Tag Archives: beer

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese (and Beer)

Tomorrow is October! Here in North Carolina, that’s a bit of a shocker. Our temperatures have been up and down lately but always warm and pleasant, in the 70s or 80s. However, this weekend, right on schedule, it’s getting cooler, even dropping into the low 40s at night.

The latte menu at coffee shops and the beer line-up at craft breweries herald the seasons too. I’ve been seeing lots of tweets and Facebook references to pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin ales. I can personally vouch for Big Boss Brewing’s Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale, a local favorite.

Run to your nearest beer store and seek out New Belgium’s Kick, “a rich and tart pumpkin cranberry ale blended with wood-aged beer for a uniquely complex harvest season sour.” This collaboration brew (with Elysian Brewing Company) is a fine beer for evening sipping and, if you can put some aside, would make a great Thanksgiving digestif.

Last October during a New England road trip I had Southern Tier’s Pumking, an imperial (strong) pumpkin ale. I was happy to find it because Southern Tier didn’t distribute to North Carolina back then, but now they do, so a trip to Tasty Beverage Company (my local beer store) might be in my near future.

What pumpkin or fall seasonal beers have rocked your world lately?

In the spirit of all things pumpkin, here’s a simple recipe I’ve already made twice. I found it on Rebecca Crump’s Ezra Pound Cake blog. I’m grateful to Rebecca for sharing this recipe but I may curse her name because of her suggestion to “sandwich it between gingersnaps.” That sounds deliriously addictive!

Now you have a recipe to use when you find yourself with leftover canned pumpkin. Adjust the ingredients to match the amount of pumpkin you have.

Both times I’ve made this recipe I used the ingredient amounts specified below, but next time I’m going to reduce the brown sugar a bit. It’s not overly sweet but I bet I could make it less sweet and it would still be good. I’ll let you know how that turns out. Feel free to play with the spices too — maybe you’d like more spice flavor, or more ginger. Start with the amounts below, taste and adjust.

spiced pumpkin cream cheese pumpkin beer

Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese

You’ll need a bowl and a hand mixer (or a stand mixer, immersion blender, whisk or spoon).

  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened – I’ve been using the low-fat Neufchatel cheese – unwrap and nuke for 15 seconds if you’re short on time.
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, canned (or homemade)
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/4 teaspoon  ground ginger + 1/8 teaspoon  allspice or cloves + dash of nutmeg  (or you could use 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice instead of all these spices)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a bowl, beat the softened cream cheese, pumpkin, brown sugar, spices and vanilla until smooth. You could also use an immersion blender, sturdy whisk or spoon, but it will take longer. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Makes 1-1/2 cups.

Original recipe: Spiced Pumpkin Cream Cheese, Ezra Pound Cake

The Sunday Table: July 3, 2011

The Tour de France is here! For the next three weeks I will be obsessed and distracted by the Tour. It’s my favorite sporting event of the year. Watching it live in the morning is never enough for me; I like watching the different version of commentary in the later show too. I did say “obsessed.”

While they’re at the Tour, cyclists eat like football linemen. The reports of their huge dinners will make your mouth water. Some take it even further, like one of my favorites, Radio Shack rider Chris Horner, winner of this year’s Tour of California, who’s famous for his In-n-Out binges. US time-trail champion David Zabriskie of the Garmin-Cervelo team is the complete opposite. He’s going vegan for this year’s Tour.

craft beer tour de france raleigh freelance writer

Garmin-Cervelo, today's team time-trial victors

Last weekend I discovered (and wrote about) a new summertime favorite, New Belgium Somersault Ale. It’s a kolsch beer, which according to the New York Times is a summer beer worth the fuss. It’s the perfect beer to have after a bike ride. Heck, it’s the perfect beer to have on any Saturday or Sunday afternoon.

I found a lovely series of appetite-whetting “cinemagraphs” of Sam Calagione brewing strawberry beer at Dogfish Head. I’d love to see that on draft or in bottle near me. Busy Bee Cafe, are you listening?

Up to now only a few people in my life knew about my fascination with the giant squid, Architeuthis. This week fisherman off Florida’s Atlantic coast pulled up a 23-foot long dead squid. Scientists have seen specimens up to 43-feet long. If you want to learn more about the sea monster that spooked sailors centuries ago, I recommend Richard Ellis’ The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World’s Most Elusive Sea Creature.

craft beer tour de france raleigh freelance writer

33- and 40-foot squids found in Norway in 1896

The Sunday Table: June 26, 2011

A bill in my home state of Massachusetts will make the quahog the state shellfish. What?! Did I hear a snicker out of you? Surely it’s because you don’t understand the magnificence of the quahog. And in case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced co-hog, not qwa-hog as a delusional Midwestern executive chef once tried to tell me. Who did the staff believe? Me, of course. Respect. Of course you know how to pronounce quahog if you’re a Family Guy fan.

But what about the soft-shelled clam? Doesn’t it have rights to the state shellfish title? Will it be edged out by the hard-shelled quahog? Fried clams and steamers vs. chowder, cherrystones and stuffies? That’s a tough one.

That’s not the only news out of the Massachusetts State House. Another bill is pending to make Rex Trailer the state cowboy. Surely that one will pass unanimously. My first brush with TV fame was on the Rex Trailer show. I only remember a procession through the set and then having pancakes with Cactus Pete. It was very exciting. Boom, Boom, Boomtown!

Continuing with the Massachusetts theme, did you know that New Bedford is the largest U.S. commercial fishing port? They can thank their scallop fishery for that status. In 2009 the scallop harvest was valued at $249 million, according to the latest federal fishery statistics. “And scallops, unlike lobster, have proven remarkably recession proof with prices rising steadily through the downturn even as the amount caught held relatively steady.” I keep an eye out for sales on scallops at Harris Teeter; their selection always looks fresher than scallops in other markets. The next time I buy some, I’m making Baked Buzzards Bay Scallops – quick, easy and so delicious.

raleigh freelance writer blogger

Oh to have a plate of these right now, sigh. (photo by Flickr/joo0ey)

One of my favorite breweries outside North Carolina, New Belgium, is celebrating their 20th anniversary. Twice recently on visits to the Busy Bee Cafe I swooned over their Dunkelweiss. Last night I bought of six-pack of their summer seasonal, Somersault Ale, a kolsch they describe as “a perfect, summer lounge-around ale that is easy to drink.” Yes, it is. My next six-pack purchase will be from a North Carolina brewery. I support my local brewers whenever I can, but since I’m a beer geek and like to try new things, I usually alternate between NC and out of state beers. However, I must confess, because I’m in a constant battle with the bulge, I keep Yuengling Light Lager in stock as my summer house beer. At only 99 calories, it’s my compromise refreshment beer.

Whenever someone I know goes to northern California to visit the wine country, they always head to Napa or Sonoma. I did too until I moved to Sacramento and discovered the more modest wineries hidden among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. You’ll especially love that area if you’re a Rhone lover like me or a Zin fan. Just 30 minutes from Sac, you’ll find really good wine at more reasonable prices than Napa or Sonoma in a setting that is often more gorgeous. You won’t have to pony up money for tasting fees. At some wineries you may feel like you’re in a rec room or dressed-up shed, but the person pouring wine might just be the vintner. There’s gold in them thar hills!

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Robert Louis Stevenson: “Wine is bottled poetry.”

And now, W.C. Fields: “What contemptible scoundrel stole the cork from my lunch?”

Happy memories! Terre Rouge & Easton Wines in Amador County

The Sunday Table: March 20, 2011

March Madness isn’t my thing. I’m not much of a basketball fan, only a fair-weather Georgetown fan, but once again they choked and bowed out early. Instead of NCAA brackets, I made my picks on the beer brackets at Draft magazine. Check it out, you could be a lucky kegerator winner. My other bracket site, Art Madness, opens tomorrow at Modern Art Notes. If that doesn’t do it for you, you could select the best presidents in the National Constitution Center’s brackets.

Here’s an unfortunate story about two of my loves – art and craft beer. Epic Brewing used a photo of the Spiral Jetty on their IPA label. The Spiral Jetty is an earthwork sculpture created by Robert Smithson in the salt flats of Utah. Now the owners of that piece’s copyright, the Dia Art Foundation, is threatening legal action for copyright infringement since it’s being used for commercial purposes. Isn’t there a way to make everyone happy? Perhaps the brewery could donate a percentage of its IPA sales to conservation efforts since the Spiral Jetty does face an uncertain future.

Today is Day 12 of Jay Wilson’s Lenten fast: only four Doppelbock beers a day plus water. He’s lost about eleven pounds so far but hasn’t lost his spirit. I’ve really enjoyed following along via his daily blog posts.

beer basho march madness japan

Andechs Abbey - Benedictine monastery and brewery - by Merian

Since we’re on the topic of beer, I recently learned about the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew temple in Thailand. It was built with more than a million recycled glass beer bottles. There’s even a mosaic of Buddha made out of bottle caps.

This type of story frightens me: A Dubious Alliance of Food Giants. Slashfood writes,

We guess alliances like the Snack Food Association and the Council for Biotechnology Information (whose megacompany members include BASF, DuPont, Dow, and Monsanto) felt they just weren’t big enough or strong enough to convince Congress and consumers that big ag is good ag. So now 55 of the big-boy alliances have bonded together to form what might be called a supersociety, the new Alliance to Feed the Future.

I feel my political cynicism turning into something darker.

Is it strange to want to learn even more about a culture, or to celebrate a culture, during their time of crisis? I found myself browsing through an old National Gallery of Art catalogue the other day, Edo: Art in Japan 1615-1868. I’m looking for recipes for Japanese dishes. I searched in vain for a book I thought I still had by an American writer who traced the steps of Basho, a 17th century haiku poet-monk, across Japan. Basho is revered for reviving the haiku. Here’s one:

Wrapping the rice cakes,
with one hand
she fingers back her hair.

And another,

Sadly, I part from you-
like a clam torn from its shell,
I go, and autumn too.

basho beer spiral jetty epic brewing march madness

Basho by Sugiyama Sanpu

The Sunday Table: March 13, 2011

During the 2008 Lenten season my yoga center in Sacramento offered the 40 Days to Personal Revolution program. It was a challenging and transforming experience – daily yoga practice and meditation, journaling, mindful eating and weekly meetings. I also gave up beer and wine for the 40 days — a sacrifice that wasn’t required but seemed in the spirit of the program. Many friends asked if I stopped drinking because of Lent. I heard that question enough times that I spent time reading about the meaning and purpose of Lent, including many blog posts by those who were going through their own spiritual journey. Our motivations and reflections had a lot in common even though we approached the 40 (or 46) days from different philosophies.

This year I’m doing a modified 40 days on my own. I’m practicing and meditating daily, reading my yoga books and being mindful about all my choices, but I’m also enjoying a good beer or wine (or two) every now and then. Jay Wilson is taking it a bit deeper. He’s fasting as German monks would during Lent. He’s limiting his daily diet to water and four 12-ounce dopplebocks, the high-calorie beer style developed by monks for the Lenten season. “I will be working with both a doctor and a spiritual advisor as I attempt to tell the story of this facet of the monks’ livelihood. Eventually, there will be a book.” Of course there’s a book, my cynical side says. But I enjoy reading along with his spiritual journey.

Jay’s beer might cost more in 2012. Because of flooding in Australia and Canada, “the price of malting barley will jump by one-third, an official with the Canadian Wheat Board said. Industrial brewers are using as much as 70 per cent corn syrup these days instead of barley to get their sugar content, so a craft brewer will be affected more than a mega-brewer.” US craft brewers also buy domestic and British barley so hopefully we won’t see too much of an increase. I’m still adjusting to the increase from a few years back.

beer lent 40 days yoga food

photo by Mark Robinson (flickr)

Now for a happy development in the beer world. I’m starting to see more of these beer bicycle contraptions. I’m pretty sure I saw one at Sierra Nevada when I was there, unless I’m thinking of another brewery. Bend, OR launched a Cycle Pub, “a rolling pub on wheels, that you pedal.” Considering the lively craft beer scene here in the Triangle, I expect to see one of these in Durham or Raleigh soon.

The big news in the food blogosphere is the new Google recipe search and how it shuts out many bloggers, like me, who don’t use fancy coding and widgets. Even bloggers who have self-hosted blogs, and therefore the capability to do what it takes, will have to go back and recode all their old recipes if they want them to show up in search results. This change will make it more challenging to get search results from personal food blogs, the ones that I enjoy discovering and reading. Boo.

The food world discovers Cheerwine, a North Carolina cherryish soda. I’m not usually a soda drinker but every now and then I like an A&W root beer or one of those tasty craft-brew type bottles. I hadn’t ever tried Cheerwine before moving here to NC but now it’s in my rotation too.

This week’s poem, courtesy of the Poetry Foundation, is by Mark Doty.

A Display of Mackerel

They lie in parallel rows,
on ice, head to tail,
each a foot of luminosity
barred with black bands,
which divide the scales’
radiant sections
like seams of lead
in a Tiffany window.
Iridescent, watery
prismatics: think abalone,
the wildly rainbowed
mirror of a soapbubble sphere,

I don’t want to infringe on his copyright, so please visit Poetry Foundation to enjoy the rest of this read-it-and-you-can-see-it poem. You can also find this poem in Atlantis: Poems. Now I’m jonesing for some mackerel.

beer food lent 40 days yoga

photo by Podknox (flickr)

The Sunday Table: February 27, 2011

Did you know that one percent of all Google searches each day are for recipes? Google recently “added a new level of functionality that will allow users to sort by a recipe’s characteristics” like ingredients, cook time and calories. Unfortunately, Google’s preference for the huge recipe engines remains. “It’s going to favor some of the biggest sites and those who have optimized their content to be found easily by search engines. Expect a lot of FoodNetwork.com and AllRecipes.com recipes to pop up on the first page of any search.” I prefer finding recipes on personal blogs so my RSS feeder will still be my go-to source.

Good news for my Massachusetts pals: we may have Fullsteam here in NC, but don’t be envious, you’ll soon have Mystic Brewery. Beer News reports “Mystic Brewery will focus on making pre-industrial style beers, like those from Belgium, but with a distinct New England agricultural influence.”

An MIT-trained mechanical engineer is “saving the earth, one beer at a time.” He’s invented a device that extracts energy from the spent hops, barley and yeast left over from the brewing process and uses that to process the wastewater at Magic Hat. A big beautiful circle. His anaerobic methane digester “is the first in the world to extract energy from the spent grain and then re-use it in the brewery.” Last year on Blog Action Day, I wrote about a few other breweries that are finding ways to conserve, capture and reuse energy and resources.

Your thoughts about this news will depend on your view about the role of government in our lives. My view is very gray; it depends on the issue. A Minnesota House committee passed the Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act, which now heads to the full House and state Senate. The act would prohibit lawsuits against fast-food restaurants based on the health effects of their food. I think the name of the act says it all. I’m not a fast-food advocate but I can’t stand the idea of suing them because they make you fat. You have a choice, buy a Whopper or drive to the supermarket.

Here’s a lovely story about a long ago visit to Egypt, a sweet waiter boy, a fresh egg and quenching fruit juices by Lisa Barlow at Salon.

If you’ve ever lived or spent time in the Central Valley of California, this story from Orion magazine, Desiccated Dreams: California’s Engineered Cornucopia Falters, is not surprising, but still depressing.

I’ll end with a poem by Wilmer Mills about Nigella Lawson.


She minces squid and a marinated scallion,
Mixes rice with shrimp and olive paste. . . .
Hope for the English meal, though half Italian
With her jet black hair and her elastic waist.
Unlike the other television cooks,
She brings to life a lobster that was dead
With common spices, her exotic looks,
And recipes she dreamed about in bed.

cooking beer nigella lawson

photo by snowpea&bokchoi (flickr)

The Sunday Table: February 20, 2011

Here’s an update on the food situation in Egypt, paraphrased from Reuters. Egypt’s food inflation will continue to rise in 2011 reaching about 20 percent year-on-year. It will be difficult for Egypt to curb prices because prices are likely to remain globally high this year. The situation won’t be helped by a drop in the Egyptian pound that makes imported goods, half of Egypt’s domestic consumption, even more expensive, adding further strain to the government’s import subsidy bill. Thomas Kostigen has an interesting theory that US farm policy is to blame for the political crisis.

A Serious Eats correspondent, S. Farhan Mustafa, tells us more about koshary, the national dish of Egypt. He didn’t supply a recipe in the post but there are links to two recipes in the comments, one at Saveur.

It was probably M.F.K. Fisher, more than anyone else, who taught me how to eat. After reading her books, my solo European travels changed. It became all about the table. I channeled her many a time, particularly one night in Bruges where a chef made me a meal of several courses that lasted hours, each dish accompanied by a delicious beer. I learned today there’s a new biography out, An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher. Ooh la la!

The New York Times did a review of beer applications for mobile phones. He missed a popular social application I’ve seen many Triangle tweeps using – Untappd.

This is not my Old Spice commercial. The Paso Robles Zinfandel Festival made the best wine festival promotional video that I’ve ever seen. This is one of the things I miss about living in California – small wineries in non-Napa counties and fun wine festivals, all within an hour’s drive, often less.

Grab your bottle of Zinfandel and head out for a stroll. Stop by Starbucks first for the ultimate go-cup. You can put a whole bottle of wine in the new Starbucks trenta cup, but your red wine teeth will give you away.

egypt food MFK Fisher zinfandel beer apps

koshary from Tahrir Square ~ flickr photo by Andrew