Monday, September 19, 2016

The Craft Critique: Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy from Traveler Beer Company

While not technically fall, the temperatures are starting to dip, Oktoberfests are being celebrated and almost nightly the smell of a distant bonfire drifts through my open windows. No, fall isn't here just yet, but it's close enough for me! The first of many pumpkin spice lattes has already been enjoyed, my sweatshirt collection is slowly but surely making an appearance into my wardrobe and the chatter of Halloween costumes is filling the air as my kids try to decide what they want to be for trick or treat. Since I had a short day at work yesterday, I decided it would be the perfect time to break open the bottle of Jack-O Traveler Pumpkin Shandy that the good folks at Traveler Beer Company sent me to review.

Traveler Beer Company describes their fall seasonal as :
"Representing the darker side of Shandy, Jack-O Traveler is an alluring wheat beer illuminated by the tastes of fall. It strikes the perfect balance between bright refreshment and seasonal spice. Jack is made with real pumpkin for a delicious dark-hued, Shandy-inspired beer."

Here are my thoughts on this brew.

APPEARANCE: Jack-O Traveler pours a rich burnt orange hue that is deceiving to the eye. The color hints at a heavier drink than is what actually delivered. A large, airy head sat atop the beer that quickly gave way to almost no lacing on the glass.

SMELL: This brew obviously smells reminiscent of a pumpkin pie with a citrusy lemon twist. Notes of traditional pumpkin pie spices shine through-cinnamon and nutmeg make their presence immediately known and dominate the more subtle notes of pumpkin and wheat.

TASTE: In true shandy form, the first taste of this beer was more lemon than anything else. Subsequent swallows were all pumpkin pie flavor with just a hint of the lemon shining through. The flavor of actual pumpkin hides behind the spices instead of being allowed to shine through. While I love pumpkin beers, I found this particular one to be too sweet for my liking.

MOUTHFEEL: I felt that Jack-O Traveler embodied everything a shandy should feel like: light, crisp, medium carbonation. It is a very easy drinking beer. As mentioned above, the color of this beer is deceptive, I was expecting a heavier feel than what was delivered.

OVERALL: Not a bad beer, but not my cup of tea. Some drinkers will love this, some will hate it. But that can be said of every beer. Personally, I fall in the middle of the spectrum. It is not a beer I would go out of my way to track down, but I would certainly not turn it down if another was offered to me. I believe pairing this beer with the proper foods to help cut through its sweetness would have greatly enhanced my enjoyment of it. I would recommend trying it with a rich New York style cheesecake or a baked brie.

For more information about Jack-O Traveler or any of the other shandies offered by the Traveler Beer Company, please visit their website, Facebook page. Twitter feed or Instagram account.

Disclaimer: A sample bottle of Jack-O Traveler was provided to me by Traveler Beer Company in exchange for a review. This free sample in no way influenced my opinion and review of this beer. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Craft Critque: Ayinger Oktober Fest Marzen

Typically, I am not a big proponent of day drinking, especially when I have to go into work in just a few short hours. Today, I made an exception. I have had an extraordinarily productive day thus far, so I decided to treat myself to the sample bottle of Ayinger Oktober Fest Marzen that Merchant du Vin so graciously shared with me. And in true Oktoberfest fashion, I have paired this afternoon's beer with Bavarian pretzel sticks. Yum!

Ayinger describes their fall seasonal as:
Rich, golden color. Slightly sweet, malty nose. Medium to big body and alcohol. Soft dryness from long maturation.

I can't really dispute their description, it is spot on! Here are my insights into this beer.

APPEARANCE: This Oktoberfest brew pours a rich, deep golden honey color. A pour straight down the center of my pilsner resulted in a tall, creamy head that took its sweet old time dissipating. A light amount lacing lingered on the side of the glass.

SMELL: The aroma of Oktober Fest is lightly sweet, yeasty with a hint of nuttiness and toffee and caramel. The more the beer warms, the more caramel notes open up.

TASTE: The first taste of this beer, immediately after it was removed from the refrigerator and
opened was hoppier than I was anticipating from an Oktoberfest. As the beer warms, the hops take a back seat to the malty, bready flavors that emerge. The flavors of caramel and a slight nuttiness are obvious and hints of dark fruit peek through.

MOUTHFEEL: This medium bodied beer is silky smooth and leaves a creamy feel in my mouth. The carbonation is a little on the light side, making this an immensely drinkable brew. There is a slight warmth that comes through on the finish.

OVERALL: I feel that Ayinger Oktober Fest Marzen is an excellent representation of what a Marzen should be. It is an excellent choice for fall drinking for those who do not wish to indulge in pumpkin beers. It's rich and complex without overdoing either attribute. It is very smooth against the palate and immensely drinkable. I can't wait for a crisp Autumn afternoon where I can kick back with a glass of this while I watch football! Food pairings obviously favor traditional Oktoberfest foods such as pretzels, schnitzel, bratwurst, sauerkraut, roasted meats and goulash. If pairing with a dessert, I would suggest a gingerbread inspired dessert or something with a spicy zing to it to balance the rich caramel notes of this beer. 

For more information about Ayinger and their family of beers, please visit their website and Facebook page.  

Disclaimer: A sample bottle of Ayinger Oktober Fest Marzen was provided to me by Merchant du Vin in exchange for a review. This free sample in no way influenced my opinion and review of this beer. 

Vegan Hawaiian meatballs for the slow cooker

Gardein is a sustainable, meatless protein with the taste, texture and nutrition of meat with no cholesterol, less fat and less calories…and no creature had to die in order to produce it. Gardein offers an amazing variety of meatless meals and snacks - good for you and good for the planet. They are completely vegan, made from non-GMO soy and wheat, ancient grains and veggies; gluten-free products are also available. This recipe for meatless Hawaiian meatballs couldn’t be easier – just toss everything into the Crockpot before you go to work and come home to a delicious cruelty-free meal!

Meatless Hawaiian meatballs in the slow cooker 

  • 32 oz. package of Gardein meatless meatballs '
  • 1 small pineapple cut into chunks, or a 13.5 oz can of unsweetened pineapple chunks (set aside the juice) 
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped 
  • 1 cup of brown sugar 
  • 2 Tbsp. cornstarch 
  • 2/3 cup of white vinegar 
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce or coconut amines (available at most health food stores) 

Place meatballs in the Crockpot and top with the red bell pepper and drained pineapple chunks. In a separate bowl, mix the reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and soy sauce or coconut amines. Pour the sauce over the meatball mixture and cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through. Serve over rice or noodles.

Celebrate Oktoberfest 2016 at the Historic Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern

The proprietors of the circa 1790 Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern are ready to tap the kegs, raise their steins and shout "Prost" at the landmark's first-ever Oktoberfest. The time-honored traditions of the largest beer and food festival in the world are coming to the Bergen County gem on Wednesday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 25.

Guests of the event are urged to celebrate for five days in the authentic tented Beer Garden on the outdoor heated patio. Daily Oktoberfest brew specials will be on tap from Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau in Germany to Brooklyn Brewery in New York. Visitors can feast on a full menu of traditional German fare, such as Bier Cheddar Soup, Bratwurst Bretzelbrötchen (Grilled Bratwurst, Whole Grain Mustard, Golden Dijon and Scallion Relish, Pretzel Roll, House Cut Fries) and Black Forest Kekse. View full German Menu located HERE. Did someone say Oompah band? Dale Stroever of Channel Three Music and his group will be playing traditional and popular German tunes from 7-10pm on Saturday, Sept. 24. The festivities will also include Oktoberfest 2016 commemorative t-shirts and Ho-Ho-Kus Inn glass steins for sale.

Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern's Oktoberfest 2016 Schedule
Wednesday, Sept. 21, 4-8pm 

  • Brooklyn Brewery, NY "Oktoberfest" & "Pumpkin" 

Thursday, Sept. 22, 4-8pm 

  • Sam Adams Brewery, MA "Oktoberfest" 
  • Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, CA "Oktoberfest" 
  • New Belgium Brewing Company, CO "Pumpkick" 

Friday, Sept. 23, 4-10pm 

  • Dale Stroever and his Oompah Band 
  • Flying Dog Brewery, MD "Dogtoberfest Marzen" & "The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale" 

Saturday, Sept. 24, noon-10pm 

  • Spaten-Franziskaner-Brau, Germany "Oktoberfest" 
  • Beck's Brewery, Germany "Oktoberfest" 
  • Goose Island Brewery, IL "Oktoberfest" 
  • Live Oompah Band: 7-10pm 

Sunday, Sept. 25, noon-8pm 

  • Brunch: 11am-3pm 
  • A la Carte: Tavern Menu and Oktoberfest Menu available 
  • Breweries TBA 

Brewery reps will be on hand throughout the festival to answer questions and provide special giveaways. No reservations required. See full details on the Oktoberfest 2016 event page.

About Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern
The perfect setting for casual get-togethers with family and friends, a great date night, or custom private events -- such as bridal or baby showers, wedding weekend brunch or other special occasions -- Ho-Ho-Kus Inn & Tavern was constructed in 1796 by Andrew Zabriskie as a home for his son. It was once used as a parsonage and first became a tavern in 1890. Fully restored in 2009 following a $1.5+M renovation overseen by current proprietors Gordon and Laurie Hamm, it continues its legacy as a beloved local landmark and culinary institution, now featuring contemporary American tavern fare highlighting locally sourced and seasonally sustainable ingredients. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Inn is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Introducing Apothic Inferno: Wine with a Whiskey Soul

Emerging from the Flames of a Time-Honored Craft, Apothic Introduces a Small-Batch, Limited Release Red Blend, Aged in Whiskey Barrels

A pioneer in creating innovative blends that push the envelope of what is expected from a wine, Apothic takes its fans on a new journey to experience wine in a whole new way. By combining years of wine-making knowledge and expertise with innovative techniques inspired by the time-honored craft of whiskey-making, Apothic is bringing a masterful and unexpected taste experience to wine and whiskey fans alike with its new, small-batch, limited release red blend, Apothic Inferno.

Aged in charred, white oak whiskey barrels for 60 days, Apothic Inferno blends the red and dark fruit flavors of its wine with layers of maple and spice, giving way to a long, clean finish. "The result is a wine with rich flavor and distinctive attitude," says Apothic Winemaker, Debbie Juergenson. "It may not have whiskey in it, but it's wine with a whiskey soul."

Crafted in California, each batch of Apothic Inferno undergoes a time-intensive, barrel-aging process. The unique character and flavor profiles offer wine enthusiasts the opportunity to discover a bold, new experience. The barrels – cut, shaped, and bound by steel before being charred with flames – were first used to age whiskey for years prior to becoming the home of Apothic's new red blend.

"Those who have come to love Apothic know that we're always looking to defy convention with unique blends and bold flavors. Apothic Inferno brings a rebellious attitude to the wine category – even the label's dark colors and intertwined graphics elicit a fiery style, the perfect addition to our portfolio. ~Christine Jagher, Marketing Director for Apothic Wines. 

Apothic Inferno is available on shelves wherever wine is sold, nationwide, for a limited time with a suggested retail price of $16.99. The wine has an ABV of 15.9% and is offered in 750ml bottles. To learn more about Apothic Wines and where to buy, visit or Apothic's social channels.

When enjoying Apothic Inferno, please drink responsibly.

Apothic is a true original. Named for the mysterious place, Apotheca, where vintners stored their most coveted concoctions in 13th century Europe, Apothic blends fuse Old World intrigue with modern sophistication. Winemaker Debbie Juergenson lets the character and flavor of each varietal guide the shape of her wines. In addition to the two bold wines that started it all – Apothic Red and Apothic White – Debbie offers a selection of distinct red blends, Apothic Crush and Apothic Dark, and limited release blends.

The Craft Critique: Pumpkin Ale from Rivertown Brewing

Autumn is hands down my favorite time of the year. I love everything about it-the colors, the scents, the chill in the air. I especially love the scents and flavors that autumn bestows upon us. This time of year is a time for pumpkins and spices and nuts. Heartier, stronger flavors once again re-enter our foods. This is especially true of autumn beers. Rivertown Brewing, a Cincinnati based brewer, has released its seasonal flavors, much to my delight, and I immediately snatched up a bottle of their Pumpkin Ale. Here are my interpretations of this beer:

Appearance-The appearance of Rivertown's Pumpkin Ale is a dark orange hue, bordering on amber. It offers very little head and almost no lacing.

Smell-This brew smells of pumpkin, spices and a mellow creamy maltiness. It is rich, yeasty and on the sweet side.

Taste-This beer tastes crisp and clean from the start with an upfront hoppiness that fades to a spicy middle and a light hoppy, pumpkin finish. The overall flavor of this pumpkin ale improves as it warms, allowing the spices to come to the front.

Mouthfeel-Rivertown's Pumpkin Ale offers a light to medium body that goes down easy. I feel that it has the perfect amount of carbonation to complement the flavors and feel of this beer. It leaves a slight tingle on the tongue.

Overall Impression-This beer is very easy to drink and is reminiscent of a liquid pumpkin pie without losing its beer appeal. Some brews of this genre try too hard to be pumpkiny or spicy, but Rivertown got it just right. Of the autumn beers I have tried thus far, this is hands down my favorite. Obvious food pairings for this beer would include poultry and heavier holiday inspired desserts. For more information about Rivertown Brewing and their beers, please visit their websiteFacebook page or Twitter feed.

Pumpkin chia seed pancakes recipe

Every once in awhile I stumble across a recipe so unique that I absolutely have to share with our readers. These pumpkin chia seed pancakes from Nestle is one of those recipes. Not only are these pancakes delicious, they give a great nutritional boost, as well! 
·        2 cups all-purpose flour or white whole-wheat flour 
·        1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 
·        1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (optional) 
·        1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
·        1/2 teaspoon salt 
·        2 cups lowfat buttermilk 
·        2 large eggs 
·        1/2 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin 
·        2 tablespoons honey, granulated sugar or packed brown sugar 
·        3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled 
·        2 tablespoons Chia seeds , plus more for garnish 
·        Nonstick cooking spray 
·        Pure maple syrup 
COMBINE flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in large bowl.
WHISK together buttermilk, eggs, pumpkin, honey and butter in large bowl. Add to flour mixture; stir until combined. Do not over mix. Let batter sit for 10 minutes; stir in chia seeds.
SPRAY griddle or a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat. Pour ¼ cup batter for each pancake into skillet and cook for about 2 minutes or until edges are set and look dry. Flip over and cook for an additional 2 minutes or until golden brown. Top with syrup and additional chia seeds.

~Recipe and image provided by Nestle, used with permission~

Tomato jam recipe

This recipe for tomato jam may sound unusual, but trust me, it is scrumptious! It pairs especially well with turkey in a sandwich, but I have faith you guys can find many uses for it in your own kitchens!


  • 4 pounds Roma tomatoes 
  • 1/2-3/4 cup sugar (to taste) 
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper 
  • 1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika 

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, prepare an ice bath. Score the end of each tomato with a small “x”. Once water is boiling, plunge 3-4 tomatoes in it at a time for about a minute then immediately transfer to the ice bath. Peel the skin off of each batch before repeating the process until all of your tomatoes have been boiled and skinned. Once all tomatoes are done, cut them in half and remove their seeds then chop. Place all chopped tomatoes in a pot with the sugar, stirring to evenly coat. Allow them to sit for 10-15 minutes before proceeding. Turn stove to medium high heat and cook tomatoes until they come to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally so they do not stick or burn. Add the seasonings, stir well and cook 10-15 more minutes, until thickened. Allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container and refrigerating. Can be kept covered and refrigerated for up to one week.

Heirloom tomato pie recipe

One of the many reasons why I enjoy cooking with tomatoes so much is their versatility. They can be served fresh, canned, dried or cooked into recipes. Sauces, marinades, entrees, appetizers, desserts-there is no limit to how you can use these gifts from nature! I originally made this tomato pie while working as a sous chef at a local cafe and it has now become a staple for my catering clients. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

  • 1 pie crust, can be ready made or from scratch 
  • 4-6 medium sized heirloom tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices 
  • 1/2 cup shredded asiago cheese 
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, cubed 
  • 4 leaves of fresh basil, cut into thin strips 
  • drizzle olive oil 
  • salt and pepper to taste 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle asiago cheese in the bottom of the pie crust then add cubed mozzarella. Top with 3/4 of the basil strips and layer the tomato slices on top the cheese, covering it completely. Drizzle with olive oil then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the crust is golden and the cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before cutting and serving. Garnish with remaining basil, if desired. Serve warm.

Tomatoes Are Rich In More Than Just Great Flavor

Tomatoes are an edible fruit that hail from the nightshade family. Yes-I said fruit. As in not vegetable. Botanically, the tomato is a fruit, while for culinary purposes it is treated as a vegetable. Although the tomato plant originated in the South American Andes, its use as a food crop dates back to at least 500BC in southern Mexico. It continued to spread throughout the world after the Spanish colonization of the Americas. The word tomato comes from the Nahuatl word “tomatotl” and first appeared in print usage in 1595. The earliest discovered cookbook that includes recipes for using tomatoes dates back to 1692 and came from Naples.

While tomatoes were a popular plant for ornamental uses in Europe, they were not eaten for centuries because the mistaken belief that they were poisonous. They were also once believed to be a new form of eggplant. Once the fruit of the tomato plant was determined to be safe for human consumption, Italy began to develop many unique varieties to be used in sauces, pizza and for drying. There are approximately 7,500 varieties of tomatoes being grown for various purposes worldwide. While tomatoes are synonymous with Italian cuisine, China is actually the largest producer of commercial tomatoes in the world. Major producers in the United States include Florida and California and it has become one of the most common garden fruit grown in the country.

The fruit of the tomato is as versatile as it is colorful. Ripened fruit come in a wondrous variety of color, including red, yellow, orange, pink, purple, green, black, white and bi-colors, each possessing its own unique texture and flavor. Home grown tomatoes are chosen for flavor above all else while commercially grown fruit are chosen for uniform shape and size, disease and pest resistance and the ability to ripen after harvest. There are two main types of tomato plants: determinate and indeterminate. A determinate tomato bush tops off at a specific height and produces a full crop at one time. It is the preferred type of plant for commercial growers and home canners. Indeterminate tomatoes develop vines that do not stop growing and continue to produce fruit until the plant is killed off by frost. This is the preferred type for home growers and farmers who wish to sell their produce at farmers markets for an entire season.

Unfortunately, not all tomatoes are created equally. Those grown by commercial farmers are harvested before they have ripened on the vine. Ethylene gas is used to ripen them artificially, resulting in a fruit that has a longer shelf life but less flavor and a mealy texture. Tomatoes picked at the peak of the season tend to have both the best flavor and texture. Tomatoes should be stored, unwashed, at room temperature. Avoid direct sunlight and place them stem down to slow rot. Tomatoes should not be stored in the refrigerator if at all possible, as this leads flavor loss.
Unripened tomatoes should be stored in a paper bag to speed the ripening process. The benefits of a diet rich in tomatoes has been well documented. Most notable is the fruit’s abundance of lycopene, one of the world’s most powerful natural anti-oxidants. Benefits of a diet rich in lycopene include:

  • Decreased risk of prostate cancer 
  • Decreased risk of breast cancer 
  • Decreased risk of head and neck cancer 
  • Skin is better able to protect against UV rays 
  • Protection against neuro-degenerative disease 
  • Decreased symptoms from urinary tract infections 
  • Reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in type 2 diabetics

Tomatoes are also a good source of potassium, folic acid, vitamins A, C, E, K and B6 as well as thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous and copper. The benefits of these nutrients are numerous and include stronger bones and the ability for them to repair themselves after being damaged, improving vision, prevention of night blindness, reduction in the risk of macular degeneration, prevention of kidney and gall stones, a decrease in inflammation and allergic reactions and a boost in weight loss hormones. As if that wasn't enough, tomatoes are also low in sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and calories.

If you are looking for some inspiring recipes to help you add more of this amazing fruit to your diet, consider trying any (or all) of our enticing tomato recipes!

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Baked apple chips recipe

Chips are a convenient snack after school lets out, while watching a movie or before heading to bed. Problem is, they are filled with salt and preservatives and provide little to no nutritional benefits. The next time you feel the urge to snack coming on, make a batch of these apple chips instead and enjoy the flavor of fall and while enjoying the health benefits of eating an apple.

  • 1 cup water 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 2 large apples 
Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Set a wire cooling rack over top a baking sheet lined with foil. Lightly spray rack with non-stick spray. Mix water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes, until mixture is syrupy in consistency. While sugar water is cooking, core and quarter apples (do not peel). Cut each quarter into thin slices and place in a large metal (or heavy glass) bowl. Toss apples in syrup until well coated. Place slices close together on rack, making sure to not overlap. Replace foil as it becomes coated with syrup. Bake for 2 1/2 hours. Upon removing from oven, loosen chips and allow them to cool completely on the rack. Store in an airtight container.

Cook's Notes-You can easily change up the flavor of your chips by using different types of apples and using less sugar in the recipe. For an added boost, sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, allspice. apple pie spice or ginger to perk them up a bit.

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Food trends Autumn 2016

The food industry is known for its ever-evolving trends. What’s hot today may be tomorrow’s old news. Here are some of this season’s top food trends:

·        Canned Wine-American wine drinkers are becoming a younger, hipper, more active group and winemakers are taking heed. Wine is now being offered in aluminum cans, making it more portable and fitting for more active lifestyles. Check out MANCAN Wines, one of the industry leaders in canned wine.
·        Waste Based Cooking-Over 70 billion pounds of food go to waste yearly. Chef and home cooks alike are looking for ways to utilize scraps, unused food or items considered less than ideal for retail settings.
·        Fermented Foods/Probiotics-While these have been trending for awhile, interest in fermented foods and probiotics  continue to grow as we look to improve our gut health.
·        Crackers-Innovative new ingredients and flavor profiles are elevating crackers to a whole new level of snacking. Partners Crackers is offering sprouted lentil and ancient grain varieties while Simple & Crisp offer dried fruit crackers.
·        Ethnic Foods of Tropical Origins-Hawaiian, Malaysian and Filipino foods are all hot right now. Recipes featuring garlic, chilies, pineapple, soy sauce, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, turmeric and citrus are all the rage for diners looking for bold, distinct flavors.
·        Clean Labels-More and more consumers are reading their food labels in a quest for simpler ingredients and fewer artificial additives.
Locally Sourced Ingredients-Many consumers are looking to spend their dollars with restaurateurs who buy their ingredients-from meats to produce-from local purveyors. 

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Clif Bar & Company Creates New Kid-Friendly ZBar

Emeryville CA based Clif Bar & Co has announced the creation of their new Clif Kid Zbar Fruit & Veggie, the latest in their “Z” line of products. This new bar, created for kids, is made with whole grains, vegetable powders and a blend of pureed fruit. These bars are certified organic and contain no genetically modified organisms, high- fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or synthetic preservatives. The bars will be available in three flavors:
  • Orange, featuring carrot, mango and orange
  • Keen Green, featuring apple, sweet potato and spinach
  • Purple Power, featuring sweet potato, beet and berries
The new bars are available for purchase wherever Clif products are currently sold and on their website. 

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Monday, September 12, 2016

Try this unique apple and pecan tortellini recipe for your autumn dining

If you are looking for a unique take on a traditional Italian comfort food, this Autumn inspired recipe wins hands down! Cheesy, comforting tortellini is turned into something truly fabulous when paired with two great flavors of fall: apples and pecans.

  • 1 pound cheese tortellini, you can use fresh or frozen
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1/2 cup roasted pecans, roughly chopped 
  • 1 medium to large size Gala apple, cut into matchstick pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped 
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Following the directions on the package, cook the pasta. Heat olive oil in a medium size skillet over medium heat, add pecans and cook until lightly toasted. Stir often to prevent scorching. Stir in apple, parsley, salt and pepper and stir until everything is lightly coated and well mixed. Spoon over the tortellini and sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve immediately.

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The Craft Critique: Oktoberfest Marzen from Left Hand Brewing Company

What better way to kick off the first day of Autumn than with a delicious Oktoberfest style brew? I have been sampling a number of both Oktoberfests and pumpkins this past week, all in the name of research I swear, and decided today was the day to roll with my first Oktoberfest review. Today's review centers on the brew I am currently enjoying, Left Hand Brewing Company's Oktoberfest.

Left Hand offers us this description of their seasonal brew:

"This is no festivus for the restuvus – on the contrary – we start brewing in the Spring and it takes a full two months to reach lagered perfection. Biscuity, malty goodness dominates upfront while the noble pedigree hops lend a properly spicy, dry finish. Zicke zacke, zicke zacke, hoi, hoi, hoi. Time to roast your chicken and upend your stein before the air gets crisp, the leaves flame and fall and the skies fade to black. Auf geht’s!"

If that entertaining description doesn't get your attention, the totally rad art on the label certainly will! I have to admit, that is what initially drew me to this brew-the bright blue and white label featuring an insane looking sabertooth(?) cat. It is so far out of the norm for this style of beer, I knew that I had to try it. As for the beer, it is every bit as awesome as its label. Here are my interpretations of Left Hand Brewing Company's Oktoberfest Marzen Lager.

Appearance Oktoberfest Marzen Lager pours to a beautiful hue of copper that is topped with a smallish, but ample, tan head that likes to linger for a bit before melting away to a scant bit of laciness. I don't say this very often about a beer, but this truly is a beautiful pour. 

Smell I didn't notice much smell coming off of this beer after I poured it, but after letting it open up for a bit, I noticed a bit of malt, yeasty baked bread and a hint of toffee. 

Taste The taste of Oktoberfest is more up front and in your face than its aroma, but I still found it to be a subtler mix of bread, malts and a hint of caramel. The finish of this beer is where it truly excelled with flavor for me-more bread, a delicious spiciness and a touch of hoppy bitterness. None of the flavors overpowered another and I felt that blended together deliciously.

Mouthfeel This beer felt "just right" on my tongue, it wasn't too heavy nor too light. Instead, it fits well with the well balanced aromas and flavors mentioned above and it goes down smooth. The finish is a bit dry and the spiciness likes to linger long after the beer is gone. 

Overall Impression I can't say that left Hand Brewing's Oktoberfest is my favorite of this style of beer, but it definitely in my top 3. I found it to be very well balanced in every way. If you are new to the world of Oktoberfest, this beer is a bit heavier than many of its style, but I think that is part of what makes it stand out so strongly to me. Oktoberfest is obviously brewed with the annual German celebration in mind, and it would pair well with roast chicken, pretzels with whole grain mustard, sauerkraut and schnitzel. If you enjoy cooking, I would highly recommend working this brew into some of your fall recipes for a deeper flavor profile.

For more information about Left Hand Brewing Company, please visit their websiteTwitterInstagram or Facebook.

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The Craft Critique: Southern Tier Brewing Company's Warlock

To kick off pumpkin beer season, I wanted to start off with a bang and chose Warlock by Southern Tier Brewing Company as my inaugural pumpkin beer review. While Southern Tier's Pumking is believed by many to be the best of the best of pumpkin beers, I personally find Warlock to be a much more delicious brew. Warlock is an Imperial stout and a part of STBC's Blackwater Series. According to Southern Tier,

"Warlock is brewed to enchant your palate on its own and also to counterpoint our Imperial Ale, Pumking. Make your own black magic by carefully pouring this Imperial Stout into a goblet.   Dark and mysterious, the Blackwater Series is serious about high gravity. Reanimate your senses with Warlock’s huge roasted malt character, moderate carbonation and spicy pumpkin pie aroma"

Appearance Warlock pours dark and inky with subtle ruby highlights when held to light. In my opinion, it is the exact colors one hopes to find in a beer brewed in this style and for this time of year. The dark inky liquid is topped by a rather smallish tan head that quickly gives way to the minimalist amount of lacing. This brew may look a little on the thin side when compared to other Imperial stouts, but believe me, looks are deceiving!

Smell The aroma of Warlock is about as big as you can get from a pumpkin beer. It smells like a heavily spiced pumpkin pie with notes of gingerbread mixed in and a brown sugary finish. Hints of chocolate and roasted coffee can be found, but they are well hidden among the scent that virtually screams "fall has arrived".

Taste Warlock tastes almost exactly like its smells, but not nearly as over the top. The flavors of this brew are a lot more balanced than are scents. Don't get me wrong, this beer is very pumpkin pie and spice forward, but being an Imperial stout, that flavor is mingled with dark chocolate, coffee and a lingering bitter finish. It may sound like a mess on the tongue, but it really works well. 

Mouthfeel As I stated before, Warlock may look thin for an Imperial Stout, but this is where its looks deceive the eyes. It goes down smooth, thick and the tiniest bit chewy with what I feel is the perfect amount of carbonation, neither too light that it goes flat as it warms nor so bubbly it tickles your nose as you partake. For a 10% ABV brew, there is no alcohol burn while drinking this beer, which makes it immensely easy to drink. 

Overall I am a fan of pumpkin beers, and to date, Southern Tier's Warlock is hands down my favorite. It is deep, dark, bold and very flavorful. If you don't like the flavor of pumpkin or do not enjoy Imperial stouts, this is not the beer for you. You will most likely find this to be an overpowering mess. However, if you have adventurous taste buds and enjoy heavier style beers, this may very well become your go-to Autumnal brew. Warlock is best served between 40-45 degrees F from a goblet. When pairing food with Warlock, I highly recommend serving pulled pork, spicy wings, smoked brisket, cheesecake, white chocolate mousse or with vanilla bean ice cream as a float.

For more information about Southern Tier Brewing Company, please visit their websiteTwitter or Facebook.

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REVOLT WINE CO launches new wine company in San Diego, CA

After years of study in the wine industry, entrepreneur and current San Diego resident, Heather Hudson has launched a new wine label entitled, REVOLT WINE CO, consisting of three distinct wines including: CA Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Moscato.

REVOLT WINE CO is more than a wine label, it is a brand that details the unique connections and culture that drinking wine with others creates. Hudson elaborates:

"I suddenly realized it's not just about what's in the bottle, it's about the people you share it with and the memories you create." 

Taking it one more step further, Hudson connects her wine label with music to add to that special experience. Having worked with musicians such as Atlas Genius, Pepper, Less Than Jake, Yellowcard, Cartel, and The Spill Canvas on a previous label (WTF-Wine That's Fun), Hudson is thrilled to explore the connection of wine and music even more in the coming months. Hudson continues, "The way that people are entranced by music, the way it captures a whole group, the fact that one band of people have the power to share their gift and create something so moving and inspiring is incredible to me." With a slew of events and partnerships in the works, REVOLT WINE CO plans to make its wine the preferred drink choice for musicians and the music industry.

As young entrepreneurs with tenacious attitudes, Hudson and her husband are setting out to shake up the wine industry. They source their juice from suppliers all across CA and have built an incredible team in Napa to help bottle and produce their wines. Hudson continues:

"When working with our team to create our wines, I wanted to be sure that these wines are very drinkable and defy tradition. You don't need to save our wines for 3 years until they're ready to drink, you don't need a big meal to pair them with and you don't need to wait until 5pm to start drinking! We've made all of our wines so they really fit with every occasion. You can have a glass while you're getting ready to go out, a glass with dinner and a glass as you rock out to your favorite band at a concert."

Unlike most CA Chardonnays, which are buttery and oaky, their Chardonnay is very light and crisp because it is aged in stainless steel barrels so it stays nice, light and refreshing with crisp flavors of green apple and lemon. The Cabernet is true to the profile of a CA Cab and has big flavors of cherry, oak and vanilla with a nice smooth finish. It is not an over the top, bold cabernet that you need to lay down for a few years until it's ready to drink, but rather just the right blend that one could crack it open and enjoy right away. The Moscato is a sweeter wine with a nice light flavor of peach and pear, but not too sweet with a nice and light flavor with a little sparkle. The little effervescence helps clean the palate and makes you want another sip.

More Information about REVOLT WINE CO:
The name REVOLT WINE CO couldn't be more fitting for where Hudson is today and the journey she and her husband have made. They are founded on the idea of REVOLTING against anything holding you back. Expressing yourself. Seizing the moment. Living on the edge. Having no regrets. Taking time to enjoy the music. Moving forward in the direction of your dreams. And living the life you've always imaged. REVOLT WINE CO. brings those connections through drinking wine and listening to your favorite artist, bringing consumers back to the nostalgic moments a song can bring, and the feeling of togetherness. It's that exact feeling and message that REVOLT WINE CO is trying to share. She elaborates, "Music has the ability to make you feel and forget all at the same time. And it's the very same thing with wine! So it seemed like a natural fit to combine my two passions into one. Wine and music have the same ability to take you back to a moment and reflect on how you felt and who you were with. They have the power to inspire and give hope. It's that exact feeling and message that I'm trying to bottle and share with the world."

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50 West Brewing Company now accepting signups for fall volleyball league

If you live in the greater Cincinnati area and love playing volleyball, head over to the 50 West website and sign up for their fall volleyball league today! All games will take place at their new production facility located at 7605 Wooster Pike in Cincinnati. The leagues are co-ed and each session runs eight weeks. All games are played to 21 points and the winning team must win by two points, best two out of three. Every team is guaranteed five matches and tournament play. Prizes will be handed out for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place teams.

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Twinings introduces three new Earl Grey blends

Tea drinkers rejoice! Twinings is introducing three new Earl Grey black tea blends: Extra Bold, Jasmine and Lavender.
  • Earl Grey Extra Bold is described as a modern twist to a classic tea, adding more exquisite flavor to create a tea with a rich, vibrant taste. 
  • Earl Grey Jasmine is described as possessing an intoxicating aroma and slightly sweet taste that will lighten the day.
  • Earl Grey Lavender is described as having a fresh, floral aroma with a soothing taste that helps to calm and sooth.
All three varieties are available on the Twinings website and in stores.

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What makes cold brew coffee different from other cold coffees?

It’s been a hot summer all around the country. And when it’s hot, not everyone is fanatical about coffee and living the perk life as I am. Some want that hot coffee cooled off. Thus, iced coffee has always been an option. But, lately it seems cold brew is trying to surpass iced coffee as the cool kid on the caffeinated block.

So, what is the difference between iced coffee and cold brewed coffee? Iced coffee is, as the name says, hot brewed (regularly brewed) coffee put and chilled over ice. Meanwhile cold brew is coffee that is brewed cold and never heated. And that’s the big difference.

The heat brewing process, a time honored and delicious method, does change the chemistry and flavor of the bean/grounds. Because the grounded up coffee are never hit with high heat temperatures, there’s less acids released and thus, cold brew coffee has a smooth, less acidic taste. It’s especially good for those who enjoy coffee but often struggle with stomach and digestion issues as a result of too much coffee. Also, by quickly chilling your coffee over ice, that actually waters down the flavor and decreases the caffeine from iced coffee. Cold brewed coffee has a high bean-to-water ratio and is much stronger and more caffeinated. Plus it’s a nice treat on hot summer days.

While cold brew is available at most coffeehouses and is even being hyped by national chains like Dunkin Donuts, the cold brew process can be done at home with no special machines or equipment. In fact, you don’t need a coffee maker at all to cold brew. You do, however, need patience as the process is long – twelve hours long. Here’s how cold brewing at home works:

Grind your favorite coffee bean (it matters not the roast level) to a slight coarse level, very gently grind it so that it’s at the texture of bread crumbs. A ratio of 1:8 coffee-to-water mixture is ideal, so base the amount of coffee used to how much cold brew you intend to make. In a mason jar, or easy-to-seal container, add the coarsely ground coffee and add the appropriate level of water. Stir briskly, and then seal and let sit for 12 hours. It’s best to store it in the refrigerator, but it can also be stored at room temperature.

Once the mixture is properly seeped, it’s time to filter it out. Take the mixture and using a coffee filter, or a kitchen sieve, and empty into a bowl or another container. The large grounds should filter out. Remove the filter and the grounds (remember they make for great compost), and then filter back into the mason jar or container. Check the mixture for any more grounds, residue or for a murky/thick texture. If there is, filter again the same way. Once all grounds are removed, you have a delicious, ready-to-drink cold brewed coffee.

You can serve over ice (but remember that waters it down technically) or serve as is. Flavor with cream or sugar or drink black. Cold brew coffee tends to blend well with flavored creamers and that also helps to keep it cold. Cold brewing at home is a trial and error process. Remember to just barely grind the beans. The coarser, the better for a delicious cold brew coffee.

This article was submitted by Jimmy Dinsmore, founder of The Perk Life. For more coffee related news, recipes and more, please follow him on Facebook and Twitter

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Butternut squash and Granny Smith apple soup recipe

If you are wanting to add some variety to your Autumnal dining, this butternut squash and Granny Smith apple soup is a great recipe to try out! I used to make this soup at a local restaurant where I worked and everyone loved the fresh flavor that came from using produce at its peak.

  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 4 cups white or yellow onion, chopped 
  • 2 tablespoons mild curry powder 
  • 5 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed 
  • 2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, seeded and cubed 
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt 
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper 
  • 2 cups apple cider 
  • 2 cups water 
Heat butter, oil, onion and curry powder over low heat and cook 20 minutes, until onions are tender. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Add squash, apple, salt, pepper and water and turn heat up and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over low heat for 40-45 minutes, until the squash and apples are very soft. Use an immersion blender, food processor or blender to process until smooth. Return mixture to stock pot and add cider. Stir until well blended and allow to heat thoroughly before serving.

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