The food abides…

Beer

Turkey Sausage and Kale Italian Wedding Soup!

When you send your girlfriend’s mother home with the turkey carcass and she returns a week later with an incredible homemade Turkey Sausage and Kale Italian Wedding Soup…

Incidentally, this paired incredibly well with the aforementioned Triple-Smoked Gouda Beer Bread.

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Post-Turkey Day Triple-Smoked Gouda Beer Bread!

I’ve mentioned my attempts at Alton Brown’s Cheddar Dill Beer Bread before. Decided to whip up a couple of loaves for my friends’ Post Turkey Day Bash again. However for my second loaf I experimented a little and came up with a something new.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Triple-Smoked Gouda Beer Bread. Basically the same format as the Cheddar Dill Beer Bread with three changes.

First, instead of a Pale Ale I used a Smoked Roggenbier. Any smoked beer will do but this is what I was able to get my hands on. Second I substituted a Smoked Gouda for the sharp cheddar. This added a warm and creamy depth to the bread. And last, instead of the dill weed, I just added a few drops of liquid smoke just to kick that smokey flavor up a notch.

I was really impressed by how this came out. That smokey undertone was present but not overpowering and when you toast this up and just add a little butter, it’s makes for a great breakfast. It’s also the perfect compliment to a hearty meal like a soup or a chili.

Have a favorite beer-bread recipe? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Road Trip!!! – Connecticut 2018

So I took a trip up to Connecticut with my girlfriend this month. Not only did I get to introduce her to my family but I also was afforded the chance to introduce her to some of the rather impressive food and beer that the state I grew up in currently has to offer.

The first morning after we arrived, my parents took a special trip to Gaetano’s Deli and brought back some stuffed breads. Here we have both their pepperoni and their eggplant. Biting into these is like a warm hug from an Italian grandmother.

Dinner that night with my family was at Ralph-n-Rich’s and I couldn’t resist getting the Zuppa di Pesce; it’s a rarity in Tampa, so if I see it on a menu I will almost always order it. I finished the entire plate.

Day two was one I’d been looking forward to for quite a while. Until I was three years old we grew up five minutes away from Zuppardi’s Apizza and eating their pies for the first time was a seminal experience. I wanted my girlfriend to be able to experience that for herself. And she did.

We started with the Plain Cheese…

Then moved onto the “Special” – Meatball and Onion…

And then a White Tomato…

And finally we finished it all off with my absolute favorite, the White Clam. Sweet fancy Moses, do I miss Zuppardi’s…

Day three was something special. We’ve had a long standing debate on what constitutes a “real” Lobster Roll. I maintained that if it’s hot lobster on a roll with just butter, it’s a Lobster Roll. If it’s cold with mayonnaise and lots of crunchy vegetables, that’s a Lobster Salad Sandwich. As my girlfriend had never experienced the former, we headed to Lenny & Joe’s so she could try one.

Hot lobster, on a roll, with just butter. Ladies and gentlemen, I present you with a “real” Lobster Roll.

And of course, I couldn’t have stopped at Lenny & Joe’s without also getting an order of another New England seafood staple, the Fried Clam Strips.

That evening we met some very old friends for a few drinks and a couple of apps at the Hub and Spoke. First up was the Burrata, which, interestingly enough, I had never tried before.

Second was the Bang-Bang Shrimp. This is not like the stuff you can get at a Bonefish Grill. This was pure fire. In a good way.

On our final day of the trip, my family headed to La Zingara in Bethel, which I maintain is one of the best Italian restaurants in the entire state of Connecticut. Their Lobster Risotto has to be the best version of Risotto I’ve ever tasted.

And of course Connecticut produces some dynamite craft beer. After years of never being up there during the fall, I was ecstatic that I had the opportunity to finally try Two Roads’ fall offerings. I really enjoyed their Ok2berfest Marzen and even though it was a little hoppier than I was expecting, I still found it topping my all-time lists.

My girlfriend opted for the Hanging Hills Brewing Company Dechtoberfest Lager which she really enjoyed.

Washed down that pizza at Zuppardi’s with a Festbier from Counterweight Brewing. This went really well with the pies, especially the White Clam.

While we were at Lenny & Joe’s we ordered the Thimble Island American Ale. This traditional Amber Ale was so off-the-charts amazing that we endevoured to do two things:

First, we made a point of finding Thimble Island’s Brewery which was only a short drive away from the restaurant so we could go in and try a flight. Every beer on the palate was incredible.

Second, we made a point of coming home with at least a sixer of the American Ale so we could enjoy it during the rest of our trip. The sweetness and the malt are just so perfectly balanced, I’m not joking when I say it’s one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

A quick lunch at Southport Brewing Company (which interestingly enough doesn’t brew its own beer) afforded me the change to try to Back East Brewery’s Octoberfest. This was a solid Marzen, and I dug the sweeter notes.

Next on our list was Tribus Beer Company. The offerings from this newer brewery were still summerish in nature but my girlfriend still enjoyed the smoked porter while I was impressed with the cherry sour.

For my final brew, I circled back to Two Roads with their Roadsmary’s Baby Pumpkin Ale. This one also tops my list of as one of the better pumpkin ales I’ve tried. Two Roads is the real deal.

 

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Ultimately it was a great trip and all the food and beer offerings made a simple trip to see my family really feel like a vacation. My girlfriend is already looking forward to the next trip and consequently I’ve started planning some more Connecticut food and beer-ventures in my head.

Been to any of the restaurants or tried any of the beers listed above? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Growlers from Big Storm…

Enjoying some of Big Storm’s Swinging Stone Scotch Ale and Wavemaker Amber Ale in the comfort of my own home this weekend. When your special lady friend is all kinds of awesome and shows up at your door with growlers from one of your favorite breweries, you bust out the good Chipotle Gouda from the specialty market.


Review – Green Door on 8th

If you’re willing to look, the outlying areas of the greater Tampa Bay Area can be home to some surprising culinary locales. Places like Tarpon Springs, Zephyrhills and San Antonio contain some of my recent favorite purveyors of food and craft beer such as Currents, Zephyrhills Brewing Company and the Local Public House (which sadly closed not long ago but the sentiment is still there).

Two of my closest friends are intrepid explorers who always manage to find these hidden gems and their latest suggestion was Green Door on 8th. With the exception of Roux in South Tampa and a kick-ass food truck called Cajun on the Geaux which occasionally pops up at some of my favorite breweries, there aren’t a lot of restaurants around that serve Cajun/Louisiana style cuisine.

Located in a small non-descript building that indeed sports a green door, Green Door on 8th is a small 20-or-so-table operation just off the main road in Downtown Dade City. The decor is decidedly New Orleans with brass chandeliers, lots of wood paneling and old bed headboards adorning the walls. The owner recognized my friends and greeted us almost immediately and we took note of how good someone’s memory has to be to recall people by face who dined almost a month ago. It contributed to the small town charm of both the Green Door and the Dade City area in general.

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We started off with drinks and what restaurant could serve Cajun food without beers from Louisiana’s premiere micro-brewery, Abita? They had more of a selection of Abita’s styles than I’ve ever seen in one place before and since they’ve been one of my favorite breweries for years now, this was a welcome choice.

Turbodog has always been a favorite of mine. This Brown Ale has some nice toffee notes and had I known about the bread pudding ahead of time (see below) I would have ordered it with desert.

The ladies in our group enjoyed some sizable (and apparently strong!) goblets of both Red and White Sangria.

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Started with some apps for the table and among the highlights were the Voodoo Shrimp and the Fried Green Tomatoes.

The Voodoo Shrimp was perfect. It had just the right amount of heat which was more of a flavor-heat than a hot-heat if that makes any sense. It brought out the taste of the shrimp which was cooked to perfection (i.e, not overdone and rubbery which happens a lot with shrimp).

I tend to shy away from fried foods but I had to try the Fried Green Tomatoes and I’m glad I did. Not greasy or mushy in the slightest, these were dressed with fresh basil, feta cheese and a balsamic glaze.

I’m a sucker for crawfish and whether it be in a boil, a Po’boy, or a chowder; I will almost always gravitate towards it and Green Door’s Etouffee was executed well.

This hearty bowl of goodness showcased a large amount of the diminutive crustacean meat and still maintained the balance of the dish. I could have used a bit more heat but that’s just me (and in hindsight I never asked for any hot sauce so it must not have bothered me much at all).

To be honest, by the time desert came around I was stuffed but when I saw (and smelled) the bread pudding as it was carried to a nearby table it was really hard to say no. This dish was warm and inviting and the cinnamon and vanilla notes were comforting; exactly what you want in a bread pudding.

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The service was spot-on and our server was on top of her game, from never missing a glance or failing to fill a water glass to providing us with her own recommendations of what she felt were the best dishes on the menu for everyone’s taste. The owner came to the table at the end of the meal to ensure we enjoyed ourselves and this is something I appreciate. The portion sizes-to price ratio was exactly where I expected it to be and the fact that I was almost full before desert backed that up.

With the understanding that Dade City is a bit of a haul from city proper, I still give this a high recommendation if you don’t mind a mini-road-trip and you love Cajun/Louisiana style food. I almost feel guilty writing about Green Door on 8th. I don’t want the secret to get out…

Tried Green Door on 8th? Leave a message in the comments section!

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


Afternoon Beer and Cigars featuring brews from Belhaven

Wee Heavy is red, Scottish Ale is blue. Poetry is hard, but I have Belhaven and cigars.


Double Feature Movie Night!

Enjoying a low key evening in with a couple of movies, some snacks and a little fermented goodness.

Watching: Thor Ragnarok and The Shape of Water. Munching: Matcha Pocky and some Chocolate Covered Pretzel Bites from Lindt. Drinking: Funky Buddha’s Nib Smuggler and Einstok’s Icelandic Toasted Porter.

Happy Friday!