I Like a Good Beer Buzz Early in the Morning

Ok, I lied. Actually, it is entirely untrue: I have never even tasted beer early in the morning. But, on Friday night I came close to purchasing VIP tickets to Drink the District (Beer Edition) for 11am entry, if only to find out whether I did enjoy an early-morning buzz. In the end, I could not bring myself to spend the morning with hundreds of others in the 95-degree heat clamoring for unlimited 3-oz artisanal beer pours. But a good idea is a good idea, and we started our own search of refreshing ways to beat the hot weather (and taste craft beer).

The ever-refreshing Summit Lake

A cool 40 degrees, even with a ray of sunshine…

Certainly, the best escape from the heat would involve going back to Mt.Evans, the closest fourteener  to Denver where we spent our 4th of July holiday.

Yes, the white patches are snow…

On top of the world, with a bigger picture perspective…

By the way, that was a fantastic trip full of culinary delights, such as the amazing omakase from Sushi Den (one of the very best sushi restaurants I have ever been to), Paul Bara champagne, and a perfect sundried tomato risotto made from scratch by my dear friend The Blissful Adventurer.

courtesy of sushiden.net

However, Denver is not exactly stone’s throw from DC, and we had to get creative.

So, we hid in our apartment and had a picnic lunch on our cool granite floor (one can sit or lie on a sheepskin rug). We fortified ourselves with Watermelon & Feta salad and Fattoush, before heading to a local watering hole by the name of Churchkey, in order to taste through some stellar locally produced stuff.

Just in case the pictures are making you hungry, and you would like one of your own, the W & F salad features sheep’s milk Greek feta from Lesbos co-op, watermelon chunks, spearmint, salt-packed Sicilian capers from Il Mongetto, lemon juice, a splash of olive oil and red wine vinegar, and baby local red onions.

My version of Fattoush (a popular Lebanese peasant salad) is made with toasted pita strips, tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, purslane, red onions, parsley, mint, green bell pepper, lots and lots of lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac.

After a couple of scoops of Talenti sea salt caramel gelato (highly recommended!), we finally embarked on our tasting adventure. Churchkey boasts a 555 unique label selection from 30 countries, including 5 authentic cast conditioned ales, and 50 draught beers, in different tasting formats. As I prefer variety, 4oz pours is my usual format of choice.

We tasted through some 10 microbrews (all on tap), ranging from summer ales and pilsners to American IPAs to Altbier and cask ale. All-in-all, nothing over 7% (so, no imperial stouts, tripels, double IPAs, etc).

Thus, our Top 5 list of local artisanal summery brews (from East Coast microbreweries) was born. The general criteria were aromatics, complexity, refreshing mouthfeel (must be appropriate for summer), and of course, the looks, such as a pretty head coupled with a beautiful translucent amber-hued body. (That doesn’t make me a shallow person, does it :-)?

Here is goes (in alphabetical order):

1. Dominion Hop Mountain by Coastal Brewing Company, DE. An American Pale Ale (authentic cask ale), dry-hopped in the cask with Chinook hops. Dangerously smooth and balanced. Piney, citrusy, hoppy, and moderately malty.

2. Prima Pils by Victory Brewing Company, PA. A German pilsner made with whole-flower Czech & German hops. (***Jeff’s strictly summertime favorite). Lemony, grassy, bitter, crisp, and earthy.

3. Smuttynose IPA “Finest Kind”, NH. An American IPA made with Amarillo, Simcoe, and Santiam hops. (***Jeff’s overall favorite). Floral, very grapefruity, pleasantly bitter, and balanced.

4. The Corruption by DC Brau, DC. It is an American IPA made with Tomahawk hops. (***my overall favorite, – perhaps, not surprisingly, as I am very familiar with the concept of corruption :-)). The most intense, aromatic, and complex of the bunch.

5. Victory Altbier by Victory Brewing Company, PA. A lively Altbier that is spicy, hoppy, earthy, and bready.

The efforts of these breweries are quite refreshing, although I am unsure if I would drink them first thing in the morning. I think maybe you have to warm up your body and mind first, to be able to cool down and fully appreciate what they have to offer. Those are not just some brainless blonde ales but, to borrow the wine world term, “birre da meditazione”, – beers that command contemplation.

Cheers!

A Creature of Habit

A few years back, my orange tabby Kuzya really disappointed me. He was totally unexcited by Wellness Chicken & Lobster, Turkey & Duck, and Sardine, Shrimp & Crab flavors that I had lovingly picked out for him at the store (instead of his usual boring Chicken & Herring flavor). I thought he would be all over the new delectable-sounding entrées, but he plain refused to eat them. When I eventually gave up and fed him his Chicken & Herring stuff, he was in heaven. I was miffed and confused. How can he not want to eat lobster, duck, and crab? Even more importantly, how can he keep getting excited by the same dish every single day?

“Oh boy, it’s dog food again!”

When you think of it, we humans are not that different. Three of my co-workers eat the exact same thing for lunch every day (and we are talking about senior management, not starving college students). A real-life example: a turkey sandwich on white bread, a pint of milk, and applesauce for dessert. Every single day.

Heck, I am not all that different. I start every morning with coffee and a Balance protein bar (cookie-dough flavored). Granted, the actual coffee changes (today was  5 de Junio Maragojipe Microlot from Las Sabanas, Nicaragua; tomorrow will be Santa Elena Pacamara from Santa Ana, El Salvador, or perhaps Haru, an Ethiopian high-elevation heirloom coffee from Yirgacheffe(all of them freshly roasted by Counter Culture coffee) . But still…

I could eat good-quality tomatoes, bread and sea salt every day (actually, I do!). In our household, Odwalla Superfood shake and WholeFoods-brand lemon flavored sparkling mineral water are also consumed on a daily basis.

Les tomates mon amour

At least every other day, I eat warm whole wheat pita by The Perfect Pita and 365 brand Greek or Lemon hummus; 0% fat Greek yogurt with tangerine & clementine marmalade or Skyr (an Icelandic style dense yogurt); and scrambled eggs with tomatillo salsa. It is almost a rule…

Unless we are traveling, every Saturday, after the trip to the farmer’s market, I make Horiatiki, or Fattoush (Greek and Lebanese classic peasant salads, respectively). More often than not, they are repeated during the week, as well. Here is my version of Horiatiki made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, dried oregano, red wine vinegar, EVOO, mild banana peppers, olives, green bell peppers, and French goat or sheep’s milk feta:

At least once a month, I have to cross the state lines, and drive to Eden Center in Fairfax, VA to get good Vietnamese food.

And this is not even the end of the list…

It is rather ironic I almost never write about the things I love the most (and apparently, cannot do without). Instead, most of the time, I choose to write about deviations from the norm, – about things I make rather rarely, or even about once-in-a-lifetime food&wine experiences. But definitely about something food-blog-worthy, such as this pea shoots, fava bean, and shaved Pecorino salad dressed with EVOO and lemon juice:

Or perhaps, a memorable meal, such as dinner at Annissa on the most recent trip to NY featuring:

  • Fluke crudo with black lime and radishes

  • Eggplant with two Turkish chilis in yogurt water

  • Seared fois gras with soup dumplings and jicama (naturally, the dumplings are stuffed with fois gras as well :-)).

Alternatively, I go on and on about an interesting tasting, such as our self-guided aged European beer exploration at DC-own Churchkey this weekend. (Apparently, aged beer is all the rage these days, so beverage buffs, pay attention!). And of course, there are visually striking and delightful dishes I often come across in my travels, be it the simple house-made pickles at Cha-An Japanese tea shop in the East Village,

or a Grapefruit Givré at Boulud Sud (aTurkish-inspired concoction made with sesame halva, rose loukoum, and grapefruit sorbet):

And yet, when I return home, I keep craving tomatoes, bread, and sea salt…

Hello! My Name is Pinot Noir

I have been invited to contribute on DCFoodies.com! My first post goes out to the brave souls whose New Year’s resolution is to be a little bit less afraid of wine: http://www.dcfoodies.com/2012/01/hello-my-name-is-pinot-noir.html