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"A gourmet who thinks of calories is like a tart who looks at her watch." - James Beard


Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Beer Baron - 2014: A Craft Beer Year in Review

March: Any time you start you beer year with Bell’s Expedition Stout – or really, any good Russian Imperial Stout – you win. It was also my first post as the Beer Baron and I managed to equate Expedition Stout to Batman, so it was a win-win.

April: Ah, spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to road trips, Arcade Fire concerts and craft beer. On our way down to Nashville, we stumbled upon Country Boy Brewing in Lexington, Kentucky. The beers – especially their Sexual Dracula cherry-bourbon stout – and hospitality were so good, we are headed back for another visit. 

April: Apart from learning just how awesome Nashville is, another highlight of our spring road trip was discovering Asheville, North Carolina, which is an artsy, modern, beer-friendly little city nestled in the hills amidst winding road dotted with farms. Along with all the amazing coffee shops and hipster-friendly tacos shops, we also found by Wicked Weed Brewing, which, as luck would have it, had recently released a barrel-aged sour cherry ale that I was more than happy to bring home to cellar.

June: To celebrate Ontario Craft Beer Week in June, I took a little trip to Guelph, which is home to one of my favourite Ontario craft breweries, Wellington Brewery, as well as one of my favourite beers in the province, F&M Brewery’s Stone Hammer Oatmeal Coffee Stout. You can celebrate Ontario Craft Beer Week anywhere, but if you had to pick a city, you could certainly do worse than Guelph.

July: As the temperature (and amount of yard work) started to rise, so too did my consumption of session ales, especially Muskoka’s Detour, which was my go-to choice when I was hot and needed to keep my wits about me.

August: The Clockwatching Tart and I love Detroit. We don’t need any specific reason to visit but going to see Jack White play might qualify as one of the best reasons ever. During our little trip, we discovered Atwater at the Park in Grosse Pointe, which we will be sure to visit again.

August: August also brought the Forest City Beer Fest, which turned out to be an amazing day despite a little bit of rain. The craft beer scene in London is getting better and better every year and it is thanks to the people like festival organizer Aaron Brown. I am proud to say I visited every single booth and took photos of all the friendly faces.

October: The weather was beautiful over Thanksgiving and on the way home from a beautiful wedding in Trenton, we took a little detour off the highway to stop for lunch at the Woolwich Arrow, which boasts consistently great food and craft beer.

October: Now in its 10th year, Cask Days is a dizzying experience – 6500+ guests, 336 firkins, 120 breweries / ciders, and 150 volunteers all fill the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto over 3 days – both literally and figuratively. This year, Ballast Point’s Victory at Sea imperial porter brewed with cacao and chili peppers, was the standout to me but there was a lot to bring smiles to everyone’s face.

December: December sees the release of quite a few wonderful seasonal beers and Milos’ Craft Beer Emporium is one of the best places in town to enjoy them along with some great, locally sourced food. Milos is another big part of the growing craft beer movement in London and we are lucky to have him and his bar in town. Pictured above is something I likely wouldn’t have been able to find anywhere else in town: Colossus, a Dunkleweizen Dopplebock from Side Launch Brewing that was absolutely fantastic.

December: Finally, my year of craft beer ended with a bang thanks to our local brewery, Forked River Brewing Company, releasing Weendigo, a barrel-aged imperial stout. Hand-dipped in wax and perfect for cellaring, Weendigo was available both at the brewery and at the LCBO and made for a perfect Christmas gift – though I made sure to keep a few tucked away for myself to help ensure 2015 is just as delicious as 2014 was.

This post is by The Beer Baron, Matt Brown.  Find him on Twitter @geekcanuck

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Tart of the Month * Lemon Bars

Wow, I've done almost a full year of Tarts of the Month!

February 2014 - Meyer Lemon Tart 

March 2014 - Butternut Squash, Mushroom & Gruyère Tart

April 2014 - Spring Asparagus & Goat's Cheese Tart

May 2014 - Asparagus & Gruyère Tart

June 2014 - Strawberry Tarts

July 2014 - Clafoutis

August 2014 - Plum Tart with Honey & Black Pepper

September 2014 - Beet, Cheddar & Apple Tart

October 2014 - Pumpkin Spice Tarts

November 2014 - Butternut Squash Tart with Sage, Honey & Chilis

So I figured I'd give myself a little Christmas gift and cheat a little with December's tart of the month.  These lemon bars aren't technically a tart, but they have a shortbread crust and a creamy filling and you could bake them in tart pans instead of a baking pan.

This recipe is adapted from Mel's Kitchen Cafe.  Here's what you need for these tasty lemon bars:

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Curried Corn Bisque

Sometimes, when things get stressful, all you need is a quick, hearty, home made soup to make it all better.  This soup takes almost no time at all and is so warm and satisfying.  It would be great with fresh summer corn but it is so simple and delicious with frozen corn. 

The recipe is adapted from Eating Well magazine.  Here's what you need for soup! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Perfect Storm: Spicy Rosemary BBQ Potatoes

This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron, who is also a potato baron in his spare time. 

Just like pigs in The Simpsons, potatoes are the proverbial “magical animal” of the vegetable kingdom. From the ubiquitous French fry to the glorious pierogi, potatoes are definitely versatile and absolutely wonderful – so it came as no surprise to the Clockwatching Tart when I excitedly started thinking up recipe ideas for our little Something Blue potatoes from The Little Potato Company

Since I was starting with something I love so much, I decided to just roll with it and create a perfect storm of things I love: potatoes, extra virgin olive oil, fresh rosemary, hot pepper flakes, and cooking on my beloved Weber barbeque. 

To create my flavour-infused olive oil, I just took a shade over half a cup of extra virgin olive oil and got it up to a low simmer over medium heat on the stove top before adding six sprigs of fresh rosemary and two heaping teaspoons of hot pepper flakes. I let everything simmer for five minutes, then removed it from the heat and let it cool down before pouring the oil through the strainer to create a wonderfully fragrant, lightly spicy oil for the potatoes. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Holiday Round-Up

It's getting to be a busy time of year with everyone rushing about preparing for the holidays.  We're all looking for short cuts to make the season easier, including me!  So here's a round-up of holiday posts that might make life a little easier for you.

First, a couple of simple meals to have in your back pocket for those busy nights where there's just not enough time.

Cacio e Pepe (Cheese & Pepper Pasta)

Unbelievably simple and delicious. You can use spaghetti, linguine or bucatini.  Keep Romano cheese and white pepper on hand and this is a pantry meal for any time.  

Lazy Cabbage Rolls

These take a little more time to make, but you can make several batches to freeze and bake any time for a quick meal.  Seasonal and flavourful, this is great to have on hand for cold winter nights.  

Now, if you're hosting a party or are a guest who needs to bring something, here are some appetizer ideas.

Shrimp Cocktail 

It's so much nicer when you make it yourself.

Little Hasselback Potatoes

This potato technique makes an amazing side dish, but it would also be great as an appetizer with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chives.

Gougeres (Cheese Puffs)

Surprisingly simple but incredibly impressive.  These are great as an appetizer, or in place of rolls on a buffet table.  They freeze well too.

Butternut Squash Tart

Puff pastry tarts are a quick and easy meal and can be cut into smaller pieces for a fancy appetizer.  This one is easy and delicious.

With all these appetizers, you'll need some cocktails!

Mulled Wine

This festive treat became a favourite last holiday season.  

Craft Beer

Or how about a beer? Scroll through the Beer Baron's posts for ideas to serve at your party or bring as a gift for your hosts.  

If you have time to do a little baking...

Ginger Crackles

Festive and seasonal, I make these every year and love them.

Saltine Toffee (aka Christmas Crack)

This is another annual tradition that never fails to impress, even with the humblest ingredients.  

Now for the main event...

Spatchcocked Turkey

If you're serving turkey to a crowd, there's no quicker way to cook a crispy, juicy whole bird than to spatchcock it.  This post is old, but the technique is timeless.

Jerk Roasted Turkey Breast

If you're serving a smaller group, this Jerk-spiced turkey breast is perfect, unusual and warming.

And finally, I always like to serve seafood as a special treat on New Years Eve.  

Lobster Bisque

This soup makes a wonderful first course for a fancy dinner, or even a meal on New Years Eve along with a bunch of appetizers.  

Lobster Pot Pie or Lobster Mac & Cheese

You can make these yourself, but why not treat yourself and order some delivered to your door to have a special treat without the effort.  You deserve it!  

Monday, December 1, 2014

Little Hasselback Potatoes

Little Hasselback Potatoes

I was lucky enough to receive some "Creamer" potatoes to try from The Little Potato Company.  

Little Potato Company

The Baby Boomer variety is a tiny, yellow-fleshed potato that's great for roasting, so I thought I'd turn them into mini hasselback potatoes.  

Little Hasselback Potatoes

Hasselback potatoes is a Swedish potato recipe where thin slices are cut almost all the way through, but the potatoes stay whole, so you get crispy crackles on top, but have creamy roasted middles.  The best of all potato worlds. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Tart of the Month - Butternut Squash with Sage, Honey & Chilis

You really can't go wrong with these puff pastry tarts.  They come together in minutes and bake quickly.  They work great as an appetizer, side dish or as a quick lunch.  I keep all-butter puff pastry in the freezer at all times now, and I can whip up a tart at a moment's notice.  

This recipe comes from Bon Appetit.  It's a has a few steps, but it's super easy to do.  Here's what you need:

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Beer Baron - I Just Had an Epiphany (No. 1)

Belgian beers – especially Trappist beers, which are brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery under the control and responsibility of the community of monks – are pretty highly regarded by beer geeks.

In fact, when I tried my first really good Trappist beer, Chimay Blue, I was totally wonderstruck. It remains one of my favourite beers and was part of my motivation for visiting Belgium exploring the world of craft beer ever since. Another Trappist beer, Westvleteren 12, is usually at or near the top of the list of greatest beers in the world, so it is safe to say I was more than a little bit excited for the release of Black Oak Brewing Co.’s Epiphany No. 1, an Ontario craft beer made in the Belgian style.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Jamaican Patties

My Jamaican jerk turkey breast went over so well that I decided to try another Jamaican recipe.  These spicy beef patties are full of flavour.  They take a little time to come together, but they're not difficult at all.  

The dough comes together easily in a food processor and the spiced beef filling cooks quickly.  This recipe is adapted from Serious Eats.  

Here's what you need...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Jerk Roasted Turkey Breast

I love cooking with turkey.  You flavour it in so many ways.  This Jamaican jerk seasoned turkey breast is a wonderful, flavourful way to enjoy turkey.  It would be great for a spicy Thanksgiving meal for two or three, but it's easy to make for a weeknight dinner too.  

Jamaican jerk combines the flavours of thyme, allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg with hot peppers and sugar for a taste that's more warmly spiced than super hot.  Of course, you can adjust the heat to your preference by adding more scotch bonnet peppers.  

Here's what you need for this very tasty turkey breast:

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Hour - Brooklyn Cocktail

I'm very interested in craft cocktails lately.  Ever since we went on our Southern USA road trip in the spring, I've been more interested in bourbon.  

The Brooklyn cocktail is usually made with rye but I used bourbon.  Here's what you need for one cocktail:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bocconcini Stuffed Meatballs

I happened to have some leftover bocconcini (fresh mozzarella balls, packed in water and often sold in a tub in the deli section of the grocery store), so, of course, I decided to stuff them inside some meatballs to see what would happen.  It turned out pretty great!

I served the meatballs with spaghetti tossed with a quick tomato sauce and sprinkled with fresh basil for a very tasty, decadent meal. 

Here's what you need for these crazy meatballs:

Friday, October 31, 2014

The Beer Baron - You Got Chili Peppers in My Porter!

This post comes from Matt, the Beer Baron... 

You Got Chili Peppers in My Porter!

In the 1980s, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups commercials touted “two great tastes that taste great together”. While my peanut allergy – and aversion to creepy guys on the street looking over my shoulder when I talk to Walkman-wearing girls – didn’t make me susceptible to such brilliant advertising, I’ve recently been thinking about that tagline thanks to some wonderful experiences with beer.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tart of the Month - Pumpkin Spice Tarts

Pumpkin Spice Tarts

It's that time of year!  Pumpkin spice is on everyone's mind. 

Pumpkin Spice Tarts

I was never a huge fan of pumpkin pie - it's a little dense and the texture isn't that appealing to me.  But these pumpkin spice tarts are lightened up with cream cheese, and I love the gingersnap crust.  

Here's what you need for these easy fall treats: