Ummmm…. Yume Ume?

Yume Ume Review

[Edit: Yume Ume has been closed for a while and there doesn’t seem to be any news on opening again. Boo!]

Since The Man and I have been together, he’s been trying to get me to Rolls ‘n Bowls, but alas, they closed before that could happen. Frankly, they were too close to Falafel King, and I love me some Falafel King. So when friends posted online that Rolls ‘n Bowls was closed, I got a bit of guilt from The Man for always voting for FK over R’nB.

We’d been hearing the rumblings about the place that took the Rolls ‘n Bowls spot and kismet (also known as we were both recovering from the flu and didn’t want to cook) brought us to try take-out from Yume Ume. Totally. Worth. It.

So hands-down most fun was the wanton nori chips, which reminded me of the Dutty Fries at Reggae Shack because of the sweet / salty / spicy seasoning on them. Plus these have little threads of nori (yes, seaweed) for extra texture.

Yume Ume, Steamed BunsThe miso soup was acceptable, with wakame, mushrooms, and tofu. And the edamame was tasty but expected. He got a side of the ume guac to test drive it and loved it. (I’m not a fan of guac. Don’t ask.)

As for the main attraction, we had steamed buns with crispy tofu, red miso glaze, and savoy cabbage slaw. We also had the baked buns with pretty much the same innards but with garlic-tofu mayo instead of red miso glaze.

It wasn’t so much food that we achieved a full food coma, but it was enough that we definitely extended our lazy stay on the couch. And all of that for around $28.

From what we gather, this place was opened by the folks at Dragonfly Sushi & Sake, and it looks like they’re set to launch this as a franchise (mostly because there’s a big button for ‘Franchise’ on their website. Fortunately, despite the drive to pop out a bunch more of these, their efforts to locally and ethically source their ingredients set a good mood for the food.

The general idea is to work down the simple menu and pick what you want and how you want I, with the extra things to make a happy mouth. Their menu is actually marked for the items that are NOT gluten free. The steamed buns are those fun flat breads like small, bloated tortillas. The baked rolls have a nice crust that contrasts with the slightly squishy tofu.

Besides all of that, I want to revisit the wanton nori chips because I can eat the hell out of these, despite how terrible they likely are for my body. I mean, seriously, it’s just wanton wrappers, deep fried and doused in salt, sugar, and spice. Oh, and a festive confetti of sea weed. It jumps the food-theme tracks, but next time, I will eat a whole bag of these with crumbled gorgonzola.

2 X Steamed Buns
2 X Baked Buns
2 X Miso Soup
2 X Wanton Nori Chips
1 X Edamame
Bonus extras
Total: about $28

Yume Ume
3117 SW 34th St
Gainesville, FL 32608
352.271.1011
YumeUme.com

[Girl21]

Tarty Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Relish

I confess. When I was a kid, I loved the cranberry jelly stuff we had on the holidays. It was the closest thing I had to Jell-o, being raised a vegetarian. Plus it was fun to play with.

Time passed and I realized I had no idea what that stuff actually was, so stopped eating it. Someone tried to pawn off the loose cranberries in jelly stuff that is pretty similar, but I wasn’t fooled. Nope. Not me.

Now, a great many years later, I’ve lifted my embargo on cranberry stuff at the holidays. I discovered craisins or dried cranberries, and decided I can accept them into my life again. And thank Jebus, because I discovered this wonderful little recipe at our office Thanksgiving pot-luck.

It’s fresh and zesty, and best when made several days before you intend to use it. Which is optimal if you have a lot of cooking to do on the day of a big dinner. Make it up two days before and pop I in the fridge. All you gotta do is artfully pile it in a pretty dish and you’re ready to rock and roll.

Fresh Cranberry Relish
Serves 8-12

24 ounces fresh cranberries (two 12 ounce bags)
2 tangerines/oranges
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons grated ginger
Pinch of salt

1. You want to zest two tangerines or small oranges, and then squeeze the juice from one. Many recipes for this relish call for a whole navel orange, but any type of sweet citrus would probably work just fine. You do not want more tangy or sour flavors here.

2. Enter food processor. I have a 9-cup jobbie that’s super fun, but I still do this in two bathes to keep my mess under control. So put one bag of cranberries, and half of the sugar, ginger, salt, and zest/juice into the processor. You’ll have to use your judgment about how coarsely chopped you want it, but I recommend erring on the side off too chunky or you get mush. Do this a second time with the rest of the ingredients.

3. Pop this all in a bowl you can refrigerate and give it a good stir. You can keep this in the fridge to marinate for three days before it peaks, but a minimum of one full day is a must. I like to pull it out to stir a few times during, just to get those flavors all excited and mixed up. Serve it cold from the fridge, or take it out early to let it warm up a bit.

Cranberries are fun to cook with, and drink. If you work with fresh cranberries, you’ll know some are significantly more tart than others. So be the judge of how much sugar you need to use. This original recipe called for 3/4 to 1 cup of white sugar, but that was kind of outrageous. I switched to the brown sugar because the molasses gave a more mellow, smoky sweetness that works with the zesty berries.

Besides the bright flavors this relish adds to your holiday meal, you are going to love how sexy the deep red relish looks on the table.

[Girl21]

Fake-tato Soup, yo!

Fake-tato Soup, SmokingFork

Last spring my dad was ill and had a hard time keeping food in his belly. He lost over 40 pounds in a few months. Happily everything’s sorted out now and he’s doing a lot better. Yay, dad!

The reason I bring this up is that my dad would like to eat only pizza and mac n’ cheese for every meal. Most guys who have gone feral rely on the starch diet. And sketchy protein sources. The only problem with my dad was he was on a strict diet and had to actually eat good food or he would actually croak. This was not enough to convince him to adjust his diet, so my siblings and I threw all of our foodie skills into making food that he would eat instead of stick in the fridge to rot.

Enter the potato soup. It’s a comforting, warm, tasty meal that my dad would absolutely eat. But not completely nutritious as he needed. So I converted that to this fake-tato soup recipe. He yummed it up and kept asking for more. My mom pointed the mom-finger at me and ordered me not to tell him what was actually in the soup or he might stop eating it on principle.

So yeah, I lied to my dad and he ate good food and eventually got better. (Yes, my siblings also helped by making yum food too!) You really can’t tell that it’s less than half potatoes. In fact, I often add a roasted fennel bulb, carrots, mushrooms, or other veggies just to make it better. If you leave out the cheese, it’s also vegan I suppose, and it’s easy to adjust for less salt if you’re into that.

Fake-tato Soup

3 medium potatoes
6 cloves garlic
1 bouillon cube (for 2 cups)
2 cans cannellini beans
1/3 cup gorgonzola
1/3 cup shredded cheddar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Water (is this even an ingredient I need to list?)

1) You’ll probably like to use a medium/large pot for more splash room. Put olive oil on medium heat. Chop garlic cloves into chunks and toss into oil. If you’re using bullion from cubes (I like Knorr vegetarian bouillon), break up your cube(s) and toss in too. A little pepper, and maybe salt unless your bullion tends to be salty already.

2) Cube the potatoes, skin and all (that’s the best part!) to about the size of your fingertips. The smaller they are, the faster they cook down. Toss them in the pot and stir. Let them get hot, stirring every few minutes. You want them to get coated in oil and just start to brown up a bit.

3) As soon as the garlic starts to brown, pour enough water to drown the potatoes. Cover and leave this to simmer on medium low heat until the potatoes start to break up. Stir it once in a while of course.

4) Here’s the fun part. I use a blender with a glass body and do it in batches because it’s hot and messy. I’m sure you can find your own way, and/or use a food processor. Put about half a can of cannellini beans and 1/4th of the potatoes (with simmering water) into the blender and top up with about ¾ cup of water. When you blend this, it’s going to get a little thick, so gauge how much water you need to make it as stiff or liquid as you’d like it to be. Then pour it into a waiting bowl or pot while your main pot is being emptied. After four batches of this, you should have an empty pot to put your potato and bean puree into again. (If you are adding roasted fennel, carrots, or other cooked veggies, you want to put them in during this stage, too.)

5) Put back on a medium low heat for about 15 minutes. The soup is going to thicken up a little more. This is where you’re going to taste for salt and seasonings because the beans really reduce this a lot. You can also add your cheese at this point so it can melt throughout. I honestly don’t always put in cheese at all because it’s fine without it.

Once the cheese is melted and stirred in, you’re good to go. It’s sometimes nice to toss in a little fresh shredded parsley for flavor when serving. Or a spritz of lemon juice if that’s what you’re into.

And if you’re making this for someone who might be outraged by healthy food, like kids or my dad, feel free to lie to them. Yes, it’s potato soup. Like runny mashed potatoes. I promise. Yum!

[Girl21]

Sam Adams, Porch Rocker

So why does this bottle of Sam Adams Porch Rocker beer have a bag over its head? Why do you think?

Remember way back in high school… I mean college when you had just turned 21. Remember Zima? Yeah, that. Imagine someone drank a lot of Zima, then grew up and wanted to make a beer that tasted like it. Yes, that’s a strange idea, but you can’t stop people from doing silly things. Like face tattoos.

Better yet, imagine a mild but acceptable beer had ‘maritals’ with a glass of off-brand country-style lemonade drink. Their child would be this beer. Not bad. Not actually bad. Just not… good.

I take that back. I’m going to hazard a guess that if you’re at the beach on a hot day, with sunblock smeared all over your sizzling skin, and you pop open a frosty bottle of Porch Rocker, you’re going to make those nom-nom-nom, lip smacking sounds of satisfaction. You might put the empty bottle in your neighbor’s recycling bin when you’re done, but that’s probably for the best.

If you drink this beer and you like this beer, I’m not judging. Really, I’m not. You have to drink what you like. And you have to like what you drink. It got a rating of 79% on BeerAdvocate.com, and a 39 on rateBeer.com (basically averaging 2.94 out of 5.0). So some people thought it was acceptable.

As for Zima and the like, a lovely term has been kicking around – malternatives. Nothing like beer, except in the eyes of a noob.

[Girl21]

P.S. Looking or a good read? Try this article: The Long, Slow, Torturous Death of Zima

Falafel Burger, The Top

Growing up vegetarian meant a burger was a ‘veggie burger’ and what was in that patty could be almost anything but meat. Carrots, black beans, brown rice, mushrooms, tempeh, TVP, etc., etc. My mom’s recipe was mostly lentils, bulger wheat, and oats. I got stuck making those burgers far too often, which was a chore because the recipe produced about five dozen burgers at a time. I’m sure you’ve had more than your share of ‘WTH is this?’ moments with veggie burgers.

These days veggie burgers look and taste good, but you still don’t know what’s in them. The out-of-the-box kind that have the grill marks painted on. Until recently, the Top did what most restaurants do, and offered pre-made burgers like Boca or Morningstar Farms. Which are okay. Really. But I can make one at home, so why am I going to order that?

Then came a new dawn in the Top’s kitchen and they started making more and more things in-house. From sauerkraut and fake bacon, to burgers, to French fries and salad dressings. The black bean patty stayed and was joined by a falafel patty. Yes, I said that. A patty made from the same stuff you usually get in a pita sandwich. It’s not as sturdy as a pre-made burger, but that’s not a bad thing. It has flavor and texture, and makes your belly so happy!

The falafel burger usually has the standard lettuce/tomato/pickle innards on a delish pretzel roll, and you can choose the theme of your burger. I usually go with the True Blue, with blue cheese, seitan bacon, and fried onions. Or a little more mild is the Triple Cheese with sharp cheddar, Swiss, and smoked gouda (and of course friend onions too).

There are over a dozen pre-set themes for your burger, or you can customize it with a list of extras. Or swap out the bread (locally sourced). Sub out the usual sides (ginger slaw, potato salad, or fries) for something more fun like sweet potato fries, side salad, or soup (and they have some cool soups to choose from).

The black bean patty is nice too, but the falafel burger has more flavor, and makes my mouth so happy. I can’t ever finish it the first try because I usually go for a side salad. Which is why I find myself eating the rest of it cold, straight out of the fridge, the next morning while I make coffee.

This is not date-night food. There’s no dignity in trying to jack your jaw open enough to bit this thing. Expect to get messy. That’s all I’m saying about that. And it’s nom nom nom.

My meal:
Triple Cheese Falafel Burger – $8.95
+Side salad upgrade – $1.50
Angry Orchard Cider

The Top
30 N. Main St.
Gainesville, FL 32601
352-337-1188

No Website Yet (seriously? I know they don’t need it, but come on?!)
On Facebook

[Girl21]

Loosey’s: Not Just Good Beer

I’m not going to lie to you. The Man and I practically live at Loosey’s the random chances we get time to go downtown for a drink. So it’s kind of hard to write up the food. (And I hope the kitchen guys will NOT “alter” our food at all the next time we go there to eat if they don’t like what I’m saying here.)

For a long while there wasn’t much for us veggies to eat because Loosey’s was focusing on their American craft beer lineup. That’s entirely forgivable because they have a great selection. But recently the good folks who put up with us vegetarians decided to upgrade the menu and graced The Man and I with a few interesting options. They refrain from calling themselves a gastropub (too trendy), but do serve elevated pub food for a real foodie to enjoy.

First of all, this girl couldn’t have been happier to see the Veggie Egg Rolls back on the menu. In the far distant past, they were on the menu and then cruelly taken away. And now back. The crunchy, crispy rolls are served with teriyaki sauce and Loosey’s ass kickin’ sauce (which brings tears to this wimpy girl’s eyes). As you can tell from the above picture, my priority was reuniting my face with these rolls rather taking a picture for you, dear readers.

The Man has been talking about trying the BBQ Tofu Sandwich since he laid eyes on the new menu. I am not kidding. So he barely hesitated when I suggested forgoing The Top and heading to Loosey’s for an early dinner. I think he was salivating by the time we walked in the door. But he generally gets excited when we enter the presence of so much good beer.

Not many people know what to do with tofu, so offering it on the same menu with a burger is rare. The tofu sandwich is grilled and served with mustard and vinegar BBQ sauce, a Carolina style of sauce that came from Germans that settled the midlands areas. It’s topped with citrus ginger slaw that adds crunch to the tofu and soft bread, so you get this mouth full of textures.

The picture you see here was the only one without hands in it because everyone pounced on the truffle fries, a simple and tasty upgrade. (REAL French fries from actual potatoes! And then you get truffle oil, parmesan, and parsley on them… my gahd!) The only think I would do to improve this sandwich is a marinade on the tofu, because let’s face it, tofu has almost zero flavor of its own.

Our non-veggie friends got burgers and were so happy, they were doing the happy belly dance in their seats. Loosey’s is kind of known for their burgers these days. So feel free to drag your carnivore friends to eat here. For the veggie people like us, there’s the egg rolls, a pasta dish, several salads, chips & salsa, onion rings, and a big plate of the cheesy truffle fries. The Man is a pescetarian and has a few more seafood options to go with.

Of course you can see the whole menu is intended to be enjoyed with a beer or three. It’s not the frozen and flat usual pub food, so be prepared for actual flavors. I know, right? But really, beer is good with this stuff, so when you’re done ordering, ask the bartender what would go best with your meal. These folks know beer like you know your pillow. Intimately and passionately.

Our dinner:
Veggie Egg Rolls – $6.50
BBQ Tofu Sandwich – $7.50
+truffle fries upgrade – $1.50
Victory Summer Love Ale
Sasion du Buff 2012

Loosey’s
120 SW 1st Avenue
Gainesville, Fl 32601
352.672.6465

Looseys.com
Menu
On Facebook

[Girl21]

P.S. I wish I had a dime for every time I’ve sat on the patio and heard someone say ‘Market Street Pub’ as they walked by. MSP was an icon for the Downtown area, but it closed. Loosey’s took over the spot and completely cleaned it up. Like refinishing the bar, taking the sticky whatever layer off the floor, and removing the lingering odor of vomit. They redid the tap lines, brought in a happy selection of American craft beers, and offer live music and regular events at night. So… old Market Street Pub is gone. Shiny happy new Loosey’s is here. And bring your dog. The dog-friendly patio is just something you can expect from people who named their bar after their dog 🙂

Fresh Off the Vine

We’d heard some rumblings about this local bakery popping up quietly in town. There were breads showing up at Ward’s and Citizen’s Co-op, farmer’s markets, and then The Top! What? How did this sneak under our radar?

I hunted them down online and stalked them on Facebook. And then like a big, wet, unexpected kiss from an overly friendly dog, I saw that they were actually opening up a storefront right across the street from Satchel’s. Boom! There you go. Vine Bread & Pasta.

I always said that the reason I wasn’t heavier on the scale was because Uppercrust was across town, and harder to get to. Now this place is right around the corner. I could walk there if I wanted to (yeah, like that’ll happen). So when The Man and I had a spare morning free, we went to check this place out.

If you’re driving there, you will miss it. It’s back off the road in a little warehouse park between the Ole Barn bar and the row of storefronts next to it. It was hot the day we showed up (check their days and hours before popping in), and it was a typical warehouse space, so as the summer warms up, it should get painful in there for working.

Anyhow, we grabbed up some pastries and a loaf, and scurried home because we hadn’t even had coffee yet (gasp!). We got a cheese croissant and chocolate croissant, a cranberry scone, and a country loaf. The croissants were tasty; the pastry dough was not as flakey as Uppercrust’s but miles better than Flour Pot. I would have liked a bit more cheese in the cheese one, maybe another kind of cheese in with the Swiss? And a great deal of the chocolate in the other croissant was designer and you could taste the quality.

The country loaf is a sourdough, and I can count the ingredients on one hand. It’s good bread. That being said, we did one set of sandwiches with it which wasn’t very successful, and then one set of grilled sandwiches, which worked out better. The bread didn’t quite hold up in its unaltered state, and required a bit of toasting or grilling to give it some structure. And the whole heel of it turned out to be a giant air pocket, which was disappointing, but happens with wild bread like this. On the whole (haha, pun intended), it was a nice, simple bread that somewhat lacked the stronger sourdough qualities we were expecting.

The scone was nice, and I’ve craved and scored a few more since our first visit. It feels like eating a bowl of oatmeal instead of a pastry. Happy belly and happy mouth–almost a meal in itself. The cranberries are a nice touch, but I’d love to add a hint of orange or lime to give it a little pop of flavor.

We’re looking to get our hands on more of the other bread styles, including the rosemary baguette. And I really, really, really want to try some of their fresh pasta. Overall, it’s good bread, and a local business, so I highly recommend trying it if you can (look at their site to see what other local businesses use their bread, like Tempo Bistro, Manuel’s Vintage Room, and Civilization).

We will be watching and tasting, and keeping our fingers crossed. This bakery has some growing to do (haha, another pun! I am so not funny), and there’s a lot of potential here. It’s fresh off the vine and might need to ripen just a little longer (okay, done with the horrible plays on words here, I swear).

Vine Bread & Pasta
1801 NE 23rd Ave, Unit C2
Gainesville, FL
352-682-8038

VineGainesville.com (their site has been down since I last checked 5/14)
On Facebook

Check site for hours and other place to get Vine products.

[Girl21]

‘Hotter Than Hot’ Tea

Brahmastra Tea

I’m not even going to give you the long story behind this tea because it’s just way too long. Let’s just say it comes from traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine origins. It’s great for fevers, colds, respiratory issues, kidney problems, etc. Basically, if you’re sick, this is a good tea. (Which is why I hate it, because it makes me think about being too sick to get out of drinking it.)

Anyhow, The Man has had a few respiratory issues lately, and rather than try the usual drug store fixes, I’ve been making him this tea. It’s not a pleasant “sit by the fire with a book and a blankie” kind of tea. This is medicine. So after I tell you how to make it, I’ll tell you a few ways to get your patient (or yourself to drink it).

Technically, the original tea is called Brahmastra Tea, but please don’t Google it because you’ll find yourself in the weirdest collection of page on esoteric Sanskrit scriptures, medicinal blogs recommending drinking cow urine, and Southeast Asian websites selling you hair-loss prevention tea. I am not kidding.

Just try this and if you have a question, let me know. My recipe is slightly tweaked so you can make a quantity to sip throughout the day.

Brahmastra Tea
2-3 lemons
Fresh ginger (about 3 thumbs)
2 tablespoons honey
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon powdered cayenne pepper

1. Put about 3 pints of water in a 2 qt. pot on medium-low heat.

2. You can scrape the brown skin off the ginger with a spoon and preserve the good rind, but I never have the patience. I usually just peel the ginger and slice it into slivers so I don’t have to saw across the fibrous grain. The smaller you can slice it, the more it infuses into your tea.

3. I usually slice a few rounds of the lemon for the pot, then squeeze the rest of the juice into it, but you can just use the juice if you like. Sometimes in a pinch, I’ll add some ‘fresh lemon juice’ from a bottle if the lemons I have look sketchy. Shoot for about 1/2 cup of juice or more.

4. Now for the cayenne. I’m not going to lie. If you have a low tolerance to spice, start off slow. This will burn even worse if you have a sore throat. It’s also good to be cautious if you have stomach ulcers or other digestive issues because, again, cayenne is hot stuff. So I suggest going with 1/8 of a teaspoon until you gauge your threshold. If you have a high tolerance for heat, you could probably go up to 1/3 of a teaspoon. Please be careful.

5. Simmer your tea at medium-low heat for at least 15 minutes, if not more. (When The Man is sick, I just have an ongoing pot on the stove that I constantly take from and add to.) Just before you strain your tea, put in the honey and give it a minute to dissolve. But don’t heat the honey too much or it negates the healing properties.

When you’re not feeling well, this is actually very comforting to drink. It just doesn’t taste wonderful. So there are a few things you can try to make it more exciting for your cranky sick person.

*Mix it with real lemonade, about 2/3 hot tea to 1/3 cold lemonade.
*Mix it with real ginger ale (Reeds, not the flavored HFCS stuff). About 1/2 and 1/2.
*Add mint tea. I sometimes throw two mint tea bags into the pot while it’s simmering. The mint cool effect balances out the warm cayenne.

I’m not a doctor so don’t sue me if you drink this tea instead of getting medical help.

And no, I’m not kidding about those wacky sites suggesting you drink cow urine. Really.

[Girl21]

Green Stuffed Shells

Green Stuffed Shells

I’ll be honest. Every time I make these, I adjust the recipe a little bit. So this isn’t really a recipe. It’s an invitation to join the experimentation.

I’ll also admit that these were a happy accident and I’m no kitchen genius.

Oh, and they don’t have anywhere as much cheese as they seem like they should. Don’t tell anyone how healthy they are, and no one will know.

Ingredients

1 box jumbo shells
4 cups of pasta sauce

2 cups fresh spinach, ribboned
1 medium onion, diced

2 cans cannellini beans
1 cup quinoa, cooked
Medium bunch fresh parsley, leaves only
2/3 medium head of garlic, peeled

1+ cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 cup gorgonzola
1/4 cup grated pecorino romano or parmesan
1-2 teaspoon Italian season
1 teaspoon garlic powder
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste

1. Start shells cooking. Water boiling, the whole bit. You’re going to have to handle these later, so cook them while you’re doing everything else, and let them drain and cool.

2. Sauté onions and 1/2 teaspoon of the Italian seasonings and some salt. Once the onions get glassy and start to brown, turn off the burner, toss in the spinach, and cover to let it wilt.

3. In a food processor, combine beans, quinoa, parsley leaves, garlic cloves, oil, vinegar, and the rest of the seasonings. Process until mostly smooth. My food processor is large, but I do it in a few batches to make sure it’s mixed and a good consistency. (I like to have quinoa cooked ahead of time so it’s cooled. About 1 cup quinoa to 1 and 3/4 cups bullion, like you would cook rice. I’ve been only using about 2/3 of the cooked quinoa last few times I’ve made this.)

4. Preheat oven to 350. Hopefully by now your shells are cooked to the point of being leathery but not soft. Drain them and set aside. Don’t cook them all the way in the water or they get gross.

5. In a heat-safe bowl, combine the onions and spinach you sautéed, and all of the lovely other things you pureed. Then add most of the cheese (save about 2/3 cup to spread on top at the end) , and rest of seasonings. Mix well. The cheese usually gets a little melty by now.

6. Pour about 1 cup sauce in the bottom of a 9″x13″ deep dish. Stuff one giant tablespoon of filling into each shell and line them up in the dish. Pour balance of pasta sauce to coat the shells. Sprinkle the last of the cheese over the top.

7. Bake at 350 for 25 to 30 minutes, or until cheese has melted and sauce bubbles. Remove from oven and cool for ten minutes.

Green Stuffed Shells nakedI can add a lot more in here, but I’m going to assume you know your way around a kitchen and can figure out simple tasks like how to sauté onions in a little olive oil and salt until they’re glassy. I also assume you know how to adjust cooking time for your oven and the type of dish you are cooking in. I use a heavy stoneware tray, where a glass or metal tray would bake faster and possibly dry out your pasta quicker. Also I don’t cover my pasta with foil, which just leaves little splashes when the sauce is bubbling at the end. That’s your call.

My only complaint so far about this whole set up is that the only big shells for stuffing available seem to be Mueller’s or Barilla. So the pasta lacks the flavor of the Barilla Plus that we normally get. But the sauce and garlic and everything else make up for it.

As soon as my basil plants are up for the challenge, I fully intend to work some fresh basil into this recipe. There’s no substitute for fresh herbs and real ingredients. (Like using good quality pasta sauce in a jar will never quite be the same as the slow-cooked red gravy that The Man makes.)

My absolute favorite thing about this pasta dish though, is that when I make it, I suddenly have a bunch of unexpected guests dropping by. And when I send it to work with The Man for lunch, I get love notes from his co-workers. Everyone loves good pasta.

[Girl21]

Green Stuffed Shells parts

Hogtown Craft Beer Festival 2012

It’s bad luck to call your event “1st Annual” but I hope that’s what this was. We look forward to the 2nd Annual Hogtown Craft Beer Festival at Kanapaha. Very much.

We’ve been attendees and fans of the Greater Gator Beer Fest for some time, but when faced with a choice, decided to try the new one at Kanapaha rather than the GGBF a few weeks earlier at Magnolia Park. Sorry, we did have to choose for financial reasons, and we’re glad we chose this one.

Not that it was perfect. Next year they’ve got to figure out the food situation. Guests were invited to buy a ‘Food Pairing’ ticket for an additional $15 (or purchase food separately), but at the end of the day the vendors were just giving their food away to anyone. The food area was also somewhat separated from the beer tasting field, so it was awkward. And the absolute worst offence was the choice of food vendors. There was a surprising list of out-of-town vendors, and an alarming vacuum of vegetarian options. So even though we brought cash to buy food, I ended up diving into the emergency crackers in my purse.

Other than that, and a few first-time kinks, the event was a lot of fun. Not only was it NOT in a parking lot, but it wasn’t saturated with Budweiser and Busch displays run by skinny girls in tube tops. There were plenty of craft breweries representing their art. There was shade to stand in, grass and chairs to sit on, and even live music off to the side. Some of the small breweries even had their actual staff (and brew masters) pouring the beer and talking about it like it was something they knew about.

It was nice to see some absolute favorites there, and we bee-lined for Victory Brewing’s table first thing, and then two steps over to Southern Tier. We stopped at Cigar City, SweetWater, and Swamp Head because we are fans. And we lingered at Mile Marker (wish they had the Coconut Porter), Stone Brewing (Levitation Ale was tasty), and Magic Hat (Elder Betty was interesting). That’s not to say it was all fun and games.

Cheers to Orlando Brewing Partners for their offering of organic brew, but there weren’t a lot of developed flavors to be found. With so many things to try, I can promise that the grass was watered with some unwanted beer from a few people drinking for quality rather than quantity.

Many of the breweries at the Festival are available at bars and pubs around town, so it wasn’t all new to the beer-lovers in our group. But there were smaller breweries that are up and comers. Mile Marker is a brewery in St. Augustine we never heard about and fully intend to visit on our next road trip. Not only were their brews intriguing and the team behind the table friendly, come on… it’s like an hour’s drive away. How could you not? Each of their offerings at the Festival were tasty.

Another note about the event was that instead of being jam-packed with college youths trying to get drunk, there were tons of locals and beer-lovers out an about. The Man and I generally run into a lot of people we know, but this was wall-to-wall locals. The event staff allowed designated drivers to pay the garden entry fee and get a DD bracelet so they could hang out with (and watch over) their friends. Plus it was Kanapaha for the love of god. How could you not have a good day?

Highly recommend you keep your ears to the ground for next year’s event and buy your tickets immediately.

Hogtown Craft Beer Festival
April 14th, 2012 | $35 General admission ticket
HogtownBeerFest.com
(let’s hope the prices don’t go up for next time!)

[Girl21]