Monday, September 28, 2009

I LOVE Me a Good Beer Dinner

As much as I try to avoid the hype I receive daily from restaurant publicists across the country, some press releases are impossible for me to ignore. Especially when they involve beer dinners, and especially when they involve Oktoberfest. I love festbiers, and feel belessed to have so many good local versions of these beers. This beer dinner from the folks at SAVONA restaurant in Gulph Mills, PA, proves the point by offering a 4-course dinner (at $55 a ridiculous bargain) with 8 beers. The dinner takes place on Wednesday, September 30, so if you like what you read below, you'll probably have to hurry to get a seat at the table of the gorgeous, romantic restaurant. For reservations, call 610.520.1200.

Each course of this dinner pairs a German beer and a local version of the beer style with the sensational food of Chef Andrew Masciangelo. The beer and food pairings are inspired and clever. Here's the menu; it speaks for itself:

First Course:

Duo of ScallopsCoriander Crusted Scallop, Micro Pepper Cress;

Day Boat Scallop Ceviché, Cucumber, Daikon

Helles LagerWeinstephaner, "Original" Münich, Germany

Stoudts, "Gold" Adamstown, Pennsylvania

Second Course:

Roasted Quail FarcisPearl Barley, Quail Jus

Oktoberfest-MärzenHacker-Pschorr, Münich, Germany

Victory, "Festbier" Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Third Course:

Braised Pork ShoulderFennel Sausage, Pickled Red Cabbage Cranberry Compote

Dünkel LagerHofbräu, Munich, Germany

Dunkel Lager, Sly Fox Brewery, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

Fourth Course:

Chocolate SemifreddoManchego, Almond Macaroon, Tequila Reduction

DoppelbockAyinger, "Celebrator" Aying, Germany

Troegs, "Trogenator" Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

*Menu subject to change based on availability*

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Medals in Denver : GABF 2009

The 2009 Great American Beer Festival in Denver is now history, and in just a couple of hours, the last brews will be sampled and folks will be packing up and after-partying into the night. I've been to a few GABFs and they are great fun, both for the daytrips to nearby breweries and towns in Colorado, the excellent Mexican and Vietnamese food all over town, and the astonishingly friendly Colorado beer culture and overall cameraderie.

But I also love the voluminous list of winners (and seemingly tailor-made categories), especially the considerable success of Philly-area brewers, and the clever, even hilarious, beer names.

Wish I was there to celebrate with all of the Philly-area winners.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ben & Sophie's Excellent Pre-School Adventure

I had been quite undecided about what to do regarding the twins' pre-school education. Here in Lawrenceville, the choices for the average family range broadly, from very limited public school classes for about 36 children to outrageous gouging by ultra-exclusive private schools (one actually sent an elaborate packet of information that proposed extensive interviews for the kids, psychological and aptitude testing, and an insane $22,000 price tag--per child! For PRE-school!

Every school around here has a waiting list or lottery for pre-school, including my church's elementary school. Ben and Sophie have been sitting on several waiting lists since February. As Spring and then Summer rushed by, there was no progresss or movement on any front. Then in June, Ben was lotteried into the Lawrence Township's public school pre-school program. But not Sophie.

For the rest of the summer, I wrestled with the prospect of having to separate the twins for the sake of some kind of relevant education. It was more than a bit nerve-wracking. No slots opening up through any means anywhere. And then on Spetember 2, the call came in that Sophie had jumped 13 slots up the waiting list for a remaining spot in the township's pre-school program. I guess prayers are answered.

Friday, September 4 was their first day of pre-school, and I've never seen two kids more excited about anything. And these kids get excited over popcorn.

I met their teacher, Ms. Poli (above, center) and her teacher's aide, Ms. Kaminski, and they seem energized and more than capable of matching Ben and Sophie's energy and enthusiasm for everything, as well as the energy of the 16 other kids in the class.
Waking up very early is new to the twins, but they seem to be adjusting. Sophie was ridiculoulsy excited and anxious to get to the school, but she looked like a little zombie that first day. Ben was all giggles and squeaks.
After just a few days, I've been told that Ben has an amazing memory, and Sophie is always eager to help in whatever work has to be done. Not a bad start, I'd say.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This Summer's Tomatoes

The abundance of tomatoes this summer from our share in the Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA has been of the hook; I'm bringing home upwards of 12-14 pounds a week! This Sunday I picked up 10 pounds of gorgeous, multi-hued heirloom tomatoes alone, and 2 pounds of fat, juicy cherry tomatoes. That's a lot of tomatoes, and there's only so much insalata caprese you can make. So with any of the red tomatoes, I try to make as much tomato sauce as possible. It's so far superior to any other red sauce I make during the rest of the year, and I freeze as much as I can. Fresh tomatoes make a much brighter, orangey-red sauce than canned tomatoes do, and being able to tear fresh, in-season basil from the farm into the sauce makes it even better. My recipe is pretty simple: tomatoes, garlic, basil and shallots from Honey Brook, olive oil, salt and and pepper.

It was printed in today's
Trenton Times Food section, after I wrote food editor Susan Sprague Yeske last week when she penned a column extolling the virtues and high quality of this year's Jersey tomato crop and then ran a recipe for tomato sauce using canned tomatoes!

This should be the easiest tomato sauce recipe you'll ever need for fresh summer tomatoes:

My Summer Tomato Sauce

8 lbs really ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped
6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 medium shallot, minced
40 fresh basil leaves, torn into small shreds
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large stew pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, garlic and shallots. Cook until garlic just begins to turn golden, stirring often. Add tomatoes and stir to incorporate. Add some salt and pepper. Cook over medium to high heat, until mixture reduces by 1/3 to 1/2, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat. Using a potato masher or stick blender, mash the tomato mixture to desired smoothness for the sauce. Return pot to heat and bring sauce to a simmering boil. Add torn basil leaves and stir. Cook sauce for another 30 minutes at a simmer, or desired thickness.

Now THAT is a sauce that uses fresh local Jersey tomatoes!