Monday, December 14, 2009

Romancing the Stone

My boyfriend suggested we take a day trip down to the Stone Brewery in Escondido. As the kids say, "I was down." In fact, I have always wanted to check the place out so we took a Sunday drive and got ourselves some beer.

The first thing you notice about this refined establishment is that it's more like a spa setting than a traditional brewery. Let's face it, the place is beautiful. I knew we were on sacred ground when I said to myself, "I could get married here," and then remembered we weren't at a church, we were at a brewery.

All your senses are overtaken the moment you walk toward the entrace. A garden path leads you to the cool rock covered entry way. Sensational and savory smells waft from a distance, a buzz of excitement is heard from the nearby tasting room.

The brewery offers superb fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere, xeriscaped gardens, soothing fountains tucked here and there, warm inviting fires to drink along side-of and tours of the facility that end at their lovely gift shop an tasting room.

They highlight some random yet informative topics on their tour; a brief history of beer, a solid argument that beer is better than wine, the quantities of beer employees are encouraged to take home each month (and let me tell you it's an insanely large amount that not even Tara Reid could go through in a year), how you can live off beer longer than water and finally they give you six generous samplings of some of their signature brews.

My favorite ale was their Smoked Porter. This dark brown beer is complimented by a truly smokey fragrance and a hearty after taste. I've had the bottled version but the sensation of drinking this beer right from the tap is similar to taking a bite out of a chopped BBQ beef brisket sandwich from my favorite dive back home in Ft. Worth, Texas.

Our tour guide explained Stone's philosophy on the beer business. They aren't just all about making great beer, they are about drinking awesome beer. It's refreshing in more ways than one that they aren't so arrogant that they think they are the only notable brewery in the world. They remember being a younger, smaller, stuggling brewery and clearly feel giving great beers visibility, no matter where they come from, is a way to help the little guys get their comeuppance.

They bring in beers from every corner of the earth and stock their ginormous fridge with loads of them which they serve at their bars and restaurant.

And the restaurant is incredible. Here's just a sampling of some of the things we ate that night;

Artisinal Sausage Platter-Two locally made sausages braised in our own Stone Smoked Porter, served with her raosted potatoes, braised cabbage and a side of stone ground Stone Pale Ale mustard.

Chicken Schnitzel - They bread and season a free-range Jidori chicken breast after is has been pounded flat. Then they pan-fry it to a beautiful golden brown and serve it with their garlic mashed potatoes, local organic seasonal vegetables and lemon-caper cream sauce.

Lamb Osso Buco- Colorado all-natural lamb shanks wih pan jus and the Autumn season's finest roasted root vegetables - beets, fingerling potatoes, onions, celery and carrots. A feast for the senses!

I genuinely loved the holistic approach of this destination brewery. In my opinion Stone is a disneyland for the beer drinker and foodie alike. I am ready to go back anytime Ian gets a wild hair to take a Sunday drive. Thanks Babe.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thanksgiving Highlights

Homemade Jalapeno Poppers - RIDICULOUS.
Yep, they were as good as they looked and oh so nice and spicy. Ian did something so wonderful and simple here; three ingredients, each rich and immensely flavorful on their own, and combined them to make what I consider the beginning of a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration.

And then two turkeys were fried - DEEP fried in the front yard of our friends house.

I was skeptical. I mean, I have heard that, "Deep frying a turkey is AMAZING! You won't ever make it any other way again! It's so spectacular. Oohh. Ahhh..."

And I watched the whole process go down. It was a heck of a lot of prep in terms of gadgets and gloves, temperature gauges and metal rods as well as an impressive vat of bubbling scorching-hot peanut oil.

The first bird bubbled in the oil for a mere half hour stirring up hunger pangs in all the drooling spectators. The kettle wafted peanut oil fragrances similar to those found at a Chinese restaurant. Peking Duck, anyone?

"Oohhh. Ahhh....deep frying a turkey is amazing and spectacular," said Tabetha.

And here's why; It's all about sealing in juices and not over tending to the bird. It's great in it's pure form. That's why people used to wait all year to eat one - it was a celebration, not something to be dreaded.

And the end product is actually healthier than a baked bird. Why, you ask? because the frying only penetrates the skin, seals in the meat and then all the juicy flavors essentially bake inside the skin. Adding stuffing, seasoning then drenching the bird in it's own fat through "basting" adds calories, calories, calories. And let's face it, they are just two different ball games.

Never again baked Turkey, turkey bags, stuffing, etc. Never again.

HOT DOUGS - Doug is a culinary legend in my book.

That's the line of people inside...
before they start to line up around the corner. This phenomenon happens everyday around 11:30 AM and doesn't let up until 2:30 PM.

On the left we have a Mexican spiked pepper smoked sausage with Manteca Cheese and chipotle mayonnaise. On the right is something ridiculous like Parmeggiano Reggiano on basil lamb sausage with an herbed reduction.

This was my first one...a lamb curry with Rasberry mustard and vodka cheese.

I believe this was the "game of the week". Alligator sausage with goat cheese and Bearnaise sauce.
Chicago's HOT DOUG's RULES!!!

Just plain good fancy overpriced Food and Drinks...

Chicago high society dining. Grilled tiger shrimp with a creamed apple wood smoked bacon and smoked vine ripened tomato puree (not pictured).
Martinis and Manhattans.

Warm nuts. Enough Said.

And the best, no lie, french fries I have ever had in my life. What made them so special? I am convinced, although I have no proof, that they were fried in duck fat. Let's just say, for an afternoon snack, it was all over the top. Thank you Papa Lee, aka. my Daddy. :-)

Trails and Happy Errors...

Above was,
...the result of...

...two not-so-horribly-bad mistakes...

Too bad ths place was closed both times we tried to dine there. Perhaps it's a good thing. We might have drank the place up. it's just a little matchbox, you see?


Lula Cafe - caramel apple scone...Damn!

Chocolate Mayonnaise Birthday Cake. So delicious.
Happy Birthday Sean.

My family knows how to roll...there was smoked salmon on the next plate...

Pork Tenderloin with Potato Cakes. Chicago was good to us.


I love to travel. It used to be that I liked it because I could hit an Auntie Anne's coming and going through DFW international airport.

But as my life becomes enriched with culture and layered in wisdom (I am all of 31 years and 5 days as I write this.), I realize the best part of traveling is exploring a city with my taste buds.

And it is so good!
Highlights from Chicago, in order from kick-ass to commendable, include:
-Hot Doug's
-The Broken Spoke

-The fancy place at the top of the John Hancock building

-A local Logan Square Pub

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cooking Class

A recently discovered picture from the Ayurvedic Cooking Class. That's me, Tabetha, on the far left. Good times.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Frozen Tikka Masala?

I used to think frozen food was the Antichrist. It just seemed sacrilegious to me to take a block of frozen food out of a box then stick it in another box, push some buttons and then eat the contents.

Then I became a mother...frozen food was a Godsend. You know the scenario; everyone else has been fed, the dishes are done, laundry folded and the foodie who got left out (that's you) needs some sustenance that is nutritional and somewhat palatable. What to do? I started trying out some frozen options when I could make a single serving of bean and cheese nachos (my new mom go-to-meal) in my sleep.

As I have experimented through the years I have discovered many wonderful optins.

In particular I am really enjoying a series of Indian dishes from Trader Joe's new frozen foods section. The masala is some of the best I have had - rich, buttery, flavorful and fresh. What more could you ask for in a single serve frozen meal?
Not to mention the basmati rice that accompanies the dish is fluffy and moist with the perfect amount of cumin seeds incorporated throughout. Give it a try if your looking for a gourmet on-the-go tasteful delight.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Stuffed & Wrapped - Tabetha's Signature Steak

Steak and mushrooms have always gone together in my mind. So I started this would-be grilled meal by stuffing shitake mushrooms with a cream cheese, crab, scallion mixture. In the future I would use a more substantial mushroom. After the mushroom is grilled with bacon oil splashing on it from the background and the inner filling warm and creamy - the desired efffect is reached.
Allow the filet's to come to room temperature and cut a small hole in the side opening up a bigger hole with a knife to fill with Blue or Gorgonzola cheese. Using toothpicks or skewers wrap and set applewood or maple smoked bacon around your filet. This also seals in the cheese so that you get the desired saturation of pungeant cheese into the steak upon cooking.

A salad of my current favorite lettuce - mache, cubed pink lady apple, honey sesame cashews, gorgonzola, and pepper mustard red wine vinnagrette.

We had grill issues and ended up cooking the steaks on a grill pan then transferring to the cast iron skillet and baking for 15 minutes. This proved beneficial, especially in making sure the bacon was cooked through.

No, this is not a heart healthy meal - this is a happy mouth meal and should probably only to be enjoyed a couple times a year. Very little effort is involved, but you would easily pay $100 for this meal at a nice restaurant. Every last bit is worth savouring. Sorry Martha dog - nothing left for you.

Last Nights Dinner - The Dog Seal of Approval and Simple Salad Rules Revealed

Bacon, bacon, bacon...many a great dish begins with the crispy, salty, heavenly pig fat. As my dining companion pointed out, "Most vegetarians will agree that of all the things they miss from their meat-eating days, Bacon tops the list."I started my four cheese tortellini by cooking three pieces of bacon. I set the bacon aside then removed all but a tablespoon of grease in the pan. Whole baby bella mushrooms went in to the hot ail and were cooked on high heat with salt, fresh cracked pepper and a little pat of butter.
Next went in the tortellini I had made prior to the bacon. I aadded some beluga lentils and tossed to coat the tortellini with all the flavors. Covered and simmered on low for a half hour.

A sign you are doing something right - the dog comes to the edge of the stove and goes into a blissful trance by smelling seductive aromas coming off the pan.

Upon serving - top with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh bacon bits

Finish it all off with my simple salad rules:
1. Good Lettuce - in this case Mache or Lambs ear
2. A fresh or dried frut - in this case fresh rasberries
3. A crunchy nut or seed - in this case sweet and salty dry roasted crushed peanuts
4. Cheese - in this case gorgonzola
5. Homeade Dressing - in this case Rasberry Honey Mustard Balsamic Vinnagrette

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ayurvedic Tri-dosha Cooking Class

(Ayu is life and Veda means knowledge. Knowledge of Life is Ayurveda)

Ayurevedic food sounds kinda healthy, doesn't it? Well it is, but it tastes delicious, fantastcally fresh and flavorful. Plus there's lots of guilt free butter, otherwise called Ghee, in many of the dishes.

Fresh Ginger being expertly prepared.

Ayurevda is a practice dating back over 2,000 years ago and the main idea is to make food that supports a healthy lifestyle in body, mind and Spirit.

"The ayurevedic cook derives his knowledge of herbs, spices, vegetables, legumes and so forth from the Ayurveda, which helps them maintain physical, mental, social and spiritual harmony.
Ayurvedic foods are appetizing, flavorful and aromatic and a way of offering love, becoming healing when served in an inspiring atmosphere. The cleansing of toxins that have entered the body and the electrochmeical vitalizing of the body are main objectives. Ayurvedic cooking thus is an art and science at the same time, when cooking becomes alchemy and food becomes Tantra.
The basic principles of Ayurvedic Cooking are: the five elements, the three doshas, the three gunas, the seven Dathus and the six Tastes. It also attaches a lot of attention to the effect of the cooking method on the quality of the foods, the importance of the vibrations of the cook and the surrounding atmosphere, the compatibility of foods, the right time for cooking and eating, the cycle of the seasons and the effects of foods on consciousness."
Mustard Seeds sauteing in Ghee.

Fresh Spices and herbs being prepared for Dosha balancing Delights.

More ayurveda...

There is something really beautiful about using fresh, simple and delicious ingredients and really taking advantage of an over 2,000 year old practice of preparing food that is designed to make you feel good. It's so simple and rewarding.

Even if you are just preparing ayurvedic food to cure a hangover, or get through a nasty winter cold - it's worth taking a little bit of extra time to call upon ancient knowledge rather than running to the drugstore to pump your body full of more stuff your body has to process. It seems like less work in the long run to work with the body to help it heal itself.
Steamed apples - a common appetizer in ayurvedic meals. Yes, I did say appetizer. The idea is that the apple is filling, fragrant, and satisfying. Plus you get to eat your fruit with nuts warm spices to allow your body to begin digesting properly and alleviate a tendancy to overeat during your meal. To me, this is the perfect dish for Thanksgiving - to cure what I call the "standing-around-the-kitchen-salivating-with-starvation-because-the-turkey-isn't-done-yet-situation" so many cooks dread.

Best hangover cure ever!

That's fresh baked mashed pumpkin with fresh sauteed fennel - Perfect!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Peanut Butter - Friend or Foe?

If I had to pick one food to live on for the rest of my life, it would undoubtedly be Peanut Butter. I feel a great saddness for people with a peanut allergy. It's as if they have no 6th sense (the ability to enjoy peanut butter and go into a trance).

It's versatility is incredible. It can be enjoyed by the spoonful, as one of three ingredients in a PB&J, or get more dressed up as a main ingredient in rich sauces. My favorite method of peanut butter employment is to simply mix it into a bowl of vanilla ice cream. My current favorite is Trader Joes salted creamy blen

I want to clear up the record right now - Natural Peanut Butter is not bad for you. In fact, eating peanut butter is healthy, when done in moderation. It's a fantastic source of protein and "good" fats. Don't let your mother's warnings fool you, she was just trying to get you to eat your PB&J by making you think it was taboo. It's in 75% of American households for a reason. Enjoy in good health.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Canadian Thanksgiving Casserole

There's a rule in Texas that Thanksgiving just ain't Thanksgiving without some Velveeta in at least one dish. The rule may seem as random as the 1960's add above but there is good reason- If there is a day designated to pigging out - then throw some Velveeta on the menu, because it has absolutely no nutritional value but tastes delicious.

I was invited to a Canadian Thanksgiving so I took one such casserole. It was devoured when we left, which is a good sign, but I was dissapointed. I sauteed onions, green peppers, jalapeno and squash, then poured a mixture of egg, velveta, sour cream, cream of mushroom soup and a little milk over the veggies.

Separately I steamed organic baby carrots and added them to the top halfway through baking. All the ingredients were wonderful, but I fear I slightly oversalted the dish, forgetting Velveeta and cream of mushroom soup already contain lots of salt.

I must say though, compared to the other vegetable dishes at the feast, the flavors of the veggies in my casserole tasted like they were on steroids. It was an obvious contrast that proves the astonishing quality betweem food raised with pride and food birthed into a can. Thank you Three Sisters Farm - for raising food with flavor and integrity.