The food abides…

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New Beer Friday/First Day of Fall! – New Belgium’s Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin

Today would be a day that those unfamiliar with the Law of Large Numbers might call a coincidence. Not only is it Friday, my preferred day of the week for trying new beers, but it’s also the first day of Fall which is my favorite beer season. For today’s New Beer Friday, I’m kicking things off with a literal bang and trying New Belgium’s new Fall release, their Voodoo Ranger Atomic Pumpkin Ale. That’s a lot of “New.”

New Belgium Brewing always has some really creative one-offs especially when it comes to their Lips of Faith series. But like last year’s seasonal, the unusually tart Pumpkin Cranberry Ale “Pumpkick,” this spicy brew is something special. I tend to associate any of their beers tagged with the Voodoo Ranger moniker as an IPA or something similarly hoppy, but that is not the case this go around.

Atomic Pumpkin pours an orange-gold color with almost no head and just a little bit of lacing on the glass. On the nose is a significant bready aroma of pumpkin pie with a hint of vanilla and just the slightest little inference of the forthcoming habanero peppers.

Mouthfeel is surprisingly light and crisp. On the first pull are those solid biscuity pumpkin pie notes complete with the traditional cinnamon, allspice and clove flavors. It quickly mellows into something almost reminiscent of creamy vanilla ice cream. Then on the back end, the habanero peppers hit you right in the craw. It’s not overpowering or too spicy, it’s just there, leaving this pleasant little tickle and a perfect warming feeling (though I dig heat so “not too spicy” to me may mean something completely different to you).

In an age where people roll their eyes every time someone mentions the word “pumpkin,” this is a unique brew. I love both pumpkin and spicy beers and this marriage is something that scratches the itch and simply hasn’t been done before.

If you’re looking for a more traditional pumpkin ale or if you have no taste for spicy beers you may want to sit this one out in favor of something a little safer. But if you’re looking for something new and interesting it’s worth picking this up and giving it a try.

Tried the Atomic Pumpkin? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…

 


Post Hurricane Irma Eats @ Buttermilk Provisions

Post Irma, most retail locations were out of power, food or both. That’s why in addition to being incredibly grateful that we made it through the hurricane relatively unscathed (especially given the devastation it wrought on some of our neighbors to the south and east), I’m also very glad that one of my favorite local coffee and pastry shops, Buttermilk Provisions was up and running immediately following the storm.

The Spinach, Mushroom and Gruyere Quiche was a perfect dish of cheesy goodness. The Vegan Cinnamon and Sugar Donut was surprisingly moist. And I maintain that the Buddy Brew coffee kicks the crap out of anything you can get anywhere else.

The proprietor greeted us with a warm smile and a genuine concern for how we fared during the storm. Between that, and the food, it was a much needed bit of normal after what had been a crazy week leading up to Irma’s Florida landfall.

THIS is why I support local business as often as I can. You cannot get this kind of comfort at a Starbucks.

Hope everyone was as lucky as we were during the storm and if you weren’t that you can get your lives back to normal as soon as possible…

And remember Florida… the food abides… and so do we….


Game of Thrones and a Coppertail “Stash…”

Yes it’s another Another Game of Thrones post so soon after the last, but it’s been a short season. In the glass is a Coppertail Brewing Co.’s “Stash” a Tropical Stout with Pistachio and Vanilla Bean.

This is a really unique brew with a very pleasing texture… and it tastes like drinking a big boozy bowl of pistachio ice cream. Which is a good thing.

Hope everyone enjoys the show!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…


Review – Cask Social Kitchen

I had very fond memories in the late 90’s of Hospitality Night every Sunday at the old Mangroves on Howard Avenue. Perhaps it was the desire to not tarnish those memories that caused me to avoid any other establishment that was built on that location but I unconsciously steered clear of that area for far longer than I should have. It wasn’t until recently, when a good friend’s birthday dinner was planned there, that I ventured into that spot upon which now resides, Cask Social Kitchen.

While the soul of the old Mangroves is gone, it’s been replaced with a similar contemporary feeling accented with lots of barrels and exposed light bulbs. It has a relatively small parking lot for such a big building so the complementary valet was greatly appreciated especially in an area like SoHo where parking is usually brutal.

As if the name wasn’t any indication, Cask features wine and lots of signature whiskey-based (among other) cocktails, but I was impressed with the amount of local and craft beer they offered. Ordered the Spacegrass IPA from Angry Chair Brewing right down the road in Seminole Heights and it was a perfect starting brew.

They had a wide range of apps, some of which were rather unique. I went with the Buffalo Cauliflower and this dish was spectacular. I honestly couldn’t even tell I was eating cauliflower because it was breaded so well and had just the right amount of heat. I’m not quite sure why it was served with ranch dressing instead of bleu cheese and that’s the only thing I would change about the dish.

Some of my friends ordered the BBQ Short Rib Flatbread with Caramelized Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, Goat Cheese and Roasted Portabello Mushrooms. They could not stop raving about this and just looking at it made me sorry I don’t eat red meat.

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By now you’ve probably noticed the “Social Kitchen” moniker tagged onto their name. Cask has their own take on “family style” serving that they call “social eating.” A good number of the menu items have two prices. One price is for a single serving and another is for a group serving intended to share.

You’ve no doubt read my thoughts on other places that try this concept and my disappointment when it doesn’t quite work out. To this day, I don’t understand how places like the Rooster and the Till can “encourage sharing” with such small portions.

But this is where Cask knocks it out of the park. A single serving is a full portion and a sharing portion is a serving and a half. This is the perfect amount of food and Cask nailed it; this spot-on structure truly encourages sharing. It also helped that the food was prepared extremely well and it had one of those across-the-board menus that has something for everyone, but we all took advantage of this and the passing around of plates felt like a bona-fide communal experience.

I went with the Rock Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Fire Roasted Plum Tomatoes and Sweet Basil. There was a ton of seafood jammed into this dish and the sauce was perfect.

One of my friends ordered the Citrus Scallops with Sauteed Spinach, Grilled Sweet Potato, Caramelized Grapefruit and a Citrus Brown Butter. The scallops were huge, the grapefruit was an interesting tropical take and the brown butter sauce was amazing.

Another member of our group ordered the Chicken & Waffles with Vanilla Cream, Orange Spiked Maple Syrup and Honey Butter. Right up there with Shrimp & Grits, Chicken & Waffles is another one of my favorite southern dishes and Cask did an amazing job with it. The orange maple syrup was a nice touch and added a little bit of Florida flair.

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While they did have an extensive desert menu, since it was a birthday, we brought a cake and Cask had no problems with this.

The service was impeccable. Even though there were sixteen of us and we had only one server, he never flinched. He explained the serving/pricing structure in a clear way and didn’t hesitate when I asked him what current beer on tap he would recommend. Food came out on time and not a single order was messed up even though he didn’t write anything down.

I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this establishment and I’d recommend Cask Social Kitchen to anyone especially if you’re in a larger group. It truly is a social experience, the way communal eating was meant to be.

 

Oh, and if you’re there, make sure you post a pic of what you’re noshing on. Vincent Jackson just might regram your photo. Thanks for exposure #83!!!

Tried Cask Social Kitchen? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides….


Winter is here…

Are you ready for the Game of Thrones Season 7 Premiere?

I’ll be pouring Ommegang’s “Bend the Knee,” a golden ale brewed with honey. Theses bottles are so gorgeous I almost don’t want to open them at all. There are three different versions, matte black painted and each adorned with a different house crest (Stark, Targaryen and Lannister respectively).

We can rest assured that someone’s favorite character will come to a grisly end at some point this season but Ommegang’s yearly zythophilan attempt to capture the spirit of the show in a beer is sure to cushion the blow.

Hope everyone enjoys the show tonight…

And remember.. beer is freedom… and the food abides…


Capping off an evening with a blind goat…

Any evening that ends with brews at the Blind Goat after midnight can be considered a good one…


French Toast Double Brown Ale? Yes please…

Oh Funky Buddha… sometimes you just get me…

Saving this bottle for vacation next week. Assuming I can resist the temptation of cracking it open tonight…


Boating Brews and Dockside Eats…

Ma Nature managed to give us one last blast of the dry season (I know I said that last time but the weather continues to surprise) with a cold front that stretched all the way down to us in the Bay Area which very rare in May. Being smart enough not to waste it, our crew headed for the high seas to enjoy some boating and kick-ass weather. Of course the day included some great food and craft beers.

I brought along two six packs for the day. The first was Uinta Brewing’s Baba Black Lager. This brew had the flavor notes of a porter but it was no where near as thick. This boasted some malty notes, some toasted barley and just a hit of hoppiness. For a dark beer this was remarkably smooth and wound up being a perfect brew to enjoy out on the water.

The second was 21st Amendment’s Brew Free! Or Die Blood Orange IPA. I absolutely loved this one. Of all the Blood Orange IPAs I’ve tried recently this was the sweetest. It honestly tasted like a hoppy, boozy Sunkist orange soda and this is a good thing.

The cooler air brought a lot of wind so we stuck to the inter-coastal waterway due to all the chop on the water. This afforded us the chance to hit the Seabreaze Island Grill and Raw Bar in Reddington Shores, probably one of the best dockside seafood eateries I’ve been to in quite a while.

Started with a round of drinks and discovered a much appreciated policy of a free beer if you arrive by boat.

Ordered a plate of Caribbean Island Wings for the table. They were cooked in a flavorful but not overpowering jerk seasoning and served with two dipping sauces.

I’m a sucker for good shellfish so I went with the Island Style Mussels. This was hands-down the largest bowl of mussels I’ve ever eaten and the red sauce it was served in was a perfect complement.

I actually had doubts that I could finish the whole thing but with a little help from my friends I’m able to share this photo of post mussel decimation…

We spent the rest of the day out on the water and then decided to hit the Candy Kitchen in Madeira Beach for some ice cream.

Not much of a sweet tooth but Ice Cream and Peanut Butter would definitely be considered my kryptonites so this Vanilla Peanut Butter Swirl was the one that got me.

Being a vintage candy shop, the Candy Kitchen also boasts what is probably the most distracting bathroom you’re ever likely to see.

 

I always feel a little sad when the dry season ends because I know once the humidity kicks in I will be barricading myself indoors where it’s air-conditioned for the next four months (or longer if the weather the last few years has been any indication). With good food, good beer, amazing weather and some great friends, this weekend was a great way to send the season off in a positive way.

Have some favorite boating brews or dockside eats? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides….


National Beer Day Weekend 2017

I had quite a lot going on for National Beer Day Weekend 2017. There was a bit of serendipity in the fact that Beer Day fell on a Friday, I happened to be able to take the afternoon off of work and Ma Nature decided to give us one last taste of cooler weather as the temp dropped to about 73 degrees.  Perfect storm as far as a good beer-sampling weekend goes.

Started at the Brass Tap with a Victory Kirsch Gose. I’ve mentioned Kirsch before as one of my favorite goses. Tart cherries, a perfect amount of salt and just enough of a hint of coriander to not be overpowering.

Moved on to Funky Buddha’s “What is that, Velvet?” Red Velvet Cake Ale. I love the sweetness that this one has throughout, right down to the cream cheese frosting flavor on the back end. And because of the name I now have Eddie Murphy’s old man voice stuck in my head…

Not everyone was lucky enough to get out of work early on a Friday afternoon so on Saturday our crew observed National Beer Day with a little fiesta at my friends’ lakeside abode. And no beer fiesta is complete without a little cornhole. As you can see. my team is winning…

In the spirit of the day, many new brews were on hand to try.

Brew Hub’s Keybilly Island Ale. Sweeter and less tart than I was expecting but a nice rounded key lime flavor throughout.

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin. I’ve avoided this beer for quite a while because the price-point pissed me off (unless they’re brewing it with flecks of gold, there is no reason for this to be 16 dollars a six-pack). However after trying it I have to admit this may be worth the price tag as this is an incredible IPA. Hoppy and crisp with solid grapefruit notes and a nice carbonation.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s Old Elephant Food IPA. Very floral nose, very hoppy, very refreshing. This is a great beer for a hot day and brewed right here in Tampa Bay to boot.

Red Brick Brewing Company’s Laughing Skull Amber Ale. Since my first crack at this one for New Beer Friday a few years ago, I’ve found that this beer has improved its flavor immensely. All the same notes are there but the edge has mellowed significantly.

A fiesta needs eats and a decent charcuterie slate always scratches the itch when drinking beer, especially when you know which cheeses to pair them with.

My friends cooked up a great meal of burgers, Hawaiian chicken kabobs and some grilled pineapple (which was very good by the way).

Pineapples right on the skewer with the peppers and onions made for a pretty damn flavorful piece of chicken. Need to try this one on my own at some point in the future (with maybe a little jalapeno to balance the pineapple sweetness with some heat).

Skewers on the plate with cucumbers, tomatoes and goat cheese and a nice macaroni salad. The Hawaiian Chicken paired very well with the Keybilly Island Ale.

While everyone else was munching on cookies and cake for their desert I turned my focus to some sweeter brews for mine.

Due South Caramel Cream Ale w/Vanilla Beans – Absolutely loved this one. Sugar on the nose, malty and an on-the-dot caramel flavor that carried from the first pull to the back end.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga Ale – Not my first rodeo with this one, but just as great as I remembered it. The brown sugar notes made for a hearty backbone.

Good weather, good food, good beer and great friends. Can’t ask for a better weekend than that. Do anything special for National Beer Day? Leave a message in the comments section below!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…


Walking Dead Finale – Terrapin’s “Lucille” Blackstrap Molasses Stout

For the Walking Dead’s Season 7 Finale, Terrapin Brewing Company cooked up something special.

Every so often Terrapin brews a one-off and they never disappoint. For those not in the know, this season’s Walking Dead antagonist is a charismatic, leather-clad psychopath named Negan who beats people to death with a razor-wire wrapped baseball bat he lovingly refers to as “Lucille.” Terrapin has managed to take this character’s swagger and insanity and brew it into an incredible stout.

Lucille pours a dark blackish-brown with about a half an inch of frothy, khaki colored head, that dissipates very fast but leaves quite a bit of lacing on the glass. On the nose is a fragrant bouquet of leather and smokey bacon.

On the first pull the molasses notes come through right off the bat and mellow into some subtle hints of vanilla. On the back end are some earthy smoked wood flavors that round everything out with just a touch of what tastes like maple syrup.

Like Negan, this brew is complex and I’m loving this one. Perhaps it’s the smoked wood, but this tastes like an apocalypse and it was an excellent accompaniment to this season’s finale. Terrapin nailed it.

Tried Terrapin’s Lucille? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…


Epcot Flower & Garden Festival 2017 Photopost

Disney knows how to capitalize on a good thing. Their Epcot International Food & Wine Festival that occurs in the fall has garnered quite the following and with that taking place only once a year, they’ve started to build out some of their other seasonal events. Epcot’s Flower & Garden Festival is now a bona fide culinary event in its own right.

With 15 outdoor kitchens, they’ve incorporated the whole gardening and fresh produce aspect into the event by focusing on the concepts of sustainability, local sourcing and urban agriculture.

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Here are some highlights from one of our most recent trips…

Crabless Cake and Wildflower Pale Ale

Crabless Cake with Pickled Vegetable Slaw paired with a Forbidden Root Wildflower Pale Ale from the Urban Farm Eats Kitchen.

Maudite Amber

Unibroue Maudite Amber Ale from the Northern Bloom Kitchen.

Chard and Kale

Fresh Swiss Chard and Kale. Literally growing right underneath the monorail tracks.

Braised Chicken and Crawfish and Kronenburg Blanc

Braised Chicken and Crawfish w/Rice Pilaf paired with a Kronenbourg 1664 Blanc from the Fleur de Lys Kitchen.

Pineapple Manu

Maui Brewing Company’s Pineapple Mana Ale from the Pineapple Promenade Kitchen.

Tomato Plants

Vertical urban orchards and gardens – Tomatoes and Amaranth.

Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke from the Hanami Japanese Kitchen.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company Quat

Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s “Quat” Kumquat Ale from the Florida Fresh Kitchen.

Berry Buckle and Founders Rubaeus

Warm Wild Berry Buckle Cake with Pepper Berry Sorbet paired with a Founders Rubaeus Pure Raspberry Ale from the Berry Basket Kitchen.

Potato Pancake

Potato Pancakes w/House-made Applesauce from the Bauernmarkt Kitchen.

German Beer Flight

German Beer Flight – Kostrizer’s Schwartzbier Black Lager, Schofferhofer’s Hefeweizen and Paulaner’s Munich Lager from the Bauernmarkt Kitchen.

Conch Salad

Caribbean Conch Salad w/Avocado, Mango and Onions (with a very backlit Three Caballeros in the background) from the Isla de Fresca Kitchen.

Sugar Cane Shrimp

Sugar Cane Shrimp Skewer and Rice w/Coconut Lime Sauce from the Isla de Fresca Kitchen.

Limoncello

And while not related to Flower & Garden in any way, no trip to Epcot is complete without Limoncello cordials in Italy.

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I’ve found that the chefs are able to experiment a little more since they aren’t necessarily confined to a specific region’s cuisine so the dishes are a little more unique than what you find a Food & Wine. The beer pairings which included some really unique brews and you have a recipe for some amazing experimental dishes that make it completely worth the trip.

Have you been to Epcot’s International Flower & Garden Festival? Leave a message in the comments section below!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…


Roasted Radishes…

My local Saturday Morning Market had a vendor with some great looking radishes this weekend. I remembered a friend of mine recently told me that you can use them in place of potatoes in almost any dish so I picked some up. I figured I’d try my hand at roasting them and they came out better than I expected.

roasted-radishes-1

Cleaned and scrubbed about a pound of fresh radishes.

roasted-radishes-2

Tossed them in a little olive oil and added some rosemary, thyme, paprika, sea salt and crushed black pepper then spread on a baking sheet.

roasted-radishes-3

Baked them at 400 until they got crispy, about 15 minutes. There’s a little bit of sweetness to these which is surprising given that little bit of a bitter kick that raw radishes typically have.

roasted-radishes-4

Served these up with a little sauteed shrimp and a romaine salad which made a nice rounded meal that was significantly lower on carbs than roasted potatoes would have been. Next experiment with radishes is going to be in my Turkey Sausage, White Bean and Kale Soup. Wish me luck.

Ever tried anything interesting with radishes? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Christmas 2016 Photo Wrap-Up!!!

It’s always easy to tell whether or not I’m busy during the holidays by the frequency or infrequency in which I post. If this year’s lack of even a Thanksgiving update was any indication, it’s obviously been a whirlwind of a month and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Unfortunately that meant the little free time I had was spent shopping, testing new recipes and otherwise preparing the abode for holiday revelers.

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Whenever I remain in Florida for the holidays I always make a giant pot of Linguine with White Clam Sauce and host a Christmas Eve dinner for anyone close to me who can make it. This year quite a few more people than usual chose to attend so I had a packed house.

christmas-eve-table

My Christmas Eve table, complete with English Crackers. Mismatched chairs and place settings meant there were more people than ever joining us this year and that couldn’t have made me happier.

holiday-beverages

Of course my beer fridge was well stocked with plenty of holiday brews. Some of my favorites this year were the Barley Mow Tinsel, Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice and Shiner’s Holiday Cheer.

zuppa-di-pesce

Because I had such a large group this year, instead of just the Linguine with Clams, I went full Seven Fishes. One of the dishes that came out very well was a Zuppa di Pesce, an Italian fisherman’s soup with clams, mussels, shrimp and scallops that I made in the crock pot. I added a little more oomph to the recipe by including some squid ink fettuccine which really upped the brine flavor.

baked-ziti

I don’t typically eat Baked Ziti as it’s too heavy but I tried my hand at cooking one of these for the non-fish eaters in attendance. There was only one small slice left at the end of the night so I have to assume it went over well.

linguine-with-clam-sauce

And of course no Christmas Eve is complete without the Linguine and White Clam Sauce. This is a shot of the bottom of the pot where there are more clams than pasta left. What most people don’t realize is that’s the best part. Eaten cold right out of the container on Christmas morning, there is no better breakfast. The overnight refrigeration seems to have the same effect that it does on Chinese Lo Mein (also better when eaten cold the next morning).

blue-moon-gingerbreat

Once the pasta was eaten, the desert cleared away, the guests departed and the kitchen cleaned I got to sit and relax for the first time in almost a month. Took it as the right moment to crack open a bottle of Blue Moon’s Gingerbread Spiced Ale that I’ve been sitting on since last year. Time did not diminish it’s flavors and it went down well while I watched A Christmas Story about 3 times in a row.

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dogfish-head-breakfast-stout

To keep myself young at heart, I have a rather juvenile morning ritual of cereal and cartoons on the weekend. Given that this particular weekend was Christmas however, I changed it up just a little bit by cracking a Dogfish Head Beer for Breakfast Stout and tossed on the John Denver & the Muppets Christmas special from 1979. Yes, I realize a late night beer on Christmas Eve and an early morning beer on Christmas Day is a little overkill, but it’s the holidays and I worked hard this year so I cut myself some slack dammit.

christmas-dinner

Just like Ralphie’s Dad, I’m a Turkey junkie so Christmas Dinner at my very good friends’ house in Riverview was much appreciated. Turkey, mashed taters, stuffing, green beans and a beet salad. After Christmas Eve’s very heavy pasta and oil based fare I was ecstatic to have some veggies along with it. The aforementioned Shiner Holiday Cheer went perfectly with this meal.

goose-island-312-urban-wheat

While it was no where near as hot or humid as it was last year, temps in the mid 80’s during the day meant it was rather temperate so I took a break from my heavy winter brews in favor of a refreshing Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat and it scratched the itch until the sun went down and things cooled off.

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Of course we have to talk about the holiday loot. I have some great gift-givers in my circle and among some really awesome items, there were a few badass booze-themed ones that deserve mention.

miir-growler

This is a 64 oz. Miir Growler. The proceeds of one of these growlers gives clean water to one person in a developing country for a year. Given the spirit of the holidays this was something I really appreciated.

cigar-city-marshal-zhukov

I’ve had my eye on this one in my Instagram feed for quite some time now and just haven’t gotten a chance to make it down to Cigar City to pick up a bottle. Fortunately my friend had his finger on the pulse and showed up with a bomber of Marshal Zhukov’s Imperial Russian Stout with Vanilla and Hazelnut. I think this badboy will be a New Year’s Eve brew.

christmas-limoncello

This same friend is also the one who makes his own limoncello which is one of my favorite after dinner cordials. This stuff does not last long in my house and I will be clamoring for another bottle by the spring.

bottle-caddy

It’s obvious that the majority of my friends are fellow zythophiles, so when I go to parties, dinners and other gatherings, I’m always bringing new beers with me for people to try. That’s why this bottle caddy, complete with opener, was a perfect gift. Tried it out yesterday and the best part is that it doesn’t tip over in car the way a regular cardboard six-pack does.

guinness-orament

My Christmas Tree is a mismatched conglomeration of vintage ornaments from my youth, geeky fare like the Walking Dead, Star Wars and Marvel superheroes and booze-themed decorations. So when my friends gave me this Guinness ornament of course I already had the perfect place for it.

kira-christmas-2016

And in traditional fashion, here’s a photo of my dog Kira on Christmas morning, holiday bandanna on, new toy in mouth and while it can’t be seen here, tail wagging about a thousand times a minute.

christmas-lunatic

So in case no one has figured this out yet, I’m somewhat of a lunatic when it comes to Christmas. I suppose a little photographic evidence of that lunacy is in order. Consider it your Christmas gift from me.

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I hope you’ve all been enjoying the holiday season as much as I have. We still have about a week before it officially comes to a close, so don’t forget to try a new dish or have a holiday beer with someone you haven’t caught up with yet.

Instead of my usual “the food abides” I will close with a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Beer


New Beer Friday Two-fer!!! Bell’s and Abita’s 2016 Christmas Ales!

Kicking off the holidays with not one, but two new Christmas brews for today’s New Beer Friday.

bells-christmas-ale-2016

Bell’s Christmas Ale:

Bell’s Christmas Ale is a Scottish-style ale which is an unorthadox choice for a Christmas beer, but it’s well-served here. It pours a medium orange with about a finger of off-white head. There’s a solid fruit bouquet with a hint of caramel.

The first pull gives caramel notes with heavy malt and just a touch of nuttiness, specifically almonds. On the back end is an array of fruit flavors, most notably, white grape, dried cherries and candied figs with a little bit of a hoppy bite.

This is a surprisingly light and drinkable beer, almost session-like, which is uncharacteristic for a Scottish Ale. Perhaps that’s the holiday gift from Bell’s.

abita-christmas-ale-2016

Abita’s 2016 Christmas Ale:

Two years ago I tried their 2014 Christmas Ale and was rather impressed with it. The 2016 keeps the standard high.

The 2016 Christmas Ale pours a very dark red with almost two fingers of frothy brownish-white head. On the nose is a very strong scent of pine.

The first pull is somewhat hoppy but with an immediate blast of the same pine. The pine rounds out on the back end to a surprising and pleasing peppermint flavor which, when combined with the pine, tastes almost reminiscent of a wintergreen Lifesaver. It sounds odd but it works and works well.

This is a unique brew and once again Abita makes an ale that screams Christmas.

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It’s still early in the season so it should be relatively easy to get your hands on these but don’t wait because we all know these seasonal brews won’t last long.

Tried Bell’s or Abita’s Christmas Ales? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides…


Tomato & Mozzarella Caprese

tomato-and-mozzarella-caprese

Made a little Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Caprese to bring over for a dinner with some friends this weekend…


Best of the ‘Fest! – The Best of the Tampa Bay Area’s Local Oktoberfest Beers

For the last six weeks anyone who follows my Facebook or Instagram might have worried that I’ve become an alcoholic as I’ve checked into and posted photos from a rather large number of local breweries. There was a reason for my madness however and my labors have born fruit as I’ve now managed to sample a good majority of the local area Oktoberfest lagers.

We are extremely lucky that we live in one of the most brewery-dense locations in the country and this gave me the opportunity to try a slew of different offerings. The Marzen is one of my favorite styles of beer and I was surprised at how many good ones were brewed this year.

Prepare yourselves. This is going to be a long one…

3-daughters-marzen

3 Daughters Brewing – 3 Daughter’s “Mission to Marzen” Oktoberfest pours a solid amber color with 1 finger of white head. Nice and malty with a good caramel finish, the sweetness of this beer is significant without being overpowering.

 

paw-marzen

Pinellas Ale Works – PAW’s “Pawtoberfest” Marzen pours a deep brown with half a finger of reddish head. This brew boasts heavily toasted malt notes and comes across slightly stronger than an Oktoberfest typically does, but it’s a solid offering nonetheless.

 

cycle-brewing-marzen

Cycle Brewing – Cycle’s “Das Rad” Oktoberfest Marzen pours a deep red with 1 finger of white head. Bready with heavy caramel notes, this one had a slightly bitter finish, but it worked well overall.

 

barley-mow-oktober

Barley Mow Brewing Company – Barley Mow’s Oktoberfest Marzen pours a light reddish-brown with half a finger of off-white head. Hoppier than I was expecting with subtle notes of apricot mixed in with the caramel and spice. It’s worth noting that this was the only Oktober I didn’t try in the actual brewery. The Lure in St. Pete had this on draft so I took the opportunity to sample and it’s a good thing I did because I might have otherwise missed the opportunity.

 

cage-festbier

Cage Brewing – Cage’s “Uncle Fester” is one of only a few local breweries that opted to go for a Festbier instead of a Marzen. As such it pours a lighter golden color with almost no head. Because of the style, this was hoppier, more floral and had a significant bite at the end. Regardless of the fact that I prefer Marzens this was unique and I found it quite pleasing. It probably helped that it was a hot day and Cage is an open-air brewery & tasting room.

 

angry-chair-marzen

Angry Chair Brewing – I’ve found that Angry Chair simultaneously produces some of the most creatively experimental as well as some of the most well-balanced beers around. Their Oktoberfest Marzen is the latter. Pouring a deep amber with almost no head and slightly more carbonation than is typical, this is a nice roasty, malty lager. Angry Chair’s Oktoberfest is one of the more drinkable Marzens around and it went down FAST.

 

cigar-city-marzen

Cigar City Brewing – One of the only other breweries to veer away from the the Marzen route, Cigar City’s Oktoberfest Festbier pours slightly darker than Cage’s Uncle Fester (though the filter on my photo app is making it appear darker than it really is; color is actually closer to what you see at the bottom) with a half-finger of bright white head. This is a drier beer with a more hoppy, floral note. This brew is a zythophilian statement on the end of summer transitioning into the fall. And yes I’m going to give myself credit for the legitimate use of the word “zythophilian.”

 

big-storm-marzen

Big Storm Brewing Co. – Big Storm’s Oktoberfest Marzen was easily my favorite of all the local offerings. Pouring a deep amber with two full fingers of bubbly white head, this brew had it all; sweetness, caramel, slightly toasted malt and an incredibly smooth finish. For sole drinkablity, this one tops the list.

 

tbbc-marzen

Tampa Bay Brewing Company – TBBC’s Oktoberfest Marzen pours a very clear reddish-gold with a finger of bubbly white head. There are strong caramel and biscuit flavors with just a slight hoppiness on the back end. Another rather drinkable Marzen and worth trying.

 

coppertail-oktoberfest-1

Coppertail Brewing Co. – Coppertail’s Oktoberfest Marzen is what kicked off this entire endeavor. They had an interesting take on the traditional Oktoberfest and it made me want to see how other breweries interpreted the style. Pouring a deep red with almost two full fingers of bright white head, this lager is brewed with more hops than I’ve ever experienced in a Marzen before. It retains those characteristic caramel and malt notes but has a nice flowery bouquet with quite a little bite at the end. I know that doesn’t sound like it would mix well but Coppertail pulls it off.

 

rapp-marzen

Rapp Brewing Company– Rapp Brewing’s Oktoberfest Marzen pours a lighter orange color with about half a finger of white head. With lots of caramel and malt notes this brew was was easily the sweetest of all the local offerings.

pair-o-dice-marzen

Pair o’ Dice Brewing Company – Pair o’ Dice’s Oktoberfest Marzen pours a light amber with two fingers of creamy white head. Another well-balanced and drinkable lager, the notes of caramel, malt and toasted biscuit effectively complement each other culminating in a well-rounded finish.

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Now not all the local establishments opted to brew an Oktoberfest per se, but some did brew some really notable Dunkels. If you know your history, you know that the Dunkel was the Oktoberfest progenitor of the current Marzen and Festbier styles we currently know and love so I’ve decided to include a few of the more notable ones.

81bay-not-on-porpise-dunkel

81Bay BrewCo. – 81Bay has a pretty large menu for a newer kid on the block. Their “Not on Porpoise” Dunkel pours a rich brown with about a finger of cloudy white head. Full of roasted malts there are deep chocolate notes that round out on the back end with almost no bitterness.

 

spbc-munich-dunkel

St. Pete Brewing Co. – SPBC’s Munich Dunkel pours a deep amber-brown with a tiny brownish colored head. This Dunkel is rather smooth possessing balanced malt and caramel flavors with just an ever-so-slight cocoa finish.

 

rapp-munich-dunkel

Rapp Brewing Company – Yes, Rapp makes the list twice. I’ve already sung the praises of Rapp’s Munich Dunkel in a previous post so there is very little more I can say about this one other than once again emphasizing how insanely tasty this beer is.

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And there you have it folks, Tampa Bay’s Best of the ‘Fest. These brews have been listed in no particular order and while I have no one favorite overall I will go out on a limb and give some props in a few categories: Angry Chair had the most balanced Marzen, Coppertail the most unique take on one, Cage Brewing offered the best Festbier and Big Storm rounds out the list for being the most drinkable of the bunch.

Unfortunately there were a couple of that I did not get to try, most notably Dunedin Brewery’s 2016 Marzen. I’m hoping that by the time I make it up there, they will still have some left but if not there is always next year. I’m also hopeful that some of the newer breweries whose more recent openings made it difficult to pursue a traditional Oktoberfest will have the time to do so in 2017. I look forward to some new ones while seeing how these old favorites are further refined.

Have a favorite Tampa Bay Oktoberfest Lager? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…


Duck Confit Tacos @ Anise Gastrobar

Had dinner with some friends last weekend and we decided to try Anise Gastrobar in Downtown which I’d never been to before.

anise-duck-tacos

The Duck Confit Tacos with Picked Daikon Radish, Jalapenos, Hoisin BBQ Sauce and Cilantro Aioli

anise-mashed-cauliflower

Can’t forget to mention the Mashed Cauliflower with Coffee Cola Gravy


Green Bench Brewing Co.’s De Soto Low Session IPA

I know it’s the fall and I’m usually all about the dark beers but this one was worth noting.

green-bench-desoto-ipa

For an IPA, the De Soto Low Session from Green Bench Brewing Co. was remarkably mild with a mellow bouquet and only a subtle hoppiness. Clocking in at only 2.5 ABV, this was easily the most drinkable IPA I’ve ever had. Definitely a viable alternative to a macro-brewed light beer.


Fried Avocado @ Miguel’s Mexican Seafood and Grill

Had a late night at the office this week and decided to catch dinner with some co-workers. Ordered about four of these bad boys for the table…

fried-avocado

Pitted avocado stuffed with seafood and cheese then coated in bread crumbs and lightly fried. It’s a remarkably simple concept and I’m surprised that with everyone deep-frying everything from Oreos to lasagna to ice-cream no one has come up with it before now. Yes it was as good as it sounds…


Came for the Oktoberfest, stayed for the Dunkel! Rapp Brewing Company’s Munich Dunkel

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been sampling a number of local area Oktoberfest beers in an effort to pull together enough to write a piece about the Best of the Bay. Yesterday’s sampling took me to Rapp Brewing Company, a place I had yet to make it to previously. I’m glad I did because in addition to the great Oktoberfest lager I came in for, I discovered something else even more amazing.

Not only is Rapp an incredible craft beer operation specializing in German styles (with a huge variety totaling almost 40 taps), but it boasted one of the best Dunkel’s, if not one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Rapp Brewing Company’s Munich Dunkel…

rapp-munich-dunkel

The Munich Dunkel pours a rich dark brown with about a finger and a half of khaki-colored head and significant lacing on the glass. There’s a nice bready aroma with just a subtle hint cocoa.

This brew boasts a surprisingly enjoyable mouthfeel; lighter than I’d expect this kind of beer to have but still thick enough to grab your tongue. The toffee and malt flavors are abundant on the first pull with notes of toasted biscuit and a little nuttiness. On the back-end it rounds out to a nice solid caramel finish with a dash of chocolate. What I enjoyed most was the noticeable absence banana notes which seems to be a common trend among Dunkel recipes and I’m not the biggest fan of banana.

While I love almost every style of beer, it’s no secret that my palette tends to skew towards the dark side especially in the cooler months. However I can honestly say that my preference is not coloring this opinion: this is easily the best Dunkel I’ve ever had. An older gentleman sitting at the end of the bar was also singing the praises of the brew with a giddy, childlike glee as if he were a kid with an ice cream cone. It’s safe to say I’m not alone in my opinion.

This is a full-bodied, drinkable Dunkel and if I had the time and was not driving I would have stayed for at least three more. If you dig Dunkels you’re doing yourself a disservice by not stopping in and trying a stein and I can’t recommend it enough.

Tried Rapp’s Munich Dunkel? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Baked Lemon Pepper Tuna Ventresca Croquettes

I’ve made fried croquettes before but after a long day of sampling local Oktoberfest beers I wanted something a little lighter. Tweaked my normal croquette recipe by both baking and using Tuna Ventresca (marinated tuna bellies) instead of pouched or canned.

tuna-ventresca-croquettes-1

For this dish I combined 2 eggs (beaten), 2 finely chopped green onions, 1 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/4 cup of panko bread crumbs, 1 heaping tbsp of Dijon mustard, 1 tsp of kosher salt, 2 tsps of freshly ground black pepper and a 7 oz. jar of Tuna Ventresca making sure to reserve the olive oil it was packed in. Formed that into patties, dredged them in more panko bread crumbs and placed them on a sheet pan prepped with cooking spray. Took the reserved oil and brushed it on top of the patties, then baked at 350 degrees for 12 minutes. Flipped the patties and brushed the other side with the oil and baked for another 14 min.

tuna-ventresca-croquettes-2

Served the croquettes on a spinach and romaine salad and paired them with a Kona Big Wave Golden Ale which was a nice lighter ale to go along with the fish. The olive oil gave them a good brown and the panko a great crunch that went well with the greens. The best part was that since the Ventresca was marinated it didn’t dry out during the baking like normal tuna would have.

This is a good recipe to keep in my arsenal for entertaining. I’d imagine these can be prepped early and the patties refrigerated right on the sheets then tossed in the oven when it’s time to bake with only a minor adjustment of the baking time.

Have a favorite croquette recipe? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Coppertail Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest Tapping 2016

As much as it gets a bad rap, social media can be a great thing in the world of food and beer…

coppertail-oktoberfest-1

Last Friday I got a photo in my Instagram feed of a cool looking liter mug and a message from Coppertail Brewing Co. to stop in the next day for their 2016 Oktoberfest Tapping event. They would be showcasing their new Oktoberfest and Tampa Dunkel brews and also have said mugs for sale. I asked how many of the mugs would be available and apparently they only ordered about 2 dozen of them so they’d go fast. Made it a point to get down there as early as I possibly could so I was in the door by about 1:30 and low and behold I was able to get my hands on one.

coppertail-oktoberfest-2

Coppertail has this unique bottle art that is a mix of avant garde and nautical themes and their Oktoberfest mug/bottle art is just as kitschy. How can you not find a droopy-eyed, mustachioed octopus in lederhosen cool?

Mug purchase included one free fill and discounts on subsequent fills all day and this year’s marzen was rather impressive to boot. Sweet and malty with just a slightly hoppy kick at the end. Well worth the trip, mug or not.

Tried Coppertail’s Oktoberfest? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…


Jalapeno Peach IPA Shrimp & Smoked Gouda Grits

Jalapeno Peach IPA Shrimp and Smoked Gouda Grits 1

So I’ve come back for different takes on Shrimp & Grits multiple times. There’s just something I love about this dish and I enjoy tinkering with it. This latest visitation started when I took some out of town coworkers to the Cigar City Brewery for some craft beer. They happened to have an amazing Habanero Peach IPA which we really enjoyed and we discussed how it would probably make a good marinade.

Fast forward to today and while I tried to obtain a growler of the Habanero Peach IPA it was unfortunately a limited release and no longer in production. Not letting that stop me, I attempted to recreate the flavors in a marinade as best as I could.

Since it was the first time trying this I dialed down the heat just a little by going with sliced jalapenos instead of habaneros. Added a bottle of Castaway IPA from Kona Brewing and then mixed in some peach nectar. Finished it off with a pinch of kosher salt and a couple of healthy grinds of black pepper.  I let the shrimp soak in that for about 2 hours before sauteing in a little olive oil and lime juice with just a little more salt.

Served them over a bed of grits but where I would typically use shredded cheddar,  this time I subbed in a little smoked gouda. That smokey flavor went with both the heat of the peppers and the sweetness of the peach and lime quite well.

Jalapeno Peach IPA Shrimp and Smoked Gouda Grits 2

I was pleased with how this one turned out. This is an insanely easy dish which I intend to utilize when having guests for dinner because I won’t have to spend much time in the kitchen.

Have a favorite Shrimp & Grits recipe? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…


Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr

Siggis

 

Two things of note about Siggi’s Pumpkin Spice Icelandic Skyr:

  1. Never tried skyr before but I’m loving this stuff. It’s sour, but it’s good. If you like yogurt but aren’t a fan of all the sugar, this is worth trying.
  2. Pumpkin Spice, a fall flavor means that we’ve officially hit the halfway point of the summer.