Friday, November 14, 2014

Everyting you need to know about making Thaksgiving dinner in one place

  Set your kitchen timer: Thanksgiving is two weeks from today.
  Dust off the Pilgrim couple salt and pepper shakers, polish the silver and brace yourself for your “favorite” relatives. The day we celebrate in symbolic thanks for the survivors of the Plymouth Rock landing is a day filled with food, family and fun.
  What? You’re stressed? No way!
  I’ve dusted off my “Thanksgiving for Absolute Beginner (Or Woefully Disorganized)” guide in plenty of time to help your through the day. This download includes a shopping list, recipes for an entire meal and even a cue sheet to help you hit the table hot – even you don’t have a 10-burner Wolf cooktop with double ovens.
  Among the recipes is a plan for smoking a turkey breast. I know frying the bird is trendy – but I really love the flavor and the outdoor time I get to spend smoking my bird with a combination of hickory and applewood chips.
  The secret is planning and organizing. Get the shopping done early, prepare mise en place for each course (fancy French term for “everything in its place”), follow the cue sheet and prepare for an easy family meal.
  Take a deep breath, give thanks that you do not have to hunt down and slay your meal and…enjoy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

"Christmas All Through the South" captures the region's seasonal spirit

  Capturing the beauty, nostalgia and heart-felt meaning of Christmas is something Southerners take very personally. It is fitting that the editors of Southern Living would manage to tie it all into one tidy and well wrapped package – a new book entitled,” Christmas All Through the South.” 
  The hefty volume is packed with the big, straightforward photography that Southern Living is known for. The editors embrace tradition – and traditional imagery – to present more than 400 mouth-watering food images, halcyon views of exquisite Southern holiday destinations and photos that may conjure a memory or two of your own Southern Christmas. Savannah’s light-draped Broughton Street – a throwback to old-school downtown decorating – gets a peek – as does the landmark fountain in Forsyth Park. 
  From the lavish dazzle of Asheville’s Biltmore Estate to the simplicity of Lowcountry style, “Christmas All Through the South” inspires with ideas for travel, decorating and, of course, dining and cooking. No Southern Living book would be complete without recipes and menu ideas and these are not overlooked. 
Carrot Cake Pancakes, see
recipe below.
  Dessert ideas to cocktails – or even a full celebratory menu – there are far more than a season’s worth of recipes to entertain with and enjoy. From savory Cumin-Spiced Black Eyed Pea Dip to Spice-Rubbed Turkey Breast, the main dishes and sides include familiar favorites and new takes on classic Southern ingredients. 
  Christmas is not complete without sweets – you’ll find everything from cookies and cakes to a Chocolate Cream Martini recipe. 
  The book is destined to become a holiday tradition – the book you reach for to get “in the spirit” or to spruce up your holiday décor. It’s a book that is filled with ideas; a book that can be practical or just a great read about Southern Christmas tradition. 
  “Christmas All Through the South” is available at many of the major retailers and bookstores. The 400-page volume has a suggested retail price of $40 – but is already deeply discounted. Click to buy Southern Living Christmas All Through The South: Joyful Memories, Timeless Moments, Enduring Traditions on Amazon.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Makes about 24 pancakes • Hands-on 40 min. • Total 50 min., including cream topping

Use the small holes of a box grater to finely grate the carrots by hand; if you use a food processor, the carrots will be too wet, making the pancakes dense and less tender.

13⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
11⁄2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. table salt
2 cups buttermilk
1⁄3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1⁄4 cup butter, melted
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups finely grated carrots (about 1 lb.)
1⁄2 cup chopped toasted pecans
1⁄3 cup chopped golden raisins
Mascarpone Cream
Garnish: carrot curls

1. Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and next 4 ingredients in another bowl. Gradually stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in carrots and next 2 ingredients.
2. Pour about 1⁄4 cup batter for each pancake onto a hot, buttered griddle or large nonstick skillet. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked. Turn and cook 3 to 4 minutes or until done. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet, and keep warm in a 200° oven up to 30 minutes. Serve with Mascarpone Cream.

Note: When using a griddle, heat it to 350°.

Mascarpone Cream
Makes about 21⁄2 cups • Hands-on 10 min. • Total 10 min.

1 (8-oz.) container mascarpone cheese
1⁄4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup whipping cream

1. Whisk together first 3 ingredients in a large bowl just until blended. Beat whipping cream at medium speed with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Fold whipped cream into mascarpone mixture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

If it's Sunday...

  It’s a dish that makes comedians get a laugh. It’s the recipe that every mom knows. It’s the plate full of goodness that epitomizes comfort food.
  It’s – meatloaf!
  Plate a slab of meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans and all seems right with the world. That’s what I did for T.J. and I on the weekend, with what I’m calling “Sunday Afternoon Meatloaf.”
  I adapted an Ina Garten recipe – adding celery and garlic – and bumping up the quantity so we could have leftovers for lunch. Garten’s recipes are always right on the money and yield great results.
  Her addition of chicken broth helps make sure this big ol’ loaf stays moist.
  Hungry? Click here to get the recipe for “Sunday Afternoon Meatloaf.”

Monday, August 25, 2014

Never Say Never: Fruit Beers Seize the Day with Flavor and Refreshment

The more adamantly I proclaim my ambivalence of fruit beers, the more of the labels find a way into my beer fridge.

My public yada-yada and private disdain for fruit-based beers goes back to the early 1990s. It was a time when my favorite beer was Killian’s Red Ale and Bud Light. I was writing about a new brewery, which went out of business nearly as fast as it came into existence. Its very young brewer was launching the venture with a line of fruit beers inspired by similar brews from Germany. The beers were not only way ahead of their time in the U.S. – but also not very good.

Fast forward two decades and my oh my, how the beer landscape has changed. The term “craft beer” flows as easily from the lips of sorority girls as it permeates the vocabulary of bearded hipsters. More breweries than ever dot America’s landscape (3,040 as of July 2014, according to the Brewers Association) and the sheer variety of stylistic expressions (How many way can we make an IPA?) is downright overwhelming. The craft beer revival has spawned growler fill stores and even package shops that specialize ONLY in craft beer, bombers, beers to cellar and one-off specialty brews. No new restaurant concept is complete without at least two dozen taps – or an on-site micro-brewery.

And along the way, fruit beers eased back into my life.

And I embrace them in every form. From the new shandy labels to beers infused with fruit; from Old World fruit ales and tart beers – beer and fruit are uniting in ways that tell me I’m going to get a refreshing, finely crafted beer with every sip.

My favorites? Well, of course! I’m happy to recommend:

Harpoon UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen -- 4.8 ABV

Wheat beer gets a kick in the pants with the addition of tart raspberry. I've been dishing praise on Harpoon lately and its brewer's skill at balancing authentic beer style with addition of fruit-- like raspberry or pumpkin (see the pumpkin ale story here).

Cloudy dark amber color, unfiltered. Crisp and refreshing on the first sip then a kiss of berry teases the mid-palate. Finishes slightly tart.

Blue Point Blueberry Ale -- 4.6 ABV

A delicious batch of golden ale is dosed with 732 pounds of fresh, plump blueberries to create this beer, a year-round best seller for the Patchogue, NY, brewery. Great blueberry aroma rises from the glass and – as should be the case with any fruit beer – there is a spot-on balance of fruit and well-made ale. This is one fruit beer that’s enjoyable enough to uncap more than one in a session. Blue Point was a pioneer in the New York craft beer industry and is a hometown favorite on Long Island. In February, it was announced that Anheuser-Busch bought Bluepoint. At that time, A-B executives did not anticipate any change of staffing or recipes.

RJ Rockers Son of a Peach Hefeweizen – 6 ABV

Family road trips to Florida when I was a kid were ultimately brought to a screeching halt at the first sign of a hand scrawled placard:

“Fresh Georgia Peaches”

Never mind that most Georgia peaches now come from South Carolina. That familiar sweet, sunshine-filled flavor is one that sticks deep into the gray matter. RJ Rockers has captured it in yet another great example of a well-made Hefeweizen that lays the foundation for perfectly balanced fruit flavor. Amber peachy in color with a light head that exudes aromatics. I could drink this beer year round – and am determined to work it into a marinade.

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Peach Wheat Ale – 8 ABV

I grew up nearly in the shadow of Kentucky’s great bourbon distilleries and the familiar smell of mash cooking is nearly as prevalent as the aforementioned allure of fresh peaches. In this beer, Alltech marries sweet, oaky bourbon with the great peach taste to create ale that is as enjoyable and refreshing as it is well-balanced and complex. A hint of bourbon kicks in mid-palate – this is ale with authentic flavors and the trademarks of a master brewer’s touch.

Samuel Smith Strawberry Ale – 5.1 ABV

This is the FIRST fruit beer I fell in love with. I often say that my “recreational” beer drinking relies on Old World labels – and this beer is one reason why. Samuel Smith has been making beer for hundreds of years and knows a thing or two about balance, market appeal and flavor. With an ABV that won’t leave you nodding off and just a hint of deliciously juicy organic strawberry, this is THE fruit beer that I recommend first to anyone wanting to head down to the berry patch. Sam Smith’s masterfully-made ale is the foundation; berries are local and organically certified. Fresh, crisp, clean finish.

Lindeman’s Framboise (2.5 ABV) and St. Louis Framboise (2.8 ABV)

Yeah, that’s two different labels – ‘cause I like ‘em both equally. “Framboise” means made with raspberries – Framboise was inspired by kriek – tart/sour beers made with cherries. Both of these raspberry beers pour with slight effervescent, beautiful berry color and hit the palate with a pleasing, attention getting sour/tart burst of flavor. There’s a tart sweetness as well, but not so much that you can’t pair these with desserts – like flourless chocolate torte.

Liefmans Cuvee-Brut – 6 ABV

Here come the cherries! The foundation of Cuvee-Brut is a blend of Liefmans Oud Bruin and Goudenband from different vintages, and can consist of between 15 and 20 different batches of beers. The blend is dosed with fresh cherries that are macerated for 18 months, bringing out the very best of its intense flavor. Liefmans Cuvée-Brut is a deep reddish-brown color, with a pale head and wood and almond notes. On the palate you  taste the slightly sweet and gently bitter fruit flavors.

Curious Traveler Shandy – 4.4 ABV

If you recall the first shandies that came to market you were right – the best shandy was still the one you made yourself. Somebody wised up and as a result really captured my attention. Traveler Beer Co. makes a couple of shandy labels – but Curious Traveler has my vote. This wheat ale is well made – then given a squirt of citrusy and brisk lemon and lime. It’s perfect sipper on one of our stifling hot days. With the ABV of a good session beer, this Curious Traveler may just put down roots in my beer fridge.

Want to sample fruit beers -- and the growing number of ciders? The Aug. 30 Savannah Craft Brew Fest will feature a dedicated cider garden -- and several of its brewers will be pouring fruit beers. For more info, tickets and participating brewers, visit the fest website,

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Don't Wait for Your 'Great Pumpkin' -- Chuck & Tim Taste Pumpkin Ales

As summer’s cauldron continues to bubble the mercury in Savannah’s thermometers, many brewers are already coming to market with the distinctive flavors found only in the fall seasonal offerings of pumpkin ales.

For nearly three centuries, brewers – especially those in America – have sought out alternative sources of fermentable ingredients. Barley is the preferred choice, but soon corn and rice found places on the grain bill. Assorted fruits were an easy choice. Pumpkin and its inherent starchiness was a natural – especially as a fall beer that more or less mirrors our fondness of pumpkin pie.

Pumpkin ales are often an acquired taste – and not necessarily a beer that you’ll drink in volume. Picking one from the stockist’s shelves can leave a bad taste in your mouth – pun intended. Some drinkers prefer the bold, sweet and spicy pumpkin pie flavors; others want a more subtle, crafted beer with hints of the orange gourd.

Sitting among ales like Linus in “Peanuts” pumpkin patch won’t help you choose. But beer drinking pals Chuck Mobley and Tim Rutherford tag-teamed this feature and took the bullet for you. Read their reviews, and then grab a pumpkin ale that fits your expectations. 

Tim’s Pumpkin Ales

Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale – 6 ABV 
America’s Original Pumpkin Ale was first brewed in 1985 at this Hayward, CA, brewpub and brewery. Made with real pumpkin, it has a golden amber color, and the sweet aroma of pumpkin pie.
Yes Chuck, it is, like the label warns, pumpkin pie in a bottle – if you like your pie watery and a tad sour. I didn’t find much to like about this beer – although I suspect its inherent sweetness and holiday spice will appeal to some. Cloudy roasted pumpkin-orange color; the head – oops, it’s gone – leaving me with a pint glass of something I’d rather swap for a poke in the eye.

Shipyard Brewery Pumpkinhead – 4.5 ABV
There are some great beers coming out of Maine, and this pumpkin entry from Shipyard Brewing Co. in Portland is no exception.
This golden-colored wheat ale has among its malt bill a dose of malted wheat – which shines through the complexity like the North Star pointing the way toward Maine. Yeah, there’s spice and sweetness but the wheat platform seems to be the best foundation upon which to craft pumpkin ale. Pumpkinhead has aromatics that are pleasing, not sickeningly overbearing. Its tolerably low ABV makes it an easy drinker – the beer’s complexity makes it interesting without being such a spiced up seasonal nod to fall. Solid, cream-colored head sustains for a bit and then lingers in a ring around the glass.
Chuck, I know that we both think the wheat style is often overworked. However, the team at Shipyard proves that you can make an appealing beer with weizen at the root.

UFO Pumpkin – 5.9 ABV
If it’s a UFO from Harpoon – then it’s a rich and flavorful unfiltered beer. The brewery’s hazy, amber-colored pumpkin beer is brewed with a mélange of Yankee pumpkins, sweet barley and the delicious variety of Northwestern hops that gives it pleasing bitterness on the finish. Kudos to Harpoon brewers for NOT spicing this beer to the point of cloying sweetness. Still I detected a nostalgic hint of clove – like the Clove Gum of my childhood – that subsided as the ale took hold of my palate. This is genuinely pleasing pumpkin ale – well played!

Cisco Pumple Drumkin – 6 ABV
This Nantucket-based brewery doesn’t get much shelf space in Savannah – or much attention from craft beer drinkers. And, Chuck, I know you weren’t enamored with this pumpkin ale finalist – but I found the earthy, raw pumpkin aroma unusually appealing. Not overly spiced or sweetened. The beer drinks very clean with some hops bite. If you're looking for the hint of fall with a clean finish, this may be the pumpkin ale for you! 

Chuck’s Pumpkin Ales

Southern Tier Pumking – 8.6 ABV
Pumpkin beers go back to the earliest days of America. A circa-1643 New England folk song includes this ditty: “For we can make liquor, to sweeten our lips, of pumpkins and parsnips and walnut-tree chips.” Now, 271 years later, Pumking – an audacious seasonal from Southern Tier – is a sweet, spicy reminder that fall is approaching, even if it will take its time getting to Savannah. In addition to what you’d expect, pumpkin, of course, along with cinnamon and nutmeg, Southern Tier has added a dainty dollop of vanilla. No parsnips here, Tim, just a creamy pumpkin pie that will make you consider adding a chaser of Cool Whip.

Southern Tier Warlock – 8.6 ABV
Warlock, which Southern Tier describes as an “Imperial Stout Brewed with Pumpkins,” reminded me of my first marriage, Tim. I kept taking sips, trying to talk myself into continuing, even when I knew the relationship was going down in flames. There’s no grace, no style here – just dark, dominating malts with faint hues of pumpkin crying out for attention. Warlock is much like a temptress, purring “hey, you loved Pumking, put down a few buck and give this a try.” There will be no second serving of it at the Mobley house.

Shipyard Brewery Smashed Pumpkin – 9 ABV
Tim, I’m going to echo the high praise you gave Shipyard Brewery. Its attention to detail is impressively evident on the back label of Smashed Pumpkin, which lists the inclusion of pale ale, wheat and light Munich malts, along with Willamette and Hallertau hops. The result is refined and refreshing. Light in color, it’s a tad sweeter and less spicy than most of its pumpkin counterparts. Its 9-percent ABV gives it pronounced, pleasing warmth and encourages you to slowly sip it. For me, Tim, this would be the perfect fall dessert beer, a grand companion to a pumpkin or pecan pie.