Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

This years Adventures in Food special Christmas beer comes from the Belgium brewery De Dolle and is called Stille Nacht. Apparently Christmas fire sales do not apply only to holiday decorations, apparel, and other Christmas themed items normally found in department stores. I walked into Binny’s to pick up some good wine for my holiday party and found their entire display of Christmas themes beers on sale on an end cap display. I had recently read about Stille Nacht as a faux holy grail to beer lovers around the world and felt that I was never going to get a better price.

Stille Nacht pours a beautiful cloudy, tangerine orange. This is another one of those impossible beers to pour and the head far outweighs the liquid and quickly fills your glass. What I did love, though, was that the head resembled fluffy mounds of snow. I’ve attached a movie below to show the sheer amount of carbonation that lifts from the glass after pouring only 6 ounces into a pint glass. The head is snowy white, but sticky and does not disappear for some time. I  wound up drinking several mouth fulls of head before I ever got to the beer itself. The aroma bursts of sweet malts with bananas, cloves, and tangerines. The first sip immediate burst of sweet malty goodness with a tinge of heavy orange syrup. The spice notes quickly take over and tantalize different parts of your palette until finally a taste of banana takes over before beginning to fade from existence. This is not a gulping beer, in fact, I’m embarrassed that I even poured this into a pint glass at all. This would be a fine sipper drunk straight from the bottle or poured into a snifter.

I want you to know that words cannot accurately describe everything that is going on with this beer. De Dolle clearly has an understanding of what it takes to make a good beer and this is near perfection. I have no complaints, nor any critiques. Any mistake in pouring to create too much head is my own fault. If this beer cheated on me with my best friend at our wedding, I would probably still take it back. It’s that good. However, perfection comes with a pricetag that many might be scared of. You can purchase a 12oz bottle of Stille Nacht only around the Christmas season for around $6 ($4 if you wait for the fire sale). The 12% ABV is prevalent while drinking this beer, but by no means is it overwhelming. I can tell you that you will feel it by the end of your bottle. You probably shouldn’t plan to drink more than two of these in one sitting. Stille Nacht is a perfect beer in my world and should be heralded and replicated year round. It receives the highest rating in my book.

Grade: A+

Why the nutcracker? I get the ballet thing and why it’s part of Christmas. I understand sugar plum fairies dancing in your head and dancing on stage, but why the nutcracker? Why do they sell through thousands of wide mouth, bearded, sometimes hand painted novelties? Do people actually use these to crack nuts or are they strictly decorative? I remember when I was a kid, I tried every year to cracked walnuts and almonds and whatever else comes in those variety packs without ever getting the tasty morsel within. Regardless of my relatively unhappy childhood experiences, I still appreciate a holiday beer during the Christmas season and I loved the idea of a Christmas themed Boulevard offering.

Nutcracker Ale pours a beautiful auburn/toffee color. I was able to get a fair amount of sticky head formed at the top of my glass which dissipated slowly and left a lacy mess on the sides of the glass. The nose of this beer reminds me strongly of a pale ale, but there is certainly some toasted notes and a bit of spice. Given this is holiday themed beer, this doesn’t surprise me. The taste matches the nose. I taste a bit of ginger alongside the toasted malt and a bit of nutmeg in the background. There is certainly a hoppy pale ale flavor going on too. I can feel my chest warming as I drunk my way towards the bottom of my glass.

I really like this beer and would gladly add this to my winter arsenal of favorites. There has been very little Boulevard beers that I haven’t liked and think this may be my favorite brewery. You can find this is the Boulevard variety pack or pick up a six pack for around $9. The 5.9% ABV is not too intense which I quite appreciated given the strong beers I’ve tasted in the past weeks. Nutcracker ale is something I would happily drink year round and recommend highly you get out and try some.

Grade: A-

At some point, I think we’ve all heard that what has commonly been regarded as “stuffing” should actually never be stuffed inside of anything. While pictures from the 1940s and 1950s showed an iconic turkey bursting with goodness, putting stuffing inside a turkey or chicken actually slows down the cooking process and leads to what I believe is a lesser quality flavor. So yes, for your geniuses out there that will inevitably critique my recipe, this should be called “dressing” and not stuffing, but I suppose if you really wanted to, you could easily stuff this inside a chicken or turkey after everything is cooked separately.

Ingredients

  • 16oz unseasoned croutons
  • 1 lb lean pork sausage (without casing)
  • 1/2 lb thick cut bacon
  • 2 small carrots, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 apple, diced
  • 3c chicken stock
  • 1/2 c white wine
  • 1 tbsp garlic, minced (about 2 cloves)
  • 1 tsp sage, ground
  • 1/2 tsp oregano, dried
  • 1/2 tsp basil, dried

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook the bacon strips. You are probably going to have to do this in two batches. The goal is to achieve a beautiful crispiness that will not become soggy once inside the stuffing. Set aside to cool on some paper towels.

2. Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat. Keep the heat on medium high and place the carrots, celery, onion, and apple in the pan. Saute for 5 minutes or until the carrot just begins to soften. Add the garlic, oregano, basil, and sage and continue cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Add the white wine to deglaze. Continue to cook until the liquid has reduced by half. Place the cooked vegetables inside a large mixing bowl.

3. In the same pan, add the sausage and cook through. You can choose to cut the sausage into small bits, or keep in large clumps. The choice is yours. Cook until you cannot see any pink. Add the sausage to the vegetables.

4. Chop the bacon and add to the mixing bowl with the croutons. Add the chicken stock 1/4 c at a time until the croutons begin to get soggy and fall apart slightly. Combine the vegetable and meat mixture to the bread crumbs. Add to a casserole dish.

5. Cook at 400 degrees for 20 minutes until the top begins to get crispy. While cooking, the outside will get brown and crispy, the inside will remain moist and delicious. Serve piping hot.

I come from a long line of Frenchmen. In fact, my dad has traced our lineage to 17th century France when our ancestors boarded a boat and travelled across the Atlantic ocean on their way to Canada. They settled in Acadia (Nova Scotia/New Brunswick areas) and stayed there for a couple of centuries until they were forced out by the British and emigrated to the United States. Some went down south and wound up in Louisiana where the Cajun culture was started, and others settled in Northern New England.

I don’t embrace much of my ancestral culture, and speak no semblance of understandable French, but I do know a few phrases that are held near and dear to my heart and remind me of home. So from my family to yours and everyone around the world

Joyeux Noel

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Adventures in Food will be on vacation and will return in the new year with all new recipes, ideas, rantings of a mad-man, and plenty more Mircrobrew Mondays. Eat well my friends.

I intentionally went out looking for a microbrew to feature the week before Christmas. Did I actually think I was going to find a beer called Christmas Ale? Well no actually. But finding this one from Great Lakes brewery caused me to pick up a six pack. I had heard wonderful things about Great Lakes brewery in the past and figured I couldn’t lose. I do want to mention that I poured my first into a regular pint glass and didn’t particularly find this beer to be anything special. It wasn’t until I drank it straight out of the bottle and also poured a third into a snifter glass that I begun to appreciate this beer.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale pours a beautiful amber color. A thin head forms at the top which quickly dissipates. The aroma hops with a mild sweetness and notes of ginger and other winter spices. The Great Lakes website notes that Christmas Ale is brewed with honey, ginger, and cinnamon of which I believe enhance each other, but at no point did I taste one over the other. This is a well balanced beer. What I particularly enjoyed about Christmas Ale was that the taste lingers in your mouth for quite a long time and made me feel particularly festive. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but Christmas Ale is bottled happiness, as if the brewers at Great Lakes found a way to contain adult Christmas joy and put it into a beer.

I do want to mention first that you should not leave Santa a six pack of Christmas Ale next to a bowl of pretzels on Christmas Eve because 1) the 7.2% ABV will probably cause him to crash his sleigh into some poor child’s room – ruining Christmas for everyone which will be your fault and 2) some things are too valuable to leave to a fat man who sneaks into your house.

Great Lakes Christmas Ale sells for around $14 a six pack and may be harder to find in areas outside the Midwest. If you find yourself wanting for a well balanced beer on a cold winter night, consider Great Lakes Christmas Ale as a gift from you to yourself. Tis the season to be jolly.

Grade: A

If you are like me, then you have been invited to a least one holiday party in which the host expects you to “Just bring your selves.” I wasn’t raised this way and I feel pretty uncomfortable showing up to even a  simple dinner party empty handed.

I think most people think to bring a bottle of wine, but I’ve noticed that whenever I do bring a bottle, it’s rarely opened. Wine is an acquired taste and you never know if your offering will be well appreciated and enjoyed or banished to the cooking wine shelf to collect dust. So in the spirit of the holidays, I offer you five new ideas that you can bring with you as gifts for your gracious hosts:

1) Champagne: I know what you’re saying. “Isn’t this the same as wine?” No, it’s not. Champagne is luxurious and bubbly and festive and I have never met anyone who didn’t enjoy a glass of champagne at any point in the evening. If you are unsure of your hosts preferences, stick with a Brut which will be sweeter and not as dry. For the holidays, you can bring a Rose champagne which are pink in color just to give a little more festive vibe.

2) Gourmet Chocolate: Who doesn’t enjoy a nice bar of chocolate every now and then? For a special host gift, stay away from the big chocolate companies such as Lindt and Godiva and give an array of chocolate bars from a company your host may not have heard of such as Vosges-haut Chocolate. This company makes some pretty wild, yet delicious flavors such as their Milk Chocolate Bacon Bar and Black Salt Caramel bar. Wrap three or four of these bars together tied with some ribbon and you have a pretty memorable gift.

3) Dog Chew Toys: If the host has a dog, it’s never a bad idea to bring a new chew toy to keep their canine companion occupied while you enjoy your meal. If you don’t have a pet store near you, your local supermarket probably has some chew toys. But here’s a word of advice: don’t give them a squeaky toy. You may find yourself without an invitation the next time a party comes around.

4) Homemade Preserves: If you spent anytime during the summer or fall doing some canning, your host would love a jar or two complete with a homemade label and gift tag.

5) Small Gift Basket: Lastly, you can put together a small themed gift basket for very little cost. Grab a bag of colored pasta, a small bottle of good olive oil, and a jar of tomato sauce and you’ve given an instant dinner. Raid the sale racks and you’re bound to find a small collection of fun items your host might enjoy.

There are a bazillion ideas that you can give your hosts that would cost about the same as a bottle of wine. The question becomes whether you are willing to take a little extra time to think about your hosts and hostesses and what you might be able to give them for inviting you to their holiday party.

So readers, what host gifts are you giving your party hosts this year? What have you given in the past? Let me know. I’d love to get some fresh new ideas!

With the winter holidays fast approaching, I’m beginning to consider what I should add to the family’s holiday meal. Here is a recipe that was a mega-hit at Thanksgiving that I’m sure will appease even the most finicky eaters.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 3 tbsp orange juice
  • 1.5 oz bourbon
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • zest of one orange

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Poke holes in sweet potatoes and place on rack. Cook for 1 hour until sugar oozes from holes and skin begins to wrinkle.

2. Remove potatoes from oven and set on counter. Place a towel over the potatoes and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Remove skin and mash flesh in a large mixing bowl.

3. Season with 1 tsp salt and pepper. Place remaining ingredients in the bowl and mix to combine. Adjust the seasonings to your liking, but do be careful with adding too much bourbon. For a deep orange flavor, you can add orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier in place of or in addition to the bourbon. You can also add 2 tbsp maple syrup for a sweeter side dish.

4. With a hand mixer, whip potatoes until desired consistency. Place in a oven safe contained and warm in oven for 20 minutes. Serve with orange garnish.