Posts Tagged ‘delicious’

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+

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For my 30th birthday, I made only one simple request of my wife: Gastropub. The idea of the gastropub started in England in the second half of the 20th century and revitalized the concept of pub food. I love pub food, but find that many of my favorite watering holes pay careful attention to what’s coming out of the bar, but pay relatively little attention to what’s coming out the kitchen. The Gage is a prime example of what gastropubs can do in terms of quality libations alongside high quality pub food.

I started my dinner with a scotch egg. A scotch egg is a hard boiled egg, wrapped in sausage, breaded, and then deep fried. The Gage serves its scotch egg with whole grain mustard, a dab of an unknown sauce that I couldn’t identify, and a small handful of mixed greens. This was a nice dish, but I felt the flavor fell a little flat.

To start her meal, my wife ordered the House Poutine which is french fries smothered with an elk ragout and cheese curds. Of our two starters, she certainly picked our favorite. This in itself would be worth a trip back to The Gage.

Fearing for our stomachs, we decided to split an order of the soup and we are certainly glad we did. Below is a picture of the Roasted Corn Soup with aleppo peppers, shrimp, and a cilantro oil. The wait staff pours the hot soup into the bowl at table side making for a nice presentation. This is one of the best soups I have ever had in my life and while I could have eaten two or three servings, our one serving was enough for the two of us to share without feeling too stuffed.

I think the mark of a good gastropub is the ability to not only cook a good burger, but make it unique and memorable. Truth be told, I can still taste this burger if I concentrate hard enough. I ordered The Gage burger which is made from USDA Prime beef, and topped with a locally made camembert cheese and an onion marmalade. And best of all, you can’t see it, but this comes with a giant basket of thick cut french fries.

My wife loves risotto and took the opportunity to test The Gage’s cooks and see how good a gastropub chef can make a summertime risotto. The Gage rotates its risotto offerings based on the seasonal ingredients and on this particular day, they were serving an heirloom tomato and basil risotto. The consistency was creamy and rich without a single grain being overcooked. The chefs made this perfectly seasoned and at just the right temperature.

The Gage is one of the best restaurants I ever been too in terms of it’s high quality food, pleasant atmosphere, cleanliness, and promptness of service. Their drink menu is vast and carry a large selection of microbrews and serve all their wines in 8 oz carafes that are perfect for sharing. For all this food plus a couple of drinks, the bill still came in under $100 including standard gratuity. If you live in the Chicago area or plan to visit here in the future, I highly recommend you hit up this Michigan Ave establishment.

Why kid ourselves? Fried things are delicious and have been for centuries.  But everytime I read an article about health conscious people or doctors trying to scare the world into succumbing to a non-fried, non-carb, all vegan diet, I can’t help but wonder why no one is talking about the concept of moderation. In fact, in the ten years that I’ve really researched food and diet, Weight Watchers is the only organization that makes any attempt to teach people how to make better eating decisions instead of completely cutting out an entire portion of the food pyramid.

From where I sit, it’s relatively simple. If you eat fried foods consistently and make it a staple at your work lunches and last minute dinners, you’re body is not going to react well and you are putting yourself at risk for major health problems. But is there anything wrong with enjoying a fried meal once a week especially if it contains healthier ingredients? I say no. So in that respect, I submit for you a cornmeal based vegetarian fritter that is incredibly easy to prepare and sure to appease most anyone that sits at your dinner table.

Ingredients

  • 1 c packed zucchini, grated
  • 1 c frozen corn kernals (can use fresh off the cob, never canned)
  • 3/4 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c Jiffy corn muffin mix
  • 1/4 c white onion, minced
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • vegetable oil, for frying

1. Heat some olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Place the corn, zucchini, thyme, and onion in the sauté pan and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take the pan off the heat and let cool.

2. Combine the flour, muffin mix, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

3. Mix the egg and milk together and pour into the dry mix. Whisk until just combine. Fold in the sauteed vegetables and cilantro. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

     

Note: The batter will be lumpy. This is normal and should be ignored. If you whisk the batter too much, you will develop more gluten and your fritters will be dense. Dense = bad.

4. Heat 2″ worth of vegetable oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. When the oil has come up to temperature (around 325 degrees), drop a heaping tablespoon of batter into the oil. Repeat until the pan is full but the fritters are not touching.

     

Note: Work in batches. Don’t try to overcrowd the oil. Not only will too much batter lower the temperature of the oil, but your fritters will stick together.

5. When golden brown, flip the fritters over and finish cooking. Set the fritters on some paper towels to drain.

     

Note: To keep fritters warm between batches, set the oven to 200 degrees and place fritters on a sheet pan.

6. Serve fritters alone or with a dipping sauce.

Note: I’m serving these fritters with a spicy remoulade sauce.


Garlic has gotten a bad rap. Vampires and people on first dates have uniformly tried to stay away from garlic for centuries because of its harsh, pungent flavor (or death inducing side effect). Garlic has even been linked in Islamic myths as the fruit left behind from the left footprint of Satan after he left the Garden of Eden (the onion was the fruit of his right). I have hopes of persuading some of you to look upon this root vegetable a little different, I want to showcase garlic in a new light. Like most vegetables, when roasted, garlic takes on a completely different flavor becoming more sweet and mellow and becomes a perfect compliment to foods.

This is one of the easiest appetizers you can make for guests or for yourself on a cold winter day, in addition to the insane health benefits that have been found from the consumption of garlic including prevention of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cancer.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

1. When picking a head of garlic, you want to make sure that the white paper is tight and in tact. Squeeze the garlic gently; it should be firm and not yield easily. It should be heavy for it’s weight and should not have any black powder (usually found near the root). This is mold yet most grocery chains will put it out anyway. And stay away from “elephant garlic” as this isn’t garlic at all, but a cousin of the leek/onion family.

2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the garlic about a quarter of the way from the top making sure you cut through each clove held within.

3. Place the cut garlic on a piece of aluminum foil big enough to enclose the head completely. Pour the olive oil over the cloves. Season with salt and pepper.

    

4. Wrap the garlic up tightly and place on a sheet pan or other baking dish. Place the pan in the oven for 55 minutes.

5. Let the garlic head cool for five minutes on the stovetop before trying to unwrap. The individual cloves will easily pop out of their skin when given a gentle squeeze. Serve warm mashed over bread, in salad dressings, or anyway you desire.

I don’t know how this started, but when I was a little kid and well into my teens, my birthday was accompanied by two pineapple upside down cakes. The first was for my guests: friends, family, and anybody else who happened to swing by. The second was entirely for me. If I’m ever home for my birthday, my mom will still do this for me.

It may sound preposterous, but a pineapple upside down cake never lasts more than 24 hours in my house. I eat a piece or two for breakfast, a piece for lunch, a follow up for dinner, and something before bed because why would you ever leave one piece of cake for the next day?

This recipe changes the traditional butter-sugar syrup for a butter smear made from rich ingredients that completely transforms in the oven to form a crisp caramel like coating. You can also see by the photo above that I’m a bit ridiculous and have a pan that is designed for pineapple upside down cake.  Don’t judge. I bet you have some ridiculous things in your house too. I love this pan because I can make individual cakes, freeze some, and take them out whenever I feel like a treat. If you are not so inclined to own this pan, I’ve included instructions on how to make this cake in a 9 inch cake pan in the variation section at the bottom.

Ingredients (makes 6 cakes)

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 pineapple slices
  • 8 maraschino cherries
  • 1 1/3 c all purpose flour
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 c + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp rum
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place 1 stick of butter, brown sugar, honey, rum, and 1/4 tsp vanilla in a bowl. Blend until well combined. Smear 1/3 of the mixture into the cake pan.
        
Note: This recipe makes enough smear for 3 cakes. It will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks, or you can portion it into plastic wrap and freeze until you are ready to use.
2. Place 1 pineapple slice into each slot (arrange 8 slices if using a 9 inch cake pan) and
place a cherry in the center of the pineapple. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
3. Place the other stick of butter and granulated sugar in a mixer with a paddle attachment. Turn to low and combine the ingredients. Then turn the mixture up to medium and cream the ingredients for 3 minutes. 
     
4. Add the eggs, milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Mix to combine. Slowly add the flour to the mixture 1/3 c at a time. Add the baking powder and mix to combine all ingredients. The batter will be pretty thick. Distribute the batter into the cake pans and make your best attempt to level it out. While cooking, the butter in the batter will melt and the cake will even out, so just make you best effort.
     
5. Cook for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan to ensure proper browning. Cook for another 10 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
6. Let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn the cakes onto a cooling rack and let cool. Enjoy.
Nine Inch Cake Pan Instructions
Make the smear and spread 1/3 of the mixture on the bottom of the pan. Arrange the pineapple slices around the edge of the pan and place one slice in the middle. Prepare the cake batter as is.
Cook for 20 minutes and rotate. Then cook for another 20 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.

I love using crimini mushrooms. They pack all the meaty flavor of Portobello mushrooms inside a small, easily manipulated, package. Best of all, they are conveniently found in any local supermarket. For those that are not as comfortable with super sharp knives and small produce, you can often find these mushrooms pre-sliced as well.

In a previous post about picking side dishes, I mentioned how I enjoy looking at menus and deciphering what to place alongside my main entrees. This title came from a steakhouse in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve noticed in my travels over the past couple of years that Executive Chef’s have been using the word “salad” liberally these days to dress up their menus and make their dishes sound more sophisticated than they actually are. In essence, a salad is a mix of ingredients topped with a sauce. Thus, below is my best interpretation of what this steakhouse might have served had I been there.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 12 oz grass fed porterhouse steaks
  • 8 oz crimini mushrooms
  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp shallot, minced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp ground mustard
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne Pepper (or to taste)

1. Start by blending the brown sugar, ground mustard, sweet paprika, garlic powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper together in a small bowl. Be sure to break up the clumps of brown sugar.

2. Rub the spice mixture on the steaks and let sit on the counter for 30 minutes. There are two reasons for this. The first is this will allow the spices to melt into meat and ensure the flavors are consistent in every bite. The second is you want to allow your meat to come to room temperature. When cold meat meets a hot pan, it instantly sticks and you’ll have to fight to get it off. This is a fight, by the way, that you won’t win without casualties.

3. While the steak is marinating, slice the mushrooms thin and add the shallots to a hot pan with olive oil over medium high heat (a 7 on the dial). Saute until the mushrooms have caramelized.

4. Remove the mushrooms and place the pan back over the heat. Add the balsamic vinegar to the pan to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape up any brown bits left behind. Add the vinegar to the mushrooms.

Note: You have a few options to cook your steaks. You can grill, broil, and roast them. For this recipe, I decided to butter baste them. This is good if you are cooking a small amount of steaks. If you are having the family over, for time purposes, it would be best to grill or broil the steaks.

5. Add 2 tbsp butter and an equal amount of olive oil to a pan and place over medium high heat. Once nearly smoking, add the steak to the pan. It should instantly sizzle. After a few minutes, tilt the pan slightly towards you and use a spoon to spoon the hot oil/butter over the steak. After five minutes, flip the steak and baste again. Set the steak under some aluminum foil to rest. Clean the pan out between steaks.

6. Plate your steak and add the mushroom salad on top. Spoon any juices over the steak. Here I’ve served the steak over french fries that will soak up the steak and mushroom juices.