Mixed Vegetable Frittata and Allagash White Food/Beer Pairing

Posted in beer, food with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 23, 2014 by cueball

This may be my favorite pairing so far and it will probably stay as one of my favorites for a good while.  Why?  It was a purely spontaneous pairing.

This is what happened.  I spent the morning as I do on Saturdays watching Premiere League soccer and cleaning my house.  I met Eightball for lunch at my favorite place in Shelby for beer (today the newly tapped Anderson Valley Boont Amber Ale) and food, Pleasant City.  Then I went over to my local beer store, Dragonfly Wine Market, tasted  few of my favorite North Carolina beers (Lonerider: Sweet Josie and Shotgun Betty; Mother Earth Brewing Endless River; and Highland Brewing Oatmeal Porter) and purchased more beer then I should have but not as much as a I wanted.

I arrived back home and almost drove to the grocery store (which would have been my third trip in two days) when I decided to look at what I had laying around.  For whatever reason, the milk, eggs, and frozen vegetables jumped out at me.  A frittata would be a great light dinner with a lot of flavor. So I went through my recipe books and found a recipe for a pasta frittata.  I didn’t have pasta, so I just substituted the vegetables and added some Parmesan cheese to make it all come together and in 30 minutes I had nice light and feathery tasting frittata.

As soon as I decided on the frittata, I knew exactly what I was going to pair it with.  Taking advice from the ur-text of beer and food pairing, The Brewmaster’s Table, witbier was the obvious choice of what is currently in my fridge.  Luckily, my only witbier at the moment was the Allagash White.

First off, as it should, Allagash White pours a little cloudy and has a nice quickly disappearing head.  On the nose, you get a little bit of cloves from the yeast and the orange peel and coriander among others from the added spices.  On the front of the taste, you get the bright orange peel/citrusy taste with the cloves, coriander, and other spices coming along behind.  On the finish there is a touch of wheat that makes you want another sip.

The White’s orange peel and coriander flavors matched perfectly with the brunchy nature of dinner.  Even with its substantive and full flavor it is light enough to not over power the eggs, milk, and Parmesan mixture.  The frittata is a great last second way to use up extra food.  You can use any filler you want:  pasta, mixed vegetables, spinach, ham, sausage, etc.  In this case I used frozen mixed vegetables to make a quick simple meal.  I also love to use left over pasta or almost caramelized onions.  With the frittata you can make it taste however you want by changing the filler ingredients and the cheese used to bind it together.

This meal would have been better with fresh vegetables, but I was in a hurry and wanted to do something simple.  Isn’t this is how most people deal with wanting to cook something at the after a long day at work or at the last minute to help make a real meal:  What’s in my fridge and pantry that will let me make something that tastes good and is relatively easy?  The next time I’ll get vegetables and chop them and add different flavors and textures to make this better, but because of the situation and how I was feeling at the time this was almost perfect.

This was the essence of what I really want to do.  Find simple, maybe not easy, foods that anyone can make and then try to match them with beer?  In this case I choose a light brunch/breakfast type food for dinner.  To match with that I wanted to first find something that was light and had a profile that was reminiscent of orange juice.  Witbiers are the perfect beer for that situation.

Now, this may be the first of two food and beer posts this weekend.  Eightball and I are probably going to watch Daytona tomorrow.  What beer goes best with driving around in circles for 500 miles?

Vegetable Pot Pie and Hi-Wire Brewing Bed of Nails Brown Ale Pairing

Posted in beer, food, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2014 by cueball
Tastes better that it looks

Tastes better than it looks

I used to think I was a pretty good cook.  I thought that because I can chop onions and mince garlic and put some stuff in a slow cooker and make a pretty good meal.  Yeah, I know how to cook good rice but today’s recipe was easily the most complicated thing I have ever made.  Vegetable pot pie has so many moving parts.  I take that back.  It has a major, huge demonstrably difficult moving part called pie crust.

Anyway, we’ll get to the food in a second.  On to the beer.

Bed of Nails Brown Ale, Hi-Wire Brewing

I’ve become really fascinated with English and English-style beers since thinking about and trying this pairing experiment.  Bed of Nails Brown is another English-style American beer, this time from a relatively new brewery out of Asheville, Hi-Wire.  The reason I chose English-style beer for nice bit of comfort food made was precisely because while it is full of hop bitterness it is not overwhelmed by the more American hop taste.  You get a lot of the hop aromas in the glass, piney and citrusy, with this beer, but it does not over power you with that same piney/citrusy taste.  The hop bitterness works well with the cocoa/chocolate bitterness to make a very well-choreographed and easy drinking beer.

Vegetable Pot Pie

I got his recipe from Allrecipes.com.  I tweaked it a little, but not much.  It actually tasted very good.  Better than it looked actually.  The crust was a little gummy as I figured it would be.  This is the first pie crust I’ve made.  Anyway the vegetables tasted it great.  They were cooked to the perfect texture and were seasoned well.

Back to the crust for a second.  In the short time I’ve really been trying to work on my home cooking skills I have found baking to be the hardest thing.  I haven’t burned anything in the oven yet, but you don’t have to do that to screw up a pastry.  Timing and temperature have to be so precise in baking that the slightest mistake can screw up a dish.  That makes it not to dissimilar to brewing.  I have learned the same thing through a couple of screwed up home brew batches.

Why this pairing worked

By being an English-style beer Bed of Nails hops are less assertive then the more American-style browns like Duck Rabbit Brown or Lonerider’s Sweet Josie.  The use of the soy sauce with the primarily root vegetables and mushrooms fit perfectly with the less hop forward taste.

In my time trying to find good beer and food pairings I have come to one conclusion, besides the one where pale ales, to some extent, work with almost anything.  This is the conclusion:  Brown ale + umami = awesome.  This word is borrowed from Japanese where it literally translates to, “pleasant savory taste.”  To me it means more than that.

It is the idea of the comfort and home comfort food, Southern food, and “Soul” food represents.   It is the food equivalent of that favorite quilt you have that you always wrap yourself in when you have flu.  For me brown ales tend to accentuate that taste and feeling in foods.

I haven’t posted in a little over a week because of a weird cold that never turned into an actual cold, but wouldn’t go away and a bout of insomnia caused by the cold that then made the cold feel worse, but I’m back now.

Roy Keane blames Sir Alex for Manchester United’s depth; Fair or hot air?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2014 by cueball

Originally posted on ProSoccerTalk:

The soccer feels ready to pounce on David Moyes at any point, a perfect storm of Manchester United critics feeling their time has arrived and Sir Alex Ferguson supporters finding new ways to laud the former Red Devils mastermind (“Look what he did with nothing!”).

Nevermind that the club Moyes took over is lacking in depth, and that the manager’s been largely without two of the better players in the world in Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie.

Rarely shy in any way, leave it to Roy Keane to point out that Fergie may have played a role in this “mess” of Manchester, with the Red Devils in seventh place ahead of today’s tilt with Arsenal.

Keane told itv.com:

“I think Man United need five or six players. If it happens in the summer then instead of being fearful of it, embrace it – it’s exciting.

“They’ve kind of cut…

View original 271 more words

What I’m Doing

Posted in beer, blogging, life, writing with tags , , , , , , , on February 1, 2014 by cueball

If you have followed this blog for the last 12-18 months, you will have seen the subject matter shift from bitching about the NCAA, to fiction, to posts about whatever happened to be in my mind at that moment, to increasingly about beer.  It would seem that I’m flitting about from idea to idea and obsession to obsession with no real objective.  That is partially true, but not totally.

It has been a search for what I am good at.  Up until this point the happiest I have been with the blog was when writing fiction.  I like writing fiction.  The thing I like most about it is the creation of the characters, then learning more about them as I put them through the plot.  However, I have always preferred writing nonfiction rather than fiction.  I have always had lots of ideas and beliefs I have wanted to express in my writing.  

Many authors have many ideas and beliefs they want to express through their fiction.  Unfortunately, they sometimes forgetting that they are trying to tell a story and not write a polemic.  I’ve struggled with this too.  I do not want to write stories that forget to tell the stories and forget to be truthful art because it is too busy trying to make a point about racism, poverty, or whatever.  So, I continue to go back to non-fiction.

So, how why has beer become my chosen subject as opposed to sports?  I like beer.  It starts there.  I also like sports, but I have become increasingly disenchanted with the mess that the NCAA and the NFL/NBA have made of college sports.

Let me be more specific about beer, I love craft beer.  The idea that beer all comes from the same basic recipe and with just a slight change to one of the four ingredients and you create a wholly different beer. 

The other thing I love about beer is how it works with food.  The properties of beer make it a wonderful companion to almost any meal and if you find the exact right beer for what you are eating it makes any meal a special event.  This has led to chefs and breweries working together to create beer and food pairings dinners.  However, as much as I would love to go to one of the dinners chefs like Sean Paxton and Schuyler Schultz put on, I like most people will not get many if any chances to taste a pairing of Bear Republic Big Bear Stout with a House-Smoked Niman Ranch Pork Leg with Grilled Peaches served with a Peach Chutney and Grilled Scallions (pairing and recipe from Schultz’s great book Beer, Food, and Flavor). 

What I don’t want to see happen with craft beer is the thing that happened with wine in this country.  Wine has become the province of the rich, the aesthetes, and hipsters.  Let’s not get it twisted, I want beers that are special and that are more expensive than other beers because they are rare and truly interesting and not because their availability has been artificially suppressed.  I also want good beer to be available to as many people as possible.  Again, I don’t want good beer to become the province solely of the rich or just another affectation of hipsters (For more go here). 

So, what I want to do is show how good beer can enhance everyday meals.  As much as chefs who respect beer like Paxton and Schultz have the skills and time to make the meals they make to match specifically to each beer they serve most people are just trying to figure out a beer that will make the baked chicken and au gratin potatoes taste a little bit better. 

The meals I am going to try and match will be the same meals everyone can and does make every day.  Now, I am a vegetarian and I am a Southerner.  So, all my meals will be vegetables and most will have a Southern bent as far as ingredients and taste. 

That’s what I’m doing now and I think it is a big enough field to play in for years.   Its beer and its food meaning there is a lot of stuff to explore.  

A post full of a lot of nothing. Not quite mailing it in, but close.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 28, 2014 by cueball

This is one of those days that thing I tried to write for the blog actually got written.  Then I thought about it and then I read it and I came to the conclusion that it was crap.  Not that I don’t believe in the subject matter, but that I may have overstated my thesis and in retrospect I detest my own approach to it.

What I was trying to write about is how many of the cultural elites in today’s Internet/Twitter age speak to each other and to us in an echo chamber.  They not only all seem to live in the same metropolitan areas (the DC to Boston corridor or Los Angeles) they also all talk to each other and to us via Twitter and blog posts.  Name a controversial/popular subject and within two days of each other at least five separate writers will post slightly similar takes on the subject with each seemingly building on something the previous posts said.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know what those things say because I read them.  I read most of them.  However, there are moments when I’m reading something and it dawns on me that this writer and I, despite agreeing on many things, see the world in totally different ways.  That is not a problem.  The problem is that the next four articles I read on the same subject make me think the same thing.  Why is that?

I don’t know.  How about that?  I’ve been trying to write this thing for five hours over two days and all I can say is that, I don’t know.  (Imagine that.  A blog post that doesn’t come to a definite conclusion.)

I cannot be education.  I have a similar education to most of the writers I read.  Is it the things that we like?  Possibly.  The depth of knowledge of one subject is the coin of the realm for pop culture geeks.  It creates a myopia that could color how you think or what you write.  Again though, I think the same way so that doesn’t really hold water as to why I sometimes feel out of touch with the premise of the articles.  Could it be geography both physical and through social media?  Again, I don’t know.  I think the echo chamber of the Internet/blogs/Twitter maybe the biggest contributing factor, but again I am a participant in that echo chamber.  Why do I still see things completely different?

So what am I getting at?  Nothing really.  This was a tale told by an idiot, full of (some) sound and (very little) fury, signifying nothing.

Beer/Food Pairing Attempts: Creole Hoppin’ Jean and People’s Porter

Posted in beer, food with tags , , , , , , , , on January 26, 2014 by cueball

Creole Hoppin’ Jean from Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry paired with People’s Porter by Foothills Brewing.

Question you never hear asked:  What will pair well with this Bud Light?

What you probably have heard is the old joke, how is American beer like having sex in a canoe?  They’re both fucking close to water.

Trying to figure out beer and food pairings is an example of why I love craft beer.  Craft beers are more than just slightly fizzy alcohol delivery devices.  They also, for the most part, aren’t just product to be made and sold by the unit.  Craft beer when made well has character that can be celebrated on its own or in tandem with food.

Periodically, this year (I’m hoping once a week) I’ll be making a recipe out of one of my many cookbooks (almost all vegetarian) and pairing them with a beer.

Pairings usually work best when you choose the beer first.  I am going to do that from now on and I will explain why in a moment.

I love People’s Porter.  It is a great example of a British-style porter.  The hop presence is more herbaceous and less citrusy and piney and it has a wonderfully dry maltiness with chocolaty taste and espresso finish.  For a beer that dark with a light caramel head it is very light and easy to drink with just enough bitterness to make you take another sip.

This Hoppin’ Jean recipe is also very good.  It has wonderful layers of flavors built on the base of the black-eyed peas and the brown rice.  The use of homemade vegetable stock instead of water adds even more depth with and earthy quality.  It was a bit too spicy and I’ll adjust that on future versions.  It has that warming feel of home that good soul/southern food always provides.

Did the pairing work?  Not so much, and it was precisely because I picked the food before I picked the beer.  I had never made this hoppin’ john recipe before.  I had no idea what its flavor profile would be.  My beer selection was a guess.  It was a somewhat educated guess, but it was still a guess.

The Hoppin’ Jean was too spicy and overpowered the porter.  That is rather surprising because I chose a porter instead of a brown ale because I believed it would stand up to the spiciness.  The other problem was I thought the tomatoes would be a bigger presence and provide a little more sweetness to balance out the heat from the spices.

The next pairing for this dish will have to be something hoppier or something leaning towards a sweeter malt profile.  The first thing that comes to mind is an American-style brown ale (Duck Rabbit Brown Ale or Lonerider Sweet Josie).  That would provide a bigger hop profile to fight through the spiciness and still keep the darker malt flavors which did work.  Maybe an American pale ale which would be hoppier then the brown ale, and give malt flavors closer to biscuits and bread.  An IPA might be too much hops for this.  Or, better yet, go with a Belgian style dubbel or tripel.  The sweetness in the beer would hopefully bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes and the high alcohol content would cut through the spiciness.  The same could go for an imperial Russian stout.

I almost did not write about this initial tasting because it did not work.  Then it dawned on me that I learned so much from this precisely because it did not work.  If it had worked, I literally would have just been fat and happy.  I would have enjoyed the meal, cleaned up and went on about my day.  I would be jotting down notes on how great wonderful the experience was.  Instead, it didn’t come off exactly like I wanted it and I spent a good amount of time trying to figure out why. 

What did I learn?  First, choose the beer first or choose the food first, but choose the one whose taste you understand best.  Second, spiciness and heat can overpower a beer unless it is really hoppy or is high ABV with lots of alcohol to cut through that spiciness.

I will revisit this recipe later to find the right pairing.  Stay tuned.  In the meantime, I’m going to try something else next week.  I don’t know what yet, but I’ll have fun figuring it out.

Optimal Potentialities

Posted in life with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2014 by cueball

If you follow me on Twitter (and why should you), you know that I recently finished reading Alan Watts’ book The Wisdom Of Insecurity.  My main takeaway from the book is people should not let the past or the future dictate their lives because the past is unchangeable and the future is unknowable.

To me that does not mean you should ignore the lessons the past can teach you or that you should not have goals for your life.  It means you should not allow yourself to live in the past or the future to avoid the unpleasantness of the present.  You should embrace the present in all its good and bad to live a more content life.  I use content instead of happy because contentment is a more stable state of being instead of happiness or sadness both of which are fleeting emotions.

I have also gotten from Watts and other readings of Zen teachings that you should only worry about the things you can control.  You cannot control outcomes; you can only control your actions.

In grant writing you have to create SMART outcomes.  Those are outcomes which are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.  Here is a SMART goal people make all the time:  Lose XX pounds in X weeks.  Then they shape their behavior to meet this future goal.

The correct way to create a grant funded program is figure out the change in behavior you want to elicit (the goal), how you plan to elicit that change (the outputs/the program you’re creating), and then what specific measures will prove that change (the outcomes).

People too often mistake outcomes for the goals.  Outcomes are the results of achieving your goals and should naturally occur over the course of the program, but you cannot control the outcomes.

Zen Buddhism teaches us, you cannot control whether you lose the weight.  That is the outcome.  You can only control your actions of eating healthier and exercising (what should be your goals).  Concentrating solely on the outcome of losing the specific weight in a specific time leads many people to A)feel like a failure if they don’t hit this specific number in this specific amount of time or B)distort their behavior in an unhealthy way to hit this specific number in this specific amount of time.

This is why I have started to think of outcomes as the optimal potentiality.  If you concentrate on living day to day and moment to moment, the potential outcome will be very close to your optimal outcome.  If you eat better every day and exercise every day you will probably get very close to the weight you set as your outcome.  Then again you may not, but you will be healthier, and by not distorting your life to attain this future, you are probably more content with your life.

Every day, I do certain things.  Not because I have a specific goal in mind.  I do have optimal potentialities, but no specific goals.  I read and I write every day because those things give me joy and I would like to get better at writing and learn more about beer.  Now, would I like to do these things and have them be my main source of income?  Yes.  That is the optimal potentiality.  However, I cannot control that outcome.  All I can do is read and write every day and keep my eye out for opportunities that may appear.  Then again, maybe they won’t.

It’s like finding a new job.  One will not fall into your lap, however, if you look in the right places every day and you prepare yourself every day eventually you will find a new job that you like.

That is what I get from Watts.  Not the literal idea of not worrying about the future, but the understanding that we can only control our actions in the present.  Be mindful and present in every moment of your life, and you will be more content.  Do not ignore the future, but understand you cannot control it and that it will sort itself out without your meddling.

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