No Shenanigans Mac & Cheese-off, 2011

No Shenanigans Mac & Cheese-offAs with most epic battles, it all started with two guys kicking dirt on each other. Somehow I got stuck in the middle, and innocent (okay, not so innocent) bystander.

I posted a link to a macaroni and cheese recipe to a friend on Google+ (the geeky version of Facebook). There was a bit of debate regarding the need for bacon, and amazement that Paula Deen’s recipe didn’t include mayonnaise (everything else she makes does). The Man got involved, being a back seat driver to my online conversation, and offering the opinion that his version was the best ever, end of story. That was the equivalent of a woman asking her friend to hold her purse and her earrings. The gloves were off.

Seeking further advice on the topic, I switched to Facebook and invited my foodie friends to weigh in on mac & cheese. I was surprised that everyone seemed to have the opinion that their mac & cheese was better than anyone else’s, and IT WAS ON!

Apparently there are very strong feelings about a dish that is basically noodles and cheese and a few other things. Screw politics and religion. Bring up mac & cheese among foodies and you’re going to have an argument on your hands. I suppose it’s because this is one of the most popular comfort foods in the US.

There are variations of macaroni and cheese around the world, including Switzerland (Älplermagronen, which includes potatoes), and the Caribbean (called macaroni pie). Even the French have a version, although they tend towards a traditional mornay sauce rather than our wacky cracky American cheesiness. And as always, the Italians take credit for inventing the whole concept.

Even among our friends, there was a vocal disagreement about what ‘real’ mac & cheese was. What shape pasta? What types of cheese? How many extra ingredients could go in before it was no longer mac & cheese? So many people were in on the pasta scuffle, we had to formalize the date and time, and fortunately friends at Loosey’s arranged for us to use the bar for neutral ground. The date was set for October 9th. A month of trash-talking, spying, comparing cheeses, and testing recipes gave way to the No-Shenanigans Mac & Cheese-off.

Seventeen versions of macaroni and cheese arrived to fight it out. There were a few ‘classic’ styles, but the rest were an amazing variety of flavors and ingredients, proving it’s not just cheese and noodles. Once the judges had waded through them all and gone into a back room to deliberate (and possibly throw up from that much mac & cheese), they arrived at winners for the veggie category and the carnivore category. And the best-in-show overall crown went to a version that incorporated lobster bisque into the cheesiness.

Of course the feeding frenzy after the judges were done was just as much fun. Competitors and bystanders devoured the entries, sharing foodie notes, drinking beer, and slowly clogging their arteries in a convivial atmosphere. Eventually everyone had to sit down or go home for a nap. That’s a lot of carbs and dairy.

The casserole dishes were barely being scraped clean when conversation turned to the next cook-off. The what? Yep, the general populace wanted another food fight. Sometime around the holidays. So stay tuned to see what the next competition is about. I’m thinking pie. I like pie.

Many thanks to Loosey’s for becoming our Mac & Cheese Thunderdome. 🙂

[Girl21]

San Sebastian Winery, St. Augustine

San Sebastian Winery, St. AugustineLet’s face it. Most Florida wines are not good. Before you get your fur all fluffed up, I do drink Florida wines. I’m not a snob. But the simple truth is that Florida is not ideal for growing good grapes, which is kind of essential for wine. Florida is hot, soggy, wet, flat, swampy, … you get where I’m going. Good grapes need, well, the opposite.

So Florida growers have relied heavily on the good old favorite, the muscadine. Which is not high on the list of designer grapes. If the muscadine were shoes, you would find them at Target next to the Isaac Mizrahi clearance rack. These would not be the shoes that make women purr and groan when they try them on in the store.

On the other hand (you heard that coming, didn’t you), if you live in the area and are having a little road trip into St. Augustine to slum with the tourists and eat good food, your first stop on the way into town should be at the San Sebastian Winery. The people that run the wine tasting are usually fun (free wine tasting!). Weekdays and slow days, they have tastings in the main room, but Saturdays or other busy days, they open up the walk-through tour which is a slightly different experience.

San Sebastian is partnered with Lakeridge, which is further south outside of Orlando. Most of the grapes they use are grown in the area, a mix of muscadine and specially bred varietals meant to thrive in the South. The wine produced tends to be overly sweet and heavily flavored. Not something you would likely serve with dinner or to wine snob friends. With a few exceptions, they both produce basically the same wines just with different labels. You can get both locally. I’ve seen them in Ward’s and Publix, so it can’t be difficult to find a bottle.

I wouldn’t buy it locally but we have fun doing the tasting whenever we drive out to St. Auggie. And we usually buy a few bottles while we’re there. They offer a port, a cream sherry, and a few dryer whites that aren’t bad chilled and mixed in spritzers or mimosas. One of our friends enjoys the muscadine wine and there’s nothing wrong with that. Really. You drink what you like. That’s the whole point.

In fact, if you’re planning a wedding or other event that requires an affordable wine that’s not going to intimidate your guests, Lakeridge has festivals a few times a year where they offer huge deals on cases of wine. Yes, we’re guilty of getting a few cases after an afternoon of drinking sweet wine and washing it down with kettle corn and pretzels.

So on your next road trip to St. Augustine, stop by San Sebastian and acquaint yourself with Florida wine. They’re easy to find. Right next to the police station. I am not making this up.

San Sebastian Winery
157 King Street
St. Augustine, Florida 32084
1-888-352-9463
www.sansebastianwinery.com
Tours run every day, check for info.

Also:
Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
19239 U.S. 27 North
Clermont, Florida 34715
1-800-768-WINE
Check their site for wine tastings and festivals.

[Girl21]

Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale, Cigar City Brewing

Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale

Back in college I ran a cigar shop. This was the height of the cigar madness of the late ’90s and I think the most expensive cigar I sold went for $35 a piece. Not per box, but per cigar. How do you sell expensive cigars like that? You’re a female and you lounge around the shop smoking a double corona maduro (yes, that’s the big black kind of cigars).

So when The Man gave me a pint of beer to try and told me it was Cigar City Maduro, I had to resist the urge to undo a few buttons, fondle the pint glass, and offer to show him my humidor. There’s a vast difference between a maduro cigar and a maduro beer. I’m not so sure I could sell a $35 beer, even in my best push-up bra. But this is yummy beer.

Tampa and Ybor City is quite famous for cigar making back in the day. The whole area is still steeped in the musky scent of aged tobacco and Cuban ex-pats. What else would you want after a long day of rolling cigars in a non-air-conditioned warehouse? A tasty beer. Which would be why there have been breweries in Tampa just as long as the cigar warehouses.

Cigar City Brewing started up in the heart of the tobacco capital of Florida with the intention of making the best beer in the country from the best ingredients, etc., etc. I think it’s a copy-and-paste job that most microbreweries insert into their ‘About Us’ page on their website. Don’t let that hold you back. CCB makes a collection of tasty beers.

At The Top, The Man likes to get a pint of CCB’s Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale because it’s usually on tap, and it’s generally friendly to whatever we might have for dinner. As per its name, this oatmeal ale has a good quantity of oats in with the barley. ‘Maduro’ is translated to ‘mature’, which in cigars means the tobacco is aged long, mellowing the flavor and leaving it sweeter.

This dark, molasses-colored beer has lovely notes of cocoa, malt, hops, and roasted coffee. There are hints of smoke and nuttiness, and even moments of vanilla in the background. But even though there is a rich collection of flavors in a single pint glass, it’s never crowded or overbearing. It’s actually quite amicable and ready to make friends with many kinds of food.

It’s fairly easy to find Cigar City beers here in G’ville but they’re usually bottled. Jai Alai IPA and this Maduro are the two most popular. I really want to try the Espresso Brown Ale next. There are some places that have CCB beers on tap, such as The Top (and the Maduro goes great with the Tempeh Rueben with the tempeh substituted with seitan). The Maduro is totally different than my usual cider (shown above), one being fresh and crisp while the other is mellow and friendly.

Having a CCB Maduro isn’t quite as fun as leaning against my cigar counter, blowing smoke rings from a huge maduro cigar, making customers quiver uncertainly. But it’s just as tasty on a warm dusk night.

Cigar City Brewing
3924 W Spruce Street, Suite A
Tampa, Florida 33607
info@cigarcitybrewing.com
www.cigarcitybrewing.com

Tasting room:
813.348.6363, ext. 206
Hours:
Sunday to Thursday | 11:00am-9:00pm
Friday & Saturday | 11:00am-12:00am

[Girl21]

Flaco’s at Night

Flaco's Pig Sign, Downtown Gainesville

I spent a great deal of my youth skulking around downtown Gainesville at night. My older brother was in a band and I discovered that any girls with a band were let into clubs without being ID’ed. Not that I drank at that age. Seriously, I went to T.G.I. Friday and had an ice cream coffee drink on my 21st birthday, and that was my big first drink. I kid you not.

We hung out downtown, and I lived off of Mountain Dew or the Jamocha milkshakes at the Burger Barn while the boys schemed about scoring drinks and girls and stardom. This was back in the time of Hardback Cafe, Florida Theater, Insomnia, Purple Porpoise, and all of the random parties the band played in the rat warren of the student ghetto. If we were lucky, we would eat at Kesl’s Coney Island. If it was late, we ended up at Taco Bell.

Not that I’m saying anything bad about Taco Bell (don’t sue me!), but with age, my expectations for late-night food have increased to include the criteria that it must at least be edible. Carbs and protein are the food requirements after midnight. I’m a salad fanatic, and I wouldn’t touch the stuff late at night. Warm carbs and protein are what the stomach requires.

Fortunately Flaco’s is within walking distance of many of the usual places we hang out with friends at night these days, and it’s open until 2:30 AM Wednesday through Saturday. Just enough time to wander down there for some to-go food after having a pint or two. In case you’re wondering if it’s open, they provide that big neon pig sign to light the way. If you want to find it, Flaco’s is right across from the cow building. You know what I mean.

Flaco’s is a Cuban bakery and coffee shop. Firstly, if you’ve never had Cuban coffee, do not attempt this without a diving buddy. Secondly, if don’t know much Spanish, you can still order food at Flaco’s because they’re prepared for people like us (unlike some of the Cuban places in Miami which you might be physically removed from for asking “What’s quee-so?”). Their menu has nice little descriptions that are easy enough to be understood when you’re tired and can’t focus your eyes well.

They’ve got a lot of great hand-food and bowls of food, so you can eat and run (stumble), or you can sit around their stylishly shabby dining areas and enjoy the gorgeous smell of good food cooking. It’s a bit moist in the summer, but in the cool months, it’s lovely. Like someone’s kitchen. By ‘someone’, I mean ‘someone who cooks well and often’.

You can find hot sandwiches (yes, a few vegetarian options), salads, ‘plates’ & ‘bowls’, arepas, empanadas, coffee, drinks, and beer. They’ve even got a taco bar Saturday after 10PM. I’ve not been to take advantage of this fabulous event, but I imagine all of the celebrities attend.

Our usual late night to-go has narrowed down to queso blanco arepas, and two Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches, one with black beans and one with lentils. I’m an arepa fan–cornmeal patties with a slab of fresh cheese half melting in the middle. There are many ways to make arepas, not all of them good, but Flaco’s are delish.

The Donna’s Turnstyle sandwiches are simple Cuban bread with swiss cheese, mustard, pickles, and either black beans or lentils, and pressed to warm. A far cry from the late-night burritos from Taco Bell that I was always convinced must contain the recycled wasted from liposuction clinics.

Flaco’s is the kind of place I would have felt at home at in my stupid youth. Miss-matched second-hand furniture, interesting art, a kind of rumpled and angsty mood at night. The food is honest and tasty. The pigs are a bit creepy in a fun way.

Flaco’s
200 West University Ave
Gainesville, FL 32601
352-371-2000
www.flacosgainesville.com

Donna’s Turnstyles – $4.95
Queso Blanco Arepas – $3.50

Hours
Tues | 11:00AM- 4:00PM
Wed- Fri | 11:00AM-2:30AM
Sat | 12:00PM-2:30AM
Sun & Mon | Closed

[Girl21]

Homemade Pickled Carrots

Pickled Carrots

I often live vicariously through my friends. Fortunately, I can reap some of their rewards yet not pay the fines or do the jail time. So far.

Take for example, my sister, whom I adore above all others except maybe The Man. I got to buy all of the itty-bitty socks and skater shoes and toys for her baby, but I didn’t have to grow huge like a melon and then actually give birth. She’s the kind of ultra-patient, baby-sign-teaching, granola mom I would like to be … in theory, one day, when I’m ready. And as a granola mom, she’s also into all of those handicraft things that people used to do because they had to, because Wal-mart and the internet didn’t exist.

Our most recent gift from her incessant handiwork was a collection of “canned” goods which aren’t actually canned. More like jarred goods. Our favorite, judging from how quickly it disappeared, was the jar of pickled carrots.

I’m not a huge fan of pickles, but The Man is a cult-follower. He’ll eat just about anything pickled (anything vegetarian). Apparently people around the world have pickled almost everything they can get into a jar, pot, or bin over the last few thousand years. Things that Mother Nature never intended people to eat, what to speak of pickle and save for later. The WHO (World Health Organization, not the band) has issued a tentative warning that people who eat pickled vegetable as their only veggie source have an elevated cancer risk. So no, these don’t count as your daily source of vegetables apparently.

But they are fun garnishes and additions to meals. Especially the all-knowing, glorious sandwich. A few slices of bread, some gouda, mustard, sprouts, and these carrots–yum! And pickled carrots are a world away from ‘pickles’ as we Americans know them… suspiciously shaped and ridged cucumbers that are the butt of a few bad grown-up jokes (haha I said butt!). Pickled carrots retain their earthy flavors, and get infused with the salty, soury, dilly, peppery flavors of the brine.

My sister used the more traditional bay leaves, coriander, pepper corns, and dill in a basic brine, but added cloves of garlic and rings of jalapeno pepper as well. Not that they were spicy. They added a depth of character and lots of frilly notes to the basic flavor profile. And of course the love.

I can’t help but think about my sister spending a few days straight shopping, washing, cutting, mixing, jarring, labeling, and putting up this vast collection of veggies. The same sister that used to tag along behind me, whining at me to play with her, is now doing grown up things like raising a son and teaching herself old-world skills that women abandoned in the ’40s when god invented supermarkets and credit cards.

Eating home-canned pickled carrots out of a jar while sitting on a milk crate on the back porch doesn’t sound so glamorous. It’s not so far from our humble childhood. We used to talk about being career women in a big city, living in a trendy apartment and eating at restaurants every night. I’m happy that life happened this way instead. She gives me homemade gifts because she’s a grown-up these days, and I give her fart jokes because I’m not. It’s an even trade.

[Girl21]

La Cantina Pizzolato Prosecco, 2007

La Cantina Pizzolato Prosecco

This bottle of wine almost inspired bloodshed and mayhem. I am not kidding.

You may notice the cute string-wrapped top on it here. Something a little different from the crowd. Well, I could not open the damn thing. The Man was about to burst a vein in his neck from trying to be civilized while wrestling the wine-screw and the bottle. I almost ran to the utility room for a screw driver and a hammer to open it. (It’s not glamorous, but it works. I promise.) Finally with a primal grunt, The Man ripped the cork out, threw up his hands like a bull fighter, and exited stage right.

It was a lot of hoopla for a timid bottle of organic prosecco. La Cantina Pizzolato is from the Veneto region of Italy (hint: Venice), a once highly agricultural area that is slowly turning to tourism and small industry, as well as guys in boats singing as they steer through canals. This region has sea-level lowlands, but also some high alpine peaks, so there’s plenty of ideal farmland to grow the prosecco grapes for this traditional sparkling wine.

I’ve had a rant or two about prosecco before, so I won’t get back into that again except to say that prosecco is pretty similar to Champagne. Because of its regionally protected status, all Champagne originates from the Champagne region of France. So we call it sparkling wine. In this region of Italy, it’s made with prosecco grapes, and varies greatly in quality and characteristics from bottle to bottle.

If you’re on a budget like me and 95% of the rest of the humans, you might consider finding a prosecco you like rather than splashing out on an expensive Champagne for an event. Most people can’t tell anyway. You can hunt around and find some absolutely wonderful prosecco, in whatever price range you feel comfortable with, and in general it tends to cost less than its Champagne cousin.

Pizzolato is a smallish vintner with a range of wines, including spumante and dessert wines. They do put an emphasis on natural and organic processes and ingredients, which is emerging with the growing demand.

This bottle of prosecco gave us a good fight to get open, and proved to be fairly shy but sweet. There wasn’t a developed flavor curve or any distinct notes throughout the course of drinking it. It was bubbly though, with persistent, fine bubbles that would lend itself well to spritzers, mixed drinks and punches. And at this price, you wouldn’t hesitate at a few chilled bottles for an afternoon at the beach or mimosas for Sunday brunch.

It wouldn’t hurt to have a screw driver and hammer ready though, for when you pull the wine out of the fridge.

La Cantina Pizzolato
Prosecco, IGT Veneto, 2007
$5-7

[Girl21]

French Toast, The Top

French Toast, The Top

Growing up, we had a tradition of a big pancake breakfast on Sunday mornings. Which developed my personal tradition of a good cry on Sunday also. The sugar overload (and eventually the added girl hormones) made me unpleasant company for a few hours midday Sundays.

Like all traditions, we tend to carry them on without thinking about it. So when I’m feeling nostalgic, I’ll order pancakes when we go out for brunch on Sunday. Or French toast, if it’s good.

I wasn’t raised eating anything with eggs, as we were on the more conservative side of vegetarianism. So I missed out on years of fried bread and egg products such as French toast. I hear it can be a horrible train wreck of a dish if you don’t know what you’re doing. And of course, the internet being the educational tool that it is, I am a little nauseated to find out what passes for French toast in parts of the world. For the sake of argument, I’m only taking about the bread dipped in egg mixture, fried, then doused in sugary goodness.

I’m partial to the French toast at Leonardo’s 706, and it looks like it’s pulled right from a cooking magazine cover. But I adore the ugly stepsister that they serve at The Top. This is not pretty sliced bread, fried to look like golden lace, and daintily dressed with powdered sugar. This is knobby wedges of coffee cake, syrup-soaked and lumpy, with tasty, crispy bits and chunks of fruit. It’s warm and dense. It’s not particularly pretty, even decorated with banana slices. And on the side are a few slabs of The Top’s house-made seitan bacon, looking suspiciously like leather. This is a French toast that would cut a bitch if she had to.

The Man may or may not have figured out the connection between the French toast and seven cups of coffee, and the sulking and pouting I am prone to on a Sunday afternoon. Maybe he’s just into that kind of punishment. Or maybe he just chalks it up to general “women’s issues”. Because there’s never a hint of reproach in his voice when he asks me if I’m going to order the French toast. Although, later on, he does offer to head-butt me until I stop crying. Isn’t love grand?

The Top
Vegan French Toast [with Seitan Bacon]
Sunday Brunch menu only, $8-10

[Girl21]

Satchel’s, Get the Bumper Sticker

Satchel's Pizza
Satchel's Pizza
Satchel’s Pizza

If you live within 300 miles of Gainesville, you’ve seen the bumper stickers on everything from the ratty Subaru wagons to dusty Lexus SUVs. Hand-lettered, artsy signs asking forgiveness for being late because the driver was at Satchel’s. Contrived cute hippie statements worthy of Be Here Now. These are the great, galloping herds of the Satchel’s temple cult.

You may sense a slightly sarcastic note here, so I have to confess. We live mere blocks from Satchels. Close enough that when the wind blows, I can smell hot cheese, burnt dough, and patchouli. In the early days when I first moved in to this house, I ate Satchels often. Too often. I burnt out–no pun intended.

Reluctantly I’ve started eating there again. From time to time, friends play live music at the Lightening Salvage stage, and of course The Man drags me out for live music, pizza and beer. (I protest at the lack of air conditioning in the Salvage area in the dead of summer while eating hot pizza.) I’ve once again become intimately familiar with the menu.

I am well aware of how many people adore the kitschy decorations at Satchel’s. Here’s me going out on a limb to have an opinion (rare, I know). The place is kind of cool, and obviously a lot of work went into it all. It gives me the shivering willies. I can’t help but imagining a trailer park in Arizona completely populated by alien enthusiasts in aluminum foil hats. End opinion.

That aside, the food is spectacular. The salad is a delicious meal in itself. The calzones are deadly pockets of yum. They’ve got a small selection of beer and wine. As for the actual pizza, there’s a great selection of toppings, and the crust and sauce taste handmade. The good kind of handmade. If you’re lucky and smart, you’ll call ahead and get them to start a deep dish pizza for you since they have a limited quantity of the crusts, and they take a while to cook (I suggest basil, garlic, and black olives on top!). In fact, I suggest calling them with your order as soon as you get in the car to head over there, since it can often be hugely busy and you might wait an hour for your food.

So slavish followers and creepy decor, vs. distinctly delish pizza. Kind of even battle there. The thing that throws it for me is the culture of Satchel’s business practices. There are stores I don’t shop at because I don’t agree with the mood of the company and the way they interact with their community. Satchel’s strives to exhibit the gold-star standard of how a business should treat its employees and its community. This is the good side of the hippie culture (yes, I’m a direct descendant of hardcore hippies, so I know what I’m talking about).

If you’ve never been to Satchel’s, here’s a few things you need to know. There is seating in the old van parked out front, as well as around back past the gift shop. Yes, they have a fun gift shop. Parking is lousy, especially when it’s busy. They do catering, and you can do carry-out orders. This is a cash-only establishment (but they have an ATM in the hall). The deep dish pizza is the best, but they only prep a quantity and can run out. You will not be able to look at everything they have decorating the place.

This is one of those places that is intrinsically Gainesville. For good or bad. G’ville was a haven for hippies through the years, and these flower children grew up, had kids, had grandkids, and evolved their ideals to survive in the real world. Then there’s the poor Southerners who couldn’t escape to the big cities, and the college kids (some of whom can’t escape G’ville even after their multiple degrees have been earned). So we have this gumbo of unusual local characters and transient upwardly-mobile youths.

You’re highly likely to meet this gumbo at Satchel’s. If you make it through dinner without seeing someone you recognize–well, I have to wonder how long you’ve been living in the area. In fact, if you’re reading this and haven’t been the Satchel’s, you must have just moved here this year. But that’s okay. Go to Satchel’s try the salad and the deep dish pizza, and buy a bumper sticker to put on your car so you’ll blend in with the locals. And no, it’s not an excuse for being late.

Satchel’s Pizza
1800 NE 23rd Ave
Gainesville, FL 32609
www.satchelspizza.com
352-335-7272
Tuesday-Saturday | 11:00am-10:00pm

[Girl21]

Donnybrook & The Beer Monogamy Myth

Victory, Donnybrook Stout

Before I bring down the wrath of thousands of Guinness lovers upon my head for what I’m about to say, I will preface this with the emphasis that there’s nothing like a Guinness beer. But…. No, wait! Just listen for a minute while you sip your beer.

If you’ve not had a lot of Guinness, and not developed a deep, abiding love for the beer, then this whole post might be lost on you. Guinness appears dark and brooding, as beer goes. It has a head on it that looks like you have to chop a hole in it with an ice fishing saw. Yet it is creamy. Almost milky. And underneath that is the bright, soulful, yeasty, hoppy stout beer. There are a good many people that are devout Guinness drinkers.

The Man is a diehard Guinness lover, through and through. The glassware in our home is a seemingly endless supply of Guinness pint glasses. (Not my ideal stylish home entertaining statement to make. Dorothy Draper would have to go lie down if she saw this.) He will give any sketchy, sh!thole bar a chance if they claim to offer Guinness on draft.

So you can imagine the evening we were at our home-away-from-home bar for a relaxing drink on the patio, and we were casually told of plans to switch the place over to carrying only American craft beers. It took a moment for The Man to realize this meant Guinness was included in that sweeping gesture, as it’s from Ireland. There was a brief twitch of his bottom lip and a wild look of panic in his eye as he imagined having to go elsewhere for his favorite draft beer.

But lo, the angels played their harps and flower petals fell from the sky. Hope was offered in the form of a new beer that was similar to Guinness yet made in the U S of A. Victory Brewing Co. is gaining support for its Donnybrook Stout as a beer similar to, or even better than (gasp!), Guinness. The Man clung to this mad hope like Bob Barker clung to his career as host of The Price is Right.

It took some doing, a few false starts, but eventually the Donnybrook arrived on site and was ready to pour. It wasn’t quite as tarry brown as Guinness but it had a lovely creamy head on it. The Man had a ceremonious sniff, then a sip. He made me sip it, and then nearby friends had to try it. There was shrugging of shoulders and shaking of heads. More tasting. More grunting among the men at the bar. Then with very little fanfare and a remarkable lack of earth shattering chaos, Donnybrook was declared a perfectly good swap for Guinness. I was expecting a hoard of irate Irishmen frothing at the mouth and brandishing shillelaghs to appear through a crack in the floorboards.

It was actually a few weeks later that the true impact of this arrival was revealed. After quite a few delicious Donnybrooks, a Guinness connoisseur can have a Guinness and realize what the Donnybrook is missing. Guinness has always had this lactic mouth feel and a tangy aftertaste as an entertaining contrast. So does the Donnybrook. But the Donny lacks Guiness’ burnt caramel undertones that actually muddle the flavors quite a bit. So with the Donny you can taste the hops, yeast, roasted barley, and the full clean cresting flavor curve better.

That’s not to knock Guinness. It’s still a tasty beer that is much lighter and flavorful than the dark color would suggest. In fact, there’s the rumor of the bloke that tried the Guinness diet–only Guinness beer, a little milk for calcium, and a vitamin C supplement for a week, and you’ll be fine. As far as we’re concerned, it remains a rumor since the guy’s blog has disappeared (aliens?!). But that won’t stop college guys across the country from trying their own Guinness diets, I’m sure.

If you like Guinness and want to send us all kinds of hate mail for suggesting Donnybrook is at least as good as your favorite, I invite you to have a Donny first. We don’t believe in this one-or-the-other TV show contest thinking. We’ll have a Donny and a Guinness at the same time if it is an option. There’s no such thing as beer-monogamy. I checked.

Have a Guinness to calm your nerves if you have to, and then try a Donnybrook Stout. If you still need to rail at us for having an opinion, sit on your shillelagh.

Victory Brewing Co.
Donnybrook Stout
Victorybeer.com
420 Acorn Lane
Downingtown, PA 19335
[Brewery & Restaurant!]

• On tap at Loosey’s
Downtown Gainesville

—————–

Diageo
Guinness Stout
[Dublin location offers museum and bar!]

• Found on tap at a variety of local establishments such as The Top, Durty Nelly’s, and Gator City.

[Girl21]

Dogfish Head, Namaste

Dogfish Head, NamasteI’m not a girly-girl but I’ve never much cared for beer. I am German. I come from a long line of German drinkers. My last name is synonymous with beer. Every time I say I don’t like beer, I can feel generations of ancestors turning in their graves.

When The Man and I first started dating, he told me he was going to teach me how to love beer and spicy food. Not doing so good with spicy food, but he’s making headway with the beer. I am starting to appreciate beer the same way I appreciate wine and cigars. Unfortunately, he likes the super-hoppy IPAs which make my face want to turn inside out.

I don’t know what I like yet. I haven’t found it. But I’m searching. I used to shoe shop and go a little crazy when I found a pair of Steve Maddens in my size on clearance. Now I impulse-buy beer. What? Yes, I had my first pointless beer splurge the other day. It’s hard not to when you’re standing at the Great Beer Wall in Ward’s. “I would look GREAT holding that bottle!”

Not quite that silly, but since I don’t know what I like, I am willing to take a few wild shots in the dark. Hence the bottle of Dogfish Head Namaste Ale that chilled in the fridge for three days, staring at me, while I decided if I was going to try it. It’s ale, brewed with orange, lemongrass, and coriander. Unusual.

The Man decided on scotch one night, but I wasn’t up for that, so I opened the Namaste. It was a pretty little drink, reminding me more of a good cider than a beer. The bouquet of flavors are balanced and work in harmony. The orange and lemongrass add fresh notes, while the coriander mellows it with a soft earthy tone. It creates a variety of delicate, false flavors that flirt with the tongue without revealing themselves. Hints of lavender, caramel, cardamom, and pear surface barely long enough to wink playfully before disappearing.

“Namaste” is one of those multi-use terms, like ‘aloha’ or ‘dude’. The simple meaning is “the spark of god in me honors the spark of god in you.” Or some such hippie variations. With that same spirit, I am approaching beer. Starting slow with a mild, frilly beer like this Dogfish Head variation. Namaste.

Dogfish Head
Namaste
750 mL bottle | $7-9

Brewpub:
320 Rehoboth Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

Brewery:
#6 Cannery Village Center
Milton, DE 19968

[Girl21]