The food abides…

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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….

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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.

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Cleaned and scrubbed about a pound of fresh radishes.

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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.

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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.

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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…