Somehow I found myself on the Avocado Toast-for-breakfast bandwagon and I have no earthly recollection of how that happened. By the way, try it with just a dash of smoked paprika. You’ll thank me later…
Once again it was a hell of a busy season. I had made a conscious decision to get out and experience as many holiday events as possible and I made sure to take lots of photos.
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Putting up the Christmas tree at the beginning of the season saw the addition of a new beer-themed ornament and I’m really starting to appreciate these things.
After Christmas Tree decorating, we hit up Menchie’s to try their new holiday flavors. In the bowl is a swirl of Egg Nog and Gingerbread Cookie and it made me irritated to know I’ll clamor for this stuff for the next 11 months.
One evening we decided to catch the Christmas Light Display in North Straub Park. While the photo doesn’t do it justice, the City of St. Pete did a good job with it this year. And it afforded us the chance to grab dinner at 400 Beach Seafood & Taphouse where we ate outside and enjoyed a great park-side view as pictured above.
From 400 Beach Seafood & Taphouse, the Manchego Artichoke Fondue. I never thought of Manchego as a melty-cheese but they somehow altered the laws of physics to make it so.
Also from 400 Beach, Asian Seared Scallops on a Soba Noodle Salad with a Ginger Plum Sauce.
And a Rod Bender Red Ale from 3 Daughters Brewing Company hit the spot while we enjoyed the lights.
The night before Christmas Eve, we also managed to take in the Holiday Boat Parade from the Sail Pavilion in Downtown Tampa. I’ve never attended before, but dockside drinks and a really impressive display from the participants made this an event I’ll want to attend for years to come.
Entertained about eight guests for Christmas Eve Dinner this year which was a perfect size for my table. The Christmas Crackers are becoming a fun little holiday tradition.
Christmas Eve Dinner saw my first attempt in years to make Stuffed Mussels. These take a long time to prep which I usually can’t waste if I’m working during the day on Christmas Eve. But since it fell on a Sunday this year I took a shot. The entire batch was gone so it’s safe to say my guests loved them.
Christmas Morning always starts with leftover Linguine in White Clam Sauce eaten cold, right out of the container. It’s kind of like eating cold leftover Lo Mein but much more flavorful.
Christmas Day was spent at my at my friends’ house in Westchase and included lots of homemade Limoncello. There were literally bottles of this stuff everywhere and each sip was worth the calories.
This is the kind of thing that makes you really appreciate Christmas in Florida; a lakeside beer at sunset on Christmas Night.
And speaking of beer and Florida, Abita Brewing’s 2017 Christmas Ale was a really good brew this year and the Santa/Gator bottle art just seemed far too appropriate not to showcase.
The Christmas Toast. Can’t say enough about how much I love scenes like this.
I’m a Turkey Junkie and my friends did not disappoint. Christmas Turkey Dinner with Gruyere Scalloped Potatoes, Stuffing and Pear & Bleu Cheese Salad. Those potatoes were the highlight.
The day after Christmas saw a Boxing Day hike with the canine at Flatwoods Park as my attempt to burn off some of the holiday calories.
The hike was followed by a nice lobster roll at Prime Bar which kind of negated the calorie-burning but hey, I’m on vacation.
It’s not the holidays without a care package full of homemade baked goods from Mom which also arrived the day after Christmas. Spritz Cookies, Candied Pecans, Gingerbread Cookies, White Trash and Fool’s Toffee.
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Of course no holiday wrap-up is complete without the cataloging of some beer-themed loot and my friends are excellent gift-givers.
Homebrewed Beer Soap made with IPA! This isn’t going to be one of those fancy soaps you only put out for guests. I’m using this bad-boy.
Cenoscillicaphobia metal placard . It’s a fear I can relate to so I found this amusing.
Can’t go wrong with new glassware. I love my state. I love beer. These glasses scratch both itches.
One of my friends visited California in December and was cool enough to pick me up a stainless steel pint glass from Black Plague Brewing.
I’m not a fan of Belgian beers but some of the holiday ones are able to mask the Belgian yeast funk with the correct blend of spices. Barrel of Monks Father Christmas Holiday Ale is something I wanted to try but couldn’t get my hands on. Fortunately my friends saved the day with this bottle.
By the time New Year’s Eve rolled around I was hovering on the brink of exhaustion so I had no complaints about a relaxing night with some Tuna Croquettes for dinner and a few good holiday brews to close out the season.
Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s Gingy Imperial Gingerbread Porter may have been my favorite seasonal beer this year. And it went great with the aforementioned cookies as a way to ring in the new year.
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Hope everyone enjoyed the holidays as much as I did this year and I wish you all a fond Merry Christmas and a Happy New Beer!
And remember… Beer is freedom… and the food abides…
Here’s a tip. Whenever you’re at IKEA don’t forget to stop at the Swedish grocery they have just after the checkout area. They have some great stuff including this Jalapeno Lingonberry dry rub which I used on some fresh salmon I just bought from Land & Sea. May very well be the best piece of fish I’ve ever cooked…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Made a little Tomato and Fresh Mozzarella Caprese to bring over for a dinner with some friends this weekend…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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…