Vegetarian Beer Dinner III

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful comments and words of encouragement on my last post. This beer dinner recap is a few weeks late, but I cut myself some slack, since the week after the beer dinner I focused solely on preparing for my first half marathon, and I have been recovering ever since! Thank you for your patience!

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It’s that time of year again. . .

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Seasonal vegetarian beer dinner time!

A few weeks ago, I hosted a potluck vegetarian beer dinner to celebrate the flavors of late winter and early spring. Some good friends showed up with vegetarian dishes paired with seasonal beers, and we all enjoyed tasting a diverse array of delicious combinations. You might recall that this is the third dinner of its kind that we have hosted en la casa de Vegology.

Check out my recaps of past beer dinners here:

Vegetarian Beer Dinner I – Summer 2012

Vegetarian Beer Dinner II – Winter 2012

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As usual, we had notebooks for taking notes on our favorite pairings, as well as the ever-present “Beer: it’s not just for dinner” cocktail napkins. Of course there were plastic tasting glasses, because my only dishwasher is named Kyle, and I love him enough to keep him from washing fourteen glasses by hand when we already have fourteen plates and fourteen forks to take care of!

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I offered oyster crackers as a palate cleanser this time around, and they were a real hit. Someone enthusiastically commented “I only go wine tasting for the oyster crackers!” I have to say that I agree that these little crackers are one of the highlights of wine tasting in Virginia. Smile

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Our dining room was jam packed with chairs and people. I don’t know if I could have fit any more seats in there! Not only was the dining room full, but we also packed the refrigerator and a cooler full of a wide variety of craft beers. Here is the lineup: Potter’s Craft Cider, Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Brewer’s Art Debutante, Bell’s Oarsman Ale, Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils, and The Duck Rabbit Brown Ale.

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Course 1 – Sarah (The Smart Kitchen), Liz (I Heart Vegetables) and Lindsay (Neat As You Please)

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Sarah, Liz and Lindsay put together an awesome appetizer of Apple Fennel Salad Skewers with Creamy Ginger Apple Honey Mustard Dressing (recipe). They paired this with Potter’s Craft Cider, and the complementary apple flavors were a great fresh start to the meal. Sarah won the prize for best pairing story, explaining why she wanted to use Potter’s cider (a cute guy in the tasting room had something to do with it) and how she came up with her dish (why not put salad on a stick?).

Course 2 – Adrienne (Hippie Itch) and Al

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I was super impressed by Adrienne’s made-from-scratch samosas (recipe from Skinny Bitch), that were totally vegan and bursting with flavor. Just like their pairing, the Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye, these perfectly portioned appetizers packed a serious punch, but with enough restraint that they didn’t knock you completely over, so you could really enjoy the complex flavors inside. If I can muster the patience to make this dough from scratch, I would like to try making this one at home sometime.

Course 3 – Lauren and Kyle (Vegology)

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For the entrée course, I made Spiced Red Lentil Chickpea Cakes. We all joked that Adrienne and I must have been on the same wavelength with the Indian flavors! You can follow the link above to get the recipe and to read about how I came up with my pairing. Kyle and I tasted a lot of beers before we chose this one, and we ultimately decided to serve Debutante, a saison which is a collaboration beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Brewer’s Art, both from my hometown of Baltimore.

Because it was dark by the time we got to my course and I couldn’t get a great picture during the dinner, I can’t resist posting this glamour shot of the dish here:

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Course 4 – Paul and Leah

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Our friends Paul and Leah brought over a pairing that, no matter how fast you paddled or how hard you tried, you couldn’t get away from. Beets! After having this tasty Golden and Crimson Beet Salad with Oranges, Fennel and Feta (recipe), we noticed that little traces of bright pink kept showing up in subsequent courses. Check out the next two photos on this post to see what I mean – we got the beet! The beer paired with this course was Bell’s Oarsman Ale. I always thought this beer tasted a little sour (in a good way) and after reading the Bell’s description, I realize there is a better way to describe the flavor – citrusy tartness – which paired very well with the citrusy beet salad. This was one of the few dishes that I went back for seconds on, so I know it will make another appearance in my kitchen soon.

Course 5 – Bob and Ashley

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Our friends Bob and Ashley hit a home run with their comfort food pairing, which included a creamy polenta cooked with beer and Asiago cheese, with Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils to wash it down. I begged to keep the leftovers and Bob and Ashley were too nice to say no, so I was treated to a second serving of this delicious polenta the next day (okay, the next morning. no judge!) Bob is a skilled home brewer that taught Kyle a lot of what he knows about brewing beer. Bob and Kyle’s latest home brew creations came out a little bit later, which is always a fun add-on to the tasting dinner.

Course 6 – Shannon (Thirsty Richmond) and Evan

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Shannon, the Queen of the Beer Cakes, did it again with another fantastic beer baked dessert. Even though Shannon’s oven failed to turn on the day of the dinner, Shannon found a way to get us a creative dessert. If I had found myself in the same situation, I might have just given up and picked up a pack of cookies on the way over, but Shannon persisted. Spontaneously turning her vegan cupcake recipe (similar here) into a vegan brownie recipe, she fired up the toaster oven and pulled off a brownie bar that was so good that I didn’t even miss the cupcakes (and let me tell you, her cupcakes are out of this world). She used Duck Rabbit Brown Ale in the batter and as the pairing beer.

Not 100% confident that the brownies would turn out well, Shannon also picked up a pack of Oreos (vegan!) on the way over just in case. We cleaned our plates and made a dent in the Oreos. And then there were all those leftover “extra” beers that mysteriously disappeared, one by one, as the night went on. Go team beer dinner!

Thanks to all who participated. We had a blast and I’m already dreaming up plans for the next one this summer!

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Vegetarian Beer Dinner II – Winter 2012

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It’s that time again. . . time for taper stuffed beer bottles. Time for miniature tasting notebooks. Time for the mad dash to get everything cleaned, cooked, and ready before company arrives. That’s right, it’s time for a potluck vegetarian beer dinner!

After a successful vegetarian beer dinner last August, I vowed to have a seasonal one again in the Fall. Between the wedding and honeymoon, my gig at the farmers’ market, and whatever else came up, I never got our pumpkin beer dinner together. So in late November I started planning a winter seasonal dinner instead. Just like last time, guests brought a vegetarian dish to share and a beer pairing. Fall and winter seasonal beers were encouraged, and once again our guests rose to the challenge. We had a wonderful dinner with great company and tried a lot of beers that we had never had before.

The great lament of food bloggers this time of year is “where has the light gone?!” It is extremely difficult to get good food photos without natural light, and therefore nearly impossible to get pictures of your dinner this time of year. So I apologize for the dark, fuzzy photos of our dinner party. I promise it’s the lack of light, not the abundance of alcohol, that blurred my photos! Hopefully they give you a good idea of what went down, and if not, I guess you had to be there. I have included descriptions of all our dishes, and I will add links to recipes as I get them.

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We started with a red quinoa, sweet potato, and kale dish made by Brittany of btypes. She brought two big, seasonal beers to share. The one we tried first with the quinoa dish was Delirium Noel. With a hint of apple cider flavor, the Delirium Noel was more reminiscent of fall than winter, which worked very well with fall flavors in Brittany’s delicious dish. It was a great start to our meal!

By the way. . . Please note hiding in the photos above, my bakers twine wrapped beer bottle candle holders, which I “crafted” myself. I am super proud of these because they fit the theme and took a really long time to wrap with twine, so I have to give them a shout out (and me a pat on the back for patience).

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We had two dishes paired with Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, because Adrienne and Al and Kyle and I all decided to use it for our pairing. I guess great minds think drink alike!

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Al and Adrienne from hippie itch made sautéed brussels sprouts with pecans. Based on what Adrienne told me about the recipe, I think it is this one from Cooking Light: Brussels Sprouts with Pecans. I believe she said she substituted water or white wine for the chicken broth. I will update when I find out for sure.

These brussels sprouts were sweet, buttery, and the perfect texture: not too crunchy, not too soft. I have to be honest and say that their dish was a better pairing for the Celebration Ale than mine! They did their research and came up with something that worked really well together. I highly recommend that you try it!

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About this time, we cracked open the Schmaltz Brewing Company He’Brew Jewbelation Sweet 16 16th Anniversary Ale. At 16 percent alcohol by volume, this beer is not messing around. We poured a few ounces for each guest to taste, and then enjoyed watching our friends around the table make faces after the first sip. If you are looking for a beer that is super sweet, very rich and will get you drunk quick, this is the one for you!

(Yes, I am still talking about beer, not men)

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For the main course, I made barbecue jackfruit sliders with vegan cole slaw. I was happy to see that our guests agreed that it looked a lot like pulled pork barbecue. I think that if I hadn’t told them what I had cooked, I might have fooled them into thinking the dinner had taken a carnivorous turn when I brought out the tray of sliders. I think that the subtle spice and pronounced hoppiness of the Celebration Ale complemented the smoky, sweet and spicy barbecue flavor very well. However, in my opinion the pairing couldn’t touch the brussels sprouts one!

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To end it all on a sweet note, Shannon from Thirsty Richmond brought her famous beer cupcakes! Shannon got into baking cupcakes with beer earlier this year and has tried dozens of combinations over the last few months. This was only the second time I had tried her cupcakes, and I was impressed once again. This cupcake was made with Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Perkulator Coffee Dopplebock and topped with a Bailey’s Irish Cream infused cream cheese frosting and a chocolate covered espresso bean. The coffee dopplebock tasted just like an iced coffee drink; it was really unbelievable. I love coffee flavored beers and I have noticed that most of them are very heavy. I liked how this one was pretty light and refreshing. It paired perfectly with the cupcake and was a great ending to a fun night!

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Also on the table and circulating before dinner were New Belgium Snow Day and 21st Amendment Fireside Chat (one of my favorites). We did not pair those with food but enjoyed them nonetheless. So, another successful beer dinner wrapped up. . . do we have to wait until spring for the next one?

Party Rock Drink Recipe Roundup

I’m checking out for the weekend. . . for my bachelorette party!

photo credit: Carissa Schmidt

I thought I’d leave you with some of my favorite drink recipes below. On a related note, I would love to hear your favorite drink recipes (and hangover cures) in the comments. . .

Have a fun weekend!

Blueberry Vodka Lemonade

Raspberry Mint Daiquiri

Red Sky at Night

Spa Day Citrus Splash

Pomegranate Mojito

 

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