Monday, December 09, 2013

gingery eggnog with chai tea ice balls, and a giveaway from Safest Choice Eggs!

Eggnog is one of the Holiday Season's perfect symbols. It represents tradition, excess, warm spices, sharing, the white of the snow, the rich embrace of family and friends. It's a treat usually only enjoyed around Christmas, when people are more willing to get a bit gluttonous. Some people don't like eggnog, but it's usually not the flavors they are put off by... it's the thick texture or the fact that it contains raw eggs. Well, Safest Choice Eggs solves the latter. They are carefully pasteurized to be perfectly safe to consume raw or undercooked.

This post is sponsored by Safest Choice Eggs.
I'm excited to be participating in the Safest Choice Eggnog Party... check out this blog post with all the other bloggers who are participating and see what else you can do with eggnog. Oh, and they are also giving away 2 super-big prize packages. Enter using the widget at the end of this post!

I don't like when my eggnog gets warm... because then it's kind of like drinking cake batter. But ice in eggnog would be gross. Well, unless it was ice that was flavored so as not to water down the creamy beverage. But flavored how? The answer is so simple it's stupid... Chai Tea. Some of the spices in chai are also in traditional eggnog, and those that aren't should be. So, I brewed up some chai tea (from bags... use your favorite, but I'm not sure greet tea chai would taste as good as the black tea chai I used) and froze it in my handy dandy Ice Ball tray. I got the tray at the Maker's Mark Distillery in Louisville. You can use normal Ice cube trays, of course, but, you know, BALLS.

For the eggnog itself I added more ginger flavor to further that Chai taste. To do this I used some Big O Ginger Liqueur. Yes, I have posted about this glorious liquid before, several times. It's a craft liqueur made right here in St. Louis. If you don't have access to it, try adding a Tablespoon or so of gingerbread syrup to your eggnog.

Gingery Eggnog with Chai Tea Ice 
-6 yolks from Safest Choice Eggs
-2/3 cups raw sugar
-16 oz. heavy cream
-16 oz. milk (2% worked fine for me)
-1 cup Ginger Liqueur
-1 cup spiced rum
-1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
-1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/8 teaspoon cardamom
-freshly grated nutmeg to serve
-chai tea ice cubes to serve (brew chai tea, freeze in trays) 
In a stand mixer with the whisk attachment, mix the egg yolks on medium until mixed. Add the sugar and mix until lighter in color and creamy. Gradually add the cream and milk and mix until well-Incorporated. Add the booze and spices and mix until everything is combined well. Refrigerate until well-chilled. Serve in a small glass with 1 Chai Ice ball or 2 or 3 chai cubes. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Glub Glub.

Now about that giveaway... go get you some!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

crushing, cooking, reading - a link fiesta

I apologize for my absence of posts lately. I could give you a list of excuses, but I think a list of links would be more useful, you know? Rest assured that even though I haven't posted a new recipe in a couple weeks, my cooking and food habits remain strong. Here is what I have been reading/cooking/crushing on recently:

Duck, Duck, Goose. This is Hank Shaw's newest cookbook... can you guess what it's focus is? Hank is famous for his wild game recipes, and this is out just in time for duck season! He came to St. Louis to one of my favorite restaurants, The Libertine, to promote Duck, Duck, Goose a couple weeks ago. Chef Josh Galliano prepared a stunning menu for the event, and Hank was so gracious, stopping at every table to converse about his book and food/cooking. What a great night! 

Me and Hank Shaw at The Libertine
Here is Josh's menu from the evening, inspired by the recipes in Hank's Book. I am still blown away by the genius of it:

Course 1: Breakfast Coffee-cured duck, sweet potato brioche, scrambled egg panna cotta, sorghum-allspice sauce
Course 2: Dirty Rice Confit gizzards, scallion puree, Anson Mills rice grits, smoked garlic sausage
Course 3: Sassafras Valley Goose Butter-roasted radish, sunchoke barigoule, parsnip chips, apicius
Course 4: Funnel Cake Duck-fat caramel, pickled apples, saba, applejack-cinnamon sorbet

Speaking of books, I have (SLOWLY) been unpacking boxes of books, and I found one of my favorite thrift-store scores ever: The Mafia Cookbook. It's filled with Italian recipes, many of which are named after mobsters and are accompanied by mafia stories and/or related Illustrations. As a long-time fan of mafia movies (I went to film school specifically to make an epic gangland flick... I obviously gave up :( ), I am determined to post a recipe from this here on the blog soon. This seems to be a pretty rare book, as I can't find any available online. 

My fellow St. Louis food blogger, Shannon of A Periodic Table, posted this vine of blue cheese-topped, prosciutto-wrapped, broiled fig newtons. Um, brilliant. I made them for a party and they were dreamy... fun, quirky, and they paired great with Zinfandel. Yum!

Photo via St. Louis Magazine. So Dashing!

I am very excited for some friends of mine. My highschool BFF Cathy and her husband John are opening a restaurant! Check out this great interview with John about Three Flags Tavern. You may remember John from when he did a special Iron Stef Dinner at the last restaurant where he was the chef. I have the pleasure of helping out with some of the graphics for the new place... how invigorating to be part of the birth of this neighborhood destination! 

Photo via Art of the Menu

As part of the above-mentioned design work, I've been browsing one of my favorite sites, Art of The Menu... it's dedicated to menu design and I could explore it's depths it all day!

Photo via Distilled History
Meet Irma Rombauer, the author of the iconic cookbook The Joy of Cooking. I did not know she was from St. Louis!! This write-up about her by my friend Cameron on his blog Distilled History is so cool! Time to crack open my copy again!

CARAMEL APPLE CINNAMON ROLLS. Holy hell. I made these based on Gimme Some Oven's recipe and they are my favorite breakfast of the year. Not only are they delicious, there is something so satisfying about making cinnamon rolls from scratch. Go get the recipe here. BTW... they freeze well (once baked and cooled).

Here's few more random links I dig:

Dianne Jacobs lists verbs Julia used. A fun resource for food/recipe writers!

For their first date, this couple went on an international trip with nothing but the clothes they were wearing, their phones and credit cards. Crazy cool! Could you do it?

A history of women and beer... it's time for us to take over again! :)

Friday, November 08, 2013

pie-spiced pecans and pepitas

Everything is pumpkin-pie-spiced now. EVERYTHING. JEEEZ.

So here's another for your pumpkin pie pinterest board...Pecans! I find pecan to be a superior pie to pumpkin *ducks*, but I do love the blend of warm spices typically found in pumpkin pie. What if I married the two? I also added some pepitas to the mix... because they are pumpkin seeds... see what I did there?

These would make a great gift for the holidays... the tastes of every one's favorite pies in a form you can eat anytime, anywhere. These really are reminiscent of a decadent pie... you will not want to stop eating them!
Pie-Spiced Nuts 
-2 cups nuts (I used pecans and pepitas... mostly pecans. walnuts & hazelnuts would be great, too!)
-1/3 cup turbinado (raw) sugar (or a mix of white & brown sugar)
-1 teaspoon cinnamon
-1/2 teaspoon cardamom
-1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1 Tablespoon water
-1 Tablespoon Honey
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
Toast the nuts on a parchment-lined cookie sheet in a 300ºF oven for about 20 minutes, until slightly browned and toasty tasting. Meanwhile, mix the sugar and spices and salt together in a big bowl. 
Once the nuts are toasted, heat the water, honey and vanilla in a large skillet until heated through, stirring or whisking to combine. Turn off the heat, add the nuts and toss to coat them thoroughly. 
Dump the sticky toasted nuts into the bowl with the sugar and spices and toss to coat well. Pour them back onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet and let dry at least 30 minutes. They will store for a couple weeks just fine (if they last that long!).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

St. Louis' Best Balls, Installment 7: The Mediterranean Grill

Full disclosure - The Mediterranean Grill invited me to try some of their food, on-the-house, as a way to start some word-of-mouth about their food, which they are clearly passionate about. That said, I did not promise to write anything about them... I figured it would be a nice night out with friends (other food bloggers were invited, and you know I love my other food bloggers!), and if I had nothing nice to say, I'd say nothing at all. (Interested in  blogging ethics? Check out this good list of guidelines from Diane Jacobs) As it turns out... there's plenty of nice things to say about The Mediterranean Grill! There will be plenty more visits.

The Mediterranean Grill is Located in Chesterfield Valley, which is known more for it's plethora of big-box retail stores and chain restaurants than it is for interesting independent food. The Mediterranean Grill is an oasis in a strip-mall... owned by a husband and wife team, all recipes by the husband, who is originally from Israel. His influences are a vast array, as Israel is a place of diverse cultures. Moroccan, Middle-Eastern, Greek... The Mediterranean Grill's menu has them all... and they are done well. Fresh, thoughtful, made with love and from scratch. Just look at this beautiful hummus! 

Of course, I was most interested in their balls. Above is the falafel. Uh ohhhh.... my favorite falafel (Pita+... see post here) has some competition. Fluffy, flavorful, fried discs of chick peas and herbs. Good stuff!

Then there is the Kubbeh, a ball that is completely new to me. It is football shaped cracked wheat magically filled with ground beef, onions, pine nuts and spices then fried. Did I mention magic? These were my favorite thing all night (and I tried lots of very good food). They have a nice sweetness to them, from the wheat and the meat's spice blend. And pine nuts... I love anything with pine nuts :)

I encourage all you city-centric foodies to venture out to The Mediterranean Grill... you will not be sorry! 

More of St. Louis' Best Balls:

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Roadtrip Recap: Louisville, Kentucky

I last left you in Asheville, North Carolina. Now let's see what's happening in Louisville, KY. Yes, I skipped over Myrtle Beach, SC.... I loved it there, but the food/booze scene was lacking. I guess with the pretty beach and tacky souvenir shops, nobody cares much? There was delicious calamari everywhere, at least.  

Louisville, however... what a surprise! Besides all the bourbon/whiskey distilleries, there are some really interesting places to eat great food and drink great beer (and whiskey).

The first night we went to Milkwood, Chef Edward Lee's second restaurant in Louisville. I would love to go back and eat at his first joint, 610 Magnolia. The chef was on a book tour, so we didn't see him that night (I'm kicking myself for not going to his event in St. Louis just a couple weeks before this trip), but the food at Milkwood was outstanding. Homemade pickles and charcuterie and GARLIC BUTTER. Yeah, like apple butter but made from garlic. Glorious! The waitress brought me an extra portion because my garlic tattoo was showing :) What a gem of a restaurant located in what seemed to be a pretty vibrant downtown area. Reasonably priced, to boot!

Then there was Bourbon. We toured 3 distilleries on the "Whiskey Trail:" Jim Beam, Heaven Hill and Maker's Mark. A tip about distillery tours: they are only open until 3 pm or earlier... plan on morning/early afternoon trips so you can go to more than we were able to. These 3 were a good variety, but I would have loved to go to some of the smaller craft distilleries. Next time. Visiting the big guys, though, was neat, and I learned a lot about Bourbon. Did you know that they can only use each barrel once in order for it to be called bourbon? 

Jim Beam's Yeast. It's like 100 years old.

Tour-bottled Knob Creek being sealed with wax.

The first barrel of Bourbon in this particular Heaven Hill Barrel House.
LOVED the details at Maker's Mark.

Pages from the sketch book of the woman who designed/marketed
Maker's Mark. It was a husband-wife team. So cool!

Yeah, it was fun learning about bourbon... but I'm a BEER girl. Louisville did not disappoint in this category. There are some fantastic beer-centric bars in this town. The one's we went to: Louisville Beer Store, Sergio's World Beers, Holy Grale and The Silver Dollar:

Louisville Beer Store. That's what it's called. Tons of bottles to
choose from, and some rare ones. They also have several on tap,
and a bar you can drink at.
Me and Sergio, of Sergio's World Beers. Over 1000 different
beers, only 1 Bud Light (which they priced at $26.00 :))

Holy Grale is a bar in an old church! Hallelujah!
Great seasonal beer selection, and reliable sources told
me the food is excellent, too.
Panorama of Sergio's
The Silver Dollar is actually more of a Whiskey bar, but they
had a great beer selection, too. And scrumptios foods!
Also, they play all their music on a turntable. Old country
music on vinyl pairs perfectly with bourbon.

Back to food... We were fortunate to get to try The Blind Pig. I say fortunate because rumor has it they are closing. It's a damn shame. Check out this lamb and gnocchi for goodness sakes! Hopefully the people that run it will continue making good food elsewhere in Louisville.

I was surprised to hear that Louisville is actually one of the best places in the country to eat seafood. How can that be? It's in the Midwest, nowhere near an Ocean. There is a UPS hub there, you see, so most of the country's seafood goes there before it goes anywhere else. Therefore, we sought out Sushi. The place that keeps winning "best in Louisville" is called Sake Blue, and is way out in the suburbs in a generic upper-middle-class strip mall box store kinda area. I got the Chirashizushi (I call these "Happy Bowls") so I could try a variety of fish. It did indeed taste very fresh and it was gorgeous and seasoned just right to let the fishes' flavors shine. 

So yeah, I am smitten with Louisville. Besides all the great places listed above, the town seems to have a lot in common with my home, St. Louis. They have a Louis and Clark connection, are named after the same French King as us, there are Fleur de Lis' everywhere and they ask the notorious "What Highschool did you go to?" question. So basically, Louisville is like my town's bourbon-drinking southern cousin. I'll be back... because, family, you know?

Tell me in the comments what places in Louisville I should visit next time!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Roadtrip recap: Asheville, North Carolina

Back in August I went on a roadtrip to the East Coast. The trip was spurred by a cheap room on Myrtle Beach. We decided to drive there, and stop in some other cities on the way there and back, making the journey part of the vacation. I mentioned the trip in my Bacon Caramel Abelskivers post... yea, this post is way overdue. Thanks for your patience....

Our first stop was Asheville North Carolina. I have wanted to visit this town for years. I have heard it is adorable and hip without trying too hard. It's all true! Plus, it's gorgeous... nestled in the Smoky Mountains.

The vibe there is super-cool... local food and brews were as plentiful as hippies. Here are some highlights from our too-short visit:

Wicked Weed Brewing
This is where we ate and drank the first night there. A brewpub with lots of different styles to choose from (I wish we could have tried more... they limit to 3 tastes on weekends. Next time I'll go there on a weekday!), Wicked Weed also has a menu of really good food.

It was hard to choose a beer and hard to choose a meal... I wanted them all! Their name comes from a King Henry VIII quote : "Hops are a wicked and pernicious weed." The feel is rebellious, done right.

Asheville Brewing Co.
Our second day was mostly beer drinking. My partner-in-crime and I would order samplers or tasting flights at most places, so we could each taste everything we could without getting too buzzed.

I loved ABC's Shiva IPA the best. They had food, too, and we were told the pizza is their most popular item. We just munched on some tater tots while enjoyed a great playlist and good beers.

Hi-Wire Brewing
This is right around the corner from ABC... in fact, the bartender at ABC told us about it! That was another thing I loved about Asheville. We were trying to squeeze in as many brewery experiences as we could without much knowledge of the scene. In St. Louis, the beer scene is close-knit, and the brewers are happy to help each other even though they are competitive. I found the same to be true for Asheville! Bartenders at all the places we went were just happy to talk about beer, and were helpful in recommending what places to check out.

Hi-wire is brand new... I think it opened just like 2 weeks before we were there. The bartender/partner had even lived in St. Louis! I was totally smitten with this brewery. They have an iron high wire walker over the bar, and great circus artwork on their labels. And FREE kettle corn! The kettle corn was fresh, too... made there. Crunchy, sweet and salty... great with a board of beer samples.

Double Decker Coffee
Anyone who's walked in downtown Asheville will be familiar with this coffee shop... it's in an actual double decker bus! How fun! Oh, Asheville.

Pisgah brewing
This brewery was on the way out of town, on Black Mountain. It's in a kind of industrial park, similar to Three Flloyds brewing in Indiana. Inside, though, is pure funk. They have a big stage for live Rock and stickers everywhere, mostly for other breweries.

We were there on like a Sunday afternoon, so it was pretty vacant, but I have a feeling it gets fun-rowdy there on weekends. They have a great outdoor space, and award-winning beer styles for every taste.

We also hit Charlotte, NC for a day...

This is an Icon. Although Penguin is no longer under it's original ownership, it still has a good independent impression. Check out my friend Andrew Veety's post about the drive-in's troubles. The previous Penguin people opened the Diamond, which we were not able to make it to this trip. The Penguin's grill was down when we were there, so we could only get deep-fried items... darn :)

Yeah, they deep fry their hotdogs and the pickle chips. There is also pimento cheese on this. It is properly southern, diner and artery clogging all in one. 

Old Mecklenberg Brewing
This brewery, opened in 2009, is one of Charlotte's OLDER brewpubs. A nice, large space with good, pure German-style beers and a really open view of the brewery itself through giant windows behind the bar. And you'll want to buy all the glassware.

So, go ahead, lay it on me... what are your favorite Asheville haunts? What'd we miss??