Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: Scooped: Ice Cream Treats, Cheats and Frozen Eats

  The editors at Southern Living must have recipe-tested this cookbook with smiles on their faces – who can’t be made happy with ice cream?
  For the die-hard home cook, there are plenty of original concoctions: from DIY ice cream to sauces, syrups, crispy toppings and cones. “Tips for Success” offers ideas to help make your homemade experience a winner every time.
  And for you imaginative types, there’s still more! Cleverly designed recipes lead your through building your own ice cream cakes, pies and other spectacular ice cream desserts. If sundaes are your thing, you’ll find a block of ways to turn the ordinary ice cream sundae into a picture perfect and artful dessert treat.
  Many of the recipes call for store-bought ice cream – no ice cream freezer required!
  Don your soda jerk paper hat and tackle some of the selections in “Ice Cream Shake,” where you will find amazing blended recipes for towering glasses of Mississippi Mudslide and fizzy Fruity Ice Cream Floats.
  The more than 100 recipes are presented in a format that is as colorful and happy as ice cream itself. Southern Living delivers great food photography – and Scooped is no exception. Most recipes are depicted so you know how your final results should look.
  Dieting? C’mon, everything in moderation! “Ice Cream Bites” scoops up bite-sized treats like Ice Cream Bourbon Balls and Dipped Ice Cream Whoopie Pies that pop right into your mouth. Just eat one!
  Ice cream maker or ice cream eater – there are dozens of delicious ways to spoon your way through the frosty treats of “Scooped.”
  Click to buy Southern Living Scooped: Ice cream treats, cheats, and frozen eats.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Tequila Tasting Party Ingredients

  You will rarely find a drinker who hasn’t “done a shot of Tequila.” Maybe the experience included the ubiquitous salt and lime – and just maybe it was the beginning of a rip-roaring drunk fueled by too many shots.
  Tequila has made some memories – most of which landed on the calendar during your college days. Regardless, Tequila remains one of the most abused – and misunderstood – fine liquors on the back bar.
  Fine liquor?
  In the global liquor industry, Tequila is very much a hand-crafted spirit that follows the same traditions of harvest and distillation that it has for centuries. Tequila making has fostered similar culture as has Scotch or Bourbon making. Working in the Blue Agave fields dries local economies and gives Mexico an important export.
  It takes a Blue Agave plant 8-10 years to mature. When it has reached maturity, “jimadors” moves quickly from plant to plant, harvesting the 65-135 pound piña – the core ingredients in Tequila.
  The piña hearts are split open and steamed in large pressure cookers. The resulting liquids flow into large steel vats for fermentation, where the process takes from 12 hours to several days, depending on several different factors including the amount of water and sugar in the piñas, the type of yeast used and the ambient temperature.
  It takes about 17 pounds of Agave to produce 1 liter of 100 percent Agave Tequila.

Styles of Tequila

  The resulting Tequilas hit your barkeep’s inventory in three styles:
Blanco or Silver also known as Plata, is the traditional Tequila that started it all. Clear and transparent, fresh from the still Tequila is called Blanco (white or silver) and must be bottled immediately after the distillation process. It has the true bouquet and flavor of the Blue Agave.
Reposado or Rested is Blanco Tequila that has been kept (or rested) in wooden casks or vats called "pipones" from two months to as long as one year. The oak barrels give Reposado a mellowed taste, pleasing bouquet, and its pale color. Reposado keeps the Blue Agave taste and is gentler to the palate.
Añejo or Aged is Blanco Tequila aged in white oak casks for more than one year. The maximum capacity of the casks is 350 liters (92.5 gallons). The amber color and woody flavor are derived from the oak. The oxidation that takes place through the porous wood helps to develop the unique bouquet and taste.
Mezcal is also made from Blue Agave, but unlike the strict guidelines for the three Tequila styles above, Mezcal does not have to be produced from Blue Agave – it can be comprised of other Agave varieties. Additionally, true Mezcal is produced by roasting the Agave, shown at right. This gives Mezcal a smoky flavor with tremendous complexity and variety.

Tasting Tequila

  Tequila marries with other ingredients to make a great cocktail – and we all know what happens when the limes and salt come out. But have you ever tasted Tequila critically – or sipped it with genuine Mexican food?
  I suggest tasting just like I taste Scotch or Bourbon to ascertain character.
  Pour a bit into a white wine glass, swirl, take in a deep noseful of the aroma. Gently inhale a mist of Tequila across your tongue. Hey, this is actually kinda sweet! Let the Tequila slide across your tongue and determine the variety of flavor.
  Now, add just a bit of water – this helps “blow off” some of the alcohol aroma and opens the Tequila for better tasting. Now, take in a bit more and hold it in your mouth before swallowing.
  Yeah, well-made Tequila can be just as enjoyable a sipper as Bourbon or Scotch!

Tequila Tasting Party

  Want to explore Tequila with friends at a tasting? Here are my suggestions for a selection of Tequila and Mezcal to sample:

Get the food recipes here.

Cabo Wabo Tequila Blanco
  Handcrafted from 100-percent Weber’s Blue Agave, Blanco boasts unadulterated agave flavors and a slightly spicy character.
Cabo Wabo Tequila Reposado
  An assertive nose of sweet lime, orange and fresh herbs. Maturation in American oak casks for 4 to 6 months infuses Reposado with a bold peppery flavor and hints of fruit that linger on the palate briefly, followed by a long, spicy finish.
Cabo Wabo Tequila Anejo
  Matured in American oak barrels for 14 months, Añejo presents a full vanilla and caramel nose that quickly gives way to woody notes on the palate complemented by hints of honey and chocolate. A long, delicate finish.
Backstory: Cabo Wabo Tequila was founded by Van Halen rocker Sammy Hagar, who reportedly did his own field research to find just the right producer for his label. The brand exploded, and in 2006 the European liquor giant Campari bought an 80 percent stake in Cabo Wabo for $80 million. In
2010, Hagar and his associates sold Campari the remaining 20 percent stake for $11 million. Hagar retains ownership of the popular Cabo Wabo Cantina restaurants. 
Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila

  Aged Tequila that looks like extremely clear silver Tequila. It is a rare blend of Reposado (aged 15 months), Anejo (aged 24 months) and Extra-Anejo (aged 36 months).
Alipus Mezcal Joven - San Andrés
  Fermented in cypress vats. Complex, rich, intensely floral. Agaves are wood-roasted in conical below-ground ovens, with juice extraction by slow stone-milling. Fermentation takes place with native yeasts in open wooden vats, and is completed by double-distillation in small wood-fired
copper pot stills. The word “joven” means that this is a young Mezcal – un-aged or ages less than two months. There are also Reposado and Anejo Mezcals. Everyone has heard about the
“worm” in tequila. Actually, it is a larva and was included in Mezcal specifically from the state of Oaxaca.
  Keep the samples small, the buffet stocked and don't forget to have fun. Hagar said it best himself: I've been drinking tequila for a long time now, and it's never been about drinking to get drunk. I don't do that. I never drink tequila during the day, and I don't drive at night.”

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Recipe: Rigatoni with Bacon, Tomatoes & Peas

  I'm always on the lookout for a easy to prepare supper for T.J. She works late in her private practice - and I'm the guy putting dinner on the table.
  She brings home the bacon, and I fry it up for one pot meals like Rigatoni with Bacon, Tomatoes and Peas. Note that I recommend using more fresh tomatoes than the recipe calls for - or you can also use canned diced tomatoes.
  I'm wary of "20-minute meals" which can be gimmicky or use too many convenience ingredients. This dish has some great, authentic flavors, can be sized up or down and is a perfect foundation for a meal accompanied by a small salad and buttery garlic bread.
  Click here for the recipe and get your rigatoni on!

Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar brings Leoci's talent to Bay Street

  It’s bright and bustling. The cheerful decor and style stands apart from any other Savannah restaurant and bar. The menu is focused and appetizingly diverse. The knowledgeable servers tackle the menu and wine list professionally and with confidence.
  It’s no less than I would expect from Kimpton Hotels, the San Francisco-based company that has undertaken a $17 million overhaul of the former Mulberry Inn. The nation’s largest boutique hotel company has dubbed its lone coastal Georgia property The Brice, and planted its restaurant brand – Pacci Italian Kitchen + Bar, front and center of its huge investment.
  Kimpton management wisely tapped Chef Roberto Leoci, whose Italian heritage, successful Leoci’s Trattoria and aggressive self-promotion created an instantly recognizable face for Pacci.
  The strategy has paid dividends. Even without Chef Roberto at the helm every evening, locals steeled themselves for the trial of dining downtown – namely parking woes – and have filled Pacci night after night.
  The partnership is more than some extra cash in Leoci’s pocket. Pacci’s salumi boards and menu are filled with Leoci’s-branded products – namely cured meat and pickled veggies. A small cold case offers the products in bulk for diners to use in their home kitchens.
  How was dinner?
  Good, very good.
  Ms. T.J. landed a huge piece of beautifully crispy local flounder on her plate. The bright, white flesh means the fish was fresh and it was perfectly prepared: Pan-seared crisp on the outside, flaky and tender inside. Bright romesco sauce added a layer of flavor and laid the perfect foundation for herb roasted potatoes and big stems of asparagus.
  We began with a salumi board – showcasing Leoci’s duck prosciutto, lamb sausage and Sopressatta. The meats were all spot on delicious – I especially like the hint of clove on the transparente slices of duck prosciutto. Lamb sausage was T.J.’s favorite element. The trio of meats was brought together with grain mustard, a selection of olives and a stubby Mason jar of pickled vegetables.
  My Hunter ravioli, an homage to the grass-fed beef of Hunter Cattle Co., had me excited – until it hit the table. What should have been a showcase for the carefully handmade ravioli had turned into a lesson in overcooking and gluing ravioli together into a doughy mass. The roasted tomato demi-glace and filling was delicious – but the dish fell short of showing the pride I know Leoci has in his authentically crafted pastas.
  Was the dish unappetizing? No, but a diner’s hard-earned money deserves more respect. I believe that a company like Kimpton – and a talent like Leoci’s – should be held to a lofty standard. Too often in this city, diners settle for mediocrity when excellence is such a short additional reach. Fine dining used to be based upon the cuisine. Now, when two entrees, an appetizer and a couple of glasses of wine – with a tip – pushes up against 100 bucks, the formerly causal meal and now becomes a special and pricey dining experience. Pacci has the strategic head start on Chef Hugh Acheson’s Florence, boasts a stable of remarkable kitchen talent and management with cosmopolitan experience – the restaurant should shine very time the doors open.
  It will be interesting to see if James Beard Foundation award winner and author Acheson can hit the mark with his soon-to-open Italian concept at Bull Street and Victory Drive. It is high profile chefs like Acheson and the backing of financiers like Kimpton that can attract visitors with fatter wallets and help propel Savannah’s culinary reputation to the level it deserves. There are several strong players in the city’s restaurant scene who quietly cater to their loyal and appreciative fan base.
  But there is strength in numbers; the more impressive our culinary community – the better for everyone.
  The service was very attentive and I was genuinely impressed with our server’s knowledge of the menu and the small but thorough wine list. I would like to see more Italian wines on the program – there are so many great wines that come through the market that subbing in a few should not be a challenge.
  Overall, I’ll give kudos to Pacci and return – especially to sample its aperitivo menu – happy hour and late night – with $5 cocktails, reduced wine prices and a fun looking little light bites menu.

Pacci Italian Kitchen+ Bar
601 E. Bay St., Savannah, GA 31401
Breakfast/Brunch: Monday-Friday 7-10 a.m.; Friday & Saturday 8-10 a.m.
Dinner: Daily 5-10 p.m.
Pastry/Deli/Grab + Go 7 a..-10 pm.
Aperitivo Hour: Monday-Friday 5-7 p.m. and 9-10 p.m.
Valet parking available

Thursday, June 5, 2014

12 Cool Beers for Summer

We’re back in the saddle – riding a cold beerafrator through the steamy, sweaty streets of Savannah to sample beers and bring you our results. This inaugural reboot tackles a mixed 12-pack that we think will be perfect for summer. Here’s our logic – or BS – on our picks.

Chuck Mobley: As the temperature and humidity rise, I tend to back off the hops and reach for American wheat or Belgian wit beers, styles that are light and smooth, yet flavorful and refreshing. To complete the six-pack, I put in a farmhouse ale, one with American rather than European tones, an amber ale that packs a ton of flavor into just 4.4% ABV, and a San Francisco favorite that was at the very forefront of the craft-beer movement.

Tim Rutherford: I went IPA heavy – the style’s sheer refreshment, bright citrus notes and biting hops hit the spot on a blistering summer day in Savannah. I had to include my East Coast style IPA benchmark – Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA – and well as a pair of Rye IPAs that add a layer of tangy black pepper characteristics. Rounding out my six is a session IPA that delivered huge flavor, a Georgia-made Belgian Style ale and a hard cider – the beverage that is taking the industry by storm.

Chuck’s Summer Six-Pack
Maggie's Peach Farmhouse Ale
Terrapin Brewing Co., Athens, GA
Saison/Farmhouse Ale. ABV – 6%
$8.49 four-pack at Habersham Beverage

Soft, with a slight and stylish note of peach sweetness, Maggie’s brings a calm, peaceful conclusion to a summer evening. It’s certainly not a traditional Saison, and anyone looking for distinctive, pronounced Belgian yeast tones will be disappointed. But, Maggie’s has a certain Southern ambiance, one that takes into consideration our climate and character. If you have a porch, and a rocking chair, this should be in your refrigerator.

Sierra Nevada Kellerweis
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., California and North Carolina
Hefeweizen. ABV – 4.8%
$8.99 six-pack at Habersham Beverage

A true German hefeweizen, Kellerweis is head and shoulders above the typical American wheat beer. It’s full of flavors, particularly the traditional hefeweizen banana and clove elements, and there’s also a light, lemony twist of citrus that leads to a clean, bright, refreshing finish. To get the best experience from each bottle, be sure to read the directions and swirl the final one-third left inside before pouring it into the glass.

Westbrook White Thai
Westbrook Brewing Co., Mount Pleasant, S.C.
Witbier. ABV – 5%
$11.49 six-pack at Habersham Beverage

Bright and refreshing, White Thai features traditional witbier notes – citrus and spice – but from far different sources than its Belgian predecessor. Westbrook pairs lemongrass and ginger root with Sorachi Ace hops, a Japanese strain known for its strong lemon characteristics. The result is a witbier with a racy, fashionable edge to it. Bold, imaginative beers such as this have brought Westbrook, which opened just four years ago, considerable acclaim.

Allagash White
Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, Maine
Witbier. ABV – 5%
$8.79 six-pack at Habersham Beverage

How do you merit a rating of 100 from the Alstrom Brothers of fame – as Allagash White has done? Simple, you produce what is arguably the best American witbier, a clean, light, effervescent beer that’s a perfect partner for a summer day. Allagash White’s Coriander and Curacao orange peel elements are assertive, but not overpowering, and its steady wheat component lends it strength and balance.

Stone Levitation Ale
Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, Calif.
American Amber. ABV – 4.4%
$11.49 six-pack at Habersham Beverage

A gorgeous amber color in the glass, Levitation has the lowest ABV of any beer on this list. But, don’t let that fool you: It’s a sleek, sinewy ale that also delivers enough taste and complexity to have won a gold ribbon at the Great American Beer Festival. Its strength is in its balance, the strong hop notes you expect from Stone, leavened by toasty, herbal malt tones. It would be a mistake to only drink Levitation Ale during the summer.

Anchor Steam
Anchor Brewing Co., San Francisco, Calif.
Common/Steam. ABV – 4.9%
$9.79 six-pack at Habersham Beverage

One of the first American craft beers, Anchor Steam has been a steady presence on store shelves and inside refrigerators for decades. Its dominant caramel-like malt tone is sweetly reminiscent of a German Marzen, but its crisp, clean finish is pleasant and distinctive. With those characteristics, Anchor Steam is a great choice for whatever you’ve got on the grill. 

Tim’s Summer Six-Pack
Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE
India Pale Ale. ABV – 6%
$9.99 six-pack at Kroger, Mall Boulevard

Dogfish Head brewer and founder Sam Caligione’s company slogan is “Off-centered ales for off-centered people.” That may well be the case with some of his over-the-top special formulas, but his 60 Minute IPA is my benchmark for East Coast style IPA. The continuously hopped beer drinks with beautiful balance and perfectly crafted IPA characteristics of citrus, grassiness and, of course, palate-refreshing hoppiness. This crew of Yankees is welcome to cross the Mason-Dixon Line – as long as they have a truckload of 60 Minute IPA!

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale
Terrapin Brewing Co., Athens, GA
American Pale Ale. ABV – 5.5%
$9.99 six-pack at Kroger, Mall Boulevard

Terrapin Rye Pale Ale took a gold medal at the 2002 Great American Beer Festival. That was about the time I spied the cheery banjo-playing turtle on the label – and it’s been a regular guest in my fridge ever since. But there’s much more to this uniquely Southern Pale Ale than its whimsical label. I count on Terrapin Rye Pale Ale to deliver the refreshment I expect from Pale Ale with the unique spiciness that comes from the rye in its grain bill. Five hops and five malts marry amicably in this beer that’s perfect with a burger from the grill – or for sippin’ ‘round the cement pond.

Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA and Asheville, NC
India Pale Ale. ABV – 6.6%
$8.99 six-pack at Kroger, Mall Boulevard

Sierra Nevada founder and brewer Ken Grossman started out as a home-brew shop owner in Chico, Calif. From the beginning, he was a hops head, ultimately driving to Yakima, Wash., to buy better quality hops directly from the farmers. This pioneering craft beer figure produces a great number of excellent beers – Ruthless Rye joins the family as a biting IPA It has all the balance of a great IPA with the black pepper tones that come from its rye grain bill. Rye is a tough grain with a survivor’s instinct. This little bottle of beer is bigger than its package – with a mouthful of fruity citrus and herbal hop character. Ruthless loves to join roasted chicken and salty cheeses, like Asiago, on the table.

Founders All Day IPA
Founders Brewing, Grand Rapids, MI
India Pale Ale. ABV – 4.7%
$10.29 six-pack at Kroger, Mall Boulevard

This stout-looking bottle delivered the biggest flavor of all the IPAs and Pale Ales I tasted for this story. It’s an explosive, palate-blasting mouthful of citrus, hops and resinous tanginess. In 2010, All Day IPA brought home a silver medal from the Great American Beer Festival – a well-deserved honor for the former home brewers who launched Founders Brewing. Bold, supremely refreshing, and, at 4.7 ABV, a true session beer with big ol’ hops. When you’ve gotta smoke that big ol’ Boston Butt for 8 hours, stock up the cooler with All Day IPA.

Three Taverns Single Intent
Three Taverns Craft Brewery, Atlanta, GA
Belgian-style Single. ABV – 5%
$8.49 four-pack at Kroger, Mall Boulevard

I love the first taste of a freshly opened Belgian beer – or a Belgian-style beer handcrafted right here in Georgia. Single Intent pays homage to the Trappist beer style made for in-house consumption, the so-called “patersbier” (Father’s beer). French Strisselspalt hops give it Old World integrity, and the talent of these Georgia brewers gives the beer the complexity, character and enjoyable character that I expect from its Belgian counterpart. Easy drinking, clean finish, palate pleasing complexity.

Angry Orchard Crisp Apple Cider
Boston Beer Co., Cincinnati, OH
Hard Apple Cider. ABV – 5%
$9.99 six-pack at Kroger, Mall Boulevard

The fastest growing category at your beer retailer is – hard cider. The popularity of these generally gluten-free, low ABV beverages has propelled several players into the cider industry, including Boston Beer Co. – the same folks who bring us Samuel Adams beers. This Crisp Apple Cider is the easiest drinking of the Angry Orchard line. It’s juicy like a cold, fresh apple, and mildly sweet. Drink it alone or pair with backyard BBQ fare or spicy foods like Thai or Mexican chow. Careful – hard ciders go down WAAAAY easy!