! I accidentally added the wrong kind of beer yeast to the fermenter the first time – and it might have been too old as well! After a day and no activity in the fermenter, I went and got the right kind of yeast (American Ale yeast, not Weizen yeast) and pitched it in the fermenter. Here we are almost 5 days later and it is bubblin’ along in my bathtub. I’m not sure what will happen with two different strains of yeast in there, but if the first one was dead, we should be OK, right? Relax…

Fermenter in the bathtub.

As I mentioned, I got my recipe from The Joy of Home Brewing a book considered by many to be the “Bible of Homebrewing”. Written by homebrew legend Charlie Papazian, it does for brewing beer what Alton Brown does for food in his Good Eats program on the Food Network. A good amount of theory, a good amount of wisdom and a heaping helping of quirky humor that makes it a joy to read. Not just a list of ingredients and temperatures. I’ve only homebrewed 3 times now, but my Joy Of Home Brewing is already dog-eared. Charlie’s mantra throughout the book is “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew!”

I took some photos of the process (edited for time) and you can view them in the 2008.02.17 – Vagabond Gingered Ale gallery. If you are interested in homebrewing, I suggest you take a look at, an excellent resource. It’s separated into four sections, the first three being beer-making at three different difficulty levels. The last two beers I’ve done were “intermediate”, or “Section 2 – Brewing Your First Extract and Specialty Grain Beer”.

filed under Beer,Food and then tagged as ,,,
Feb 23 2008 ~ 1:48 am ~ Comments Off ~

Kelly, being the weirdo that she is, wanted to go to the Bodies exhibit at The Cincinnati Museum. She’s got a thing for anatomy and generally the gross side of medicine. Cut to scene where I tell here in no uncertain terms will I watch a show about a man with a rare skin disease while eating a quesadilla I had just made. Whereas most girls were excited to be taken to dinner or to receive chocolates or flowers, Kelly wanted to go see artfully-styled corpses. Who am I to argue?

Saturday, we took off up to Cinci (stopping at the GAP Clearance Center in nearby Florence (Y’all!). Using our futurephones and the surprisingly-good Windows Live Directions service we made a U-turn or two and then ran smack into a long, long line of cars just outside the Museum. Hmm… could this be for the Bodies Exhibit? 1 hour later, as the lad in the parking booth told me (in order) there would be a 2-3 hour wait just to get tickets (it was 2:30 PM, they close at 5 on Saturdays) and that they only take cash. Cocking my head to the side and saying “Hmmm” (loudly) didn’t help – he apparently had seen such a tactic before. I said “Well… I don’t think I can back up,” to which he replied that I could park in the temporary lot and get some money from the ATM. Not that it mattered though. He let me through the gate and I immediately found a parking spot – not that we could use it on account of us not having the time to see the exhibit, but it felt good to stick it to those bastards! (Editor: They aren’t bastards, really. He was quite nice considering the near-riot conditions). The exhibit runs through June or July or some such, so we resolved to come back and make a day of it and a Reds game sometime after the baseball season starts. Kelly, being the wonderfully easy-to-please lady she is didn’t mind – in fact, we have a term for a failed mission: “adventures”.

We bopped around town for a little bit, got lost, looked for some store in some mall and decided to hit two food stores that we don’t have in Louisville – Trader Joe’s and Jungle Jim’s. I had heard-tell of both of these from a number of people (and from listening to WOXY – a great independent radio station in Cinci) – essentially a Whole Foods sort-of thing, but funkier. Trader Joe’s was certainly Whole Foods, but smaller, and funkier – and I’d like to have one in Louisville, but the real cake-taker here is Jungle Jim’s International Market.

Jungle Jim’s is actually in Hamilton (hometown to Hollow-Earth theorist Capt. John Symmes) out on Dixie Highway, a ways away from the city and a loooong way from your average grocery store. Pulling up to the store, you immediately notice the monorail tram jutting from the side of the store, which my Googling skills tell me was King’s Island’s old tram! But… but… why?!? Parking in the lot and walking up to the entrance, I quickly decided to stop asking. I assumed there was food on the inside, but you really couldn’t tell from the outside, which looked like a mini-golf course crossed with a zoo and a waterpark. Even the entranceway felt like I was going to Mister Toad’s Wild Ride.

Through the modest set of doors and the ceiling of the place opens into a vast – and a bit overwhelming – paradise of food. A paradise of food with an animatronic soup can on a swing over the grocery area. And an animatronic Lucky Charms band sitting on a 40-foot shrimp boat next to the half-dozen live seafood tanks. Did I mention animatronic lion Elvis in the produce area? But ya can’t take photos – that’s posted clearly on the entranceway. Luckily, they give out photo passes to some lucky photographers, like this guy: Tim Gets a Jungle Jim’s Photo Pass.

Aside from the “attractions”, the food selection is mind-blowing. The Asian section (not to be confused with the Sushi bar) has some half-dozen or more sub-sections for China, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong, Vietname, and a few others. Over near the Mexican section are the two 20-foot wide, 6-foot tall walls of hot sauces (with the “Adult Themed Sauces” in a shaded case. My personal favorite? Nuclear Nipples. Imagine the label. Nearby, the roots of a giant Robin Hood-themed tree form the ceiling of the rather large English food selection. Teas? Oh yeah.

Live lobsters. Live rainbow trout. Live catfish. Live bluegill. Spanish foods. Greek foods. French foods. Fruits I’ve never seen before. A relatively modest (in comparison to the rest of the store) but varied beer selection. A huge wine selection. An amazing selection of micro-brew colas, ginger ales and root beer.

And while I initially grasped Kelly’s arm in mock fear when I first entered the store, I found myself wandering off constantly, being beckoned by whatever new and fascinating foodstuff I saw. I would later ask Kelly if we could live there. We’ll be back for sure – after all, there is only one Jungle Jim’s.

Our final cart:

Breckinridge Vanilla Porter 1 bottle Gale’s Root Beer
4 boxes Pulparindo Mexican Tamarind Candy
1 six-pack Bison Chocolate Stout
1 bottle Arcadia Ale Coco Loco Chocolate Stout
1 bottle Flying Dog Collaborator Doppelbock Open Source Beer
1 bottle Breckenridge Vanilla Porter
1 bottle Dave’s Ultimate Insanity Hot Sauce
2 cans Mexican soda, one “Champagne”, the other “Coconut”
1 tub of hummus
1 container Mediterranean salad thing

Listen: NPR on Jungle Jim’s International Market, Oct 4 2003

filed under Food,Travel and then tagged as ,,,
Feb 17 2008 ~ 11:05 pm ~ Comments (2) ~

I don’t know when Kelly and I decided to start baking bread, but I think it was while watching the splendid Stranger than Fiction in which Maggie Gyllenhall plays a baker to Will Ferrell’s IRS agent. We discussed it later, and figured that, you know – it’s just water and flour and some yeast. How hard could it be? It’s not, really. Chatting with Mom during her annual New Year’s Day Black-Eyed-Pea Party, she told me that she used to bake all the bread we ate as kids, so I hit her up for some bread recipes, which I promptly left at her house…

Later: Kelly made some delicious, if dense, whole wheat bread that we ate with a red sauce I made from scratch (thanks, Mario Batali) with onions and carrots as a base and healthy dose of thyme. Later, while Kelly was off doing god knows what, I cooked up an Indian-inspired dish of shrimp and chicken in a simmering sauce (bought at Target… shut up, it was delicious). I also took advantage of the wonderful Southeast Asian cookbook I was gifted by my Malay boss (and fellow food nerd) in that I made some naan (Indian leavened flatbread). It was delightful. Also delightful – having the time during these long hard days of winter to spend the time to make your own food!

Last night, Kelly and I did another little dinner tango – she made Butternut Squash and Apple soup and I went to town on some Rosemary bread. They both turned out great!

Bread is a simple thing, and perhaps that’s why I’ve enjoyed it so much – it’s a little like making your own beer. There is a bit of simple cooking, a bit of waiting and then a couple hours later (or weeks, in the case of beer) you might have screwed the whole thing up. But, like homebrewed beer, the first loaf will be the best you’ve ever made.

The Rosemary bread I made turned out to be pretty delicious – though there are a few things I’d like to do better. I need to slice the top of it to make sure it doesn’t “mushroom” in the oven, and I’d like to find a way to get a thicker crust. Cracking that oven open to see the golden, brown and delicious (GBD) loaf is worth it all! Also, bread is just pretty sometimes:

Rosemary Loaves, Unbaked

filed under Food,Photography,Recipes and then tagged as ,,,
Jan 6 2008 ~ 11:28 pm ~ Comments Off ~

Or, perhaps The Blizzard of Destiny!

But first, last night…


Last night after the marathon, we met Kelly’s friends Howard and Ande for a meal at Joey Buono’s Pizza just off Michigan Avenue. I had a very tasty Goose Island Oktoberfest beer along with some decent calamari. The real winner was the “Quatro Staggione” pizza that had four different quadrants of various and nummy toppings. Excellent. (And then I had a tasty Stella Artois).

Afterwards, we headed down to the Navy Pier for the “after-party”. Thanks to the wonderful mass transit they have here, we hopped on a bus and were there in no time. However, once inside the pier, we had to walk the entire length of the damned thing (which is far) to get to the “Grand Ballroom”. I, the only member of the party who hadn’t run the race had no problems and enjoyed the stained glass exhibit running a good 1/4 mile along the inside of the pier mall. The others hobbled along behind.

The after-party was pretty hoppin’ — all sorts of free food and nearly-free alcohol, replete with a nutty cover band called The Paramours. We, despite being stuffed with pizza, sampled the fare and the liquid assets. Also, we got Kelly’s official time: 4:40:12!

This morning, we slept in as late as we wanted and decided to try and find Kelly’s Blizzard of Destiny, the confection foretold by prophecy to officially end Kelly’s marathon saga. The Dairy Queen website said something about a DQ at 69 Washington Street, only a few blocks away from us. We had our destination.

So, standing there at 69 W. Washington and not seeing a DQ, we were confused! Feeling dejected we tracked down a phone book in the basement of the nearby Sears. 222 S. Riverside Plaza! Only a few MORE blocks away. First, feeling hungry, we decided to hop into the nearby Cosi for some lunch. I’d heard about Cosi from the David Cross bit about “Squagels” the square bagels. “What’s for breakfast as COSI?!”. Ultimately a little bit of a let-down as it was essentially a collection of Hot Pocket style sandwiches that at least adventurous, though more expensive than Panera. But I digress… After lunch, we trucked on over to 222 S. Riverside Plaza and found it to be an Amtrak station. Walking downstairs to the Food Court we were greeted with even further dejection! Boo! According to the helpdesk, it had moved out a while back. Dang.
Dairy Queen

The next closest one was on W. Irving Park, which was a good haul away in Northwest Chicago. Kelly, now truly in the dumps after being let down twice by Dairy Queen, and forecasting that she’d “break down and cry” if the next DQ was not where it said it was, was nonetheless a trooper and we started on our way. Not even knowing if it still existed, we took the Green Line to the Blue Line (like 10 stops out) and then took a bus for 16 blocks. The DQ in sight and open! Huzzah! Kelly ordered a Medium Strawberry Cheesecake Blizzard and I had a Small Oreo Blizzard. All was well in the cosmos. All was tasty. And it had only taken a plane ride, a marthon, at least 4 train rides and a bus to complete.

While on the way back on the Blue Line from Irving Park (which, by the way, is were I saw my second shoving-match in public of this vacation) we decided to stop at Logan Park, which I incorrectly remembered as where I had been 2 years before on a similar adventure with Hunter to find a ‘zine distributor. Nonetheless, Logan Park was neat little Latino/Polish area with a GAP Outlet store (and a Payless). I managed to impress Kelly by picking out not one but two smart ensembles of fall-inspired shirts and sweaters (with jeans). It takes so very little to impress Kelly. Later, we went to the Payless Shoes and saw a woman get nabbed for shoplifting. She was wearing a velour track suit and when the attendee caught her at the door, she simulatenously said “Oh? I’m sorry” and comically pulled out a feather boa-like thing from the front pouch of her sweatshirt, as if it were a scarf and she was a magician. I guess it was a bit scarf-like, but dang, lady — a shoplifting wrap for a crappy scarf?

Later, we kicked it back to the hotel for a brief respite and then headed out for dinner at the Cheesecake Factory at the base of the Hancock Building. We ate a tasty grilled artichoke appetizer (the discarded leaves of which Kelly made a little hut). I continued on my Goose Island (the closest thing to a local beer around here) tip and Kelly ate some Fish Tacos and I had the “Bang-Bang Chicken and Shrimp” which was tasty, but as Kelly put it: “This tastes like just “eh… bang chicken and shrimp”. Not terribly spicy at all.

Tomorrow: It’s ART DAY!

filed under Athletics,Food,Travel and then tagged as ,,,,,
Oct 10 2005 ~ 10:21 pm ~ Comments Off ~

On Saturday, Hunter, Katy, Joe, Kelly, Cherie and I made our Annual Trip to Huber’s.

Later in the day, we went to Holly’s 30th Birthday party.

On Sunday, we carved pumpkins.

(a while back, I took some pictures of Kelly and our cat Karen)

update: yeah, so it was Katy who went with us to Huber’s. Jamie was around later for the pumpkin carving. Note time of posting: 8:30AM. I am not legally liable for misspellings or misrepresentation of fact until after 3:30PM EST.

filed under Food,Friends,Photography and then tagged as ,,,
Oct 21 2003 ~ 9:32 am ~ Comments (13) ~
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