Beer Yeast Bread Experiments

Yeast Beer Bread

We have friends over from time to time, and people bring beer. Then they drink our craft beer and leave their not-so-delicious beer in our fridge. Leaving me with the quandary of what to do with it. I’m certainly not going to drink it for the fun of it. I’m not really into beer all that much so if I’m drinking it, it had better be good.

So I’ve been experimenting with cooking with beer (with mixed results). No comment.

And then I thought about baking with beer. I’ve been treated to some great beer bread over the years, but it never crossed my mind to try making any. Of course, why stop there?

Traditional beer bread is baking powder/soda based, and more like a savory coffee cake. I knew there had to be a decent yeast and beer bread recipe out there. (Well if you Google it, there’s lots, but they look sketchy even at best.) So I picked a few that looked promising and worked them together into one that seems to work for me.

First of all, ‘beer’ means a lighter beer. I’ve experimented with a porter and a few other darker beers, but it just didn’t go well. I have a bunch of Presidente left over from a recent party, and this seems to work just right.

Now, because I’m either super busy or secretly lazy, I’ve always owned a bread machine. Just to make the dough. Who would want to cook it in there and end up with that huge cube of bread? Yuck.

Yeast Beer Bread
Makes 1.5 lb loaf

12 oz. bottle of room temperature beer
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/3 cups bread flour
1 packet or 2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast

This is a long but almost labor-less process, so start off with pouring the beer into a bowl and whisking it a bit to get the froth out. Since my beer is all in the fridge, I have to let it sit out for an hour to get it to room temperature also. Then pour it into the bread maker bucket (remember to put in the little paddle if yours is detachable because that’s FUN to forget!). Then put in the ingredients in the order listed. Most bread makers tell you to put in all wet ingredients, then dry ingredients. But really who cares since you’re about to mix it all together.

Set your bread maker to dough only, then go about your life. Mine does this in about an hour, giving me plenty of time to check Facebook, do laundry, wash dishes, blog, etc. And I don’t have to fiddle with timing, checking, punching down, and resting it.

Just before the dough is ready, I get out a big bowl and oil the inside, and oil whatever pan or tray I’m going to use. This recipe makes very fluffy dough that gets out of hand, so I’m actually looking for an over-size loaf pan. Standard size just gives me a huge loaf with a giant bread-afro. When your dough asks to be let out, get your fingertips a little oiled so you can help scoop it out of the bucket and slide it into the oiled bowl. Punch it down a little in the bowl (I tend to overwork my dough which is bad bad bad), and then shape it into a loaf by gently tucking all of the corners and edges under for a smooth crown. Center this on a flat baking tray, or fit it into your loaf pan.

Cover this with a dish towel and set aside for an hour or until it doubles in size. And it will. Like the federal budget deficit during Ronnie’s first term.

Now, my oven and I have a hate-hate relationship, so I can only offer guidelines for baking. I put in a flat loaf on a tray at 360 for 25-30 minutes. For the loaf pan style, I go at 350 for about 40-45 minutes. To make sure it’s cooked through properly. Nothing like opening up a lovely loaf of bread to find it’s got a squishy middle.

Not only does this make a nice loaf of bread, it’s a great base for being creative with. Add ingredients to make it garlicky, sweet, cheesy, whatever. A few cloves of pressed garlic at the very beginning with the beer, some finely shredded basil leaves, some Italian seasonings, and 1/2 cup of pecorino romano, and you have some mighty fine bread there. Or dried cranberries, a touch of nutmeg and powdered ginger. Mmmmmm…

And you can split up the dough into smaller balls, roll them in garlic and oil before the last rise, and make dinner rolls. My next experiment will be using this to make cinnamon bun inspired rolls that don’t make your eyeballs want to fall out from all of the sugar.

Beer bread using yeast is unusual because beer naturally has a lot of yeast in it, so depending on the type of beer you use, you might end up with some super insane fluffy dough that crawls out of the pan while it’s baking (yes, I know from experience). And I have to make the observation that some of these recipes called for honey instead of brown sugar, which seemed to make the dough very unstable. Sounds yummy but not so practical.

I’m not all about the brands but I have to say that since I switched to Kind Arthur Flour Co. flour, I can absolutely tell the difference. Between the good quality flour, and the extra power of the beer, this bread is ridiculously easy and turns out really fluffy and soft. A little butter and good jam, and dig in while it’s fresh. It doesn’t get any better than this.

[Girl21]

Test-Driving Tempo Bistro To-Go

Tempo Bistro To-Go

Tempo Bistro To-Go has been high on our list of places to try for quite some time. The Man and I rarely have a day off together, so we are usually limited to dinner restaurants. But the elements of the universe aligned perfectly and we were finally able to check off one on our list.

I’ve been watching from afar as Tempo Bistro evolves (stalking on Facebook, I admit), and I adore the food culture that drives this tiny lunch shop. There’s a heavy, passionate emphasis on in-season, locally grown and sourced, natural and organic ingredients to make flavor-driven sandwiches, salads, and soups. A little bird told me that they’re looking to get their bread from Mosswood in Micanopy, which will bring me back again just to try that out.

The Man and I were both hungry, and let’s be honest, more than a little cranky. So the snippy negotiations on where to get lunch, and what to get, took much longer and involved more bruised feelings than necessary. We settled on Tempo Bistro’s “Piedmont” and “The Blueprint” sandwiches, with a side “Far Eastern” salad. I sent The Man to pick up our order, which is always a bad idea when he’s hungry. He returned with a large bag that included a bottle of ginger ale, a bottle of root beer, potato chips, and Flour Pot Bakery cookies (oatmeal toffee and ginger) which I’m sure were too tempting while attempting to pay and go.

All of the food was lovely. The bread was knobly and whole grained. All of the greens were fresh and tasty. The dressing made my tongue do that little prickly shiver like all of my taste buds doing The Wave. It was all done simply, efficiently, and elegantly. Even the packaging was environmentally friendly.

Tempo Bistro, BlueprintThe Blueprint: “Blue and goat cheese, Tempeh, roasted walnuts, red bell pepper ribbons and microgreens, pressed with mayo on multigrain”. Not only do I love, love, love blue cheese and goat cheese, this sandwich was pressed, so all of those lovely little cheesy and furry goat flavors came out just a little more. I’m not a huge fan of tempeh only because I know what it really is and it’s kind of gag-tastic. But the tempeh in the sandwich was very mild and added a nice texture without being too fungal like it can sometimes get. I cannot emphasize enough how much I love this sandwich and will be eating it again.

Piedmont: “Sliced roasted turkey or Tempeh, granny smith apple, goat cheese, red onion and spinach on multigrain”. We of course got the tempeh instead of turkey. The apple, onion, goat combination is always fun and flavorful. Again, the tempeh was nicely underplayed so the nuttiness came out to support the spinach without tasting like feet. And yes, I know tempeh is a wonderful protein source, so my brain knows it should be eaten. This is also a great sandwich. Next time I might ask for a little extra goat cheese just because I love it so much.

Far Eastern Salad: “Seasonal lettuce, napa cabbage and basil with toasted almond, microgreens, red bell pepper, shredded carrot and sesame ginger dressing”. When I licked the lid of the little container of the dressing, my tastebuds did a little dance. I’m a salad addict, as you may well know, and I could eat this three times a week. I especially loved the little flavor bursts of basil that lurked in the greens.

So in case you haven’t noticed, we are both giving MAJOR thumbs up to Tempo Bistro. The Man actually looks like he wants to go back right now. He keeps hanging over my shoulder and telling me what he wants to get next time we order there. (“The Sadie” has sauerkraut which makes him drool, and “The Caribbean” has him titillated.)

The shop itself is in a tiny space next to the Starbucks at 16th Ave. and 13th St. There are a few tables in case you want to eat in, but I recommend taking out (it’s “To-Go” for a reason). It can also get awkward to park during busy times of the day, and that parking lot is a disaster to get out of and go in certain directions. But it’s totally worth the trouble of getting to the bistro. The food is delish. The people are genuine foodies. And it’s a local business that supports local business. You can’t go wrong.

Tempo Bistro To-Go
1516 NW 13th St
Gainesville FL 32601
352.336.5834

Hours: 11:00-5:00 Monday-Saturday

Our lunch: $33.00
Two sandwiches, salad, two drinks, two cookies, chips, and tip. Worth every penny!

[Girl21]

Pacific Redwood, Organic Red Wine

Pacific Redwood Wine

September 5, 1965. Michael Fallon, a San Francisco journalist, uses the term ‘hippie‘ in an article about the new generation of beatniks gathering in the Haight-Ashbury area. A lot of people point to this as the first recognizable use of the term that brands a generation, culture, and way of life.

California is still home to a significant population of hippies–the original version and the new vintages of them. I myself was born in California and come from authentic hippie stock. This is why I am making an effort to get over my temporary fixation with Spanish wine and try more California wines. This is also why I lean towards organic anything. (And why when my doctor disapproved of my not having had many of my shots as a child, I had to explain that I felt lucky to at least have a real birth certificate.)

Over the years, the hippies that lived and thrived in northern California grew weary of covertly growing their lucrative crop of the Devil’s Weed, and a few turned to the newest cash crop—grapes. Wine grapes to be specific. They slowly became farmers, then vintners, then they became famous. And rich. And it was all legal. They got thanked by the state of California’s tourism captains. The French hated them. It changed the face of the countryside, now littered with B&Bs and tasting rooms among the grapes.

Now when people think about wine in the US, they think about Northern California. And Paul Giamatti. Because most people saw the movie Sideways after all of the hoo-ha about it. (I prefer Bottle Shock because you learn more about wine, and there’s less whining. No pun intended.) The people that like to draw lines and make categories out of things say there’s three major wine regions in California. Or possibly four. Depending on who you talk to. They also use words like viticulture, appellation, and riparian zones. These people crack me up.

The three, or four, regions are Mendocino, Napa, Sonoma, and possibly Lake County. Each of these regions are broken down into sub-regions, and of course there are all kind of outlying regions that aren’t as cool or famous. Wine country is about wine the same way that Comic-Con is about comic books. There’s so much more. And the extreme tourism brought on by the fame is further distorting the earthy traditions of the region’s wineries.

Anyhow, being from good hippie stock, and being born in California, I’ve had the nagging feeling that I should drink more California wines. Fortunately the wine buyer at Ward’s seems to think the same thing and has been stocking some interesting options lately. I picked up this Pacific Redwood organic red along with a Chilean and a Spanish.

I’m a bit wary of the organic wines, especially when they advertise they are not just organically grown, but have no added sulfides. They can sometimes be quite rough and need a bit of time to breathe after opening. But this Pacific Redwood from Mendocino County was bright from the opening and didn’t oxidize until it had been open for about an hour. The dark purple-red wine had a very wet and juicy mouth feel, but a mildly woody nose. It initially tasted sweet and young, with lots of berry flavors throughout. There were lovely undertones of honey, and then it finished with a dry peppery flavor before disappearing cleanly.

Overall it was a light, young wine that I would drink again. A little sweeter than I prefer, but quite enjoyable with some snacks or a light meal. I want to try it against a little honey-barbecue baked tofu. Mmmmmm.

So my exploration of California wine continues. With the rise of somewhat legal medical marijuana in the state, one has to wonder if the hippies-turned-vintners feel the urge to return to their original crops, or if they like the more robust success of the less edgy wine culture. I hope they stick with it. At least until California gets that next big earth quake and falls into the Pacific.

Pacific Redwood
Organic Red
About $6-8

[Girl21]

Interview: Jesse Lee’s Mac & Cheese

The big No-Shenanigans Mac & Cheese-off 2011 brought some serious foodies to the Thunderdome. It’s ironic that the ultimate champion was also the new kid on the block.

Jesse Lee, Mac & CheeseJesse Lee is a long-time foodie who came to mac and cheese through his experiments with crab bisque. His cook-off entry was only the third attempt at this iconic dish. Yes, you can start hating him now.

After much pestering on my part, he finally threw up his hands and told me to back off. The secrets of his crab bisque mac and cheese were going to his grave. I promptly suggested I could send him there this week if he didn’t give me the info post haste. Unfortunately he’s not very intimidated by me, so we’ll have to settle for the things he was willing to talk about.
__________

Q. Desert Island Cheeses: What 3 cheeses would you be able to eat forever and ever?

A. Extra Sharp Cheddar, Munster and Jalapeno cream Havarti

Q. Top three places you eat in Gainesville?

A. The Top (no pun intended), Dragonfly, Satchel’s.

Q. Spend the day in the kitchen cooking with one person (anyone, living or dead), who would it be?

A. It would have to be Anthony Bourdain. When my father told me about his show, I started watching them almost nonstop whenever I had time. Food, culture, and travel are my trifecta. The show is a window into the soul of a people each episode, and Bourdain does a great job of adding the flair of his own personality to the experience. Laugh, drink, eat, live–simple messages that seem to be universal no matter where you go.

Q. Where did your love of food come from? When did you first realize food was more than just stuff to put in your face? I assume it wasn’t from your bromance with Tony Bourdain?

A. Mother and father most definitely. I was raised vegetarian so they had to work to make eating interesting and they did a great job. I would have to say I realized there was more to food when I was nine years old. It was also the first time I willfully ate meat. I was at a Ruby Tuesdays in the Dadeland mall and didn’t know what to order (back then vegetarian options weren’t common) and my friend ordered a foot long frankfurter. I looked at him and asked them if they were good and he laughed and said they were. So I looked questioningly at my father and asked if I could try one, which he allowed. Once it arrived I watched my friend to see how it should be eaten, he added ketchup so I did and then I bit into it. This was a completely new experience for me, and as the flavors flooded over me, I looked at my father with a scowl as if to say I’d been lied to and wonders had been hidden from me. This made me want to try everything else that might have been hidden from me. Today I still love vegan and vegetarian food, but I enjoy just about everything out there and still try new things when I can.

Q. Single favorite meal of your life–who, what, when, where, and why?

A. This is a very difficult question for me to answer. The experience of sharing meals with family, friends, travelers and strangers all over the world have special meaning and memories for me. Examples would be cooking dinner for 19 people at my friend’s wedding in Tahoe, a farewell dinner with friends in on the Greek island of Ios, sharing a meal with coworkers for the first time in Hyderabad, India, or the first time my immediate family all sat down together for Thanksgiving since I was a kid.

Q. If you could pick up and relocate anywhere in the world to learn to cook the local cuisine for 6 months, where would you go?

A. Asia. I love the food, the flavors, the spices–and wildly attractive presentations and color. They really get that food is an experience for all the senses.

Q. So enough foreplay. Let’s talk about your dish. What made this mac and cheese the winner?

A. I’m not going into detail as to what was in it specifically, but what won it in my mind is that I created an experience of eating bisque and mac & cheese at the same time, the intense creaminess, a strong bisque flavor with the accompanying detail of making the crust reminder the person eating it of the garlic toast traditionally served with bisque.

Q. What were some things you liked about other dishes at the mac & cheese cook off?

A. The other entries were great. Every time I tried something else, my eyes would light up when I got what they were attempting. One of my favorites was the Mac & Cheese that gave you the impression of eating a breaded buffalo hot wing. I ran over to the person just to tell them “I got it!“. Everybody did a great job though. I really enjoyed the whole day and mac & cheese was represented in so many forms from experimental to traditional.

Q. What is your food obsession of the day? What are you focusing on right now?

A. My friends would tell you Guava and I guess they would be correct, I’ve wanted to put it in everything lately. I really want to do a dessert Mac & Cheese next year just to see what’s possible. I’ve been looking into Asian cooking classes but there are none close by so I might have to go at it alone.

Q. Are you going to bring that same fighting spirit to the next No-Shenanigans Cook-off: Chili Death Match?

A. Haha, I imagine I will. I don’t have a recipe for chili yet so I’m going to have to think about what experience I want to create and then start experimenting with it.
______

So there you have it. The Mac & Cheese Maverick is hungry for more. Was Jesse Lee’s win merely beginner’s luck, or does he have the passion for food that translates to long-time success? The Man and I get front row seats for his food journey since we know where he lives and frequently crash his house to bring him scotch. You, dear reader, will have to wait for the next No-Shenanigans Cook-off to experience the best of Jesse Lee.

[Girl21]

P.S. After further harassment, I got a little more about the Crab Bisque Mac & Cheese:
“The first secret to crab bisque mac & cheese is the blending of the bisque and the cheese to make the rue–the cheese must not interfere with the bisque flavor but only add the creaminess you would expect. The other secret is the layering of noodles, cheese, béchamel and breadcrumb strata, creating three distinct flavor and consistency layers all blending together to create the experience of eating bisque accompanied with garlic toast.”

FYI dear readers, there’s no copyright protection on a recipe, so have fun trying to steal this one!

And one more THANK YOU to Loosey’s for hosting the No-Shenanigans Cook-Offs! Follow us here or on Facebook to get updates on upcoming cook-offs and events.

Ba na NA ner NA Ner Na na … Tequila!

Milagro Silver Tequila

The thing about the Tequila song is that you can sing it after drinking tequila. It’s a beautiful marriage of practicality and fun. There’s only one word and you say it only three times. The rest is just instrumental, which can conveniently be ‘played’ using whatever is handy nearby for the dirty sax and percussion.

I can barely hear anyone mention tequila without hearing the sax start playing in my head. And everyone has a tequila story, so when drinking stories come up, tequila is mentioned. This is one reason I was in my thirties before I tried the stuff. Dread of acquiring a half-remembered tequila story of my own.

But yes, tequila entered my life eventually. Not the cheap stuff that makes you feel like Ron Jeremy the next day. The good stuff that costs enough to remind you to drink it slowly.

By now most people know real tequila comes from the actual region surrounding Tequila, an actual place in Mexico. And the tequila association will send coa-armed jimadores after you if you erroneously label your bottle tequila instead of mezcal. Oh and yes, we’ve all been updated that the worm was a marketing gimmick and nothing else.

Tequila is either 100% agave or ‘mixtos’, 51%+ agave and the rest made up of other sugars. There are generally five different categories of tequila based on how long its aged: blanco/silver aged less than 2 months, reposado/rested aged 2 months to 1 year in oak, añejo aged 1 to 3 years in oak, extra añejo aged more than 3 years in oak, and the oddball joven/young which is a mix of blanco and reposado. So just look for the agave content and the age length to determine what you’re actually buying in that strikingly trendy bottle.

That out of the way, let’s talk about Milagro. With over 900 brands of tequila to choose from, you could get arrested 50 times over before you try even half of them. And tequila is like all other liquors. There’s the good and the bad, which have nothing to do with price or fanciness of bottle. You’ve heard of Patron if you listen to hip-hop, and Jose Cuervo if you listen to country. Don’t get caught up in the marketing or you’ll be eating worms.

Of the easy-to-acquire, Milagro Silver is one of the nicer ones for price, taste, and quality. It’s 100% agave, and blanco, so it’s fairly young. There is the typical grassy and succulent agave fragrance at first, followed by citrus. It has a very wet mouth feel but a peppery flavor and an alcohol burn at the end, leaving a slight bitterness. For shots, it’s not bad, but makes an excellent mixer.

The night we emptied this bottle of Milagro, we were doing shots. It went surprisingly fast. Many of our guests felt fine the next day. No one committed a typical tequila blunder like urinating in a closet. It was remarkably tame. Almost spooky. I guess it could have been worse.

Milagro
Silver, 100% Agave
750 mL | 80 proof
$40-60 bottle

[Girl21]

Peroni Nastro Azzurro

Peroni Nastro Azzurro

“Una birra per favore,” says the lovely lady in my car stereo. “One beer please,” parrots her male counterpart.

With the death of CDs, practically the only thing in my car is an old set of ‘Learn Italian in Your Car‘ discs I got for Christmas ages ago. When I can’t get Pandora to play on my phone for some reason, I fall back on these CDs rather than abuse my ears with broadcast radio. I love listening to these CDs actually because the woman’s voice is so sweet and perky with just a hint of attitude. Plus Italian is a beautiful language.

The reason I bring this up is that we bought some Peroni lately to make macaroni and cheese, and I’ve been cooking with it ever since. Yes, some of the beer does make it into the food–I don’t drink all of it while I’m slaving away in the kitchen.

Peroni Nastro Azzurro is an Italian beer, a pale lager to be exact. This is not a fancy beer by any stretch of the imagination. It’s best described as ‘typical’ Italian birra. It’s light, bubbly, and best served cold. It has sweet malty and yeasty flavors, with a hint of white wine, and ends with a satisfactory bitterness that is just right. It’s not going to satisfy the real beer drinkers, but it’s not Michelob Ultra.

It’s a nice beer for cooking with because you’re not wasting a good beer by burying it under other flavors, and there’s just enough flavor from the Peroni coming through that you can taste the beeriness. Beside the obvious use in the cheese gravy for the mac-and-cheese, I’ve also been using it in pasta dishes since I’ve run out of my usual white wine and have thus far failed to put it on my shopping list (blast and damnation!). The acid from the tomatoes and citrus is highlighted by the mellow beer notes and that final slight bitterness.

I’ve been holding onto a beer bread recipe that calls for a pale beer, and I think this might be the time to try it out. I’ve always loved beer bread because of its interesting texture and ideal combination of beer and bread flavors. (I know, those are actually the same flavor generally, but it’s like the fascination with twins–a variation on what should be the same thing actually.) Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

In the mean time, I am waiting to get the point on my ‘Learn Italian‘ CDs when the cheerful, sassy lady tells me how to say “Ho mangiato la pasta così tanto che sto per esplodere!” That should be a handy phrase to know for when we head over to the big boot.

Peroni Birra, SABMiller
Peroni Nastro Azzurro
$6-9 6-pack

[Girl21]

Crispin Hard Cider, Honey Crisp

Crispin Hard Cider, Honey Crisp

There’s that guy you know. Every circle of friends seems to have one. He makes money, and he lets everyone know. When he gets back from a skiing trip to Europe, he lets you know about that too. He uses a lot of product in his hair, gets mani-pedis, and dates a series of interchangeable, vacuous young girls that he usually picks up at the gym. His watch is aerodynamic and expensive looking. He doesn’t just sit–he lounges everywhere. You tolerate his ego because he can be entertaining, and sometimes he shows up with an expensive bottle of liquor.

In the world of cider, his name is Crispin. (For the record, we are talking about hard cider, not apple juice.) And Crispin has definitely tossed a great deal of cash at a marketing team to make their branding seem trendy, classy, and classic. That’s not to say it’s a shallow, soulless cider. But the flashy externals always put a question mark over the quality of the content.

I am not a dedicated beer drinker, so The Man patronizes my quirk of drinking cider instead. On a recent beer forage trip to Dorn’s, he carried home a bottle of Crispin’s Honey Crisp hard cider. This is one of the artisanal varieties they produce, and it’s flavored with organic honey. After a chill in the fridge, we popped the top off the 22 ounce bottle and poured the pearly cider.

It tasted of fresh apples, spring water, green grass, and honey. It was definitely crisp. It was absolutely made from apples. But it lacked that intrinsic cidery flavor of old, fermented apples that lingers in the back of your mouth. It was too clean and clear. Too young. And it took me a while to identify the lingering round notes of cardamom that haunted my mouth.

I would drink Crispin cider again. I would even like to try some of the other varieties they offer like the sake style or the Belgian Trappist inspired cider. And they’ve apparently got Fox Barrel Cider, a line made from pears. But when I want a good bottle of cider, I’ll still reach for Cidre Bouche.

Crispin
Honey Crisp, 22 oz.
6.5% ABV

[Girl21]

Carménère, Cremaschi Vineyards, 2010

One of the perks of going to Fresh Market is the ladies at their wine tasting tables. If you go in the evening, they’ve been at it a while and are quite, um, cheerful from handing out samples. I’m absolutely positive these girls don’t have a little sip of the wine here and there throughout the day. They must be just naturally cheerful and talkative at the end of a day-long shift on their feet.

Dinner guests stopped at Fresh Market on the way over, and the lady giving out samples of wine actually talked so profusely, they were late to arrive at our place. Which is fine because in my opinion, the stated time of a dinner party or gathering is merely a suggestion. They eventually arrived bearing a bottle of carménère by Cremaschi Vineyards, a Chilean wine.

Carménère is a dark red varietal that originated in France but is now virtually extinct in its homeland. It was one of the original ‘six red grapes of Bordeaux‘, which sounds like the name of a good children’s song. A tremendous (vineyard) plague in the mid 1800s pretty much wiped the carménère vines out of existence. Once the growers had recovered from the loss, they couldn’t find many healthy vines, and were hesitant to commit to such a temperamental plant.

It was purely by accident that the carménère vines were preserved, having been taken to Chile and confused with the merlot varietal. Once they got it sorted out, they found that the carménère grapes thrived in Chile, and produced a remarkable wine. And because Chile isn’t wall-to-wall vineyards, the chance of another plague devastating this fragile grape is minimized. (There is also a small presence of this grape in California, Australia, and New Zealand, and a growing interest in France again.)

Carménère wine tends to have noticeably softer tanins, which gives it a lovely velvet mouth-feel and a creaminess that is remarkable. We sure remarked upon it a few times while quickly draining the bottle and smacking out lips appreciatively. This wine also had smoky, dry grass, peppery notes typical of a Chilean wine, but on top of this was a very distinct honey flavor that supported the creamy texture well. There were a few hints of dark fruits, and a touch of a dark chocolate, but major notes of honey and earth remind me of what I wish mead tasted like.

It is on the sweet side, so it makes a delicious after dinner wine. It’s best served with foods that have distinct but subdued flavors like many traditional Chilean ingredients: corn, beans, peppers, potatoes, rice, and chocolate. Although it is a typical trick at wine tastings to have people eat chocolate while drinking to improve the taste of a mediocre wine, the carménère wine actually makes a wonderful pairing with a dark chocolate.

As for Cremaschi Vineyards, I couldn’t find a whole lot of info about them. With the globe riddled with vineyards, Google can only help me so much. And buying at a big box store further muddies the origin once a big import/export company gets their mittens on it (usually a small vineyard will focus on landing a big exporter rather than creating their own website to draw interest). Cremaschi Vineyards exports seven varieties of wine, and has been growing grapes for over a century. Apparently Cremaschi is a common name in Chile, and there are several other vineyards that use the name in some way, so it can probably get confusing.

We’re quite interested in trying another bottle of carménère. I’ve not been particularly interested in Chilean wine in general because they tend to be overly peppery and earthy for my taste, but this was nice for a once-in-a-while treat. And I’d love to get my hands on an Australian and a Californian bottle. Purely for research purposes of course. It’s amazing how a grape can make its way to a different part of the world and take on a new life.

On a side note, I have to wonder about the secret lives of the wine tasting women. How do you get that job? And why? Is it a great dating tool? How many people try to give you their phone numbers? How many other propositions do you get? Just how drunk do you get? And do you do this every day? Do you have giant bottles of aspirin and cases of coconut water at home to combat the perpetual hangovers? How do you manage this on a daily basis without seeming to know all that much about wine?

Cremaschi Vineyards
Carménère, 2010

[Girl21]

The Girls Love Sailor Jerry

Sailor Jerry

I could make pirate jokes at this point, but I like to think I’m a little more creative than that. (Okay, so we do have Pirate Nights where we drink Piraat and make horrible puns and painfully tacky jokes, but that’s different. That’s drinking.) I’m not even going to make a joke about drinking Sailor Jerry all night and waking up to feel like you’ve been carousing with burly sea men.

Save it for Pirate Night.

But I have found the ladies do love Sailor Jerry. Even the ones that claim they don’t care for the hard stuff (heehee).

Having my book club ladies over so often, I’d gotten tired of having wine all the time, so I switched over to girly mixed drinks for a while when we had people over at the house. A half-bottle of Sailor Jerry spiced rum had been lurking behind the Bombay Sapphire and some odd Mexican liqueur that arrived as a gift. I suspect several of you have the same thing–a few odd bottles of assorted beverages in a cupboard or cabinet that you keep forgetting you have.

So I pull out the bottle of rum with the tattoo pin up girl on the front and try to decide if this is one of those bottles of liquor that have been handed around and regifted because it’s just plain nasty. I love rum, but Sailor Jerry looks to cute to be good. The story has a glossy Disney-esque spin put on it–the rum is actually named after a real guy, Norman Collins, who did tattoos for sailors in the Pacific for decades. Which is why the bottles have the classic old WWII pin up girl art on them. (Once you finish off the bottle, you’ll notice there’s one on the front of the label, and another lady on the inside of the front label.)

Sailor Jerry, inside bottleThe brand actually popped up as a clothing company that honored the art that Sailor Jerry created with his tattoos. Maybe it’s odd for clothing and rum to go hand in hand, but I suppose someone decided to give it a try. Come to think of it, a lot of rappers or ‘TV celebrities’ have their own line of anything they can stick their label on, so anything goes.

Rum has a long history, usually tied to the West Indies and sailors. Being made from sugar cane, it would be plentiful in the area, and being distilled, it would travel well at sea for great lengths of time. But early rum, like early humanoids, was pretty rough, and sailors often added spices like cinnamon, vanilla, and nutmeg in it to make it taste less like pickled Neanderthals.

Like any other type of alcohol, there is a wide range of qualities, styles, flavors, and variations of rums. Sailor Jerry is a nice middle-of-the-road quality and it’s spiced so it tastes of cinnamon and vanilla with maybe a hint of nutmeg. This is not a sipping rum, and you probably wouldn’t get a lot of people willing to do straight shots of it. It tends to hit your mouth with abundant flavors, like your grandmother’s purse, when you’re expecting something simpler. It’s great to mix with things though. But what to mix it with?

I have a circle of friends that don’t drink (I know, what?), so I borrowed a favorite of theirs and added Sailor Jerry. Toss 1 or 2 cups of frozen berries in a blender, top off with limeade (we swear by Simply brand), and blend until it’s a party going on in there. Pour in your desired amount of Sailor Jerry (I usually eyeball it based on the people drinking, but somewhere at 1/2 cup or so), and some fresh mint leaves. Very gently pulse the blender a few times to get the rum swirling around and the mint leaves thrashed but not minced into bits. Pour into a pitcher and top off with half again that amount of ginger ale.

There’s usually one girl that says “I can barely taste it–make it stronger next time”, and she’s usually the one in a half hour asking for some water because the room got a little swirly. Not that I’m suggesting in any way to purposefully get people drunk. But for guests who aren’t comfortable with a beer or a glass of scotch, try something fun like this. (And you can make it without rum for those guests not drinking so they don’t feel singled out.)

So now I know that Sailor Jerry is a staple on our liquor bar for impromptu gatherings and other events where beer and wine just isn’t going to cut it. It’s smoother and tastier than some of those cheap brands, and the next day you won’t feel like you went overboard and were given the kiss of life by the ship’s parrot. At least the rum won’t make you feel like that. I surely don’t know what else you get up to in your spare time at parties.

Sailor Jerry
$15-18, 750 mL
SailorJerry.com

[Girl21]

Not Very Garlic & Ginger

Garlic & Ginger

I hate walking out of a restaurant and feeling incomplete. As if something is missing. Like the ‘yum’.

It all started out well enough. Several friends had discovered Garlic & Ginger and said it needed to be tried. We were invited out finally, and prior to heading over there, we looked up the menu online. The website was out-of-the-box generic, but at least it didn’t look like a child had designed it in 1998. And the menu was also in Korean. So these were possibly good signs.

We had somewhat high hopes for the place even though it was located in a storefront in a Publix shopping center at the end of Archer Road, past the Land of Chain Restaurants. There were hand lettered signs in the window announcing the place was now open seven days a week. There were only three tables full on a Tuesday night at 8:00. Still nothing terrible.

The first little alarm bell went off when we cracked open the menu. Almost nothing on the drinks menu. And… flip … no, flip… back up, um, what’s Korean for ‘vegetarian’? Even after asking the waiter, there were a total of three things on the skimpy menu that didn’t include beef, pork, sea food, or similar. Not a tragedy, I know. But in Gainesville, it’s rare to find a restaurant that doesn’t have at least some obvious vegetarian options. Even these were somewhat sketchy.

Our tablemates had the huge ‘Seafood Paradise Special’ platter which arrived in a sizzling cast iron skillet. I ordered the Tofu Jab-Chae, sweet potato noodles with veggies and tofu. And The Man had the Tofu Dolsot Bibimbap, a hot pot with rice, veggies and an egg (and posibly some meat products clinging to the egg from something left on the fryer). Oh, and the green tea which was as fresh and tasty as Kool-aid.

My dish was ho-hum, and somewhat difficult to eat the long, sticky noodles with my metal chopsticks. I eventually mastered the knack of rolling the noodles around without elbowing The Man in the head. The Man was terminally underwhelmed by his dish, which even doused with copious amounts of Korean BBQ sauce. Our table mates had a few complaints about their dish being different than they normally got.

I like to think the kitchen was having an off night. I can only hope. Because our one time experience left me feeling like a mediocre Korean restaurant got bought out by a college student fresh out of the UF with a marketing degree and zero interest in food. The only thing going for it was they obviously used fresh veggies and tons of mushrooms. Not a lot of garlic or ginger from what we could tell.

It was a sulky ride home after, with both of us pouting about the experience and our determination to not repeat it. We were full, but there was very little flavor in the whole meal. In our opinion, Garlic & Ginger didn’t live up to its name.

Garlic & Ginger
5847 SW 75th St
Gainesvile, FL 32608
garlicnginger.com

[Girl21]