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Charlotte Oktoberfest – Homebrews

Hello Beer Fiends,

As long-promised and overdue, here is the first of the Charlotte Oktoberfest write-ups that I have from the 2012 Charlotte Oktoberfest festival held at the Metronlina Tradeshow Expo on September 29, 2012.

2012 Charlotte Oktoberfest Homebrewers

2012 Charlotte Oktoberfest!

Homebrewers. The local legends of beer one-off experimentations, imitations-of-large-name-beers, and classic styles redone with new twists. These are the people that like making little tweaks to their recipes to make it that extra little bit more <insert beer flavor, aroma or aftertaste of your choice here>.

Now, I will admit, being a novice to the Oktoberfest scene, that I did not do the Homebrewer section the way I should have, and in fact missed a LOT of homebrewer tents completely, let alone beers that I wanted to try out.

So to make up for that, to the homebrewers as well as myself and you all, I am going to list the brews that I tried, and then tomorrow post the list of all that were available that I wasn’t able to try. Got to give a nod to everyone, after all!

Homebrews I Tried:
Brewer / Style of Beer / Unique Beer Name: Review of Beer
Bill Lynch / Strong Scotch Ale / Bill’s Big Kilted Co*k: This was a full flavored scotch ale, and the “strong” part was definitely right on the money. The malts in this were close to an amber ale, and balanced nicely with some caramel undertones in the aroma and flavor. A little sweetness and a heavy dose of oak finished the flavor off nicely for me.

Bill Lynch / Imperial IPA / Cunning Linguist Imperial IPA: this hearty IPA was full of hops and citrus, with a smooth bite to the end of each sip that let you know you weren’t drinking a wimpy Pale Ale (really, I love you PAs, don’t hate me!!!), but rather an Imperial (Double) IPA full of character and, well, hops! This was good. The name clearly was a seller for it as well.

Bill Lynch / Specialty Beer / Dork Peppermint Patty Stout: This was my favorite of the homebrews, actually. First, it says “Dork”, and that fits me VERY well as a moniker (hey, wear it and be proud, right?!?), and second – peppermint patty?!?! Yes please and thank you kindly. This tasted like a York Peppermint Patty married a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, and this beauty was the amazing offspring they produced together. (Now do you believe it was my favorite?) The porter coffee notes came through very lightly, but this beer was all about the chocolate and peppermint from start to finish. It didn’t taste like an Altoid, it tasted like a -chocolate- mint. Very well balanced with an understated alcohol punch to it.

**Maybe I should insert here that Bill is a friend of mine’s dad, so we of course had to try quite a few of his beers out! ;-)**

David Jones / Bohemian Pilsner / Czech Your Head: This cleverly titled beer was lighter density, with clear citrus and hop notes from start to finish. It had a bit of a bite to it with the hops, but it smoothed out with the citrus completely. This was a really good beer, we all enjoyed it.

Brian Schonder / Specialty Beer / Dirty Blonde Kitty: This banana beer was super surprising. It tasted almost like a super banana-y banana bread without the nuts (ok, shhhhush!). The caramel malt flavor came through very well underneath the banana, and complemented the medium-weight feel of this beer very well. Plus, again, the name. Gotta love it, and gotta try them, especially if you have a Kat with you! ūüėČ (loveyoumeanitlady!)

Rob Adams / Fruit Beer / Chocolate Cherry Stout: As a self-proclaimed chocolate junkie, I had to try this beer out. This wasn’t quite as chocolatey as I was expecting, more of a light milk chocolate (lighter flavor and profile), but the cherry flavor came through very well and was almost stronger than the chocolate. This was a good fruit stout, and a lighter feeling one at that (that is not a criticism either).

Loren Standley / Spice, Herb or Vegetable Beer / Sweet Potato Pecan Pie Ale: This was a nice surprise in a very nutty ale, which definitely tasted of sweet potato and malted caramel flavors to me. I enjoyed this more vegetabley beer a lot, especially as it stood out from so many of the others by taste. This was very much an earthier yet sweet medium-bodied beer.

Jason Thornton / Specialty Beer / Joyful Coconut Porter: This was a delicious and island-feeling porter that was basically like someone soaked a stout with Mounds candies. A lot of coconut flavor, a hint of nuttiness but just a hint, and a lot of strong porter coffee and chocolate undertones combined to make this a very enjoyable porter. Everything balanced nicely, and I thoroughly enjoyed this as a huge fan of Mounds candies! ūüôā

Nicole Cendrowski / American Stout / Metrosexual Chocolate: This milky chocolate stout ale had an undertone of coffee, but was mostly milk chocolate and a little bit of spice melded into the blend for a nice and somewhat lighter stout. This was a really good stout, I thought, plus the name is just fun as well!

Dave Koenig¬†/ Cream Ale / Cheap Trick:¬†This was a decent cream ale, and since I’m not a huge fan of the style, that is pretty much a good recommendation, haha… It was definitely creamy, and definitely had a full flavor though I personally thought it had a little bit of a caramel undertone to it (my friend disagreed), while still being a solid ale with the malt flavors as well. Plus, this band just rocks, so we of course had to try it!

Tomorrow I will post the other Homebrews available which I was unable to try! Gotta share the love after all! ūüėČ

Craft You Later,
Beth

Strawberry Basil and Blood Orange Drinks

So this was an intriguing set of drinks on the menu I decided to try with my friend for dinner at Vapianos Charlotte the other day.

If you want sweet, don’t order this, but if you don’t like super sweet, this Strawberry Basil Sangria is the drink for you. It is very tart, very vodka tasting, and has a nice hint of basil. The drink is made with Sauvignon Blanc, Stoli Razberi, Stoli Citrus, fresh basil, diced strawberries, and strawberry pur√©e. Mmmm.

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Strawberry Basil Sangria

Next up is the Blood Orange Margarita. This was my favorite. It was sweeter, with a nice kick at the end of each sip to remind you it was a big girl (or boy) drink! Made with Jose Cuervo, Grand Marnier, Blood Orange juice, sweet & sour mix, and some lime & lime juice, this was a fun twist on your basic margarita! Scrumptious!

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Blood Orange Margarita!

I am definitely going to try my own variations of these at home soon to see if I can get them just as good, but if you want some unique drinks, these were some keepers to try, for sure!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Fall Beer Tasting Fun

Hello Beer Fiends,

A few friends and I took a trip down beer tasting lane and did a Great Pumpkin Tasting event at one of the friends’ houses a while ago. Everyone brought a selection of beers to share, and a few munchies to pass around, and the hosts provided the glasses and a spot for everyone to congregate! Awesome!

So that said, before we get into the plethora of Charlotte Oktoberfest beer tastings, I wanted to outline the beers we tasted for this fun get together event.

pumpkin beer tap carving oktoberfest

Inspiring Pumpkin ‘Beer’!

Disclaimer: I am pretty sure that I missed a few of the beers, so if you see a favorite Fall beer is missing, comment and tell us all about it so we can go find it to share the love!

These are in no particular order:

Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale by Uinta Brewing Company: this 10.31% pumpkin ale was strong, with a hearty feel to each sip, slightly heavy on the oak undertones, and had some strong pumpkin (not pie spice) flavors intertwining with it all to tie it together. Another good one by Uinta.

Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider by Ace Cider: this was probably the best hard cider I’ve tasted. And I really like hard cider. Pumpkin juice overtones, pumpkin spice undertones, with a hint of the apple cider crispness and feel at the beginning and end of the sip. The light flavor was not understated at all, and made the flavors that much more enjoyable. YUM.

Gordgeous by Noda Brewing Company: ahhh, Noda Seasonals. How I love thee, let me count the ways. Seriously, if you like everything by Noda like me, you’ll just add this to the checklist of “YUM” productions. Since I did a write-up on this beer already, I’m just going to link & copy here: At 6.4% ABV with 17 SRMs and 29 IBUs, this is a fantastic pumpkin ale that isn’t too pumpkiny, isn’t too pumpkin pie-spiced, and isn’t too heavy. The carmelization of the pumpkin comes through the sips, as do each of the spices they added. The ginger adds a nice balancing note that makes it not taste like every other pumpkin ale. This beer has¬†a great “this is fall!” feel to it while you sip it staring at the falling leaves. It tastes, quite simply, like a harvest pumpkin beer should: pumpkin, blended spices and¬†harvest married¬†on a medium-bodied sip of ale. Maybe under a full moon. In a gordgeous tux, no less.

Fat Jack Double Pumpkin by Samuel Adams: this 8.5% ABV beer has a molasses and malty flavor winding through the strong pumpkin and caramel-pumpkin pie spice flavors. Has a heavy feel on the front and middle, but finishes with a flourish of flavor. Another great and delicious contribution by Sam Adams to the seasonal selections!

Oktoberfest by Blue Point Brewing Company: this 5.5% ABV ale is crafted in the spirit of the Oktoberfest origins, with hints of malt, caramel, honey, toast, nuts and a touch of apple to take you on the journey from start to finish of this beer. It had a definite fall taste and aroma to it throughout!

Gruntled Pumpkin by RJ Rockers Brewing Company: this 7.3% ABV ale has an aroma of more straight pumpkin and a taste of more pumpkin pie spice. It was delicious, I thought, and very pumpkiny while not being super overwhelmed by the ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove flavors that you can definitely teaste. There was also a hint of a pie crust taste underneath, which was very hard to describe in any other way.

The Great’ER Pumpkin by Heavy Seas Beer: this 9% ABV bourban barrel-aged pumpkin ale spends an apparent 3 weeks going from The Great Pumpkin to The Great’ER Pumpkin, courtesy of the barrels at Virginia‚Äôs A. Smith Bowman Distillery! Taking the brown sugar and caramel flavors, and intertwining them with cinnamon, vanilla, graham cracker crust (aka, with butter!), nutmeg, slight amount of ginger, and then pulling them all together with the pumpkin (gourd, not pie spice) flavor making everything taste delicious from start to finish. Three of the partiers dodn’t really like pumpkin, but all of them LOVED this beer. I love pumpkin, so this was high on my list of the days selections! Mmmm.

Coney Island Freaktoberfest by Shmaltz Brewing Company: this is a Freaky looking beer. If you want a great Halloween trick, give this in bottle to some friends with a glass, and make them pour it out in front of you. Observe and enjoy the exclamations that proceed! This delightfully dry, hoppy, slightly citrusy Oktoberfest surprises¬†you mightily (at least it did all of us) by not being very ‘berry’ tasting at all. At least we didn’t think so. I expected it to taste like old school Robitussin, but it didn’t. It wasn’t my favorite beer, but it was definitely a decent and fun selection to add to the party!

Shmaltz Brewing Coney Island Freaktoberfest red beer

Shmaltz Brewing’s Coney Island Freaktoberfest!

Wookey Jack by Firestone Walker Brewing Company:  this delicious 8.3% ABV Black IPA is an unfiltered Rye Black IPA that carries the traditional Rye flavors along with the caramel, chocolate and coffee notes, to carry you from start to finish of each sip. As a fan of rye ales, this was really a nice surprise to sip on, and provided a nice contrast as well amongst all of the pumpkin and Oktoberfest offerings! Definitely a beer to drink at a bonfire or something equally woodsy, as well!

Cherry Saison by Funkwerks: this surprisingly delicious 9.5% ABV cherry saison completely blew my mind. Now, most of you probably don’t know it, but the first beer I ever actually liked (which is why I now still drink beer) was Cherry Wheat by Sam Adams. So I am very partial to the cherry beers, especially ones that don’t taste like lambics or cough syrup. I am also a little picky about them. This one was deeeelicious. Dark candied sugar and¬†cherry (think bing or dark, not maraschino) flavors are up front, with¬†a little cocoa and a little caramel on the back side of the sip. This beer I do believe was aged a little by the person who brought it, which may be why it was so smooth and delicious. It did have a little of the yeasty saison flavor and aroma but to me that was very understated compared to the other flavors and aromas. Definitely a good one to try though for fruit beer lovers!

Lolita (2011) by Goose Island Beer Company: This aged, 9% ABV “American wild ale” was probably the crowd favorite. This raspberry, CabSauv-oak barrel-aged ale was tart, fruity, oaky, with a little undertone of sour caramel (weird sounding, but that’s what it tasted like to me, okay!). The raspberry flavor was very strong, probably helped by being a 1-year aged (I think) bottle! I definitely recommend this one. I’m sure someone will correct me if my aging notes are wrong, though! ūüėČ

The Great Pumpkin by Elysian Brewing Company: this 8% ABV imperial pumpkin ale has all of the roasted pumpkin flavor that I was hoping for with a side note of pumpkin pie spices (allspice, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg). It was a good, strong-profiled pumpkin ale that definitely had some malt and brown sugar notes to complement the pumpkin and spice.

Barktoberfest by Thirsty Dog Brewing Company: this traditional-styled Oktoberfest was really delicious, and had just enough sweet malts to temper the hop and spice flavors. I don’t know if it was the candied brown sugar or the caramel or the spice notes – but one of them, or maybe the combination, definitely made me think of fall when drinking this beer. At 6% ABV, it wasn’t nearly as strong as many others we tried, but the flavor was definitely as full as the others we tested out!

Forewarning: because we all brought so many beers, not everything was tried, so we’ll be doing a follow-up to try more beers sometime soon, and I will be sure to let you all know how those wind up¬†tasting as well! ūüėČ

Craft You Later,
Beth

TasteSpotting: Food Is Amazing

Hello Friends,

I apologize profusely for the radio-silence of the last week. Some things were going on that just made me go “hmmm” and hunker down to think. I promise you, though, that will be made up for this week!!!

I have found a new site that I am absolutely in love with, possibly even more so than Pinterest (I know!!!!). TasteSpotting. Memorize this name!!!! No, seriously.

Be forewarned, upon finding this site you will cease being productive. For at least 2 days. Maybe more.

You will also be very hungry. Non-stop. For at least 2 days as well. Maybe more, again!

Here is a snapshot of a Tastespotting search for “honey wheat”, whereupon I was trying to find a honey wheat bread recipe, or something equally yummy and inspiring:

tastespotting taste spotting honey wheat searches food foodie

Tastespotting View of “Honey Wheat” Hits

So one thing that I like better here than on Pinterest is the fact that when you click on a picture it takes you directly to the website (usually a blog) from which the item originates. I like this better because it allows only 1-click instead of up-to-15 (max for me!) to get to the “how do I make this?!?!!!!” instructions. I so far have seen only 1 picture lead to a photograph-only link, and considering how much I’ve been clicking, that is a good percentage for Tastespotting! ūüėČ

So go explore and let me know what you think of this humdinger of a food-fan-dream site!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Charlotte Area Fall Festivals

Hello Fall-loving Friends!

I promised on Tuesday in my Apple Picking post that I would post about some upcoming fall festivals in the Charlotte area for the month of October. As promised, here we go!

OCT 6-7 ‚Äď AUTUMN JUBILEE in Salisbury, NC, approximately 50 minutes from Uptown Charlotte at the Dan Nicholas Park.
From 10am – 6pm both Saturday and Sunday of this weekend, you can go to Salibsury to check out over 180¬†crafts, log sawing (2pm both days), children’s activities (pumpking painting, puppet theatre and a magician to name a few!), craft demonstrations, continuous live music, and plenty of food to enjoy! Best part? Admission is free!

OCT 6¬†‚Äď BRUSHY MOUNTAIN APPLE FESTIVAL in Wilkesboro, NC, approximately 90 minutes from Uptown Charlotte (follow the signs). The streets of downtown North Wilkesboro are filled with over 425 arts¬†& crafters, 100 food concessions, and 4 music stages (Blue Grass, Country, Folk, Gospel, Appalachian Heritage). Cloggers, folk dancers, etc, provide further entertainment for festival goers. Local apple growers set up throughout the festival selling their apples, apple cider, and dried apples. Best part? Admission is free!

brushy mountain apple festival nc apples

OCT 6-7¬†‚Äď FALL FESTIVAL in Asheboro, NC, approximately 90 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, held in Downtown Asheboro. Sponsored by the Randolph Arts Guild, this festival is a combination of street fair, bazaar, harvest celebration and homecoming.¬†With 350¬†vendors, Arts & Craft Booths,¬†Crafts Demonstrations,¬†Flea Market Section,¬†Food Booths and¬†Live Music, this is sure to be a fun time for anyone. Best part? Admission is free!

OCT 12-14¬†‚Äď AUTUMN LEAVES FESTIVALin Mount Airy,¬†NC, approximately¬†2 hours from Uptown Charlotte.¬†This 3-day fall¬†festival (9am¬†– 9pm Friday and Saturday, and 12-6pm Sunday) is in its 46th year! The unique arts & crafts of +200 craftsmen line the streets with many demonstrating their talents and skills. There is “Food for the Soul” (ham biscuits, collards, cornbread, barbeque, ground steak, etc) served by our local organizations.¬†To complement it all, there is live music in the styles of¬†Old-time, Bluegrass and Gospel performed by local musicians! Best part? Admission is free!

OCT 13-14¬†‚Äď AUTUMN TREASURES FESTIVAL¬†in Waxhaw, NC, approximately 45 minutes from Uptown Charlotte. This is the 7th annual two-day outdoor arts and crafts festival.¬†Waxhaw is¬†proud to¬†showcase the talents and wares of our local artists, food¬†vendors and exhibitors in this street festival held in downtown Waxhaw! Admission is free.

OCT 19-20¬†‚Äď FALL FESTIVAL¬†in Pineville, NC,¬†is approximately¬†25 minutes from Uptown Charlotte. This 2-day festival has live music, food, and plenty of family fun right in the heart of Pineville. Beware – this festival is Friday and Saturday, not Saturday and Sunday like most of the previous festivals! Admission is free.

OCT 20¬†‚Äď APPLE HARVEST FESTIVAL in Fort Mill,¬†SC, approximately 40 minutes from Uptown Charlotte, and held at the Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill in Fort Mill, SC. Come out for a Fall Family Tradition with all of Windy Hill Orchards Apple Products, Hayrides, Fresh Picked Apples, Scarecrow Making, Apple Cider Tasting, Live Music, Apple Butter Making, Apple Cider Slush, Pumpkins, Carmel Apples, Blacksmith Demonstrations, and Much More. Festival is from 9am – 5pm on Saturday and admission is free!

OCT¬†20¬†‚Äď APPLE FESTIVAL in Taylorsville, NC, approximately¬†1 hour from Uptown Charlotte. This festival provides a fantastic assortment of entertainment on 3 stages, plenty of food vendors, and craft and flea market vendors. There is a Kid’s Corner with plenty of things for the younger attendees, and of course the apple stuff. An apple peeling contest, apple desert contest, a booth apple theme decorating contest, and of course lots of apple vendors from which to buy cider, a large variety of bagged apples, etc. Admission is free for this as well!

Last but certainly not least is my favorite festival in the fall: the Carolina Renaissance Festival! Running from OCT 6 – NOV 18 on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am – 5:30pm, this annual 22-acre extravaganza takes you back in time to the Renaissance. With a 3-part live joust, 11 stages with constant and varied acts, and plenty of wonderful food like turkey legs, jerky, bread bowls and fudge – this is a must for any self-respecting Carolinian, in my opinion! If you go to a local Harris Teeter, tickets are $19 for adults and $9 for children (5-12 only, under 5 are free). Otherwise at the gate it is $1 more per ticket, unless you are a senior citizen or¬†military, in which case (with ID) it is $18 for you all the time! Opening weekend (Oct 6-7) sees tickets at 2 for $20 (gate only)! Warning, if you’re not a fan of large crowds, opening weekend may not be worth the cost for you! It will be a long wait in traffic and the ticket line this weekend, but after that it should be much more pleasant and crowd-reduced! Either way, this is a great all-day low-cost event where all you pay for once inside are food and drinks, and if you want to climb the wall or shoot archery that will also be a little extra. They also have plenty of vendors as well selling a plethora of merchandise, from clothing to age-old weapons to jewelry to hand-blown glass (with live demonstrations on the hour). If you can’t tell, I absolutely LOVE this festival, and go a minimum of 3 times per year. So much fun! They have special event weekends as well, like Sci-Fi¬†& Fantasy¬†Literary¬†(Oct 13-14), BrewFest (Oct 20-21), Halloween Daze (Oct 27-28), and Pirate’s Christmas (Nov 10-11).

carolina renaissance festival renfest renfaire royal faire

So if you can’t find something in October to do on a weekend, don’t blame me as I’ve just given you a ton of excuses to go have some fun! ūüėČ

Craft You Later,
Beth

Wednesday Beer Log- Noda New Releases

Hello Beer Friends,

I am sure you are going “what about Oktoberfest” right about now if you read my Friday beer log entry. However, I have decided to take this week to write them all up, then the next two weeks to post them up. This way I can be sure nothing is missed, and everyone gets to enjoy the awesomeness that is the list of beers from Charlotte Oktoberfest.

That said, Noda Brewing Company recently released a few new good (okay, great) beers into their line-up. Some for good, some for the season, and some for a very limited time. So let’s observe:

Get The Party Tarted: Cherry Sour Ale (until it runs out)
This beer was inspired by a Berliner Weisse‚Ķwe call it a ‚ÄúNorthCarolinerWeisse‚ÄĚ.¬† It‚Äôs infused with Bing cherries and raspberries. With 4.5% ABV and 10 IBUs, this tart and sour ale is absolutely delicious, light-bodied but full of flavor in every sip. I had two pints in a row of it, it was that good. (Yes, for me that is telling!) I really liked the fact this beer had a sour flavor that melded phenomenally with the tart cherry and light raspberry flavors. It never got too sour, too tart, nor too sweet. It was just perfectly balanced. Nice job Noda!

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Get the party tarted indeed!

Dark-o’-Lantern: Pumpkin Spice Porter¬†(Nodable Series, Limited Amount)
This pumpkin spice porter has cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and cloves which lend to a more earthy character, with cinnamon being the primary taste.  At 6% ABV, 38 IBUs and 36 SRM Рthis beer has a strong malt flavor along with toasted barley, and a hint of the pumpkin pie spices we all know & love. This smokier beer has vague hints of pumpkin, but it is enough that it is definitely classified by taste as a yummy pumpkin porter!

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Dark O' Lantern needs some light....or not!

Gordgeous: Pumpkin Ale (Fall Seasonal)
This Pumpkin is hot, and it knows it. Gordgeous uses over 100 lbs of organic pumpkin caramelized with 40 lbs of brown sugar. Noda used whole seed spices cracked on brew day and mixed allspice, cardamom, cloves and freshly shaved whole ginger root to create a unique pumpkin ale. At 6.4% ABV with 17 SRMs and 29 IBUs, this is a fantastic pumpkin ale that isn’t too pumpkiny, isn’t too pumpkin pie-spiced, and isn’t too heavy. The carmelization of the pumpkin comes through the sips, as do each of the spices they added. The ginger adds a nice balancing note that makes it not taste like every other pumpkin ale. This beer has¬†a great “this is fall!” feel to it while you sip it staring at the falling leaves. It tastes, quite simply, like a harvest pumpkin beer should: pumpkin, blended spices and¬†harvest married¬†on a medium-bodied sip of ale. Maybe under a full moon. In a gordgeous tux, no less.

Hope’s Stout: Milk Stout (made for a great cause, click¬†here for more information)
Noda wanted to achieve both a full bodied & complex stout character, but with the drinkability of a session ale, something that wouldn‚Äôt be unapproachable by the non-heavy dark beer drinkers. In part, probably¬†because Hope’s dad (see link above if you’re lost by now)¬†is a Budweiseresque beer drinker. Noda added a hefty amount of cocoa nibs to¬†give the beer a distinctive dark chocolate character that melds well with the roasted notes from the dark malts. This 4% ABV, 39 SRM and 35 IBU beer is a definite keeper. This is a lighter-bodied stout, for sure, however it tastes like it was cooked with some steamed milk to bring the comfort of hot cocoa into a beer. I am not kidding here, nor waxing poetic. That is what it tastes like. With a little bit of malted¬†milk ball¬†flavor, a teeny bit of hoppiness (or happiness as the case¬†is), and a lot of¬†¬†the steamed milk flavor thrown in to give it just that perfect blend of a light stout. If you want a comfort beer, get this one. If you want to support a good cause, definitely get this one. Again, click the link above if you’re lost… ūüėČ

Craft You Later,
Beth

Charlotte Area Apple Picking

Hello Friends,

I thought it would be fun to post a write-up of local Apple Picking locations around the Charlotte Metro area. So here goes!

Sky Top Orchards is located in Flat Rock, NC, and is approximately 2 hours from Uptown Charlotte. Currently in season: Pumpkins, Gourds, Squashes, Asian Pears, and Apples (Gala, Golden Delicious, Cortland, Red Delicious, Mutsu, Jonathan, Jonagold, Fuji, Ida Red, Blushing Gold, Staymen Winesap, Granny Smith, Cameo, Rome).

Windy Hill Orchard & Cider Mill is located in Fort Mill, SC, and is approximately 40 minutes from Uptown Charlotte. Currently you-picking Stayman Winesap apples only, and providing tours, cider, hard cider, and pre-picked apples on site at the store.

Carrigan Farms is located in Mooresville, NC, and is approximately 40 minutes from Uptown Charlotte. They have you-pick red and golden delicious apples, a variety of other pre-picked apples, and Fresh Cider is also available at their market.

Millstone Creek Orchards is located in Ramseur, NC, and is under 2 hours from Uptown Charlotte. Currently you-picking is available for apple varieties of Golden Delicious, Red Winesap, Red Fuji, Stayman Winesap, Granny Smith and Pink Lady. Hayrides are also available on Saturdays and Sundays in October for $5 per person.

Hill’s Orchard and Vineyard is located in Trinity, NC, and is approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Uptown Charlotte. They recommend that you call them for a schedule of available produce.

So happy apple picking if you go to any of these places, and I will be posting a link Thursday (in 2 days) with a list of Charlotte Area Fall Festivals, to complement this article! Keep reading!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Swordfish with Island-Mediterranean Orzo

Hello Cooking Friends,

I was in the mood to clean out my freezer the other night, so I decided to make up some swordfish steaks I had sitting in there. I wasn’t sure about sides, but canned corn is always a winner for me, and so is orzo pasta mixtures. So voil√†, that is what we’re cooking today. Or rather what I’m telling you about today that I cooked earlier this week. Details. Blech.

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Swordfish Dinner, mmmm!

For any of you that have not had the pleasure of trying swordfish, this is a very meaty fish. Think more like chicken or pork in the consistency and thickness of flavor. It is delicious, not overly fishy at all (compared to tuna especially), and incredibly easy to cook.

I pan-seared the swordfish for this recipe, so for those of you who have always wondered how to do that – here we go. For everyone else, well, you’re stuck with us too! Hang on and enjoy….

What you’ll need (plus 1 skillet or frying pan and a wooden spoon):

– 2 swordfish steaks (thawed completely, preferably overnight in the refrigerator)
– 2 teaspoons ground chipotle chile powder (like this), separated
– 1/8 cup Butter Infused Olive Oil
– 2 tablespoons Pineapple White Balsamic Vinegar, separated
– 1 tablespoons Blood Orange Olive Oil
– 2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper, separated
– 3/4 cup uncooked Orzo Pasta
– 1 clove garlic (fresh), shelled and chopped into tiny pieces
– 1/2 cup frozen peaches, diced
– 13.5-oz can spinach, drained fully
– 1 + 1/3 cup water
– 1 can sweet crisp corn, drained
– 1 tablespoon butter or margarine

Into a skillet over low-medium heat, pour your Butter Olive Oil, 1 tbspn Pineapple Balsamic, 1 tspn Chipotle Chili Powder, and 1 tspn ground pepper. Stir well until fully combined. Once heated enough where the oil starts to bubble, add your swordfish steaks. I was cooking for 3 so I sliced my steaks in half, but you don’t need to do that.

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Searing swordfish....

Keep your skillet over low-medium heat for about 8 minutes. Every 2 minutes, flip your swordfish steaks. This will sear them evenly on both sides. After you’ve flipped them 4 times, reduce heat to the lowest possible, and flip once more for each side after 3 minutes of additional cooking. This allows for a total of 14 minutes of cooking, but promotes even searing and flavors on your steaks.

Warning: oil will splash while you’re flipping so be careful! Use a broad wooden spoon to flip easier and from more of a distance from hot oil.

Once you’ve finished cooking the steaks, remove to a plate to let sit. Keep the liquid in the pan, and keep the burner on low heat. Add 1 cup water to your pan, quickly, and stir the juices and water to keep the smoke to a minimum. Yes, that is experience trying to guide you away from my mistake. The stove fan may be needed above your oven for this for a few minutes!

Once you have your water added and stirred around, pour in your orzo pasta. This will not fully cover the pasta, but will more look like you’re soaking it. This is what you want. Up the heat to low-medium and let cook for 8 minutes or so, stirring every few minutes to keep pasta from sticking.

While you’re letting the pasta soak/cook, chop your garlic and peaches (in that order) and add to your pasta. Add in 1 tbspn Pineapple Balsamic, 1 tbspn Blood Orange Olive Oil, 1 tspn Chipotle powder, 1 tspn ground pepper, 1/3 cup water,¬† and your well-drained spinach. Mix well. Cook this for about 5 minutes, stirring every minute, until pasta is tender and garlic & peaches are softened. Remove from heat. Let sit for 3 minutes, stirring twice, to soak in the flavors.

image

Making orzo pasta!

While you’re letting this sit, pour your canned corn into a microwave-safe bowl, add 1 tbspn butter, and microwave for 2 minutes. Stir.

Once this completes everything is ready to serve. You may need to microwave your swordfish steaks for 30-40 seconds, if they’ve started to cool a bit. I didn’t time it the best when I did it, but that quick nuke did the trick and didn’t sacrifice flavor at all!

Plate your orzo mixture and place your swordfish on top. Plate your corn next to this. Garnish if desired with a thawed peach or sprig of parsley, but you don’t have to do that.

Enjoy!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Friday Beer Log – Polish Region Beers

Hello Beer Friends,

I was in a weird beer mood a few weeks ago and decided that I wanted nothing more than to try out some beers from some neighboring countries that aren’t so popular and readily available. I headed over to my local Total Wine & More store, and found these beers that are made in neighboring countries of Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia¬†and The Czech Republic.

czechvar golden pheasant utenos porter black boss porter polish beer slovakian beer lithuanian beer

Polish Region Beer Tasting!

Stawski Pivovar Zlaty Bazant Golden Pheasant – this Slovakian beer is a Czech style lager and has a 5% ABV. This is a very light beer, similar to a Corona in my opinion, and had a slight hoppy undertone with a vague hint of citrus. Personally, I thought it tasted better than Corona, but I’m not a huge fan of it, and I did enjoy this beer.

Czechvar Premium Czech Lager – this Czech beer is a **gasp** Czech style lager, which has a lower ABV (couldn’t find the exact one), and a very Heineken-esque flavor to it. This is a decent light beer, but I think the Golden Pheasant is a little better. So is Heineken. But it’s not bad, definitely worth trying.

Carlsberg Group Utenos Porter – This Lithuanian Baltic Porter, a 6.8% ABV content, was almost reminiscent of a Nut Brown Ale to me. This malty, yeasty, dark brown porter reminds me of a caramel nut bread to be perfectly honest. It’s pretty good. It’s also not very heavy, so that is a nice surprise. Goes down smooth, which just a little kick of carbonation at the end of the sip. Good one to try!

Browar Witnica S.A. Black Boss Porter – This was my favorite. And not just because it’s 9.4% ABV, either! This Polish Baltic Porter was amazing – had a very heavy porter feel to each sip, but was nicely balanced in flavor with fig, dates, caramel, malt, and chocolate and kept you pleasantly surprised for the entire sip! I also like that while it sits heavy while sipping, it doesn’t sit heavy as you finish it (heavy in mouth not stomach!), and has a delicious aftertaste. So this one, if you’re only trying one, would be my choice – however if you like lighter or medium-bodied beers, you may want one of the others!

I hope you enjoyed my foray into the Poland-and-friends beer world! I am attending the Charlotte Oktoberfest tomorrow, 09/29/12, so keep tuned next week for the goods on that! And yes, I will be the chick walking around taking copious amounts of notes that may even rival the amounts of beer being consumed! Enter #BeerGeekdom in style, I say!

Craft You Later,
Beth

Craft Meet Up: Letters To Our Troops

Hello Crafting Friends,

I have an idea that I have been tossing around for awhile now in my own mind. I think it would be super fun to meet at a local Park in Charlotte, as a group, and do a craft activity. I also think it would be awesome if said craft served a purpose other than just being fun. Like, say, being something we send to the troops before Veteran’s Day…. hmm? Hmm? Hmm?!?!!!

So I was looking around this place called the internet (you may have heard of it), and I found this organization called Operation Gratitude, which has a whole section of its services being geared towards volunteers writing letters to troops (active, and veterans of past conflicts). HELLO we have a winner!

operation gratitude handmade card marine troops

Handmade Cards to Troops

Because this organization is based in California, and I (we) am in North Carolina, I cannot organize anything to go volunteer at the actual volunteer events. However if you’re reading this in Cali, and want to get some community service in, go check out their volunteer schedule. Or if you’re not in NC nor CA and want to donate to the cause, you can do so here to help send care packages to military personnel overseas.

operation gratitude handmade card army troops

More Handmade Cards to Troops

Anyways, back to my plan. I would like to organize a meet-up for Sunday, October 28, 2012, in order to get a group together to get this started. I have a park in mind, but figure I will see how the date works first before nailing down a park.

Plan:
1) Get together at a specified date and time (Sun Oct 28 @ 3pm?).
2) Everyone brings a few supplies (no glitter!) to decorate cards (markers, crayons, stickers, colored pencils, pens, stencils, stamps, etc) for everyone to share.
3) I will supply a good amount of cream and white card stock cards (pre-folded), based on the amount of participants.
4) Make cards following these guidelines for the troops and veterans of past conflicts (your choice)! This includes possibly including your information for responses, if you so chose, or you can use mine.
5) Everyone gets together and shares in a craft activity for a good cause outdoors for ~1 hour, and maybe makes some new friends as well!
6) I will then ship the cards to the donation location for delivery to the troops, and pass along any responses that I get from OG or the troops to whom our cards are sent.

So… I really need your responses people, for real. Is this something you would be interested in doing? Is this something that sounds fun and crafty to you? Is this something you would actually respond to my blog with a “YES I AM IN!” at all?!? Responses appreciated sooner rather than later, but at least by Monday October 22, so I can plan and plot accordingly! Oh, and please include your email so that I can include you in our plans! (Yes, I am being optimistic here!)

Give me your thoughts, pretty please, and let me know if you would be up for doing this craft volunteer outdoor adventure together! We can adjust the date and time if need be, but please let me know about any interest you have in this!

Craft You Later,
Beth

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