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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Cruzan Rum tasting at 219 West

My wonderful photographer and I were invited to a Cruzan Rum tasting dinner at 219 West.  We've both done beer tastings and wine tastings, but spirit tasting was new to us.  Needless to say, we were both pleasantly surprised.  It was also my first visit to 219 West. I was not only blown away by the time and effort put into preparing the food, the staff was extremely friendly and thoughtful. 

We started off the night with pineapple Cruzan coconut mimosas.  Bright, refreshing, with a subtle finish of coconut made this drink unique and tasty. 

Fresh Ahi Tuna Tartare with Chipolte vinegar and cilantro oil, and mango habanero guacamole was paired with a Cruzan Mango Mojito.  The mango habanero guacamole was my favorite part of the dish.  Sweet plus spicy and the texture of avocados was fabulous.  The heat wasn't too much, and the cool minty mojito was a nice complement. 

Spinach and arugula salad topped with crimini mushrooms, hickory smoked bacon, crumbled blue cheese, candied spiced pecans and a raspberry champagne vinaigrette was paired with a Cruzan raspberry champagne martini. The bitterness of the salad contrasted with the bacon and candied pecans well.  The surprising combination of pungent blue cheese with the sweet pecans and smoky bacon was fantastic.  Props to the chef for coming up with that combo.

Next up was grilled lamb chops, roasted garlic whipped potatoes, grilled asparagus, and arbol jelly served with Cruzan Black Cherry Sangria.  The lamb was served medium, and is one of the most tender pieces of lamb I have ever had.  It was sweet, juicy, tender, and flavorful.  The arbol jelly on the side accentuated the sweetness of the lamb, and the heat at the end gave it just a little kick.  The sangria wasn't overly fruity, and it finished with the cherry note on the end.  This was quite a nice pairing.

I'm a dessert snob, and I don't try to hide it either.  I have to hand it to the pastry chef.  This dessert impressed me.  Warm blondies, vanilla ice cream, caramel, chocolate, and toffee served with Cruzan vanilla and cream spiced coffee.  This blondie baked in an individual serving size was perfect.  The outside was crispy and buttery, and the inside was moist, and not at all runny or underdone.  The caramel, chocolate, and toffee pieces on the side pulled this dessert together by incorporating different flavors and textures.  Also, I'll add that I hate coffee.  I rarely drink it, but I finished all of the creamy coffee paired with dessert.  Enough said. 

Here's a photo of me hanging out with @liquidaustin after dinner. 

About who? Me? Me Who? Exactly. Exactly What?

If you hadn't noticed, I'm a huge Shel Silverstein fan.  The title of this blog post is  play his poem, "The Meehoo with an Exactlywatt."  The purpose of the body of this post is the clear up some lingering questions you might have about me.  I realize that I lead quite the confusing life, and I like it.  I've been assumed to be many things ranging from a pastry chef (no) and to a vet (also no).  With the new FTC guidelines coming into effect in the very near future, I should make my professions and un-professions very clear. 

My other work: 
  • I am a PhD student at Texas A&M (though, I bleed orange) in social psychology.  I got my undergraduate degree at the University of Texas - Austin.  My area of research is behavioral neuroendocrinology.  I study human behavior and how it can be affected by or affect hormone release in the body.  I like my research area.  It makes for great debates. I also love numbers and statistics, but that's a different post all together.
  • I'm an adjunct professor at another college right now. 
  • I do consulting for an educational consulting firm. 
  • I also go to prison to collect DNA (buccal swabs and blood samples) for Attorney General's office.  This job makes for interesting stories and different perspectives.  
Other random jobs I've had: 
  • I was a phlebotomy technician at a large hospital for several years. 
  • I groomed dogs for a while. 
  • I tutored students here and there. 
  • I taught at a handful of other colleges. 
Things I do for fun (i.e., I get absolutely no money for doing these things, but they keep me happy): 
  • This blog. I've never received, nor do I anticipate receiving money for anything I have written on this blog.  This blog was created due to intrinsic motivation.  I don't want to make it extrinsic.  
  •  Keep Austin Dog Friendly Blog.  Over the last 7.5 years,I have received no money for that blog/website either.  I do receive emails from readers, and the occasional email about how to program my website. 
  • I skate for fun.  Wind breezing through my hair and bugs flying into my mouth is totally awesome.  
  • Show, train, judge, and handle dogs.  The canine sports I judge do not pay a dime, but they do cover my expenses.  I spent much more showing and training my dogs than I did on the down payment of my house.  
  • Business consulting for some non-profit organizations. A PhD in social psychology is very similar to a PhD in business.  My research area would translate into marketing and management.  
  • Hypermiling.  I've never been paid by any news station or car manufacturer for anything I do with hypermiling.  They have provided vehicles and covered expenses, but no money. 
Things I am not: 
  • A pastry chef. While I like to cook, bake, and slave in the hot kitchen, I'm not pastry chef. 
  • A vet/vet tech. I lived with many vet students, but I'm not one. 
  • A professional dog trainer.  I don't train for money. I could lecture for six hours on what it means to be a professional dog trainer, but I'll keep that canned for now. 
  • A programmer in any way shape or form.  I'm not sure if I can even program a scientific calculator these days. 
  • A photographer. I take photographs for fun. Just because I have a big camera doesn't mean it's an SLR or that I'm a professional. 
The Gray/Grey area: 

  • I have not been paid by a food or drink business for writing in any way shape or form.  While I'm friends with my restaurants, I'm not officially affiliated with any of them.  I also do not ever intend on starting one of my own.  I don't want to work that hard. :o)
  • I do receive some perks related to my blogs, and I'll spell them out here.  I do get complimentary food and drinks from time to time.  I get invited to food events and food tastings.  I will write explicitly that it was a "food blogger event" or "I was a guest at..."  or "thank you for the complimentary .....". 
  • I do not accept anything if they come with a "now you have to write about it" line.  I'll write if I have the time, if I really liked it, and if I feel like it.  I don't like being coerced into writing.  If my meal (or a part of it) was complimentary, I will make that known on the blog post (if I decide to write one).  
  • If I attended an event via complimentary tickets, I will state that in the post and/or thank the host.  The line will usually be something like: "Thank you to Great Brewers for inviting me as their guest." 
  • If I received cooking and baking supplies, I will thank the person or company who provided them and make it explicit that they were a gift.  If I thank the person in general, it was not a gift. I also like to recognize people who give me ideas or other non-tangible things like moral support during my baking woes.
  • I often get dog equipment or dog food to use at dog shows, tests, event prizes, or as donations.  I explicitly thank those people and businesses.
What have or have not I been paid to write: 

  • Yelp: Nope.  No monetary payment there.  
  • My website and blogs: No money here either. 
  • Academic research papers: No.Getting paid to write anything academic is like a pink unicorn.  It only exists in your imagination.  Kind of like the book chapter below. 
  • Book Chapters: I was supposed to split $200 with one of the coauthors of a book chapter in The Cambridge Handbook of Personal Relationships.  I don't remember getting paid.  I did not get paid for my chapter in The Endocrinology of Social Relationships

Peche - Flaming Orange Peels and Nameless Cocktails

Peche.  Not Lindeman's Peche which is a lovely peach lambic.  Peche. 208 West 4th Street in Austin, TX.  That's the Peche I'm talking about.  For the past four months or so, many of my friends have been urging me to go to Peche.  I was promised that I would have a good time.  I was promised that the drinks were delicious.  And I was promised that there would be entertainment at the bar.  I finally visited Peche, and well, those promises were fulfilled. 

The decor of Peche immediately caught my eye.  Check out this chandelier. 

This water dispenser is pretty neat.  It's several feet tall, and it sits right at the edge of the bar behind the hostess.

Fresh berries at the bar.  Good to see that fresh fruit and herbs are used here.

Rosemary and mint. 

If you haven't seen this before, it's flaming an orange peel.  The fire releases the essential oils in the orange into the drink.  I've tried capturing this neat trick on camera before many times, but it happens really quickly.  I finally got it this time.  In the photo above, you'll see the light from the fire shining from behind the orange peel. 

That is the orange peel flaming for a split second.  You can literally see the essential oils from the peel coming out. Check out this video for some more photos of Flamed Orange Peels

The first time I went to Peche, I happened to have some Tipsy Ispahan Cupcakes with me.  To go along with the cupcakes, Russell at the bar decided to make a drink to pair with the cupcakes.  Let's just say that the drink was fabulous!  Here's the recipe, but unfortunately, it doesn't have a name.  Name suggestions will be taken.  I want something original, creative, and fitting.  There may be a reward to whoever comes up with a fitting name for this drink. 

The Nameless Cocktail
 ¾ oz Bombay Gin
¾ oz St Germain
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
¼ oz Simple Syrup
1/8 oz (barspoon) Rose Syrup
Shake and Strain into a chilled martini glass and top with 2 oz Champagne.  Garnish with a floating rose pedal.

As person who works with beers, spirits, and wine in the kitchen, I'm often asked are my favorite beers, spirits, and wines.  I asked Russell what his favorite spirits were and why.  In less than 10 seconds, these 5 bottles appeared on the bar.

Starting from the left, here's Russell's favorites and why. Dulce Vida is organic, made in Austin, 100 proof, and has amazing flavor.  The St. Germain was easy.  What is not to like about St. Germain?  It's also one of my favorites as well.  The subtle fruity and floral notes are perfectly balanced.  Russell sometimes substitutes St. Germain for simple syrup to give drinks that extra dimension.  Pierre Ferrand Cognac is comes from a single vineyard, and he calls it the original whiskey.  St. George Absinthe is up next, and the flavors in it are amazing and complex.  And lastly, Rumple Minze is like an old friend that Russell loves from his previous bartending days. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

DogFish Head Punkin Ale Cheesecake

This cheesecake is rich, fluffy, subtly spiced, with a hint of beer. However, it is not an easy recipe.  Cheesecakes are difficult and time consuming to make, and the addition of beer to this one makes it even more fragile.  One must take great care in transporting and serving this cheesecake.  Makes two large cheesecakes. Divide ingredients in half to make just one large cheesecake.


Warm water bath (you can use large roasting pans)
Mixer with beater attachment
2 spring form or round cake pans (or you can make the cheesecake in small ramekins)
Parchment paper
Aluminum foil
measuring cups

1 1/2 stick butter (12 oz), melted
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 pinch fresh nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
6 packages (8 oz each, 48 oz total) cream cheese
3/4 cup sour cream, full fat
12 large eggs
4 egg yolks
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups sugar
 1 teaspoon salt

1 cup DogFishHead Punkin Ale (8 oz)
10 oz canned pumpkin
2 tablespoons cornstarch (optional insurance for cheesecake cracking)
Whipped Cream:

12 oz heavy whipping cream
2 teaspoons Mexican Vanilla
2/3 cup powdered sugar
Preparing the pans and water bath:
If using spring form pans, make sure they are secure and fairly leak proof.  I used spring form pans, and mine are leaky.  I'm switching over to regular cake pans using Alton Brown's method of cheesecake removal.  Check out the next two links for the video on how to do that (it is not my youtube channel).  Back to the spring form method, line the bottom of each pan with parchment paper.  I fold up parchment paper into a a flattened cone and cut the edges until I get the correct size circle.  Alton Brown does it the same way so you can look at the photos below or refer to his video.  Make sure you butter the pan liberally on the bottom and sides. 
Using aluminum foil, cover the bottom of the spring form pan.  I use 4 layers of aluminum foil.  Beware that water can leak in and cheesecake filling can leak out with spring forms.  Water leaked into my first test batch even with 4 layers of foil. In a teapot or soup pot, warm up some water.  I usually let it come to a boil, then turn it off until I need it.  You'll also need some large pans or bigger cake pans to use for the bath.  For my test batches, I used a large glass baking pan and a large oven safe stainless steel casserole pan.
Alton Brown Cheesecake video one:
Alton Brown Cheesecake video two:
Making the crust:
Combine all the crust ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly.  You can replace the ground walnuts with graham crackers, but the walnuts give it that nutty, rich flavor that graham crackers don't have.  I coarsely ground walnuts in my coffee grinder.  It is okay if the walnuts aren't perfectly ground.  I like little chunks of walnuts in the crust.  Press this mixture evenly with a spatula.  Alton uses the bottom of a drinking glass, but you can get fairly good results with a spatula because this crust is more wet and has more fat from the walnuts.  Set crust aside, and let's move on to the filling.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sour cream and cream cheese.  Beat until smooth and scrape down the sides between every 30 seconds of beating.  Once mixture is smooth, add the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, salt,and sugar.  Beat for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides, and beat again.  Add the pumpkin and beat some more.  Now add the eggs and egg yolks, two at a time, and allow the mixture to beat for about 20 seconds before adding more eggs.  Make sure you scrape down the sides every few cycles.  You can add the cornstarch at this point or leave it out.  The cornstarch is just insurance in case the cheesecake cooks at too high of a temperature and cracks.  I didn't add it in my test batch.  While the mixer is still going, stream in the beer, slowly.  You must do this very slowly as it will begin to bubble.  The carbonation might get a little out of hand if you pour it too fast.  After scraping down the sides, beat the mixture again for 30 seconds.  Allow the mixture to sit for about 10 minutes as you prepare the pans and water bath.  You can pour filling into the pans prior to baking, but don't bake just yet.  Allowing the carbonation settle out is important for the filling.  Start preheating your oven to 350 degrees now. 
Whipped cream: 

Using a whipping attachment, whip the cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla until it forms hard peaks.  Keep refrigerated until you are going to use it.  You may spoon it over the cheesecake or pipe it on.  Either way is fine. 
Assembling , baking, and serving:
You should have had your pans lined, buttered, covered with foil if using a spring form pan.  Pour the filling into pans now, and place in your water bath containers.  Once the batter has settled for 10 minutes, place the pans into the oven.  Fill each of your water baths with the previously warmed water to about half way up the sides of the pan.  If you are using foil and spring form pans, please beware that if you fill water past the lowest edge of the foil, you might have watery cheesecake or cheesecake soup.  Hence, I'm making the switch over to regular pans.  Bake these cheesecakes at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 300 degrees and bake for 60 minutes, then lower to 275 degrees and bake for about 45-60 minutes.  Turn off the oven and allow the cheesecake to sit in the oven for another 60 minutes with the door closed.  This method is very low and slow, but with the carbonation of the beer and finicky nature of cheesecake, don't take any chances.  Cheesecake baked in the small ramekins should be finished baking after one hour. 
After the first two hours of bake time, you can also insert a thermometer into the center.  See Cooking for Engineer's instructions.  When it registers 150 degrees, turn if off, and leave it in the oven for another hour.  The total cooking time will be about 2 hours with the oven on, and 1 hour with the oven off.  Chill the cheesecake in the fridge for at least 12 hours.  You may also freeze it if you like. 
Serve the cheesecake cold with whipped cream or chocolate ganache.  The cheesecake needs to remain cold.  It may hold well in room temperature, but not in the heat.  Remember, the carbonation of the beer makes the texture light and fluffy, but not as heat resistant as a dense cheesecake. 

Lining with parchment paper

Filled with crust

Here's a photo with foil, but the cheesecakes are already done.

Mix, mix, mix.

Individual serving cheesecake.

Nom. Nom. Nom.

Beer Themed Food Bloggers Pot Luck at (512) Brewing

The Austin Food Bloggers never fail to amaze me with what they can do.  The October Pot Luck theme was food made with beer.  Yes, I was in heaven.  :o)  These photos need just a few words.  Some recipes coming soon. I'll also add links to other blog posts about the pot luck as they go up.
Foodie is the New Forty
Lisa is Cooking
Relish Austin

Michelle Cheng (Foodie is the new Forty) Shrimp Risotto.

Caramels from Lisa is Cooking.

Beeramisu made by Cecila Nasti from Food Gardener using Great Divide Yeti

Incredibly moist Real Ale cake made by Rachel from the Friendly Kitchen.

Braised fruit and onion with a gorgonzola sauce by Alisha from Kula Catering.

Delicous Oktoberfest pizza and sausage from Kristi Willis from Austin Farm to Table

Amazing chicken stew and biscuits from Lisa is Cooking.

Ichiban beer battered tempura avocado with Sirrachi aioli by Peter Tsia from Tasting Buds Blog

DogFishHead Punkin Ale Ice cream made by Stephanie the Cosmic Cowgirl