Vegetarian Beer Dinner

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You may recall that last year I set out to do my own vegetarian beer dinner. Three courses, three beers, two happy vegetarians. You can read about  what I served here on Vegology.

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Most beer or wine pairing dinners that I have seen are seriously lacking options for vegetarians. As much as I want to attend one, it seems like it would be a waste of money for a person who does not eat meat. Even if there were vegetarian options available, they most likely would not be paired as well with the beer as the meat dishes.

I do not expect a restaurant to accommodate my dietary restrictions, so I usually just skip out. The only exception would be the wine dinners at Secco, which always seem to have a great vegetarian option. Now I just have to rummage through the couch cushions and start saving my pennies so I can afford to attend one!

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This weekend I took matters into my own hands and hosted a potluck vegetarian beer dinner at my house. Some of my favorite food bloggers and beer geeks came together to throw one heck of a beer pairing party. Each guest was assigned a course and asked to select a beer pairing to bring along with his or her dish. I provided a long tasting table adorned with mini notebooks for taking tasting notes. The table was decorated with beautiful fresh flowers from Amy’s Garden placed in repurposed glass beer bottles.

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Guests used little placards to label their dishes and beer pairings. When each course came up, we shared what we brought, show-and-tell style, then everyone ooh’ed and ahh’ed at each other’s beer and food pairing innovation. Some people paired with complementary flavors and some with contrasting. Both approaches worked out great. We learned that we had a lot of beer and food knowledge in one room.

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The dinner felt really cozy (read: packed dining room), and rustic (read: haphazardly decorated). I think everyone learned a lot and made some friends. I was incredibly impressed with everyone’s pairings. It went better than I had imagined. So without further ado, I present to you the Summer 2012 Vegetarian Beer Dinner!

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Summertime Tomato Gazpacho with “Grilled Cheese” Straws by Sarah and Alex

Pairing: Bison Brewing Organic Honey Basil Beer

Sarah writes Smart Kitchen, and Alex writes I Eat Asphalt.

Recipe for cheese straws via smitten kitchen, with one modification: 1/2 cup whole wheat flour + 1/4 cup white flour.

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Bruschetta with Green Apple and Gorgonzola Spread by Adrienne and Al

Pairing: Hoegaarden Original White

Adrienne writes hippie itch and she and Al both love good beer.

Bruschetta recipe via MyRecipes.com.

Photo Credit: Brittany Mullins (EatingBirdFood.com)

Vegetable Tian by Brittany and Isaac

Pairing: Allagash Curieux

Brittany writes Eating Bird Food and Isaac is a legit home brewing beer geek.

Vegetable Tian recipe via Martha Stewart Living.

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Quinoa Tabbouleh by Bob

Pairing: *Home Brew!* Dirty Southside IPA, brewed by Bob and Kyle

Bob does not blog, but he knows more about beer than most people I know, and he is Kyle’s home brewing partner. We didn’t know the Dirty Southside was ready yet, so it was a real treat and a surprise that he brought some to share.

Recipe via Epicurious, substituting cilantro for parsley.

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Zucchini and Black Bean Enchiladas by Lauren (that’s me!) and Kyle

Pairing: Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale

The homemade sauce absolutely made the enchiladas. The recipe is by Emily from Daily Garnish and you must try it.

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Hardywood Blackberry Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting by Shannon

Pairing: Hardywood Virginia Blackberry

These cupcakes were topped with a blackberry from Agriberry, the same farm that provided the blackberries for Hardywood’s beer!

Shannon writes Thirsty Richmond.

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As the sun went down, the volume in the room increased, and everyone’s notes got a little sloppy. Isaac brought out a sweet, dark, caramelly Southern Tier Creme Brulee stout. Most us us had just enough room left to taste it. There was talk of pumpkin beers and Fall home brews. A suggestion that we should do this again very soon. The beginning of a plan for a vegetarian beer dinner in the Fall?

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If I have anything to do with it, yes.

A Few of My (New) Favorite Things

First things first, I have to give a shout out to John Robinson of Robinson Imagery, who posted a preview of our engagement photos today. Kyle and I had a blast during our engagement session this weekend, and we can’t wait to see the rest of the photos soon. Thanks John!

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I treated myself to a little spring break last week and I had ten consecutive days off work. Please don’t tell my boss; the time off was legit, but I don’t think anyone had really counted it up yet. Ten days is a lot of time, so I avoided announcing the total, in an effort to keep from shocking him and thereby causing him to change his mind. Perhaps even more shocking is that until day one of vacation, I didn’t have many plans for my time off. For the first time ever, Kyle and I both took off work and did not plan a trip. We just kind of winged it. . . and it was fantastic! A ten-day long staycation allows for a great deal of thoughtful reflection and self-discovery. Also, it provides you the opportunity to do some exploring close to home and to try out things you never had before.

New favorite thing: yoga on mountaintops.

I thought it would be fun to share a few of the highlights, so that you locals may discover some new activities and places to visit in central Virginia. If you’re not local to central Virginia, either bookmark these for your next visit or use them as inspiration to find similar things near your own “close to home.”

The Monument Avenue 10K

You would have to be a real Eeyore to not feel encouraged during this race. I really don’t like running, but I loved doing this 10K. I walked most of the way, as planned, but even as a walker you feel like a rock star. There were so many clever signs like the one above, and tons of people cheering you on from the Monument Avenue median and sidewalks. The excitement and energy was inescapable the whole way. This race really was a party, and I am so glad I did it for the first time ever this year.

Patios South of the River

I have been to Legend’s deck before, but as a new resident of the Forest Hill area, I have developed a new appreciation for the space. In the Fan and Museum District, every other restaurant has outdoor seating, and nearly every residence has a porch or balcony. This is not the case south of the James. Legend Brewing Company is my new top choice for patio drinking and dining, for their delicious locally brewed beer and for their fantastic view of the downtown Richmond skyline. Also, this is a great spot for a little carbohydrate replenishment after the Monument Avenue 10K.

Crossroads Forest Hill is also a great happy hour spot with outdoor seating and live music on the weekends. Their beer list is so good that I often think I’m dreaming when I read over it. They have a consistently excellent selection of beers there. They also serve wine and small plates during their happy hour from 4:00 to 7:00 PM.

Flight Night at Secco Wine Bar

Right now you may be thinking this post is getting a little alcohol-heavy. And you would be right. It was vacation! I’m no saint! However I promise we will get to less alcohol-centric activities soon.

But first, allow me to introduce you to Flight Night at Secco Wine Bar. Every Monday, Secco features 3-glass flights of wine. I checked it out last week with some of the VAis4Bloggers crew. For $10 you could order Dealer’s Choice, which was a mixed bag of 3 random wines. For $11 you could get the Flight of the Week, which was Spanish Reds last week. That’s what I ordered and I was not disappointed. For $12 you could choose your own 3 wines off their extensive menu. They were pretty good sized pours and I had a great variety of wines to try. It was a wonderful way to start the week. Check it out!

Homemade Non-Dairy Milks at Para Coffee

After all that booze, shall we get a tad more wholesome? Nah, that’s impossible when you’re talking about nut milks. I had to title this section Non-Dairy Milks because Kyle chuckles every time I say “homemade nut milk.” But that’s what it is! Para Coffee in Charlottesville has started making their own nut milks from almonds, walnuts, pecans and pistachios, and they offer these non-dairy options in their lattes and other milk-based espresso drinks. I stopped in last week and had an iced pistachio milk latte and it was a real treat. I don’t even want to see the nutritional information, so please don’t tell me how much fat is in a cup of pistachio milk. I’m not interested. That said, I personally would not have one of these nut milk lattes every day, however this is something I will try again soon. It’s so different, you have to try it at least once.

Spice Diva

I have wanted to visit Spice Diva in Charlottesville for awhile and I finally got the opportunity last week. All the spices smell so good and they offer a wide variety of things that I hadn’t seen elsewhere. The blends are really unique too. I picked up an African style curry powder, applewood smoked sea salt, and a spice rub meant for meat that I want to try out in some vegetarian dishes soon. The owner couldn’t be more friendly, and I am excited to test out the exotic spices I picked up on my first trip there.

Hiking in Nelson County, VA

I already knew I loved hiking in this area, but recently I have found several more hikes that I want to try out. We have done Humpback Rocks (a few times), Crabtree Falls, and Spy Rock (as of last week). Next I want to do Cole Mountain and Mount Pleasant. I am addicted to the gorgeous mountain views that are your reward for making it to the top. What other hikes should I put on my list?

 

I have held back a few more food adventures and day trip activities that I plan to share in a separate post. My ten days off work were so packed with fun discoveries that it feels like my break was even longer than it was. We considered so many different vacation destinations before settling on staying close to home. I can’t believe I would have missed out on all the things our area has to offer, while in search of greener pastures, a plane or train ticket away from here.

Have you taken time lately to explore your own backyard?

What To Do With Fresh Cranberries

If you were lucky enough to have fresh cranberry sauce this Thanksgiving, you may have found yourself standing over a simmering pot of tart and sweet cranberries and sugar. When the aroma of orange zest, warm sugar and spicy cinnamon has faded, and you have polished off the last turkey (or tofurky) sandwich you will eat this November, you may discover some leftover fresh cranberries in the bottom of the refrigerator. What to do with those beautiful and mystifying fresh cranberries? I say drink them.

Loaded with antioxidants and bursting with fresh, tart flavor, cranberries are a delicious and festive addition to the table this time of year. They are also the perfect ingredient for livening up seasonal beverages. If you’re dragging a little after the feeding frenzy and shopping marathon that was last weekend, try mixing up a fresh cranberry drink to get you in the mood to deck the halls this month. I have included both Nice and Naughty options; which you choose depends on how you intend to celebrate the season.

If you’re still trying to make the Nice list. . .

Chocolate Covered Cranberry Smoothie (Makes about one 8 oz serving)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 ripe banana, sliced and frozen
  • 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup milk (non-dairy can be substituted)
  • 1 Tbsp agave nectar (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1-1/2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional: 1/2 of a 1 oz packet of protein powder (I used Spiru-tein vanilla; I bet chocolate would be awesome too)

Preparation:

  1. Put all  ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Serve with a fun straw!

While the smoothie would make an excellent on-the-go breakfast, I don’t recommend toting the next one with you to work or on errands, because it is most definitely alcoholic. However, the mixed drink would be a great signature cocktail at your next holiday party. It is basically a Dark ‘n Stormy with muddled cranberries, and I have maintained the nautical theme of the original drink in the naming of this new concoction. It is really quite tasty.

If you already know you’re on the Naughty list. . .

Red Sky at Night

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 fresh cranberries (choose dark ripe ones)
  • 2 oz dark rum
  • 6 oz ginger beer (I used Reed’s)
  • a few ice cubes
  • lime wedge

Preparation:

  1. Use a muddler or wooden spoon to muddle the cranberries in the bottom of a glass.
  2. Add rum and ice cubes to the glass, then pour ginger beer on top.
  3. Gently stir and garnish with a fresh lime wedge or skewered cranberries (or both!).

It was easy to use up my leftover cranberries with these recipes under my belt. And I think I just discovered two new reasons to keep a bag of fresh cranberries around throughout the holiday season. Now that that’s cleared up, I believe there’s only one question that is left unanswered. Maybe you can help me with it.

Naughty or Nice? Or a little bit of both?

24 Hours in San Francisco, CA

I decided to stay in San Francisco an additional 24 hours after the official end of the Foodbuzz Blogger Festival so I could engage in a little sightseeing and shenanigans with my non-blogging friend Jess. There are a lot of ways you could spend 24 hours in San Francisco; here is one of them. If you’re looking for an “experience it like a local” itinerary like my post about Asheville, NC, you will be disappointed. However if you want to get in a little sightseeing, a little wandering, and a great deal of mayhem, I suggest you go down this path with me.

We started our day at La Boulange Bakery in the Financial District. That thing in the photo that looks like a bowl of espresso soup? That’s a soy latte. A soy latte that was larger than my head. I would show you a photo of that latte in front of Jess’s face to prove it to you, but I’m afraid that I would consequently lose a friend. Jess looks like she hasn’t had her coffee yet in that photo and it’s a little scary. She would never forgive me for posting that on the internet. (Scroll down to the kimono picture to see another photo of us that I’ve posted against my better judgment)

We had egg sandwiches for breakfast, hers with bacon on a croissant and mine with avocado on multigrain bread. The fresh fruit on the side was delicious and the sandwiches kept us full for hours of walking around the city.

Which is why a purchase of macarons was completely unnecessary. But we did it anyway. How could you pass up a pumpkin spice macaron on a brisk and beautiful day? So we picked up two, a pumpkin spice and a coconut, and held on to them for later.

Full of coffee and breakfast, we set out on a long uphill walk towards Chinatown. I struggled a little on the hills because I was still in a walking cast for my foot/ankle injury. We just took it slow and snapped photos along the way.

Finally we made it to Chinatown and immersed ourselves in the sights, sounds and smells of the Northwest corner of the neighborhood. Here there was less English being spoken and fewer tourists. There were a lot of locals picking up their groceries and perusing row after row of dried seafood products and countless varieties of exotic herbs like ginseng.

We walked eastward to a more crowded section of the neighborhood and ducked in and out of small gift shops and peered in the windows of Chinese restaurants.

My favorite discovery was the Wok Shop, a small store crammed full of inexpensive kitchen tools and equipment, cookware and tableware. I picked up ten pairs of acrylic chopsticks for $4 and a few tea strainers and accessories. If I hadn’t been limited by the size of my suitcase, I probably would have left with much more.

 


We continued to walk North and back West towards North Beach, the neighborhood that Jess’s family is from. Several generations of her Italian American ancestors lived and worked in this vibrant neighborhood between Downtown and Fisherman’s Wharf. We were in search of another tourist attraction: clam chowder by the bay. However we were sidetracked by a fortuitous discovery.

Tucked into a corner of North Beach is a Rogue Nation Ale House! One of only two Rogue Meeting Halls outside of Oregon, the San Francisco Rogue bar is a hidden gem that we had not planned on finding. Needless to say, we enjoyed a liquid lunch. I sampled Dead Guy Ale, John-John Whiskey Barrel Dead Guy Ale, Brutal Bitter IPA, Double Chocolate Stout, Mocha Porter, and Morimoto Soba Ale. The vibe was very laid back and the selection was incredible. Onward we stumbled marched in search of real food.

We finally made it to Fisherman’s Wharf, where we were assaulted by seagulls, tripped up by tourists, and nearly knocked over by the smell of fresh seafood and sourdough bread.

At Boudin Bakery, I had a personal pizza on sourdough crust and Jess had clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. This place is crawling with people and birds and the food is mediocre but I recommend a visit anyway. The sights are so unique that, if you’re lucky enough to get to San Francisco, it’s just something you have to experience at least once.

From Fisherman’s Wharf we walked along the water towards the Presidio and took some photos of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we went up to Ghirardelli Square to check out Ghirardelli’s flagship chocolate shop. This is a great place to pick up souvenirs for friends back home. Jess and I picked up an 80-count bag of chocolate squares for our office. They lasted two days.

After all that walking, we decided to take a cab to our next adventure: 21st Amendment Brewery. I have been a fan of 21st Amendment since I first reviewed their watermelon wheat beer, Hell or High Watermelon. I have since become a fan of their Fireside Chat and Kyle enjoys their Brew Free or Die IPA. At the Foodbuzz Festival tasting pavilion, I tasted their brand new beer Allies Win the War. I wanted more. You may recall that the first time I had 21st Amendment’s beer, I drank it out of my Baltimore Ravens pint glass. So this was the natural choice for a bar to watch the Ravens beat the Steelers last Sunday night. It was a great bar and a beautiful experience.

And then it was time to celebrate.

At this point in our adventure, the details get a little fuzzy. Going out in San Francisco was weird. The bars close at strange times, the locals can’t seem to hold their liquor, and finding a decent place to have a drink and chat felt oddly like an episode of the Amazing Race. Or Survivor. We were in a foreign land, surrounded by strange intoxicated people (way too early for intoxication to be an acceptable physical state), in a race to get to the bars before they close. What resulted: closing three bars an hour apart each, and making friends with other out-of-towners who were equally perplexed by the social situation.

Here is my advice:

  1. Get ready in your brand new silk robes from Chinatown. You will feel pretty. Oh so pretty. Then change out of them into real clothes so as not to make it too weird.
  2. Create a gameplan and look up bar closing times before heading out.
  3. Do not follow the advice of the hotel concierge, who will send you to a strange dark bar with a live band playing Billy Joel’s greatest hits that is filled with men twice your age who want to watch you creepily.
  4. Head out early and pace yourself. Don’t be like a local.
  5. Find a group of people who are not native to San Francisco and are good at drinking without getting sloppy. A good place to find other people who can hang is kitschy touristy places like the Sir Francis Drake Hotel. (We found a group of Swedish pharmaceutical salesmen and executives that had not yet adjusted to the time difference. I think we should get extra points for that.)
  6. Make the most of the situation. If you are with awesome people, you will find a way to make a terrible bar situation an epic adventure.

I can’t recommend any good nightlife spots to you based on my lack of preparation on the subject. Maybe someone can point me in the right direction for next time. Although having wonderful bar and restaurant recommendations and a strict itinerary probably would not have been nearly as much fun as the 24 hours of spontaneous wandering that we experienced on this trip. Maybe the laid back west coast mentality rubbed off on us and led us on this adventure of randomness. I’m not really sure how it happened but I am glad it did.

If you would like a little more structure on your trip, maybe you could take some of my recommendations below. Here are all the places we hit in 24 hours (minus the margarita-driven ones that I’d rather not share with you).

La Boulange Bakery 222 Sutter Street, Financial District, Open Daily 7AM-7PM

The Wok Shop, 718 Grant Ave, Chinatown, Open Daily 10AM-6PM

Rogue Ales Public House, 673 Union Street, North Beach, Open Sun-Thurs 12PM-12AM, Fri-Sat 12PM-2AM

Boudin Bakery, 160 Jefferson Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Open Sun-Thurs 8AM-9:30PM, Fri-Sat 8AM-10PM

Ghirardelli Square, 900 North Point Street, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chocolate shop open Sun-Thurs 9AM-11PM, Fri-Sat 9AM-12AM

21st Amendment Brewpub, 563 2nd Street, SOMA, Open Mon-Thurs 11:30AM-12:00AM, Fri-Sat 11:30AM-1:00AM, Sun 10:00AM-12:00AM

When Life Hands You Lemons. . .

 

When life hands you lemons, buy yourself a bottle of blueberry vodka and make this lemonade.

I celebrated a birthday last week with a few of my closest friends. We had planned a Potluck Picnic in White, one week before my actual 25th birthday. I think a 25th birthday is a pretty big deal and I was looking forward to having a huge party. But then I ended up making work-related plans on my real birthday (don’t worry, they are really cool plans, even though I’ll be working) and the big bash was out. Summer birthday bummer.

So I opted for an intimate gathering in a local park, with guests dressed in white so we could find each other, family style shared dishes and refreshing libations, punctuated by cool music and fun backyard games. I drew inspiration from Paris’s Diner en Blanc and invited my closest Richmond friends. And then this happened.

And then it climbed. . . and climbed. . . and climbed.

On Friday night, with a Saturday evening forecast of 100 degrees F and a heat index of 116, I reconsidered the picnic idea. The weather channel warned of excessive heat and scattered thunderstorms, and I decided to move the picnic indoors. Lucky me, my guests showed up just as excited as ever.

We made lemonade. In personalized cups, with a few fresh blueberries splashed right in.

Some friends brought salads, and others brought desserts.

Instead of croquet, we played jenga. Like croquet, it gets increasingly difficult after a few blueberry vodka lemonades.

I served fresh white cupcakes. . . with decorations!

As usual, my co-host was a constant source of entertainment.

For the record, he had no more than a sip of this lemonade.

Blueberry Vodka Lemonade

Ingredients – one serving:

  • 2 ounces blueberry flavored vodka
  • 6 ounces fresh lemonade (not from concentrate!)
  • 4-5 fresh blueberries, washed and stems removed
  • 1/2 cup crushed ice

Ingredients – one pitcher (8 servings):

  • 2 cups blueberry flavored vodka
  • 6 cups fresh lemonade
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries, washed and stems removed
  • 4 cups crushed ice

Preparation:

  1. Combine all ingredients (in a glass or pitcher).
  2. Add more lemonade and/or vodka to taste.
  3. Stir and enjoy!

Thank you to all my friends who made this birthday event extra special!

Happy Hour: Avery Brewing Company White Rascal

Remember this guy? You might recognize him from the Summer Solstice post. I think I can officially declare this my summer beer for 2011. I have been obsessed with this little gem ever since I first tried it back in May or June of this year.

It comes in a six pack of cans and it is super refreshing from the first “crack-pop-fizz” when you open the can to the last sip of spicy citrusy goodness. I poured into a glass once, but usually I drink it straight from the can (I’m one classy broad). It pours a pale yellow with a thin white head and there is a bit of white lacing on the glass when you finish, as long as you don’t gulp it down too fast. The mouthfeel is light and slightly bubbly, and it tastes just how it smells. You get a lot of orange peel, clove and coriander. If you like Hoegarden or Allagash wit, I think you should give it a try.

This white ale is a good interpretation of the style and a great one to have on hand for all your summer activities. I personally have found that this beer goes well with light meals on the porch, lounging at the river or beach, and post-hike summer picnics. It is so light and refreshing that I once brought some over to a friend’s house on a humid 90-degree night and unknowingly consumed five in the time that I thought I had had three. And that, my friends, is what I like to call instant personality. A term previously used only to describe strong coffee, the definition has now been adapted to include deliciously drinkable beers. Mainly because they too can turn me into the life of the party in less than 30 minutes.

Rascal indeed.

Cheers!

Vegetarian Beer Dinner for Two

Want to do something special for the vegetarian in your life? Does the vegetarian in your life love beer? Make him (or her) this meal!

We have all seen the beer dinners advertised at local bars and restaurants before. They promise a tasting menu of delicious dishes perfectly paired with a variety of beers. Unfortunately for vegetarians, most beer dinner menus include at least one meat course for which there are no meatless substitutions. For this reason, Kyle and I have never forked over the cash to attend a beer dinner. That changed on the 4th of July, 2011.

That’s right, I celebrated Independence Day by taking matters into my own hands. I planned and executed a three course vegetarian dinner complete with beer pairings. I used as many fresh, local and seasonal ingredients as possible. Sounds fancy, but it was relatively easy to pull off, and I could see you scaling this menu to serve 2, 4, or even 20. Although I hope you’re working with a larger kitchen and dining area than I am if you plan to serve 20.

First Course

Tomato Cucumber Gazpacho

Organic Ur Pils from Brauerei Pinkus Mueller, Germany

This unfiltered German pilsner is a pale straw-like yellow, which appears clear at first but the haziness comes out when you hold it up to the light. When you taste it, then it is definitely apparent that the beer is unfiltered, yet pleasantly effervescent. The taste is still crisp and light, with tart citrus notes and a slight breadiness from the yeast. This pairing was great, but it would have been outstanding if I had made some crostini for the soup. I suggest that you serve this with toast points or topped with croutons.

Soup recipe from Epicurious Tomato Cucumber Gazpacho (omit anchovy paste, substitute yellow onions for red)

Beer from Ellwood Thompson’s Natural Market. See other reviews for Organic Ur Pils here.

Second Course

Roasted poblano and spicy black bean tacos with chipotle sauce and cilantro lime sour cream

Wilco Tango Foxtrot from Lagunitas Brewing Company, CA, US

This pours a rich dark brown, and smells super malty and sweet, with a little pineyness in the background. Other reviewers have said the opposite, but I say caramel all the way. You can taste the caramel malts on the first sip and I thought it had a bit of a smoky character too. The slightly burnt sugar taste eventually gives way to a little hoppiness, although nothing overwhelming. Lagunitas calls this an American Strong Ale, and also a “Malty, Robust, Jobless Recovery Ale.” I thought this felt like a brown ale on steroids, which is why I was delighted to see a footnote on beer advocate describing this as an “Imperial Brown Ale.” The dark, smoky sweetness played well with the smoky spice and the fire-roasted poblanos in the tacos. I wonder if I picked up more smoke in the beer because of the food pairing, which wasn’t at all a bad thing. My only concern for you is whether you can still find this beer. It is a limited edition and I’ve been hanging on to mine for a few months. If you can get your hands on the Lagunitas WTF, pair it with these tacos and you won’t be disappointed.

Taco recipe original, coming soon!

Beer from Wine World in Bel Air, MD. See other reviews for Wilco Tango Foxtrot here.

Third Course

Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Bourbon Barrel Stout from Bluegrass Brewing Company, KY, US

So this beer tastes a little bit like bourbon, due to the fact that it is aged in bourbon barrels. It is dark in color, sweet, and smells and tastes like bourbon and vanilla. I personally really enjoy this beer, but enough about that. Because while the pairing was amazingly wonderful, the real highlight was this bourbon peach cobbler! I have been dreaming about this dessert. Made with juicy peaches fresh from the market, t is syrupy sweet with just a hint of bourbon, and the soft, buttery crumb of the dough topping is divine. It is especially good with the slight biscuitiness of the beer. I can’t believe I ever considered pairing this with Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche; the pairing of bourbon peach cobbler with bourbon barrel stout is almost perfect.

It’s like Georgia and Kentucky had a love child and it was conceived in my mouth.

. . . too much?

Dessert Recipe from Food Network’s Tyler Florence’s Bourbon Peach Cobbler

Beer from the Krog’s. Read more reviews of BBC Bourbon Barrel Stout here.

What Next?

The sky is the limit, my friends. A 5-course beer dinner? A 7-course wine dinner? A beer and cheese party for 12 of my closest friends? Who knows. Perhaps a throwdown. I challenge any Richmond chef to make a better seasonal vegetarian beer dinner (and please send me a free ticket or two when you do!). The thing is, I haven’t found anything quite like this yet in Richmond and I would love to see more of it. Until then, I’ll be whipping up my own versions to satisfy the cravings. And the beauty of that solution is that if I can do it, you can too!

Happy Hour: Freezer Full of Mint

I mentioned in another post that I recently acquired one pound of mint- that’s a lot of mint! I was forced to come up with lots of different ways to use it. I chopped it and served it on salads and sandwiches. I hosted a mojito party at my apartment. I tried to come up with a vegetarian substitute for lamb, and failed.

Then I made some ice cubes!

I started by measuring roughly one cup of mint leaves and dumping them into my mortar (or is it my pestle?)

I decided to grind them in the mortar and pestle to release more of their flavor. Unfortunately, they do turn a brownish green color so the ice cubes are more flavorful but not as pretty as they would be with pure un-smooshed mint leaves. If you want pretty, playful, bright green mint leaves suspended in your ice cubes, skip the mortar and pestle step.

I did not grind them entirely. I just mashed them up to release the mint essence. Then I divided the mint among 2 ice cube trays (28 cells total). To one tray I added a few frozen pomegranate arils per cell. Just for fun.

Then I filled them with water and froze them for 4-6 hours.

These ice cubes are great in sparkling water with lime.

I am looking forward to using them in iced tea and lemonade too!

But I still had a bit of mint leftover, and I had this other problem on my hands.

Yes, smashed raspberries. They’re so pretty but so. . . ugly. What to do?

You guessed it. . . Cocktails!

These slushy raspberry mint daiquiris have an intensely delicious flavor and they cool you down so quick, you have to give them a try this summer. Added bonus – serving of fruit!

Raspberry Mint Daiquiri (serves two)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 4 oz light rum (go for 3 oz if you’re trying to be good)
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp cane sugar (or equivalent sweetener of your choice)
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup club soda

Preparation:

  1. Combine first six ingredients in a blender and blend until all of the ice chunks are gone. If you have a great blender (I don’t), blend until smooth.
  2. Add club soda to blender and pulse a few times until combined. This will fizz up the drinks.
  3. Note: if the raspberry seeds bother you, puree the raspberries separately first and then strain through a fine mesh strainer. Or let them sink to the bottom of your glass and move your straw off the bottom, like I did.

Enjoy!

Don’t worry – I’m not drinking alone. . .

That’s better!

Stay cool, my friends.

Spa Salad

This weekend I got together with some ladies for a DIY-at-home spa night and it was so relaxing and fun! I was asked to bring an appetizer and I knew I wanted to do something fresh and light to fit the theme. The salad I created tasted citrusy and peppery, like the feeling you have after an invigorating facial, and it was filled with superfoods that were good for our bodies. And it was green like our mud masks!

credit: Susan and Carissa Schmidt

If you’re like me and have a freezer full of pomegranate seeds, or if you just want a light and zesty accompaniment to your meal, try this super easy salad!

Spa Salad

Credit: Carissa Schmidt

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of salad greens (I used Victory Farms salad mix)
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 limes
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Fill a large bowl with salad greens.
  2. Slice the avocados and spritz with the juice of 1/2 of a lime to preserve color.
  3. Squeeze the rest of the lime juice into the salad bowl and add olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste.
  4. Add the avocado slices and pomegranate seeds to the bowl.
  5. Toss and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

I beg your pardon, what did you say? Did you say you needed an extra special spa cocktail to wash down your salad? Well I’m glad you asked because I happen to have something that pairs well with the salad and would be perfect for the occasion. Bonus Recipe!

Vegology Citrus Splash

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz light rum
  • 4 oz 100% grapefruit juice
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp agave nectar (more or less to taste)

Preparation:

To serve one, combine all ingredients and pour into a tall glass over crushed ice. To serve a small crowd, multiply all quantities by four or six and combine in a glass pitcher.

Cheers!

Bike to Brunch

Sunday was beautiful. Not only did the Packers prevent the Steelers from winning th Superbowl (boooo Steelers!), but the weather was gorgeous and I got to spend some time with great friends. I was invited to brunch at Bellytimber Tavern this weekend, a spot that was expertly chosen specifically for its bloody mary bar. That’s right, you get to make your own bloody mary. How could this turn out to be anything short of wonderful?

According to the NBC12 weather site, it was roughly 48 degrees when I was heading to brunch. I swear it was warmer than that, because when I stepped outside with my coffee late on Sunday morning, it seemed like the perfect day for a bike ride to brunch. The sun was shining, and while there was a little chill in the air, I felt like the groundhog had gotten it right this year and Spring was right around the corner. However skeptical, I guess I have to trust NBC 12 on this one. They usually tell it like it is. Regardless of the actual outside temperature, 48 degrees felt like 65 degrees to me on Sunday and I was pumped to hop on my bike.

Yes, I store it on the balcony

I felt like throwing on my cropped cycling pants and a hoodie but I also kind of wanted to kick it up a notch. Among the brunch guests was my fabulously talented friend Carissa, who just started up her fashion blog again. If you’re like me and your Google Reader is full of blogs about food, fitness, and fashion, check her out. What I love about Carissa’s approach to fashion it this: while she puts thought into every piece she puts on, she doesn’t take herself too seriously. This shows in Carissa’s writing, which is playful, approachable, and fun. As you would expect from a talented graphic designer like her, Carissa has an eye for the details, which always makes for an interesting read.

I feel a tribute post coming on. . . . ! Carissa inspired me to think twice about what to wear before I headed out the door so here is a post about what I wore, head to toe, in honor of Carissa’s fresh start. Keep scrolling past What I Wore to see What I Ate.

I wanted to wear cycling pants but figured that leggings would fit the bill perfectly. I topped the leggings with a lightweight cotton shirt dress with a belt around my upper waist. I chose a blue dress to match my bike. Then I added a scarf for a pop of color and to keep me warm.

Do I look like I have any idea what I'm doing?

My leisurely biking shoes of choice were these flats from Target. Do you love the detail on the leggings that I picked up on a recent trip to Uniqlo in NYC/SoHo?

This was my biking bag of choice, a Vera Bradley number from a few years ago, that perfectly slings across my chest and stays put like a backpack for fuss-free cargo.

I braided my hair, which is a great biking fashion trick that I learned from Kath.

And to top it all off, a Columbia lightweight jacket and my helmet, as always.

Safety First!

Make fun all you want, but while attending a university with a large population of commuter cyclists, I have seen way too many bikers get hit by cars. I am protecting my noggin, just in case.

I hope Carissa approves of my sartorial choices. My fashion tends to be more practical than whimsical but there’s nothing wrong with that, right?

And now for the main event. . . brunch!

I ordered the Messy Jane, which is a TVP sandwich topped with cole slaw and served on a homemade vegan bun. It is Bellytimber’s meatless version of the classic sloppy joe sandwich, and it is oh so delicious.

It definitely warmed me up after my brisk bike ride. And to wash down a lovely Sunday afternoon? Easy, breezy, beautiful.

Bloody Mary.

Cheers and good luck to Carissa for getting back on the horse. And yippee for me for hopping back on the bike. It will be Spring before you know it!