Tuesday, April 24, 2018

PW Pizza Firestone Walker Beer Dinner

I have to admit, I didn't know anything about Firestone Walker Brewing Company when we showed up for the March PW Pizza beer dinner. I actually thought they made whiskey. Whoops! Turns out they make some really easy-to-drink beers!

What's funny is that they are located in wine country of all places - Paso Robles!

At first I was a little nervous when I saw all the IPAs and IBUs on the menu for the night, but I felt better after drinking the first beer. The Pivo Hoppy Pils is light with only a little bit of hop on the end, and it paired well with the creamy Shrimp & Corn Chowder soup. I was thinking it might be the best pairing and I hadn't even gotten to the pizza courses yet!

Shrimp & Corn Chowder
I don't normally show the beer since it's usually served in big pitchers, but this time they brought cans! Their artwork is pretty cool and Patience took pictures of them all. Each of the owners (and brothers-in-law) is represented by the animals on the Pivo Hoppy Pils - Lion for the Englishman, and the "Cal" Bear for the American!

Lion
Bear
There were some interesting pizzas this month as well. A gyro pizza was the best with chunks of lamb and tzatziki sauce, which was paired with the Luponic Distortion. (That sounds like a band name!) This beer was only a little hoppy, but a very complex finish to help cut through all the pizza flavors.

Gryo Pizza

Luponic Distortion
The second pizza was actually vegetarian, a Mediterranean Garden Pizza, but the hummus, which acted as the sauce of the pizza, was a little too spicy for me. The Union Jack IPA just added to the spice too.

Mediterranean Garden Pizza
Union Jack IPA
Luckily, there was a "milk" stout to finish off the night to help fend off all the heat in the last pairing. The Nitro Merlin milk stout doesn't have a widget inside, so instead you turn it upside down, right side up, break the seal, and pour real fast. (You don't have to give up space in the can for the widget!)

Nitro Merlin
This paired perfectly with the chocolate and ice "Merlin's Magic Hat" dessert. I even ate the cone since it was covered in chocolate! hehe

Merlin's Magic Hat
Merlin is the nickname given to the head brewer, and I think it's cool he got his own can as well.

If you got to design your own beer, what would YOU call it?

Resources:

Firestone Walker Brewing Company = https://www.firestonebeer.com/

PW Pizza = https://pwpizza.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Polite Society

We're finally getting back out there to try some new restaurants in 2018, so we were really looking forward to Polite Society!

We were greeted warmly the second we walked in to the bar area, which is perfect for waiting for your table, but as soon as we turned the corner in to the dining area, we hit a WALL OF NOISE. Sometimes it's fun if a restaurant has a busy vibe to it, but this was just LOUD.

The menu seems upscale, but the servers were dressed in plaid shirts and jeans, so no stuffy feel. And with the crowd noise, it almost felt more like a bar.

Arriving early gave us plenty of time to spend reviewing the menu, even though we both did our homework! I appreciated the concise menu, making it easier to plan out our courses, and I think there is something for everyone.

You could probably make a meal of the appetizers, but Patience went right for the Mussels so there was no hesitation, but I'd love to try a few more things. (There is even a cheese board! Kudos!)

PEI Mussels
We also started with the Deviled Eggs, another favorite...so creamy and delicious.

Deviled Eggs
Also, the sides are listed on the same page as the appetizers so we went ahead and ordered some vegetables to go with our entrees. I ordered the Honey Herb Carrots and Patience got her Brussels Sprouts. Neither one of us really needed a side after both appetizers AND an entree. Perhaps splitting a side dish might be best.

Honey Herb Carrots

Brussels Sprouts
Our dining adventure friends, Jamie and Shannon, started with a Roasted Beet Salad...almost too pretty to eat!

Roasted Beet Salad
OH! Before I get too far into the meal, I forgot to mention the cocktail list with cleverly-named drinks that you don't want to miss!  I chose the sweeter, Strawberry Manilow. (Shoot that's just fun to say.)

Strawberry Manilow
Patience chose a Bourbon Murray with Four Roses Bourbon!

Bourbon Mary
Our server had previously worked at Tony's so his wine service was impeccable, and I'm sure he could have done it with his eyes closed. (Only I notice stuff like this.)

Thanks to an article, I knew I wanted to try the Patty Melt made with the Impossible Burger "meat". I really couldn't tell that anything was different other than it was a lot less greasy. I appreciated the various ketchup and mustards, but the pickles were delicious! I could have used a few dozen more!

Incredible Burger Patty Melt
I persuaded Patience to order the Pekin Duck Breast since that was a unique item, and that turned out to be a winner.

Pekin Duck Breast
Our friends played it safe with their typical selections: Ozark Mushroom Tagliatelle and the Pan Roasted Chicken. Looks like more winners!

Ozark Mushroom Tagliatelle

Pan Roasted Chicken
I was plenty full at this point (even with saving the carrots for the next day), but everyone else powered through for dessert. Again, there is something for everyone!

Patience ordered her favorite, Creme Brulee...

Creme Brulee
...and our friends devoured the Bananas Foster, which came with a generous pour of port!

Bananas Foster
If you don't mind the noise, the menu is definitely a winner and I can't wait to see what the other seasons and menu updates will bring.

Polite Society
Resources:

Polite Society = https://www.politesocietystl.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Vero Pizza and Pasta

For my birthday I had asked for a Vero Pizza and Pasta box because I love Katie's Pizza and Pasta! I wanted to see if we had the skill to match up to the pros! (Spoiler alert: making perfectly round pizza is hard!)

I loved how we were able to select the exact arrival day for our ingredients, which helped a lot with meal planning for the week. All the ingredients arrived in an insulated box and then the ingredients fit easily in the fridge after we unpacked them all.

When we were ready to start, Patience tried to organize the plastic bags into separate piles along with the recipe cards with full instructions. We were ambitious and ordered both a pizza AND a pasta meal so we could try EVERYTHING at once. But this time I think our hubris got the better of us...

Recipe Cards
There were two cans of tomatoes, two different sizes, and only one was labeled. Luckily, we had enough common sense to deduce which one was which, but then couldn't figure out how the tomato sauce recipe fit with both courses. We really needed the cards to have some numbers to tell us when to do which thing.

I started to panic just a little bit that we hit this tomato sauce snag so early. I even tried to find the videos online and started to panic more when I couldn't find the videos either! (They're under "Recipes" -> This Week's Videos.) Katie definitely has nothing to worry about as Pizza and Pasta Queen. We won't be stealing her title anytime soon!

We dove in and got the tomato sauce going for the pizza...

Stirring the sauce...
But once we go to the "stretching the dough into a circle" part, we found that it's much harder than it sounds when you read the directions. (We totally should have watched the dough stretching video!!)

Preparing the pizzas...
Fortunately, your pizza still tastes amazing regardless of what shape it's in! WHEW!

One of them turned out fairly round!

Finished pizza!
Since the pizza is cooked on high heat, it got done very quickly and we were able to snack on that while we made the pasta. We probably should have just picked one package of items to cook so we wouldn't have had to wait as long to officially sit down to dinner.

The pasta was much easier as there was no dough to fight with, but I don't think we should have done the "tomato sauce preparation" step for the pasta.

Browning the garlic...
So our ingredients were off once we got to the pasta, but guess what... it still was delicious!!!!!! (Katie's fresh pasta is pretty damn good and you can buy some at her restaurants.)

Finished pasta!
Next time, we'll probably just order one activity at a time so we can make sure we use all the right ingredients at the right time, and be done with cooking in about an hour or so.

Ready for the pizza or pasta challenge at home? Then Vero Pizza Box is great for date night or families...get your kids involved!

Resources:

Vero Pizza and Pasta = https://www.veropizzaandpasta.com/

Monday, March 5, 2018

Making The Big O

Every cocktail fan dreams of the day when you get the call...

The Big O Ginger Liqueur is ready for another batch and do I want to help?!?!? YOU BET!!!

Several years ago, when I first met Kathy Kuper and Bill Foster, creators of The Big O, I could not believe that they still chopped all the ginger by hand! I couldn't imagine this labor of love by only two people, so of course I wanted to help.

It took me a few tries to line up a time that worked since they only make their liqueur a few times a year. The Big O uses the still and equipment at Crown Valley Brewing in Ste Genevieve, so they have to drive down the ginger on a Monday or a Tuesday, when the still is available. Since it was early in the year, I had plenty of vacation days to use!

Luckily, the Big O has such a strong following that by now there are a long list of volunteers waiting for their change. As they have grown bigger, they are now up to producing the Big O three times a year, 1000 gallons at a time. And to reach that amount, you need nine, 30-pound boxes full of ginger, and that is where I came in.

30-pound boxes of ginger
Not only did some industry folks and family answer the call, a couple of cocktail bloggers from the D.C. area flew in to help as well. (Check out LaShawn at Sip.Ponder.Repeat!)

After an hour drive down highway 55 to Ste. Genevieve, we turned the bar area at Crown Valley into our mini chopping factory. A couple of people washed the ginger, then passed it to the choppers, who used large chef's knives to cut the ginger into smaller pieces. Then I took the small pieces and put them into a food processor. (See white bowl below.)

This was quite the exhausting process...

Ginger Factory Line

A whole lotta choppin' going on!
Once I got a bucket full of finely-chopped ginger "mash", the ginger was ready to go into the still!

Kathy and the distiller overseeing the pot
The still at Crown Valley Brewing is pretty impressive! Check the height on that baby!

Super tall still columns!
After a long day of hard work with only a break for lunch, we got to see some of the magic happening in the warehouse before we left.

The Big O in stainless steel

Jess approves of the barrel aging
Sometime later this year, you'll be able to drink some Big O that I helped to make!

Fortunately, since I was paid in booze (and swag), I won't have to wait until then to enjoy some Big O for myself.

Resources:

The Big O = http://drinkthebigo.com/

Crown Valley Brewery = https://www.crownvalleybrewery.com/

Sunday, March 4, 2018

PW Pizza Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner

I don't really know much about Sierra Nevada brewery, but apparently they have a lot of IPAs as that seemed to be the theme of the evenings with three of them on the menu - out of four courses!

The Hop Bullet IPA was at least a little sweet since it was paired with the Curried Sweet Potato Soup, which had a little bit of a kick. Soup is definitely appropriate for winter, but I had to save room for PIZZA!
Curried Sweet Potato Soup
I was a little nervous with the first pizza as "Nopales" was the main "meat" on this "Bad Hombre". (I had an allergic reaction once to a cactus taco.) Luckily, everything was fine and I actually enjoyed the Otra Vez Gose.

Bad Hombre Pizza

Sierra Nevada Otra Vez Gose
The next pizza was so good that we forgot to take a picture! BBQ Pork Pizza with BBQ sauce. The meatier pizza also went well with the lighter-hopped beer - Hazy Little Thing IPA. Perfect for a summer day.

Another no-brainer pairing was an Orange Poppy Seed Cake (and Vanilla Ice Cream) with the Side Car Orange IPA. It wasn't that bad of an IPA (for me), but at this point, my mouth was toast.

Orange Poppy Seed Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream
Hopefully there will be more variety come next month's dinner...

Resources:

Sierra Nevada = https://sierranevada.com/

PW Pizza = https://pwpizza.com/

Photos by Patience Scanlon

Monday, February 12, 2018

Shake Shack

It was my birthday... so that meant we were going to stand in line for 35 minutes, and then another 20 minutes or so until our order was ready at Shake Shack!

I was super excited....
We made it!
Luckily, it was during the winter thaw weekend, but since it was a Saturday afternoon, there were a lot of kids. The best time to go would probably be during the week, and hopefully the hype will eventually die down.

Not only did I study the menu during the week before, but we had a lot of time to think about what to order once we got in the door. I definitely wanted to try a shake, so chocolate it was! Patience was a little more adventurous since she got one of the shake specials which rotate monthly.

Fries, cheeseburgers, and shakes, oh my!
I knew I would keep it simple with my first time and choose the single cheeseburger and cheese fries. Patience really wanted to try the chili fries, so we had to get our own.

I think next time I'll upgrade to the double cheeseburger and share the fries. The shake was SUPER filling, so maybe even share that too.

I almost felt like I was in downtown Manhattan for a second...

Resources:

Shack Shack CWE = https://www.shakeshack.com/location/central-west-end-mo/

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

I Fratellini

Round two of "Zoe" restaurants meant that we spent my birthday at I Fratellini, which was even more desired due to Elli Snyder's weekly reviews that have been taunting Patience for years.

Even though it was an extra cold winter night, the restaurant was quite warm due to the kitchen. I'm guessing that is the reason why the gentlemen requested to move to the newly opened table that had been waiting for our reservation.

Since they might have been regulars, I politely let them know that they were welcome to have a dessert delivered to our table in exchange for our extra wait time and giving up the more comfortable seating. They just laughed and I shook their hands as if we were old friends.

The tactic worked and we received a lovely bottle of Prosecco to start our evening!

For the first course, I had to pick the cheesiest dish, which turned out to be the Speck with Artichoke Hearts and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. (You know I picked out all the good bits.)

Speck with Artichoke Hearts and Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano
Patience and Linda enjoyed a Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts, while my Dad played it safe with potato soup.

Roasted Beet Salad with Gorgonzola and Walnuts
To help Patience make the most out of her first time, I agreed to the Spaghetti with Lobster Tail, Butter, Garlic and Shallots, while she chose the Squid Ink Linguine with Mussels and Chorizo.

Spaghetti with Lobster Tail, Butter, Garlic and Shallots

Squid Ink Linguine with Mussels and Chorizo
Linda kept it mild with the Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms and Shallots in Brown Butter and Sage, while my Dad ordered his usual meat and potatoes.

Pappardelle with Wild Mushrooms and Shallots in Brown Butter

Grilled Beef Filet with Fresh Wild Mushrooms and Escalloped Potatoes
Since Linda and I were both celebrating our twin birthdays, we had to have dessert! There was plenty of gelato, but since there was no chocolate option, I ordered the Chocolate Mousse Torta instead. I'm sure you're very surprised.

Vanilla Bean Gelato

Chocolate Mousse Torta
Definitely a good birthday!

Happy birthday, Linda!
Resources:

I Fratellini = https://www.ifratellini.com

Photos by Patience Scanlon