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Friday, November 18, 2011

Community Tap and Table :: Bacon and Beer Class {November 16, 2011}

Community Tap and Table :: For Beer Bellies with a Cooking Problem
Community Tap and Table is a hub for gourmet food and beer food pairing education in Sacramento, Lodi, Stockton and the greater California Central Valley.
Come on in, grab a Session, sit by the fire and get comfortable... it's going to be a long night!

On Wednesday night, Jim and I had the most amazing food and beer experience.  And we owe it all to Community Tap and Table, a gourmet cooking and craft beer club based in Sacramento, California, serving Sacramento, Stockton and Lodi (and the spaces between).  This is the most awesome club to ever come into existence!

We attended the Bacon and Craft Brews class, a hands on, full contact bacon-frying, beer-drinking extravaganza.  This 8-student class teaches how to properly cure and smoke pork belly into savory bacon.  The pork belly they use is local, antibiotic free and humanely raised.  Community Tap & Table sources as many local ingredients as possible.

The cooking class portion of the evening was completely hands on.  Each guest volunteered for a cooking station, and off we went with recipes and amazing ingredients in hand.  I have to say, this was a blast!  Jim and I didn't know any of the other students, but we had a great time with all of them just the same.  Banter flew, bacon fried, beer flowed.  Bliss.

When the cooking was complete, the students came together at the dining room table, and our hosts did a guided beer pairing......

The Delicious Menu
Fried Green Tomatoes with Clove and Lemon Aioli :: Paired with Trumer Pils
Bacon, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits with Butternut Squash Gravy :: Paired with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat
Macaroni and Cheese with Bacon and Sauteed Onion Brussels Sprouts :: Paired with Full Sail IPA
Quince Cobbler topped with Candied Bacon :: Paired with Dogfish Head Pangaea

Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine is.  This was one of the best meals I have ever had in my life.  And I like to eat.  A lot.  I have the belly to prove it.

The key to proper food and beer pairing is having both food and beer in your mouth at the same time.  I know, that sounds weird.  But trust me, after this experience I am fully a believer.

The clove and lemon aioli tasted like the holidays, adding a lovely refreshing-spicy tang to the fried green tomatoes.  The lemony flavors of the Trumer Pils were very complementary to the aioli, and the carbonation made the clove feel even more spicy and prickly on my tongue (in a very pleasant way).  Very nice.

The thought of the sweet butternut squash gravy on those savory biscuits is seriously almost too much for my empty stomach to handle.  I am tempted to quit writing, head straight to the market for ingredients, and whip up a batch right now.  Adding a swig of the Cherry Wheat into the mix was damn near orgasmic.  I have to seriously applaud Darin for this pairing.

The macaroni and cheese was very tasty, especially with the addition of the sweet and spicy red pepper sauce.  But the Brussels sprouts were the ones to shine in this course. Never before have Brussels sprouts tasted so friendly and pleasant.  There was no hint of the typical bitter flavor that turns most people away.  Bacon makes everything better, even Brussels sprouts.  The citrus-hoppy Full Sail IPA was a lovely complement.

Candied bacon is probably my new favorite thing, especially on top of cobbler.  I hadn't had quince before, but it is very similar to pear, just a little more spongy and firm.  The word delicious doesn't even begin to describe this beautiful symphony of flavors.  Tempting toothsome treat.  There, that works.  Pangaea's sweet and spicy ginger flavors added a nice dimension, but I preferred subsequent bites without it; however, it was a nice palate cleanser between sweet, savory bites of cobbler and bacon.

Aren't you jealous that you weren't there?  Well, check out the Community Tap & Table event calendar and get your awesome gourmet food and craft beer experience scheduled!  Their offerings are not limited to bacon and beer (you mean there's more to life than that?).  They offer seasonal classes, brewery tours, private parties, personal chef services, and more.

Emily and Darin host most events at their home in Sacramento, a spacious, inviting and beautiful home perfect for entertaining and educating. Emily is a food maven with impeccable taste. Darin is a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. Together they are a perfect storm of food and beer deliciousness.

All proceeds from Bacon and Craft Brews classes benefit the UC Davis College of Brewing.

And now... the photos!  I do have to apologize for the photo quality - I brought my compact camera instead of my SLR... oh well, I'll just have to take another class so I can get better photos!

We learned how to season, cure and smoke pork belly to make our own bacon. 

Choose your own apron!

Jim was in charge of frying bacon for my biscuits, making the butternut squash gravy, and making fried green tomatoes!

I was in charge of making the bacon, cheddar and chive biscuits.
Don't mind the missing one... it, um, fell in my belly.

Fried green tomatoes, with clove & lemon aioli.  Paired with Trumer Pils.
(sorry for the weird camera quality... overexposed and washed out, bah!)

Bacon, cheddar and chive biscuits with butternut squash gravy.
Paired with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

Bacon macaroni and cheese with red pepper sauce.
Paired with Full Sail IPA.

Brussels sprouts with onion and bacon.
See, bacon really DOES make everything better!

And the coup de grace... Quince cobbler with candied bacon!  Pure heaven.

Cobbler was paired with Dogfish Head Pangaea.

The Bacon and Craft Brew class of 11/16/11!

And our lovely hosts, Darin and Em.

The beers.


A Christmas Card Idea {Religious Humor}


Before you get mad at this hilarious image... I was raised Catholic (recovering), and yes, I have an awesomely liberal sense of humor, and no, I don't mean this to be offensive.  Just laugh, cause you know it's funny!



Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Game Night Guest Post at Thrasher Home {Adoption Awareness Blog Project}

Square 1

Head over to Thrasher Home, a blog by one of my fellow SIMPLE Moms, to read a guest post that I wrote in support of her Adoption Awareness Blog Project!  It's about Game Nights, which I love!  In it I disclose my 5 favorite games... go find out what they are!



Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Awkwardness is Mortifying! {a confession inspired by The Truthful Mom}

My good friend Sarah, aka The Truthful Mom, wrote a blog post about her awkwardness today.  I love her blog because it truly is Truthful, but also insightful and unbelievably candid.  She inspires me with all of her posts.  Go read her stuff.

Her post today made me think of my #1 most awkward moment... which I have never confessed to anyone.  Ever.  Until now.  Feel special that you're reading this.

Before we were married, Jim and I lived in a really cool rental house in midtown.  We were young, childless, and partied... a lot.  We stayed up late, slept in late, had sweet parties and barbecues, walked to the nearby (and plentiful) bars and restaurants, and had a ball.  On weekdays, the morning was a rush to get ready, feed the cat, and get to work (well, at least for me - he worked from home), with a quick pit stop at the Starbucks around the corner if I had time.  On weekends, we slept through breakfast, usually skipped lunch and went out or barbecued for dinner.  Looking back, I'm so glad that we took advantage of that time of limited responsibility!

Anyway, back on point...  We lived next to this really awesome family - mom, dad, young daughter - who were totally cool and weren't bothered by our late nights whatsoever (we were, however, very respectful and quiet when outside late at night).  Our porches faced each other, so we did a lot of chatting across the driveway.

One day, just a couple of weeks after we had moved in, the mom asked me if she could borrow some eggs.  That's something neighbors do, nothing awkward there.

However... my response: "oh, sorry, I don't have kids."

Um, WHAT?!

Read that again, and tell me that I didn't just stick my entire foot squarely in my mouth.

Yeah, AWK-WARD...

She looked so confused.  She half smiled at the idiocy of my response, said thanks, and went back inside... while I stood on my porch dumbly, wondering why the hell I had said that.

That incident of extreme awkwardness still haunts me to this day.  I am not even joking.  I think about it way more than I'd like to admit.  I have tried to justify to myself why those words came out of my mouth... kids eat eggs, I don't have a kid, so that's why I don't have eggs... but come on, REALLY?  Like adults don't eat eggs?  What I meant was, we live a frivolous lifestyle that doesn't include making breakfast or baking or anything requiring eggs, so no, I'm sorry, I don't have any eggs for you to feed to your child.  Sigh.

What a moron.

What was your most awkward moment?  I challenge you to beat mine :)


Did you know?
In logic and rhetoric, a fallacy is usually incorrect argumentation in reasoning resulting in a misconception or presumption.  Such as the hasty presumption that one does not have eggs because they don't have children.
(source: Wikipedia... except the part about the eggs)


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Turkey Veggie Chili

Now that the Fall weather is finally here, here's a perfect comfort food that's also healthy and low in fat!  Well, that's as long as you can stop yourself from adding sour cream or cheese to it... mmm...

Turkey Veggie Chili
EVOO {extra virgin olive oil - for those who have never watched a moment of Rachael Ray}
ground turkey
1 tsp cumin
3-4 tbsp chili powder
dash of cayenne {more if you're braver than I am}
1 bay leaf
1 tsp garlic salt
1 red and 1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes
1 can dark red kidney beans
2 cans pinto beans {or black beans if you wish}

Heat the EVOO in a dutch oven or a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion, bell peppers and ground turkey, and season with bay leaves, cumin, and garlic salt. Saute until the onion and peppers are tender and the turkey is slightly brown.  Mix the tomatoes into the pot and season with chili powder. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 5 minutes.  Stir in the kidney beans and pinto beans.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer 45 minutes or longer.

Serve.  Top with sour cream or cheddar cheese if desired.  Serve with cornbread and honey butter.  

This makes AMAZING leftovers.  The flavors really meld by the following day.  Yum.


Beer Tasting Notes {Westmalle Tripel}

Oh gracious gift from the beer gods!  

If someone asked me (which they frequently do) what is my favorite style of beer, I would reply without hesitation :: Belgian Tripel or Belgian Golden Ale.  And if that person asked for a suggestion for the quintessential Tripel, Westmalle would most definitely be at the top of my list.

Westmalle Tripel
This is a 9.5% ABV Belgian golden ale that pours a beautiful cloudy golden-orange with a puffy white foam collar.  It has an intoxicating floral and yeasty scent with hints of lightly spiced bananas and pears.  The flavor comes through with what the nose promises, with a lightly sour yeast character and a light boozy warmth.  Medium bodied and easy drinking, but be forewarned - at 9.5% this beer plays at being light and sessionable, but the alcohol sneaks up on you.  In a very friendly, old-buddy-old-pal kind of way.  Almost as effective as a nice shoulder rub when it comes to relaxing you after a long day.  Excellent!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Beer Tasting Notes {gross single hop IPAs from Hermitage Brewing}

I have to apologize for not posting this sooner.  I just came across my tasting notes while cleaning up my desk at home, and I realized that I hadn't blogged about it because we hated these beers... but then I realized that I NEEDED TO WARN YOU ABOUT THESE MONSTROSITIES, so here I am.  I even took the time to search my computer for this photo so that you could burn the image to memory and not accidentally purchase one of these on a whim.

I hesitate to give you individual tasting notes on these, because they were horrible failures in brewing.  But I can tell you what I thought going into this experience, and what little I got out of it.

7% ABV.  I expected a pleasant, floral, citrusy hop profile from a beer spiced exclusively with a hop called Citra.  But it was full of bitter, stale, dank orange peel.  Yuck.

7% ABV.  This one had an astringent, metallic flavor that was just nasty.  It tasted like dirty-gym-sock tea.  I'd rather drink cough syrup.

7% ABV.  Sour, raw bitterness, not pleasantly so.  Chewing on pine needles soaked in brine would be less disgusting.

This was my first and last experience with Hermitage.  I won't be wasting my hard earned money on this brewery again.  That is hard for me to say because I adore and fully support craft breweries... but these beers were way too far from the bulls-eye for my taste... or anyone's taste, who has good taste.  So don't taste these.