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Drinking Like a Lady: 2012 Review of Pumpkin Beers

17 Sep

Fall is here, and I am in my own personal heaven… It’s pumpkin beer season!

Since I’ve turned 21 I feel like the numbers of pumpkin beer available on shelves have tripled. Everyone has a favorite, but there are just too many to try in such a short season that you can’t find out. So I decided to help.

The other night, my boyfriend Alex and I painstakingly sampled seven different pumpkin beers. The things I do for this blog… I deserve a Nobel prize. We based tested each beer based on four things, scored through numbers 1-5: Color, smell, pumpkin flavor, and overall flavor. We averaged those numbers to find a solitary score along with a short write-up. Here’s what we found, scored from best to worst. Alex’s score is listed below mine, but since this is my blog the rankings reflect how I saw them:



1. Imperial Pumpkin Ale: Weyerbacher 
My Score: 3.875
Alex’s Score: 4.5
My Take: This was one of our last beers to taste. By then I was tired and ready to throw in the towel, and I was worried that would ruin things. I was wrong. The beer was a much deeper red than any other of the ones we’ve tasted before- creepy Halloween beer? It had a very sweet smell but I was happy to know that it overpowered the hops. It almost tasted like pumpkin pie. Sweet, but savory. It was so diverse, and like all good beers, it got better as it got warmer. Would I buy this again? I’m planning to after work!

Alex’s Take: Right when the beer hit the glass I knew this was going to be one of the better beers. It was a really dark red, a definite diversion from the orange ambers that dominated the night. Its spicy bouquet exploded right from the beginning. It was the sweetest smelling beer without a doubt. There was a strong smell and taste of cloves which worried me as it’s not my favorite spice but it actually added a really nice twist. That along with the good overall pumpkin spice made this a beer that I would definitely get more of.

2. Hipp-O-Lantern Imperial Pumpkin Ale: River Horse Brewing Company
My Score: 3.5
Alex’s Score: 4
My Take: Of course I had to sample a South Jersey beer, and I wasn’t let down. Maybe it was fresher because it comes from such close quarters, but I haven’t been let down at this brewery yet. The foggy brown color was less than desirable, and the hops smelled a little too strongly for me, (I’m not a huge fan of extra hoppy beers) but the nutmeg and cinnamon that were hidden in the scent found a way to stand out in the taste. And as it warmed in my hand, all spice and even more nutmeg began to warm up in the scent as well. I would order this beer again: especially since I believe the freshness is something I won’t be able to find elsewhere.

Alex’s Take: Nothing particularly memorable about this beer but it was one of the most drinkable. The color was deep and opaque, and the smell was very strong. The flavor didn’t quite match the bold smell. Spices hit right at the front before succumbing to a bitterness that was the beer’s downfall. It did, however, finish with a nice kick. Coming from right here in NJ, it was one of the fresher beers which me want to try it again even more. I will be going back for a six pack.

3. Pumpkin Fest: Terrapin Brewing Company
My Score: 3.375
Alex’s Score: 3.5
My take: In a pumpkin beer I want a few things before I take a sip: a rich, amber color and a burst of cinnamon, cloves and all spice in the scent. I was drawn into Terrapin’s beer as soon as I poured it. The scent carried into the first taste, but the aftertaste was lost a little in the Oktoberfest lager- normally a pumpkin beer is an ale- and I tasted a little bit too many hops for my liking. Overall, I would buy this again in an instant.

Alex’s take: This beer didn’t wow me at the time but the more I think about it the more I want to drink it again. Before I even knew what this beer was trying to be I described it as “Marzen-like” the typical german malty beer associated with Oktoberfest. I usually think marzens are bland and pretty undrinkable. No so for Terrapin. Turns out pumpkin spices are the perfect complement to the sumptuous maltiness of the marzen. I might have to buy a case.

4. Pumple Drumkin Spiced Ale: Cisco Brewers
My Score: 2.75Image Courtesy: BrewBound.com
Alex’s Score: 3.5
My Take: I’m not going to lie: I chose this beer because of the adorable little pumpkin on the front. I originally wanted to skip it because of the idea that you “can’t judge a book by it’s cover,” but it’s a beer, not a book so whatever. The color was a very dark amber, slightly orange, and exactly what I was hoping to find in a pumpkin ale. Unfortunately, I missed the spices that are promised in the name in both the scent and the smell. I was overpowered by the hoppiness. There was a freshness from the hops that some IPA fans might love, because it brought out a particular freshness, but I was looking for warmth and spice. I wouldn’t buy this beer again, but I’ll certainly keep the bottle close by for when I need a smile.

Alex’s Take: When we opened Pumple Drumpkin I was very excited to try it. It was the only beer we tried to have any kind of hoppy smell to it which is something I love. The flavor was a big letdown though. It was absent any pumpkin flavor and didn’t pack any of the hops its nose boasted. Not a bad beer and I might give it another shot before I write it off completely.

5. Pumpkin Ale: Smuttynose Brewing Company
My Score: 2.63
Alex’s Score: 2.5
My Take: This bottle had the weakest color out of all the beers, almost resembling a typical lager. The scent carried most of the taste, with a strong hit of nutmeg right from the start followed by a sweet cinnamon scent. This beer would have suffered without it, however, as the flavor matched the color more than anything: slightly bland, almost flat even. Mild was definitely a good way to put it, but like I said the scent really made it a harmless beer to drink. Not worth a second try, however.

Alex’s Take: Sad to say this was one of my least favorite beers of the night. I love Smuttynose but this was not up to their standard. The smell was sour and the taste was overly acidic. There were times when I found myself enjoying it but the feeling would subside with the next sip. Just an odd taste that I can’t really put my finger on. I don’t think I would get this one again.

6. Punkin Ale: Dogfish Head Brewery
My Score: 2.625
Alex’s Score:
1.75
My Take:
This is the original pumpkin ale, and the only one I would drink for the longest time, and I hate myself for ranking it so low, but I was unbelievably let down. Alex and I theorize that the liquor store we visited restocked the shelves with last year’s bottles, and I’m going over to ask them the honest truth tomorrow (will I get the truth? Let’s see) because there is no way that Dogfish would put out this product. I had this beer on tap at their Rehoboth, DE location and it was one of the best beers I’ve ever drank, so for us to have sipped this super carbonated, flavorless ale on Saturday has to be a fluke. So I will most definitely be ordering this beer again, from a different store. This beer is one of the reasons I got into craft beers in the first place, so it just goes to show how easily tainted one craft beer can be from store to store.

Alex’s Take: This had to be an old bottle because I bought two cases of this last year and loved every sip. And this bad tasting would not discourage me from buying a case of Punkin again, year after year.

7. Imperial Pumking: Southern Tier Brewing Company
My Score: 2.5
Alex’s Score: 2.75
My Take: Of all the pumpkin beers- with the exception of Dogfish’s Punkin Ale- that I was going out to purchase, there was an overwhelming number of people that told me that this was the best, and of all the beers we tasted this was the beer that let me down the most. The beer was a light gold color, not the most appealing color when you’re looking forward to pumpkin. The scent had a strong metallic ring to it, so much so that upon taking my first sip I had to stop and hold my breath. That metallic scent led into the taste, unfortunately. It completely ruined the flavor for me and I gave the rest to my dad who actually loved it. Was this another bad beer from the store? I don’t know, but I don’t think it matched my expectations either way.

Alex’s Take:  I always have this beer recommended to me. Southern Tier has rarely steered me wrong but this beer was missing something. It had the most interesting color. It was almost bright orange which I thought was cool. The only thing I could smell from this beer was candy corn, something that probably ruined the rest of the tasting for me. There wasn’t a ton of pumpkin flavor, but it was different enough to make it stand out. There was a hint of brown sugar to go along with the dry bitterness of the Pumpking. Overall, I thought it was missing some complexity. It’s deep flavor was its biggest plus but also its biggest downfall as it made it a little one-note. I don’t think I could even finish another glass of this beer.

Do you have a pumpkin beer that we simply have to taste? Shoot me a comment, or tweet me @EricaBauw!

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Drink Like a Lady: Coming this Friday…

11 Sep

I am currently looking at 7 bottles of the country’s finest pumpkin ales, all crying to be opened and enjoyed. Check back Saturday for a full, detailed review on my favorites, plus what you should look for when picking your new favorite!

Drinking Like a Lady: Lancaster Strawberry Wheat Beer

8 Apr

When I see a beer that advertises some sort of fruit in it I can’t help but get excited. My sweet tooth does backflips. They usually don’t meet my expectations, however.

With fruity beers I feel like you can go overboard with a cider or I can’t taste any fruit at all like a pale ale. But fruity wheat beers rock. They are awesome in every sense of awesome. My favorite wheat beer , 21st Amendment Hell of High Watermelon, only comes out in the summer so I’ve been waiting patiently for months for it to come out…

Then I stumbled on the Lancaster Brewing Company. They make a Strawberry Wheat Beer that I fell on tonight during a trip to the liquor store. It is fabulous. Just a hint of strawberry taste combined with the beer. Gosh. I’m in heaven. I don’t even like strawberry flavors that much and I love this.

Definitely give this a try. It’s perfect for a nice sunny weekend or when you want to settle in and watch baseball. Since it’s baseball season… finally!

Go Greek! Lamb Kebabs and Tzatziki Sauce

5 Apr

Three years ago, around this time, I was touring Italy and Greece with some really wonderful friends. Ah, I love saying that, it makes me sound like some spoiled rich girl

Me in Mykonos

Obligatory show-off photo

when in reality most of my travel time was spent eating Nutella sandwiches, drinking 3 euro bottles of wine and sleeping in hostels.

So many things stick with me from that trip. Landscapes that I sometimes still can’t believe I actually experienced. I’ll think of scaling cliffs in Mykonos and get chills. Priceless, precious memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything. And then of course, there’s the food.

Since visiting Athens and Mykonos I have become obsessed with Greek food, particularly lamb kebabs which were also a big meal in England. They are the ultimate form of perfection. I can’t even do them justice with words.

Since I am unfortunately not Greek, I don’t have the secrets of Greek cuisine. But Alex and I have put our heads to the cutting board and created an Americanized  version of the lamb kebab that is really simple and really delicious, especially in the summer. Opa!

Lamb Kebab with Tzatziki and Grilled Potato Wedges

Ingredients (feeds three-four)
Tzatziki Sauce
1 tub (16 oz) plain, non-fat Greek yogurt
1/2 large cucumber
1 tablespoon hot sauce
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2 tablespoons Cavender’s All-Purpose Greek seasoning
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Kebabs
1 1/2- 2 lbs ground lamb
1 large egg
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons Cavender’s Greek seasoning
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons diced white onion
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
Large pinch of dried rosemary, chopped fine

Potato Wedges
3 large baking potatoes
Kosher salt
Pepper

Olive oil, for grilling
Pita bread
Lettuce, tomato, white onion, cucumber for garnishing

Recipe

Tzatziki
Straining the yogurt
1. Strain the liquid out of your Greek yogurt for about two hours. Now fancy Food Network stars will tell you to do this by purchasing $4 worth of cheese cloth for a two hour little blip on your radar. If you’re cheap like me, you’ll realize this is a crazy thing to do and refuse to do so. So do what I do. Take three paper towels, lightly dampen them, and rubber band them around the top of a bowl. Then use that to strain your yogurt. Use what you got, and feel like you’re in a Bounty commercial in the process. You can also use a very fine mesh strainer.

Chop your cucumbers
2. When all the liquid is out of the yogurt, it will almost appear crumbly, more like Play Dough than yogurt. While you wait, take your cucumber, remove the skin, dice it and then run it into a pulp through a food processor. The cucumber is extremely watery, which is okay. That’s why you’ve strained your yogurt!

Mixing Tzatziki ingredients
3. In a large bowl, combine your yogurt, cucumber, hot sauce, garlic, lemon juice and seasoning. Stir and season to taste. Cover it and let sit for about a half hour, or however long it takes to make the remainder of the meal.

Potato Wedges
Boiling potatoes
1. While the yogurt strains, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Heavily salt the water, then add your potatoes whole with the skins on and par-boil for about 15-20 minutes.

2. Allow the potatoes to cool, then cut then into 1/10 wedges, or as big as the typical steak fry. Drizzle them with olive oil.
My man grilling
3. Grill wedges until crispy on the outside, then place in a warming oven and season with salt, pepper and malt vinegar if desired.

Kebabs
Shaping the lamb kebabs
1. In a large bowl combine the lamb, egg, panko bread crumbs, garlic, onion and spices. Shape the mixture into a shape about the size of a sausage link and slide the kebabs onto metal skewers. You should get about 9 kebabs from 2 pounds of meat.
Opa!
2. Drizzle kebabs lightly with olive oil, then grill for about ten minutes on each side or until the lamb is cooked through. Serve with tzatziki, potato wedges, pita bread and toppings and enjoy!

Click here for printable recipes!

Monkey Bread: a Fail-Proof and Delicious Dessert

4 Apr

As Easter creeps up this holiday I join a lot of my friends in trying to help put together a menu for family dinners. In large family settings it can be really tricky to find food that everyone can enjoy, so oftentimes the simpler recipes tend to shine. Think about the stars of your holiday meals: turkey, ham, potatoes, all very simple but absolutely necessary for a successful holiday meal.

Dessert has always been a challenge for me when it came to holidays. My desire to impress and my love for baking has always trumped the K.I.S.S. (keep it simple, stupid) rule of thumb. I hate the idea of making something as standard as cupcakes or brownies, but I knew for this year I would need something that everyone could enjoy.

Enter the Monkey Bread.

My mom has been making Monkey Bread since I was young, mainly because it’s super simple and crazy delicious. I decided to whip up a batch this weekend, and took my own little twist on it to make it even more successful. If you’re strapped for time and looking for a cheap fix, I guarantee that this will be a hit this holiday weekend.

Monkey Bread

Ingredients
2 packages, Pillsbury Grands Refrigerated Biscuits
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tub (14 oz.) Land O Lakes Cinnamon Sugar Spread

Directions

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter a bundt pant with a small amount of the Land O Lakes butter spread. Usually to do this I take a paper towel, scoop a small amount off the top of the tub and rub it in with my hands. It doesn’t matter if you put too much on, as it all melts into the same place, but don’t skimp!


2. In a large bowl, mix together your sugar and cinnamon. It will look wonderful and light brown and fabulously delicious. I like to make 2 cups of this, keep it in a Tupperware, and spoon it over buttered toast in the morning for a quick breakfast.
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3. Cut all of your biscuits into quarters and throw them into the large bowl of sugar, completely coating every piece. When shopping, make sure you buy the biscuits, not the layered dinner rolls that Pillsbury makes. Drop those pieces into the bunt and repeat until your out of biscuits. The remaining cinnamon-sugar can be poured over top of the bundt.


4. Melt the remaining Land O Lakes butter spread in the microwave, only for about 20 seconds, then pour that evenly over the top of the biscuits. If you would rather use butter, be my guest, but I found this stuff at Wegmans for pretty cheap and it has changed my world.


5. Bake for approximately 35 minutes. When the top is browned and you think it is done, take it out and examine the open spaces in between, and push down on a few of the pieces on top. If it feels squishy and soft, the inside is raw, but if it feels stiffer the inside is baked. Don’t worry about the top burning when trying to cook the inside. If that becomes an issue (I’ve made this recipe a ridiculous amount of times and I’ve never had that problem) put a piece of foil over the top.
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6. Flip your monkey bread out of the bundt and onto a plate and you’re done! The hardest part will be not grabbing it right away, but remember that it is pretty much covered in molten caramel, so please be careful! And enjoy!
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Try This: Easy, Grilled Dinner

30 Mar

Tonight was a tricky night for dinner for Alex and me. It’s Thursday, which is the best day of the week (30 Rock, Community, Swamp People… you get the picture), but it’s also a very, very, very crazy week at work so I’ve been stuck at the office fairly late.

Considering that I love Thursdays so much I really wanted to cook a nice dinner, but I needed to find something that was very quick (my Thursday shows start at 8 p.m. AKA way too early) and still very cheap. So a little searching on the FoodNetwork.com and I found my answer.

It may be a little bit cold for the spring time in New Jersey, but we still decided to celebrate the season and do some grilling. Peeled, raw, extra large shrimp were on sale at the grocery store, and I almost never eat shrimp for dinner, so Alex and I decided to make Bobby Flay’s Gambas al Ajillo. My favorite vegetable in the world, asparagus, is in season so I knew we had to make that too.  I have been dreaming about grilled asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and once again I turned to my main man Bobby Flay.

Now if you’re having a fancy dinner party or something lavish, stick to Bobby’s recipe word-for-word. If you’re like me and are not trying to buy a million ingredients, simply take your asparagus, snap off the ends, toss them lightly in olive oil, salt and then wrap 3 pieces together in one piece of prosciutto and grill for about 15 minutes. We threw some french fries into the oven as well, but you don’t really need them. Take the fries off the plate and you still have a very full plate! They didn’t really get eaten because everything else was so insanely delicious.

Voila, a dinner that took maybe 25 minutes tops. Give it a try!

Try this: Super Amazing St. Patrick’s Day Soup!

15 Mar

As we all know, St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. I’m almost completely Irish, so obviously I love it! Plus, it means I get to eat my favorite meal: corned beef and cabbage. I can’t get enough of the stuff, and my family will only make it once a

Photo from: SkinnyTaste.com

year.

…Well I couldn’t wait until Saturday. I was browsing Pinterest and I came across this recipe from a phenomenal blog called Skinny Taste for Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup. My thought process? What!? Shut up! That sound’s awesome okay I’m making it.

And so I did. And I am currently sitting at my desk enjoying my nice little tupperware  of it. Fabulous doesn’t describe this soup. It’s not greasy at all, almost no oils or additional salts since you’re cooking with water, and it’s very easy to prepare. Set it and forget it.  Plus, all of the ingredients for corned beef and cabbage are on super sale at grocery stores right now in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day.

Try this soup yourself! You’ll love it!