From the Kitchen and the Bar – samoa pie, and wine

The samoa in the title is the Girl Scout cookie.  My spouse *loves* them.   They are basically a shortbread cookie covered in caramel, toasted coconut and chocolate.   They still are pretty good, though many of the cookies seem to less than what I remember.  Of course it could simply be the glow of nostalgia.  I, for the record, was a Brownie for about 6 weeks.  I was there long enough to make a “sit-a-pon”  and then was bored with the antics of little girls.  Such is the burden of reading way way early and just not caring who had what doll, etc.

Spouse found a recipe for a “samoa pie”, and asked nicely for one.   The recipe came from Averie Cooks, and is a very nice recipe indeed. It is quite the sugar bomb.  I think it is better than the cookies.  It is also very close to the circa 80’s Seven Layer Cookies, but I find it much easier to make since I almost always have the ingredients on hand.  I got randomly lucky and the chocolate on top evidently hit the tempering temperature and it ended up shiny.   I do recommend baking this on a sheet pan because the sweetened condensed milk got very very close to boiling out of the pie pan.  This is very very good with a cup of dark roast coffee with a bit of cream. I’m really enjoying the Gevalia Majestic Roast lately.

As for the wine, we finally got a bottle of Apothic Crush.  This is one of their limited editions, and I think for Valentine’s Day.  It’s very much like their Red and Dark, velvety and rich, but a bit lighter than both.  They are now coming out with a Rose for the spring/summer.

That’s it.  Eat and drink well.

Postscript:  if you are a new visitor, be warned that the bulk of my posts are my opinions of politics (pragmatic liberal) and religion (hard atheist).  If you only want to see the food and drink posts, just pay attention to the titles. They’ll always have “from the kitchen” or “from the bar” on them.  Occasionally, you’ll see a “from the back room” which will detail our adventures in home brewing.  Visit The Boss’s Office to find out about your host.

What the Boss Likes – much better lyrics for Deck the Halls

The original lyrics and much more fun. Thank you, Wikipedia!

Deck the hall with boughs of holly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
‘Tis the season to be jolly,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Fill the meadcup, drain the barrel,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Troul the ancient Christmas carol,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

See the flowing bowl before us,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Strike the harp and join the chorus.
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Follow me in merry measure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
While I sing of beauty’s treasure,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

Fast away the old year passes,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Laughing, quaffing all together,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!
Heedless of the wind and weather,
Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la!

From the Kitchen – port peppercorn sauce and a petit beef tenderloin filet

steakAlthough we’ve wandered a bit off of the South Beach diet lately, we are doing pretty well in keeping any new weight from being added back on.   It does help us to weigh ourselves every day, just to keep an eye on things.  We also got back some lab reports and everything is better, including cholesterol (your mileage may vary).

One of the things we started when losing weight is buying a whole beef tenderloin, doing a little butchering ourselves, and keeping easy to cook filets in the freezer. I did a stint in the meat department of a fancy grocery store and gained the skill of being able to take apart a tenderloin e.g. removing the silverskin, and knowing how the multiple muscles run to get the best result (I also became a good hand at discombobulating a whole chicken. Get a set of kitchen scissors, but a sharp knife also works fine). Out of a whole tenderloin, I generally get around a pound of inedible scraps, a pound or two of scraps I can use in stirfry or stroganoff, and, depending on the size of the tenderloin, 10-13 nice filets.

The steaks were simply cooked at high heat in butter. I do like mine “Pittsburgh style”, very brown on the outside and damn near raw otherwise.   We often use cast iron but a heavy non-stick frying pan also works if you pay attention.

The side was a baked potato, done a la the Joy of Cooking method (slick potatoes with oil or butter, then 40O F for 20-30 minutes, then pierce and put in for another 20-30 minutes). We didn’t have sour cream but we did have a nice purchased tzatziki from Cedar’s (a little more dill in it than I generally put in my own but not bad at all).

The sauce is something I’ve been wanting to try for years. When I was in college, I went to a nice restaurant in the Shadyside area of Pittsburgh called Pasta Piatto (or at least I think that was the name). They had this steak absolutely crusted with coarsely crushed black peppercorns with this fabulous slightly sweet red wine sauce on it. I spent an entire month’s allowance (for extra things I might need at college) on this. I also learned that one should make sure that one’s hosts are indeed going to pay for your dinner rather than assuming it.

There are quite a number of versions of this on the internet. This is my take on it: Continue reading

What the Boss Likes – something from the kitchen and a new winery/brewery

I’m currenbeertly hiding in our one air conditioned room on a 95+ degree (F) day.   I do love the varied seasons of PA but I could do without the really really hot days. At least I’m not still working as a field geologist out on a hazardous waste site in level C gear.

Though that did work wonders for losing weight….

A couple of weekends ago we went to a new brewery/winery that we didn’t know about and it’s within 7 miles of us (as the crow flies). It’s Spring Gate Vineyard and Winery and Spring Gate Brewery. They can share property but can’t share a building because PA liquor laws are peculiar at best.

Harrisburg is a rather strange little city. You go out a road just a few miles of city center and poof! You’re in farmland.   This allows for 60 acre old farmsteads to be a great location for a place to get wine and beer.

They have live music and they have caterers and food trucks come to offer food to go with the drinks.   These are usually themed events. We went on a lobster fest day and had a most excellent lobster roll. It went very well with the apple juice laced saison and the Sparkling Pink Peignoir wine.   They also have ciders, including a very good hopped one. There is a large bricked courtyard behind a large white barn where the wine is. There’s a decent amount of parking, though some of it is on old farm fields. If you are fussy about where you park your SUV, good, I’d keep the place to my self.  🙂

This past weekend we made a recipe I got from an email from the Penzeys Spices folks. They don’t currently have a link to the recipe on their website and I’ve asked for one. So I hope they forgive me when I post it here. It’s for seekh kebob, and was sent to them by Major Saleem Khan.   It’s absolutely delicious, as good or better than the seekh kebob from our local indian restaurant.

We grilled this on a very hot charcoal fire.

Seekh Kabobs

If you don’t feel like fussing with skewers, the mixture would also make great burgers.

1 1/4 lbs. fresh ground beef (80/20 is a good mix); frozen doesn’t work as well
2 tsp. salt
2 1/2 TB. garlic paste
2 TB. ginger paste
2 TB. roasted chickpea powder (this is helpful for keeping the kabobs from falling apart; use 1 TB. all-purpose flour if you can’t find chickpea powder)

2 TB. lemon juice
1/2 Cup oil (see note)

In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients except the oil. Mix well with your hands. Refrigerate for 21/2-3 hours. Add the oil and mix well. Roll the meat into small, round meatballs. Thread each meatball through a skewer. Dip your hands in water to prevent sticking, and flatten the meatballs in a thin layer around each skewer. Grill over low heat, turning the skewers at least once, after about 5 minutes, until the meat turns to brown on both sides. Don’t overcook or they will not be as deliciously tender.

NOTE: We used 73/27 ground beef and didn’t find we needed ¼ cup of the recommended oil. We also just made little patties, about the size of a golf ball, then flattened out. They flared like crazy on the grill but we like the seared bits.

tamarind fruit aka poop or little aliens about to get you

tamarind fruit aka poop or little aliens about to get you

We had these with the cilantro-mint chutney from this post. We also made tamarind chutney from real tamarinds. They are tasty little fruits, though they do look like poop. I cooked 8 oz or so of peeled tamarinds in a couple of cups of water, threw in a couple of star anises, boiled briefly, squished and strained what was made, then followed this recipe from one of my favorite food blog sites, Jaggery or palm sugar is worth getting for this. This was rounded out with some greek yogurt with a couple of tablespoons of grated fresh garlic and slices of sweet onion and shredded lettuce. Most excellent!

That’s it. Eat and drink well!

From the Kitchen and the Bar – new things to try and a jalapeno appetizer

jalapenosThe Thanksgiving long weekend was a nice quiet one for us. We didn’t do the bird but we did eat a lot of appetizers as our feast. Most of them were from the freezer section of the supermarket, but we did make one from scratch.   Fresh jalapenos filled with garden vegetable cream cheese, wrapped in bacon, and then baked. Most excellent! I’ll get to the recipe below. I just cobbled together what I read from the other thousand recipes for the same thing on the ‘net.

We have been trying some new wines, beers and spirits.

Franzia Dark Red Blend – the king of box wine, Franzia, has made a dark red blend for their premium line.   It’s a very nice blend, not too tannic or too soft, and for around $20 for 5 liters, its worth a look. In addition to drinking it straight, we happened to mix it with Cran-Tangerine juice cocktail and it ended up tasting like a pretty darn good sangria (ages ago I went to Spain and had quite a bit there). I was afraid the cranberry would bring up the bitterness but it didn’t, standing in for other fruit flavors, and the wine enhanced the tangerine very well. I was surprised since the juice itself was fairly bland.

Genesee Salted Carmel Chocolate Porter – This is a premium beer from our favorite Genesee Brewing Company, home of the cream ale we drink. When we visited the brewery about a year ago, we toured their pilot batch brewery, and this is one that was run up there. It’s in bigger production but its still pretty small batch. It’s not a cheap beer, coming in just under $60 a case, but since we drink a lot of $14/a 30 pack Genny Cream Ale, we find it balances out  🙂 . It is a dark cola in color, with a fantastic caramel scent and chocolate caramel taste. Not too sweet at all, and I have no idea how they got that hint of salt in there so nicely.

Black Velvet Toasted Carmel whisky – This is a very smooth blended whisky with an excellent caramel flavoring. It’s very good neat.   However, we poured it into eggnog. That was wonderful…and dangerous.   It’s so smooth, you don’t get much of an alcohol burn even if you put in probably more than you should.

Here’s our recipe for the jalapenos.

Fresh jalapenos (we went for the 3” or so long ones)

Garden vegetable soft cream cheese

Thick cut hickory smoked bacon (we used Oscar Meyer)

Preheat oven to 385 degrees Fahrenheit. Cut peppers in half so you get to complete “boats”. Remove seeds and membranes (leave more or less if you like heat).  A grapefruit spoon is perfect for doing this. Fill with cheese. Wrap with a third of a slice of bacon. You can use a toothpick to anchor or do like we did and just put the seam on the bottom on our broiler pan since it has those convenient divots.

Bake for 40 minutes (this got the bacon well cooked but not hard and the peppers soft).   Let sit for about 5 minutes after removing from oven. Our peppers had a nice hit of spicy heat but weren’t so hot that I couldn’t snaffle down 5 of them in short order. They went very well with the Genny Cream Ale. 🙂

Eat and drink well!

From the Bar and a little from the kitchen – more beer, wine and cider, plus a redux of food we’ve made before

beerWow, the Exodus movie really sucks.   Not just from the silly plot but from the cinematography to the costuming, etc. Happily, I only saw a bit of it on HBO for free. It’s of that “everyone is filthy for no reason at all” genre.

We’ve tried some new beers, ciders and wines. In amongst this, we’ve made more chowder and another roast pork shoulder (an 11 pounder this time). This time, I took the skin off around 2 hours into the roasting process, which allowed the underlying fat to crisp up and get wonderfully sticky.

Strongbow honey – I’ve reviewed the regular strongbow cider before, excellent stuff. This is perhaps even better with the floral hit of honey. It very much reminds me of the lovely smell of a ripe quince. And it has Patrick Stewart as a very funny pitchman.

Angry Orchard Cinnful Apple, and more – Cinnful Apple is very good, a nice warm baked-good cinnamon flavor, not the one-note burn of red-hots. Summer Honey is also very good, but not quite as good as the Strongbow. The crisp apple and green apple are basic ciders, I can’t tell the difference between them, even tasted together.

Stark Raving white wine – a good basic white wine blend. Slightly sweet, it went well with the chowder.

Woodchuck Pumpkin – pretty much a basic cider, not even that much spice. My husband says he can taste the “squashiness” in it, but I can’t.

Atlantic Brewing Company – I like these beers. I do not like the bizarre level of carbonation,like a coca-cola.  I know how to pour a beer and these, no matter how hard I try, go to foam and overflow the glass, *any* glass. The Island Ginger is my favorite, like unsweet ginger beer. Very “rooty” but not too spicy.  The Coal Porter is a good porter, natch. The blueberry is a good level of blueberry flavor and the “real ale” is very dark, perhaps it could be called a black ale.

Ballast Point coffee vanilla beer – a good vanilla tinged porter, but I taste no coffee in this.

That’s all. Eat and drink well.

From the Bar – wine and beers from our day trip in York and Lancaster Counties, PA

We had a bit of a staycation last weekend. South-central PA has a bunch of wineries, breweries and good restaurants so we picked a direction, York and east to Lancaster, and headed out.  Sorry, no photos.  I’m not much of a photographer anyhow. 🙂

Just a note, these places did charge for sampling as most places do now.

First stop was the Old Republic Distillery in York. They have a small storefront in a strip mall just off Route 30 on the west side of York. They do vodka and moonshine and flavored riffs on both. The vodka is extraordinarily smooth. They also make a blackberry flavored version that has no sugar in it, so I’ve finally found my flavored vodka that doesn’t taste like Jolly Rancher syrup. The gal who was working there suggested it in lemonade which was very good, tasting rather like a Smartie (a small pressed tablet candy here in the US). We picked up a bottle of that and of their Love Potion Black Cherry, a fruit liqueur that is not too sweet at all and you can taste that frisson of bitterness that black cherries have.

We did taste most of their offerings, and do want to go back for the Apple Pie Moonshine. You gotta love a liqueur that you have to shake up since it has real spices in it. It’ll be great hot and buttered in the fall.   I also liked the fact that the gal who was working that day knew her history of the area.

For lunch, we headed to the White Rose Bar and Grill. With two towns 30 or so miles apart called Lancaster and York, we do have a lot of rose references going on. This restaurant is right across from the old town market, which is a lively place on Saturdays, very bohemian.   Parking is a bit of a trial, though we got crazy lucky that there was a parking space in the lot for the restaurant. Driving through York is also a trial since people were complete idiots when it came to just walking out onto the street anywhere. It was like it was the jaywalking capital of the world.

The White Rose is a gorgeous restaurant, with a porch half way around it, and more outdoor seating in its sister business, a cigar bar. We sat inside because I just don’t like the noise and dirt of sitting outside along a busy street. They did have all of the doors open along the porches so it was pretty much like being outside anyway. I got a plate of fresh-cut French fries with an inordinate amount of bacon and chedder on them (I do prefer Cheez Whiz, because it doesn’t harden into a carapace) that was good, and my husband got a cup of cream of crab soup and a pit beef sandwich. Pit beef is a large roast of beef cooked over a wood fire and then sliced up. All was excellent. We also had a couple of beers, mine a Liquid Hero Schweet Ale, which was very refreshing and not too sweet as many fruit beers are, and husband’s a Crystal Ball Coconut Porter, very tasty and gets more coconutty as it warms a bit. Always nice that we can now get the local beers at other outlets, so we don’t have to visit everywhere, although we do want to do so.

East on Route 30, we went to Moon Dancer Vineyards and Winery. Or at least we tried to. This winery is set back into the country a few miles. It’s near a very lovely overlook of the Susquehanna River, and close to some of the biggest houses I’ve seen in a while. It is up one of the worst kept gravel lanes I’ve been on in a very long time. If your car has not much clearance, I would advise not to go unless they do some major grading of the lane. We made it up the lane and went into the house that holds the winery.   Unfortunately, a small bus had got there just before us, an outing from a senior care facility that also advertised that they did memory care too. It was going to take forever to get served, so we left. As we did so, we met a full-sized tour bus creeping its way up the rutted mess of a lane. Good thing we had some room to get over.

Getting back on Route 30, we headed toward Lancaster. The next winery on our itinerary was Tamanend Winery.   The tasting room is along a small road in an older industrial park, in a small warehouse. We were hoping to try their mead but they were out. They had a very odd lime margarita flavored wine that tasted okay but smelled like lime dish detergent. We got a bottle of a sweet red fruit mix wine, Patriot, which should make a good sangria and a bottle of Honeysuckle, a apple and concord grape wine, also sweet.

The Vinyards at Grandview was the next stop, up along Route 283. This winery had more wines that were of the drier, more expensive variety. When we entered the tasting room, there was an oblivious bevy of women at the bar, taking up all of the space with no consideration for anyone else.   The staff was very nice to us in that they told us we could sit at one of the small tables and they would bring the wine to us to sample. All we tried were very good, and much more for a palate used to drier wines rather than the sugar bombs that PA has a tendency to turn out. We got a bottle of the Gruner Veltliner, a dry light white, Crimson Quartette (we do love our red blends) and Pop Umble’s Black Cherry wine, another lovely cherry flavor with just that tiny hint of bitterness.

The last winery on our day tour was the Vineyard and Brewery at Hershey. Due to the eternally weird alcohol laws of Pennsylvania, this is in two separate buildings. The wine tasting room is in what appears to be the old farm house and the brewery tasting is in a steel barn down the hill a bit. The original barn is a kennel and you can hear dogs yapping. The wine was also quite good and we picked up a bottle of Twisted Kiss, a sweet white, and a desert wine Cocoa di Vezzetti. Yes it does taste like chocolate (mixed with port), and anything within spitting distance Hershey inevitably has some candy or chocolate theme.

At the barn, you can get a flight of the beers currently on tap. The quality varied widely, from a supposed Hefeweizen with absolutely no phenolic flavors, to a very good Mexican style lager and a tasty chocolate flavored brown ale. Outside the barn is a nice sitting area with live music. It’s just a shame that most live musicians never check what they sound like after setting up. For gods’ sake, check the balance so we can actually hear the singer and not just the electric piano.

To end the day, we stopped at Lancaster Brewing Company’s restaurant just outside of Harrisburg. Having an alcohol-sharpened hunger, we got appetizers: a platter of bacon done 3 or 4 different ways, egg rolls that were filled with what goes on a Rueben sandwich, and a hot queso blanco and chorizo dip. That stuff was just heaven. I had a Baked Pumpkin Ale, which is one of the few I’ve had where you can really taste the sweet spices.

So, that was our weekend. We did also go see Ant-man, which was loads of fun. Just make sure when you are out tasting to drink lots of water (or my favorite, Gatorade) and pace yourselves.