Sunday, November 30, 2008


Those of you who know me well know that my all-time favorite beer is Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (SNCA, all acronymed out), a seasonal beer that comes out in time for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year enjoyment. Well, the 2008 version of SNCA is out now and it's as great as ever, but I have to wonder if they tweak this beer from year to year, as Anchor Brewing Co. reportedly does to its holiday seasonal, Our Special Ale. I happen to have the 2006 and 2007 versions of SNCA in my beer fridge (yes, a dedicated beer refrigerator, a DBR, since we're acronyming today--I promise to stop, I really do), and I think this year's Celebration is sweeter, maltier and rounder than the previous two years. I've always appreciated SNCA's balance of hops and malt, and its versatility with food, especially hearty holiday stuff, but I think this year, Sierra Nevada dialed back the hops a bit, which is fine by me, I do like maltier beers sometimes (like Oktoberfests and porters and doppelbocks). I'd grab some of this stuff ASAP, before it's all gone, and if you see it on tap, definitely have a pint. Just remember who introduced you to your new favorite beer.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Turkey Day Postscript

Well, we survived the cooking for Thanksgiving pretty much without a hitch, thanks to some prep work the night before. Neighbor Will made side dishes: creamed spinach, sweet potato casserole, steamed winter veggies, spicy shrimp with veggies, and they were all superb. But his real talent is baking. Desserts were light, moist carrot cake with buttercream icing, oreo cookie cake, banana cream pie, and lemon merengue pie. We brought pumpkin pie just to make it traditional (Will is a Chinese Canadian, and really tries to get the whole Turkey Day thing).
And yes, this year's Beaujolais Nouveau went exceptionally well with this year's feast, with big, round, jammy fruit, and earthy, viney accents in every slurp. Damn good wine for the holidays.

So how was yours?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner

How I got roped into this one, I'll never know, but rotator cuff surgery on the Queen (I'll get to her later) is keeping us home this holiday, only the second time I've not been with my Mom, and my sister's and/or brother's family. Bummer. Somehow staying home has now morphed into a combined dinner with neighbors Anna and Will and their 3 kids, and our friends Mike and Judy; a bunch of lost souls making do, I guess.
So in the division of labor, here's what I've been tasked to make:

Sausage stuffing
Gluten-free stuffing
Mashed potatoes
Eye round of beef
Red wine sauce for beef
Stir-fried brussels sprouts and bacon
Cranberries with orange zest

Will, a terrific cook and baker, is making side dishes, veggies and sweet potatoes, I think, and baking pies. And they are hosting the dinner.

God help me. I'll be bringing LOTS of Beajolais Nouveau.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I finally broke down and made my first ever batch of tzatziki sauce, the well-known Greek yogurt-cucumber sauce that dresses any decent souvlaki or gyro sandwich. And the recipe wasn't exactly what I expected, but it wasn't really that difficult either.

What motivated me to make this addictive condiment was the discovery of some frozen homemade lamb burgers in the freezer, burgers I had made near the tail end of the summer, seasoned with some nutmeg, parsley, cinnamon and cumin, really tasty stuff as I recalled.
So I bought a quart of plain yogurt, some lemons, fresh dill, two cucumbers and went to work. Now the recipe that I use recommends Greek yogurt, a staple not easily found in Lawrenceville, Princeton or Trenton. And frankly, I just didnt have the time to source it out. So here's the recipe:

32 oz Greek Yogurt (or regular plain yogurt, strained)
juice of one lemon (about 3 T)
1-2 garlic cloves, chopped, to taste
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
1 T kosher salt for salting cucumbers
1 T finely chopped fresh dill
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

If you don't have Greek yogurt, strain plain yogurt for 2-3 hours; using two coffee filters inside a small colander or strainer; spoon yogurt onto filter paper, place strainer/colander inside or atop a bowl to catch the liquid. Discard liquid. Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds. Dice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel. In food processor with steel blade, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, dill, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend.

I grilled the lamb burgers this past Saturday evening, along with some marinated chicken breasts (for the Queen, who does not care for lamb; I'll get to her later). Good friend Mike Lazar showed up with some stellar bakery rolls for the burgers, from Leonardo's Bakery in Feasterville, PA (183 Bustleton Pike, 215-357-0357--- this place cranks out some outstanding breads, rolls and especially-----pizzas!). I sliced up some nice red tomatoes, big sweet onion slices, tore up some red leaf lettuce, and we were ready: medium-grilled burger, aromatic from its seasonings, toasted roll, big dollop of tzatziki, then the onion, tomato and lettuce---Greek Burgers, baby! Made a pot of rice pilaf, steamed some carrots and broccoli from the last picking of the organic farm we belong to (Honeybrook Organic Farm in Pennington, NJ), and it was a homey good feast. My 3 yr old twins, Ben and Sophie, ate a little bit of everything, slivers of grilled chicken, rice, carrots, broccoli, and yes, bites of the burgers too. Sophie, the adventurous one, wanted some tztaziki on her plate, and she dipped her chicken and carrots into it, and loved it. The sauce did taste pretty damn good with the grilled chicken too.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


My dear friend Diane returned from Ithaca NY recently and brought me back a sixer of Ithaca Beer Co.'s CASCAZILLA, which they describe as a "Monstrously Hoppy Red Ale", but folks, it is SO much more: lots of dense, grapefruity Cascades, and surprise!--- a beefy malt prescence that prevents the teeth-grinding bitterness of most overhopped beers and gives CASCAZILLA a nice clean finish.

The pour: a really bright red-orange color, billowy clouds of foam atop the pint glass and a sharp, tart grove of grapefruit trees in the nose. I know Ithaca's beers are now available in PA, and I'm gonna be heading over the border to search some out soon. I've enjoyed their Brown Ale in the past, so I hope I can find a few Ithacas to bring home to Jersey.

And I also notice that CASCAZILLA is currently on tap at my favorite Philly bar (and my all-time favorite bar period) the Grey Lodge Public House (6235 Frankford Ave., Even a better excuse to get to PA over the weekend!

This year's Beaujolais Nouveau

I've gotta say that this year's Beaujolais Nouveau ( released in stores November 20) is really terrific, perfect for Thanksgiving and casual drinking. The earth, the vine and the grape all in one glass, with a depth I have rarely tasted in BNs over the last few years. Grape-jammy as always, but with layers of blackberry, raspberry and strawberry, but without any of the sticky sweetness that plagues this wine in some years. The last really great tasting BN for me was back in 2002, but this year's version has some complexity to it, and that bodes well for the Beaujolais that will be arriving on shelves next year. This year I've tasted Georges Debouef's version as well as Vincent Lecondomine's and Laboure Roi 's; any of them will be a fantastic wine to drink with your turkey (or whatever you call your significant other), and with all the leftovers, too. This is a great year for the stuff!

Monday, November 24, 2008


To what I hope will be an enjoyable experience for all of us. I'm going to be writing about almost all of my passions: food, cooking, beer, wine, bourbon, music, neckties, cigars, radio, gardening, my twins Ben and Sophie, and any others as I acquire them