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