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