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 their holidays this year. As has become my tradition, I leave you with yet more photographic evidence that I’m a Christmas lunatic. Because no sane person wears a shiny red fedora and smiles about it.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Beer!
And remember… Beer is freedom… and the food abides…
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…
Road Trip – 2015 Epcot International Food & Wine Festival 20th Anniversary Photo Round-up – Now with bonus swag!
With the holidays firmly in the rear-view mirror I once again have a little bit of time to give some credit where credit is due to the remarkable event and menu planners at Disney’s Epcot. They’ve pulled off another great International Food & Wine Festival for 2015 which also marked the event’s 20th Anniversary.
My friends and I managed to make it up there four times during the Festival season this year which afforded me the chance to try just as many dishes and drinks as last time if not more. So without further adieu, here’s a photo round-up of some of my favorite dishes and beverages from around the world.
New Dishes: These were either new to the 2015 menu or dishes I hadn’t had the opportunity to try before.
Brazil – Pao de Queijo – Brazilian Cheese Bread paired with a Xingu Black Beer.
Australia – Grilled Sweet and Spicy Bush Berry Shrimp w/Pineapple Pepper, Onion and Snap Peas paired with a Cooper’s Brewery Extra Strong Vintage Ale.
Mexico – Chilaquiles de Pollo – Layered Corn Tortilla and Chicken w/Queso Fresco, Sour Cream and Fresh Cilantro
USA – New England Lobster Roll paired with a Goose Island Honker’s Ale (Though I will maintain until my last dying breath that cold lobster with mayonnaise is Lobster Salad Sandwich; it HAS to be hot lobster with butter to be considered a Lobster Roll).
Chew Lab Pavilion – Olive Oil Poached Salmon with Fresh Corn and Pepper Jam
Canada – Beer Cheese Soup paired with a Moosehead Lager
Japan – Teriyaki Gyoza Bun – Steamed Rice Bun filled with Chicken, Vegetables and a Sweet Teriyaki sauce.
Sustainable Food Pavilion – Ricotta and Zucchini Ravioli with Rustic Tomato Sauce (presented on sustainable VerTerra Dinnerware!)
Cheese Studio Pavilion – Trio of Artisan Cheeses – Karst Cave-Aged Cheese with Honey, La Bonne Vie Goat Cheese with Craisin Bread and Rogue Creamery Oregon Blue Cheese with a Berry Port Compote.
Cheese Studio Pavilion – Another from the Cheese Studio, a Cheese Fondue with Sourdough Bread
Old Favorites: Returning dishes which I’ve really enjoyed in the past.
Ireland – Lobster and Seafood Fisherman’s Pie paired with a Kilkenny Cream Ale
France – Croissant aux Escargots – Escargot Croissant w/ Garlic and Parsley paired with a Kronenbourg Blanc 1664 Ale
Hawaii – Tuna Poke w/ Seaweed Salad and Nori Strings paired with a Kona Big Wave Golden Ale.
China – Beijing Roasted Duck on a Steamed Rice Bun with Onions, Lemongrass and Hoisin Sauce paired with a Kung Fu Punch. Still my hands-down favorite dish three years in the running!
Wine Studio Pavilion – A wine sampler consisting of a Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc, Still River Winery’s Apfel Eis (Apple Ice Wine) and a Sterling Vintner’s Cabernet Sauvignon paired with the above mentioned Cheese Trio from the Cheese Studio
Belgium – Belgian Beer Flight – Hoegaarden, Leffe Blonde, Palm Speciale Beige Amber Ale and a Stella Artois Cidre
Craft Brew Pavilion – Florida Harvest Craft Beer Flight – Brew Hub’s Keybilly Island Ale, Two Henry’s Blueberry Vanilla American Wheat, Orlando Brewing’s Grateful Pumpkin and a Swamp Head’s Wild Night Honey Cream Ale.
Italy – A very blurry Limoncello in Italy . One of my favorite after-dinner cordials.
Germany – Because even though it’s available all year-round, no trip to Epcot is complete without a full-sized Altenmunster Oktoberfest enjoyed by the lagoon at sunset.
France – Crème Brulee Vanille Chocolat – Vanilla and Chocolate Crème Brulee with caramelized sugar.
Belgium – Belgian Waffle with Berry Compote and Whipped Cream
Italy – Cannoli al Ciaccolato – Chocolate Covered Cannoli
Bonus Photos: Swag! – I walked away with a lot of extra stuff this year, some related to Food & Wine and some just purchased during the Festival. Most of it was worth noting.
Food & Wine 20th Anniversary Commemorative Passholder Wine Glass – The Passholder Wine Glass was awarded to Annual Passholders who attended the Food & Wine Festival at least three times during the season. There was a rigmarole you had to jump through with lines and stamps in order to verify your attendance each time, but you don’t go to theme parks if you’ve got a major problem with lines so it was worth the wait.
Brews Around the World 2015 20th Anniversary Pint Glass – I’ve been collecting the Brews Around the World pint glasses for quite a few years now. The 20th Anniversary glass is special because they’ve added a round blue glass disc to the bottom making it unique from past years’ glasses in more than just the graphic design.
Rear view of the pint glass with all participating countries.
2015 Festival Sampling Tray – If you’re going to sample both food and alcohol (pairing as the festival menu designers intended) you’re going to need a tray. In the past these have just been plastic plates with a cutout for drinks, but this year they went above and beyond. These resin trays are sturdier than in the past with full-sized cup holders designed to accommodate any size beer, cocktail or wine glass.
Rose & Crown Pub and Dining Room Distressed Ball Cap – Totally loved the look of this hat. It is now mine. Free advertising for the Rose & Crown Pub? Maybe. Still a great hat.
England Souvenir Tall Beer Stein – And speaking of the Rose & Crown. Bought an ice-cold Bass Ale. Got to keep the glass.
And there you have it folks. This is the second year I’ve sung the praises of the Food & Wine Festival. If you haven’t gotten a chance to check it out, it’s expensive, but worth the money. If you’re an annual passholder and don’t have to pay for a ticket on top of the food, there’s little reason not to try it at least once.
My sole recommendation would be to avoid Saturdays. As the annual passholder numbers grow and as more and more people learn about this Festival, Saturdays tend to look like a Zombie herd from the Walking Dead at certain points during the day and the food lines get very long. You’re better off going on a Sunday which is much less crowded as it tends to be a travel day for vacationers, or better yet taking a day off during the week where occupancy is at its lowest. But no matter what day you go, just go.
Tried the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival? Leave a message in the comments section!
And remember… the food abides…
As I said last night, I was unfortunately not able to spend the holidays in Connecticut with my family again this year. However, I was lucky enough to be able to spend them with some great Tampa friends whom I’ve had the pleasure of knowing for over 20 years now.
My friends hosted an incredible Christmas dinner in their Westchase home and I’m still drooling over the grilled honey-glazed pineapple, the gruyere scalloped potatoes and the pear and bleu cheese salad in addition to the Christmas turkey with all the fixings (I swear I’m like Ralphie’s father in a Christmas Story with turkey).
My friends also made some homemade limoncello. Limoncello is my favorite after-dinner sipping drink and this stuff may be the best I’ve ever tasted. It most certainly beats the hell out of anything you could buy in a store.
Not only did they serve their chilled Limoncello throughout the day, but they made a batch big enough to send everyone home with a bottle. I do not expect this to last through New Years.
And speaking of gifts, my friends are as avid zythophiles as I am, if not more and we almost always give each other something booze-related. This year they knocked it out of the park with Barley Mow’s Tinsel Holiday Spiced Ale (which I JUST had last week at the Brass Tap and loved) and Funky Buddha’s Nib Smuggler Chocolate Milk Porter. Can’t wait to dive into a couple of these while I’m on vacation this week.
And last, but not least, I leave you with something entirely non-food-related. A photo of my dog Kira on Christmas morning, passed out among some of her new toys like Randy from a Christmas Story. Because who couldn’t love that. And yes, I realize I’ve now made two references to a Christmas Story, but it’s been on for the last 24 hours and I haven’t changed the channel once so it was kind of unavoidable.
With that, I leave you with a heartfelt Merry Christmas from the Food Dude. I hope you’re all savoring each and every the flavor that the holidays have to offer and even better, sharing them with the people you care about.
And remember… the food abides…