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Boozie Friday: Cider – A Delicious Beverage and Ingredient

1086683117_c2f524cc8f_zLast Sunday, a wonderful event took place here in Seattle. The Seattle Wine and Food Experience packed the spacious exhibition hall at the Seattle Center putting wine, beer, spirits, food and cider in the spotlight. The proceeds from this marvelous event went to Les Dames d’Escoffier Seattle, a 501c3 non-profit organization comprised of female leaders in food, beverage and hospitality whose mission is education, advocacy and philanthropy. It’s wonderful to see this incredible organization supported by such strong attendance. The event sold out which undoubtedly put some decent funding toward their cause.

One thing that struck me at the event, was the growing interest in craft ciders amongst American food and booze enthusiasts. With the rise of artisanal products and the ever growing farm-to-table movement here in the United States, this old standard is back in fashion. Drinkers in England and other parts of the world have enjoyed cider for many generations. However, here in the United States, the temptingly tart/sweet beverage didn’t really enjoy the same success. Grain used to brew beer was cheaper and more readily available than the cider apple and the cost was the loss of a great libation. However, after prohibition, cider began to re-gain popularity and today you can find a fine craft cider in almost any bar, grocery store or liquor store. Even well established beer brewers like Stella Artois are making their own apple brew: Cidre. Based on what I saw at the Seattle Wine and Food Experience, larger companies definitely have their hats in the ring, but smaller, craft ciders seem to dominate the arena here in the Pacific Northwest.

Cider can vary in sweetness and be combined with other flavors for fantastic results. Some common flavors added to a good cider are berry, ginger and, of course, the flavor of oak barrels. In many ways cider can be treated the same as wine or beer in that it pairs well with food. Cooking with cider is also a fantastic option for the more adventurous chef and it can replace white wine in many situations. However, before attempting that, you should probably try some of the different cider on the market. Some of the tastiest and notable include Teiton Cider Works, Eaglemount Wine & Cider, 2 Towns Ciderhouse, and Woodchuck Hard Cider.  Of course, with hundreds of cider makers worldwide, this list could have easily gone on and on but you get the idea.

Want to try your hand at cooking with cider? Well, you’re in luck. Included below is my recipe for Roasted Pork Loin with an Apple Cider Mustard Sauce. Enjoy!
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Foodie Friday: Waffle Club


Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But we don’t always have time in the morning do we? Sometimes it’s fun to have breakfast for dinner or as a group activity like snack time. Waffles have been enjoyed at any time of day since medieval times. Originally waffles were a variation on communion wafers, and over time have evolved into what we have now. We have certainly come a long way since then and the results are staggeringly delicious.

Waffles come in many shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors. They can be topped with almost endless variations of different ingredients or served all on alone. There are waffle cones, stuffed waffles, and chicken & waffles just to name a few of the creative variations you might find. When concocting your batter make sure that you allow enough for a test waffle or two. This will allow you to taste and adjust your batter before you serve the final product. When following recipes don’t be afraid to make adjustments according to your own preference.

Around the Brown Paper Tickets headquarters office we have started a weekly waffle-based ritual. Each person that works on Sunday and participates, has taken a turn as the “Batter-UP.” When it’s your turn to bring waffles you are responsible for providing enough batter and whatever special toppings you choose for everyone. There have been some interestingly delicious creations rolling through so far and surely a great many more to come. Among some of the most interesting include but are certainly not limited to:

James – Classic Waffles, Cinnamon Waffles
Sam – Pumpkin Spice Waffles, Super Crispy Almond-essence Waffles
Megan – Ginger Waffles
Ashton – Smores Waffles
Kathleen – Chocolate Chai, with Pink Sea Salt and Whipped Cream/Chocolate Syrup (Gluten-free), Buttermilk Waffles with Ezell’s Fried Chicken
Susanne – Rosemary Ham and Gruyere/Chedder Cheese Waffles
Antoine – Oreo Waffles with hand-whisked Whipped Cream
Diana – Classic Waffle topped with Blackberry Preserve, Brie, and Basil
Patrick – Sourdough Waffles, Banana Chocolate Chip, Orange Waffles

Hopefully our waffle club inspires you to whip up a batch of crispy delicious waffles with your own twist added. It’s a lot of fun to make a group activity out of it, and I think we enjoy it immensely. Waffle day is a great way to bring a group closer together and get to know them on a level only reached through food. Sharing ideas and time together around the most simple of concepts is truly a joy. Waffle up!
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Foodie Friday: Chocofest 2014

chocofest-14-flyer1Trying something new can be exciting, frightening, and even disastrous. This may be true, but you never know until you give it a shot. Ray Bradbury said “The best scientist is open to experience and begins with romance – the idea that anything is possible.”

Valentines Day, for many, is a time dedicated to romance between two individuals and their shared connection. Romance can also exist between two ideas or creations. Such is the case for chocolate and beer according to Pike Brewing Company’s annual affair Chocofest. This annual event has been running for six years and continues to make attendees get all mushy.
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Foodie Friday: Adventures In Cheese

IMG_4063IMG_4063Have you ever had a night that was so amazing you just wanted to live it over and over, again and again? That was my night at the West Coast Cheesemonger Invitational.

The Cheesemonger Invitational is a competition to see which cheesemonger is the best at their craft. The invitation went out to all mongers to compete and 35 mongers answered the call. Selling cheese requires more than just liking cheese and this is what this competition is all about.

For those competing, the event started at 9am and, for the top ten, went until late in the evening. Their day started with a written exam followed by a blind tasting, salesmanship contest, cutting competition and finished with the creation of their perfect bite of cheese. That is when the public came in. At 5pm the doors of Public Works in the Mission District opened and allowed cheese-lovers in.

I never thought I would say that it was almost difficult to eat 35 bites of cheese, each was better than the first and I always wanted to go back for more. Luckily my cheese needs were met by an amazing fondue bar and grilled cheese stand along with samplings that were available from some of the amazing cheesemakers and suppliers who attended the event.
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Foodie Friday: Ghormeh Sabzi – A Super Food

539wCooking with herbs and other leafy greens is a delicious and very nutritious way to go. With organic farming making huge waves we are provided an ever-growing selection of fresh, healthy options to for us to cook with. Nutrient rich dishes are growing more and more popular in part due to this increase of awareness and availability. These healthy meals have always been popular in kitchens all over the world, you just have to know where to look. Although you can easily grab all of those great ingredients and throw them into your juicer for a supercharged glass of go-juice, once in a while it’s nice to site down and savour your health food.

Ghormeh Sabzi is a traditional Iranian stew that embodies health on many levels. If there ever was a super food, this has got to be one of them. It has been around for well over five hundred years and it’s a real favorite of mine. I always feel great after eating it. This dish is usually served with polow which is a specifically prepared long grain rice. This Persian-style rice takes a lot more work but is most definitely worth the effort. When making polow there is a crust of golden brown rice that forms at the bottom of the pot called tahdig. This highly-prized, crispy treat is usually dished up for special guests since it is in short supply and considered very special.  This succulent stew also can easily be made as a vegan dish by simply leaving out the meat, adding potatoes, or adding anything you like.

Make the recipe your own and enjoy the slow methodical preparation because that’s healthy too. Be well!
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Foodie Friday: Wild Edibles

6242436853_b0784c9dbd_bThe age of convenience has removed our society from many things once essential to our survival. Possibly the most important of which being the ability to forage and gather our own food. Acorns, for example, are most likely not a part of the average person’s diet in the 21st century. We are definitely experiencing a food revolution right now and what ten years ago was considered lawn clippings, now goes for a pretty penny in your local organic food market. This means there are healthy, delicious local edibles available in most areas, even if you are in the city or too busy to forage.

Adventurous chefs around the planet have been singing the praises of these types of ingredients for quite sometime. You might see ramps, fiddle head ferns, dandelion greens, and definitely wild mushrooms on the menu in almost any fine dining restaurant you can find. This is great for folks that can afford to dine in these establishments, but what about cooking with them at home? Shouldn’t we all be able to work with these ingredients without being intimidated? The answer is yes, yes we should. This week’s Foodie Friday will focus on some wild edibles used today and how to approach them.

Before you can start turning your foraged treasures into culinary masterpieces, you should take some time to get familiar with your area. Foraging is a skill that is gained through lots of careful practice and study. It should be taken very seriously and practiced under professional guidance and supervision. There are classes in most regions that will allow you to get some practice and learn which edibles are safe and which might be poisonous. This is definitely not a step you should skip if you do decide to pick your own wild edibles. If you aren’t able to go out and learn, or simply aren’t interested in that part of the process try your local farmers market or organic producer store.
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Foodie Friday: Chicken and Dumplings

5433313563_285056a6ea_bSometimes, the simplest dishes make both the most comforting and the most nourishing meal. Making a simple dish with the highest quality ingredients and utmost care will make all the difference in the final product. Therefore, when selecting produce for even the most basic dishes, it’s really important to get the good stuff. Try your local farmers market and even roadside produce stands if you have any in your area. If you are shopping at the grocery store, look for the certified organic veggies and hormone-free organic meat, fish and poultry. Although it may be a little more expensive it’s worth it.

Besides being organic, it’s also key that your ingredients are appealing to your senses. Smell, touch and taste everything you are putting in your meal. This separates a good cook from a great one, and adds a sense of ownership and unrivalled pride. Knowing that you lovingly selected each and every carrot in the soup will give you a deep respect for your meal. Carefully preparing the ingredients in a patient and ritualistic manner can be complete bliss for some. The smells and sounds of the kitchen meld together to create a culinary nirvana in your own home.

The following Chicken and Dumplings recipe is from my childhood and has always been a go-to for colds or warming up after a cold winter outing. Although it’s a fairly involved recipe, it gets easier the more you make it, and it is definitely worth it. You may want to make a double batch. We tend to go through a pot easily at my house. For those of you that are vegetarian or vegan, there is an alternative recipe noted with an asterisk (*) for you to follow. For our gluten free friends try rice, corn, or any kind of gluten free flour you like. And, of course, as with any recipe, feel free to “color outside of the lines” and make it the way you like it. Enjoy!
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Boozie Friday: Drinking Rituals, A Guide To A Successful Night Out

6780129892_53c5c95ec8_bAccording to folklore, Vikings used to aggressively collide their steins of mead together, exchanging a bit of each persons beverage. This was done while making eye contact as a show of trust that no poison had been administered to either party.

There are lots of different associations that go along with drinking. The drink that you order may be a sign of your social status, group affiliation or even national identity (or the association of it). These are not necessarily rules but they have, historically, been influential to social trends revolving around drinking alcohol. The act of offering to buy a drink for someone, for instance, can be perceived in a variety of ways. Is it a simple act of kindness? A romantic ploy? Or, is it mercy for a person with less wealth than yourself? Perspective and personal experience will ultimately lead you to accept the drink or not.

Perhaps the most insightful individual to confront with these mysteries would be your bartender. The age old profession goes back approximately two thousand years and has always been a key role in many, if not most, communities around the world. A therapist, mixologist, entertainer, and all around go-to for what ails you, bartenders see us at our best and worst. Although the fast-paced modern lifestyle has taken this profession away in some larger restaurant and bar chains, we can rest assured that the folks behind most bars got our backs. That said, it’s important to remember that they aren’t selflessly working for free. Tip them. The better you treat them, the better they will usually treat you. Your cocktails might get a little stronger and come with more haste when your bartender is happy with you.

Here are some tips and etiquette for the modern bar goer.  The advice shared here is meant for entertainment and is by no means a complete guide. It’s different for everyone. Cheers!
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Foodie Friday: Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes

4795656116_a13ca04fc3_bEvery year, no matter what kind of wonderful parties and other festivities are going on, at some point there is a slump. Maybe it’s a friend or family member, co-worker, or yourself that goes through a rough patch during the dark, cold winter months. This, unfortunately, is something people tend to ignore and muscle through instead of confronting.

There is a delicious solution for your winter time blues, and it turns out it’s been there all along. Food is the great healer and always has been in every culture on the planet. Chicken soup when you have a cold, a glass of orange juice to get your vitamin C, it’s different for everyone. Many foods have been scientifically proven to have health benefits not the least of which is chocolate. This is not only coming from a long time chocoholic. Ask around, heck, ask your doctor! In fact studies have found dark chocolate in particular to be beneficial to your body and also can help to melt away the stress of your commute.

Now just because chocolate is good for you in moderation does not mean ganache dipped cupcakes are. However if you feel like you deserve a treat (and you most likely do) don’t go half way and eat a snickers bar, get some quality therapy. The kind only chocolate cake can provide, and don’t forget to share. Be well!
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Foodie Friday: Creole Style Gumbo

7783272480_bf8671b2ca_kIn the Southern states there are more speciality dishes than you can shake a stick at, and they are all amazing. Folks have been perfecting their local cuisines since the first settlers moved to the area, passing secret recipes down through the generations. In Southern cooking there are certainly techniques and methods exclusive to the region, and that’s where things get interesting. Barbecue alone has at least eight different distinctive styles that separate Texas style from what you will get in the Carolinas and so on. If you went to an accredited culinary school and graduated, you may not walk away with the knowledge for preparing Southern food unless you took a specific course. Basically, things happen a little differently in the South.

For one, food takes longer to cook and the ingredients are more specific and specialized. Creole cuisine, for example, is exclusive to Louisiana and is influenced by Spanish, African, Italian, French, Portuguese and other international cuisines. Creole cooking is a close reflection of classic French cuisine in that is sources ingredients from the immediate area. You might find alligator in your jambalaya and crawdads in your gumbo. These critters are indigenous and therefore, as in any culture, end up in the soup pot. In French cooking, you might find a mirepoix (equal parts celery, carrot, and onion) in a dish. Similarly, Creole cooking would use the holy trinity of celery, green bell pepper, and onion in equal ratio.

Cajun cooking is closely related to Creole cuisine however more rustic. Basically Cajun food is country food and Creole is city food. You also won’t find tomatoes in Cajun food. Although it is easy to confuse the two, if you ask a local they will definitely let you know. This week I wanted to share a Creole recipe that has been on both country and city tables since the 18th century. Cooking a dish like gumbo may seem intimidating to someone from, let’s say California, but it is no more complicated than a nice mole. Remember, when making this dish for the first time: with big flavors come big responsibilities. So, take your time and don’t forget to add lots of love.
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