Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Tuesday, Jun 22 2010 

Several years ago, while I was studying abroad, my college boyfriend came to visit.  As an early 21st-birthday present, I took him to Dublin for a long weekend, where we celebrated by going, where else, the Jameson Distillery.  First of all, if you’ve never been (to Ireland, Dublin, and/or the Jameson Distillery), I highly recommend it (Ireland, Dublin, and the Distillery).  The tour ends with a whiskey tasting involving all the usual suspects: Jameson, Jack, and Johnny.  The idea, of course, is to prove to you how smooth and delicious Jameson is, as compared to the rather harsh bite of the other two, er, gentlemen.  Not that I’ve ever been a particularly hard sell in that department.

Irish whiskey is, was, and maybe always will be my shot of choice, especially when pitted against scotch and bourbon.  I just can’t get passed the burn of even the longer-aged bourbons, and the only scotch worth drinking is prohibitively expensive compared to my favorite whiskey.  But I never like to judge too quickly, especially when it comes to something that could be delicious if given a chance.  Thus, the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ festival in National Harbor this weekend.  The festival boasted 60 beers to sample, 40 bourbons to try, and a bacon-tasting station.

Now, just to recap, I do not like the following:

1) Bourbon

2) Bacon

Which left beer.  And pulled pork.  And hushpuppies.  And more beer.  And water, given that it was 93 broiling, sunny degrees, and, despite mopping sweat from my forehead for five hours, I got not one single shade tanner.  The injustice of it all.

Anyway.  I’d like to report that I gave bourbon a fair go and despite my best attempts to choke down more than the eensiest, tiniest little sip of a taste, I still hate it.  I’m sorry.  I don’t know why, beyond the fact that it freaking hurts more than I can explain, and if I wanted something to burn like that wouldn’t it be easy to just chug some shitty tequila?  I even tried the 18-year-aged stuff and, to be honest, I don’t think it even tastes any different from the not-aged-at-all crap.  I can taste the years in scotch, but definintely not in bourbon.

I did have some fan-freaking-tastic beer, pulled pork, and hot sauce though.  Also, whoever convinced me that I don’t like barbeque sauce is an idiot, because that shit is tasty if it’s done right.  We tasted one that I was fully planning on purchasing before our departure, but in our near heat-stroke state of mind, all we could focus on was returning to the air-conditioned car and taking a nice long nap.  I’m regretting it now though, and seriously considering ordering myself a little stock of it from their online store.  A few considerations must be made for the fact that I rarely cook anything on which barbeque sauce would traditionally be eaten, however, and I fear that if I learn to cook things like pulled pork and ribs for myself, it will be literally all I want to eat during grilling season.

Boyfriend also raved about the bacon, which I confess I didn’t even try.  Honestly, I’m not a fan of anything smokey – if you describe food to me as having any kind of smokey character, it immediately turns me off.  And don’t even get me started on the rauchbeir thing.  I can’t even stand how that smells.

All in all, neuroses aside, it was a pretty great day.  We ate ourselves silly and washed it all down with some great beer.  Boyfriend purchased an obscenely large bag of beef jerky and ate half of it on the 45-minute drive back to Baltimore, which meant I woke up from my sun-induced nap to the overpowering smell of dried meat and a Boyfriend who was maybe rethinking the amount of jerky he’d just ingested.  Because like everything else in life, you can often have just a little too much of a very good thing.

The Verdict on My Ability to Create Booze Monday, Dec 14 2009 

Anyone wondering how this turned out?  Boyfriend was home again this weekend (I cleverly gave him a Christmas present that required his presence in NJ), and the cider had been fermenting for a week, so it was taste-test time at Hanukkah dinner with his family on Saturday.  Not that anyone but the two of us was stupid brave enough to try homemade alcohol. 

I cracked it open before his arrival, and sampled a small sip (you know, to make sure I wouldn’t poison anyone), but I didn’t have a full glass of it until we toasted our experiment on Saturday night.  For a first effort, it wasn’t too bad – really…champagne-y (is that a word?).  And thicker than any hard cider I’ve ever tasted, but with the same sweet, bubbly taste I love so much.  Boyfriend felt it tasted a little yeast-y, which I can understand given the amount of yeast I dumped in the jug.  We decided it’d be worth tweaking and trying again, this time with lager yeast instead of the white wine yeast the man at the homebrew store gave me.  Not knowing enough to put my foot down and ask for the beer yeast I knew I wanted, I went with his recommendation for making cider, which is, I think, what made it so much like drinking apple-flavored champagne (not that there is anything wrong with apple-flavored champagne…or any champagne for that matter). 

Bottom line?  We’re calling it a success, with room for improvement.  For now, though, we have a gallon of hard cider to drink before we give it another go.

Hard Cider Friday, Dec 4 2009 

A month ago, I found this post.  I instantly copied and pasted the link into an email to Boyfriend titled “My New Hobby…?” and we’ve been talking about it ever since.

See, last year, our first Christmas/Hanukkah together, one of my gifts was a case of my favorite hard cider, which I found and fell in love with in England, and frequently have trouble finding here in the States.  Don’t get me wrong – Woodpecker and Woodchuck will both do fine if I’m in the mood for some cider, but they both have an overwhelming, cloying sweetness to them that Magner’s doesn’t.  Magner’s is balanced – sweet, but crisp and refreshing.  It’s fantastic, and I was thrilled to get it as a gift and drink it with him during the weeks that followed.  He’s not a total cider convert,  but I haven’t yet introduced him to the hilarity that is the 2-liter plastic soda bottles of Strongbow in London.  We’ll see what his thoughts are after we guzzle one of those down a month from now.

Till then, I’m embarking on this experiment.  Am I going to be able to actually make hard cider in the comfort of my own home?  Will it be a crash-and-burn failure?  Or will I be motivated to take a trip back to the homebrew store (weirdest store I’ve ever set foot in, by the way) and pick up another packet of yeast to give it a second go around?  Only time will tell, friends.

Stay tuned!

Pumpkin, Revisited Tuesday, Nov 24 2009 

In case you haven’t glanced at your calendar lately, November is rapidly coming to a close.  As in, Thanksgiving is in two days.  As in, I only have to do this daily posting stuff for another week (!!).  As in, holy crap, I have to start Christmas shopping! 

So before we fastforward into the snowy months, and I go into hibernation with my Penn State Snuggie and Chouffe, pining for the days of 50-degree weather and the urge to post every day, I thought we could revist all the pumpkin recipes that scream FALL! to me one last time. 

Thanksgiving breakfast, anyone?

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Scones

 

Sides:

Pumpkin Souffle

Pumpkin Bread

 

Appetizers and Munchies:

Pumpkin Ravioli

Spiced Pumpkin Seeds

 

And, of course, the ever-important cocktail:

Pumpkin Martinis

My Favorite Winter Beer Monday, Nov 23 2009 

As I mentioned yesterday, my beer tastes have been progressed right on through the fall, despite it only being November.  Which means that instead of looking for everything pumpkin, I’ve moved on to looking for everything Christmas – those limited edition, molasses-thick beers that warm you from the inside out.  The kind that are deep and rich, dark and full of malty goodness.

Boyfriend and I discovered our favorite such beer last year, at our first beer tasting festival in Philly.  Of all the Belgian beers on hand, it was the N’Ice Chouffe that won us over from the first sip.  We spent months looking for it, only to discover a week ago that it’s a seasonal beer, and is produced only once a year at a monastary in Belgium.  Well I’ll be damned.  No wonder no liquor stores were carrying it when we found it in February.

But they are carrying it now, and it’s still as fantastic as I remember.  So fantastic, in fact, that I’ve bought three bottles in one week.  Don’t be so quick to judge – I’ve only finished one so far…

Pomegranate Martinis Tuesday, Nov 10 2009 

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Do you want to hear something pathetic?  Of course you do – everyone loves a chance to laugh at someone else’s stupidity.  Or maybe that’s just me…that would be embarrassing.  Anyway

 

So the other night, Cousin and I went to Dave and Buster’s with some friends.  Never been?  It’s Chuck E. Cheese for grown-ups: arcade games, tickets, prizes, and beer.  Trust me – I’m an expert at these things.  I worked at Chuck E. Cheese for three years during high school.  No, I’m not kidding.  I did the birthday dance every two hours from noon till 8PM twice a week.  Go ahead.  I’ll give you a minute to stop laughing.

 

Alright, now that we’ve collected ourselves, allow me to continue.  I spent a lot of time there as a teenager, mostly fending off sticky-fingered children on a sugar high and handing out slices of mediocre pizza.  Oh, and dressing up as the mouse once.  Once! Do we need to take another giggling break?

 

I didn’t have a whole lot to do with any of the arcade games, since I didn’t wear a referee shirt or carry the keys to open any of the machines.  But good lord did those machines cause some drama – and not just with the children.  My favorite day of work at The Cheese (And by favorite, I mean that the best stories came out of it.  It was certainly the worst day I ever spent there) involved two women literally knocking every arcade game around them to the floor.  They wound up wrestling on the ground, pulling one another’s hair, in a flurry of wires and overturned video game machines.  When the dust cleared and the games were righted, the cause of the argument came out: one had called the other’s baby ugly.  Heavens.  Now, I haven’t popped a kid out yet (Phew.  Thank god I have a few more years on that front), but I really don’t think my response would be to start throwing ‘bows.  And I have a temper.

 

Needless to say, I can only imagine what it’s like to work at D&B, where they not only serve (expensive!) beer, but also shots.  I mean really?  Can you think of a worse combination?  The poor waitresses.  I feel for them, I really do.  I especially felt for the one who, at 2AM on Saturday night in Philly, was breaking up a booze-and-video-game-induced brawl between two men in the entryway.

 

But none of that is the funny part (Shocking, right?).  The funny part is that Cousin and Cousin’s Boyfriend had a little basketball competition going on.  Just to set the scene a little here, Cousin’s Boyfriend is tall.  Significantly taller than me, Cousin, and Boyfriend.  And Cousin played basketball for years.  Yours truly, on the other hand, did not.  I can barely get passed the “H” in HORSE in a pick-up driveway game.  It’s sad.  So naturally the inevitable suggestion came out of Cousin’s Boyfriend’s mouth two hours into the night.  “Why don’t you and Katie do a round?” he asked Cousin.

 

UGH.  Whatever, they were properly warned.  In the entire minute the game allows you to shoot free throws – without a moving backboard- I made approximately 8 shots.  Just for reference, others made upwards of 40 and 50.  But here’s the worst part of the whole pathetic adventure: my arms are sore.  Seriously.  I took my sweater off after work and it was effort to lift my arms that far.  And that, my friends, is why I need to spend more time in the weight room.  Or any part of the gym.  Even the parking lot of the gym would be a step in the right direction.

 

Instead, I made a cocktail.  I’m nothing if not consistent.

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Pomegranate Martinis

Makes one cocktail

 

1 shot Pomegranate Schnapps

1 shot vodka

Splash of lime juice

Pomegranate seeds (What?  You aren’t earnest enough to get them out of their stupid, obnoxious shell?  Fine – it’ll taste the same, it just won’t look as cool.  And, also, I’ll judge you.  Me and my gimpy arms.)

 

In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, lime juice, and schnapps with ice.  Shake well, then pour into a martini glass (which I don’t have).  Sprinkle in a few pomegrante seeds (they’ll sink, but they taste great by the end of your drink) and serve.

 

 

*On a side note: I am completely floored by the amount of traffic that’s come to this site as a result of WordPress.com‘s (phenomenal!) decision to put my empanadas on their homepage!  Welcome, and thanks so much for all of the wonderful comments!  Keep them coming everyone!

Pumpkin Martinis Friday, Oct 9 2009 

Yes. Seriously. Please don’t hate me.

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My name is Katie, and I’m addicted to pumpkin recipes in the fall.

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What can i say, really?  These things are just damn good.  So good, in fact, that my family went a little (ahem) overboard on them at Thanksgiving last year, and let’s just say that not everyone made it to the turkey-consumption part of the evening.

In case I haven’t mentioned this before (and I don’t think I have), Boyfriend is Jewish, and I am not.  Thus, 90% of the time, we aren’t actP1040128ually forced to choose a single family (or split our time) for a holiday celebration.  On Hanukkah, I was there to spin the dreidel and eat more potato pancakes (with sour cream and applesauce, thank you very much) than I care to admit.  On Christmas Eve, he was there to show my family the fantastically, timed-to-radio-Christmas-music light display in his neighborhood after church.  And on Christmas morning he sang the Hanukkah song (…in the Adam Sandler voice – the kid does a mean impression, probably because he’s completely obsessed.  Seriously.  We see Adam Sandler movies at midnight the night they come out. It’s that bad.) for my family, and ate prime rib with us at Christmas dinner.  At Passover, I struggled through the reading and sat quietly for the singing in Hebrew portion, choosing instead to enjoy my Manischewitz in silence.  A close friend of mine from college has always joked that she needs to date a Jew so she doesn’t have to share holidays, and I have to admit – it ain’t half bad.

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Thanksgiving offers no such divide, and since our family feasts are located more than an hour apart, we’ve chosen to keep this day separate, with each of us enjoying our own traditions.  Of course, we spend Thanksgiving Eve together, drinking with friends in honor of what most people consider the biggest party night of the year (I was born on New Year’s Eve, so clearly I believe that to be far superior to the other 364 nights of the year), and he makes an appearance before dinner.  But, as he’ll be more than willing to tell you, the hilarity actually ensues long after dinner is over.  Like when I cracked my right eye open last year and found myself asleep on the soooo comfy oversized leather chair in my living room – with Boyfriend staring at me from across the room, shit-eating grin and all.
“Um. How long have you been here?”

“Um. An hour.  I didn’t want to wake you. I figured you had one too many martinis.”

Touche, Boyfriend.  Touche.

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Pumpkin Martinis

Adapted, unbelievably, from the back of the Hiram Walker Pumpkin Spice Cordial bottle.  Swear.

1 shot of Pumpkin Spice Liqueur (found in the cordial isle)

1 shot of vodka

Dash of cinnamon and nutmeg

Pour both kinds of alcohol, spices, and several ice cubes into a cocktail shaker, and shake well.  Pour into martini glasses by removing the lid and pouring through the strainer.  Enjoy – but be careful, they’re stronger than you think!