Monday, 24 December 2012

Spice Up Your Life

Home, sweet home!
Ginger has been used as a folk medicine for over 3000 years to treat indigestion, motion sickness, and to relieve fatigue.  Approximately 90% of the world trade in spices is accounted for by ginger, pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cassia, mace, nutmeg, pimento and cardamom – all potential ingredients in holiday baking.

The pungent flavor is due to a variety of compounds in the root, which include gingerols, shogaols, essential oils, and sesquiterpene derivatives (ɑ-zingiberene) obtained from the rhizomes (the underground stem of the plant).  Ginger oil is used in many foods and beverages, including ginger ale, ginger beer, and various desserts.  The oil is also used in other industries as an ingredient in cosmetics, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals.
I am far from crabby when I
get my hands on a Crabbie's.

Not to be confused with ginger ale, ginger beer is a spicy beverage – far more potent than the stuff you’re given on an airplane to fend off motion sickness.  Crabbie's has had great success marketing their alcoholic ginger beer, and often sells out at my local liquor store when I am especially in need.

Sushi's new best friend.
In the past, the Phillips brewery out of Victoria, BC released Gentleman Jim’s Real Ginger Ale in 2009, a sweet seasonal cooler.  However, their most recent Ginger beer is entirely different.  This is in fact a true hopped beer, with the raw ginger flavor adding an extra kick.  This brew is especially good with sushi, clearing your palate much like the pickled pink stuff they put next to the wasabi.  Am I the only one that eats that stuff?

Just as the coffee companies bring out the gingerbread lattes at Christmas time, there are seasonal gingerbread.  Yukon Brewing company released a Winter Spice Ale for their ADD series, while Big Rock and Paddock Wood produce similar beers when the season hits.  The molasses flavor of a rich stout lends itself especially well to the spices used in Christmas sweets.

Why not switch up your contribution to this year’s Christmas potluck?  Skip the rum-spiked eggnog and the fruitcake, and bring these cupcakes instead.  Your family will thank you.  Sincerely this time.

Ginger Beer Cupcakes

"Yo, tell me what you want,
What you really really want!"
- Wannabe, Spice Girls 1996

¾ cup ginger beer or stout
½ teaspoon baking soda
⅔ cup mild molasses
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (plus extra for dusting pan)
2 tablespoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 large eggs
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease or line two 12-cup muffin tins (20 wells).
  2. Bring beer to a boil in medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda - the mixture will foam.  Be really careful that the mixture doesn’t escape from the saucepan and stick to your lovely clean stove.
  4. When the foaming subsides, stir in the molasses, brown sugar, and granulated sugar.  Stir until dissolved.  Let cool and transfer to a large bowl.
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ground ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and black pepper.
  6. Whisk in the eggs, oil, and grated ginger to the stout mixture until well combined.
  7. Gradually whisk the dry mixture into the stout, stirring vigorously until smooth after each addition.
  8. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared wells (20) ¾ full.  The batter will be very thin – you WILL miss the pan, I guarantee.
  9. Gently tap the pan against the counter to dislodge any large air bubbles.  Fill the 3 empty muffin wells with water and place pans in oven.
  10. Bake until the top of the cake is just firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean from the center – about 22 to 25 minutes.
  11. Cool the cupcakes 10 minutes before removing from pan.  Set aside until completely cool before frosting.

Makes 20 cupcakes

Eggnog Butter Icing

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp eggnog
1 ½ cups icing sugar
1 tbsp rum (OR ½ tsp rum extract)
¼ tsp nutmeg

  1. In large bowl, combine butter with 1 tbsp eggnog.
  2. Beat in sugar alternately with eggnog and rum until evenly blended.
  3. Beat in rum extract and nutmeg.
  4. Fill piping bag with icing, pushing it down to the tip of the bag.  Pipe icing in a spiral motion from the outside to the middle.
  5. OR if you’re lazy (like I usually am), spread the icing on with a knife.  It doesn’t look as pretty, but it tastes the same.  Trust me.
  6. Top with chopped crystallized ginger, Christmas sprinkles, or mini gingerbread cookies.

Ginger, the Genus Zingiber.  CRC Press 2004. Edited by K . Nirmal Babu and P . N . Ravindran.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Living in the Limelight

"Ruffle the rhythm and it must be Sublime"
- Don't Push (Sublime)

I’ve mentioned the use of lime in Corona to cover up the “skunky” flavor of oxidized humulones (click here to see post).  Lime tastes good with beer, even to a beer purist.  Eventually someone caught on and started marketing a lime-flavored beer.  Some lime beers end up tasting more like a Shandy (half beer, half lemonade).  However, anything is better than the sugar-laden, fluorescent pseudo-sodas in the cooler (Palm Bay anyone?...No? Didn’t think so).  Keep your dignity.

Bud Light lime made it big when it was introduced the summer of 2008.  Every brewery started making their own version: Big Rock Lime, Dead Frog...even Corona.  Miller Genuine Draft jumped on the wagon too, and produce a lemon version as well.

Why did I choose to write about lime beers in the middle of Winter?  Because I want to pretend it’s summer.  And I found some cheap ones in the sale bin.  Beer on a budget.  Enjoy this smoky and sweet cornbread made with Big Rock Lime.

Chipotle Lime Cornbread

"Living in the limelight,
the universal dream."
- Limelight (Rush)

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ cup milk
½ cup lime beer
Zest of one lime
2 tbsp lime juice
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons chipotle pureé

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Line a 9 x 5 x 2 1/2-inch metal loaf pan or 12-cup muffin tin with parchment or muffin liners.
  3. Mix first 7 ingredients in large bowl.
  4. Whisk milk, lime zest, lime juice, eggs, melted butter and chipotles in medium bowl.
  5. Add buttermilk mixture to dry ingredients; stir until blended.
  6. Spoon batter into prepared pan.
  7. Bake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 35 minutes for the loaf or .
  8. Cool in pan on rack 15 minutes. Turn bread out onto rack; cool completely before slicing.

Makes 1 loaf or 12 muffins

Monday, 12 November 2012

IBU and UB Me?

In the morning, I like my coffee to taste as bitter as I feel.  More often than not, I like my beer that way too.  My fellow Hopheads will understand.

The hop-burglar?
For years breweries have challenged themselves to produce the beer with the highest ABV.  Now several breweries have begun competing to produce the beer with the highest magnitude of IBU.  So far the Danish brewery Mikkeller has taken the lead with the juggernaut strength of 1000 IBU.

Bitterness in beer is measured in International Bittering Units (IBU), which reflect the alpha acids (as measured with solvent extraction using a spectrophotometer) provided by the hops in the brewing process.  However, the same level of IBU may be perceived as more or less bitter depending on the beer style.  A magnitude of 50 IBU in a heavy imperial stout may not be perceived as bitter as in in a crisp low-alcohol lager.  A higher IBU is often needed to balance the flavor in more full-bodied, high alcohol beers.

The India Pale Ale is known for a more pronounced hop flavor than other styles, and will typically have between 40-65 IBUs. I am especially fond of double IPAs, which can be between 60 and 100+.  I have previously mentioned the Dragon Series by Alley Kat, a series of double IPAs each single-hopped with a different variety.  The most recent release has been the Orange Dragon, brewed exclusively with Summit hops.

The bitterness of a beer can add an extra kick to your cooking.  This French onion soup can handle the of an India Pale Ale.  I used Hop Head from Tree Brewing company, a personal favorite.  A double IPA however, would undoubtedly overpower the pleasant pungency of the onions.  Enjoy as I did!

The toasted bread topped with cheese
is know as the "crouton"

French Onion Soup

 3 Tablespoons olive oil
5 cups thinly sliced yellow onions
½ teaspoon salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
3 Tablespoons flour
8 cups beef stock
1 cup beer (India Pale Ale or a Brown Ale works well)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
½ tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 slices French bread, cut in rounds
1 cups grated cheese

Completely unlike those tasteless cubes
you put on top of Caesar salad.
Do it right.

  1. Heat oil over low heat in a heavy soup pot. Add onions, cover, and sweat until they are tender (15 to 25 minutes).
  2. Heat beef stock over medium heat and bring to a simmer.
  3. Remove the cover, increase heat to medium, and stir in the salt and sugar. Cook 30-40 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are golden and caramelized.
  4. Sprinkle in the flour; cook and stir for 3 to 5 minutes.
  5. Off the heat, whisk in beef stock. Add the beer, rosemary, and thyme. Season to taste.
  6. Return pot to range and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, partially covered, for 40-60 minutes.
  7. When ready to serve, turn on oven broiler and toast bread rounds.
  8. Ladle soup into individual oven-proof bowls.
  9. Place a piece of toasted bread on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese.
  10. Place under broiler until melted and bubbly.
Makes 6-8 servings

Gamboa, BJ. Battle of the IBUS. Drinking Made Easy. November 3rd, 2012.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Challenge Accepted

What can I add beer to?
A better question to ask is "What CAN'T I add beer to."

I don't have any food science or brewing tales this week.  Instead I'd like to issue a challenge to my fellow omnomnomnivores:

Name a dish I cannot add beer to.  Without making an inedible mess.

No, really.  So far I've made sauces, soups, meat dishes, pasta, baked goods...even a salad.I'm curious to see what others think would be impossible.  Although I have a running list of things to make, I'd like some new ideas.  From an unbiased third party.

In the meantime, enjoy this gratuitous recipe for cookies made with chocolate stout.

Chocolate Stout Pecan Cookies

I need to stop using chocolate stout.
It's just too easy.
1 cup butter, unsalted
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chocolate stout
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pecan halves, broken into coarse chunks and toasted
1 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (325°F in a convection oven).
  2. Pour beer into saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce beer until only 1/3 cup remains.
  3. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and cocoa.  Beat until smooth.
  4. Pour beer into butter and sugar mixture, and stir vigorously.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking soda.
  6. Add dry mixture to butter mixture gradually
  7. Fold in the pecans and chocolate chips.
  8. For best results, chill the dough overnight to solidify the butter.  This gives the cookie more shape and prevents spreading.
  9. Scoop dough with a teaspoon and form into balls, placing them onto nonstick or greased baking sheets.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
  11. Place on wire rack to cool.

Makes approximately 48 cookies.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Chronicles of Carné-a

Chocolate and chili.  Just trust me.
I often cook with chocolate stout.  Sometimes I even put it in the food.

The Mesoamericans of Central America fermented cacao pods to make chicha, a drink analogous to beer.  However, a recent archaeological study suggests that chocolate was first produced as a by-product of beer.

Fermentation is necessary to produce the flavor compounds we know and love, such as theobromine.  A recent archaeological study found pot shards were found by in a ruined ancient village in the Ulúa Valley in Honduras dating from 200 BC to before 1100 BC.  Chocolate residues containing theobromine were extracted from the pores of these pot shards, suggesting the involvement of fermentation.  This led the investigators to speculate that cacao beer might have been the originating process.  The transition from beer to chocolate may have come when ground cacao seeds were added to the beer, making a thick unsweetened beverage.

While the subtle sweetness makes it easy to use in desserts, the rich chocolate malts are perfectly at home with dark meats and sauces.  You don’t need to follow a recipe if you know what flavors complement each other.  Pay attention to the balance of flavors.  Sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and spicy.

In this chili, the chipotle peppers are salty and spicy, with a hint of acidity from the lime to cut the heat.  Chocolate and stout add a complex bitterness that ties it all together.  I don’t think I’ve ever made chili the same way twice, but I may now make an exception.

Chocolate Stout Chili con Carne

Chili night!  With roasted garlic bread.
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large onions, finely diced
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 lb (1.5 kg) lean ground beef
2 cans black beans, drained
2 cans kidney beans, drained
4 jalapeno peppers, finely diced
5 oz. unsweetened chocolate
3 Tbsp. chipotle puree
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp finely ground black pepper
2 fresh limes
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 bottle (355 ml) stout
1-2 tsp liquid smoke
1 teaspoons salt, or to taste

  1. Heat oil in a large heavy pot.  Cook the onions and garlic cloves over moderate heat, stirring frequently until the onions are softened.
  2. Add the ground beef and cook the mixture, stirring and breaking up the lumps, until the meat is no longer pink.
  3. Finely chop unsweetened chocolate.  Add to pot along with beans, chipotle purée, and spices (cumin, chili powder, black pepper).  Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes.
  4. Grate lime zest and squeeze juice from lime.  Add to pot along with tomatoes (diced, crushed, and sauce), and stout.
  5. Add salt and liquid smoke to taste.  Cover pot and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  6. The chili may be frozen or kept chilled for up to 3 days.
Hecht, J (2007). Ancient beer pots point to origins of chocolate. New Scientist.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Smashing Pumpkins

I have lots to be thankful for.  Friends.  Family.  Beer.  Pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING.

A little lovin' from the oven.
There’s one thing I don’t understand. Why can we only have pumpkin-flavored things in late fall?  Sure seasonal availability might play a factor in society’s decision to ration the pumpkin goods, but most people make their pies, muffins, and cupcakes from the canned pureé anyway. From now on, I’m going to make pumpkin flavored baked goods whenever I like.  Try and stop me.

Personally, I prefer winter-spiced seasonal beers to the pumpkin varieties.  However, there is a certain appeal to a pint of spicy, squash-y goodness with the turkey dinner grand finale.

I am especially fond of  St. Ambroise Citrouille from the McAuslan Brewery.  The squash flavor definitely takes a back seat to the cinnamon and nutmeg character, but adds a detectable caramel sweetness to the brew.

This year Alley Kat also released a Pumpkin Pie spiced beer, but I have yet to locate a bottle.  I’ve heard several good reviews from fellow beer geeks, and I would be severely disappointed if I were to miss it.

The Howe Sound Brewing Company makes Pumpkin Eater, a strong ale flavored with this significant squash.  It also makes an excellent cheesecake, I might add.

I began my Thanksgiving weekend with a field trip to Prairie Gardens , a pumpkin patch and "adventure farm" in Bon Accord, AB.  There's a haunted house, a corn toss, a petting's great fun.  My partner-in-crime asked if I knew how to cook with fresh pumpkin.  I had never done so, but was unable to resist a new challenge.

We selected two pumpkins to bring home from our excursion: a large green specimen to carve into a monstrous “Pumpkinstein”, and a smaller one to roast.

I had no idea how easy it would be.

Easy as pie.  Pumpkin pie.

Step 1: Choose a pumpkin that is about the size of a cantaloupe.
Step 2: Remove the stem by wedging a knife underneath and using it as a lever.  A machete works well, but a butter knife will suffice.
Step 3: Cut your pumpkin in half lengthwise, through the hole left by the stem.  If you’re a lazy frail and helpless woman like me, get a big strong man to complete this step.
Step 4: Scoop out the pulp and seeds.  Sprinkle the seeds in salt and roast them to sustain you through the arduous cheesecake-making ordeal.
Step 5: Place pumpkin halves face down on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
Step 6: Roast at 375°F for 1-1/2 hours until the skin easily pulls away from the flesh.

My only warning is this: once you have tasted freshly roasted pumpkin, you will never go back to the canned pureé.  It will taste insipid and stale in comparison.

We used the fresh squash puree to create a scrumptious cheesecake with Howe Sound Pumpkin Eater strong ale.  This recipe is adapted from my favorite beer blog, The Beeroness.  Very often she posts recipes that I too thought beer would improve, while other times she conceives combinations that even I had never dared to devise.

Pumpkin Ale Cheesecake

9 large sized gingersnap cookies
¼ cup melted butter
1 ½ cups brown sugar
16 oz cream cheese (softened)
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 ¼ cup pumpkin ale
¼ cup plus 2 tbs flour
¼ cup pecan halves, toasted
Maple syup to garnish

  1. In a food processor pulse ginger snap cookies, processing until they are fine crumbs.
  2. While the food processor is still running, add the melted butter and process until it resembles wet sand.
  3. Press buttered cookie crumbs into the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan, or into several miniature foil pans.
  4. In a large bowl, combine brown sugar and cream cheese. Cream with an electric mixer until well combined.
  5. One at a time, add the eggs and vanilla, mixing until well combined.  Scrape the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula before adding each egg.
  6. Add the pumpkin puree, cinnamon nutmeg and salt. Mix until well blended.
  7. Add the beer and stir until combined.
  8. Sprinkle the flour over the bowl, stir on medium speed until an even consistency is reached.
  9. Pour cream cheese mixture over the crust.
  10. Bake at 350 for about one hour or until the centre is firm.
  11. Chill until set, about 3 hours.  Or 1 hour, if you’re impatient like me.
  12. Garnish with maple syrup and top with toasted pecans before serving.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Ribs for Her Pleasure

Earlier in the season I was recruited to produce a menu for a fraternity group meal or “Manwhich”.  I was originally told there would be 20-30 young men at the event.  Sometimes I question my own sanity.

Mac'n out.
I made a rule that each dish I made had to incorporate beer, bacon, or both.  The menu included two recipes from former posts, and a third I had recently devised:

Bacon n’ Beer Mac and Cheese
Chocolate Stout Ribs (see below)
Bacon Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

10 racks of ribs, 9 cups of BBQ sauce, 2 kg pasta, 1.6 kg cheese, 1 lb of butter, 2L of milk, 3 packs of bacon, 29 cupcakes, and a beer.  I bought this all two days before the “Manwhich”.  My biceps hurt for the rest of the week.  This was enough to double the recipe of BBQ sauce and quadruple the mac n’ cheese. I could only hope it would be enough.

Bacon chocolate cupcakes for dessert.
I had done a lot of prep ahead of time for the meal, and had shown up early to start cooking, but was still flustered.  There is a lot of pressure to have everything done on time at the SAME time.  Luckily I was rescued by a lovely helper, who was critical in keeping me organized, and giving me the necessary support when things went wrong.  Like when I spilled dry pasta all over the stove.  Or when we discovered the oven had been turned off by a phantom menace.

I dare not imagine the consequences of 20 hungry male university students who have been denied a promised feast.  I owe my life to the barbecue, which we used to speed up the cooking process.

Overall, it turned out to be a successful meal.  The ego boost and the compliments were pretty good fringe benefits, but the real reward is the time I get to spend with a bunch of great friends.

Grillaxing.  Not.

Chocolate Stout BBQ Sauce

2 tbsp olive or canola oil
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp Chipotle puree
1 cup ketchup
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 lemon
1 cup stout
⅓ cup fancy molasses
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbsp prepared mustard
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp cocoa powder
2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate, finely chopped
½ tsp finely ground black pepper
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  1. In a pot over medium heat, add the oil and allow to get hot but not smoking.
  2. Add the garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds.
  3. Add chocolate and spices, stirring gently as chocolate melts.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients and stir until combined.
  5. Allow to cook until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

Chocolate Chili BBQ Rub

Grillmaster...there can only be one!
2 tsp cocoa powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Combine ingredients in a small container.
  2. Store until use.

Chocolate Stout Ribs

5 lb pork ribs, side or back
1 recipe chocolate chili BBQ rub
1 recipe chocolate stout BBQ sauce

  1. Preheat oven to 300°F.
  2. Prepare ribs by removing the translucent membrane on the inside of the rack.
  3. Apply 2 tbsps of chocolate chili BBQ rub to each rack of ribs.
  4. Place the ribs, meaty side up, on a pan in a single layer. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and place in oven.
  5. Cook for 1 to 2 hours, or until meat tears away from the bone..
  6. Remove foil and brush ribs generously with barbecue sauce. 
  7. Finish ribs in the oven by broiling for 3-5 minutes (if ribs are hot) or until sizzling and golden. Turn ribs over and repeat, basting with barbecue sauce.
  8. If someone turned off your oven, resist spanking them.  In the face.  With a chair.
  9. Instead, grill for 3-5 minutes over medium-high heat.
  10. Serve the ribs and leave before the marriage proposals begin.

Photography courtesty of Ryan Vermilion 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Up the Kriek Without a Paddle

Kriek is a Belgian specialty, created from a lambic beer brewed with Morello cherries or the rare "Schaerbeekse" variety.  Lambic beers undergo spontaneous fermentation from exposure to wild yeasts and lactic acid bacteria.  The process produces lactic and acetic acids within the final product, which are often complemented by the addition of fruit flavors instead of hops.  The name “Kriek” comes from the Dutch word for the cherry.

Crushed by
the "Stoemper"
Traditionally, a rod called a “stoemper” and a lump of sugar would be offered to those who drank Kriek in Belgian pubs.  The customer could crush the sugar at the bottom of the glass to temper the sour flavor of the beer.  Sugar is usually added to most fruit lambics on the market today to increase popularity among younger, less adventurous imbibers.

Whenever I cook, I ask myself:
"How could I add beer to this."
The Cantillon Brewery produces an authentic Kriek, in which cherries are added at the beginning of fermentation.  Lindemans uses a similar method, but adds the fruit once the beer has fermented for six months.  The Italian Birrificio Del Ducato produces several lambic beers in the Belgian style, including La Luna Rossa, a yeasty brew for true lambic enthusiasts.

For this week’s recipe I used Floris Kriek from the Huyghe Brewery out of Melle.  The company was established in 1654, and celebrated their 350th anniversary in 2005.

My family has a single Adam’s cherry tree in our backyard, producing buckets of sour cherries each August.  A family of three can only consume so many cherry pies.  We find other creative ways to use them – cherry barbecue sauce and cherry-infused grappa, among other things.  Even then we have to dry more than half the harvest with a NESCO dehydrator.  The dried cherries end up in trail mix, salads, and my baking projects.

I’ve wanted to make a dessert with cherry-flavored lambic for quite some time.  I told someone about my idea while out on a second date.  He replied, “Why don’t you make normal chocolate cookies?”  There was no third date.  Why would I ever want to be “normal”?

"C" is for cookie.  That's good enough for me.

Chocolate Kriek Cookies

¾ cup kriek (cherry) lambic beer
1 cup dried sour cherries
1 cup unsalted butter
2 cups brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 ½ cups flour
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
⅓ cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup bittersweet or dark chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F (325°F in a convection oven).
  2. Combine sour cherries and beer in a small saucepan over medium heat.  Once beer begins to boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 4-5 minutes.  Remove from heat once all but ¼ cup of the liquid is absorbed.
  3. Cream butter and sugar.
  4. Add eggs and vanilla.  Beat until smooth.
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa.
  6. Add dry ingredients to creamed butter and sugar gradually, stirring vigorously.
  7. Add kriek-soaked cherries and reserved liquid and mix well.  Fold in chocolate chips.
  8. For best results, chill the dough in a refrigerator overnight to solidify the butter.  This gives the cookie more shape and prevents spreading.
  9. Scoop dough with a teaspoon and drop onto nonstick or greased baking sheet.  Press each lightly with a spoon or the palm of your hand.
  10. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.  Cookies will be slightly risen, but will collapse upon cooling.
  11. Place on wire rack to cool.

Makes approximately 48 cookies.

De Wolf, Aschwin.  Piquette and the Lambic Stoemper.  Lambic and Wild Ale.  August 16th,2011.

Monday, 17 September 2012

MKT Fresh Food + Beer Market

MKT Fresh Food + Beer Market is run by the Century Hospitality Group, which also owns the Century Grill, Lux Steakhouse, the DeLux Burger Bars and One Hundred.  This place has the potential to become a thriving craft beer hot-spot, but has a long way to go to achieve this.  I was impressed by the menu and the beer list, but the service needs to be improved substantially.

MKT Fresh Food & Beer Market on UrbanspoonMKT is located in the former Strathcona Train Station, built in 1891.  In more recent years, this building was home to the Iron Horse nightclub, which closed in 2010.  While the extensive size is good for a late-night venue, it is a nightmare to servers and clients alike.  I noticed two-way radios dangling from the waists of every hostess, to alleviate the inevitable communication issues in such a building.

A Beer Geek and her Beer Geek Breakfast.

It was Friday, September 14th and possibly one of the last warm evenings we would this year.  MKT had assigned several servers to their impressive patio for the occasion.  One girl seemed to be doing a good job, cycling back and forth between four large wooden tables with plates of food while several others stood idle.

I  had come early with a friend to stake claim to a table for a large birthday party before the venue became busy.  We sat down at a long wooden picnic table, but waited 20 minutes before even being acknowledged.  Our first waitress appeared flustered and disorganized, pages of her notepad fluttering to the ground as she struggled to find her pen.  When I asked what was available from the rotational taps, she panicked and ran off to ask another staff member.  We never saw her again.

It's like I'm travelling through beer hyperspace!

Eventually I got tired of waiting for our server to return, and motioned to the hostess that we were in need of attention.  We were sent a more organized individual to attend to our needs, and enjoyed proficient service for the rest of the evening.  Although MKT does have some talented servers, it may be necessary to improve the training of less experienced staff to give consistent service.

Now for the fun part.  The beer list is by far the main attraction.  MKT offers 55 different draught beers, 60 available by the bottle, and 4 “rotational taps” for seasonal offerings.  They also offer several creative beer cocktails or "Hop Tails", including the Twisted Beer Caesar and the Chambly Pineapple Punch.

I started my night off with a pint of Beer Geek Breakfast from Mikkeller, although the call to brunch had long past.  The Danish brewery makes this rich stout with 25% oat ingredients, chocolate malt, and a touch of coffee.  I would be delighted to wake up to a pint of this beer morning, if it were socially acceptable.

Since I’d consumed a proclaimed “breakfast” drink, it was easy to justify ordering a beer ice cream float before dinner. You may not have ever thought to combine beer and ice cream, but it’s definitely an experience I recommend.  The Beer Float is served with your choice of Amber’s Kenmount Road Chocolate Stout, Fruli or Dad’s Root Beer poured on top of vanilla bean ice cream and garnished with fresh mint.

Beer Tasting 101
If you are just starting to appreciate beer and want to learn more about the different styles available, Beer Flights are a great way to “test the waters”.  A wheat beer, lager, red ale, and oak-aged beer are served all at once, giving you the chance to compare them side by side.  If you know someone that thinks “all beer tastes the same”, this is a good way to change their mind.  They are wrong and should be forced to admit it.

It had been at least two hours of continuous imbibing and I had consumed nothing but a scoop of ice cream in the name of food since noon.  It was time to try one of the savory items on the menu, but the beer float was just too satisfying for me to justify buying an entire meal.  I shared the “Delux Poutine” with a like-minded colleague, and was intrigued by the “beer salt” the dish was garnished with.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to obtain a good explanation from our waitress on how it could be made.  It seems like the kind of crazy experiment I would attempt.

I feel no remorse about my beer float indulgence, but I regret not sampling the other entrees on the menu.  There is a good mix between classic pub grub and more upscale dinner fare.  The Grilled Bologna Sandwich is a stark contrast to the Kobe Beef Carpaccio.  Steak Frites precedes the MKT Mac n’ Cheese under the list of main plates. 

Life is uncertain.
Eat dessert first.
I don’t think MKT will mind me sharing this two-ingredient recipe.  Use Amber’s Chocolate Stout, Young’s Chocolate Stout, or another dessert beer.  Whatever “floats your boat”.

The moral of the story?  Eat dessert first.

Chocolate Stout Ice Cream Float

2 scoops vanilla bean ice cream
6 oz. chocolate stout

  1. Scoop ice cream into a tall glass.
  2. Pour the beer over the ice cream and serve with a long spoon.
  3. Eat the whole thing because you deserve it.  Or share with your badass partner in crime. 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Cocky Bastard

Beer Cocktails.  Beertails.  Brocktails.

Beer and bacon makes everything better.
Even something as close to perfect as a Caesar.
To some people, the idea of mixing beer with any other liquid is blasphemous.  I admit I used to have the same frame of mind.  However, I have recently adopted a less skeptical point of view.  Say you are given a beer that is less awesome than you are accustomed to.  Adding a dash of the right liquor, bitters, or mix is an easy way to increase your drinking pleasure.  You may not always have access to craft micro-brewed double IPAs and chocolate porters.  When life gives you Coors light...add lemonade.

The “Shandygaff” is a beer cocktail made popular in the 1800s, and was described by Charles Dickens as "an alliance between beer and pop."  The original concoction was a spicy affair between beer and ginger ale or ginger beer.  The abbreviated term “Shandy” is often heard when sparkling lemonade or lemon-lime soda is used instead.  Someone decided to use Mike’s Hard Lemonade instead and the “Turboshandy” was born.

Reverse Black and Tan
Harp Lager on top

The “Black and Tan” is another well-known beer cocktail.  I hesitate to even call it a cocktail, as it is merely the mixture of two beer styles.  When made properly, by carefully pouring the stout over a spoon, the darker beer should float over the pale ale to achieve a layered effect.  This drink is even available pre-mixed from Hockley Valley Brewing Company and seasonally from various other producers.

Michelada, a cerveza preparada

There are many variations of the “Michelada”, a fiery Mexican invention.  Lime juice, hot sauce, Maggi seasoning, and a salt-rimmed glass make a light lager even more refreshing on a hot day.  Impress people by saying you’re “replacing your electrolytes”.

What’s my favorite beertail?  The “Dirty Ho” of course – one part Hoegarden, one part Fruli.  Also known as the “Strawberry Angel” among the less profane.

Whoever decided to combine
clam broth and tomato juice
should never have to buy another
drink in his/her life.
The “Bloody Caesar” cocktail is a classic Canadian drink, invented in 1969 by a restaurateur named Walter Chell.  The drink is similar to a Bloody Mary, but uses Mott’s Clamato cocktail in place of tomato juice, a peculiar yet popular tomato and clam broth blend.  Clamato juice is also used in the “Red Eye”, a popular breakfast drink among those who have enjoyed a long night of drink and debauchery.

I find that most otherwise ordinary foods are greatly improved by the addition of beer.  The same effect is seen with the presence of bacon.  While the traditional Caesar cocktail contains neither, I think it will benefit greatly from the addition of both.

Bacon vodka shots are not for the faint of heart.

Bacon-infused Vodka

1 package bacon
26 oz. (750ml) vodka
1 tsp liquid smoke (optional)
  1. Fry bacon and drain, reserving the fat.
  2. Fill a glass jar with vodka (a mason jar works well).
  3. Pour the bacon fat into the jar with the Vodka, and add 4-5 cooked slices.
  4. Eat remaining bacon.
  5. Seal the jar tight and put it in a cool, dark place for about 4-5 days.
  6. After 4-5 days, remove bacon strips from the vodka and set aside. 
  7. Transfer the glass jar to the freezer.  The bacon fat will solidify, while the vodka will remain in a liquid state.
  8. While you wait for the fat to solidify, eat the vodka-infused bacon.  Do not drive under the influence of bacon.
  9. Once the oils are frozen, use a spoon to remove the large fat particles.
  10. Using a coffee filter, strain the vodka into another clean jar to remove remaining fat and bacon pieces.
  11. Stir in liquid smoke if desired.
  12. Enjoy your bacon-infused vodka responsibly.

Note: The liquid smoke brings out the flavor of the vodka, should you choose to try it alone, say as a shot.  I don’t recommend this course of action.  Speaking from experience.

Bacon, tomato, beer, and vodka.
All the four food groups.

Beer and Bacon Caesar

Celery salt (for rim)
1 ½ oz. bacon-infused vodka
½ cup (4 oz.) beer
½ cup (4 oz.) Mott’s Clamato Original Cocktail
1 tsp lime juice
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins or go home)
1-2 drops liquid smoke
2-3 drops Tabasco, or to taste
One wedge lime
1 piece cooked bacon, for garnish

  1. Line the rim of a glass with lime juice and rim with celery salt.
  2. Over ice, add vodka and clamato juice, then slowly pour in beer.
  3. Add remaining ingredients (lime juice, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, and Tabasco) and stir gently to combine.
  4. Garnish with a lime wedge and a piece of bacon.

Bacon Vodka recipe adapted from Exclusiv Vodka, Moldova.  March 2, 2012.
Caesar Recipe adapted from Mott’s Clamato

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Brown-Eyed Girl

The popularity of craft beer has exploded in the past few years.  In Edmonton especially, there are many restaurants serving locally produced craft beers and various interesting imports.  However, there are still a lot of bars that only carry beers from big-name companies like Molson and Heineken. You usually have a choice between Generic Lager A, Generic Lager B, Generic Import Lager, and Guinness.  If you're lucky, you might see Newcastle, the happy medium.

Brown ales are characterized with their use of brown, medium-roasted malt varieties.  English Pale Malt is typically used as the base, while crystal malt will usually account for 10-15% of the total grain bill. Chocolate malt may be added sparingly, while black and dark malts may constitute less than 2% of the total grain bill if used at all.

Perhaps the "Hanging Judge" would have
been more lenient if he'd had
some of this here beer
Newcastle Brown Ale is the most well-known specimen.  Although the brewery was established by a third generation brewer in 1925, the company was bought by Heineken International in 2008.  Though Newcastle is a nice change from the other big-brand lagers, there are many beers of this style available from craft brewers.  Not only does your purchase supports a smaller company, it is likely to be far more delicious.

For an authentic English brown ale, look to the oldest brewery in Yorkshire for an excellent Nut Brown Ale.  The Samuel Smith Brewery was established in 1758, and still uses water from the original well, drawn from 85 feet below the ground.

There are several fine brown ales produced on this side of the Pacific as well.  Rogue makes Hazelnut Brown Nectar, brewed with seven different malt varieties and hopped with Perle and Sterling.  Naramata Nut Brown Ale is one of Cannery Brewing Company’s most popular products, and is another excellent example of the style.

Black truffle oil.
Because I'm fancy, huh.
For the following recipe I used Tall Timber Ale from Mt. Begbie Brewery out of Revelstoke.  The mountain in question is a named after Sir Matthew Baillie Begbie, the first Chief Justice of the Crown Colony of British Columbia.  He earned the name "Hanging Judge" Begbie for his severe judicial rulings.

“I should make something fast for dinner that doesn’t involve bacon and/or beer” is not something I often think, much less say out loud.  Perhaps the thought “I have never made normal risotto before, much less a barley and beer concoction” should also have crossed my mind before I began this experiment.  I sat down to dinner at 10:08pm, after carefully plating my creation.  It was worth the wait.

Bacon, Beer, Barley, and ‘Bello Risotto

Beer, meet your maker.  Barley.

3 tbsp olive oil, divided
6 slices uncooked bacon, diced
½ a small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups pot barley
1 ½ cups (355ml) brown ale
5 cups beef broth
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely minced
1 ½ oz Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 large Portobello mushrooms
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp black truffle oil (optional)
6 fresh sage leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. In a large frying pan, toast the barley kernels over medium heat until lightly browned.  Remove from heat.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add bacon pieces and sauté until cooked through.
  3. Add onions to pan and cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic and cook for another minute until garlic is fragrant.
  5. Add toasted barley to bacon and onion mixture. Cook an additional 2 minutes, stirring to coat.
  6. Pour in the beer and turn the heat up to high until the beer begins to simmer. Once the liquid begins to simmer, reduce heat back to medium-low.
  7. Add ½ cup beef broth and stir until the liquid is absorbed.
  8. Continue to add beef broth, ½ cup at a time. Repeat until all the broth has been added and the grains are tender with a creamy consistency.
  9. Heat remaining 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 sage leaves in a frying pan over medium-high heat.
  10. Rinse mushrooms and scrub gently to remove dirt.
  11. When sage begins to sizzle, place both Portobello mushrooms face down in the olive oil.  Pour the balsamic vinegar and truffle oil onto the gills.
  12. When mushrooms begin to brown, flip and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  13. Remove the barley mixture from the heat and stir in parmesan cheese.
  14. Plate a cup of the barley risotto on each plate.  Top with sliced Portobello mushroom and garnish each with a fresh leaf of sage.

Serves 4

Note: You can use pearl barley for a smoother texture.  However, pot barley has more fibre as the bran remains attached to the grain.  If your diet is similar to mine, and encompasses a large quantity of bacon and beer, I’d recommend using the pot barley for the health benefits.

Smith, Brad (2008).  Beersmith Home Brewing Blog
Photo from Chronicle Live (2009).

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Falafel + Nachos = Falachos

Next level food porn.
This article has less to do with beer, but more to do with my most recent brainchild.

Nachos are by far my favorite bar snack.  And donairs are the prescription for post-imbibing munchies.  Falafel is donair's hot vegetarian cousin.

Falafel + Nachos = Falachos.
The name is suggestive if you have a dirty mind, but the dish is delicious no matter how you pronounce it.

The success of falachos got me thinking...what other culinary concept could I fuse with nachos?

Buffalachos: Corn chips with buffalo chicken, hot sauce, and blue cheese.

Jambalachos: Corn chips with andouille sausage, shrimp creole, cheese, and Tiger sauce (I’ll probably leave out the okra).

Kormachos (Indian) : Papadum chips with chicken korma, lentil dal, coriander, and tamarind chutney.

Breakfast Nachos: Melba toasts with scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato, cheese, and hollandaise sauce.

Dessert Nachos: Cinnamon sugar pita chips with melted chocolate, fruit salsa, and whipped cream.

I could open an entire restaurant that served only nachos!

In the meantime, enjoy this Middle Eastern-inspired bar snack.  If you consume these before going to the bar, make sure you brush your teeth.  Or else you may be the only one on the dance floor.  SO MUCH GARLIC!

Garlic Pita Chips

No-meat nachos made from pita.
A bar snack to satisfy the PETA (*crickets*)
4 pita breads
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp minced garlic
½ tsp salt

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut pitas into triangles, and tear the pockets apart.
  3. Whisk together olive oil and garlic.  Brush mixture on each pita triangle.
  4. Arrange pitas on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt.
  5. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until crisp.

Makes about 72 pita chips


Great balls of fibre!
This snack has bowel health benefits.
1 can chickpeas, drained
¾ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup onion, finely diced
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
¼ cup minced fresh mint
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp coriander
¼ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp salt
2 tbsp canola oil for frying
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine all ingredients except canola oil.
  3. Process with a food processor or handheld blender until an even consistency is reached.
  4. Form mixture into balls approximately 1” diameter.
  5. Heat oil in pan and add falafel, lightly pressing dough to form patties.
  6. Cook for about 1 minute on each side or until crisp.
  7. Transfer patties to a parchment-lined baking sheet.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until patties are heated through.

Makes about 24 small falafel patties

Roasted Garlic Beer Hummus

Plated like a boss.
1-19 oz. can of chickpeas, drained
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini
1 head roasted garlic
½ cup beer
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt

  1. Combine all ingredients except parsley and blend with a handheld blender or food processor until a smooth consistency is reached.

Makes about 2 cups hummus


Better than sour cream?
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 cucumber
1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
1 tbsp chopped fresh mint (optional)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper

  1. Peel and seed cucumber.
  2. Grate cucumber finely and drain to remove excess moisture.
  3. Combine cucumber with remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Makes 1 cup tzatziki

Bar snack fusion.


1 recipe garlic pita chips
1 recipe falafel
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
1 tomato, diced
4 tbsp za’atar (spice mixture)
1 recipe beer hummus
1 recipe tzatziki
Fresh parsley to garnish

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Arrange half the pita chips on two large baking sheets.
  3. Crumble half the falafel over the pita chips.  Evenly distribute 1 cup of the mozzarella cheese and 2 tbsp of the first layer of chips.
  4. Arrange remaining pita chips on top of first layer.  Top with remaining falafel, cheese, diced tomato, and za’atar.
  5. Bake.
  6. Garnish with finely minced fresh parsley and extra za’atar.
  7. Serve with beer hummus and tzatziki.

Roasted Garlic Beer Hummus recipe adapted from The Beeroness
Additional photos from,, and www.aoinspiration.