Fall 2014 Vegetarian Beer Dinner

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It’s that time again! Sixteen foodies and beer lovers gathered last weekend at our house for the fifth potluck Vegetarian Beer Dinner. I know I say this every time, but I think this was the best one yet!

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This was our first October beer dinner and there was a great summer-into-fall theme. October is my favorite month, so naturally I feel that there is a lot to about this season to celebrate. Kyle and I were married two Octobers ago and while I was setting up chalkboard signs and table linens last weekend, I definitely felt like I was preparing our wedding venue all over again. The weather was beautiful and the leaves on the trees in our neighborhood were just starting to turn colors. We were so lucky with the weather that with a few patio heaters, we were able to host the dinner outside in our backyard.

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We tried out a new game this time to greet guests while they arrived. We wrapped three bottles of brown ale in Halloween themed craft tape to cover the labels. Each guest had three numbers to correspond with the numbered bottles, and there were three jars with the names of the beers we were blind tasting: Legend Brown Ale, Smuttynose Old Brown Dog Ale, and Rogue Hazelnut Brown Ale. Taking turns, we tasted all three beers and then tried to guess which beer was in each bottle. Guests voted by placing their numbers in the jars that they thought matched their beers. We didn’t track individual answers so there were no winners or losers, but by counting the numbers in each jar we could tell that most of the crowd correctly guessed the Rogue ale, and most of the crowd mixed up the Legend and Smuttynose beers.

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We provided eight ounce jars for tasting throughout the dinner and I wrote each guest’s name on a chalk label on each jar. The graduated ounce marks on the glassware helped for measuring tasting portions for those of us who were trying to stay relatively sober through the whole dinner!

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Guests were paired up and each group explained their food and beer pairing. All dishes were vegetarian and beers were seasonal. We had several vegan and gluten-free dishes so that there was a little something for everyone. The more competitive groups campaigned for their dishes to be voted the best dish of the night during after-dinner discussion. I couldn’t choose a favorite. They were all so different and delicious.

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The lineup is as follows, and I will link up to recipes as I get them.

Vegan Meatballs in a Sweet and Spicy Mole Sauce, with Xocoveza Mocha Stout, paired by Lauren and Kyle

Tomato & Mozzarella Caprese Skewers, with Bison Honey Basil Ale, paired by Carissa, Mike and Jess

Watermelon Radishes with Burrata, with Anderson Valley The Kimmie, The Yink & The Holy Gose, paired by Paul and Leah

Channa Masala, with Hardywood RVA IPA, paired by Liz (I Heart Vegetables) and Alex

Vegetarian Pigs in a Blanket with Gourmet Mustard, paired with Lost Rhino Rhino Chasers Pilsner, paired by Lindsay (Neat As You Please) and AJ

Roasted Corn Salad from Terry Walters’ Clean Start, paired with Sierra Nevada Flipside Red IPA, paired by Adrienne (Sit Pretty Design) and Al

Apple Crisp (recipe coming soon to the EBF Blog), paired with Lickinghole Creek Brewery Virginia Black Bear Russian Imperial Stout, paired by Brittany (Eating Bird Food) and Isaac

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I can’t choose a favorite pairing for this one because everyone brought their A game and it was a truly wonderful dinner. Much thanks to Alyssa, Morgan and Isaac for bringing additional beers to share. Thanks to Jess for helping me set up the dreamy fall patio décor. And thank you, of course, to Kyle, who consistently puts up with my bite-off-more-than-I-can-chew syndrome when it comes to entertaining. But who else would bring you a seven course vegetarian beer dinner, outdoors, at the end of October, but the type of person who bites off more than she can chew?

If seven courses weren’t enough, there were s’mores waiting at the fire pit after dinner. Which brings me to one more thank you – thanks Al for sharing your amazing fire-building skills with us once again!

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Thanks to a combination of designated drivers, self control, and Uber ridesharing service (for those who lacked both), everyone got home safely, full, and happy.

Did you miss the recaps of the first four vegetarian beer dinners? Check them out here:

Vegetarian Beer Dinner I – August 2012

Vegetarian Beer Dinner II – December 2012

Vegetarian Beer Dinner III – April 2013

Vegetarian Beer Dinner IV – September 2013

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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!

Just the Highlights

Hello there! I just had to pop in to celebrate the return of my internet connection. Once again, our Verizon modem has failed and we were without service for 5 days. Lucky for us, when we reported the problem, our friendly Verizon customer service representative packaged up a new modem and swiftly put it in the mail. Verizon must be using bike messengers for their preferred method of outbound shipping because I can’t figure out how else that modem could have taken a full 5 days to get to us. I guess Hi-Speed is sometimes too much to ask.

Anyway, rant over. Let’s talk about food! I’ll just go through the highlight reel of the last week, starting with a lovely linen rental display that reminds me of the famous shirts scene in the Great Gatsby.

Kyle and I joined my parents and sister for a tasting with our wedding caterer this weekend. Beggars Banquet did a great job planning our menu and incorporating all of our suggestions to execute our vision for a local, seasonal meal that offered something for everyone. Here is a sneak peek of a few of the things that we might serve.

You will have to wait until next Fall for the details!

Another exciting smorgasbord that I participated in this week was our healthy potluck lunch at work. Several people from my team each brought in a healthy dish to share and then we swapped the recipes. There was a good variety of food there, from snacks to sides to a healthy dessert. Two out of the five participants are vegetarian, yet my whole team brought vegetarian dishes that we could all enjoy. I love that my company encourages us to plan activities like this. It really makes a difference when your employer and coworkers support your healthy habits.

I decided to bring two off-the-wall contributions that I knew no one else would come up with. My coworkers are very creative and many of them enjoy cooking, but I figured kale chips would be new to them. Most of the people I shared them with had never had them before, and they got mixed reviews (as expected). You have to love kale to enjoy a kale chip. And I do! I also brought a curried cauliflower salad, inspired by the crackling cauliflower found on the Whole Foods salad bar .

In addition to my two dishes, we had Mexican bean salad, carrots and hummus, cheese and crackers, pimento stuffed olives, wheatberry salad, and a reduced-fat, reduced-sugar fresh berry pie. Everything was delicious!

Despite the deep freeze we have experienced over the last two days, it is about to warm up again in central Virginia, just in time for a new spring recipe I have been working on. Cross your fingers that my internet connection will remain strong, and I will post a recipe that highlights tasty spring vegetables in anticipation of warmer weather.

What are you most looking forward to this Spring? Any highlights on the horizon?

 

Everyday Holiday

In my family, we have no powerhouse chef who insists on cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner complete with an array of appetizers, a monster turkey, savory sides, and delectably sweet desserts. For as long as I can remember, everyone who attended Thanksgiving dinner contributed a dish. We have always gathered with family and divided the responsibility of putting together a celebratory feast.

There are some old standbys that are present at every holiday meal. One is my mother’s legendary pineapple pudding.

Some recipes are too sacred to publish. I have a copy but you won’t get it out of me! We also tried something new this year as 3 out of 4 members of my immediate family are vegetarians. Our first Tofurky roast!

I wanted to contribute a vegetable this year so I brought butternut squash with spinach and feta. It was so hearty and tasty!

I love having everyone bring treats from their kitchen and come together to enjoy a collaborative meal. It is one of the things that makes the holidays so special for me. And it is one of the things from the holiday season that we can continue to do all year. Why not host a potluck for no occasion at all?

If the Thanksgiving holiday has inspired you to get together with friends and family more often, here is an easy and impressive dish that you can share at your next potluck dinner. I have adapted the recipe from one I found last year at Whole Foods.

Butternut Squash with Spinach and Feta

Ingredients

1/4 cup feta cheese
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 (6-ounce) package baby spinach
4 cups cubed and roasted butternut squash

Preparation

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook, tossing often, until slightly wilted and warm, 1 to 2 minutes more. Add balsamic vinegar to the pan and cook for another minute or so. Transfer contents of skillet to bowl, add squash, crumbled feta, salt and pepper and toss to combine. Optional: sprinkle walnut pieces over the top of the dish before serving.