Archive for the ‘Entertaining’ Category

Bloomery’s Sweetshine … Oh, So, Fine!

Thursday, January 22, 2015
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For the second time in as many years, a West Virginia craft distillery has been named a winner in the prestigious Good Food Awards. Bloomery Sweetshine in Charles Town (formerly Bloomery Plantation Distillery) won in the spirits category for its Pumpkin Spice Shine.

Bloomery Sweetshine

Bloomery Sweetshine

They join 145 other winners nationwide honored for the responsible and sustainable production of high-quality American craft food and drink in multiple categories.

Winners, representing 33 different states, were selected from nearly 1,500 entries nationwide after a rigorous blind taste test among 182 judges.

Bloomery’s West Virginia-made shine shared top honors with other spirits like organic pear brandy from Colorado, wild elderberry and quince fruit liqueurs from California, and lemon-ginger and hibiscus-lavender syrups from Oregon.

Smooth Ambler Spirits near Lewisburg was similarly honored for its small-batch gin last year.

Happy National Cheese Lovers Day!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015
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What, you didn’t know?

There’s a day, week or month to celebrate just about anything these days, and cheese gets it spotlight today. Personally, I feel like cheese deserves MUCH MORE than a mere 24 hours, but I’ll do my best to honor it in this short time we have today.

And in honor of the occasion, I’ll also share these tips from food app SideChef on how to style your own cheese board like a pro. A good cheese board, they say, should consist of three to five different styles of cheeses, plus an assortment of accompaniments that provide a variety of flavors and textures – so no two bites are the same.

When it comes to the cheese itself …

  • Cheese is made of three types of milk: goat, sheep and cow.
  • There are five different textures of cheese: hard, semi-hard, soft, semi-soft and blue.
  • There are two essential types of tastes: mellow that includes citrusy, fruity and herbal tastes; and intense that includes bitter, smoky and sharp ones.
  • For your display, choose cheeses with different textures and flavors (varying from mild to strong) and at least one cheese from each animal.

And about those accompaniments …

  • Cheese needs sidekicks that make it shine, so choose yours carefully.
  • Breads and crackers provide a base for the cheese, but stick to simple or complimentary flavors that don’t overpower your cheeses.
  • Fresh and dried fruits or fruit spreads compliment intense cheeses.
  • Brined vegetables such as olives or peppers provide a salty contrast.
  • Nuts offer a crunchy, nutty flavor.

And if National Cheese Lovers Day snuck up on you, consider this fair warning for the days ahead – Jan. 22 is National Hot Sauce Day and Jan. 25 is National Irish Coffee Day!

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark … Beer, That Is!

Monday, March 17, 2014
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Many people steer clear of drinking “dark” beers like stouts, porters or black ales because of their ominous color, fearing they are too heavy or strong..

But there’s no reason to be afraid of the dark. A beer’s color is not necessarily an indicator of its body, calorie content, alcohol level – even taste.

So if you plan to hoist a pint for St. Patrick’s Day tonight, keep in mind these three commonly held myths surrounding dark beer – as debunked by Julia Herz, publisher of CraftBeer.com and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association

 

Myth 1: All dark beers are rich and heavy.

Dark beer color comes from the barley and rising temperatures of heat. Color is not an indicator of weight or body of a beer.

Myth 2: Dark beers have more calories than paler beers.

The toasting is the reason that the beer is darker. The color of the beer has nothing to do with the calories it contains.

Myth 3: All dark beers are higher in alcohol.

Many dark beers are the same alcohol level of paler beers – some event lower. Color is not an indicator of alcohol levels of any beers, of any style.

 

If you’re looking for some Happy Hour inspiration, CraftBeer.com has also put together a list of local, American Craft Beer to help celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

And if you’re in need of some St. Patrick’s Day recipes (I’ve got the Corned Beef and Cabbage simmering on the stove as we speak), CraftBeer.com also offers more than 70 recipes that call for Stout to help you out.

Bacon … The Next Health Craze?

Thursday, August 1, 2013
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Could bacon be the next hot health craze?

I doubt it.

But there are those who tout its benefits as a good-for-you indulgence.

Dr. John Salerno, for one, believes bacon is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Of course, he’s also a protégé of Dr. Robert Atkins (gasp), creator of the once-hot “eat all the bacon you want but don’t dare touch a slice o’ bread” Atkins Diet.

“Many think of bacon as one of the guiltiest pleasures possible, but it has also been shown to alleviate the effects of diabetes, heart disease and strokes,” says Salerno, author of “The Silver Cloud Diet.”

“Nitrate-free bacon is an excellent source of high-protein, low-carbohydrate energy that helps to reset the metabolism,” he continues, “and it’s filled with amino acids delivered without the risk of dangerous levels of mercury, which can be found in many fish.”

Need more reasons to praise the pig?

  • Bacon has a 4-to-1 ratio of protein to fat.
  • It contains choline, which boosts memory and healthy brain function.
  • It’s composed of monounsaturated fats, the kind that contains lots of healthy fat-soluble vitamins and minerals.
  • And it’s a potent source of oleic acid and saturated fats, which help reduce levels of low density lipoprotein (LDL), lower triglycerides and raise HDL, commonly referred to as the “good” type of cholesterol.

I do love the stuff and will continue to chomp down on more than my fair share. But let’s not kid ourselves about its debatable health benefits.

Wheatgrass, it’s not.

But man cannot live on wheatgrass alone, which is why the occasional slab of bacon is such a joy. Everything in moderation.

So when you’re ready to moderate, here are a few fine bacon-blessed treats you might want to try …

  • Wrap a slice of bacon around your favorite items when grilling. Chicken or a nice filet, of course, but also around asparagus, scallops, even some grilled fruits.
  • Bling up a traditional BLT with creole mayo, sliced avocado or spicy pickles.
  • For an incredible appetizer, wrap bacon around a feta stuffed fig or a chunk of apricot rolled in brown sugar. Bake until the bacon is cooked through.
  • Three words: bacon cinnamon rolls. Unroll cinnamon buns from a refrigerated canned dough and roll them back up with a cooked slice of crisp bacon inside. Bake per package directions.
  • Two more words: bacon candy! Spread sliced bacon across a slotted baking pan and sprinkle with brown sugar, cinnamon and a touch of maple syrup, then bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Best bacon ever.

 

x   x   x

 

Bacon also played a supporting role in a great appetizer idea a neighbor recently shared. Actually, she didn’t just give me a recipe but also brought over all the ingredients I needed to make it.

What a gal!

Her Cheesy Stuffed Peppers featured an assortment of red, orange and yellow peppers filled with a mixture of cream cheese, sautéed onions, garlic and bacon, then baked until warm and gooey inside.

The results were so good, I’m sharing Naomi’s recipe this week. But like me, she didn’t really measure anything so just adjust all amounts to taste.

 

Cheesy Stuffed Peppers

assorted small red, orange and yellow peppers
medium onion, chopped
cream cheese, softened
cooked bacon
garlic, salt and pepper (to taste)

  1. Cut off (and save) the tops of all peppers and scoop out seeds.
  2. Cook bacon in a skillet until crisp, then remove to drain on paper towels. Pour off all but a scant amount of bacon grease and sauté onions in the same pan. Add garlic, salt and pepper to taste. Remove mixture from skillet and let cool.
  3. Mix onions and crumbled bacon into softened cream cheese, then use this filling to stuff each pepper. Replace tops and place upright in a baking dish. Bake 15-20 minutes a 350 degrees or until peppers are a little tender.

 

 

Juleps & Bourbon: Talk Derby to Me!

Thursday, May 2, 2013
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Mint Julep

The classic Mint Julep

Pour yourself a Mint Julep and put on your fanciest hat. “The most exciting two minutes in sports” is less than two days away!Much more than a horse race, the Kentucky Derby is a social EVENT — one of the most watched and celebrated sporting events of the year.

And since food and drink play a starring role at any such gathering, here are a few tasty Derby-inspired treats to dazzle guests at your soiree. A not-so-simple cocktail of ice, bourbon, sugar and mint, the iconic Mint Julep is a must. For a sweeter treat, mix up a homemade cream liqueur “sipping cream” with bourbon, coffee and chocolate. Or how about some Boozy Butter-Bourbon Cupcakes?

Yes please!

Boozy Butter-Bourbon Cupcakes

8 pre-made vanilla-frosted cupcakes
1/4 stick of salted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup of Marker’s Mark Bourbon
1/2 tsp. salt

In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Add the powdered sugar, salt and then bourbon. Stir well. Using a turkey baster or icing pump, inject filling into bottom of each cupcake and serve.

Dessert Sipping Cream 

1 3/4 cups Makers Mark bourbon
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 – 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
1 Tbsp. instant coffee granules
2 Tbsp. quality chocolate syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Add all ingredients to a blender, mix and serve.

The Perfect Mint Julep

1 liter Maker’s Mark bourbon
Lots of fresh mint
Distilled water
Granulated sugar
Powdered sugar

  1. To prepare the mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves – wash and place in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 ounces of Maker’s Mark and soak 15 minutes. Gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whisky. Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times. Then set aside.
  2. To prepare the simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and one cup of water in a cooking pot. Heat to dissolve the sugar. Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn. Set aside to cool.
  3. To prepare the mint julep mixture, pour 3 ½ cups of Maker’s Mark into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher. (Pour the remaining whisky from the liter bottle into another container and save it for another purpose). Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Maker’s Mark.
  4. Now begin adding the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture. Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added. You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose. The tendency is to use too much mint. You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste – generally about 3 tablespoons. When you think it’s right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.
  5. To serve the mint julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver julep cup) half full with shaved ice. Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup. Then, insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.
  6. When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice and add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice, then serve.

Bridgeport Woman Wins Super Bowl Recipe Contest

Sunday, February 3, 2013
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Just in time for tonight’s Super Bowl, a Bridgeport woman has beat out hundreds of entrants in the “Sporty Snack Showdown” at justapinch.com, a recipe and social network for home cooks. And she didn’t just win bragging rights, but also a $4,000 home entertainment system.

Jeanette Nelson won for her Island Teriyaki Tiki Chicken Bites, little rolls stuffed with Asian-flavored chicken, green onions, red peppers and carrots flavored with pineapple preserves, garlic, sesame oil, hot chili sauce and more.

“Who can resist this fabulous appetizer? I know I can’t — especially when you dip them into a sweet and sour sauce,” Jeanette says. “I guarantee if you put these in front of a crowd they will be gone in seconds!”

Nelson is a proud mom of three girls (ages 3, 7 and 11) and says Asian food is a hit in her family.

“This delicious appetizer recipe captures those flavors you find at your favorite Chinese restaurant.”

You can find the winning recipe, along with photos and notes about the dish, here.

 

 

Friends, Family, Fun … And a Fine Fall Feast!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012
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I’m still in a German food coma following this past weekend’s Blocktoberfest, an annual blowout the wife – she of Austrian heritage – and I host for friends and family this time of year.

Although we scaled back the bash several years ago when kids came along, we’ve been ramping it back up recently by incorporating everyone’s little ones into the festivities.

My Little Lederhosen Boy

Ryan Keith, 5, wears authentic German lederhosen that once belonged to his Austrian-born uncle. Needless to say, he was a hit at the par-tay!

Saturday night’s soiree drew about 80 guests to our house, with adults sampling a dozen different German beers around the firepit, while the kids bobbed for apples, tested their limbo skills and toasted marshmallows for s’mores.

And a bigger crowd means more food, so we biggie-sized the buffet as well.

While I was outside grilling sausages and brats (shipped in from Germany, this year) Amy was inside setting up a table full of her homemade German potato salad, sauerkraut, cooked purple cabbage, sautéed peppers, cucumber salad and apple salad, along with assorted pickles, mustards and jumbo pretzels.

Guests added to the bounty by bringing pecan pie, pumpkin cheesecake, appetizers and more. From fine friends and family to fantastic food, it was an affair to remember.

Margarita’d Out? Try These Other Tequila Cocktails

Sunday, May 6, 2012
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So Cinco de Mayo has come and gone, you still have a little tequila left on your hands, but you’re all margarita’d out?

No problem.

Sometimes you just need to shake things up a bit. If you’ve got an ache to shake, try these tequila-enhanced cocktails that go beyond the traditional margarita …

 

Tequila Cosmo

1 oz. tequila
1 oz. cranberry juice
½ oz. orange flavored liqueur
¼ oz. fresh lime juice 

  1. Shake all ingredients with ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a slice of orange.

  

La Paloma

1.5 oz. tequila
grapefruit soda (not juice)
½ oz. fresh lime juice

  1. Pour all ingredients over ice in a highball glass.

 

 Tequila Mojito

1.5 oz. tequila
2 fresh sprigs of mint leaves
¾ oz. fresh lime juice
1 oz. simple syrup 

  1. Muddle mint leaves with simple syrup and lime juice in a mixing glass. Pour in tequila and shake over cracked ice.
  2. Strain into an ice-filled highball glass. Add a splash of soda and garnish with a sprig of mint.

 

OK Class, It’s Time for Tequila Terminology 101

Thursday, May 3, 2012
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Since tequila may play a starring role in your beverage of choice for this Saturday’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, you need to brush up on your knowledge before the big day arrives.

There are several different types of tequila, so designated by how long they are aged. And because of the varying lengths of that process, each one provides different nuances to your finished drink. Here are a few of the most popular:

  • Blanco – Aged under two months, this style of tequila is the purest and imparts the natural flavors of the blue agave plant.
  • Reposado – Aged two to 12 months, this tequila meshes the mellowing traits of wood with the herbal qualities of the blue agave juice.
  • Anejo – Aged over one year, these tequilas possess vanilla flavors of the oak in which they’re aged.

If you want to combine a classic Mexican cocktail with one of the most traditional Mexican flavors, check out this recipe from Don Julio for a Smokin’ Margarita that gets its kick from a jalapeno pepper!

 

Smokin' Margarita

The classic margarita gets a jalapeno kick!

Smokin’ Margarita

1 ½ ozs. Tequila Don Julio Reposado
¾ oz. agave nectar
½ oz. fresh lime
½ oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
1 whole fresh jalapeno for muddling 

  1. Thinly slice a jalapeno and muddle it in a shaker.
  2. Combine tequila, agave nectar, orange juice and lime juice into the shaker with the muddled jalapeno with ice.
  3. Shake well and strain over ice in a rocks glass.

 Created by Los Angeles Mixologist Nicholas Vitulli

Bridge Brew Craft Beers Shine in Private Tasting

Friday, December 9, 2011
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I had a wonderful opportunity to sample some truly fine West Virginia craft beers at a holiday gathering this week.

At The Manahan Group’s ‘Winter Manaland,” my buddy/owner George rolled out the green carpet (and made it snow on Capitol Street!) for friends and clients at a private tasting of three brews from Fayetteville’s increasingly popular Bridge Brew Works. Then it was downstairs to ever-popular Pies & Pints for a smorgasbord of mighty fine pizza, salads and more beer.

On the special tasting menu …

  • LONGPOINT LAGER: A local interpretation of a “Dortmunder Export” brewed in the traditional German style, this lager gave off aromas of biscuits and hops and was smooth-going-down with a malt-derived caramel, nutty and slightly bitter finish.
  • BELGIAN-STYLE TRIPEL: Brewed in tribute to the beers of Trappist monks, this strong pale ale was a complex blend of malty brewer’s yeast balanced with lemon and spices for an effervescent almost Champagne-like feel going down. Really nice.
  • TRUBELL STRONG ALE: This powerful (11.2% alcohol) Belgium-style “quadruple” made with vast amounts of malted barley and traditional yeast was so-named because — after a pint or two — one might easily find themselves in a little “trubell.” So take it easy, but enjoy the dark fruits, caramel, spices and underlying tropical fruit that mark this masterpiece. I’ve really never sampled a beer quite like it.

It was a great night of food, friends and tasty adult beverages. Tis the season!