Your Beer Primer

September 28th, 2005

Just like picking the right bottle of wine to serve with dinner, there is a science to your beer selection as well. If you have ever wondered what type of beer to have with what types of food this should help. Borrowed from Cooking Light Magazine.

Beer is made with malted grain (usually barley), water, yeast, and a flavoring. That flavoring is usually hops (the dried cone-shaped flowers of a vining plant), whose bitterness counters the sweetness of the malt. Different flavors and beer styles are achieved by using malts that have been roasted to various degrees, by choosing different types of yeasts and hops, and by controlling when the hops are added. The taste of beer also can be changed by using other grains, such as wheat, in addition to barley. Many American beers include corn and/or rice to lighten the taste and lower the price.

Beer is divided into two basic types: lagers and ales. Lagers are made with special strains of yeast that sink to the bottom of the brewing tank. Lagers are fermented and stored at cold temperatures. They tend to be light in color, with a subtle crisp, clean taste.

Ales often are fermented with yeasts that sit atop the tank and prefer warmer temperatures. These yeasts ferment more quickly and produce beer with fruitier flavors and more yeasty and malty aromas. Ales are made with more hops and have an earthier, stronger, more complex taste than lagers. There are many styles of both lagers and ales.

Lager Styles

Bock: These German-style dark beers are often high in alcohol. Full-bodied with low-to-medium hoppiness and good malty taste, they're usually made in the spring to be served in the fall. Serve bock with smoked meat, sausages, and sauerkraut. Try Aass Beer or Shiner Bavarian Bock.

Doppelbock: Stronger and even more intense than regular bock, doppelbocks are high in alcohol (7.4 percent). They taste great with strong cheese, pickled herring, and raw onions. Celebrator Doppelbock is a good choice.

Lambic: Brewed only in Belgium, lambics are made with wild, rather than brewer's, yeast. These beers are less hoppy and can be sour, sweet, or fruity. Often they are infused with cherry or raspberry extract. Fruited lambics are ideal with fruity desserts like pies, compotes, and fresh berries. Traditional lambics also go well with dark chocolate.

Marzenbier/Oktoberfest: Originating in Germany, these lagers were historically brewed in March to last until the next brewing season. They have an amber color, full malt flavor, and medium hoppiness. Oktoberfest beer is an example of a Marzenbier; it goes well with smoked meats and vinegary potato salad. Try Samuel Adams Oktoberfest and Paulaner Oktoberfest Marzen Amber.

Pilsner: Originally brewed in Plzen, Czech Republic, pilsners have a golden color with a flowery aroma, lots of malt flavor, and a dry finish with a bitter taste. American pilsners, such as Budweiser, are light in color and have less hoppiness and malt flavor than European pilsners, like Pilsner Urquell. Pair these with pork or seafood.

Ale Styles

American Ale: Pale to amber in color, American ales have medium body, medium to high hops, and are not high in alcohol. Nuts and slightly sweet foods such as coleslaw, roast lamb, and beef are good with American ales. Try Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Bitter: These English ales have lots of malt and hops, low carbonation, and good body. Extra special bitter (esb) has a higher alcohol and more body than other bitters. Try with roast duck, roast beef, and well-aged cheddar and Stilton cheeses. Try Boddington's Pub Ale, Fuller's ESB, and Redhook ESB.

India Pale Ale (IPA): Because this ale was originally made in England for shipping to India, it needed high alcohol content and lots of hoppiness to survive the long trip. It has a pleasing malty flavor with a full-bodied taste. The high bitterness balances slightly sweet foods. Try it with barbecued ribs, glazed ham, or Hoisin-Marinated Chicken (page 232). Hop Devil IPA and Harpoon ipa are good choices.

Pale Ale: Ales made with lighter roasted malt have a pale to amber color, medium hops, and maltiness with a drier taste. Try them with steak, salmon, or other fatty fish. Bass makes a good English-style pale ale.

Porter: Dark brown and full-bodied with high alcohol and chocolate tastes, porters are moderate-to-high hoppiness beers that can be enjoyed with bittersweet chocolate desserts. Try Samuel Smith, the Famous Taddy Porter.

Stout: Very dark and made with toasted malt, stouts are full-bodied and hoppy. Ireland's Guinness is the most famous stout. Bitter coffee and chocolate flavors make stout great with oysters, rich meats, such as braised short ribs, and game, such as grouse.

Wheat Beers (Hefeweizen, Weissbier, Weizen, Weizenbock): Beers containing wheat are often cloudy and slightly tart with high carbonation. They're also very refreshing and are ideal with spicy foods like curry. The tartness and wheaty flavors go well with fried food, such as fish and chips. Try Sierra Nevada Wheat Beer and Pyramid Hefeweizen.

September 20th, 2005

When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out - because that's what's inside.

Parmigiano and Herb Chicken Breast Tenders

September 14th, 2005

Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray

Olive oil, for frying
1 1/2 pounds chicken breast tenders
Salt and pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten with 1/4 cup water
2 cups Italian style bread crumbs
1 cup shredded Parmesan
6 sprigs or stems fresh thyme leaves, stripped and chopped, 2 to 3 tablespoons
6 sprigs fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped, 3 tablespoons
2 handfuls chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Chicken Parmigiano, recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place a nonstick cookie sheet in oven with a tin foil liner.
Heat 1/2-inch oil in a large nonstick skillet or frying pan over medium to medium high heat.
Season chicken tenders with salt and pepper. Wash hands. Place flour in a shallow dish. Beat eggs with water in a second dish along side the flour. In a third dish, combine the breading ingredients. Coat chicken in flour, then egg, then bread and cheese mixture. To keep your hands clean, ask for plastic gloves at the butcher counter. To ease your clean up, try using disposable tin pie tins for the flour, egg and bread crumbs.
Cook chicken until deeply golden on each side, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to cookie sheet in preheated oven and finish off for another 5 minutes cooking time. Cook chicken 5 or 6 tenders at a time in a single layer, adding additional oil if necessary. If the chicken begins to brown too quickly lower heat slightly. Serve chicken hot or cold with green salad or, complete as a Parmigiano.

Simple Tomato Sauce for Chicken Parmigiano:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (14 ounce) can chunky style crushed tomatoes
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth or stock
A handful fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
Coarse salt
1 1/2 cups shredded provolone
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 pound spaghetti, cooked to al dente

Set water on to boil for pasta and prepare according to package directions for al dente. Before coating chicken, add oil, onions and garlic to a saucepan to cook medium low heat. Stir occasionally for 10 minutes while you are working on the chicken. Add both cans of tomatoes and a cup of chicken broth and bring sauce to a bubble. Reduce heat to a simmer until ready to serve. Stir in torn basil and season sauce with salt, to your taste.
Place a little of the sauce on the chicken tenders, top with the shredded provolone and Parmigiano. Place in oven or broiler to melt the cheese and then serve. Coat the hot, cooked pasta lightly with sauce then serve.

I cannot in good faith say that I made any "modifications" to this recipe, but I will surely admit that what I made was a bit different. Allow me to explain.

The recipe calls for:
Thyme, I accidentally bought Tarragon (I was on the phone in the store, sorry). So that was omitted.
Rosemary, I think this is much to overpowering of a flavor. This was omitted.
Parsley, bought it. Too lazy to add it. Omitted.
Garlic, completely forgot. Omitted.

Everything else I did followed the recipe to the letter. Well, the top portion, anyway. I did not opt for the conversion to chicken parm. I did employ some Marinara sauce on the side for dipping, however.

My only recommendation for future use of this recipe is to add slightly to your egg mixture and then double your chicken. I had an overwhelming excess of my breading that I would have liked to use if I'd had the time tonight, but I was under a small time constraint. Good recipe. This is one I will hang on to.

Grand Lux Cafe - Las Vegas, NV

September 13th, 2005

The idea for Grand Lux Cafe came to life when The Venetian Resort, Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas asked David Overton, Founder of The Cheesecake Factory Restaurants, to create an upscale casual restaurant concept for their property.

Located right in the casino at The Venetian, Grand Lux Cafe is easy to find. There are even signs posted directing you to the door. Once you are there, seating options are inside the restaurant or at one of the tables that is out in the casino.

My only complaint from the trip was what I imagine to be the only complaint I would ever have with the Grand Lux, the iced tea was not very good. My dissatisfaction goes no further. In fact, from there my satisfaction actually grows rapidly.

I believe on the menu it is listed as Creamy Spinach and Cheese Dip...though more commonly Spinach and Artichoke dip...and it just might be the best I have ever had. The dip is served with plenty of tortilla chips, so you never have to worry about running out of things to dip, a problem I frequently encounter at other restaurants.

If you are familiar with the menus at The Cheesecake Factory, then you understand how overwhelmed you can feel at Grand Lux Cafe as well. So many items on the menu and they all sound good. There just aren't enough hours in the day for a menu like that, but you have to start somewhere.

I ordered the Fried Chicken. The meal I anticipated, a breast/thigh/leg with a side of mashed potatoes, would have been right for how hungry I was. The meal I got, a veritable mountain of chicken strips with a side of mashed potatoes, was a bit more than I could handle. I think the chicken was like $13-14. You cannot beat that.

Grand Lux has locations in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and Chicago with two future locations of Garden City, NY and Sunrise, FL. At least in the cities where there are currently locations, there are so many restaurants and I always try to not go to the same place twice when I travel since there are so many options. I will have to fight to stick to that when I have the option to go back to Grand Lux Cafe. The place is even open 24 hours (in Las Vegas)!

September 12th, 2005

You are filial, kind and trustworthy.

The Rowe - Ellsworth, MI

September 6th, 2005

The Rowe Inn is the middle of nowhere. From Petoskey we headed through Charlevoix and beyond to end up at The Rowe. We were out in search of a fine dining experience while up north. I am told that The Rowe is one of the top rated restaurants in Northern Michigan (northern lower peninsula).

The idea was to sample, and if need be, go out on a limb for a menu item you would not necessarily order otherwise. This only went so far. There were certain things some of us could not pass up. I started with the Lobster Corn Chowder which was very good. My mom had a tomato salad (tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinaigrette) which she enjoyed. My dad had the venison sausage which he liked. We could not help ourselves at this point and had to order the mushroom pierogies which were also very good. They were a little expensive, but you have to expect that for a meal like this.

Each entree comes with a salad. There were options for the salads. There was a blackberry sorbet, which I had. My mom had what I believe was their signature salad which was a simple presentation of lettuce, walnuts, dried cherries and a delicious bleu cheese dressing. Dad had their "house cole slaw" or something to that effect. It was sour kraut, apples, celery and who knows what else. It was not something I would have ordered, but he really liked it.

Our main courses were rather unique. My mom opted for their "vegetarian" dish which was sort of an egg souffle. She liked it a lot. Dad had the parmesan encrusted chicken which came with some type of a scalloped potato. He also like his a lot. I apparently was the adventurous one at the table (for once) and had the duck magret with a fresh strawberry Marsala. I am not a big fan of duck, but you only live once, right? My main course was good. Not great.

Dessert was a must after a meal like this. We all decided to try something. When in Rome, as they say. Dad had a four berry cobbler I think. Mom had their signature white brownie. I had their homemade Bailey's chocolate chip ice cream. The ice cream was three large scoops, much more than I had anticipated getting at a more upscale restaurant. It was very good. The white brownie was made with Khalua, which turns me off, as I do not like the flavor of coffee, but my mom said it was good. The bite I tried was too much for me.

Pricing was not outrageous and they apparently also have one of the best wine selections in the entire state. All in all it was a neat place. There are only about thirteen tables, so the restaurant is by no means large. It was a little out of the way, but if you are looking for a different atmosphere than many of the restaurants up north, it is worth it. Overall, I am afraid that I have to say the food in Northern Michigan is not good. The Rowe was an exception to that. I could see myself eating there again. It was a nice place to go with family, but could also be a fun date spot (as long as she is paying ;) ).

Quest: The Best Homemade Mac & Cheese

August 29th, 2005

In my effort to increase my utility to the rest of human nature, I have decided to go in search of the recipe for the best homemade macaroni and cheese. I am enlisting the help of anyone and everyone to submit their variations on this crowd pleasing comfort food. I will post each recipe that is e-mailed to me in the forum and encourage you to post yours either as a comment to this post, in an e-mail to me, or in the forum.

If I come to find that one recipe I stumble upon is a bit off from perfect, though I am able to add the missing piece, credit will still be given. Sure, it will become Peterified Mac 'n Chee, but thanks will be given to any and all recipes used in creating the masterpiece, whether in parenthetical citations or footnotes. If no modifications are made, I will present to the world your recipe, your name emblazoned across the top. I always remember the little people!

This is not a quest that will start today and end tomorrow, or next week, or even next month. Please be patient. It is not that I do not have the time, but I can only eat so much macaroni and cheese.

I hope to return to you with THE best homemade macaroni and cheese recipe. I thank you for your submissions and your patience.

Forum Link

August 21st, 2005

Don't rush through life, pause and enjoy it.

August 11th, 2005

Things are turning for the bright side.

August 3rd, 2005

Pure love is a willingness to give without a thought of receiving anything in return.