Monthly Archives: July 2011

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup

It’s been quite a while since I’ve actually had the time, or been home long enough, to COOK something! My sister-in-law made this soup when we visited in May, and my entire family fell in love with it! Yesterday, she e-mailed the recipe. I did a happy dance in front of my computer. It’s THAT good.

Butternut Squash and Leek Soup – (Photo Courtesy of Lee Harrelson because I was too lazy and hungry to make mine look pretty before I slurped it directly out of the bowl…)
(Adapted from VegWeb.com)
1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
4 large leeks
1 whole head of garlic
3 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1.5 tsp ground nutmeg
1-2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground pepper

1. Place the butternut squash halves, cut side up, on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. At the same time, remove the papery skins from the garlic, then wrap the entire head of garlic in foil.
2. Bake squash and garlic at 350 degrees for 60-75 minutes, or until fork easily pierces through the thickest point of the squash.
3. Let butternut squash and garlic cool while you prepare the leeks.
4. Trim, wash and thinly slice the leeks.
How the leeks arrive…
After trimming at the base of the dark green leaves…
Separate each layer to rinse thoroughly.
THINLY sliced leeks!
5. Saute the leeks in 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat for 5-10 minutes.
6. Squeeze the roasted garlic out of the casing and into the pan with the leeks and saute for another 5-10 minutes.
7. Add the cubed butternut squash and saute for 10 minutes.
8. Add the vegetable broth, water, ground nutmeg, cayenne and ground pepper. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.
9. Take an immersion blender and puree the soup into a creamy consistency. If you don’t have an immersion blender, ladle the soup into a blender and blend until smooth, then pour back into the pot.
10. Slowly stir in salt, pinches at a time, until you reach the desired taste.

This soup is SPICY and slightly sweet and full of vegetables and heavenly! If you need to clear out your sinuses, this is the soup to make! Not only are you getting massive amount of Vitamin A from the butternut squash, but you also hike up your metabolism with the cayenne. Either way, who cares? It’s freaking delicious!

I highly recommend serving this with a smooth IPA…
Mission Street IPA. Nice and gentle for relaxing after a 6 hour drive down from Los Altos.

Thanks for sending the recipe, Janna! This soup plus the chilly (65 degree) night feels just like Colorado again :)

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A Day in the Life of Becki

I’ve had some questions regarding what I actually do for my job. I decided to show you some of what’s involved in a day in the life of Becki (that’s me!). Answers may be even more vague than any prior info. I give you: today.
Cake for breakfast. This was a gluten-free chocolate cake layered with orange crème brûlée (delicious déjà vu!), raspberry jam and chocolate mousse.
Second cake for breakfast: Gluten-free chocolate layer cake. Soft, pillowy layers of almond-flour cake sandwiched between rich, luxurious chocolate mousse, topped with an edible gold leaf.
Portable amusement park rides.
After seeing a ten year-old throw up on this, I decided not to ride it. I love roller coasters. I do not love roller coasters coated in vomit.
Heavy lifting. My favorite part of the job.
Using power tools. That’s a tie with heavy lifting.
Gigantic Lagunitas IPA. Okey, I take back the heavy lifting/power tools. THIS trumps all. Delicious malt, blunt floral hop aroma followed by the whispering kiss of bittering hops on the end. Happy sigh.
Ridiculous amounts of delicious food. Tonight was a gigantic roll of sushi to accompany the above beer.

I’m sure this cleared NOTHING up for you about the aspects of my job, but it’s all true. And I love it.

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Faultline Brewing Company

I’m in Los Altos for the 32nd Annual Arts and Wine Festival this weekend, and got a chance to hang out with my friend Grayson at a brewery that he used to work at (as the brewer’s assistant).

We met in college. Grayson was a senior, living in a house of senior guys. I was a freshman, living in the dorms with my two best friends. Gray and “the Brew” as we so aptly named their house full of boys who brewed beer, basically took care of us the entire  year, and we ended up becoming amazing friends to this day. Gray, have I told you how awesome you are?
We went to Faultline Brewing Company in Sunnyvale.
I ordered a style of beer that I’d never tried before – Best Bitter. I didn’t read the description before I ordered and had no idea it was nitro-pushed until it arrived.
Stupid evil bad camera blurriness.
That’s better! It was so pretty, watching all that gas as it seemed to cascade down the glass, dissolving into crystal clear beer. I have to say, I’ve never been a huge fan of nitro-pushed beers. I’ve found them to be bland and watery when they’re served on nitro, but this was amazing! Beautiful creamy head that lasted the entire glass, smooth body with a slight caramel note on the tongue, and a very mild kick of bittering hops. I have been converted!
Return of the evil, blurry camera. Apparently it didn’t appreciate my selection of food – I got fire roasted veggies tossed in a fresh basil pesto. They came with mashed potatoes, which I requested have tons of garlic and bacon in them. Needless to say, those potatoes were the first to go…
Gray ordered the tri-tip. My camera approved of his selection apparently…
I finished with Faultline’s IPA – very mild on the IBUs (50), but still delicious. I’ve yet to find a hoppy beer that’s too intense for me. Stone’s Ruination didn’t really blow my mind. I actually found Amazon Imperial Red to be more intense. Any suggestions?
Gray, being the genius brewer that he is (and also a Cicerone Certified Beer Server), has been helping me with my studying for the Cicerone Certified Beer Server test. I don’t want to half-ass this thing – If I get a question right because I guessed on a multiple choice, that’s not good enough. This is information I actually ENJOY learning about! Anyway, Gray was incredibly patient last night, teaching me about enzymatic mashes and how they’re needed for converting the long strands of starches into fermentable sugars. He also walked me through decoctions and kegging. Awesome.

Good food, great beer, one amazing friend.
Then I tried my first macaron and almost gagged on the sweetness! I finished it though. I’m not one to waste food.

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Filed under brewery, Drinks

Wades Wines New Tasting Room

Since I’ll be gone for my dad’s birthday this weekend, I wanted to make it up to him a little bit early. Wades Wines in Agoura Hills was having a dark beer tasting – his favorite, and since I just happen to like beer myself, it was a win-win situation.
Wades recently underwent a complete overhaul of the store design in order to make room for their incredible new tasting room. They have 32 beer taps and 32 wine taps. We got there early and the bar was packed, but there were plenty of tables open.
Their decor is beautiful! They have old wine-making antiques lining the higher shelves.
Huge aging barrels rest upon the support beams overhead.
There are mirrors behind the bar, making the room feel twice as big.
They offer 4 tasters for just $5!
First was the Sierra Nevada Dark Lager. It was surprisingly light and had a lot of hops on the nose. It ends with a slight bite of hops at the end as well. If you’re looking for a good summer beer but only like dark beers, I’d recommend this baby.
My mom got the Mikkeller Saison – perfect for those who like wine. The aroma is full of tangy citrus and banana, and it goes down easy. I didn’t detect hardly any hop aroma or flavor in this – a great beer for beginners.
Up next was Firestone Velvet Merlin. This was pretty heavy on the coffee aroma, and had a rich, chocolate essence. I wouldn’t call it “velvet” since it’s pretty carbonated. I think I was expecting a smooth nitro-pushed beer. False advertising! I enjoyed this one a little more than the Sierra Nevada – it was a little fuller bodied and richer in flavor.
Iron Fist Velvet Glove. This is a VERY rich, heavy beer. Here’s the velvet I was looking for! The aroma is extremely sweet and boozy. I don’t like super malty, sweet beers as much, but the warmth of the alcohol at the end balances it out.
A fly plummeted directly into the glass – the sign of a sweet beer. I saved its life and it stumbled around the napkin, completely drunk. I enjoyed the extra protein and finished most of the beer, but couldn’t finish thanks to the super maltiness of this beer. My dad appreciated my selfless gesture of donating the leftovers to him. It was his favorite one.
Last was the Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout. I’ve been wanting to try this one for quite awhile, so I was happy to see it on the list. I am, however, glad that I didn’t buy the entire bottle. There was no cappuccino essence to this at all. I think my palate may have been compromised by the Iron Fist beforehand – if I try this one again, it’ll be all on its own. There wasn’t really anything super memorable about this beer. I liked it, but I tend to like most craft beers…
After the tasting, we were so close to Ladyface, we just couldn’t resist. They just got their new Chaparral Saison on tap (I’d tried it previously straight out of the fermenter at the second meeting of Ladies at Ladyface). De-freakin-licious. It was served at a slightly chilled temperature, with those lovely tangy wild yeast aromas dancing around the rim of the glass. Happy sigh. My dad got the Bruery Cuir Anniversary Ale, which clocks in at 14.5% ABV, hence the teeny glass.
I stuck with my favorite Ladyface ale – the Chesebro IPA.
My mom ordered the mussels in a chili-garlic sauce. I’ve never tried mussels in my life. I’m not a big fan of clams – fried, chowder, none of it.
I tried to keep an open mind…
Yeah, mussels are not for me. The texture freaks me out! I spent the next five minutes shuddering and sipping my hoppy beer trying to drown out the memory.
Luckily I also had grilled caper salmon with fingerling potatoes and asparagus to help as well.
And dessert! Oh, heavens, the desserts! The Chocolate Porter Cake is to die for! I’ve transitioned from the bread pudding to this slice of joy.
The true star of the meal though? The Orange Crème Brûlée , paired perfectly with the Derailleur. Each bite hits your tongue with a smooth, silky hint of sweetness, kissed with slightly tangy orange, topped off with the delicate crunch of burnt sugar. If, no WHEN, you order this, be sure to get the Derailleur with it! It will blow your mind!
I wish every Thursday night could be as delicious. Happy early birthday, dad!!!

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Filed under beer, beer tasting, Drinks

Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark

Have I mentioned that I adore abandoned buildings? Was my post about the Camarillo State Mental Hospital not clear enough? I can remedy that. Today on the drive home from the Vegas, I pulled off on a side road to get a closer look at something that has been lurking in the back of my mind for YEARS, begging to be trespassed and visited.
Rock-A-Hoola Waterpark, located in Newberry Springs, California.
This waterpark (originally named Lake Dolores Waterpark) was designed back in the late 1950s by Bob Byers.
His original plan was to have this park for private use of his extended family.
Over the next 25 years, rides were added and the park expanded as tourism to Las Vegas rose, as did interest in motocrossing in the sandy area.
The park was incredibly popular from the 1970s to the mid-1980s.
The popularity ran out in the late 1980s, and Byers sold the park in 1990.
The new owners tried to revitalize it with a new name (Rock-A-Hoola) and re-opened it in 1998.
The park was open for three more years and amassed three million dollars in debt.
In 1999, a park employee was paralyzed after he used one of the slides after hours.
He went down the slide and into the runout lane, but the water wasn’t at the height that it was supposed to be.
He realized that he wasn’t slowing down as much as he should have been and hit the concrete end of the runout lane, which you can see in the picture above.
He was paralyzed and sued the park. He was awarded $4.4 million dollars, which undoubtedly lent a hand to the upcoming bankruptcy and closure in 2000.
In 2002, new owners decided to give it another go. They spent $400,000 updating the park and renamed it “Discovery Waterpark.”
The park was open seasonally until 2004, when it closed for good.
Since then it’s been ripped apart, piece by piece, and sold to other waterparks.
Vandals have also gone wild, spray painting every standing structure, prying open doors and shattering any glassware they can find.
The lazy moat is filled with tattered mattresses, and the vandals really want you to know that “Nutsaks” are available there. (See the bridge above)
No, seriously. They really, really want you to buy some of their “Nutsaks”.
The stairs that led up to the tallest slides have been overgrown by large bushes. Sharp bushes. They hurt to walk through. I suffer for the good of my blog.
This park is beautiful and tattered, eerie and forgotten. I think it was made just for me.
I really need to find a history class that teaches only about abandoned towns/buildings/parks such as this.
This was my idea of a perfect day.

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Filed under Abandoned buildings, Travel

The Road to Vegas

Vegas is so much fun if you’re drunk and rich! I am neither, but here I sit. After twelve hours of driving through the desert, I really needed wanted a Cadillac margarita. This is why:
Downpour number 12…
Escaping death trap number 31 – Highway becomes river.
A breath of calm, 10 hours into the drive.
Narrow canyons with gusty winds.

Now to the REALLY scary part!
THE VEGAS STRIP! AAAAAAAAH!
MAGIC CASTLES AND CROWDS OF PEOPLE! AAAAAAAH!

And now the good parts:
PASTRIES! Aaaaaaaah!!!
GELATO! Aaaaaaah!
The view from our hotel. It’s so pretty from way up here!

Five hours on the road tomorrey, then I’m finally home! Only to leave a day later. It’s okay though – I still love my job!

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Breckenridge Foods!

Breckenridge foods that are worth mentioning! (Besides the obvious and amazing grilled veggie sandwich I had yesterday at Breckenridge Brewery)
Dragon Roll at Mountain Flying Fish! Adorable!
And filling! I tried my hardest, but I couldn’t finish it. Stupid petite stomach of mine – I can only eat a small amount at a time, but I’m hungry every half hour. I need to keep a portable fridge on me at all times, filled with fried delicacies and chocolate. And bacon, that would be good too…
No other food was worthy of notice until we went back to Breckenridge Brewery tonight! Sweet Grilled Corn Bruschetta. If you don’t like regular bruschetta (I’m not a big fan myself), then drive all the way to Breckenridge to try this! Seriously, it’s that good. Charred corn with silky avocado and cilantro atop warm ciabatta that’s been smothered in a spicy mayo. Corn is a vegetable, so this appetizer is healthy.
It just wouldn’t be complete without a 471 Double Hopped IPA. Holy mothers, I LOVE this IPA! Extremely aromatic, great head retention and just the right amount of bitters to make your tongue tingle. They serve this in a 12oz glass, seeing that it’s 9.2% ABV. Le sigh de happiness.
Oooooh, yeah! I’m thinking of getting this permanently tattooed on my wrist or the back of my neck. Any thoughts?
I fully believe that when you appreciate a brewery, you should buy a shirt. After you’ve purchased said shirt, you should most definitely go down to the hotel bar, grab a 90 Shilling from Odell Brewing and practice some billiards. If a guy does happen to challenge you whilst you are wearing said shirt and drinking that 90 Shilling, practicing billiards, you should most definitely whoop his ass.

Three times in a row.

Then let him win so he doesn’t feel completely emasculated.

You should most definitely do that.

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Filed under FOOD

Breckenridge Brewery

Today I got to check out Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge, Colorado, and got a personal tour from the brewmaster himself, Matt Darling. His first words when he saw me: “Chive on!” Awesome. Just plain awesome.
You can tell the brewers by their epic beards. It’s just a fact.

Matt Darling has been homebrewing since he was 15 years old, starting with vodka and wine before moving to beer. He’s been the head brewer at Breckenridge Brewery for five years after working as the assistant to Drake Schmid for three. He considers John Jordan, the brewer at Flying Monkey who is also a microbiologist, his mentor. I had a mini-interview with Matt to follow:

Becki: What was your “gateway” beer that made you really appreciate good craft beer?
Matt: Probably Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout. (Very classy “gateway”, Matt!)
Becki: Of all of the beers at Breckenridge, what’s your personal favorite.
Matt: Our ESB (Extra Special Bitter).
Becki: Ooooh, can I try that one? Is it year round?
Matt: No, it’s seasonal. We make it in autumn.
Becki: *Sniffle* *sad face*

So my quotes aren’t quite exact, but all the information in them is! (At least I think it is. Correct me if anything’s wrong, Matt!)
The brewery is located just south of the busy part of Main Street, nestled in between dozens of aspen trees.
When you walk in, you’re greeted by the entire brew system. It’s laid out behind the bar in all its glory. On brew days, you can actually sit at the bar and watch them go through the entire process. You’d be pretty trashed by the end though – on brewing days Matt is there from 9am to 6pm with only his assistant, Jimmy Walker, to help. That mash tun has to be filled twice in order to fill one fermenter. That’s a crapload of brewing!
The entire brewpub is bigger than it appears from the outside. The second floor that’s not filled with fermenters is used for seating, with lovely views of the brewery.
Oh, and the mountains. Those are lovely too…
Excuse the following blurry images – macro in dim lighting. Upstairs they have the specialty grains in the mill room. All the regular grains are located in a silo behind the brewpub.
Once all the ales are fermented, they’re transferred down to the refrigerated basement into gigantic kegs where they’re siphoned up to the brewery until they’re empty. It doesn’t take too long. They brew about four days a week during summer to keep up with demand here. In winter, it’s up to six times a week! Them snowboarders get thirsty!
Delicious Cascade hops! They use pellets instead of whole leaf hops to avoid clogging their brew system.
Back up at the bar I got to try the beer from the “brewer’s handle”. It was a Belgian pale ale with Trappist ale yeast pitched in – beautiful golden color with slightly fruity esters. I was too busy drinking it to get a picture. The beer above is their seasonal brown ale that had been run through the brand new lines in order to allow the hoppy aroma to really come out. They have a barrel that they got from Breckenridge Distillery filled with this brown downstairs, absorbing all the intense bourbon flavors. I wish I could be in town when they open that one!
Here’s the wonderful, big board full of all of their brews, excluding the few fresh seasonals they have out now: Lucky “U” IPA, Oatmeal Stout, 471 Double Hopped IPA and Baldy Mountain Brown (I think that’s what I tried above).
Of course, since it is a brewPUB, I had to try their food! I got the grilled vegetable sandwich – portobello mushrooms, peppers, onions and cheese topped with fresh spinach, piled onto fresh ciabatta bread and covered with pesto sauce. Holy frick, this was amazing. Even better was the beer they suggested I pair with it:
Vanilla Porter. Out of this freakin’ world! Seriously, I can’t fully describe the awesomeness of this beer. There are no aroma hops used in this, so the vanilla and malt smell comes through cleanly. The first sip is slightly sweet with a warm vanilla flavor rounded out with a full mouthfeel and faint touch of hop bite that lingers on your tongue after you swallow. Only 4.7% ABV, but since I just came from sea level, that was enough to make me feel it!
Thanks again to Matt for letting me barge in and giving me all the info! I’ll be back tomorrow to try a few more beers – gotta try them while I can since they don’t distribute to California. *Sniffle* *sad face*

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Filed under beer, brewery, Drinks

CHIVE ON!

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to be featured on TheChive and my little blog exploded with wonderful comments about beer and awesomeness. This is me saying thanks.
CHIVE ON!!!
Thanks for your interest in craft beer. It means the world to me and all the little breweries out there.
I’m just a girl who likes to appreciate the qualities of fine craft beer.
And eat. Oh man, do I love to eat!
And then appreciate some more craft beer. I’m completely enraptured by the history of beer, brewing process and the scientific conundrums of enzymes converting starches into fermentable sugars that I don’t quite fully understand yet, but appreciate oh so very much.
I’m also enraptured by melt-in-your-mouth bacon.
I put it in everything. Gentlemen and my kindred-spirit ladies, I give you Oatmeal Stout Brownies with Caramelized Bacon. You can thank me later.
You can also put it on a nice juicy medium-rare grass-fed burger that’s been smothered in cheese. I won’t judge you, I promise. In fact, I’ll probably think even more highly of you than I already do!
Just be sure to enjoy it with either a rich, smooth chocolate malt stout that’s been delicately dusted with freshly ground coffee…
Or a homebrew. Either of those work for me.
Thanks to Allie for her awesome photography skills!
And don’t forget to CHIVE ON!
OH! And come back later for a tour of the Breckenridge Brewery – I’m on the road to visit it right now!

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