I just can’t seem to stop celebrating this past week!
My Certified Cicerone pin and badge came in the mail yesterday, sending me off into another frenzied hour of joy.
I got a carwash for the first time in months. With the small amount of time I have for myself, I kind of saw this as a celebration… Oy, I’m getting old.
I also got back into the kitchen! These pumpkin spiced donuts were a regular in my life until a year ago, when my life got tossed around in beautiful ways and I had to move four times because of shifting jobs. I made these delicious donuts again, took one bite and realized something was off… Instead of 1/2 cup of brown sugar, I’d only added 1/4 cup. Well, crap.
They were still delicious, but obviously lacking just a tad.
I did what any normal person would do – melted butter, dipped the tops in butter and then in a mix of cinnamon and sugar.
BOOM. Problem solved.
Then I took another bite. Just to make sure the problem was actually solved.
It was. Oh, my goodness, it was.
I had quite a bit of pumpkin leftover from the donuts, so I made a form of mac ‘n cheese using pumpkin puree.
Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese
A healthy version of macaroni and cheese with an added dose of dietary fiber and Vitamin A from pumpkin puree, as well as whole grains from whole wheat pasta.
- 1 cup pumpkin puree
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 onion (diced)
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
- 1/8 cup parmesan cheese (grated)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 12oz whole wheat pasta ((3/4 lbs))
|In a frying pan, melt the butter over medium heat. |
|Add the onions, garlic and sage and saute until the onions are translucent. |
|In a blender (I used my Magic Bullet), combine the pumpkin puree and cooked onions, garlic and sage, and blend until smooth. |
|Pour the blended mixture into a saucepan and heat through. |
|While the sauce is heating, cook pasta according to package directions. |
|Add the mascarpone and parmesan to the pumpkin sauce and stir until combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper. |
|Drain the pasta once al dente, reserving about half a cup of the pasta water. |
|Place the drained pasta back into the pot and add the pumpkin sauce, stirring until all the pasta is coated. Add pasta water if necessary to thin out the sauce. |
|Any add-ins should be mixed in next - I sauteed chicken apple sausages and added frozen peas to give a little more substance. |
|Garnish with freshly grated parmesan cheese and devour. |
And since I felt so healthy after this meal, I decided it was time again to celebrate.
Berliner Weisse with (way too much) woodruff syrup at Golden Road
And a sample of their West by Northwest collaboration brew with Deschutes! And now I’m off to prep for a crapload of beer dinners I’m hosting in the near future.
Life be good.
You guys, it’s official! I am a Certified Cicerone® !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
And this is the day that started it all. Odell’s Small Batch Revival back in May 2011. I was hanging out with my brother and sister-in-law, joking about how I could run their brewery tasting room once they started it. They told me they wanted a beer sommelier to head up the tap room. As soon as we got back from the trip, I googled “beer sommelier” and began my adventure into the world of becoming a Certified Cicerone®.
It took almost two years to the day, and two attempts, but all of that suffering and frustration was worth it in the end!
The first attempt was down at Stone with Grayson. Three months later, the results were in. I passed the tasting portion and missed passing the written by 3%. THREE PERCENT. Being so close, yet so very, very far away, was demoralizing, but I knew I had to give it another go.
Last month, I decided it was time to take the plunge again. This time, the test was at The Bruery down in Anaheim. After another nail-biting and stressful test, the tour of the brewery really helped settle my nerves.
Today, the email came in:
And now, it’s time to celebrate!
I’m debating which beer from my cellar to enjoy tonight…
Any recommendations would be appreciated!
On Monday, I finally did it. I stopped putting it off as I had for months and months and took the Certified Cicerone test!
Grayson drove down from Santa Barbara and picked me up at 6:30am. We fought a mess of traffic all the way down to San Diego and wound up at Stone Brewing, where the test was being administered.
Since it was only 9:30 and the test didn’t begin until 11am, Grayson and I wandered through the gardens behind the brewery.
It was an absolutely beautiful day! We debated whether or not we should just skip the test and spend the whole day sipping beer outside.
We scouted out a picnic table, sat down in the gentle sunlight and did our final cramming session. Note: If not for this final study hour, I would’ve missed at least six extremely random questions on the test.
Around 10:30am, we headed into the brewery and joined the group of about fifteen, almost all of whom were also in the midst of a final cram session.
A view of the mezzanine where the
torture test would take place.
The test was far more intense than I even imagined. After over a year of studying, you realize how much you’ve learned and how much you have yet to discover. There was a three hour written test with essay questions, food pairing recommendations, style questions, draught system maintenance and troubleshooting and history questions. This was followed by an hour of tasting – off-flavors, style discrimination and beer acceptance. THAT was followed by a filmed demo – “show and tell us how to do this”. After four of the most intense hours of my life, Gray and I headed downstairs to stuff our faces, drink good beer and forget about all that had just occurred.
Mac ‘n Beer Cheese with sausage and a Lukcy Basartd for me and Barbecue Duck Tacos with some other delicious beer for Grayson. The proctors called us all back upstairs to go over the tasting portion so we could find out if we passed that section.
BOOM. Passed the tasting! As for the written portion, I honestly have no idea if I passed or not. I feel relatively good about the majority of it (excepting the essays which I’m hoping for partial credit), but fully expect to have to retake it. I find out in seven weeks whether or not my low expectations will surprise me or not!
As for now, I’m sitting in my parental unit’s home in Colorado with the fireplace on and a hot cup of coffee, gazing out over the mountain range before we go to the gun range and Grimm Brothers Brewhouse (in that order). Commence relaxation in 3…2…1…
And a belated Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Happy New Year to all! I hope you all had a wonderful, safe holiday! I spent my evening sipping a homemade hot toddy, coughing up a storm and watching In Bruges. Not quite the successful evening we’d planned, but we were miserably comfortable.
I’m attempting to sum up some highlights of this year with pictures, and I’ve realized that I have had a WONDERFUL year. If you thought 30 pictures was bad, prepare yourself for a visual onslaught.
The first of many, many nights at Ladyface, TRULY appreciating beer.
Learning all-grain brewing with Grayson and Frank.
Watching my first polo match in Indio.
Staying in a hotel in Indio where someone was possibly murdered…
Multiple trips to Ojai.
Opening my first brew: Dos Beckis!
Recording ADR for a film that has yet to surface… C’mon, Scott!
Enjoyed my first (of many) sangrias at Sofrita!
Created a recipe for Newman’s Own!
Had a blogger meetup at Ladyface.
Made Oatmeal Stout Brownies with Caramelized Bacon – this has gotten me recognized in the brewery and at the homebrew shop: “Hey, you’re the one who made the brownies with bacon!”
Attempted to resign, and then officially resigned from my retail job.
Went to Colorado for two weeks…
Was so sick that every time I inhaled I had to cough. (Seriously, I didn’t sleep for a week thanks to this horrible illness as I’m sure you can see in that picture!)
Went to the Odell’s Small Batch Revival. I jokingly told my brother that once he and his wife opened their brewery, I would be pouring in their taproom. They said, “We’d really prefer a sommelier for beer.” I went home, researched, and found the Cicerone program.
I became a Cicerone Certified Beer Server. I’m scheduled to take the exam to become a Certified Cicerone in the next few months…
Became a member of the American Homebrewers Association.
Was featured on The Chive three times!
Went to Breckenridge for a show and got to meet/interview the head brewer, Matt Darling.
…and enjoy Breckenridge in all of its chilly glory.
Purchased a MacBook Pro with my own earnings.
Purchased a camera. Then immediately upgraded to an even better camera!
Visited Wades Wines new tasting room. Then visited again and again and again. Then was interviewed by The Beer Wench.
Tried mussels for the first time. Tried mussels for the last time.
Visited Island Brewing Company.
Got a tour from the brewer.
Brewed my second batch of beer with the Maltose Falcons.
Finally trespassed and got a closeup look at an old abandoned water park.
Became a founding member of Ladies at Ladyface. Haven’t missed a meeting since.
Went to the second concert of my entire life with my friend/cousin Allie. She owled.
Went to Seattle for the first time in my life.
Visited Elysian Brewing Company and became obsessed with their Avatar Jasmine IPA.
Learned how to use the bus and visited Deschutes Brewery on our way down from Seattle.
Made a pit stop at Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico to try all SIXTEEN of their brews.
Met the brewers at Enegren Brewing Company.
Weasled my way into the brewery and started volunteering there so I could be a Cicerone Certified Beer Server who’d actually served beer to people instead of just passed an online test. Then they threw me into a brewniform, let me help with a brew day and got stuck with me.
I learned how to lift 50lb kegs over my shoulder while wearing heels. Enegren will seriously have a hard time getting rid of me.
I visited TONS of breweries. The few I’ve featured are only skimming the top…
I created some delicious recipes for the autumn season…
Some boozy autumn recipes as well.
One of my recipes was featured on Taste Terminal and was their second most popular post of 2011!
Discovered a program for HDR and went slightly beserk with that. Consequently, I realized that food doesn’t always do so well with HDR.
Brewed again with Frank and Grayson up in Santa Barbara.
Met the Beer Chicks at the latest Ladies at Ladyface.
And that’s barely skimming the surface. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year to all!
Raising a glass to 2012 being as good, or even better than 2011.