When Craft Beer and Volcanoes Collide

By some twist of fate, both the TBEX Europe and SATW conferences landed in volcanic destinations this year. Fortunately, that’s given me the opportunity to sample some of the most interesting craft beers I’ve tasted.

Case in point: Iceland’s Olvisholt Brugghus Lava Imperial Stout (which coincidentally, is carried at Compton’s Market in Sacramento) and Volkan’s Santorini Black (which I picked up at an unassuming market on the main drag of Oia).

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Lava rock isn’t just good for beer, but makes the soil extra fertile too. That’s why Santorini has such delicious tomatoes, and why Maui lavender and Molokai purple potatoes are all over gourmet menus in Hawaii.

Special thanks to Our Tasty Travels for the heads up on Santorini’s craft beer scene, and Lee Abbamonte for suggesting I blog about my (brown and darker) craft beer obsession (currently documented on Instagram).

Where else have you experienced volcano-related travel destinations, beer or food?

Final Fling: End of Summer Bites

There’s still time to enjoy the best of summer, without resorting to “it’s complicated.” With flavors at their peak, keeping things simple is the best way to go.

For starters, heirloom tomatoes are worth every penny. So splurge one last time! Simply season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Or slice and serve with fresh avocado (a winter crop in summer’s clothing) or goat milk yogurt and basil.

Peaches are best undressed. While I love a good cobbler or pie, the best way to enjoy them for dessert on warm summer nights is au naturel.

For a refreshing hors d’oeuvre that takes no time, slice a cucumber and top with smoked salmon. Party bonus: The colors will pop on a buffet table.

Mixed company? The options above will make it easy for all dietary persuasions to partake!

Dairy Goat Grub

On my journey to find greener pastures to replace cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and triple-cream brie, I’ve only encountered one or two trolls. But rather than resort to bland soy or tofu substitutes, I’ve happily swapped in goat cheese for cream cheese, goat milk yogurt for sour cream, and continued to indulge in addictive gourmet chevre that will dominate any cheese board. Burritos and bagels, rejoice!

For those of you trying to cross that bridge, here’s some of my favorite dairy goat grub:

Once you make the switch – oh, the places you’ll go! Here are my recipes featuring goats milk substitutions.

With that, I’ll leave you with a sleeping baby goat at Surfing Goat Dairy:

Where did you go?

So it’s been awhile. I lived out of a suitcase for the better part of April, May and June. But I’ve settled into my new neighborhood (and new kitchen), and I’m ready to get back to business.

Lets start with some Midtown Farmer’s Market inspired meals. This chèvre from Jollity Farms is creamy and mild, unlike its tangier counterparts. It made a delicious topping for peaches and basil, and provided a fresher take on your average cheese and cracker combo.

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Then there’s the Pasta Queen. She ruled July in my house. I served up “Goat Cheese & Garlic in Roasted Garlic Pasta Ravioli” on my porch (Mom’s idea) with pear tomatoes. And then this week, David and I dined on a divine truffle and mushroom ravioli served with heirloom tomatoes and mixed greens.

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The Pasta Queen reigns! But in case you don’t come across her majesty, a simple angel hair with pear tomatoes and fresh basil is also delightful. Or fettuccine with rosemary/olive oil-tossed heirloom tomatoes and Parmesan. Buon appetito!
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Meal ‘n Steal: $5 Banh Mi Sandwich

Today I was introduced to a whole new world inside of Duc Loi Supermarket in the Mission. They carry all kinds of local produce, organic products and wine, for a fraction of the price of fancier gourmet shops. But what we really came for was the Banh Mi Sandwich from the deli counter. At just $5 a pop, you get an entire meal in one sandwich – and bite by bite, it lived up to its rep.

Banh Mi Sandwich  @ Duc Loi Supermarket

So what’s in a Banh Mi sandwich? Five kinds of meat: pork pot roast, liverwurst, pork roll, head cheese and pork belly. But here’s the kicker, all that rich protein is balanced with carrots, jicama, cilantro, cucumber, daikon, and jalapeno – served on French bread.

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Oh, and I walked out with a bunch of green onions for $0.49. Can you think of anything that costs less than a $1 at the grocery store? Me neither. Consider me a convert!

Meal ‘n Steal: $5 Arugula, Peach and Goat Cheese Salad

A $5 salad might not seem like a steal, but unlike it’s wimpier counterparts, this bowl full of wild rocket arugula, Cypress Grove goat cheese, sliced almonds and fresh peaches will actually fill you up. (There’s nothing worse than saving a buck and being hungry afterwards.)

Wild Rocket Arugula, White Peach, Cypress Grove Goat Cheese, Toasted Almonds @ Bair Island Tap & Eatery

If you’re not able to make it to Bair Island Tap & Eatery in San Carlos, you could easily make your own hearty version at home. In general, I’ve discovered goat cheese really coats dishes (and your stomach) well. And you can’t go wrong with nuts, dark leafy greens and tree fruit in any combination.

Keystone is for Meat Lovers

Last weekend I had the pleasure of sampling some of Keystone Resort‘s finest cuisine. The anticipation built as we rode two gondolas up 11,000 feet, not without a glass of champagne and a cookie. (The very same cookies are provided to guests at check-in.)

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Pictured above: me in hog heaven

While a variety of meat-centric dishes were on display, the dessert tent ultimately stole the show. What kind of dessert requires a special tent, you ask? Why meat-shaped dessert, of course.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, anyone? The magical confections above were created by Executive Chef David Scott and Executive Pastry Chef Ned Archibald.

Despite the tempting placement of the dessert tent at the entrance, we did begin our evening with more appropriate food groups.

For starters, Beano’s Cabin knocked my socks off with their “Suckling Berkshire Pig Ragout with House Made Pappardelle Pasta and Peach Preserves.” Unbelievable. You could have stopped at house made pappardelle, but every other ingredient was equally delicious.

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And yes, I did make sure “Beano” had nothing to do with the over-the-counter variation (it was a merely a nickname for the owner).

Also notheworthy, “Cider and Molasses Braised Wild Boar Shoulder, Creamy Parmesan White Polenta, Forest Mushrooms and Sauce Naturel from the uber cool named Alpenglow Stube.

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Brownie points for serving in style goes to The 10th for their “House Cured Pastrami, Onion Jam and Fennel Brioche” and “Spicy Rosen Lamb Chili with Anasazi Beans, Smoked Green Chilies and Local Goats Cheese.”

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Vegetarian respite was provided by Sevens, with their “Roma Tomato Confit, Asparagus Tofu Custard, and Red Pepper Romesco.”

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But the true chest-thumping, meat-loving, throw-caution-to-the-wind carnivores would appreciate “Duck Confit Stuffed Tenderloin of Beef, Foie Gras Torchon and Red Currant Demi Glace” from The Bighorn Steakhouse. I can hear Anthony Bourdain now, “oh yeah.”

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Ode to San Carlos

I’m loving San Carlos, which is the closest “downtown” to us and actually has some decent restaurants. Last night we kicked off our evening at Bair Island Tap & Eatery, which serves craft brew and food sourced from within 100 miles (think 4505 Meats).The philosophy reminds me a lot of Local Mission Eatery, but it has more of a mini brewery vibe, serving up sausages and sandwiches mostly.

We also bellied up to the bar at Cask Wine & Cheese Bar, for some Cava, beer on tap, Marcona almonds and Mediterranean-style green olives. Come to find out, they serve dinner off Spasso‘s menu, and will literally cross the street to bring you the goods. I enjoyed my Capellini, and David’s mushroom burger went down easy.

Cappellini @ the cask wine & cheese bar Mushroom burger @ the cask wine & cheese bar

But the biggest surprise to date were the “donuts to die for” at Piacere a few weeks ago. Made to order and filled with apricot deliciousness. More cream puff than donut, but who’s counting?

Jelly Doughnuts Made To Order @ Piacere Ristorante

The salmon crepe was also delicious, with a light butter and wine sauce.
Salmon crepes @ Piacere Ristorante

We’ve also become fans of Friday night deliveries from the San Carlos location of New York Pizza. But the real dining adventures await on Laurel Street.

Bittersweet salad

Chopped endive and fuji apple, with Caesar dressing = bitter + sweet.

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Life-changing Chevre and Other Goat Cheese Discoveries

Last night I sampled some fancy – but very easy – food, inspired by the NASFT’s Winter Fancy Food Show. I’ll share my favorites from Food Fete here, starting with a life-changing chevre called “Rivers Edge,” from Three Ring Farm in Oregon.

For once, those of us who play it safe with goat cheese don’t have to feel slighted. This chevre is smoky, rich and smooth. I can’t wait to pair it with an Old Vine Zin!

I also enjoyed sampling harder, crystallized goat cheeses and chatting with a gentleman from Tumalo Farms, a gourmet goat cheese producer in Bend, Oregon. PS – Do yourself a favor, and check out the adorable, cuddly goats on their homepage.

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