When winter winds nip at the nose, when the clouds spit snow and puddles freeze – that is the time for comforting meals of stew in steaming bowls accompanied by chunks of crusty bread.
Stews are an elemental food, harkening back to dim times when a single earthen pot simmered over a fire, the repository for whatever was hunted and gathered that day. Most cultures that eventually coalesced from our first ancestors kept this primordial food memory, and at the heart of most cuisines are many and varied stews, whether they are called pot au feu, goulash or râgout, boeuf bourguignon, bigos or burgoo, cassoulet, cholent or cioppino, feijoada, hasenpfeffer or hot pot.
The practical value of the stew concept is neatly summarized by The Oxford Companion To Food, with a description that cuts to the heart of the ubiquity of stew in so many cultures: “The mixture of ingredients in a thick and opaque sauce casts a veil of uncertainty over the proportions of expensive ingredients to cheap ones.” Stews stretch what is available to sate many stomachs; the flexibility of the concept allows for the satisfying of varying tastes; and the use of available native ingredients permits endless variations on a theme.
Continue reading Cooking with Ron—Stews to Chase the Winter Blues
HopCat is a beer bar like the Rolling Stones are a rock band and LeBron James is a basketball player. Simple descriptions don’t always tell the whole story.
In fact, HopCat is a craft beer conundrum. It’s a growing Midwestern company boasting 12 regional locations, with more to come, and yet each one generally has more locally brewed beers on tap than nearby “indie” craft beer bars.
Uniquely tailored to their chosen neighborhoods, HopCat locations consciously seek to be as much a part of their community as the mom-and-pop joint right down the street.
HopCat garners national praise, but it soft-pedals superlatives, modestly describing itself as “a home for craft beer lovers,” as well as promoting recycling and sustainability, engaging with local breweries and beer geeks, and serving food “like mom would make if she loved craft beer.” That is, if your mom had room for an eye-popping 132 draft beers, which is HopCat’s signature.
Continue reading HopCat is the Craft Beer Lover’s Meow
Tailgating is always a fun occasion to get friends together to cheer on your favorite teams. In the winter months football is still in season with the Big Game coming in February, and basketball is just getting started. We thought we’d invite some of our favorite chefs over to share what they like to serve when they’re “homegating.”
Continue reading Easy Entertaining—Tailgating in the Comfort of Your Own Home
People who know me won’t be surprised by the analogy that came to mind as I sat down to sample Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey, a new product from a veteran of the local distilling industry. What jumped into my head was the rabbit-duck illusion, an ambiguous 19th-century German drawing depicting a rabbit that, if you look again, looks like a duck, or a duck, if you blink, that resembles a rabbit. Which creature is it? Continue reading Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey
Shop any decent liquor store and you’ll find a growing number of clear spirits that aren’t gin, vodka or rum. I’m talking moonshine, a debatably named clear liquor and tasty tribute to the turbulent times of Prohibition.
Baby Boomers hearing the word “moonshine” recall “The Beverly Hillbillies’” Granny Clampett sipping “white lightnin’” from an earthen jug labeled “XXX.” She made her “rheumatiz medicine” from an unknown recipe in an illegal still. Much the same occurs today on the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners” show, where its scofflaw characters make ‘shine by “recipes” that vary with nearly every episode. What’s available, affordable and fermentable is what gets used. Sometimes that’s sugar and water, other times it’s some ground corn, sugar and water. Once rotting strawberries served as the sugar source for a batch o’ hooch that emerged blue from the still. (Thankfully, the hard luck hill jacks ditched it.) Continue reading Modern Day Moonshine
Woodford Reserve Distillery, 7855 McCracken Pike, Versailles, will offer four one-day Bourbon Academy immersion classes, covering all aspects of the the craft of distilling, at various times in the new year.
The class includes an extensive behind-the-scenes tour of the Woodford Reserve Distillery, an interactive demonstration of choosing grains to make a balanced mash bill, fermenting the mash, a demonstration of charring a barrel, and two tastings of a variety of whiskies and bourbons. Woodford Reserve Chef-in-Residence Ouita Michel will guide students through a Flavor Wheel demonstration, to improve both taste discrimination and vocabulary to describe what you are tasting. Michel and her kitchen staff will also provide a bourbon-inspired lunch.
Master Distiller Chris Morris will guide the Feb. 28 and June 20 classes, and Master Taster Marianne Barnes will do March 21 and August 22. Reservations required; cost is $225 a person plus tax and includes lunch.
Go to the Woodford Reserve website to register for their newsletter to get information about signing up for classes.
The bourbon craze deserves some credit for tequila’s soaring popularity.
Most Baby Boomers recall bourbon as “the drunk’s drink” in the 1970s. Back then, gin was coming in, vodka was rockin’ and rum was running. Clear was king and brown was down.
What a difference a generation makes. Continue reading Tequila: Brothers in the Barrel
Have you tried Dumante, that ancient nutty liqueur sipped for ages in pistachio groves of Sicily?
Don’t feel bad if you haven’t, because Dumante has only been out since Fall of 2007, although its rich, sophisticated taste and elegant packaging suggest a more established product. Continue reading Old World Character with a New Age Spirit – Dumante Verdenoce