Archive for February, 2014

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

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…

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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.