Toast Tuesday: Ginger Beer

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I’m going slightly off book this week in our Year of Drinking Adventurously.  I did not even crack the book, but will be revisiting this topic in the next few weeks.

I just got back from an awesome eat-a-thon trip to New Orleans. One of the members of our party, had never been with us on of our eating trips.  The uninitiated are always horrified and delighted with the amount we consume and the places we go.  Truly a gastronomic delight.

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On our way down to Nola, we stopped for a tasting at Lazy Magnolia Brewing in Kiln, Mississippi.  There are only two reasons why you would have ever heard of Kiln.
1.  Home of Brett Favre.
2.  Lazy Magnolia Brewing.
There is nothing else in this town.  When we missed one tour and the girl told us we had to wait an hour, I asked what else was in town for us to do.  She told us to go to the animal shelter and adopt a pet.

So, we hung out and played corn hole until we got to do the tour and tasting.  Mississippi has some messed up, ridiculous laws that say unless you see the production facility, you cannot do a tasting.  WTF?!  Once we finally got to do our tasting, we were not disappointed.  We got 6 generous tastings of beer and a tiny tasty of mead.  We shared and swapped samples, so we really got to try anything and everything we wanted.

Last week was sweet potato beer, and I was certain I had found one, but have no idea where it ended up.  Sure enough, as soon as I saw the label for Jefferson Stout, I knew I had gotten it.  Now to dig in the fridge to find it.  (how embarrassing)  It was a lovely stout, but I don’t think the sweet potato adds anything noticeable.  Mississippi grows a lot of them, so I can only guess the goal of using sweet potatoes was to use local products. 

Moving on down the road, to New Orleans.  We usually have lunch at Cochon Butcher just before we leave town so we can stock up on awesome charcuterie.  It was here I  attempted to make up another missed week of drinking and had Nola Tart of Steel.  According to the beer board, it is a Berliner Weisse, but now reading Nola Brewing’s website, I’m not convinced.  I’m still calling that week unfinished.

Now, onto ginger beer.  As I have started doing when I am in a different city, and certainly state that has liquor laws like Louisiana, I had to hit a few stores to check out the offerings.  I grabbed a couple different ginger beverages just for this week’s adventure.  I only cracked one open in time for the write-up.  I tried Hitachino Nest.

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The back of the label says they use real ginger root in the brewing process for some spice and balance with the sweet malt.  None of the ginger came through for me.  While this beer is good, it’s not one I will get again.  Slight hint of hops, with lots of malt and maybe some molasses.

Let’s see how Meg did with this week’s challenge.  We are on the home stretch in our adventure.  I’ll have to figure out what to do with the new year.  I’ve enjoyed having this weekly challenge to keep me on task.  There have certainly been weeks I did not want to write, and weeks my writing showed that, but overall, this has been great fun.

Have a Toasty Tuesday and a wonderful week y’all!

Toast Tuesday: Giving Thanks for Good Booze

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This is the week in the United States where we celebrate eating ourselves silly and marathon shopping.  This was not the original intent of the holiday of Thanksgiving.  As the name suggests, we should be giving thanks for all the bounty of goodness we have in our lives.

I have mentioned before what a rough transition I have had in Memphis.  So many things have factored into this, but when I stop and take a look, I really have so many blessings, almost too many to count.  I am thankful every day I have a job to go to, a roof over my head and warm, snuggly pets to welcome me home every afternoon.  I’ve made some incredible friends.  It is some of my new amazing friends I am going to tell you about today and not the sweet potato beer I was supposed to find.  I wonder how Meg did with this week’s assignment?

Ever since I moved, I’ve been lamenting the loss of my monthly dinners.  Well, I finally pulled the trigger and started a Meetup group of my own.  I need to get back to my monthly cooking and cocktails with other good folks who enjoy the same.  Our club has been up and running for a few months now and so far everyone who has joined has truly been interesting and offered something special to the event they attended.

This past Sunday, my new friends and I went for a short road trip to Jackson, Tennessee with the express intent of visiting a local distillery.  Since we drove an hour, we also had to hit the little winery down the road.  This was an amazing day and one I think everyone enjoyed.

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We started with lunch at Casey Jones Village and the Old Country Store to give our moonshine a soft place to land.  We spent a delicious hour or so with Sam of Samuel T Bryant Distillery.  Sam let us sample all sorts of good stuff including his two version of scotch, a grappa, an aged Tennessee moonshine (can’t be called a whiskey since it doesn’t follow all the “official” steps of a whiskey), an agave spirit (kinda like tequilla), some flavored moonshines and a coffee-shine.

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The grappa was delightfully smooth compared to some of the grappa I’ve had in the past.  The two scotches were quite smooth with different levels of peat.  The original moonshine was very sippable, with hints of rye coming through for a wonderful sweet finish.

From there, we went to the Century Farms Winery for an assortment of reds, whites, fruit wines, and a couple of ports.  I came home with a semi-sweet white that will be perfect whenever summer rolls around again, their cranberry wine, and a port.

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So much good stuff, it’s a wonder I have a liver left.  Everything in moderation, even the good times.  Here’s to hoping you and yours have a wonderful day of giving thanks, wherever the day may find you.

Toast Tuesday: The Pickleback

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In week 46 of our Year of Drinking Adventurously, we are experiencing the pickleback.  Let’s start by breaking this down… what is a “back”.  According to Food Republic, a back is “a shot served to brace up another potable.”  Our Author tells us to think about the pickleback and it’s pairing as a cocktail deconstructed.

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As a kid, I loved drinking picklejuice from the jar.  I even have a certain way I like to eat pickles so I get the most juice separate from the pickle.  I’ve told y’all about the snack cart we have been rolling at work to raise money.  What I may not have mentioned is our best selling item… pickles… and peppermints… Together. (shudder)

I’ve been told by my coworkers who enjoy this tasty treat, that this is the poor black equivelant of salted caramel.  Sweet and Salty.  I this may be the most vile combination I could imagine.  We have been selling like mad, so who am I to judge.  Tonight, my judging is over.  I’m stunned to say, it was wierdly not terrible.

Take a sour pickle and take a bite.  Your face puckers like you just sucked a lemon.  Now take a bite of the sour pickle with your peppermint.  Let it sit on your tongue for just a moment, then chew and wait, chew and wait… Oddly, the flavors balance and complement.  One friend I had try this said it had an odd finish like cough syrup.  Another friend agreed with me, the flavors somehow end up tasting like a sweet pickle with an odd kick, something you just can’t put your finger on.  Well, I can now cross this off my to-do list.

To take this week’s challenge one step further, I did have a pickleback.  One of my favorite spirits is New Deal’s Hot Monkey, a hot pepper infused vodka.  Great flavor and some serious heat.  The obvious choice is a bloody mary and as I mentioned last week, one of the best secret ingredients in a bloody is pickle juice.  So, I had a sipper of Hot Monkey with a little dill pickle back.  Yum!

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If you are so inclined to experiment and try the peppermint pickle or if have some childhood story about pickles, I’d love to hear it.  For now, see what Meg did this week.  I’m fairly certain she took a pass.

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In case you were wondering, last year we sold over 30 GALLONS of pickles.  This year is pacing to beat that.  Happy Tuesday!

Toast Tuesday: the infusion continues

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This is week… I’ve lost count… in my Year of Drinking Dangerously, as one friend calls it.  I do know this week was supposed to be a beer I was looking forward to, but life got the better of me.

I’ve been the mad scientist lately with brewing kombucha, growing a vinegar mother, working on some infusions, and having fun at work.

I have been having fun at work the last couple of weeks.  Tis the season for the snack cart and flower pencils again.  My sneaky happiness campaign also includes 901Rocks! this year.

Coworker and I spent 3 hours painting happy rocks and selling them for $1 each.  I’m certain most of these ended up on the purchaser’s desk and not hidden around the building as we had hoped.  No matter.  The goal is to make someone smile and I am calling this a win.

I had brunch with some lady friends on Saturday and took a bottle of mango kombucha I had made.  I was certain this was going to get me one more eyeroll, but in fact, it got high praise.  Our hostess was convinced I was trying to kill her the week before when I had her taste some kombucha from the mother batch.  She liked the finished product so much, she kept the leftovers.  Huge win!

With it finally cooling off here, I’ve been making quite a few infusions to save my herbs before the frost.  I’ve made a lemon gin, lime tequila, lemongrass, lemon verbena, basil, sweet tea vodka, habanero honey whiskey, and have been playing with a chamomile fall flavored infusion.

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I’ve been encouraging a vinegar mother for quite some time.  Never before have I exercised so much patience on a project.  It’s only because it is on top of the fridge and out of my direct line of sight that this is possible.  Just the other day, I looked up and saw I was finally getting a lovely mother growing.  It looks like lace.

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Alright, enough about all my craziness.  Let’s see how Meg did on her homework.

Also, if anyone wants a kombucha scoby, I have plenty to share.  I’ve gone a little insane starting batches.

 

Toast Tuesday: Bloody Mary

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This being the day after Halloween, some folks may need a Bloody Mary. Maybe the folks with whom I was passing the time with last night need a Bloody Mary. I made a rather ominous concoction I dubbed the Blood Bath Punch, complete with eyeballs and hands crawling out of the bowl. I just realized I didn’t take any photos until the frozen hand was pliable enough to make obscene gestures.

This week in our Year of Drinking Adventurously, our author chose the Bloody Mary in honor of the spooky holiday we have just passed. What drink has a better Halloween name than the Bloody Mary? Well, maybe several of those classic tiki cocktails, but that’s for another day.  Everyone has heard some variation of the story of Bloody Mary and how saying her name three times gets some sort of vision in a mirror or some such crap. Pish posh.

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M and I went for lunch on Sunday to a local pub that has a build your own Bloody Mary bar. They have an assortment of spices, herbs, sauces, and vegetables all laid out for you. You wander over with your pint of ice and vodka and create your masterpiece. Little did I realize, you can mess these things up. If you don’t know the basic building blocks to start with, your drink may not be drinkable. In my mind a proper Bloody Mary is a mix of savory and spice with some freshness to wake things up.

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Savory:  Worcestershire sauce, smoked or roasted peppers, roasted garlic, smoked paprika…
Spice: cayenne pepper, jalapeño, Tabasco, horseradish, spicy paprika…
Fresh: fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley…

This is just a quick start, not even a moderately complete list.  It never occurred to me that you could make a bad Bloody, but M was not keen on his.  The balance was a bit off.  I tried to save it with my secret ingredient, dill pickle brine, but that didn’t even work.

Briefly, don’t limit your Bloody to just vodka.  The first time I had a gin Bloody Mary was a game changer for me.  Since that time, I will put whatever suits my mood for the day.  How about a fresh pepper infused tequila or a smoky whiskey?  Don’t even limit yourself to just tomato juice.  I once hosted brunch for St Paddy’s day and made a tomatillo Bloody.  Quite tasty.

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Go see what Meg drank this week and then run out and enjoy your Tuesday!  We are having the most wonderful fall.  I cannot believe it is November.  It feels more like spring with an expected high of 86 today.  Crazy!

One final reminder, in case you haven’t… Get off your ass and VOTE!

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Toast Tuesday: Vodka

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This week in The Year of Drinking Adventurously, I’m going to briefly flashback to when I began my job several (seven as of last week, to be exact) years ago. Happy hour was the most glorious time of the day.  I’d get home and make myself a vodka martini. Shaken. Three olives.

a modern take on my old classic

a modern take on my old classic

I had a very simple drink and rarely did I waiver. Slowly but surely my palate for spirits evolved, I became more adventurous, and my drinks became more complex.  One thing remained fairly constant as I explored different different cocktails, I enjoyed the flexibility of vodka. It’s a chameleon.One of the great things about vodka is its purity and simplicity. With its colorless, odorless, tastelessness, you can mix vodka with just about anything. You can also infuse it with just about anything.29661325280_69c8a6aa9a_z

This week our author goes on a bit of a rant about how infusions took a turn for the worse in the early 2000’s, especially when they started infusing vodka with things like gummy bears. I agree, this is taking it a bit too far. I’m also horrified by the ridiculous flavors of glazed donut or cotton candy. Clearly these aren’t flavors that occur naturally.

My patio is full of herbs purely to be used in cooking and cocktails. This summer I made a lavender infused vodka. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do with it, but taking to the Google, I found a few ideas and here is what I did.

 

Lavender & Sage Spritzer
2 ounces lavender infused vodka
Several small fresh sage leaves or 1 large fresh sage leaf
1/2-3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 ounce honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)

Combine all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake hard for 20 seconds.
Double strain into rocks glass filled with ice and top with about 2 ounces club soda.

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I’ve tried in the past to work sage into my cocktails.  It is a strong flavor and can be overpowering. I used small, fresh leaves that came through, but did not overwhelm the drink. One of the drinks I made I slightly reduced the lemon and the sage was more pronounced, but not overwhelming or off-putting, just more savory. The lavender and sage worked well together, giving the drink a balance. Sometimes lavender in a cocktail can feel like you are drinking perfume.

Now run along and see what Meg did with her vodka. She’s more a fan of the dark spirits so I’m excited to see where her tasting took her.

Cheers to another tasty Tuesday!

Toast Tuesday: Hopped Cider

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I’m mostly back on track this week, #42 in our Year of Drinking Adventurously.  I’ve had hopped cider before, even one that our author mentions in particular.

Our guide

Our guide

Somehow I managed to find a hopped cider here in Memphis.  It’s like the universe was looking out for me.  I love ciders, and as I suggested to Meg last week, the Pacific Northwest is producing some of the most amazing, flavorful ciders.  Which makes perfect sense; they are in apple country.

Our author points out that calling cider “hard cider” is an American thing.  Just one more thing we can thank prohibition for.  When producers weren’t able to make cider and began selling fresh, unfiltered apple juice as cider, the moniker stuck.  Even once prohibition ended.

This week, I had Tieton Cider Works Dry Hopped Cider.  According to their website, this is a dry cider, and I would almost agree.  I found the hops… unfindable.  There was really no discernable hop flavor that came through.  It had a flavor of granny smith apples with a hint of malt, and almost no lingering flavor.  It would be a good sipper for a hot summer day, even at 6.9%,  and paired very nicely with my spicy green coconut curry soup.

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Our author refers to Reverend Nat’s, which makes outstanding ciders.  A few of which even made the journey across the country with me and has since made it’s way into my belly.

I’m not generally a fan of hoppy beers, so when I had a hopped cider, this was a game changer.  The one that made me rethink hops was Anthem Hops.  It has a good hops flavor, and is a slightly dry cider.  It has been three years since I’ve had this cider and it has stuck with me.  If you can get your hands on any of Anthem’s ciders, do so.  They are wonderful.

As usual, since I did not do my homework far enough in advance, I missed an opportunity for another road trip.  I will be revisiting this chapter in the near future.  Please stay tuned.

Here is to another wonderful week of ciders and whatever the universe happens to put in your glass.

Being Thankful

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There are times when we feel alone and that the skies can’t get much darker.
Then someone reminds you they care.
A call, a note, a smile

Do not forget everything we do impacts someone or something.
It’s hard to not let other’s poor behavior impact us.
We must rise above. Be the light that shines. We are the change.

Sitting in the sunshine
I am renewed
I have the strength of those around me
To help me up

I’m thankful everyday for the good people I have in my life and that I, in turn, have the means to help others.

Toast Tuesday: tasty fail

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This week in our Year of Drinking Adventurously, I didn’t even crack the book. I knew this was a fail and didn’t even try.

I had a HORRIBLE week at work last week, with Friday being the topper. I always say there’s no such thing as a bad Friday and this one put that to the test.  The best thing about this particular Friday was that I didn’t have to go back to the office for 5 days. FIVE. Whole. Days. Ahhhhh

The other thing that saved this Friday was the leisurely, and ridiculously indulgent dinner I had out that night at my favorite restaurant, Hog and Hominy. Their poutine is the best thing on the menu and a staple of any visit. We had short ribs, a pizza, and threw in a salad just to appear healthy. All of this was accompanied with lovely Mezcal cocktails. Dessert was lemon meringue pie and 4 flavors of gelato.

The following day, my indulgence continued when I made French toast for early breakfast; only to go to a morning meeting for beer and donuts at Memphis Made Brewing a little later. I chose a delicious dark, malty beer to at least pretend I was still having coffee at 10am.

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When I walked back to the car, I realized I had parked right in front of a truffle shop. Nondescript storefront that I wouldn’t have noticed if there weren’t an A frame sign out that said something about macarons. Upon entering the macron left my mind and I focused on the beautiful array of tiny colorful chocolates. I picked out four to share with a friend before our walk a little later.  All I can say is well worth the extra laps. The most interesting (and tastiest) was the blue cheese and white chocolate.

 

I now just need to figure out a way to stop eating everything in sight. I keep asking myself why stop when everything is so wonderful and tasty?! Well, I’m off to the gym now since I’m still working all that off. Be sure to see how Meg did this week.

Toast Tuesday: Spanish Cider

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I had started on a post this week to tell you of my failings, but that has been tabled.  This is what a dork I am.  I actually put each of the 52 weeks of drinking adventurously on my calendar.  Every Tuesday I get a pop-up to remind of the week’s topic… well actually it pops up on Saturday, Sunday and Tuesday.  Because I have scheduled these particular dates, whenever I stumble upon a store that has  good selection, I peruse ahead.  Little did I recall, I had done this for this week’s Spanish cider; that is until I looked at the back of the fridge and said what’s THAT bottle…

Our guide

Our guide

If you are counting, this is week 40 in our Year of Drinking Adventurously.  This week has taken us to Spain for the apple harvest.  This is one thing I truly miss about living in Oregon, getting the season’s fresh harvest of apples… there really is nothing like it.  I had no idea that there was a region of Spain that was perfect for growing apples.

I’m not going into the history or all the different regions and types.  Let’s hope Meg covers the history, like she normally does.  I’m just going to tell you I enjoyed a natural Spanish cider.  Natural is a traditional cider, in that it is still (no bubbles) and unfiltered.  The cider I had was subtly sweet, as our author described, but had a mouthfeel more akin to a dry white wine.  It was quite nice.  I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy a still cider, as most of the ones I have had and enjoyed up to now have been bubbly.

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It’s hard to shop for a Spanish cider when you don’t speak Spanish and normally shop based on pretty labels.  I’ll grant you though, the cork is really stinking cute and if I had to shop on that alone, I would have gotten this bottle.

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Have a wonderful week and a terrific Tuesday!