BOTW–Southern Hemisphere Harvest

I’m always interested in fresh hop ales, so was interested to see Sierra Nevada’s Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale on the shelf at our last trip.  Not that I am particularly timely.  This came out in April or so of this year.  It is, however, currently fresh hop season for hops harvested in the US.  A bar in Hayward that I haven’t visited yet, The Bistro, had their Fresh Hop festival a couple weeks ago.  Sorry to have missed it.  Another local bar, Toronado, is having their Fresh Hop Festival on October 15th.  Unfortunately, it looks like I might miss this too, as Mrs. Flannestad and I have tickets to see Herman Dune that night at Bimbo’s.   In any case, we covered Sierra Nevada’s regular Harvest Ale last October.  This is their second version, with most of the hops coming from New Zealand.  They have a third, recently available Fresh Hop Beer using hops grown on their property in Chico:  Chico Estate Harvest Ale.  If I can track that down, it may be next week’s beer of the week.

Southern Hemisphere Harvest is another beer from Sierra Nevada which I find myself enjoying quite a bit.  Nice citrus hoppiness and good complexity.  Not overly heavy or sweet, it is well balanced.

For dinner we had Alaskan Halibut braised with aromatic vegetables, herbs, and Pineau de Charentes. Quinoa Pilaf. Spicy Braised Red Russian Kale. Baby Greens with Bariani Vinaigrette, dry farmed Two Dogs Sungold Tomatoes, and French Sheep’s Milk Feta.

BOTW–Siamese Twin Ale

I was pretty skeptical when the manager of the liquor store told me about this month’s beer selection.

Another beer in a can, but this time it is a Belgian style double from the Santa Cruz brewers, Uncommon Brewers.

I mean sure, lagers in a can.  That seems fine.  But a Belgian style ale?  That just seems crazy.

And then he went on to tell me that they included such things as Lemongrass and Kaffir lime leaves.  I was afraid for the worst.  That this would be another Lienenkugel’s Sunset Wheat fruit-loops-in-a-bottle debacle.

I’m pleased to report that this beer is not a debacle at all.  It is on the sweet side, as is typical of the double sytle, but the spices are very subtely deployed.  If I had to pick a beer it reminded me most of, I’d say it is Chouffe’s Holiday beer, N’Ice Chouffe.  In addition, neither Mrs. Flannestad nor I could detect any significant alumininum note in the beer.

If you read up on Uncommon Brewers, you will discover that their brewery is carbon neutral, they only use organic whole spices, influenced by the Slow Food movement, etc.  You know, the typical California Hippy stuff.

But anyway, despite all that or perhaps because of it, the beer is very, very good!

Dinner tonight was meatless.  Pasta with a sauce made from Two Dogs Early Girl Tomatoes, Romano Beans, King Oyster Mushrooms, Zucchini, Squash Blossoms, Marjoram and Thyme.  Topped with some goat feta.  The Two Dogs tomatoes are so good!  We had to restrain ourselves from eating them like candy.

Quite tasty!:

Saturday Night Dinner

It’s been a while since I posted a Saturday night dinner. I figure most folks read for the drinks, but this dinner was to celebrate Mrs. Flannestad’s triumphant return from her travels, so I’ll put it up.

Figs, Plouts, and Plum arranged in the pan for upside down cake.

Batter into cake pan. I based the batter on this one from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine: Cranberry Upside-Down Cake. It was a bit of a pain to make, but quite tasty.

Cleaned Maitake Mushrooms.

Sauteed Maitake Mushrooms with shallots and herbs.

Beautiful Tigerella tomatoes from a Japanese couple at the Farmers’ Market. Thyme and Thai Basil.

Gorgeous!

Tomatoes in a Sherry vinegar and Olive Oil dressing.

Cake Landscape.

Chicken Breasts with a generous amount of sauteed Maitake Mushrooms under the skin.

I like this orzo preparation. You make it more or less like a risotto.

Roasted Chicken Breasts.

Ms. Sweetpea wants to know why I’ve been spending so much time in the kitchen instead of paying attention to her.

I’ve never been much for presentation, at least when I’m cooking at home.

Depanned upside down cake.

Sorry, this is a bit out of focus. We’d had a bit to drink (sentimental favorite, Lazy Creek Anderson Valley Pinot Noir!) and were a little tipsy by the end of the meal.

Yay! My lovely partner in crime is back home!

BOTW–Hairy Eyeball

Certainly featuring Lagunitas Brewing often enough on this blog!

Lagunitas make a couple strong beers every year around the holidays. Brown Shugga usually shows up around Thanksgiving. The story with that beer, is, one of the Brewer Assistants mis-read the amount of Brown Sugar called for in their Barley Wine style Ale recipe, Olde Gnarlywine, and dumped a ridiculous amount into the mash. What resulted was not unpleasant, so they bottled it and sold it. It is extremely, and dangerously, drinkable for a beer whose alcohol content is around 9.9%.

Hairy Eyeball usually shows up around Christmas or January, and is another strong beer. It is a bit Barley Wine-esque. Lagunitas would probably say, “It’s just beer, don’t get hung up on labels.” Beer Advocate classifies it as an “American Strong Ale.” And, indeed, at 9% ABV, it certainly is strong. It’s a pleasant malty beer with a strong alcohol kick. There’s a little hops in there, but nothing approaching the more “Extreme” West Coast beers from brewers like Stone and Moylan’s. Pretty well balanced, but very sweet. Almost a dessert beer.

I was reading Accidental Hedonist this week and noticed that they had published a recipe for Puerco Pibil. Mrs. Underhill had been jonesing for some Pork Roast, so I thought it would be a fun, and low effort meal. Unfortunately, I mentioned that the recipe was based on one Robert Rodriguez had given in a video called “10 Minute Cooking School–Puerco Pibil.” There was a bit of disagreement, as Mrs. Underhill informed me that Mr. Rodriguez had recently left his wife of 16 years to go out with Rose MacGowan, who is about 10 years younger than him. Eventually, Mrs. Underhill relented, and let me go ahead and make the Pibil.

I didn’t have time* to use the shoulder suggested in Mr. Rodriguez recipe, so used country spare ribs instead.

Darn, that makes me hungry again, just looking at the picture! I can only imagine how much better it would be with a nice slow cooked bone-in pork shoulder. I served it with some brown rice and seasoned canned beans. The beans turned out pretty well, for canned. I added some sauteed onions and garlic, bacon, the greens from the radishes and some chili powder.

Hocus Pocus Syrah from Black Sheep Finds. Not as intense as the Four Vines, it is still a meaty West Coast Red Syrah. Definitely a reasonable and tasty wine with enough backbone to stand up to hearty meats.

And in another blog related turn, Jennifer over at Straight From the Farm recently had the brainstorm to make a Parsnip Cake. When I mentioned this to Mrs. Underhill, she got pretty excited about it. We both really like Carrot and Spice cake type desserts, and substituting parsnips for carrots seemed a genius idea. I did slightly overcook it. Still, it turned out quite tasty! Recommended!

“Here’s Lookin’ Atcha’!”

*The recipe calls for Pork Shoulder, which will take about 4 hours of low and slow to get to tender. If you use country spare ribs, it will only take a couple hours.

BOTW–Rodenbach

A trip to Ledger’s Liquors in Berkeley turned up some nice finds: North Shore Distillery Gin No. 6 (Hi Sonja!) Fee’s Grapefruit Bitters, Coruba Dark Jamaican Rum. But, coolest of all, they had a number of Rodenbach Beers.

Now I know Rodenbach has been making an effort to re-establish itself in the US, but I don’t think that it is currently distributed in Northern California, so I was quite excited to see it.

Rodenbach is a Flemish Sour Ale. If you were to blind taste test it, you’d probably wonder if it was a beer at all. You might think it was a tart cider, or perhaps some sort of sparkling wine. Light in body and dry in the finish, these complex beers are often love ‘em or hate ‘em propositions. I love ‘em, myself.

From this label, you can see a portion of the beer is aged in oak, and then blended with fresh beer before being bottled. The interesting beasties and flavors of the oak contribute to the beer. We’ve talked about Brett (Brettanomyces) before and it is definitely present here. With its wine-like character, Rodenbach is a great food beer. I just hope we’ll see this wonderful brand more widely available in California soon. I hate to drive across that pesky Bay Bridge, and well, even worse, up the vehicle clogged nightmare that is University Avenue in Berkeley.

On to dinner… I baked some apples with brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, and lemon zest for dessert.

Marinated some Chicken with crushed peppercorns, garlic, lemon and olive oil (Pollo alla Diavola).

Apples looking tasty…

Mmmm… Rodenbach, served with cheese and pickles.

Convection roasted Chicken is done. Served it with leftover vegetables and potatoes from last Monday’s Pot Roast.

Another wine we picked up on our trip to Paso Robles wine last year. Dover Canyon Old Vine Zinfandel. Delicious stuff.

Apples and ice cream.

BOTW–Holiday Travel Edition

I mentioned our Holiday tradition of a flight of Anchor’s beers, another perhaps more enjoyable tradition we have is buying a bottle of the holiday beer from Brasserie d’Achouffe, N’Ice Chouffe. This is a strong, dark holiday beer. Quite sweet and lightly flavored with spices, thyme, and Curacao Orange peels.

The thing I like about the N’Ice Chouffe is that first and foremost it is a delicious, if somewhat sweet, Belgian beer. Unlike a lot of flavored American beers, the flavor of the beer is first and the flavor of the spices is an accent, not the dominant element. Definitely one of my favorite winter warmers.

This is the travel edition of Beer of the Week, because for the holidays we traveled to the Midwest to visit our family and friends. So much great beer was drunk over the 10 days we were in Wisconsin, that I’ve sort of lost track of all of it. The beer I look forward to having every time I get back to the Midwest is Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. It’s a delicious IPA in a style that marries the less aggressive hopping of East Coast IPAs to the strongly hopped West Coast style Ales. It is just wonderfully complex, and one of my favorite beers. Along with Bell’s, much beer from New Glarus Brewing was drunk. Fat Squirrel, Spotted Cow, and many others include a delicious special Smoked Porter called, “Smoke on the Porter”. Yum! We also sampled beers from many other breweries, including some that were new to me like, Lake Louie Brewing.

Lest this be all beer, here is last night’s dinner, a nice braised chicken with root vegetables served over tagliatelle.

In any case, the best part of traveling to the Midwest is getting to see friends and family. We had a great New Year’s Eve Party with a group of our closest friends. An event which included sledding, braised pork, homemade soda bread, rum balls, exclusive videos, absinthe, and a midnight bonfire to usher in the New Year! Whew!

Not to mention, one of our friends confessed that her newest guilty pleasure is Peach Lambic! Back in San Francisco, last night, we raised a glass in a toast to good friends, good food, good beer! Here’s to all of my old and new friends! May your New Year be a happy one!