Monthly Archives: September 2011

Bottles of Sadness

I spent the day playing with my wonderful camera, Duke. Oh wait, you haven’t met Duke yet??
I ended up trading in my little Nikita for something a little more bulky with more capabilities – a Nikon D5100. With Duke, I can do this:
High Dynamic Range! I used the cheating software to do this though. I’m hoping to move on to bracketing soon enough, once I finally figure out more about my camera. Any HDR tips are more than welcome! The software also lets me do THIS:
I switched Duke over to manual and started adjusting ISO and f-stop and all of that fun stuff that I’m slowly but surely learning.
From this day forth, the pictures will be improving dramatically! My goal is to be on manual all the time, working on some bracketing for fun HDR pics in the future, and making my camera be more than just a point and shoot. After all, that was the whole point of getting a DigiSLR!

One reason why it’s taken me so long to start really learning my camera?
This is just one example of the many idiotic contributions to my psychology class discussion board online. This is college, yes? Are we now writing ‘u’ instead of ‘you’? Is punctuation and capitalization unnecessary? Should I end my sentences with an emoticon or a big ZOMGLOLROFL??? I’ve been distracted from my camera by this stupidity, slowly filled with rage with each and every “they’re family had this dog” or “I knew this one women once”…

Rant over. New rant time.

I was really excited to try a few of Mikkeller’s single hop IPAs. I grabbed four from Wades Wines and brought them out in preparation for a tasting, hoping to really be able to pull out the different aromas and flavors of each individual hop. I popped open the first bottle.
Don’t get it yet? Let’s take a closer look…
That. Is. Mold. Frantically, I popped the top off of the second one. MOLD. The third and fourth? MOLD!!! This makes for a very unhappy, thirsty lady. I took them back to Wades (not the fault of Wades Wines! Apparently friends of mine have also had problems with Mikkeller having DMS issues…) and swapped them out for Midnight Sun Treat, Iron Fist Velvet Glove and a Duchesse de Bourgogne. Opened the Treat just now.
Mold free and beautiful. I am content once again.

I’m off to enjoy a tall glass of this, then packing for a trip to Boulder City, Nevada tomorrey morning. Lo and behold, THEY ACTUALLY HAVE A BREWERY! Maybe the 99 degree Fahrenheit high that’s predicted for the entire weekend won’t be so bad after all…?

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Godiva Caramel Pecan Caffetini

This is technically not a martini. There is no gin or dry vermouth in this drink, but “Caffetini” is a much cuter way of describing a coffee cocktail. Therefore, I have proclaimed it officially a martini. I also put it in a martini glass. Any argument is now invalid.
As a participant in Foodbuzz’s Tastemaker Program, I get some free stuffs from time to time in order to review or create new recipes. Godiva and Foodbuzz sent me two of Godiva’s new limited edition coffee flavors to create a beverage recipe. I received Pumpkin Spice
and Caramel Pecan Bark. Immediately, I started daydreaming of delicious boozy dessert drinks perfect for a chilly autumn or winter evening.
My first recipe was created using all of these ingredients. It was awful. I attempted to make my own vanilla vodka, but I think the vodka has gone bad or the vanilla extract is too bitter to be mixed in. After dumping it all down the drain, I decided that simpler is better anyway!
Godiva coffee and Godiva chocolate liqueur. Yeah, that’ll do.
(Disclaimer: The liqueur was purchased on my own dime. Although if Godiva wants to send me another bottle free, I won’t complain…*hint hint*)

Caramel Pecan Caffetini

Serves 2
Prep time 10 minutes
Meal type Beverage
Adding coffee to the thick, rich liqueur balances this drink out so it’s not overwhelmingly heavy. The aroma of coffee, chocolate and caramel grace your senses with the the first sip. Sweet chocolate comes to the forefront when paired with the caramel sauce that has a hint of salt to develop the complex, buttery goodness of the caramel as it slowly drips down the glass to encase your fingers.

Ingredients

  • 4fl oz freshly brewed coffee
  • 4fl oz chocolate liqueur
  • 1 handful ice
  • Salted caramel sauce (for rimming (I used Trader Joe's Fleur de Sel))
  • Pecans (for garnish)

Directions

Step 1
Brew the coffee and set aside in the fridge to cool.
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Step 2
Measure out the chocolate liqueur.
Step 3
Rim the martini glasses with caramel and garnish with a pecan.
Step 4
In a cocktail shaker, combine the coffee, ice and liqueur and shake vigorously. (This is where I had to get creative. We aren’t big hard liquor drinkers here, so there wasn’t a cocktail shaker in sight. Instead, I combined all the ingredients in a water bottle, shook vigorously and poured into the individual martini glasses through the top. Worked like a charm!)
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Step 5
Strain (or pour through the water bottle cap) the shaken mix into individual martini glasses.
Step 6
Sip and enjoy bliss.

Adding coffee to the thick, rich liqueur balances this drink out so it’s not overwhelmingly heavy. The aroma of coffee, chocolate and caramel grace your senses with the the first sip. Sweet chocolate comes to the forefront when paired with the caramel sauce that has a hint of salt to develop the complex, buttery goodness of the caramel as it slowly drips down the glass to encase your fingers. Descriptive words I write feebly attempt to translate delicious images to your brain.

Now if only it would snow outside so I could light the fireplace and curl up in a fuzzy blanket with a foreign film, the world would be perfect.

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Ladies at Ladyface: 5

Last Monday was our “Harvest Ale” evening at Ladies at Ladyface: the Fermentables and Comestibles Education and Tippling Society. Basically, in order to prepare our palates for autumn, we all brought in something “seasonal” to imbibe.
I brought Shipyard’s Smashed Pumpkin, Sierra Nevada’s Northern Hemisphere Harvest (honestly picked it up because it had the word “Harvest” on it) and Shipyard’s Smashed Blueberry – not exactly seasonal, but I’d read about it on Drink, Eat, Travel after Jace Milstead did a write-up and wanted to try it. LOVED IT! It’s a cross between a Porter and Scotch ale, warm and boozy, with a nice aroma of real blueberries wafting off the head, pouring a dark brown-burgundy and rounded out with a blueberry sweetness that rests on your tongue long after you swallow. I grabbed another bottle the next day so I could have it all to myself.
Ladyface had Pliny the Elder on tap, and while we had a few beers waiting to try,  I just couldn’t say no to Pliny!
I also feel the need to order the Popcorn Chickpeas while they’re still on the menu. Teeny fried bits of happiness!
My mumsie and I split the sliders – topped with bleu cheese, arugula, balsamic onions and fresh tomatoes. I wish these were full size. Mine was gone far too quickly. As was half of my Pliny (glances suspiciously at mumsie)…
In between the tastings, Cyrena (owner of Ladyface) brought out some crushed grains and hot liquor (When you’re using water for brewing, it’s called liquor. She didn’t bring out hot alcohol) and we mixed them together to observe the color and aroma difference between the individual grains. Mashing in at a table while drinking a Pliny and eating sliders = perfection.
Among the other beers to taste: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, an IPA homebrew by fellow Lady @ Ladyface: J.J., and some other ones in the bucket that I can’t remember… Oops.
We got a chance to try Ladyface’s new session with Citra hops straight from the fermentor. A little too sessionable for my liking, but very pretty in the sunset!
We finished the night with a strawberry and goat cheese salad, a little Smashed Blueberry and Cyrena brought out a surprise: halfshots of rum from Ballast Point that taste like scotch! I’m not a shot taker (well, not since college anyway…) but I couldn’t be rude and refuse this generosity. My mouth and throat burned like menthol for a while. Yeah, I’ll stick to beer…

Next month is our “a little bit late” Oktoberfest! Any SoCal ladies who want to join come out on the 17th for Michelle’s famous “kraut ‘n bacon” and some delicious Oktoberfest beers!

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Pumpkin Cornbread

Last night, Brie came over for a pumpkin beer/pumpkin food night. She was bringing over pumpkin chili and what goes great with chili? Cornbread. What goes great with pumpkin chili?

Pumpkin Cornbread

Serves 10-12
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 30 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Meal type Bread
Sweet, moist cornbread. Perfect to pair with any type of chili or soup on a cool autumn day.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 + 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 7 tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cups brown sugar (tightly packed)
  • 1 + 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Step 1
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 2
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt.
Step 3
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.
Step 4
In yet another bowl, combine the almond milk, eggs and pumpkin puree and whisk well.
Step 5
Pour the flour and the wet ingredients into the butter and sugar and mix well.
Step 6
Spread the thick batter into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Before…
After! I’d like to say that I’ve never made cornbread before in my life. I totally winged this and just hoped that I didn’t end up burning the house down. The fact that it turned out DELICIOUS? I’m still in proud shock.

The pumpkin chili may be the best chili I’ve ever had. EVER. Combine that with fresh, hot pumpkin cornbread slathered with butter and honey, and you have perfection on a placemat.
We went through a plethora of beers.
Shipyard Pumpkinhead: I was warned to steer clear of this one. That only made me more curious and since it was already in my fridge when the warning came in, we tasted that one first. The aroma was very funky and had a chemical scent. The body was very thin with a watery artificial sweetener flavor and a hint of nutmeg. It finished like a fizzy yellow beer – weak and sad. I learned my lesson.

Overall the favorites were Dogfish Head Punkin Ale – a heavily spiced ale, rich and warm with a slightly sweet finish, and Lips of Faith: Kick.
Pardon the wonderfully blurry picture. I’m still working on figuring out shutter speeds, apertures and all that fun stuff. Kick is a very interesting ale – a collaboration between New Belgium and Elysian Brewing. No wonder I loved it. It’s 75% ale brewed with pumpkin and cranberry juice and 25% ale aged in wooden barrels. You can really taste the cranberry juice in the first tangy sip, and it’s spiked with a lovely slightly sour finish. I’ve had sours before – many of them you can have a glass of and then it becomes overwhelming. With this, you could knock back the entire bomber and still not feel like your palate has been overworked. I was surprised that this clocked in at 8.5% ABV – it doesn’t have a heavy or boozy flavor at all.

There is no better way to say farewell to summer and welcome the first day of autumn.
What I woke up to this morning:
Oh yeah, IT’S OFFICIALLY AUTUMN!!!

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Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

This morning I awoke to thick sheets of damp grey marine layer resting outside my windows. I put on a baggy sweatshirt and shivered in delight, images of pumpkin muffins and steaming hot mugs of cider racing through my brain.

Then the sun came out. I said, “Screw it,” closed the blinds,  pretended I was still frozen through and set to work making an oatmeal that would satisfy anyone who lusts after autumn the way I do.

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Serves 1
Prep time 2 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 37 minutes
Dietary Vegan
Meal type Breakfast
Pumpkin pie in a bowl - warm, creamy steel cut oats with the rich flavor of pumpkin pie without the guilt.

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 + 1/3 cup water
  • 1 heaped tablespoon pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 pinch salt

Directions

Step 1
In a small pot, bring the water and salt to a boil.
Step 2
Add the steel cut oats, stir and let thicken for about three minutes.
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Step 3
Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 25-30 minutes.
Step 4
Remove from heat. Add pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice and maple syrup and stir to combine.
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Step 5
Serve and add toppings of your choice - I added toasted walnuts and dark chocolate.
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If it’s still too warm outside to make this, just shut your blinds, blast the air conditioner and shiver away over the stove top until this deliciousness appears and thaws you from the inside out. Or you could just be patient and wait until it’s actually cold out… I do not have that much self control.

I made just enough for a single serving, but only because we had a scant 1/3 cup of steel cut oats left. You can easily double, triple or octo-ply this to feed yourself and anyone lucky enough to smell the scent of fresh pumpkin pie wafting through the air.

There will be plenty of autumn-inspired recipes coming up these next few months – alcoholic beverages included! Too keep up to date, like me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter!

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Pyramid Alehouse

Walnut Creek, California: A small town, relatively quiet (from what I could tell, having been there for a total of 3 hours) and quaint. What could there possibly be to do here? Enter: BeerWhere – the awesome application on my phone that seeks out all breweries, homebrew stores and pubs that I could ever desire. I’ve seriously used this application for every trip I’ve been on and found some sort of craft brewery/beer in the area. LOVES IT!
Pyramid Alehouse was only a mile from our hotel. We’d spent the entire day sweating to death in our booth, losing precious amounts of water that had to be replenished as soon as possible.
The best way to rehydrate after a day of dehydration: BEER. It’s a scientifically proven fact. Don’t look it up or anything, just trust me…
I decided to get a sampler – five different six-ounce beers from the long list they provide.
I got the Thunderhead IPA, Juggernaut Red Ale, Draught Pale Ale, Imperial Red and Ink Blot Porter. The Imperial Red was definitely my favorite (I LOVE hoppy reds!) – but honestly, when you have thirty ounces of “tasters”, they all start to happily blur together. Besides, the important thing here was re-hydrating!
I ordered the first thing I saw when I opened the menu. I made a Honey Basil Chicken last month to pair with Bison Brewing’s Honey Basil Ale and it turned out DELICIOUS , so I wanted to see how Pyramid’s Honey Cilantro Chicken measured up.
Verdict: meh. The chicken was dry and excessively charred and it was topped with a relatively bland tomato sauce. The one part where they one-upped me? Garlic mashed potatoes. I should always know to place every food item I make atop of a huge pile of garlic mashed potatoes.
For dessert I got the Brownie Sundae. Note to the chefs – a thin chocolate cake does not a brownie make. It wasn’t bad, but it was basically like a piece of cake. Nothing to write home about.

Overall the beer was tasty, the food was passable and the waiters were extremely attractive. If you’re a girl, or a guy who appreciates fine lookin’ young men, Pyramid Alehouse in Walnut Creek will definitely be a WIN!

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Library Alehouse

Enegren Brewing Company’s beer was being poured at the Library Alehouse in Santa Monica yesterday. Naturally, I had to attend to show my support! Their beer was set to be tapped at 6pm. I got there at 4pm for a little… extra support? In any case, beer was the final outcome.
My pops was my date for the evening. We grabbed a table next to the window and set to work deciphering the 29 taps behind the bar!
The Library Alehouse is set in a narrow space on Main Street, but extends all the way back into a cozy patio. We opted to stay inside where all of the action was.
The menu included the majority of their beer on tap, but left out the a few of the delicious newbies to the bar like La Folie by New Belgium and Denogginizer by Drake’s Brewing.
PUNKIN ALE? Well, it IS technically mid-September…
And that beauty on the far right is, indeed, Punkin Ale by Dogfish Head. Lovely and spicy, full of the aroma of pumpkin pie, a smooth, sweet malty sip and a warm boozy finish. Fall has arrived! Now going from left to right: Drake’s 1500 Pale Ale, Houblon Chouffe by Achouffe (heehee, Ah-choo-f! I’m twelve.), Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout by North Coast Brewing, Jamaica Red by Mad River Brewing, and back to Punkin Ale. I enjoyed the 1500 Pale Ale and the Jamaica Red best, so I ordered a glass of the Houblon Chouffe. Makes sense, right? Turns out we weren’t given a list of the beers so I ordered what I thought was in the glass on the far left (it was sipped dry by then)…
Well, Houblon Chouffe it is! This one’s quite a bit higher in the ABV than the 1500 Pale Ale (9% vs. 5.2%), and full of delicate bittering hops and the flavor and aroma of banana thanks to the use of traditional Belgian yeast. I wasn’t complaining after the first sip!
My dad got a full pint of the Old Rasputin in a slightly not-beer-clean glass. He didn’t mind too much.
We split the Local Burger – bison purchased at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, topped with sharp gouda, arugula and served on a soft bun covered with opium poppyseeds. The sweet potato fries were the true stand-outs of this – crispy on the outside, soft and sweet inside and covered with flakes of salt and fresh herbs.
6 o’clock rolled around, the candles came out, I ordered my pops an Old Chub Scotch Ale by Oskar Blues, an Alesmith IPA was randomly placed in front of me in a pint glass, and who should walk in but two Ghostbusters men in brewniforms! (They never get tired of hearing that, I’m sure…)
They even wore the boots –  that’s dedication. My dad and I grabbed a taster size of their Valkyrie California Alt (we had been there since 4pm…), spouted off how amazing it was to the sitters-by, tried some of the Alehouse’s mocha torte which turned out so dry that we had to send it back, and then slowly, lazily rolled off our tall chairs, meandered down Main Street and headed home.
Aaaaah, life is glorious!

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Joie de Vivre!

I’d like to introduce you to a happy place. To some *cough* the couple who was getting “frisky” next door *cough*, this place may be happier than it is for others. Either way, the Domain – a Joie de Vivre hotel, in Sunnyvale is a lovely place to be.
Once you enter the unassuming building, you’re greeted by a blast of deliciously icy air conditioning and an equally luxurious scent that wafts about the lobby. If you’ve ever been to one of those fancy hotels like the “W” in Beverly Hills or the Aria in Las Vegas, you know what I’m talking about. They actually create their own “lobby scent” that you can purchase in the gift shops! I didn’t look to see if the Domain sold their scent… I wish I had.
The inside is basic, but full of character and unique touches. For the rooms that have windows facing the lobby, there are sheer curtains, rustic wood slats and woven tapestries to give privacy and filter out the soft glow of the lights.
The rooms are spacious yet cozy with different quotes adorning the walls in each suite. “Real genius is nothing but the supernatural virtue of humility in the domain of thought.” The Sleep Number beds (once you figure out how they work) adjust to your specific comfort needs. The alarm clock holds a docking station for your iPod so you can wake up to the tranquil sound of your own quiet music as opposed to the blaring sirens that most hotel alarm clocks utilize.
The wall that leads to the balcony is covered by blinds, giving the illusion that it is covered with windows. The window and door allow in just enough of the streaks of light from the sunset to bathe the room in a warm glow.
The bathroom features a quaint little rock garden in which the bamboo and lemongrass scented shampoos and soaps are set, enhancing the relaxing spa feel of each suite.
The cafe downstairs features a breakfast buffet in the morning…
…and an extensive dinner and beverage menu featuring cocktails such as “Technopolitan”, “Esc”, “iDrink” and “Social Media Refresh” to reflect the technology that is Silcon Valley.
I went for the aptly named “Joie de Veev” – acai liqueur, ginger ale, lemon juice and pomegranate juice over ice. I was indeed full of joy after finishing this delicious drink!

If you ever are looking for a hotel in Sunnyvale, I highly recommend the Domain. The staff is eager to assist and incredibly friendly. While you can’t control who your neighbors will be, or what they decide to do from midnight to 7am,  the entire experience in this hotel will more than make up for it!

I’d recommend it MUCH more than this hotel, that’s for sure!

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Tied House Brewery

I’m up in Mountain View, California for the Mountain View Arts and Wine Festival this weekend. My first order of business – BREWERY!
My lovely friend and former roommate from college, Joelle, picked me up at my hotel and brought me to Tied House Brewery & Cafe.
Internets, meet JoelleFace. JoelleFace, meet internets.
We got the taster platter of all eight of their beers. Alpine Gold, Cascade Amber, Ironwood Dark, New World Wheat, Amber Light, Oatmeal Stout, Passionfruit Ale and IPA. I enjoyed the amber, oatmeal stout and IPA, but he only one I really liked was the Ironwood Dark (which won gold at the GABF 2010) – Very malty, dense caramel/chocolate notes with an incredibly smooth finish. I wasn’t able to get that much aroma from the glasses they gave us, but once it warmed up it gave of wafts of toasty coffee. I would like to say that the Amber Light and Passionfruit Ale were DISGUSTING! Amber Light tasted exactly like Budweiser (which I had my first and last taste of a few months ago), and the Passionfruit Ale was plastic-y and artificial tasting. Neither Joelle nor I had more than a sip of each.
I refused to even acknowledge those crap-beers.
I got over it quickly though, and enjoyed the Ironwood Dark, Oatmeal Stout and IPA to my heart’s content. Twelve ounces total of beer on a Friday night – WOOHOO! I’m getting old and responsible.
JoelleFace’s friend Dan showed up. This picture describes how the rest of the night went until I had to head back to the hotel around 10:30pm so I could sleep for a few hours before waking up at 4am for setup.

EXCEPT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. Turns out my hotel room is next to some very “frisky” neighbors who were “frisking” about from midnight until 5am, when I had to leave for work. Banging on the wall only seemed to encourage them…
Innocence has been lost.

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WEDNESDAY!

Hey guys! It’s Wednesday! It’s September 7th, 2011! This will only happen ONCE in the entire existence of the universe.

On this rare occasion you should most definitely…
Order and consume an entire pizza….
Dye ridiculous amounts of random-colored streaks into parts of your hair.
At least, that’s how I would recommend you spend your Wednesday. If you forgo the hair, just go for pizza and a beer.

That will make for an epic Wednesday indeed.

For Thursday, you should most definitely head over to Wades Wines to support the newest local brewery in Ventura County – Enegren Brewing! It’s “Meet the Brewers” night  from 4:30pm to 7pm and, while I’ll be unable to attend, will be showing my support from afar. If you do go, tell them that Becki threatened you if you didn’t show up, and that a flight of their beers would make you feel much safer.
Enegren will be showcasing FOUR beers tomorrey night! Yes, that means one that they don’t serve at the brewery! I got an advanced screening sip of this when I worked the taps last Saturday and I can tell you – It. Be. Awesome.

Seriously though, go and support them. All craft breweries deserve support in order to stick it to the big guys. Plus, the longer they stay open, the longer I can steal away into their tap room – measuring hops, stirring mash, pouring tasters and working for tips.
Delicious, mouthwatering tips.

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