Sunday, July 10, 2011

The lowly sunfish

Fishing is definitely a pastime I enjoy for sure. For the most part, I am a catch & release fisherman. Meaning, I let the fish that I catch go back to swimming in the lake or wherever I caught it from. I think that started when I got into largemouth bass fishing, and most people that fish for bass are into catch & release. I do however, love to cook and eat fish. And fish that I caught myself are prized much higher than something purchased. It's like growing your own veggies or hunting game, I get a much greater sense of satisfaction receiving these products from their natural place of origin and with my own hands than buying them in Styrofoam trays & sealed in plastic. This is pretty much how I roll when it comes to fresh-water fishing. When I'm on the beach or bay, that's another story. Then I'm working for the table. Weather for flounder, blues, weakfish or striped bass, maybe my favorite fish to eat, not too much releasing of legal sizer's going on there. Today though, I'm writing about the other end of the scaled spectrum, the sunfish. You know, the fish that you caught as a kid using dough balls and a bobber at the local farm pond or a vacation lake. They go by many different names, pumpkin seeds, bream, red ear and the larger ones that I fish for, the bluegill. You're thinking, who cares about sunfish. There isn't a "Sunfish Anglers Sportsman's Society" or a "Sunfish Unlimited". Probably the best explanation is that they are predictably catchable. That is, when you feel like catching fish just about any time, they will not fail you. And the best thing is that it is so simple, just a light fishing rod & reel fixed with a hook, float of some kind and some bait. Earthworm, cricket, grub, meal worm and bread balls, they all work. There's just something so relaxing about watching your bobber floating still one moment, then erratically being yanked under the surface by a hungry fish. Wait a minute, I take that back, there's not much time to relax when the fishing is hot and furious. For the most part, it's non-stop fish catching madness. Good madness of course.

I started off stating that as a rule I released my fresh-water fish. There are however some exceptions. Occasionally, I am in the mood for a fish fry, and one of my favorites is crappie. Similar to sunfish but can get bigger and at certain times school up and you can catch many. The little breaded fillets can make for quite a memorable eating experience. Then you have trout, wild(native) and hatchery-raised. The latter is what we get in this neck of the woods. They are farmed by the state to release into the local waters just to catch and take home. They're tasty for sure but my favorite has got to be the yellow perch. A pretty little fish with black & yellow stripes and a green hues. The meat sweet, firm and flaky and can be caught easily on live bait or artificial lures.

While at the lake recently, hooking bluegills left & right, I thought to myself, I have never eaten a sunfish. I know many people do, I just never have. Some of the ones I was pulling in were huge, pan-filling size. So it got me thinking, I just might want to see how these guys rate. So I got a nice fire going in the pit, since I had some Korean beef marinating for cooking over coals, I thought I would just stick a cast-iron fry pan over those same coals to fry some fillets.











In the end, I have to say not my favorite fish to eat. That being said, I've had worse. Yes it was very bony, and allot of work for little return but, the meat tasted pretty good. Flaky, sweet & moist and I had a blast catching & cooking them on the open fire and it was a meal obtained just steps from my front door. Good stuff!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Sounds of Spring

If you ask ten people what they think spring sounds like, I'm sure you'd get 10 different answers. Maybe the return of the backyard songbirds, the hum of hummingbirds whizzing by, the buzz of bumblebees as they bob and weave through the azaleas. For me, I'd have to go back 8 years and my first turkey season to really recollect what for me is the greatest sound of spring to be heard. In the pre-dawn hours of a late April morning in 2004 I walked down a dirt road in the Jersey pines and was immediately welcomed by the sound of a whippoorwill. How did I know it was a whippoorwill when I have never in my 44 years on this earth have heard one? I'll thank my dad for that, because at the age of 10, he taught me how to cup my hands just the right way and place my lips on my properly angled thumbs and blow. If you had the proper cadence, and opened your cupped hands to allow the right amount of air out, you could create the sound of the whippoorwill, something at the time I hadn't a clue to what it was, but my father sure made it sound cool. It took me all day, walking to & from school to get it, but when I got it, that was a good day. Now I was hearing that same sound, the sound I made with my hands, only it was  a real sound made by a real wildlife creature in the dark woods. Then, as I approached the predetermined area that I would hunt, another sound, something I also had never heard before but this one shook me to the core. This noise rattled the whole woods. The spring call of the tom turkey, the elusive gobble brought chills to my spine, but good chills indeed. I new that I was close to his roost and success was not far away.
Unfortunately for me, success was three more seasons away because I would only see two jakes(young male birds) all spring &  it wouldn't be until my third year hunting that I would harvest my first gobbler.
2011 is my eighth season hunting turkeys and although I also hunt in the autumn for deer & small game, I always look forward impatiently for the first signs of spring to arrive. I'm sure it has to do with being cooped up all winter and this past one was definitely cold and snow-filled.
It certainly was worth the wait though. On my second day out in the field, I was rewarded with my third tom turkey. I had hours of work ahead of me but, I could already taste the turkey breast cutlets that would grace tonight's dinner table.
There were many plans ahead for this bird.
The biggest tasks were going to be a batch
of sausage, half being smoked and then a wild-
turkey stock which for some reason I have not
done before with other game birds.
Tonight however, will be simple, just a light
coating of panko crumbs and sauteed in a mixture
of olive oil & butter. So simple and plain in fact,
the Mrs. pretty much inhaled what I served her,
and shes not that keen on eating game meat.







Next up...
Pick up some hog casings and dust off the meat grinder. Time to try another hand at game sausage.





Tuesday, April 19, 2011

An emergence of spring

This definitely is a good sign. A sign of tasty things to come and that this frosty winter could surely be in the rear view.

Started from seed just a week ago these arugula shoots are soaking up the April rays and though looking great, still quite a ways off from a staring  roll in my lunch salad plans. I wish I had started them in March but at least it's better than last year when I bought them already started in planters in May. That's just too late for these greens I soon found out. By the end of June they couldn't take the summer heat in my raised garden bed and the yield was minuscule before they went to seed and withered. Hopefully the extra month proves to be a bountiful decision. Not to be discouraged by the lack of garden greens, I decided to make due with a harvest of dandelion greens. Foraging is something that I've always had an interest in but, never took advantage of until recently and want to acquire more knowledge of in the future. One thing is for sure, know what you are picking or cutting. These particular weeds, as The Mrs. refers to them, were pesticide-free as I gave up any aspirations of a manicured lawn a decade ago.
To accompany the greens, some lentil sprouts that I started last week should fit the bill.

I wish I could say that I have a constant supply of fresh bean sprouts on hand but I don't. Good intentions is what I do have and they don't stir-fry well in the Pad Thai. I'll grow them for a while and then get tired of trying to come up with dishes to use them all up. I could certainly by them at the market when I  need them but, aside from being bigger than mine, they just don't have the fresh taste or the satisfaction of growing them yourself. And, they're so dam easy.
I love curry, mostly the South-East Asian, coconut variety but today I wanted to go with more of an Indian style. I didn't have a Garam Masala on hand, only a Jarred yellow curry and preferred a more fresh taste so I toasted & ground up a blend of whole spices I had available. I have allot of them already in ground form, and I do use them often, especially when rushed but when you can, you just cannot beat the flavor of freshly toasted and ground spices.


There needed to be more substance to the dish. If I just sauteed' the greens and sprouts, they would pretty much have just wilted to nothing in the pan. Hangin out in the pantry, were two red-bliss potatoes, that would nicely round out and balance the sharpness of the dandelions and beef up the dish, making it perfect for a light lunch entree or a suitable side for a larger meal.

Dandelion & Lentil Sprout Saute

2 Strips bacon - Diced
1 Small Onion - Diced
1-2 Garlic Cloves - Minced
2 Medium Red-Bliss Potatoes - Diced
2 tsp. Spice Blend - Recipe Below
1 to 1-1/2 Cups Lentil or Bean sprouts
1-1/2 to 2 Cups Washed Dandelion or other bitter greens
1/2 Cup Chicken stock or water
1 to 2 TBSP. Sherry Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Cook potatoes in lightly salted water until tender but not mushy. Drain and set aside.

While potatoes are cooking, heat saute pan over low-medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring & shaking pan occasionally until bacon is not quite crispy. Remove bacon from pan with slotted spoon to paper towel lined plate and set aside. Add onions to pan and cook until they are starting to get golden and add garlic. Cook a minute or two then add potatoes and cook until they start to get some color, 3-5 minutes. Season with spice blend.

Add sprouts and dandelions to pan and saute until the greens wilt. Add 1/2 of the stock to the pan to deglaze and simmer for a few minutes. Add remaining stock if pan is too dry, and the vinegar.

Taste sauce and season with salt & pepper. At this point I like to plop a nugget of butter into the pan & stir it into the sauce just for a Little richness, olive oil works too. This step is purely optional. Also optional, when cooking bacon, you can drain off the fat and discard if you like but I think that's discarding flavor.
Enjoy!

Spice Blend
1 TBSP Coriander
1 TBSP Cumin
1 TBSP Fennugreek
1 tsp. Whole Black Pepper
1 tsp. Fennel
1 tsp. Cardamom seeds
1 tsp. Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. whole clove
1" piece cinnamon stick
1 small dried chipotle pepper seeded
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg - fresly grated
Toast all in dry saute pan over medium-high heat until slight wisps of smoke start to form and you can smell the spices, be careful not to burn, it happens fast. Grind with a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder. if these are not available, you can use pre-ground spices. set aside let over in a small container and store in a cool, dark place for another use.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A fermentation of a different sort

I am very familiar with the fermentation process. Introducing yeast to a sugar, in my case, malted barley and other grains to produce an alcoholic beverage, beer. Which I have done on dozens of occasions. I am in no way an expert or authority on the subject, it is however, a fairly simple procedure if you pay attention to sanitation practices and have fun. But this post is about a fermented product you can eat as apposed to drink.

Sauerkraut. You know, that stinky, shredded cabbage you buy in a can or bag and heat it up to serve with wieners. Now I don't have many  requests for serving it at parties, I do enjoy a nice snappy frank, piled with kraut and some whole-grain mustard but I wouldn't say that I go nuts for the stuff. That is until my last batch of kimchi got me thinkin about pickling & fermenting other types of veggies and around the same time I happened to catch a video on Basic Brewing with James and Steve making sauerkraut with sausage & beer. Wow, couldn't believe how easy it was, salt and cabbage, that's it. More important, I get that "Kid on Christmas Morning" feeling every time I start projects like this, no matter how simple or complex they are. Call me crazy, it's just fun!
Every recipe I found online, including the method used on Basic Brewing was simply to sprinkle salt onto the cabbage in layers in a large glass or ceramic container and pack it down well. The salt will pull the moisture from the vegetable and create a brine and in time will ferment it. OK, leave it to me to buck the trend(yes, I went with a Zune instead of the I-Pod). I decided to go with a recipe from the book "Charcuterie" by Michael Ruhlman which is in the "on-deck circle" on my stack of books to read.

His recipe calls for making a brine(just salt and water) and submerging the cabbage totally until fermentation is complete. I will definitely be trying the salt only method as well, to compare because my concern is that the water brine might dilute the flavor. My thinking is that when only salt is used, the liquid turning into brine is cabbage juice, producing more flavor. We'll see.
The hardest part is ahead of me, the wait. Patience doesn't agree with me. And right now I have this massive craving for smoked kielbasa sauteed' with onions, house-made kraut and a splash or two of my favorite brew.


Monday, March 14, 2011

Chopped??

Well, sort of. This past weekend I kind of felt like I was in one of those cooking reality/race shows with a mystery basket of ingredients, time ticking away on the clock, while you try to wring out every last drop of creativity from the sponge in your skull and to make things more nuts, you have fellow competitors at either elbow trying to do the same thing better than you. Oh, right, there were no fellow competitors, time clocks(at least not counted in minutes) or mystery basket. I did however have a fridge full of ingredients. A conglomeration of items acquired from different sources and were starting to pile up to to the overwhelming point that if I didn't start things crackin in the kitchen, putting Monday mornings trash out would not be a happy time.
The ingredient list:
  • A 2lb. hunk of braised brisket from lunch during the week.
  • 6 locally harvested pheasant breasts given to me by a friend who's brother-in-law had a good day in the field(yes, I wish I got them myself. but hey, they're in my fridge & I will enjoy them).
  • A beef tongue, cooked with the brisket because I have never had or cooked one before & wanted to see what all the hype was about.
  • 2 gal. beef/pork stock that I obtained by taking the broth from the brisket and adding some pork neck bones(to get some gelatinous quality), some veggies and a few hours later vuala, liquid gold...you know what I mean.
  • 2lb. pork neck meat. After removing the bones from the stock before straining, they were headed for the trash when I just pulled a piece from it's spinal crevice & gave it a taste...NO WAY was that getting trashed. So I spent 30 minutes picking the bones and retrieving this wonderfully flavored meat that can be used for soups, tacos, tamales...do I hear Banh mi?
After blowing off my cowboy shoot to take on the task, I came up with the plan. I have been reading David Chang's "Momofuku" and I got to the steamed bun chapter & thought that's what I will do, an Asian bun platter. I have never made them or even eaten them but, they sounded very interesting. First thing to do, get the dough started.

I did not however use Chang's recipe, I used one that I had in my file and believe it was based on his. It is similar though & I will try the Momofuku version in the future. Yes, there were some steps involved, rising, dividing, rolling, oiling, folding, rising & steaming. But, when I had my first bite out of that airy and warm bun, I was hooked, it was such a simple thing, but so good. And that was an empty bun, just think what they will be like when I filled them. Things started to fall into place rather nicely. The beef tongue was fabulous and now I know what all the hype is about. It is similar to brisket with solid beef flavor but, the texture is different, less cellular, more dense, better suited to slicing thin like a deli meat but, not necessary for tenderness. A few slices with a smear of a hoisin-like sauce & finished with a little fresh pickled cucumbers. The shredded pork meat was lightly sauteed with olive oil( I wish I had a little lard on hand), and topped with some diced red onion, jalapeno & cilantro relish left-over from tacos last week. I know, not Asian flavors, but I've never been one to be constricted by authenticity. Then, the pheasant breast. This I leaned a little, or maybe a lot Korean. I marinated the breast in a bulgogi mix. It's kind of the Korean version of teryaki, a sweet, soy-based marinade that to me is just intoxicating, usually used on beef but, not today. By the time I got the charcoal lit the sun was setting, and as more often than not, I was grilling by lantern. I placed slices of this gorgeous game bird on hoisin-sauced buns, then topped them with a little kimchi that I made last week. The salty, fermented heat balanced well with the sweet-soy of the pheasant. All in all, I will definitely making these buns again. The possibilities are endless. Oh yeah, what about the stock and the brisket you ask?
 Well, I reduced the stock down to 50%( to reduce space in my freezer), This will be fantastic Vietnamese Pho broth. And I diced a couple of red bliss potatoes, some onion & made a brisket hash which when topped with a poached egg...ah don't get me started on that now!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fermenting with seoul

A few weeks back I was in the Cherry Hill area and stopped at a Korean BBQ joint called Sammy Chons ,that had some good things written about it. I wanted to try their Bulgogi steak sandwich or Koagie. I wimped out and ordered only medium heat when asked by the server. I know that some of the Asian heat levels can get scorching so to be on the safe side and until I know where this particular restaurants levels are, medium is fine. Bulgogi is a sweet-soy marinated beef, usually sliced thin and grilled or seared on a hot griddle or pan. But this place served it in a sub roll ala South Philly style.

 Accompanying it was a side of kimchi and sweet pickled cucumbers. The kimchi was spicy as it usually is and that kicked up my medium heat which definitely needed kicking for sure & the thickly sliced cucumbers were slightly sweet and added a nice textural snap. All in all a very good taste sensation that I have never had in sandwich form before. My only complaint would be that the beef was not as tender as it should of been. I don't think it was rib eye(which is what I make my bulgogi with), maybe it was round or sirloin. it was also cut too thick.
The interesting thing is that I went for the beef and got excited by the cabbage. See it's been awhile since I've made kimchi(many years), and it got me itchin to whip up a batch. I say whip up because I don't make your standard Korean, long-fermented kimchi. What I produce is more of a quick, Asian-marinated cabbage, carrot & daikon salad.  But that suits my tastes better than the traditional spicy, soured version.
This time however, I wanted to try a recipe that uses a quick-ferment of 2-3 days as apposed to many, many months in a clay pot buried in the ground. If I plan it right, it should be ready for my kimchi-devouring brother, who it just so happens is meeting with us for a brew-pub crawling trip in Lancaster. Hopefully a tasty offering in exchange for crashing his fiance's birthday weekend. The recipe I used was close to mine.
The only change I made was to substitute one of the nappa heads for a head of bok choy, some julienned carrots and when it came time to drain the salt water I only put half of it back and replaced the other half with 3 tablespoons each of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar & brown sugar. Also, I did not have any Korean chile powder so I used 2 teaspoons each of sambal sauce, smoked paprika & tiny dried Pequin Chiles. Initially I thought that I went over board with the heat but, as it turns out, it's just right for my tastes. I'll get a few weeks out of this in the fridge if it last that long. The fun will be trying this on as many new foods as I can. My first thoughts go to burgers, tacos, fried rice, hash & eggs. Do I dare kimchi & grits? Hmm...

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Little Southern Comfort

A lot of my cooking is dictated by a craving, something to satisfy myself or maybe to simply make a deposit
in my creative bank account. Either way, it means trying something totally new or pulling out an old favorite that will fulfill said craving while honing my culinary skills. This weekend brought more of a need to experiment with a new procedure than anything else. After record-breaking temperatures on Friday, things changed rapidly, dropping 30 degrees and winds howling at 40-50mph gusts. I thought this would be the perfect time to try out grits in a slow-cooker. A perfect comfort food for a chilly February day off.

For anyone not familiar, grits are a type of corn meal generally made into a breakfast cereal or porage, it's a southern thing. I didn't grow up with them, I didn't even taste them for the first time until just a few years ago, probably at a Cracker Barrel & those memories aside, I didn't give up on this wonderful staple. You see, corn is another one of my favorite ingredients. I absolutely love it, fresh, grilled, popped, in tamales, chowders, polenta. I could go on and on. In fact, I think I could open a restaurant or cafe & call it simply "Kernel". Grits are one of the latest additional to my ingredient palette but, they are escalating up the list fast. Now I'm just  not into them as a breakfast side even if you do blitz em with cheese. No, it's star billing all the way. For breakfast I will lace them with pork, whatever your favorite morning meat happens to be. If I have  some leftover greens hangin around, they'll go in. Season with salt and plenty of cracked pepper, then top with a poached or soft-boiled egg. With this pot in front of me, it's got me looking around for a rainbow. Yeah, I know. This time however, I'm thinking later in the day and a little more coastal, a little more upscale. Shrimp & Grits, a Charlotte, NC favorite and one of mine too. The perfect dish to try out some new grits that were just delivered a couple weeks ago from Anson Mills. This is an heirloom corn & I have been hearing about their products from chefs around the country. They are pricey however, and when you add shipping well, not quite white caviar but, not  even close to that tube of Quaker 5 minute though. Not only do they tax your wallet, they tax your time as well, you see they take at least an hour to cook on the stove top. And that's when they have been soaked overnight. I will try the slow-cooker method, recommended by the Anson web site to be simple and ultimately the best way to go, but it's gonna take over 2 hours, yikes! Which ever brand or method you use, this recipe will turn you into a  grits lover.
Shrimp and Grits... (serves 4-6 as an appetizer)
For the grits:
1 C. grits with enough water as per instructions(according to brand)
1/2 lb. smoked sausage- sliced
5-8 oz. frozen collard greens or spinach
salt & pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsn. butter
For the shrimp:
3/4 lb. 16-20 shrimp- shells removed, devained & seasoned with salt & pepper
1 Tbsn. olive oil
2 cloves garlic- minced
3 scallions- minced, keeping white & green parts separated
1/2 C. tomato- diced
1/4 C. bourbon
1/2 C chicken broth or water
2 Tbsn butter
Assembly:
Cook grits according to directions with sausage & greens. season  & stir in butter. Keep warm while preparing shrimp.
Heat oil in saute pan til med hot. Add shrimp and cook 1-2 minutes each side. Remove from pan & keep warm. Add garlic & scallion whites to pan and Cook for a minute or two then add tomato & cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Add bourbon(be careful over open flames), reduce by half then add chicken broth & reduce till thick, lower heat & add butter & shrimp back to pan & stir until butter is melted. Portion grits into serving bowls, arrange shrimp on top, spoon sauce over & garnish with scallion greens.

As for my expensive, slow-cooking variety...well, the jury is still out. I need to test & taste some more. They were very creamy and had a wonderful corn taste, just don't know if they're Worth the price yet. In the mean time I'll keep an eye out for them at the market, that way I can eliminate the shipping at least.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cooking For Two beats 200

unless of course it's a sweet catering gig. Back in the day, in my restaurant life, it was a toss-up which holiday I hated more, Valentines or Mother's Day. You see, I worked at smaller, fine-dining places with even smaller staffs. It was usually just me
and an assistant chef or cook to bust out 150-250 dinners, everybody wanting that narrow, cherished time-slot between 7-9pm. It was a slam-fest to say the least. A sweat-induced evening full of flying pans, flaming grease & alcohol, impatient servers and cursing dishwashers. On top of that there were Knife cuts, grease burns, oven rack burns and throbbing foot & leg pain to finish off the night. Sounds quite exciting doesn't it. I have to admit every once and a while I'll reminisce on those wacky holiday meals and miss that feeling of accomplishment gained after preparing food for that many people...then the sound of that dupe machine(servers order ticket) rattling away snaps that thought out of me right quick.
Anyway, cooking on Valentines Day is a lot more easy going these days. Usually just a quiet meal with my sweetie.This year, I think it's gonna be pizza. I know, that doesn't sound that romantic but, we both love it. Now I'm not talking about your favorite roof-signed, college student delivered tomato pie, I mean homemade. See  pizza is a passion for me, a work in progress so to speak, kinda like a lot of my favorite foods. Yes I love to play with toppings, different cheese blends, tweaking the sauce. That's all fun, but what really does it for me is the crust. This is the foundation, where it all begins and what I believe can make or break a pizza. Now I've been making my own dough for as long as I've been cooking but, this last year I have been working with a no-knead recipe/technique made popular by Jim Lahey, a bakery/restaurant owner in NYC.
The recipe is quite easy but takes some time to develop.
You need to have some advanced planning but, the flavor
& texture of this dough is one of the best tasting pizza crusts  I have
ever made and it makes a very good loaf of bread as well but that's
another post. This recipe will make make four 12-14" pies. I usually follow it to the letter but, lately I have been drifting slightly a bit & after the initial 12-18 hour rise, I will transfer dough to a floured surface, divide it into my 4 balls and knead it just a little to make it less wet & sticky and thus easier to work with. I will then cover it with a towel or plastic and give it another 3-4 hours to rest/rise before I start to create. As for toppings this time. Well, it is the lovers holiday, so I made my valentine's favorite, Plain and bacon/onion. For me, it was a smoked sausage with potatoes and fresh oregano. This was a last minute choice due to the fact that I didn't find any fresh
clams which was my first choice. Oh well, the potato and sausage was fantastic which I will definitely do again. As to how they were cooked well, I went with the oven apposed to the grill (my favorite way to do pizza) because I wanted to try a new technique(always tweaking) of placing my stone on the top shelf and cranking the broiler setting to high. Surely I was sceptical for this is totally opposite of my normal procedure of cranking the bake setting to 550 degrees(highest it will go) and placing the stone on the lowest shelf. The thinking is that I will get a crispy crust and not burn the top. So, how'd they turn out? very nice. Yes they did burn on the highest shelf. So after I moved it down one level, that worked well. And the best thing was that they cooked in about 4 minutes, the quickest I have ever baked pizza. Then there was the crust, it was crispy but with a soft, airy inside very similar to Indian Naan without the tandoor oven. All in all, a good meal, the Black Chocolate Stout went especially  well with the sausage & potato pie.
With the mercury predicted to hit in the 60's tomorrow, looks like I will be getting back to that grilled pizza sooner than I thought.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Love Is In The Air...

...on the contrary, frozen white particles are in the air,
and to be quite honest as much of a four-season kind of guy that I am, turkey season and an elevated mercury
level cannot come fast enough. But Valentines Day is
just around the corner, so thoughts of chowing down on something very tasty, most likely expensive, sipping a full-bodied Imperial Stout or a luscious Zinfandel all by fire-side is gonna have to keep me going till the spring thaw arrives or at least for a long weekend.
For the stout, my choice, or should I say my sweetie's choice fit the bill perfectly. A full-bodied, dry beer with a finish of dark, high % cacao from Brooklyn Brewery
A sipper for sure with a 10% ABV. Not gonna be knocking back a bunch of these guys. This  Black Chocolate Stout will definitely warm the bones and I wouldn't mind enjoying one with really good bleu cheese.
As for my wine selection, I've chosen a nice fruity red from a relatively new winery in Winslow twp. Sharrot Winery has only been open for few years and seems to be keeping busy making very good wine, winning awards and a constant barrage of tastings. In fact, they are taking part in a Valentines Wine Trail this weekend that  I  am sure will have plenty of  chocolate and wine to taste. This 2007 Chambourcin is a bottle I picked up at one of their summer festivals and has been laying on my rack waiting the perfect time to crack. Ok, I've got my drinks, now I just have to come up with some food to go with them. 
To be continued...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Hello And Welcome

"How To Put Off Writing A Blog". That should have been my title because it has only taken about 18 months since the initial spark of desire to write a a blog til today. Better late than never, as they say...hopefully! Anyway, welcome to my journey down the trail of something totally new and exciting for me and my hope is that along the way, there might be a tidbit or two that you will find interesting, helpful or amusing. I have this incredible passion for all things food related. I would be hard-pressed to pick a favorite food and when asked what my specialty is, it's difficult to answer. I do however, lean toward South East Asian & Spanish cuisines for making my palette really sing.
The past couple of years I have had a fast-growing interest in products produced locally. I particularly enjoy shopping at Farm Markets & especially if they are in the neighborhood. I also hunt & fish and when I am successful, you can't get much more local than that!
And then there is wine & beer. The past 10-15 years has seen an amazing growth in the Wineries of New Jersey. We have close to 35 wineries when it doesn't seem that long ago there were under a dozen. The Brewery & Brewpub scene is not as grand but it is getting better. Being a hobbyist homebrewer, this is close to my heart.
So this is what this blog will be about. I'm gonna have fun, I hope you will enjoy the ride with me.
Thanks for stopping by.