The food abides…


Merry Christmas from the Tampa Food Dude!

Cookies and milk? Ha!

Christmas Eve 2014

In this house we will be leaving Santa some Apple Butter Crescents with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing and an ice-cold Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanilla Porter. True, I really want a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer and a Krupps Mini-Kegerator, but in no way is this a bribe for the big man in red 😉

May all the flavors of the season enhance your holiday experience! Merry Christmas from the Tampa Food Dude!

And remember… the food abides…

New Beer Friday! – Abita’s Christmas Ale 2014

Abita Christmas Ale 2014

In all the hub-bub of the Fall Beer season (which is my favorite), the holiday beers tend to get drowned out. So for today’s New Beer Friday, I chose Abita’s Christmas Ale. Okay so I cheated and actually tried this one for the first time on Sunday night, but I’m drinking another now and that will have to suffice.

I’ve yet to try an Abita variety that I didn’t like and their holiday offering is no different. Abita is another brewery that, like Goose Island, purposely changes their holiday recipe to give xythophiles a something new every year… just like a Christmas gift as their label informs.

Christmas Ale 2014 pours a dark reddish brown with a small bubbly head that dissipated quickly.  There’s a hoppy aroma with just a little bit of spice.

The first pull is slightly bitter and brings a very heavy pine flavor evenly layered with cocoa. The bitterness mellows quickly and the back end brings some coffee, cinnamon and just a little bit of orange peel.

Maybe it’s the pine and the chocolate, but to me, this just screams “Christmas Beer” and I’m sure that’s exactly what the brewers at Abita intended. This is a great beer for a cold holiday night in front of a roaring fire and a brightly lit Christmas tree. True, there are other sweeter and spicier holiday brews available, but this one can definitely hold it’s own against them and is worth trying.

Tried Abita’s 2014 Christmas Ale? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…

Cheddar and Dill Beer Bread!!

Beer Bread 3

Every year my friends throw a Black Friday party. This year their theme is “Cheers to Beer” and will revolve around beer themed recipes. I decided to roll the dice and try to make Alton Brown’s Cheddar and Dill Beer Bread. Now I’ve stated on multiple occasions that I’m NOT a baker. It’s too precise and I’m much more of an “eyeball” it type of cook. That being said, it came out much better than I expected. Beer Bread 1 Here’s the recipe: Ingredients

  • 8 ounces all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces whole-wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill
  • 4 1/2 ounces sharp Cheddar, grated
  • 12 ounces cold beer, ale or stout (I used a pale ale; specifically a Blue Moon Rounder Belgian-Style Pale Ale)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, optional

Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Coat the inside of a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan with the nonstick spray and set aside. Beer Bread 2 Whisk together the all-purpose flour, wheat flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, and dill in a large mixing bowl. Add in the cheese and stir in the beer just to combine. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the sunflower seeds, if using. Bake on the middle rack of the oven until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 45 to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Beer Bread 5 Really loved how this came out. The crust is crunchy, the inside is chewy and oozing with cheese. I’m sure someone will inevitably bring a beer cheese soup or a beer chili and this stuff will go perfectly with it, especially paired with a nice fall beer. Beer Bread 4 I plan on tinkering with this recipe in the near future. I’m thinking a version of this with some jalapenos and then maybe a batch with a good smoked ale and maybe some smoked gouda instead of the pale ale and cheddar. Tried a beer bread before? Leave a message in the comments! And remember… the food abides…

Road Trip – NYC

Had to head up to New York City this week for a work conference and my coworkers and I were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy a few meals in the city. Apologies in advance for some of the the grainy photos, but NYC restaurants are very low light and flashes seemed inappropriate.


We started off with Eataly, Mario Batali’s Gourmet Italian Market, Wine Shop and Eatery.


Though the place was packed with Italian meats, cheeses, breads and pastries, I’m a big fan of gelato so I had to try it. Gave the Carmello al Sale a whirl and it was definitely a good choice.


Some of my coworkers and I are huge How I Met Your Mother fans so we had dinner at McGee’s, the inspiration for McLaren’s Pub on the show.


They sure as hell own it.


Right down to the HIMYM themed specials menu which, let’s be honest, is rather generic.


I stuck with the Buffalo Chicken Sliders, which were good but could have used a little more heat.


The following night our management took us to dinner at Sinigual, which boasts gourmet Mexican food. I tried the Mexican Duck Confit and was pleasantly surprised. A gigantic fire roasted pepper stuffed with pulled duck, Oaxaca cheese and dried cranberries with a thick chipotle sauce, this was an interesting and flavorful dish. Duck is not something I would associate with Mexican food but it worked well.


And of course leave it to me to find one of the biggest tap houses in the city. The Ginger Man was right around the corner from my house and boasted a 75 beer tapwall. Had a very British vibe to it; if I didn’t already know I was in NYC I would have sworn I was in the UK. The biggest benefit was that I was able to try some seasonal Pumpkin beers that are not available to me in Tampa.


Elysian Brewing’s The Great Pumpkin Ale.


Flying Dog’s The Fear.

I would have loved to have more time to explore but I did what I could in the little time that I had so I’d consider that a win.

Any favorite places in NYC? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale

Been waiting to come across this since it was released but I finally got my hands on a bottle of Ommegang Brewery’s latest Game of Thrones inspired beer, Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale. Stumbled upon this while just walking through my local ABC Liquor (which usually never gets their hands on the GoT beers).

Valar Morghulis

 “When confronted with the most feared saying in High Valyrian, take a sip and choose your words wisely. For all men must die and all men must serve.”

Can’t wait to break open this bottle.

Tried Valar Morghulis? Leave a message in the comments!

And remember… the food abides….

Oktoberfest @ Mr. Dunderbak’s Biergarten

So my two best friends came to Tampa for a visit and after picking them up from the airport we decided to hit up Mr. Dunderbak’s for a little Oktoberfest fare. As far as authentic German food goes, they always knock it out of the park.

Dunderbaks Apps

Started out with some apps and tried the Pomme Frittes, German Pretzel and Swabisch Spatzle with some Swamp Head Octoberfest Ale. And plenty of German Mustards for dipping.

Dunderbaks Dinner

Potato Stuffed Pierogies, German Cucumber and Onion Salad and what’s left of my Lichen Oktoberfest Ale. Harder to see in this photo but my friends got the Paprika Gulasch and the Jagerschnitzel respectively.

I’m never disappointed with Dunderbak’s but my friends enjoyed it immensely. They were thoroughly impressed not only with the food and the atmosphere, but also with our server who was incredibly well versed in his beer knowledge (right down to explaining the Purity Laws that have to be adhered to for certain brews). Doesn’t get more authentic than that…

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

And remember… the food abides…

Epcot International Food & Wine Fest – Lobster Alfredo Bake

I intend to talk a lot more about Epcot’s International Food & Wine Festival after I’ve had a few more visits this season. But as a preview I’ll leave you with this:


Epcot Food and Wine - Lobster Alfredo Pie and Octoberfest

From the America Pavilion menu, a Lobster Alfredo Bake paired with a Sam Adams Octtoberfest. Loaded with huge chunks of lobster and three different kinds of cheeses, this thing was off the chain.

More to come as I’m hitting Food & Wine again this week with some friends who are visiting from out-of-town.

Until then, remember… the food abides…

New Beer Friday! – Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale

Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding

It’s kind of the 11th hour for sampling a new brew, so for this latest New Beer Friday I decided to go for a dessert beer. I’m already a huge fan of malty, caramel noted beers like marzens but Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale takes it to the next level. It was a completely random selection but I seem to have stumbled on some kind of liquid gold

This offering from Wells pours a dark brown with about a finger or so of head. The scent is a very sweet caramel and you can pick it up from the moment the bottle is opened.

It has a rich and buttery mouth feel and from the first pull to the back-end, the caramel and toffee notes are solid and consistent. It leaves a slightly sweet aftertaste somewhat reminiscent of a Heath Bar.

Perfect when poured into a chilled Scandinavian quaffing mug, this is the epitome of a dessert beer.

Tried Wells Sticky Toffee Pudding Ale? Leave a note in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

New Beer Friday! – Shiner Ruby Redbird

Today begins the first day of my vacation and I intend to sample a lot of brews during my time off. Summer beers tend to get overshadowed because of my preference for Fall and Winter seasonals so I plan on doing them a little bit of justice this week. I’m going to start with Shiner’s Ruby Redbird.


Like most summer brews made with citrus, I was expecting something sweeter. This is not a bad thing and it’s definitely not some kind of a citrus-ade masquerading as a beer like you’d get if you were drinking a shandy.

Ruby Redbird pours a solid orange amber color; what little head there was dissipated very quickly and there was no lacing at all. You can smell a feint hint of ginger as soon as you put your nose to the glass.

Although it’s not a very fruity beer, this is a very crisp brew. You get a solid blast of grapefruit peel right off the bat. That carries directly into the strong ginger note on the back end and both flavors blend together really well.

For a summer offering this a little weightier than typical summer beers which I really dig. This would probably pair well with some grilled margarita shrimp kabobs or any kind of lime infused chicken. Perfect brew for chilling out somewhere outdoors and kicking back with some reggae, Jack Johnson or Jimmy Buffett music.

Tried Shiner’s Ruby Redbird? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

New Beer Friday! – Lickinghole Creek’s Three Chopt Tripel Ale

Lickinghole Creek Tripel Ale

It’s a stormy night here in Tampa Bay so it was a good time for sitting out on the lanai watching the rain and enjoying a good brew. Tonight I’m trying Lickinghole Creek’s Three Chopt Tripel Ale. Some good friends of mine gave me a bomber of this stuff for my birthday a few weeks back and tonight is a perfect night for it.

Brewed in the farmhouse style, this traditional Belgian Tripel ale has a wheaty aroma. It pours a murky gold color; no head whatsoever and no lacing. This beer has some heft to it and you can feel the weight when you pick up the glass.

The flavor is mellow and slightly sweet. I know this may sound contradictory but there are hints of both lemon and lime without the citrusy acidity that can sometimes overpower beer with those kinds of notes. On the back-end, it’s accented by tropical fruit that compliments the lemon-lime perfectly and rounds out the flavor.

In the end, one of the better Tripels I’ve tried. Lickinghole Creek is a Virginia microbrew and this is probably not something I would have stumbled upon on my own. Special thanks to my friends the Doyles for the birthday bottle. It made for a great evening.

Tried the Three Chopt? Thoughts about Tripel Ales in general? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Road Trip – Two Roads Brewing and The Walrus & Carpenter, Stratford/Bridgeport, CT

Took a short trip up to the Tri-State area for a family gathering this past weekend. Got to spend a little time with one of my best friends eating and drinking our way into early graves via malted hops and fatty meats. I know I usually keep my fare on the healthy side, but hey, I was on vacation.  We hit two spots that evening, Two Roads Brewing Company in Stratford, CT and the Walrus & Carpenter Smokehouse and Gastropub in Bridgeport, CT.

Two Roads Brewing

Two Roads Building

Most of my Connecticut friends have been raving about this place over social media and being a fellow zythophile, Two Roads Brewing Company has been on my radar for quite some time.

Two Roads Flight

We started with flights and I choose the seasonal selection as I figured I can always try their year round sampler at a later time. The beers were flavorful and unique which is something I look for when doing this kind of sampling. Among others, selections included their Road Jam Raspberry and Lemongrass Ale, Hizzoner Maibock and Henry’s Farm Double Bock, which were my favorites of the bunch. The Road Jam had a framboise flavor and mouthfeel which was fruity and refreshing. The Hizzoner was a bold maibock, woody with a light hint of honey. And the Henry’s Farm was a perfect double bock which had some really great toffee and brown sugar notes.

Two Roads Ol Factory IPA

I also gave their Ol’ Factory Pils a whirl and I was pleasantly surprised; it’s a solid, dry, hoppy pilsner. I’ve only been a fan of a few rare pilsners preferring dark malty beers but this one definitely made the list.

Two Roads Brewery Floor

One of the coolest things about this brewery is the fact that the tasting room is on the second story with full view of the brewery floor via wall length glass. Was really cool to have this kind of open-access view of the beer-making process while we sampled the goods.

If I was this impressed with this place I will need to make it a point to head in again in the future and sample their Fall and Winter seasonals.

The Walrus & Carpenter Smokehouse and Gastropub

Walrus & Carpenter Sign

For dinner we decided to head to the Walrus & Carpenter. I’d been to this location years and years ago when it was still the old Black Rock Castle and boy has this place changed. It’s honestly something I’d expect to find in one of the more sophisticated areas of New York City. The Walrus & Carpenter is a foodie’s paradise serving smoked meats and boasting of an impressive bourbon and craft beer list.

Walrus & Carpenter Oskar Blues GKnight

We started with some more beers and this time I decided to give the Oskar Blues G’Knight Imperial Red Ale a whirl. It was a really good blend of flavors with the caramel and tropical fruit notes balancing each other around a nice hint of pine. I’ve never had anything by Oskar Blues before but this was enough for me to remember to seek it out in the future.

Walrus & Carpenter Mason Jar

One of the more entertaining notions was that they served any beer designated for a pint glass in these unique mason jars etched with a dog on the side. I’ve never seen glassware like this before and I was almost tempted to offer to buy one before realizing I’d never get it on the plane when I returned to Florida.

Walrus & Carpenter Blue Cheese Olives

We started with a couple of small plates. I had the Fried Blue Cheese Stuffed Olives and my buddy ordered the Poutine. The olives were phenomenal, crunchy and salty just like you’d expect. Poutine is something that hasn’t worked its way down to Florida yet. Fried potatoes with gravy and mozzarella curds. While I was very curious, the gravy was made from veal which means I couldn’t sample due to my red meat prohibition. My compatriot was throughly impressed however.

Walrus & Carpenter Fried Chicken

Being a smokehouse meant that there were a good number of items on the menu that I couldn’t try but that didn’t stop me from enjoying what I could. I ordered the Southern Fried Chicken which was out of this world. Served with a black pepper biscuit and a srirachia-honey sauce this is about as good a fried chicken gets. My friend got the Maple Bourbon Baby Back Ribs which was served with a bourbon bbq sauce, cole slaw and a slice of cornbread; he was equally impressed.

Walrus & Carpenter Pig

It’s definitely a trendy place right down to the waiter with the vest and the handlebar moustache and the minimalist outline of a pig on the side of the building. Would you really expect any different from an eatery named after two characters in a Lewis Carroll story? As long as that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, this place is worth the shot.


I usually try to hit new locations but both of these were impressive enough to warrant return visits on my next trip to Connecticut. If you’re already there and haven’t tried either of these, do yourself a favor and make a reminder to do so in the near future. You won’t regret it.

Special thanks go out to my buddy Z for accompanying me on the evening’s culinary adventure.

Tried Two Roads or the Walrus & Carpenter? Leave a note in the comments section below!

And remember… the food abides…

New Beer Friday! – Magic Hat’s Pistil Dandelion Spring Ale

Magic Hat Pistil

I’ve always dug Magic Hat and their #9 was one of the first ales that really taught me the difference between a beer and a microbrew. Their seasonal offerings are always unique and I look forward to trying them every year. I love their Hex Octoberfest and was especially impressed with this year’s winter G-Thang Gingerbread Ale, so I picked up their Pistil Dandelion Ale as soon as I saw it.

Pistil pours a rich golden color, heavily carbonated with a good two fingers of head that dissipates quickly. There’s a definite floral aroma with an underlying hints of wheat and just a little bit of pine.

Dandelion seems like an odd flavor to add to a brew but it works. It starts out rich and very grassy, with a little hint of lemon and pear. It doesn’t really mellow much but continues that bready grassiness through the pull. There’s a slightly bitter finish to it but that’s to be expected given it’s literally flavored with a weed.

Pistil is a decent seasonal offering and seems to really fit for this time of year. If you’re ready for winter to end it’s a good way to usher in the spring, so give it a shot.

Tried Magic Hat’s Pistil? Leave a message with your thoughts in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Review – The Mermaid Tavern

Mermaid Tavern Old Seminole Heights

I’m always on the lookout for new undiscovered hideaways and Seminole Heights seems to be very conducive for these types of establishments. So far it hasn’t disappointed me and the Mermaid Tavern has added another notch to its belt. Located just off of Sligh on Nebraska Avenue, the Mermaid’s outward appearance definitely belies something greater.

Let’s be honest here, when you think of Nebraska Avenue the first images that come to your mind are likely of prostitutes, crappy strip clubs and seedy motels. Indeed there’s one of the said motels right across the street from the Mermaid but if you can get past the location your tolerance will be rewarded.

Inside, the Mermaid is a polished gem; definitely a much more trendy establishment than you’d guess from the outside. There’s somewhat of a nautical theme throughout the place but slightly more eclectic. The tables and chairs are mismatched but somehow it all seems to work together. The lighting is dim enough to add some ambiance but still bright enough to see. A shelf full of board games lines the wall. A large blackboard hung by the bar showcases the evenings’ myriad of craft beer offerings.

While it doesn’t look like it would be, the Mermaid is a kind of half-service establishment. You get your own drinks at the bar and if you’d like to eat, you also order at the bar at which point they’ll give you a number to put on your table and bring out your food when its ready.

We started with beer as the menu listed quite a few brews I’d never even heard of and I spend a great deal of time at beer bars like the Brass Tap and World of Beer. I started with a Smuttynose Scotch Ale which I’d never tried before and which was surprisingly strong. After a beer or two we ordered from a menu which showcased a number of unique dishes; everyday pub-fare this was not.

Mermaid Tavern - Fried Pickles and Black Truffle Fries

We decided to start with a few appetizers and chose the Fried Pickles and the Black Truffle French Fries. Fried pickles have recently become more and more of a commonplace pub-food, but these were whole petite dills rather than pickle chips or spears and I think that helped cut down on the water which made them fry up a little more solidly. The breading was a beer batter that used a nice ale rather than just a standard macrobrew and the seasoning was spot-on.

The black truffle french fries were off the chain. Between the truffles, the shredded cheese and the garlic aioli, these things were a taste explosion. I’d recommend them to anyone who’s a first-timer at the Mermaid.

Mermaid Tavern - Drunken Grilled Cheese

For my entree I had to try the Drunken Grilled Cheese. At some point you have to say a grilled cheese is just a grilled cheese, but the flavor and texture of this thing was like no cheese sandwich I’d ever had before. A triple-decker, this sandwich was made with four different kinds of cheeses, including a drunken cheese which uses alcohol in the cheesemaking process. The chef added some olive tapanade which gave it a savory flavor and served it with a blackberry chutney that rounded out the dish quite nicely. A spinach salad with a raspberry vinaigrette complimented it perfectly and made me feel slightly less guilty about the heart-attack-on-a-plate it was sitting next to. On the recommendation of the mustachioed bartender, I ordered a Crafted Artisan Pollinator (a blackberry mead) to go along with this and it was an insanely good pairing.

Portions sizes were right in line with the price which was very reasonable and I don’t have a single complaint about the food, the booze or the service. When dinner was over we settled in, talked, enjoyed some more drinks and people-watched.

On that note, the people who frequent the establishment seem to be from very diverse backgrounds and appear to genuinely enjoy the melting-pot vibe of the Mermaid. This may be par the course for Seminole Heights but it’s still good to see.

If you’re looking for an undiscovered hideaway with excellent food, a great craft beer menu and an all-around enjoyable atmosphere, give the Mermaid a go.

Tried the Mermaid Tavern? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

2013 Holiday Season Wrap-Up

A belated “Happy Holidays” from the Food Dude!

It’s been a crazy couple of months which would account for the lack of posts during this holiday season. I thought I’d wrap everything up with a catch-all post. Better late than never, right?

I believe my last post was a quick shot of the Thanksgiving supplies so here’s a follow up pic of the cooked turkey.

Holidays 2013 - Cooked Turkey

Simply dressed with butter, sage and tarragon and stuffed with a sage turkey sausage and cranberry stuffing, the bird came out really well.

Holidays 2013 - Turkey Dinner

Stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn souffle, and green beans; I’m a creature of tradition when it comes to food holidays. In the glass is Cigar City Brewing Company’s Good Gourd, one of the best pumpkin ales I’ve ever had (look for a review in next year’s Pumpkin Beer Round-Up!).

Holidays 2013 - Linguine and Clams

Speaking of tradition, I hosted Christmas Eve this year and when I host I always make a Linguine with White Clam Sauce. This is a simple recipe that my family has been making for as long as I can remember. As good as this looks, it’s even better eaten cold out of the container on Christmas morning. Sounds weird but trust me, it’s good. In the glass is Southern Tier Brewing Company’s Krampus a spicy Imperial Helles Lager which went along great with the seafood.

Holidays 2013 - London Broil

Christmas Day was spent with some very good friends both of whom are excellent cooks and while I don’t eat red meat and thus didn’t partake in the Beef Tenderloin, I’d be hard pressed to say it doesn’t look good.

Holidays 2013 - Tiramisu

My friend also made a from-scratch Tiramisu which I did partake of and I’m glad because she did a kick-ass job.


So another one of my friends is hands-down the best holiday gift-giver I’ve ever known. She’ll remember something you said two years ago and not only present you with an insanely well-thought-out gift but also give it you at the perfect time. This year, said gift was a professional-grade Atkins digital probe thermometer.

Holidays 2013 - Thermometer

First of all I’ve been wallet-lusting after one of these things for quite some time now but it’s one of those purchases that always gets bumped back in favor of other things that become more necessary. But second, I just switched over to an infra-red grill and I’m having some trouble learning how to control the heat. A thermometer like this will be invaluable for learning how to successfully cook with the new grill type. See? Best… gift… of the season…


Topped the holidays off with some more great friends on New Years Eve where we stuffed our faces with Cheese Fondue, Asiago Risotto Balls, Barbeque Biscuit Cups, Oreo Balls and basically anything bad we could squeeze in before the post-holiday dieting season began. Topped everything off with some bubbly when the ball dropped and you can’t ask for a better New Year than that.

Holidays 2013 - Champagne

So Happy New Year from the Food Dude! Hope everyone enjoyed their holidays as much as I did.

And remember… the food abides…

The Great Pumpkin Beer Round-Up! (Part 2)

Part 1 generated a lot of buzz so I know you’re all waiting with bated breath. Well wait no more! We’re on to Part 2 of the Great Pumpkin Beer Round-Up!

Pumpkin Ales 2

Part 2

This round’s selections:

Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale – Pours a light orange color. Gives off an unusually flowery bouquet. Smuttynose’s pumpkin offering is another one of those that comes off more like an IPA and less as a Pumpkin Ale.  It’s very crisp but it tastes more like something you’d drink during the summer with just a hint of and spice added rather than something brewed from the ground up to showcase those flavors. Not a bad beer at all but it doesn’t scream “autumn” to me like a pumpkin beer should.

Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale – Pours a deep amber color. Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale is lighter on the pumpkin but heavier on the spice. There’s a very predominant brown sugar note with an underlying nutmeg flavor. There is somewhat of a sharp aftertaste on the first couple of pulls, but it mellows a little as the beer warms up a bit.

Southern Tier’s Imperial Pumking – Pours a bright orange color. The bouquet this gives off is reminiscent of sweet baked goods; you actually get a whiff of cookies and pies as you smell this beer. Southern Tier always does a great job with their seasonal offerings and Pumking is no exception. I’ve had this both on draft and in bottle and they both set a very high bar. Every aspect of the pumpkin pie flavor is here. There are notes of vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove on the first pull which mellow into a buttery graham cracker flavor (like a pie crust!), before a final creamy pumpkin finish.

Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest – Pours a cloudy amber-red color. Terrapin’s Pumpkinfest is somewhat unique in that it comes across as a hybrid of a marzen and a pumpkin ale. This could be dangerous but Terrapin pulls it off rather well. There’s a sweet and smokey caramel flavor characteristic of an Oktoberfest brew on one side and the pumpkin and spice notes of a pumpkin ale on the other side. The flavors are preciscely balanced and compliment each other perfectly. If you also like marzens or you’re looking for something a little different in your fall beer, this would be a great pumpkin offering to start with.

Shipyard’s Pumpkinhead Ale – Pours a golden-yellow. I know I prefer my pumpkin beers darker and thicker but for one on the lighter side of the spectrum, this one isn’t too bad. Apparently Shipyard has some consistency issues with this particular brew as I’ve talked to folks who barely tasted any pumpkin at all. However the bottle I poured was very heavy on the pumpkin. There are underlying notes of cinnamon with a little bit of nutmeg and it eventually mellows into a grassy flavor typical of a lighter ale.

Blue Moon’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale – Pours a perfect reddish-orange color. Gives off a very spicy bouquet. For a brewery whose standard ale I dislike so much, Blue Moon continues to do a much better job with their seasonal offerings. They continue to tinker with their recipe and every year this pumpkin offering gets better and better. Blue Moon always works with a lot of wheat and which gives a very pie crust-like flavor on the initial pull which then rounds out to present the pumpkin and spice notes that remain strong through to the finish.

So who came out on top for Round 2?

Pumpkin Ales 2 Winners

I’m going to call this one a tie. The Blue Moon Harverst Pumpkin with its bready start and the Southern Tier Imperial Pumking with its creamy finish, both nail the pumpkin pie in a bottle flavor, albeit in slightly different ways. I have to give this one to them. Either of these offerings are perfect for sitting outside on a cool autumn evening and taking in the sights and smells of the season.

Honorable mention goes to the Terrapin Pumpkinfest. While not quite unique enough to bring it to the top like the Tommyknocker Small Patch Pumpkin did last week, it’s still a rather creative twist that was executed rather well.

I’ve still got quite a few more pumpkin beers to sample so stay tuned for round 3!

Tried any of this week’s pumpkin beers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides.

The Great Pumpkin Beer Round-Up! (Part 1)

Some friends and I were discussing pumpkin beers the other night and one of them suggested that since I drink them almost exclusively this time of year I should write about one for my next New Beer Friday. Then another jokingly insisted I write about all of them for my next New Beer Friday.

Challenge accepted!

For the next couple of weeks I’m going to spend some time sampling and comparing every pumpkin beer I can get my hands on. So without further adieu, I give you the Great Pumpkin Beer Round-Up!

Pumpkin Ales 1

Part 1

This weekend I did a pick a-six at my local ABC liquor and grabbed a bomber of Fat Jack for good measure. Here’s the breakdown of how they fared:

– Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale – Pours a golden orange. A smooth ale; very mellow with layers of cinnamon and a hint of allspice and clove. A little bland on the first pull but the flavors come out after a few sips.

– Harpoon’s Pumpkin Unfiltered Offering – Pours a hazy orange. Tastes almost like a pumpkin IPA if that makes any sense. It’s crisp and dry and has a very heavy vanilla and spice note with a full pumpkin flavor. I paired this with a Scallop Chowder once before and was surprised by how well this went with seafood.

– Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin Ale – Pours a deep reddish-amber color. Has a nice toasted nutmeg note upon the first pull and a little bit of cardamom on the back end. It mellows into a smooth, slightly breadish pumpkin flavor with virtually no aftertaste. The overall experience is very close to pumpkin pie.

– Samuel Adams’ Fat Jack Double Pumpkin Ale – Pours a dark red, almost ruby brown color. Similar to their Harvest Pumpkin Ale only with a heavier pumpkin flavor exactly as expected. There’s a very pleasant and unique fruit note on the back end with hints of cherry and honey laced with what tastes like sweet potatoes.

– Tommyknocker Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest Ale – Pours a deep reddish-amber color. Brewed with molasses, the Pumpkin Harvest Ale has to be one of the most unusual pumpkin ales I’ve ever sampled. Because of the molasses it had almost a touch of a spiced rum flavor which went perfectly with the pumpkin. I’ve heard from others that this overpowers the pumpkin but I didn’t find that to be the case at all.

– Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat – Pours a brownish-copper color. To be honest this one tasted more like a marzen. I found it to be quite mild and completely lacking in pumpkin flavor. Not necessarily a bad beer, just not a great pumpkin beer. Comes as no surprise however, as this is an Anheiser-Busch label.

– Blue Point Pumpkin Ale – Pours a clear orange color. Blue Point puts out a really good blueberry beer so I had high hopes for this one. Sadly it didn’t deliver. Had a very harsh pull with a rather bitter aftertaste and very little notes of spice at all.

So which beer comes out on top?

Tommyknocker Pumpkin

I’d have to say that Tommyknocker Small Patch Pumpkin Harvest is the clear winner this week. It’s solid pumpkin offering with such a unique flavor that I have to give it the round.

Samuel Adams’ Fat Jack comes in a close second as far as unique flavors  go and the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale does the same for getting the closest to that “pumpkin pie in a bottle” flavor I desire from my pumpkin beers.

Stay tuned for part 2 of the Round-Up!

Tried any of this week’s pumpkin beers? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Tis the season (for beer)

October Beers 2013


Ah… it’s that time of year again. My favorite beer season is upon us! Looking forward to trying some new fall brews this year but still happy to see these show up at the local grocery store.

Review – The Stein & Vine

Have you ever heard the phrase undiscovered hideaway? Whoever coined it could easily have been describing the Stein & Vine and they wouldn’t have been that far off the mark.


My introduction to the Stein & Vine was for a friend’s recent birthday. They had been there once before and loved it so it was their location of choice for the festivities. They really built it up so I’ll admit that my expectations were kind of high, but it totally delivered.

Off of King’s Highway in Brandon, tucked in between a gun shop and a dollar store with only a simple red neon sign that says “PUB” visible from the road, you’d never know that the Stein & Vine was there if you weren’t told about it beforehand. However the humble and unassuming location belies an amazing establishment once you walk through the doors.

The Stein & Vine is decked out in brick, hardwood and industrial fixtures, with a large granite bar as the focal point of the establishment accented with Bavarian steins and rare wine bottles. Two large chalkboards tower over a decorative fireplace and advertise the evening’s current selections.


As the name suggests, the Stein & Vine features a wide selection of draft beers and rarer wines, many of which are in a constant rotation. I happened to visit again two weeks later and only about half of the same beers were still there on the second visit, the rest being replaced by newer selections. As someone who loves trying new beers and wines, this is something that will keep me coming back again and again.


Tried a Green Flash Palate Wrecker and loved it. This was a deep brown ale with a nice bite to it and it went really well with the drunken shrimp we ordered as an appetizer.

Speaking of food, the menu, while on the smaller side is rather impressive. They could have easily done standard pub food that could just be thrown in a fryer, but the owners made a wise decision to go with some really unique and tasty choices.

Pig Wings (fried pork ribs with served with a number of different sauces), Drunken Shrimp (cooked in Curious Traveler Shandy or fried in a batter with Cigar City’s Maduro Brown Ale) and a Spicy Buffalo Chicken Philly Cheesesteak are some if the items you’ll find on the menu. Additionally, they will sometimes create special dishes for certain events. During July’s New Belgium Brewery Welcome Party, they offered a Meatloaf Sandwich that was marinated in Fat Tire Amber Ale. I do not eat red meat, but the sight of that dish nearly drove me to break a twelve-year moratorium on beef.


I went with the Baja Fish Tacos. As I’ve mentioned before, fish tacos are my hamburgers and I’ve got to try them everywhere I go. Served with Roasted Corn Salsa and an Avocado Salad these were just about as good as a fish taco can get and again, it’s something you wouldn’t expect here; every member of our party absolutely loved the food.

It’s important to note, that as small as this establishment is, they still took a reservation for 8 people on a Saturday night. This was a very good thing as I noticed it started to fill up pretty quickly as we headed farther into the dinnertime hour. If you’ve got a larger group, I’d recommend giving them a quick call.

After dinner we retired to a little area in the back with a couple of dart boards and some hightops where we were able to just relax, have some drinks and throw some darts in peace. Great night, great birthday fiesta for my friend and a great establishment. If you’re in the Brandon area or you’re just looking for an undiscovered hideaway to brag about, give the Stein & Vine a shot.

Tried the Stein & Vine? Leave your thoughts in the comments!

And remember… the food abides…

New Beer Friday! – Abita Amber

Abita Amber

In my search for decent reds and ambers during the summer, I recently came across Abita’s amber offering. The Louisiana-based Brewery puts out some really flavorful craft beers most notably Turbodog and Purple Haze. I’ve been a fan of Abita’s beers for quite some time so I decided to give it a shot since I’d never tried it before. It’s hard to associate ambers with summer because of their richness and depth, but Abita’s is definitely one I could consider a “summer” amber.

Abita Amber pours a deep red color with a good two fingers of head. The aroma is slightly more floral than I would have expected and it’s more akin to something I’d see in a lighter beer. Flavor is a mellow caramel with notes of lemon and just a little hint of honey. It doesn’t seem to sit as heavy as beers of its type typically do which is why it makes such a good summer offering.

The only drawback is that I would not consider this a “sipping” beer as the warmer it got the more the flavor started to sour a little. Which is a shame because this would be perfect for just kicking back on the porch on a warm summer night.

A good brew all the same however.

Tried Abita Amber? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

Welcome to Florida New Belgium Brewery Party@ the Stein & Vine!

Fat Tire Welcome

Ah… Fat Tire is finally available in the Sunshine State. Enjoying a couple of  bombers with some friends at the Stein & Vine… Welcome to Florida, New Belgium Brewery!

Yellow Curry Chicken & Chips @ the Pub

Was at the Pub with some friends this weekend and tried the Yellow Curry Chicken & Chips

Yellow Curry Chicken and Chips

Really good stuff. I’m not a huge fan of the really spicy red type of curry so the fact that they had a milder yellow curry option on the menu was awesome. Went perfectly with a pint of Hobgoblin Ruby Ale.

Roasted Lime Chick Peas

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I’m a big fan of grazing when it comes to weight-management. I don’t believe you can be successful in trying to lose a little weight if you’re always staving yourself. A lot of my diet is based on substitutions. If I can find something that satisfies just as well as the real thing but can cut out some calories and fat I’ll give it a shot. One of the better substitutions I’ve come across is Roasted Lime Chick Peas.

A slight variation of Alton Brown’s Roasted Chick Peas, this is a great snack for a long holiday weekend like Memorial day where chips and beer tend to dominate the pre-barbecue dinner menu. 

Roasted Chick Peas

Take one pound of soaked chick peas patted dry and toss them in a vinaigrette composed of 1/4 cup of red wine vinegar, 1 tbsp of olive oil, 2 tsp of Dijon mustard and 1 tsp of kosher salt. Arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 60 -70 minutes tossing every 15 minutes to make sure there is even heat coverage.

When fully dried removed from the oven and move the chick peas to a heat-proof bowl, then add 2 more tsp of red wine vinegar and 2 tsp of lime flavored margarita salt. Toss to coat.

Serve in a snack bowl alongside your favorite skinny margarita or a Corona Light with a lime (or your preferred lime-infused beer) and you’ve got a relatively healthy snack that can save you quite a bit of calories while satisfying the craving for something crunchy and salty along with your beverage.

Hope everyone’s enjoying their Memorial Day weekend with friends and family. Don’t forget to take a little time to remember why we’re observing this holiday.

And remember… the food abides…

Review – Cigar City Brewpub

I’ve been a fan of Cigar City for quite some time now. The Tampa-based brewery has long produced some really great styles of microbrews. In fact their Autumn seasonal, Good Gourd, is one of my favorite pumpkin ales. When I heard they were opening a Brewpub in the Carrollwood area I was more than a little curious. So last Saturday a buddy of mine and I decided to head up there and check it out.


I made a reservation and it was a good thing I did, because it was extremely crowded and I’m assuming that was a good sign. The majority of the traffic seemed to be going in and out of the bar, as is to be expected from an establishment such as this, but there wasn’t an empty table anywhere else in the place and plenty of patrons waiting for a seat.

The decor was interesting with dark wooden panels, Key West-style shutters and lots of brass. It felt like a throwback to a pre-revolution Cuban jazz club, which isn’t surprising given Cuba’s influence on our city’s local culture. However there’s also a trendy contemporary influence such as the wall borders made from vintage beer cans.

Our server wasted no time taking our drink orders and we obviously chose the beer. I was a little disappointed that they did not offer any beer flights. They have so many unique beers on draft and I would have preferred a sampling of all of them rather than just having to choose one or two for the evening. She knew her beer and was able to answer questions on the fly with a complete knowledge of their catalog.


I started with the Maduro Brown Ale which I’d had before. I wanted to see if there was a consistency in their brewing and there was. This is easily one of my favorites among their standard offerings. Rich and hearty, it’s a deep brown ale with a nutty, oatty complexity. There’s faint hints of cocoa and espresso which is good, because I don’t like being overpowered by those flavors unless I’m drinking a desert beer. It’s heavier for an ale, but in the right proportions. Definitely a solid beer.


After the Maduro, I tried the Hotter than Helles Lager. As a Lager it’s a lighter brew which admittedly I don’t do as well with, but not a bad beer at all. There’s a citrus and strawberry note which mellows out into a light grassy flavor after a while. I didn’t expect such hints of fruit which may have caused my palette a little bit of confusion and ultimately I didn’t enjoy it as much as the ale but it still got the job done.

After a while we moved onto the food. This is where Cigar City Brewpub is a rousing success while simultanouesly being somewhat of a disappointment.  Like Cigar City’s beer, the food is a throwback to the Latin influences of our city. The chef obviously did his research and it’s apparent in the menu.


As an appetizer I ordered the Devil Crab Roll.  This was a breaded crabmeat roll infused with lime and spices and really packed a flavorful punch. It was served with a very spicy habanero sauce which complimented the roll perfectly. My sole complaint with this roll was its size, as can be seen in the photo. Yes, I’m aware I’m eating crab and crab isn’t cheap but this is not what I would consider proportionate at all. If they had brought me two of these for $14 instead one for almost $10 they would have made money and I would have been satisfied with the dish. Sadly this was not the case.


For dinner I ordered a Grilled Yellowtail with Root Vegetables and Sautéed Collard Greens. The fish was flavorful, moist and served under a brownish sauce that I couldn’t identify; it tasted very similar to an Asian fish sauce but with a slightly more Latin flavor. The root vegetables (which were not named but tasted like turnips and celery root) were crispy and not greasy but could have used a pinch more salt. The collards were excellent but I’m a sucker for my leafy green veggies so I may be biased. The flavors went well together and I was a little more satisfied with the portion size to cost than I was with the Devil Crab.

Ultimately I was left with a feeling of not quite enough food for the price I paid. I know portion sizes are a pet peeve of mine but this is doubly so when you’re dealing with a drinking establishment. If I’m going to sample their beer I want a solid base in my stomach so I can better avoid a state of inebriation and I shouldn’t have to break my wallet doing so.

Final thoughts: give this place a shot if price is no object as the food is worth experiencing. If not, I’d recommend eating somewhere else and just partaking of the beers at Cigar City Brewpub. It’s their forte and when it comes to beer they know what they’re doing.

Tried the Cigar City Brewpub or any of their microbrews? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…

New Beer Friday! – Laughing Skull Amber Ale

One of my best friends is a fellow zythophile and I was asked to work more posts about beer into my rotation. Since Friday Happy Hour usually affords me the opportunity to try a new brew, I’ll try to post some beer opinions more often. For now let’s start with Red Brick Brewing Company’s Laughing Skull Amber Ale:

Laughing Skull 

I’m a big fan of amber ales. I tend to gravitate towards the darker, spicier brews that are usually prevalent during the Fall and Winter seasons but since they all but disappear just after January 1st, I’m left spending the other 8 months of the year searching for a darker beer with a good flavor.

Laughing Skull by Atlanta’s Red Brick Brewing Company is a good addition to the springtime lineup. It has a hearty bread aroma which carries over to a hearty bread flavor. It’s malty and slightly sweet with little hints of citrus. There’s a slightly hoppy note upon the first sip which mellows afterwards into a nice grassy undertone. The flavors strike me as simple rather than complex which in this case is a good thing.

As evidenced in the photo above, it pours a rich red with a white head that unfortunately dissipated before I could get my camera out.

Laughing Skull gets a thumbs-up in my book.

Tried Laughing Skull? Have another beer you’d like me to try? Leave a message in the comments!

Happy Friday! And remember… the food abides…