Shiner Ruby Redbird

Shiner Ruby Redbird

Shiner Ruby Redbird

I was trying to get into the mood to write this while drinking one of these, but the darn thing just sploodged foam all over. Something about that first sip gets some beer so excited that is just foams up and starts erupting all over your hand. Awkward!

You have to be living under a rock or in a third world country to not at least recognize the Shiner Bock name, since the Spoetzl brewery in Texas has been making that since 1913 (minus a few years for Prohibition, I assume). It always makes me think of my dad for some reason, but I guess if they’re bringing Old Spice back, they can bring some of these older breweries.

But Ruby Redbird? Hm. I’m willing try any beer once, but I’ve had a few barf-tastic experiences with these mixed concoctions. Grapefruit juice and ginger? I would not have asked for one of these unless a trusted bartender hadn’t waggled her eyebrows at me a told me I would like it.

I did like it, and in turn passed along the joy to a few friends and my whole wine-loving book club. And The Man even.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a BEER. Not a real beer. But it’s pretty dang good for a flavored beer. On a hot Florida summer’s day, you’re going to want one of these instead of a fancy flavorful IPA or stout. It’s like a gateway beer for your friends who drink Bud Light.

So, flavor? No it doesn’t taste like a public restroom air freshener like some of these citrus beers do. It’s got some bready, malty beer flavor at the base, and round, ruby red grapefruit at the top. And just popping in the middle are hints of candied ginger. Nothing crazy. Nothing to get the hardcore beer fanatics all up in arms. A nice light, crisp beer that at 4% ABV, is not going to get you running around the pool twirling your bathing suit over your head.

[I originally had this at Loosey’s in a can, but have found it both canned and bottled at a lot of grocery stores and liquor stores.]

Shiner Ruby Redbird
6-pack cans or bottles
Shiner.com

Southern Charm Kitchen

Southern Charm Kitchen

Southern Charm Kitchen

We’ve been trying to get ourselves to Southern Charm since we heard about it months ago. How could you not want to try a place opened up by the folks that gave us Reggae Shack? And if you’ve never been to Reggae Shack, you can just slap yourself in your big, pasty white face.

Southern Charm Kitchen is out on the east side, where Hawthorne Road branches off of University. This may be crossing the tracks for a lot of you, but don’t act like it’s the ghetto. Spoiler alert: it’s worth the drive across town.

We popped in a little late (let’s face it, The Man and I always run about 15 minutes behind), and our dinner pals had scored a table and ordered wine. The wine turned out to be a Cremaschi Syrah from Chile, a label I loved since a nice bottle of carménère. Tasty without being knock-out sweet. It seemed an odd combination to have very elegant wine glasses rubbing elbows with mason jars of water on our table, both alongside the Tabasco and Sriracha.

Anyhow, the building was great and the interior was clean and trendy looking, so feel free to bring your cool friends. There’s not a lot of seating and I can see it can get crowded at times. A great bonus is that it’s not wall-to-wall white people and students. Here’s the real Gainesville, folks!

Anyhow, the food… where to start. SCK doesn’t have a website yet, but they are on Facebook and in their photos are a few pics of the menu, so you can get an idea of what’s there. Since we were at dinner, we got a few nibbles and then did entrée-plus-sides. They’ve got the menu clearly marked for vegetarian and/or vegan items.

I ordered the Country Fried Seitan with mac & cheese and cornbread. The Man opted for the Country Fried Tofu with pickled greens and the sweet-n-cajun fries. Our dinner pals went all out carnivore and seemed pleased with the sea of plates and food that arrived not too long later.

Southern Charm Kitchen

The Man was taken aback by the small portion of the tofu he received, but it was eclipsed by the ginormous size of my seitan. It took effort to tackle the seitan, even with the proper flatware we were provided. It was somehow fluffier than the traditional dense seitan, but the breaded crust added a challenge (and probably prevented The Man from stealing more off my plate than he did).

My mac & cheese felt very homemade, without even the slightest glimmer of orange cheese in most restaurant versions. The corn bread sat somewhat timidly next to the huge seitan steak. It was sweet and bready, almost like cake, rather than savory and mealy like I’m used to. But it was delish with the salty mac & cheese. Even though it was clssic southern style food, it never felt greasy or heavy.

Despite the small size of The Man’s tofu, he nommed it up (possibly a little more seasoning, please?). The sweet-n-cajun fries are basically a skinnier version of the dutty fries at Reggae Shack (which are awesome, topped with a sweet/spicy/salty sprinkle). And best for last, I am not normally crazy for greens, but these were fantastic. I did barter off some of my seitan for his greens, and then stole more off his plate while he was busy talking.

There’s all kinds of other things on the menu we want to try, so we’re definitely going back. The two servers we had were super nice and helpful. And on the way out, I drooled over the cake on display even though I was hugely full.

Even if it wasn’t delicious, I would still urge you to head out east and support local business. Skip the Archer Rd / Newberry Rd clusterfuck of chain restaurants. Push past the Main St boundary and try out something new on the other side of Gainesville. I get the feeling that Southern Charm hasn’t quite nailed down their menu (that’s not a bad thing), but they do have a strong sense of their food culture and the story they want to tell you with it.

After it was all said and done, and the wine was emptied, we paid less than $35, and our dinner pals paid about the same. Vegetarian note: they clearly state that all of their vegetarian food is cooked and served on designated dishes, so there’s no cross-over issues. (Considering the amount of ‘other’ material allowed on most processed food, I’m not sure that’s a comfort. And by ‘other’, I mean bugs, rodents, hair, dirt, and other traditionally non-food materials. But that’s another tangent.)

So, seriously, go there. Eat. I’m not kidding. You might actually enjoy yourself.

Buy local, spend local, support local. It’s your community. And your community is delicious!

Southern Charm Kitchen
1714 SE Hawthorne Rd
Gainesville, FL 32641
352.505.5553

On Facebook

Open:
Tues-Sat | 11:00AM-10:00PM

[Girl21]

“Chicken” and Rice Casserole

'Chicken' and Rice Casserole

I love one-pot meals and casseroles, but I’ve heard people really flip out when faced with even the word ‘casserole’. I can only assume that someone made a bunch of bad casseroles and turned some of my friends against casseroles for life.

Be that as it may (I love saying that), casseroles are great because I am short on time and big on odd ingredients. As much as The Man would be happy with a sandwich or pizza for dinner, I kind of like to serve a meal that’s relatively healthy, tasty, and balanced. He just cares about the tasty part.

The tricky part always is protein, and because you never really know, I try to vary our protein source. Enter Quorn (sounds like ‘corn’), a fake meat-like product based on mycoprotein. Um, yes, that’s a filament fungus, like what’s growing in the ground that produces mushrooms. I like the ‘Chik’n Tenders’ because they’re basically big chunks of blank slate. You can do whatever you want to them and they take it.

You can do this quick and easy, or you can take some time to put the bells and whistles on. I’m doing it quick and easy here today because I need to work out while it’s baking. Also, I have leftover brown rice, so one less thing to actually make.

And please totally note that I’m not being paid anything to endorse Quorn. I just like the stuff.

“Chicken” and Rice Casserole
Serves 4-6

3 cups cooked brown rice
1 package Quorn Chik’n Tenders (340g)
1 jar pasta sauce (24 oz.)
1 cup grated cheddar
½ cup grated mozzarella
1 medium onion

1. Dice up the onion and toss it in a medium sauce pot with the Quorn, a little olive oil, and about ¾ of the pasta sauce. Yes, jarred pasta sauce. I only buy the fancy stuff that actually tastes good and keep it handy for these kinds of meals.

2. Heat this on medium heat, stirring regularly until it’s bubbling a bit. The Quorn needs to thaw out and soak up some of the sauce, and the onions need to do that thing that onions do.

3. While that’s bubbling, mix half of your cheddar and some salt and pepper (and maybe some garlic powder and Italian seasonings) in with your rice and settle it in the bottom of a casserole dish. I have a 1.4L one that I like because it’s deeper and keeps things moister.

4. Mix up your remaining cheese and spread half of this over the rice. Pour your Quorn/sauce mix over this and spread it evenly, then sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top of this.

5. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes or until it’s bubbling and the cheese looks fabulous. It needs to set up for a few minutes because it’s freaking hot.

The best brown rice recipe is Alton Brown’s baked version which I swear by and always works. Again, no effort and great result. If you need to make the rice for this, it’s simple to make it in your casserole dish, do your thing, and put everything back into your casserole dish. One less thing to wash is always WIN for me.

As a side note, I also do this with barbecue sauce instead of pasta sauce and that’s super tasty too. I don’t know why people have to be hating on casseroles. Especially those of us with 40 hour days to fit into a normal 24 hours.

[Girl21]

Uppercrust Pretzels

Uppercrust Pretzels
Uppercrust Pretzels

I realize there are many, many food blogs out there. Some better than others. Some quite terrible. I stumbled on to one that was just basically a blow-by-blow retelling of Bourdain’s TV show episodes by a woman who obviously got very hot and bothered by the surly guy.

This is just another food blog in the great sea of food blogs. What makes ours special? Most likely that you know us. Or that you live in the area and are kind of interested in recommendations for things to eat around here.

If you haven’t been to Uppercrust (I keep running into people that have never been *aroooogah!* what?!) then take yourself up there immediately. Well, make sure you go early in the day because the place sells out quick. If you can make it past the pastry displays and get to the checkout without breaking your bank, then have a look on the counter there near the registers. They sometimes have baskets of the freakishly large pretzels up there.

You may have picked up that The Man lacks some impulse control when it comes to food. So of course he always attempts to buy at least a dozen of these things. I act as the sanity in this arrangement and cap him at something reasonable. One is enough to make me burst at the seams. We usually get a regular salted one and a cheese one. Flavors available vary apparently on the whim of the bakers. They sometimes even have chocolate ones.

You’re not going to find something like this very often. This is not a state fair or gas station pretzel. This is not one of those glossy jobs that look like they’ve been closed from some impossibly pretty but flavorless bread product. Those mall pretzels with the big zits of hard salt scattered over them? Nope. This is the real article, my friends.

I personally like to tear these into chunks and eat them straight out of the bag while we’re driving. Confession: I like it this way because I can stuff the big chunks into The Man’s face and save the little knobs at the bottom for myself. The Man likes to bring them home and pop them back in the oven so they get hot and crispy. I chop them up with sheers so they’re easier to dip into some spicy mustard.

And the last thing I can say about these pretzels is that at about $2.50 a pop, you can’t go wrong. Even if you’re one of our more thrifty friends, once you get your chompers around one of these, you won’t complain about the price.

Uppercrust
4116 NW 16th Blvd
Gainesville, FL 32605
Phone: 352.376.7187
uppercrust@uppercrustproductions.com
UppercrustProductions.com

Hours: Monday – Saturday | 8AM-7PM

[Girl21]