Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Black Friday 2009 Teaser

Team Chen, going over the strategy

I had been debating for a few days on whether or not I should post my Black Friday Shopping strategies, and I have still haven't decided.  My sister and I are not only seasoned festival junkies, but we're also Black Friday Football veterans.  With me as the quarter back, and her as the blocker, we can be in and out of a store in less than 7 minutes with everything we need.  Almost all of our shopping is done by 7 am, except for the clothing deals.  We've kept our strategies a secret within family and friends, and we're just not ready to spill the beans yet. 

What I did decide was to post a teaser with other general Black Friday Shopping tips.  My tips are geared more towards people actually securing the in-store deals rather than online and yes, that does mean waking up or staying up until the crack of dawn.  Forget the Black Friday Secrets that retailers don't want you to know.  My sister and I beat those dirty tricks.  Enjoy, and don't forget to wear a helmet.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sweet Potato Fries paired with 512 Brewing One

I'm a sweet potato fry addict.  While deep fried fries probably aren't the best for my waistline, this baked version is keeps those calories in check without missing out on the flavor.  I paired these with (512) Brewing's One. The one is a Belgian-style strong ale that is amber in color, with a light to medium body. Subtle malt sweetness is balanced with noticeable hop flavor, light raisin and mildly spicy, cake-like flavors, and is finished with local wildflower honey aromas. Made with 80% Organic Malted Barley, Belgian Specialty grains, Forbidden Fruit yeast, domestic hops and Good Flow local wildflower honey, this beer is deceptively high in alcohol.   The sweetness from the honey complements the sweetness of the fries, and the spices in both beer and fries are nicely balanced.  The beer is bold enough for the fries yet not over powering.  Perfect. 
Misohungry's Baked Sweet Potato fries:
I'd say that this recipe makes 8-10 servings, but that isn't really true.  I could eat them all in a single serving.  This recipe makes a single MisoHungry sized serving. 

3-4 lbs sweet potatoes, washed, and cut into fries.  Thick fries are okay. 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder (for that link of smoke)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy, less if you're a wimp)
1/3 cup olive oil

large cooking pans (line with foil for easier clean up)
microwave safe plate
large stainless steel bowl
Cutting board and knife (for cutting fries)
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Microwave the raw fries for about 4-5 minutes.  They should be partially cooked, and you will most like have to do this in batches.  I microwave my fries first because sweet potatoes take incredibly long to cook.  If you are opposed to microwaving fries, I have alternative instructions below.  Once all the fries are partially cooked, put them into the large stainless steel bowl along with the spices and salt.  Toss around with your hands, tongs, or by flipping the bowl upwards like you would flip pancakes without using a spatula.  Once completely coated with spices, add the olive oil and toss again.  Once coated with olive oil and spices, place fries on a cooking pan in a single layer.  Bake at 425 degrees for approximately 25 minutes.  The outside should be slightly browned and crispy.  The inside of the fries should be soft and cooked thoroughly.  Remove from oven and serve immediately. 
Non-Microwave version - Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Once raw fries have been tossed with spices, salt, and olive oil, place fries on a cooking pan and bake.  Bake at this temperature for about 30-35 minutes.  Then increase the temperature to 425 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes.  
Tips: If I'm feeling really pressed for time, I sometimes pan fry these lightly.  Older fries can also be brought back to life with five minutes in a 350 degree oven. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

Big Reds and Bubbles means Big Fun and a Big Belly

The Wine and Food Foundation knows how to throw a party.  Big Reds and Bubbles Holiday Party was another one of those spectacular parties.  Tasty eats and bubbles lined the halls of the Driskill Hotel Downtown.  Along with the delicious offerings, there were incredible items being auctioned off such as a weekend stay at the AT&T Center, wine tours, and other things I should bid on.  Let's take a tour of some of the food offerings.  A big thanks to the Wine and Food Foundation for inviting me to enjoy the holiday cheer!

Absolutely decadent baby chocolate hazelnut sandwich cookie with dark chocolate and brandy ganache middle from Fete Accompli. Chocolate + Hazelnut + Brandy = Happiness.

Hamachi Crudo toasted Hazelnuts, celery salad, & ponzu from The Carillon.  Beautifully presented and incredibly fresh. 

Florida Stone Crab Claws from Truluck's. I believe Truluck's is running a Monday night special on these babies. All you can eat - price depending on size of claw shipments for the week.

Smoked Beef Tenderloin with a Bacon Marmalade on Herb Crostini from Perry's Steakhouse. This delicious morsel of meatiness was perfect with the bacon marmalade.  Really though, isn't everything perfect with bacon? 

Busy Driskill Chefs searing up some scallops.  They are hard at work, and my tummy is grateful.

Seared Scallops with tomatoes from the Driskill. Mmm.... buttery scallops. Did I mention that I like butter?  This dish was uber delicious.

Heavenly desserts from 1886 Cafe and Bakery located inside the Driskill.  These petits fours were so beautifully arranged, I just had to take multiple photos. 

Chocolate mousse cups with raspberries. The time and energy needed to create the artful decorations deserves recognition.

Lemon tarts, truffles, and chocolate covered strawberries. Almost too pretty to eat.  Almost.

Guisada de Pollo en Salsa Verde from StrEATS. Coming soon on 3213 Red River Street. 512-628-0288 You might have remembered StrEATS from Tour de Vin.  They still haven't opened, but with every dish I try, I just can't wait. 

Miso Cured Beef Tongue Tacos from Kenichi. These were very tasty, no pun intended. 

Pan Seared Scallops over Mushroom Polenta from NoRTH was one of my favorite dishes of the night.  The polenta  was amazingly creamy and flavorful.  The secret, so I was told, is mascarpone and parmesan.  I haven't tried NoRTH yet, but now I'm looking forward to paying them a visit.

Toasted Almond Bostock with Cranberry Apple Compote and Grand Marnier from Annie's Cafe. I am a sucker for almonds. Almond drinks, almond jello, and almond cakes are my comfort foods.  Something about the aroma of almonds reminds me of being a kid again and drinking warm almond tea in the winter.  Needless to say that I am in love with this dish.  I'm looking forward to it coming soon to the brunch at Annie's Cafe.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Buenos Aires Cafe in Austin

I recently visited Buenos Aires Cafe's South 1st Street location (2414 South 1st) and had pretty tasty Argentinean food.  I first tried their empanadas and desserts at Tour de Vin a few weeks ago, and I wanted to try them again.  I tasted four of the dishes offered, and my surprisingly, the spinach salad (no photos) was one of my favorites.  The salad combined fuji apples, candied pecans, and goat cheese with a sweet and tart vinaigrette dressing.  The dark and spicy creme brulee was also delicious with a slow creeping burn.  The waiter caught me licking the ramekin, and I had no shame.  No shame because he said he does it too. 

This Quilmes Pils was alright.  It was a little too light to be paired with the food we ordered.

Pastel de Papas - Argentinean style “Shepherd’s pie.” Ground beef, green onions, raisins, green olives, herbs, and spices topped with mashed potatoes and baked until golden.  This dish was made for rainy days.

Milanesa a la Napolitana -Two tender and breaded beef cutlets blanketed with ham, mozzarella cheese, and homemade marinara sauce, baked until melted. Served with Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and broccoli florets. My only complaint about this dish was that it arrive kind of lukewarm. 

Dark and Spicy Chocolate Crème Brulee - Dark chocolate and spicy pasilla and cayenne peppers. Lick the bowl.  I won't judge.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Boar meets Beer at Uncle Billy's

I had the great pleasure of being invited to attend the Boar meets Beer dinner at Uncle Billy's.  This is the dinner for the ultimate beer loving carnivore.  

The reception started off with smoked venison wrapped around asparagus and cream cheese.  The smoky and peppery simple venison with vegetables was paired with their 2009 Great American Beer Festival Gold Medal Winning Hell in Keller pils.  I found the crisp, clean, and hoppy beer to contrast nicely with the mild meat, creamy cheese, and sweet veggies.  This particular batch of Hell in Keller was brewed right when Brian Peters returned from GABF back in September.  Brian gives a few words of advice about brewing lagers.  1. Use a German Pils Malt. 2. Only use one malt.  Hell in Keller is a lager that was brewed for 4.5 weeks, and not always available.  Lagers (because they require a longer period of time to brew) take up precious tank space.  So get down to Uncle Billy's and try this award winning beer before it's gone. 

Next up was the smoked duck breasts with phyllo-wrapped roasted vegetables and heirloom tomato napoleon, accented with a bourbon demi and served with Hill Country organic Amber.  The flavorful duck breast was unbelievably tender and lean.  What I like about this dish and the venison was that meat wasn't too dressed up, over spiced, or over-cooked.  Both meats were perfectly prepared with just the flavors of the meat and smoke coming through. 

The extra creamy pumpkin soup was served in a gigantic sourdough bread bowl.  I'm taking about the size of a football.  Uncle Billy's doesn't play games with serving sizes around here.  The delicious soup was topped with a creme fraiche and served with the Hop Zombie IPA.  The mellow soup contrasted nicely with the sourness of bread, tartness of the creme fraiche, and the citrus-y hop flavor of the Hop Zombie IPA.  The different flavors were nicely balanced with the soup, bread, creme fraiche, and beer.  This is the kind of soup you need on a cold winter night.  Hearty, tasty, and comforting. 

Stuffed wild boar chop with Swiss chard and Okinawan purple potato au gratin.  Just the sounds of it should make you drool.  The tender wild boar chop was stuffed with button mushrooms, crimini mushrooms, onions, garlic, green onion, red onion, butter, and pinot gringo and topped with a sweet apple sauce.  My favorite side was the purple potato au gratin that literally tasted like butter.  That side dish was fantastic.  This entree was served with the Bitchin Camaro.  This recipe is the same recipe from the Bitter Ends using crystal hops.  Delicious.

The final pairing of the night was a dark chocolate mousse in a white chocolate cup (more like a big mug) with cranberry whipped cream served with Insomniac Coffee Stout.  Chocolate and stouts are a  natural pairing, and this one was particularly nice with the cranberry whipped cream.  The Insomniac stout was lusciously creamy as it is carbonated with nitrogen and CO2.  It gives for smaller bubbles and a creamier head.  The coffee flavor that is added to this beer using cold extracted Austin Java Coffee.  I won't give away other details about how it is brewed, but I will tell you to try some of this Insomniac Coffee Stout.  I've used it many times to make cupcakes, brownies, and chocolate mousse.

As a surprise, diners were also treated to a sample of last year's anniversary ale (2008), the Boozer Chavez.  It a Belgium strong ale with sweet sugar, toffee, and caramel aromas.  The other flavors that I got were deep raisins and somewhat bourbon-y.  I smelled just like a bourbon to me.  Very tasty.  Very strong (~10%). And very unique.  It was a great way to end a wonderful meal.  A big thanks to Uncle Billy's, Brian Peters, and the staff.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

For your salad and pasta eating pleasure:Beer Dressing

Here's a few beer dressing ideas for ya.  This dressing can be used on regular green salads or pasta.  I'm offering you two versions here, one from Marshall Wright at and myself.   For my beer pasta, I boiled the beer in (512) Wit until the pasta is al dente, combined with a 15 oz can of drained garbanzo beans, one pint cherry tomatoes, a 7 oz can of drained and sliced black olives, and chopped scallions. Then I sprinkled with malted barley.

Marshall's Beer Dressing
bullet1/2 cup Beer
bullet1/2 cup olive oil
bullet1 tablespoon mustard
bullet1/2 teaspoon vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until emulsified. 

My beer dressing: This is a little hoppy, but still pretty yummy.
bullet1 cup light beer. I used (512) Wit
bullet1 cup olive oil
bullet1/3 cup malt extract
bullet2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
bullet1 shallot, minced
bullet6 cloves of garlic minced
bulletpinch of salt
Reduce the beer for about 30 minutes in a small saucepan.  It may become fairly hoppy.  In a frying pan, sauté the shallots and garlic in olive oil just until it releases it's fragrances.  Watch out that it doesn't burn at all or else the dressing will taste bitter.  I would recommend putting the shallots in the pan first to cook for a few minutes before adding the garlic.  Combine the malt extract, salt, apple cider vinegar, shallots, and garlic in a bowl and whisk together, slowly streaming in the olive oil.  Once you have about half a cup of olive oil into the dressing, start adding the reduced beer into the mix.  Be careful as it can be very hoppy.  If you add too much of the reduced beer, you can offset the hoppiness by adding more malt extract.  If you don't want to use malt extract, agave nectar or honey will suffice.  Add more or less olive oil to taste.  Olive oil can also help mellow out some of the flavors if it is too strong.  Serve over pasta or green salads. 

The dressing, made with a (512) Wit.

Pasta boiled in (512) Wit, tossed with cherry tomatoes, olives, garbanzo beans, and scallions,sprinkled with malted barley.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

BeerCloud for Iphone by Great Brewers

O.M.G. BeerCloud is here.  BeerCloud for the iphone is an application that is a data base for beer and breweries, a GPS beer finder, a beer sommelier, and guide to beer styles.  With the selection of craft brewers growing exponentially, keeping all your beers straight can be quite a task.  The feature that I find most appealing is the beer sommelier application that recommends complementary beer styles for 250 + types of food.  No more googling pairings when I'm at a restaurant (yes, I'm just that nerdy).  Nor will I have to google the new beer selections when I'm at Twin Liquors, Specs, or Whole Foods.  Thanks@ Great Brewers

Click here to check it out for yourself.  The iphone application is free

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trio's Holiday Menu 2009

The holidays are around the corner, and Trio at the Four Seasons in Austin has a special menu planned as you celebrate family, friends, and ringing in of the 2010.  Here's some photos from the media holiday preview event where my photographer and I were invited guests.  Their holiday menu is available Dec. 1-30 except Dec. 24th.  The prix fixe menu is $39 per person and includes a choice of appetizer, entree with sides, and dessert.  Appetizers include winter squash salad (fantastic), seafood souffle (full of sweet, succulent shrimp), pork belly (as if this needs a description).  Entrees include pheasant, wild salmon, and prime ribeye with maple roasted sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts as sides.  The desserts include warm gingerbread cake, chocolate-peppermint baked Alaska, and trio of sorbet.   Along with their holiday menu, Trio is also offering a holiday drink menu that is sure to please.  Recipes for the drinks are below.  The Smores the Merrier is highly recommended by yours truly.  Enjoy and do check out their other holiday events

Wild salmon with crimini mushrooms and lingonberries.

Winter Squash Salad with pine nuts, raisins, and farm cheese. 

This dessert is absolutely fantastic.  I ate two servings.  It's the chocolate-peppermint baked Alaska. It also comes with a candy mistletoe.  I put that thing to good use.

Warm Gingerbread cake with marzipan, tangerine gel, dried fruit puree, and vanilla bean whipped cream.  I have two words to describe this dessert.  Comfort dessert. 

Brandy Melt
1 cup                Coffee
½ shot                 Christian Bros. Brandy
½ shot                 Amaretto
½ shot                White Crème de Cacao
3 tbsp.                Whipped cream
Toasted almond slivers
Dark chocolate cacao beans

Directions: In a large coffee cup, mix coffee, brandy, amaretto and white crème de cacao. Top with fresh whipped cream and garnish with toasted almond slivers and dark chocolate cacao beans. Serve with homemade biscotti.

Flute Cocktail
½ shot                Midori
4 oz.                 Prosecco
3 ea.                Green grapes
3 ea.                Red grapes
Thin sliver of red apple

Directions: Mix Midori, green and red grapes and apple sliver in a champagne flute. Fill to the top with Prosecco.

Yule-Thyme Martini
2 shots                 Dripping Springs vodka, infused with fresh sage and thyme
1 dash                Oban Scotch
1 sm. slice        Smoked Maitake mushroom

Directions: Shake vodka and scotch over ice, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with the Maitake mushroom slice.

Mistletoe Mojito
1 shot                 Mount Gay Rum
2-3 dashes         Simple syrup
2-3 dashes          Fresh lime juice
2-3 dashes         Cranberry juice
1 dash                Soda water
1 dash                Grenadine
Fresh mint leaves
Fresh cranberries

Directions: Muddle the mint leaves with simple syrup and lime juice. Add ice and rum, then top off with cranberry juice, soda water and grenadine. Garnish with a mint sprig and 3 fresh cranberries.

S'mores the Merrier
2 squares        Graham cracker, toasted with butter and cinnamon, crushed
2 tbsp.                 Marshmallow cream
1 shot                 Godiva Dark
1 shot                 Tuaca
1 dash                 Cream

Directions: Prepare a martini glass by rimming with toasted graham cracker crumbs and affixing a dollop of brûléed marshmallow crème to the inside. Shake last 3 ingredients over ice and strain into the martini glass. Garnish with a dark chocolate straw, if desired.