Thursday, December 31, 2009

Realizing Your Dreams: My Night at Hot Sauce Williams

Anyone who has lived in Cleveland or at least visited should know what I mean when I say: “Hot Sauce Williams.”

A rambling blue-ish/grey-ish/purple-ish building with hot pink trim, Hot Sauce Williams stands out amongst all the drab grey and brown of East Cleveland, a beacon of warmth and hominess.


Now, I don’t think I can honestly remember when or why Hot Sauce Williams came into my consciousness, but I do know that it’s been a running joke amongst my friends and me every time we drive past it. “Is today the day we’re going to Hot Sauce Williams?” or “I’m hungry, how about some Hot Sauce Williams?” and so on. I’m not sure if it’s the paint job, the ridiculous(ly awesome!) name, or a combination, but something about this restaurant has stuck with me for the last six or seven years. In fact, I was beginning to think it would never actually happen, that Hot Sauce Williams would forever be an unreached destination.

That seemed true until about a week-and-a-half ago. After long days at work Nicole and I were hungry and tired but couldn’t decide on what to have for dinner when someone suggested HSW. We laughed a little at first, of course, but then we realized: this was our time. The hot sauce would be ours.

So, we bundled up and made the short trek down Carnegie Avenue to the purple and pink building at 7815. We were excited as we pulled up to the drive-thru and tried our best to scan the outdoor menu—which has seen much better days. When a voice crackled through the speaker asking for our order we were still unsure and asked for another minute to decide. Finally ready we announced our order to the speaker but received no reply. After waiting another minute we decided that there was no one on the other end and decided to venture inside to place our orders in person.

The bright, slightly gaudy exterior of HSW belies the humble interior. A few mix-n-matched tables and chairs in the center of the dining room, ringed by booths, and topped with e-z-kleen laminated tablecloths. Nothing fancy and little atmosphere, rather like dining in someone’s oversized dining room. Or rather the lack of atmosphere is the atmosphere. There is nothing pretentious or cloying about HSW, just good food, fast and simple.

After another quick glance at the menu we placed our orders again: two rib dinners and a rib tip sandwich. Unfortunately they were out of the rib tips for the evening so Nicole withdrew her order, but we went ahead with the orders for Morgan and me. A rib dinner at HSW comes with six ribs, fries, coleslaw and white bread. Not being a fan of slaw I opted to trade mine for macaroni and cheese. Morgan made the same choice and also swapped her fries for mashed potatoes and gravy.

Everything was placed into HSW’s custom carry-out boxes, sauced, and wrapped before we headed for home. The first sign that this was a good choice: the two dinners in the bag were heavy. Once home the boxes were opened and distributed. My first bite was from the mac-n-cheese. A standard mac-n-cheese offering, HSW’s is elbow macaroni in a delicious homemade cheese sauce, then baked with a bread crumb topping. Just like mom would make. HSW’s mac-n-cheese is hearty, creamy, and absolutely delicious. A must for any visit. Next I tried a few fries which had been slathered in HSW’s signature sauce. A decent fry I’m sure, mine were definitely limp from the drive home while swimming in sauce. But my first taste of their sauce was a great surprise. A little sweet, a little spicy, and just a bit of sour on the finish; a basic, delicious barbeque sauce.

The ribs at HSW are serious, a full spare rib, or a St. Louis cut with the rib tip in tact. When I ordered the dinner I wondered if six would be enough, but when I saw them I knew everything was going to be alright. Compared to the baby back ribs served at most places, the spare rib provides tougher, darker, but more flavorful meat. But the ribs are well marinated so they’re tender and come off the bone easily, and while I’m not usually a fan of picking around in gristle, the tips provide a few more bites of tender, succulent meat.
Over all a tasty, filling, messy (!) experience—if don’t need a shower after ribs, you’re eating them wrong. Nothing surprising or new, just great ribs and sides at a great price, I don’t think we spent more than $15 on two meals and I was perfectly full afterwards. Hot Sauce Williams isn’t reinventing the rib or anything profound, but they know what they’re doing and they’re doing it right. And if ribs aren’t your thing I’m told their fried chicken is pretty amazing, as are the pork chops and their massive sausages and hot dogs. If you need a BBQ fix in Cleveland, look no further than Hot Sauce Williams!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A (gasp!) Mediocre Melt Meal?

Say it ain't so, sandwich gods, say it ain't so!

My friend Trish was home for the holidays recently and we hadn't hung out in over a year so we decided to get together Tuesday afternoon. Our plan of action was to grab some lunch, catch up, then grab a drink or two somewhere. Fun enough.

We decided on Melt for lunch since Trish had never been but had heard good things. We got there around 1:15 and only had a short wait for a table, maybe fifteen minutes as opposed to the hour one might wait in the evening. Once seated we ordered some drinks and continued catching up. I had a Harpoon Winter Warmer, a malty Christmas ale with spices, not bad, but nothing spectacular. The bit of Trish's that I tried was a rich, hoppy, full bodied ale that I liked a little better. But, no matter, we were at Melt where there is great food and a huge beer list, right?

I should've taken heed, but I didn't realize at the time that my mediocre beer choice would predict things to come that meal. After much debate we settled on some sandwiches, Trish chose the Winter Chicken with grilled chicken, honey-tomato chipotle sauce, and pepper-jack. I opted for the special of the month: the Mighty Macaroni Melt, a serving of homemade mac'n'cheese breaded and fried, placed between two pieces of cheese and bread, then grilled. Sounds amazing, no?

No. Well, not totally bad. Not bad at all actually, just not great. The mac'n'cheese by itself was really good. Rich and creamy, made with a tangy white cheese. The cheese added to the sandwich was just standard American, not bad per se, but it didn't bring a lot to the party. The bread was the usual thick cut bread Melt uses for all their sandwiches. It all looks and sounds fine on paper, but it was just a one note sandwich, cheese and bread and cheese and pasta, all tasty, but a little redundant. In retrospect some pepper-jack might have helped things out. All the rich, creamy, bread-y tastes could've benefitted from being cut with some spice. Other tasty add-on might include Melt's amazing carmelized onions in Port wine reduction, bringing a little sweet into the mix would've helped, too. Or I could've asked for some hot sauce on the side, Melt usually offers Sriracha. Certainly there were things one or both of us could've done to elevate this sandwich to the lofty heights of the rest of the Melt menu.

That said we had great time out, for our second round of lunch beers (don't judge!) I had a Southern Tier Old Man Winter, an Old Ale, this brew has tons of rich hoppiness and just the right touch of malt. After taking a few minutes for our beer and sandwiches to settle we meandered back to the east side of Cleveland where we took a walking tour of Coventry before hunkering down at La Cave du Vin for some fancy micro brews. I opened with an Otter Creek Quercus Vitis Humulus. This is one of the most delicious and complex beers I've ever tasted. QVH starts life as a barley wine style brew, it then has sauvignon blanc grape juice added to it and is re-fermented with champagne yeast, finally it is aged in oak barrels. The resulting beer has the sweet and spicy bite of a good barley wine, with the hops and malt competing for control of your mouth. Then the sauvingnon blanc kicks in, lightening the load of the rich, heavy barley wine with its signature crisp, clean citrus and tropical flavors. The aftertaste is where the oak barrel comes in, leaving just a hint of woodiness in the back of the throat. Really tasty, but as weird as the bartender had promised. I closed the evening with one of my all time favorite beers ever, Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout. It's deep, dark malt is roasty and toasty, the perfect way to shake off a cold Russian or Cleveland night's chill, it has a great bitter coffee aftertaste, like the finish of a perfectly brewed cup of dark roasted coffee served pitch black. What makes this even better is that La Cave serves Old Rasputin on their nitrogen tap so it always pours rich and frothy and is absolutely worth the 3-5 minute wait for the beer to pour and settle correctly. Old Rasputin is great from the bottle, amazing from the tap, but on nitrogen it's fucking transcendent.

So, despite my first so-so experience with Melt we had a great night out, enjoyed some great company, and drank some mighty fine beers.

See what La Cave Du Vin is pouring here: http://www.lacaveduvin.com/

Sunday, December 13, 2009

great condiment... or the *greatest* condiment?

I was at Kuma's Corner this afternoon (we were in Chicago and Erin had never been to Kuma's, so we decided to grindcore off our hangover) and, completely on a lark, threw together the world's best condiment...

Sriracha ketchup.

Start with ketchup. Add sriracha hot sauce to taste. I liked it at about a 10:1 ketchup-to-sriracha ratio.

It's that easy, and it's mind blowing. Sriracha by itself is a fantastic condiment compliment for just about anything you would contemplate adding hot sauce to. It also makes a good addition to mustard, but sriracha ketchup trumps them all.

Do it now.


(Also, it should be noted that we got an Iron Maiden, a Motorhead, a Neurosis, and mac 'n'cheese for lunch.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Friend Generated Content

Friends are often great sources of inspiration--this blog for example!--and the culinary world is no exception.

I thought I'd share a few recent food inventions created by people I know.
First, from my co-worker Kaley Turner, is a rather interesting sandwich, though nameless it is nonetheless tasty:
For this sandwich you will require:
  • 2 slices of your favorite bread

  • 2 slices of your favorite cheese

  • Your favorite peanut butter

  • Your favorite hot sauce

  • Cream cheese (optional)

To assemble:

  • Apply peanut butter to one slice of bread and add as much hot sauce to taste.

  • If using cream cheese spread it on the other slice and add sliced cheese, if not then apply sliced cheese directly to peanut butter and hot sauce.

  • Place in toaster oven or under broiler until bread is toasty and cheese is sufficiently melty, alternately grill in a skillet or place in a George Foreman or other sandwich press.

  • Slice, garnish with pickle, potato chips, more hot sauce and/or cream cheese for dipping, serve with beer

Next up is a refreshing beverage courtesy of Nicole Franks. She concocted this tasty sipper a few nights ago during a late night rummy game. Tentatively titled the "Soft Sailor," here's how it works:


How to build:

  • In a glass of your choosing add 1-3 shots of bourbon (we had Even Williams)

  • Add ice and ginger ale (we had Diet Canadian Dry on hand)

  • Stir in 1/2-1 teaspoon of sweetened vanilla extract or vanilla syrup

Sure, bourbon and ginger is nothing terribly new, but the addition of the sweetened vanilla gave it a well rounded flavor and added some "warmth" to the beverage. It was agreed that a similar concoction could be made from bourbon and cream soda if a sweetened ginger syrup were added. As this was the first iteration of this drink it's too soon to tell if it must be made with diet ginger ale, but I feel like some Vernor's would be a nice alternative.


Finally, a sandwich of my own invention, inspired by a friend's desire for the following:

  1. sandwiches

  2. chocolate

  3. bacon

Here's what I came up with, you may call it the "Jon Supreme":


Hardware:

  • 2 slices of your favorite bread

  • Cream cheese

  • Honey

  • Cinnamon

  • Nutella
  • Bacon

  • Walnuts and/or pecans

How to make it:

  • Prepare (at least) 3 pieces of bacon per sandwich using your preferred method of bacon prep

  • Coarsely chop nuts, place in skillet or on sheet pan and toast until fragrant

  • Add cream cheese, honey, and cinnamon to the bowl of a mixer, mix vigorously to combine

  • Once cream cheese mixture is fluffy and sufficiently combined, spread generously onto one slice of bread.

  • Cover the other slice of bread with Nutella.

  • Add nuts and bacon to sandwich and close

  • Grill in a skillet until warm and melty

  • Serve for breakfast with strong coffee or for dinner with a dark beer

I hope that inspires you to invent something new and share it with your friends!

Cheers!

Jon

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Liver Punisher vs. MSN City Guides: Winter Beer Round Up

MSN things-to-do section "City Guide" recently ran a feature on popular winter beers. After reading it over I thought I'd make my response.

MSN: http://cityguides.msn.com/articles/cityarticle.aspx?cp-documentid=22635986&gt1=24000

Now, I haven't tried all of these, but I've had a few so far this year, let's see...

Great Divide Hibernation Ale: Not too shabby, but nothing fancy or new. Robust, malty start and slightly bitter finish. A solid ale, for sure, but not totally worth the price.

North Coast Brewing Co. Old Rasputin Imperial Stout: This is available pretty much year round so I'm not sure why it's on the winter beer list, unless it's because it's one of the best beers being made in America today. It's dark, and rich with great maltiness and subtle coffee/dark chocolate notes. An Imperial Stout, once brewed exclusively for the czars of Russia, Old Rasputin is certainly heavy, but find it on a nitrogen tap somewhere and you're in for one of the greatest treats on earth. Plus its 9% ABV will certainly keep you warm, if not help you sleep off most of the winter.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company Celebration Ale: One of my all time favorite winter beverages, Sierra Nevada's Celebration Ale is a hops fan's dream. Very little of the malt is noticeable, save for maybe the first second it hits the tongue, after that it's hops time! The massive dose of hops are predominately piny with just a bit of citrus in the finish. It's a lot like taking a header into the Christmas tree after a few too many gin and tonics... in the best way possible.

Avery Brewing Avery Old Jubilation: Another tasty entry from the Avery co. Old Jubilation is a rich, malty brew. A bit of hops in the beginning gives way to a candy-like finish. Worth a try if you stumble onto it, but no loss if not.

After reading this I'm hoping to stumble onto some of the Smuttynose Robust Porter and the Victory Storm King. There's nothing like a dark, full bodied beer on a winter night, it's like a hug for your insides.

And few they missed...

Columbus Brewing Company Winter Warmer: This amber colored beer is cram-jammed with winter spices and heavily malted, so it's kind of like drinking a liquefied gingerbread man. Tasty, warming, and soothing. Their 90 Schilling Ale is also a robust brew that, while available year round, is especially well suited for the colder months.

Great Lakes Brewing Co. Christmas Ale: I'm going to try my best to not post about this beer anymore this year, but yes, Virginia, it is that good. Great malt and honey taste, a bit of orange zest, and plenty of spice warms the body and soul. I keep hearing murmurs that GLBC Christmas Ale is not all it's cracked up to be, but rest assured it is. It really, really is. A gold standard for winter beers the world around. And for an extra treat dip the rim of your glass in about 1/8 of an inch of honey, then, using the honey as an adhesive, roll the rim in a light mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Shazam!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

TurkeyFest '09

I've been away from the blog for a little while, so I decided to come back with something truly stupendous...

Shortly after moving to Columbus five years ago, I started cooking a Thanksgiving dinner for my friends. The inaugural event happened to fall on the same day as the Ohio State vs. Michigan football game, which would ensure that only the most devoted of my friends would attend. That game almost always falls on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, which also thinned out the crowd, as many wondered why they should get their turkey fix now, when they can just have mom's turkey five days later. The solution to raise interest in the plan was to set a food theme for the party; in this case, it was "Warped" Thanksgiving: Cajun-pepper roasted turkey, green-bean-casserole-stuffed mushrooms, sweet potato fries, cranberry chutney... you get the idea. Dinner was a great success, and nobody left my house hungry.

The next year's theme was "Indian (not Indian)" Thanksgiving: Tandoori turkeys (two, as word of mouth spread from the year before), fried sweet potatoes with yogurt-coconut sauce, potato curry, cranberry chutney (again), and some other stuff with names I can't remember. This all went over quite well, and was actually my first real foray into Indian cooking. I have never used so much garam masala and turmeric in my life.

Then, for a couple of years nothing happened. I made a relatively traditional turkey dinner last year for my housemates, but didn't make a big deal out of it. I desperately needed to make a big deal out of something this year, so I hatched a plan to cook three turkeys: one deep-fried in peanut oil (a staple at my father's Thanksgiving), one smoked with apple wood (because, c'mon, smoked turkey is delicious), and one Cajun-pepper roasted like the very first bird I ever made. And so, TurkeyFest '09 was born...



Early in the morning, I set up the smoker and the deep fryer. I planned to have dinner served at 4pm, so I had to awake at the asscrack of dawn to get that smoker fired up. Luckily, she's an electric, which decreases the cooking time. 6 hours for a 13-pound bird worked perfectly.


225 degrees, the magic number for authentic barbecue. Slow cooking over a long period of time makes meat tender and moist.


Here's what the smoked bird looked like at about 5 hours in. Yum!


Giving some of the attendees a peek (and a whiff) at the roaster.


This bastard is stuffed to the gills with butter, hot peppers, onions, and garlic, and rubbed down with cayenne pepper and salt. The pan drippings from this bird are damn hot!

The oil is just about ready: 325 degrees is the ideal fryer temp when the bird hits the grease. Peanut oil is the ideal cooking oil because of its high flash point (450 degrees) and the subtle nutty flavor it imparts into the bird.

Safety first! So many idiots have seriously burned themselves, or set buildings on fire trying to deep fry a turkey. Always set up at least 10 feet from any building and make sure anything that goes in the oil is dry. Hot oil doesn't react well to cold water or ice.
There they are, my finished prizes. Roasted at the top, deep fried in the middle, smoked on the bottom. Note the cow cutting board...
Celebration on a job well done, except... aw fuck, I have to carve these beautiful bitches.

The entire time I spent carving the turkeys, I had people picking off the platters. I usually remind people that I have a knife and they should step the fuck back, but I had too much work to do.


All that was left: 3 lonely carcasses.
Happy Thanksgiving! Hope your mom's turkeys are this good... (but I doubt it.)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Re-Inventing the Classics


Not long ago I got an email from Nicole containing a recipe for Rice-Krispie treats. This recipe, however, was not the standard that appears on the back of the box (http://tinyurl.com/krispie) but rather for Salted Brown Butter Krispy treats from the Smitten Kitchen blog (http://tinyurl.com/y9slvbv).


To say I wanted to go to there would have been an understatement, so with a few days off from work I decided to have a go at them.


The recipe (which follows) isn't too far off from the original, just adjusted slightly.


Ingredients:

- 4 ounces (1/4 pound or 1 stick) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan

- 1 10-ounce bag marshmallows

- Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

- 6 cups Rice Krispies cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)


Directions:

- Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.
- In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty.

- Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.
- As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth. (Author's note: you will need to add marshmallows until they've absorbed all the butter, other wise you'll have greasy puddles. Certainly start with the suggested 10 oz. but keep the rest of the bag handy, I used about 14 oz.)
- Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together.

- Quickly spread into prepared pan. I liked to use a piece of waxed or parchment paper that I’ve sprayed with oil to press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners, though a silicon spatula works almost as well.


Rice-Krispie treats in general are one of the easiest desserts to make already and now they've gone and made them better.


Here are a few of the things I learned along the way:

- Make sure you have a sturdy, silicon spatula for all the stirring and mixing, anything wooden or metal and you'll end up with a giant treat club.

- Browning the butter takes time and patience. I think killed the heat a little prematurely.

- This recipe requires the better portion of a 16oz bag of marshmallows (I think the minis melt easier).

- Because your are just about doubling the amount of butter in the recipe and adding in an extra dose of marshmallow these will turn out amazing almost regardless of your mistakes (just don't burn anything)

- Give your (clean) had a liberal spray with non-stick cooking spray and use this to spread the treats into your pan. This is your best kitchen tool.

- Reserve a pinch or so of salt and sprinkle it over the top.


So yeah, these are possibly the best Rice-Krispie treats I've ever had (save maybe for the ones served at the Sundial where they glued a Coco-Krispie treat to a brownie with sweetened peanut butter cream... shazam!). The extra marshmallow and butter make these richer, sweeter and stickier than normal and the salt is exactly what Rice-Krispie treats have always been missing, a few pinches of salt are the perfect foil to the treats' super sweetness.


As this takes little baking skill and about half-an-hour of time, max, I suggest knocking off a few batches for the holidays!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Better With Bacon?

Of course it is!


For any number of reasons bacon seems to be enjoying a renaissance period of late. I'm personally none to surprised as I've always loved bacon and probably always will. So, to me, it stands to reason that everyone should want bacon.
But bacon's resurgence isn't just as a popular breakfast side or sandwich enhancer. No, it's being included in all realms of the food world, making some especially surprising guest appearances in the dessert arena. Bacon Baklava anyone? (http://www.delish.com/recipefinder/bacon-baklava-recipe-8781?click=recipe_sr)

Here in Cleveland the Cleveland Cupcake Company is infusing a number of their delectable desserts with the fatty, smokey goodness. Try their award winning Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies (left) - exactly what it sounds like - or The Cave (right), a cup cake topped with a three-chocolate ganache and crumbled bacon.















However, not all bacon-izing is inherantly good. Some bacon-ification besmirches the good name of bacon. This not so Kosher example...
Or this possibly NSFW idea... http://www.daveyp.net/random/wootoff102208/MotivatorBaconBra.jpg
But at the end of the day bacon is a wonderful thing, beloved by all. Even vegans.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Liver Punisher: Late Fall Libations

Summer demands tropical drinks, and crisp, lighter beers. It’s a time for margaritas and daiquiris, Tecate and Hoegaarden. Heat and humidity require that libations be cool, refreshing and none too heavy, lest they leave one overly filled and lethargic on a balmy afternoon.

In the winter there are a bevy of seasonal bevs to reach for. Hell, Ohio makes two of the best, GLBC’s Christmas Ale (out now!!!) and Columbus Brewing Company’s Winter Warmer. Both hearty and rich, full of herbs, spices and other adornments to take the chill off a winter’s eve. And if beer isn’t you style there are any number of concoctions that will warm body and soul during you holiday festivities or while curled up by the fire side on a snowy night; an Irish coffee perhaps, some eggnog, or maybe a jigger of amaretto or crème de menthe in your hot cocoa?

Whatever your poison, seasonal beverages abound for the most extreme of seasons, certainly. But what of the interims? What does one imbibe in the spring of fall? Sure, there are Oktoberfest beers and pumpkin ales at first, but most of those finish their runs by Halloween, leaving a dearth of seasonal sippers in the meantime.

This is why Liver Punisher is proud to present your new official late fall beverage:



+
Sure, I’d heard rumblings and grumblings of such concoctions before, but never believed the magic to be real. Apple cider—and apple juice, too, for that matter—always seemed like poor mixer options. While both delicious, apple is a much too assertive flavor to play well with others. And bourbon is just too good to be diluted by more than an ice cube, or perhaps a splash of ginger ale. But the math is simple: bourbon + cider = delicious.

Since I started tinkering with this I’ve discovered that I prefer this drink chilled, and construct it as follows:
- Place 3 or 4 ice cubes in a rocks or old fashioned glass
- Add a 3-count pour of bourbon (approx. 1.5-2 shots)
- Fill remainder with apple cider, locally pressed if possible
- Top with a dash of ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)
The slightly smokey, slightly oaken cherry/vanilla flavors of the bourbon beautifully compliment the raw, natural apple flavor of the cider.

Need something a bit warmer on a chilly November day? Try this recipe:
- In a saucepan or microwave heat 6oz. of cider per person
- Add a 3-count pour of bourbon to the bottom of a mug
- Top with hot cider and serve with a cinnamon stick
A calming night cap to be sure, using Wild Turkey 101 in this recipe yields what my friend Keith dubbed an “Irish Thanksgiving.”

You may be thinking, “This sounds great, but what kind of bourbon should use?” And you would be correct to wonder such things. I recommend using a good quality bourbon, but nothing terribly fancy; Jim Beam, Evan Williams, or something of comparable price and reputation. Anything more expensive, say a Maker’s Mark or the like, would be some what a waste since so many of a finer bourbon’s qualities will be lost to the cider. On the other hand cheaping out and buying bargain basement bourbon will create a cocktail that is astringent and unpleasing. If bourbon is not readily available any good quality American whiskey will work fine, anything along the lines of Jack Daniels should be almost as good. On the other hand, I wouldn’t suggest using Scotch or any of the Irish whiskeys. The smokiness of Scotch would certainly overwhelm the drink, creating something that would likely taste of burnt apples, while Irish whiskey generally has s thinner, lighter flavor which would certainly be lost to the robust taste of the cider. No, the flavor profile of this drink demands that one buy Kentucky!

However, should one find themselves overstocked with hard cider and cinnamon schnapps, try one of these recipes on for size:

+
The classy route:
- Pour ½-1 shot of cinnamon schnapps into the bottom of a pint glass
- Top with a sweeter hard cider (e.g.: Woodchuck or Strongbow)

The less-classy route:
- Fill a pint glass half-way with hard cider
- Fill a regular shot glass ¾ with cinnamon schnapps (e.g.: Hot-Damn, Goldschlager) [full shot if you skip the next step]
- Top shot with 151 proof rum and set ablaze! (optional)
- Carefully drop flaming shot into pint glass…
- Chug!
The latter shall be henceforth known as a (Flaming) Cider Bomb, the former remains nameless. Suggestions?

Hopefully these recipes give you some inspiration and refreshment this season, thoughts, adjustments, and augmentations are appreciated.

Cheers!

Liver Punisher

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Road Trip: Eating and Drinking in Rochester, New York

Nicole and I recently made our way to Rochester, New York, to see fiery haired chanteuse, Neko Case. Of course coffee and junk food were consumed on the way; it was a road trip after all, but nothing terribly remarkable. Although, I will say that McDonald’s ice cream is actually much better than I remember it being, same goes for their caramel sauce.
http://www.visitrochester.com/

Anyways, after the 4 hour journey, give or take, and a brief respite at the hotel, we ventured out in search of food. Whereas we could’ve roamed the streets of Rochester for hours looking for some tasty vittles, Nicole had planned things out ahead of time and we made a b-line for Dinosaur Barbeque!

After parking, mostly just on-street parking, or in our case on-bridge, we were greeted by numerous motorcycles roaring off into the night, a loud, but by no means dubious, indicator of what we were in for. As we got closer and the motorcycle exhaust dissipated we could smell the smoke. If you’re ever headed into a barbeque establishment and you can’t smell smoke of some sort, run. But the smoke was pungent at Dinosaur Barbeque so we ventured on.

Entering the building we were met by a large room of boisterous guests eating, drinking, and enjoying their evening. There was classic rock and Americana on the stereo, and a couple dozen beers on tap. So far, so good. We ordered a pitcher of the house brew, Dino-Ape I believe it was called. A light refreshing ale that tasted like, well, beer. A beer that tastes like beer doesn’t seem that strange but if you consider what is mostly available at bars and restaurants these days beer flavored beer is a bit of an anomaly. Choices are usually between rich, heavy micro-brews and bland, watery macro-brews. While the former certainly has a time and place, that latter leaves little choice when it comes to something tasty and simple. Luckily Dinosaur Barbeque has seen to it that their delicious `que is complemented by a tasty but not overwhelming brew.

Finally seated, my biggest complaint with D.BBQ was the fact that while waiting to be seated it was incredibly difficult to hear the names called over the PA, with music playing and people behaving as if they were at a backyard barbeque it’s hard to hear your name being called, some of those vibrating pager/coasters might be a better caller here, but I digress. In a table with menu in had we poured over the options. As a BBQ joint Dinosaur’s has struck a balance between too-many and too-few options. A few platters of their specialties, a selection of sandwiches, a bevy of burgers, and appropriate appetizers made the choosing a little easier, but not much since the whole place stinks of sweet, wonderful `que.

Platters, it was stated, arrived with a choice of two signature sides and honey cornbread. Wanting the most bang for my buck I knew that my destiny was in platter-town. But which to choose: Brisket? Pulled pork? Ribs? Ultimately it came down to the either the ribs or the pork/brisket plate, and the ribs won out. For sides I picked the BBQ beans and Mac-n-Cheese. Nicole supped on pulled pork with mashed-potatoes-and-gravy and beans-and-rice. While we waited we drank and talked and examined the décor. Dinosaur BBQ as opted for a kitschy, throw-back vibe, so the walls are adorned with old advertisements for movies, beer, alcohol, movies, and so on. Charming and laid back, really the only appropriate set dressing for a BBQ restaurant.

Our food arrived and it was well worth the reasonably short wait. The beans were rich and spicy, having cooked for who-knows-how-long in a meaty sauce spiked with jalapenos. The Mac-n-Cheese was creamy and delicious, topped with a spicy dust I fell pretty certain is the house rub. Oh, and the ribs? Well… they were pretty good. I guess. If you like ribs, at least. And I do. Like ribs that is. Especially these ribs!

All kidding aside Dinosaur BBQ does what they’re supposed to and they do it right. Their meats are marinated of 24 hours, then dry rubbed, smoked and sauced. All this means a succulent, meaty, smokey, fall-off-the-bone, juicy rib. The real key to all this is the smoking. Yes, you can make great ribs on a charcoal or hard wood fire. Yes they are delicious. But for a truly special rib, slow-smoking is the way to go. It’s the only way to really infuse that “BBQ” flavor throughout each bite, not just in the bark, and it’s the only way to give the meat that pinkish ring just inside the crust that lets the eater know that this has been slow-cooking for a while. And I know there are some out there that say a dry rib is the only real rib, but truth-be-told I kind of like the mess of a wet rib, finding myself slathered in sauce, in search of post-meal wet-wipe is all part of the barbeque experience. I managed to sneak a few bites of Nicole’s meal and discovered the pulled pork (Boston Butt, natch) to be just as moist and tasty as my ribs, while her beans and rice were spicy and still had great texture. So often beans an rice become starchy mush while sitting in a warm pot all day. These, however, were superb.
http://www.dinosaurbarbque.com/rochesterIndex.php


Sated by pork and beer we toddled off to the show where we were treated to one of the best concerts I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen a few this year). Case’s voice filled up the venue, blanketing guests in her velveteen sorrow. Her band did what seemed impossible at the beginning of the show, and made the large, high-ceiling concert hall seem like a much smaller, more intimate venue. Instead of trying to fill the space with sound the restrained and made the room seem to shrink, like each of us was getting a private performance. Case and her band worked through the bulk of her two most recent releases (Middle Cyclone and Fox Confessor Brings the Flood) and a handful of older tunes. Simple, direct, and one of the best live acts around, Case’s sorrowful songs are delightfully counterpointed by her disarming stage persona and wonderful sense of humor.
http://www.nekocase.com/

Post show we were still in the mood for some night living so we trekked a few blocks to Lux Lounge. At 666 South Avenue, Lux plays up their eerie address, with dark décor and Halloween leftovers. Cute, charming, $1.50 PBRs, and a hell of a juke box, Lux is a great late night stop in this sleepy little New York community.
http://www.lux666.com/







After a good and well deserved night’s sleep we awoke to hungry bellies despite the previous evening’s repast. Breakfast was further mapped out by Nicole and we drove to the Highland Park Diner. A diner in the most iconic sense, Highland Park offers all the standard breakfast and lunch diner far you could want, with a few surprises. Nicole opted for an omelet, bacon and cheese, which was tasty but nothing terribly new. The English muffin that accompanied it, however, was something altogether different. Dwarfing in size most commercially available English muffins, this thing had nooks for days and crannies for weeks. My choice was the Mexican Alarm Clock. A tortilla muy grande topped with refried beans, cheese, and scrambled eggs making a sort of open faced breakfast burrito. Both breakfasts came with sides of seasoned potatoes which, oddly, had a certain fishiness to them that neither of us could put our fingers on. The Highland Park Diner also serves a pretty decent cup of coffee which, thanks to the friendly wait staff, I never saw the bottom of.
http://rocwiki.org/Highland_Park_Diner

Well fed once again and with a long journey home we pulled up stakes and made for Ohio. While we didn’t find much in the way of afternoon entertainment in Rochester, NY, we certainly ate and drank well during our few hours of vacation.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fine Dining on a Budget in Cleveland

Fine dining and reasonable budgets don’t always mix, but if you know where to look you can find exactly that in the Ohio City neighbor hood of Cleveland. Located on West 25th street, around the corner from the Great Lakes Brewing Company, is Sam McNulty’s mini-empire. The most recognizable portion of this is Bier Markt, a bar modeled after Belgian beer halls, serving a variety of beers with a focus on beers from Belgium. Also located within the building is Bar Cento (pronounced chen’-toh) which is where my friend Kate and I ended up eating an amazing meal last night.

Originally we had planned on getting Indian food, but there is a dearth of decent sub-continental cuisine on the near west side of Cleveland. Hungry and undeterred we wracked our brains for food ideas. Ultimately we decided that (A) we weren’t hungry for any certain food stuff or ethnic cuisine so (B) any and everything was on the table and that (C) our destination should offer the following:
1. Good eats
2. Decent prices and
3. Beer
We also stipulated that dinner could not be too heavy as we both had post-meal plans.

Finally Kate suggested Bar Cento, a place I had heard of (it’s owned by my landlord) but had never been. Kate vouched for the tastiness and reasonable pricing of their food, so we made the trek. On our arrival things were jumping, but we were told there would be but a 10-minute wait for a table. This seemed reasonable for a Friday night so we grabbed a seat and some beers from the bar. The beer: Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Christmas Ale; rich, spicy, and with a hint of orange, this is the beer to drink this winter, hands down. But be warned its ABV is 7.5 so they can, and will, sneak up on you.

We noticed a few of our other bar mates were happily munching away so we decided to grab some menus and eat at the bar instead of waiting for a table. Bar Cent has a nice, big, heavy bar so this is not a problem. The menu is short but solid, boasting a variety of Italian fare, a strong beer selection, and a huge wine selection.

After a few minutes of scanning the menu we came to the conclusion that we wanted pizza, narrowing our choices from Bar Cento’s 10 pies down to 2. The finalists: Apple Prosciutto with gorgonzola or Sunnyside with provolone, pancetta, eggs, and black pepper. The victor: Sunnyside. While Bar Cento’s pizzas would make a fine meal for one, split two ways they might not make it so we ordered some anti-pasta, too. While there are a number of meats, cheese, olives, and pickles to choose from, we decided to try a bit of them all with the Big Board, a sampling of all the meats and cheeses.

Having ordered we sipped our Christmas Ales and waited. When our food arrived, and promptly, too—considering the number of people in the bar that night—we didn’t know where to start. The pizza looked like the dream of the breakfast lovers everywhere and the anti-pasta board was loaded with incredible looking fare. We tucked-in to the meats and cheese first sampling a little bit of everything. The Spanish chorizo was at the top of my meat list, along with the prosciutto. I was pleasantly surprised by something called bresola and Italian cured beef, with a tangy bite. Cheese wise I was pretty into all of them but there were two nutty, hard cheeses reminiscent of Romano and Parmigianino, and a delicious few slices of a cheese that tasted like a hard brie. The few slices of pickled cauliflower that came along were tasty but no mach for the rest of the board. The big surprise of this portion of the meal: prosciutto wrapped dried cherries, wow!

As for the pizza, well, I love few things on this earth more than pizza and breakfast. Sure, you can eat pizza for breakfast and it’s great. You can have breakfast for dinner, that’s great, too. But the two have never fully reconciled, until the Sunnyside. Rich, tangy provolone and pancetta set a delicious foundation for the 4 sunny-side-up eggs baked on top. This was really a perfect bite almost every time, few blank spots and plenty of the good stuff all on top a great thin crust.

As we digested and finished our beers Kate and I agreed on a few things. That (1) this was exactly what we wanted (2) neither of us had known that before eating and (3) that made it all the better. We also agreed after the Big Board had been all but licked clean that there are few pleasures in life as deliciously simple as meat, cheese, and bread. Very little else is needed, save for good spirits and good company. Economically speaking we did ok, too. About $15 each for some delicious pizza and a healthy portion of artisanal cheeses and cured meats, while not the dollar menu, is still pretty reasonable in my book.

For the full menu, directions, and links to Bier Markt and Speakeasy, visit their website here:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bring Your Game, Appetite, too!


Dig this delicious post from MSN's Delish.
Tired of the same old stadium food? Soggy, undercooked fries, withered mystery dogs that have been sitting around since last season, and stale corn chips splattered with a cheese-like sauce and a few jalapeno slices masquerading as nachos?
Then feast your eyes on this! Delish delivers 10 of the country's best stadium food offerings, including the Victory Knot (right) which may be the only reason to see the Detroit Lions this year. This hearty, 2-pound pretzel is served with spicy mustard, sweetened cream cheese, and beer cheese.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh Just Drink It


I'm not a huge fan of tequila, but I've had a massive jug of it sitting around the house for months now. What's a boy to do?


Hillbilly Tequila Sunrise


Tequila
Orange Soda
Cherry Soda
Orange Slice
Fanciest Glass You've got on hand


The actual amount of the ingredients will vary in accordance with taste preference and the size of your fanciest glass.






The result is fizzy, sweet, and intoxicating!

Rice is sooo last year.

Last night marked my most recent foray into hillbilly cuisine...behold...












It's a fact that tater-tots compliment chicken curry perfectly. This dish combines all of my favorite food attributes.
SPICY...check
CRUNCHY...check
SAUCY...check
EASY...check
DELICIOUS...check

Luce' Putting Things In Her Mouth

A trip to Cedar Point wouldn't be complete without a facefull of foodstuffs...






































Thursday, October 29, 2009

Know your Treats

A recent MSN news post reveals the secrets of fall favorites:
http://lifestyle.msn.com/your-home/seasonal-crafts/staticslideshowdisc.aspx?cp-documentid=22036530&gt1=32001

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Liver Punisher: War Journal: BREWZilla

Last week was the first annual Beer Week here in Cleveland. While a busy schedule kept me from a lot of the daily tastings and events around the city, we did make it to the closing celebration at the Arcade in downtown Cleveland: BREWZilla!

A beer tasting not to be missed, BREWZilla brought in 120+ breweries and retailers to distribute samples of their beers. After paying an admission fee, attendees were given 20 drink tickets, 3 food tickets, and a commemorative sampling glass. Once in the door tickets were exchanged for 3-4 oz. samples at the 32 rep stations.

Entering from the Euclid Avenue side of the building we worked around the top floor before heading downstairs to the food area and Ohio brewery areas, as well as more beer. Here's what we--Nicole, Morgan, and myself--drank:

Dixie: Blackened Voodoo - a dark lager on par with Negra Modelo or Beck's Dark. Refreshing and crisp like a good lager, but with a lot more flavor thanks to a darker malt. Not bad but not the best of the night.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dixie_Brewing_Company

Rogue: Hazelnut Brown Nectar - Wow! I'm not wild about flavored beers. I feel that if you make a good beer then beer-flavored beer should be good enough. However, this is amazing! Like a delicious combination of New Castle and iced hazelnut coffee. Rich and full flavored, but not heavy. I could easily drink a lot of this.
http://www.rogue.com/

Unibroue: Raftman - Another offering from this highly lauded Quebecois craft brewery left me wanting more. In the bad way. I hear a lot of talk about these beers but save for their Trois Pistoles, I have yet to be really impressed by any. Raftman reminded me a lot of their flag ship beer, La Fin Du Monde. Morgan tried the Ephemere, an apple-y beverage that tastes about like taking half a swig of GLBC's Grassroots and half a belt of Woodchuck cider. Both were on the disappointing side. This table was also representing Clipper City Brewery, Baltimore, MD. Their offerings were the superlative Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, a triple hopped beer worth seeking out. Nicole sampled their Winter Storm ale, a "winter warmer" that was malty in the mouth and hoppy in the aftertaste, with a great spice hint to ward off winter chills.
http://www.unibroue.com/index_eng.html
http://www.ccbeer.com/

Avery: IPA -
Avery's IPA is a standard but worthy entry into the IPA category. Bold hops dominate this brew with their signature pine/citrus taste. Tasty but not life changing. Avery also offered up their excellent Hog Heaven Barley Wine. If you ever run across this prime example of a barley wine (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barley_wine) try it! Well, if you like strong, hoppy beers, that is. Hog Heaven is very malty at first, but its extremely hoppy aftertaste is not for the faint of heart (about 104 IBUs http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Bitterness_Units_scale), nor is the 9.2% ABV.
http://www.averybrewing.com/

Flying Dog: Gonzo Imperial Porter - Brewed in tribute to gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, this imperial porter is a must for fans of dark beers. Dark, smokey, and bitter, this beer should appeal to fans of strong coffee and dark chocolate. Intense yet delicate, this imperial porter is not the tongue ruining draught that so many dark imperial beers can be.
http://www.flyingdogales.com/

Erie: Railbender Ale - Erie's flagship is a Scottish style ale, medium in color and balanced in flavor, if verging on the malty side of scale. Unfortunately it's somewhat underwhelming. I found Railbender to have an earthy taste (read as dirty) at first and finish with a metallic/meaty aftertaste. Nicole's Misery Bay IPA was equally unimpressive.
http://www.eriebrewingco.com/cgi-bin/bin/sys/seekup-tz.cgi

Goose Island: Pere Jacques - After a cheesy pretzel to cleanse the palate, we journeyed on to the Goose Island table. A Chicago based brewery, Goose Island brews a slew of delicious--and wallet friendly--beers. While their "classic" and seasonal brews are definitely worth some investigations, Goose Island brought the big guns to beer week. Their Pere Jacques is a Belgian Abbey Ale, which means it is capital-M malty, and has lots of fruity esters (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esters). A great recreation of Belgian style brewing. Nicole and Morgan both opted for the Matilda. A Belgian style Pale Ale, the Matilda is less malty and has a wonderful, spicy flavor. Two of the best of the night.
http://www.gooseisland.com/pages/home/56.php

Bell's: Double Cream Stout - The double refers to a doubling of the ingredients, the cream refers to the use of lactose in the brewing process. Doubling the basic ingredients results in a more intense, fuller flavor. Using lactose makes a beer sweeter and richer as the yeast cannot breakdown the lactose. All this means Bell's Double Cream Stout is a big, bold beer. Full flavored and filling, this is a dark beer fan's dream. Resting somewhere between the bitterness of Beamish and the malty-ness of Old Rasputin, this Bell's brew is sure to have a wide appeal. It did for us. Another one of the night's best.
http://www.bellsbeer.com/

Sierra Nevada: Chico Estate Ale - Sierra Nevada is one of my favorite breweries. Their Pale Ale is one of the best widely available pale ales on the market and a great stepping stone into the world of hoppy beers. For Cleveland Beer Week the Californian brewers rolled out their delicious flagship beer, but it came with company: Chico Estate Ale. This amazing beer is one of the few estate beers in the states, meaning it's one of the only beers made here in the states that is produced entirely on the Sierra Nevada estate. They grow all the hops and barley exactly where they brew it. The result is indescribable. Chico Estate Ale perfectly captures and balances the elements of a truly great beer. It's malt and hops a in perfect harmony from sip to finish. I would have gladly turned in all 20 of my tickets for 20 samples of this.
http://www.sierranevada.com/index2.html

Victory: V-Twelve - If you check the tasting stations list given to guests at the door and find the Victory table you'll see that it doesn't offer V-Twelve as an option. I just happened to wander by their station when the rep asked me if I liked "sticky-sweet." I double-took, but responded in the affirmative. My nod netted me a few swallows of this sweet Belgian style brew. Malty and fruity, the affable nature of this brew belies is strength: 12% ABV. Thanks Victory!
http://www.victorybeer.com/home.aspx


OHIO BREWERS:
Thirsty Dog: Cerberus - Located in Akron, Ohio, Thirsty Dog beers a widely available, and yet I rarely drink them. But that will change soon! Their Cerberus is an excellent example of the Belgian Trippel (get it?!), gold in color with a rich malty flavor and fruity esters. Thirsty Dog also offered up their 12 Dogs of Christmas and unfiltered Pumpkin Ales, which were also sampled. Spiced with cinnamon and ginger and spiked with honey, 12 Dogs is an excellent winter warmer, robust but even; although it's no GLBC Christmas Ale. Their Pumpkin Ale was one of the best I've tried this season. Brewed with pumpkin, squash, honey, and ginger this would be a great beer to sip while passing out Halloween candy this year!
http://thirstydog.com/

Indigo Imp: Winter Solstice - One of the newest entries in the Cleveland Brewing scene, Indigo Imp has already made a splash by winning several awards in Cleveland Scene's annual best of Cleveland issue. Having already tried their Jester ale, a strong and sturdy standard ale, I opted for their seasonal brew, Winter Solstice. An amber ale with great hoppy aftertaste, Winter Solstice ups the flavor ante with orange zest and cinnamon. A playful, tasty winter warmer.
http://www.indigoimpbrewery.com/

Great Lakes Brewing Co.: Edmund Fitzgerald - Any/all Cleveland beer fans attending BREWZilla were likely hoping for one thing: a preview of GLBC's superlative Christmas Ale. Guests who showed up early or shelled out for the pre-party got a sample of that elusive nectar, but we were disappointed. So it goes. I had a mini-draught of one of my favorite GLBC standards: Edmund Fitzgerald (Eddy Fitz as I calls it). A smokey, full bodied porter, the Fitzgerald has great coffee and chocolate flavors and a hoppy-ness not usually as pronounced in porters. GLBC CHRISTMAS ALE GOES ON SALE TODAY, OCTOBER 27, 2009!!!
http://www.greatlakesbrewing.com/

Fat Head's Brewery: Shock the Monkey Stout - Another more recent addition to the Cleveland beer scene, Fat Head's is a beer fan's dream. Boasting a number of house brews, Fat Head's also showcases a variety of national craft brews and keeps two beers on a traditional hand-pulled cask system. For beer week they rolled out 4 of their signature brews but the buzz was all for Shock the Monkey. As bold as Peter Gabriel's stage presence with a silky-smooth finish, Monkey is a stout drinker's stout. Maybe the Beamish void won't feel so big now. Morgan, and later Nicole, grabbed a glass of their Bumble Berry beer, made with honey and blue berries, this is a delicious and refreshing lighter beer, but surprisingly light and easy, unlike most berry beers (I'm looking and you Leinenkugel Berry Weiss).
http://fatheadscleveland.com/index.php

The Brew Kettle: Old 21 - The Brew Kettle is beer heaven-on-Earth. Offering a handful of house brews, the brew kettle also offers up some of the best regional and national craft brews on the market. If that weren't enough they also have a full service restaurant. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Brew Kettle's operation, though, is that the brew-your-own operation. While home brewing has become quite the cottage industry in the last decade or so, the Brew Kettle offers a helping hand. They will help you create your own signature beer, then monitor and bottle it for you when the time comes. It's not totally home brewing, but it's not wholly store bought either. Oh, and their beer? Amazing! Their Old 21 is an amazing bitter, hoppy ale (90 IBUs) and is neck and neck with Sierra Nevada's Estate Ale for best of the night. Nicole opted for their Red Eye PA, a crisp and delicious ruddy pale ale reminiscent of Sierra Nevada's flagship brew. Super big win for Ohio, I hope everyone at BREWZilla grabbed a glass or two from the Brew Kettle.
http://www.thebrewkettle.com/index.htm

Buckeye Beer Engine: Commemorative Brown Ale - Nestled in Lakewood, the Buckeye Beer Engine is another brew Mecca in Cleveland. With a menu crammed full of meaty burgers (I suggest the Cyclops) and other bar food standards, and beer list longer than your arm it's difficult to not enjoy a night at the Beer Engine. For Beer Week the Beer Engine crafted the limited run brown IPA. A delectable marriage between a malty brown ale (Newcastle) and hoppy IPA (Sierra Nevada), the Beer Engine struck gold with this tawny brew.
http://buckeyebeerengine.com/

BREWZilla was a super success! The crowd at the arcade was large and enthusiastic, the breweries were plentiful and varied (you could, if you wanted, grab a Stella or a Blue Moon). Let's raise one to this valiant effort and another to a Second Annual Cleveland Beer Week!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Ridiculous Eats XI: Re-Inventing the Taco Pizza


Sure, you could just make a pizza with taco sauce, throw on a little seasoned ground beef and taco toppings and call it a "Taco Pizza." But why not take it that extra step, really make it into a taco, hell, maybe you should even try to eat it like one.
Makes me miss the Mexico Lovers pizza at Myles' in BG.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Where the Wildly Good, Dairy-Free Baked Things Are.


I'm not sure what exactly sparked my desire to bake this week, but it was some combination of the following:

  • The birthdays of Nicole, her roommate Morgan, and Morgan's sister, Adrianne
  • The onset of fall and the desire to fill the house with the smell of baked goods

  • There was no room in the freezer for my ice cream maker

  • I just really like baking.

Whatever the reason, I did some Internet searching and finally decided on this recipe for vegan pumpkin spice cake!


Ingredients:



  • 1/2 cup soy margarine, softened to room temperature (myself and most vegan recipes recommend Earth Balance)

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 2 egg replacers (Ener-G works the best, but a 1/2 cup of apple sauce works, too)

  • 1 cup plain pumpkin (canned or fresh)

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • 2 cups unbleached flour

  • 2 tsp baking powder (reduce to 1tsp if using Ener-G)

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1 tsp ground ginger

  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves

  • 1/2 cup soy buttermilk (add 2tsp vinegar to 1/2 cup soy milk, stir to curdle)

Instructions:



  • Pre-heat oven to 350*

  • In a large bowl cream together margarine and sugar, about 2-3 minutes

  • Add egg replacer and mix well

  • Mix in pumpkin puree and vanilla until well incorporated

  • In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking soda, baking flour, salt, and spices

  • Alternate mixing in dry ingredients and milk until well incorporated

  • Pour into cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out with just a few crumbs

Frosting:



  • 1 cup tofu cream cheese (Tofutti's Better-Than-Cream-Cheese is the easiest to find)

  • 1/3 cup vegan margarine

  • 3 cups powdered (confectioner's) sugar

  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

  • Beat together until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes

Notes:



  • Brown sugar brings a lot of extra moisture, for a slightly drier cake use 1/2 cup brown and 1/2 cup white.

  • Using Ener-G will ensure your cake will rise correctly. Apple sauce works great, but egg replacer is better.

  • Buy good canned pumpkin. Opening, cleaning, steaming, and pureeing fresh pumpkin is not worth the extra two hours of work.

  • If you use unbleached all-purpose flour, which is likely, be careful not to over mix the batter

  • Other spices are welcome in the mix, or up the quantities of the four above for a spicier cake

  • I added in about 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips at the end. Chocolate, pumpkin, and spices are a great fall taste.

  • Orange food coloring in the frosting is definitely encouraged

  • I was able to make 18 cupcakes from this recipe, they baked in 15 minutes

  • I topped each cupcake with a sliver of candied ginger

I've baked a few things in my time and I'm also hyper critical of everything I make, but these cupcakes turned out capital-A-mazing! Moist and rich with a hint of pumpkin and flavor and the chocolate chips took these from great to super-great! And for any non-believers, the taste and texture of this cake should convince vegan skeptics of the potential of dairy and animal free baked goods.


... wish I'd taken pictures.

Friday, October 16, 2009

October's Food Dude and Food Dudette

So I'm about a week late on showcasing our lovely Food Dude and Food Dudette of October, which is totally surprising because October is my other favorite month of all time (don't get jealous, September, you and I shared something special, but it's over now...). I've been away from writing a bit, y'know working on lots of behind the scenes techno wizardry and such, trying to spread our work around, design a logo, basically making a name for ourselves so I can push Blogger and it's bugs off a cliff. Also, I've been into this new trend that's getting big here with the writers at WWEIL which is getting engaged - Huzzah! So I'm gonna go ahead and blame that on my tardiness also. Ideally I'd be amazing you great readers with my reviews of weird Halloween novelty candy every day, but this guy is already doing that. And, while that is spooktacular and all, I'm realizing that I'm taking you away from the real stars of this post, Brandon and Emily, who remind us that fall is all about shameless gluttoney and family. And about making everything within an arm's reach pumpkin flavored. So turn off the lights, sit in the ghostly glow of your computer, and let October's Food Dude and Food Dudette creep you out with their favorite eerie eats.

October's Food Dude:
Brandon, Alexandria Virginia, Shrimp and Rum Feast


 
What's happening in this picture? 
About 9 other guys and I went out to Dewey Beach for a long Labor Day weekend and we destroyed close to 10 lbs. of 'peel and eat' shrimp at a joint called Northbeach. The frozen drinks scattered around are 'Dewey Devils' and they aren't light on rum at all. Mock me all you want about sipping on frozen pink drinks.

What is the last thing you ate?
Potato, clam, and corn chowder with rock shrimp and lobster risotto. You caught me right after an anniversary dinner at Geriano's in Old Town Alexandria!

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?
Mushroom cheesesteak from The Broiler in Arlington, VA. It's a hole in the wall establishment with the best cheesesteaks in the area. The best part about this place is they serve crinkle cut fries. CRINKLE CUT FRIES!!

All time favorite food?
My dad's Brunswick Stew. I could probably argue something else, but with the fall weather kicking in, I've definitely got a hankerin' for some of it. His is a thick, spicy stew with corn, lima beans, tomatoes, okra, peas, pulled chicken and pork and whatever other vegetables he grew in his backyard garden...that and a side of cornbread makes things perfect.

Favorite dessert?
My mother-in-law's apple dumplings and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's another fall treat, I'm really lucky it's October.

Favorite local restaurant?
Ray's Hell Burgers and Lost Dog Cafe in Arlington or Honey Pig Gooldagee Korean Grill in Annandale. Ray's has great juicy burgers, though it is a bit crowded now that Obama has chowed down there, and Lost Dog puts money towards a Rescue fun for stray dogs in need of a home. Honey Pig is a great 24 hour grill that is always packed with people devouring good Korean food and chugging some soju.


Favorite chain restaurant? 
Cracker Barrel. Maybe because there isn't a Cracker Barrel within like 25 miles and I haven't been to one in ages. Breakfast anytime of the day is always a good start and fried apples, biscuits, sunny side up eggs and all the trimmings is hard to beat on a chain level.


Favorite non-alcoholic drink?
Am I over doing the fall theme when I say I love Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks? mmm...

Favorite alcoholic beverage?
Bourbon, on the rocks. Nothing extravagant, Maker's Mark, American Eagle, something like that.

Ultimate food day? And/or best breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, snack?
Eggs Benedict for breakfast, maybe some grits too, then a perfect lunch would be a plain tomato sandwich with homegrown tomatoes, not store bought tomatoes. A little mayo, salt, pepper, toasted bread...perfection. An A+ dinner would be a big Thanksgiving spread, stuffing, cranberry sauce, turkey, sweet potatoes, the list goes on. I'm a sucker for desserts but I love chocolate cake, or maybe ice cream of any kind...or both... For snacks, good, ripe fruit always hits the spot. Strawberries, peaches, kiwis or whatever is in season.

Favorite food to make yourself?
Bim Bim Bap, for sure. I probably cook tastier meals, but nothing is as fun as Bim Bim Bap. The rice, spinach, sprouts, kimchi, or whatever I have on hand mixed with the hot pepper paste and fried egg makes me happy.

What do you bring to a pot luck?
I steal my father-in-law's sticky sweet BBQ sauce and usually make some BBQ Chicken sandwiches.


What's your least favorite food?
Meatloaf. ::Shudders at the thought of Young Brandon being force fed this foul dish by my mother::

Favorite and/or least favorite food celeb?
Rachel Ray is certainly a denizen of Satan himself.


What do you do when you're not eating or drinking?
I just started volunteering as a wrestling coach at T.C. Williams High School. You could call it zoo keeping, I call it shaping the youth of America.

Anything else? Congrats on the engagement ;)   editors note: Thanks!


  October's Food Dudette:
Emily, LA California, Deep Fryin' a Turkey



What is going on in this picture?
The annual family turkey deep frying. It's a delightfully tacky (but delicious) tradition. Dad fires
up the ol' deep fryer out back and everyone drinks and watches and discusses if this will be the year that the turkey explodes. Other uses for the family deep fryer: Buford Stew.

Last thing you ate?

Pasta with LaRosas sauce, brought to me from my beloved southwestern Ohio.

Best thing you’ve eaten recently?
Either the sag paneer from Taj Mahal of India (my favorite Indian place in LA--super cheap!) or chocolate
pumpkin bread pudding made over the weekend.

All time favorite food?
The farther the miles from home, the further my grandma's baked macaroni and cheese moves up the list. It's at number one right now.

Favorite dessert?
Pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing.


Favorite local restaurant?
Marion's Piazza in Dayton, Ohio. Hands down.


Favorite chain restaurant?
McDonalds.

Favorite non-alcoholic drink? 
At the moment, horchata.


Favorite alcoholic beverage? 
Whiskey sour, please!


Ultimate food day? And/or best breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert,snack? 
Grandma cooked meals, all day. Fancy cake for dessert.


Favorite food to make yourself?
I think it's a tie between a Fluffernutter sandwich, or a strawberry and sugar sandwich on Wonder Bread.

What do you bring to a pot luck? 
Grandma's baked macaroni and cheese, unless I'm in the company of vegans. In that case, easy crockpot
chili.

What's your least favorite food?
Something served at Bob Evans. But I can't put my finger on exactly what. I just hate that place.


Favorite and/or least favorite food celeb?
I. Love. Paula. Dean.

What do you do when you're not eating or drinking? 
Reading scripts, putting off reading scripts, complaining about reading bad scripts, wishing I got to read more good scripts. Or, watching copious amounts of television.

Anything else?My two favorite jobs have been at a fancy pastry shop that makes much of the income with wedding cakes. The other was at the Ohio State Fair, where I daily dined on deep fried everything. I feel that this dichotomy says a little about me.






Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food in the News

A few news stories that I've found or have been sent to me in the last few days.

This first one deals with out economic crunch and donuts:
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/The-Tragedy-of-Krispy-minyanville-220090191.html?x=0

This next one was sent to me by Anna, and comes from those new kings of conservative comedy, FOX News. This is extra rad since it's totally ridiculous that they felt this was newsworthy, and also deals with a past "Ridiculous Eats" entry. Enjoy:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc2I9mLJ0Po

Update!

Rather than a whole new post, I'm just going to update this last one with a food news bite sent to me from Nicole. It seems Chicago eatery Lula Cafe will be masquerading as popular sausage shack Hot Doug's this Halloween. I didn't realise businesses could wear costumes. Seems fun, though, maybe more restaurants could give this a try.
http://chicago.grubstreet.com/2009/10/lula_cafe_is_going_as_zombie_d.html

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Ridiculous Eats X: Ridiculous Fails!

Ridiculous Eats are a tricky subject. I mean, it seems easy enough to start with a simple food item, say a hamburger or pizza, and build upon it layers and layers of mouth- watering, artery-hardening, life-shortening toppings. But, the creation of these food Frankensteins does require a delicate touch, a certain subtlety. There’s a fine line between ridiculous eats and a failure pile. While past entries have examined the delicious heights to which Ridiculous Eats can soar, to day we’ll look at the dank depths of Ridiculous Eats despair.

Grab your lunch gun and climb aboard the failboat for Ridiculous Eats: Food Fails!

Eggs Five Ways:
No better way to start the day than breakfast, and no more perfect food to include in that breakfast than nature’s wonder: the incredible, edible egg! Unless you create this abortive monstrosity, built like so: and egg white omelet is filled with tree hardboiled eggs and ketchup infused scrambled eggs then topped with two poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. Now, I love eggs more than most other foods and I always enjoy them cooked in most any manner, but this seems like over kill. It takes 11 eggs to create this beast which I imagine to be texturally bizarre, not to mention mostly flavorless. Eggs, while tasty, bring little to the taste party, and without a little cheese or a bit of meat in there this looks like blandsville. Sure the omelet has some ketchup in it and there is hollandaise on top, but neither of those are really powerful flavor profiles. No, this is just a redundant waste of eggs.

Pepperoni and Grilled Cheese Pizza:
Nothing says lunch time like a nice hot slice of pizza or a tasty grilled cheese sandwich. I can even see coming the two, in some way, to make one super lunch food, some sort of pizza flavored grilled cheese sandwich, perhaps? But slicing up a grilled cheese and tossing it on top of a pizza just seems silly. I would imagine the flavors all meld well together, but between the crust and the sandwich bread it just seems like an ill conceived bread overload.

Thunder Platter:
Evening approacheth and dinner nears, but perhaps an appetizer to get the gastric juices flowing? Might I suggest the Thunder Platter? A curious name for an appetizer, for sure, and an even curiouser make up. Upon your Thunder Platter you will receive: tortilla chips, sweet potato fries, a hot dog, bacon, red onion, green bell peppers, jalapenos, olives, Anaheim chilies, a hamburger patty, a blanket of woven bacon, and macaroni-and-cheese. This is then topped with cheese sauce, onion rings, and Cheetos. While this isn’t the complete failure that the other entries on this list are, it’s still a thoughtless, often redundant piling of food. Chips, fries, and macaroni-and-cheese seem unnecessary, as does the hot dog. But at least the flavors all seem to meld relatively well.

The Big Fat Ugly:
While breakfast might be the most important meal of the day, one still needs a hearty dinner to round out the day, so why not sink your teeth into a bite of this monstrosity, the Big Fat Ugly. A harried assortment of meats and side, thrown together without thought for taste, texture, and obviously not appearance. The details of the crime are as follows: four cheeseburgers, double cheese steak, chicken cheese steak, gyro meat, grilled chicken, bacon, sausage, mozzarella sticks, chicken fingers, chicken nuggets, fried macaroni and cheese bites, fried mushrooms, jalapeno poppers, pizza bites, onion rings, hash brown, American cheese, mayo, and ketchup. What, no fried eggs? No sweetened cereal or hot fudge? It’s like the appetizer menu threw up on the sandwich menu, then breakfast came by to help, slipped, and fell in. This heap is redundant, at best, and vomit-like at worst (look at it!). Burgers and Phillies and gyros? Oh, my! Plus chicken 3 ways? Well, 2-and-a-half, since the nuggets and fingers are ostensibly the same, just variations in name. Stupid and thoughtless. And look at that thing, truth in advertising laws are strict!

Flapjack Fiasco:
Finally, we round things off with aptly named dessert. This failure pile, sadness bowl optional, is a mélange of popular sweets heaped together, but with this much going on, there’s no way to taste any single component, just a lot of conflicting flavors confusing up your eat hole. Let’s take a look inside: (bottom to top) pancake, cookie dough, pancake, peanut butter and jelly, pancake Chocolate and bananas, pancake, caramel, Oreos, marshmallow, sprinkles, M&Ms, pancake, caramel butter cream frosting, and Trix cereal garnish. Sure, the marriage of breakfast foods and desserts is often a mach made in taste heaven, but there’s just too much going on here, not to mention the myriad redundancies. Pancakes and cookie dough, really? Even without the bananas I’d be hard pressed to give this random assortment of sweets a go.

 
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