Sunday, November 29, 2009

What’s on the Grill #153

Thanksgiving Edition!  Rotisserie Orange & Ginger Turkey!  I really vacillated this year as to how I was going to prepare the bird.  I thought about grilling, brining/grilling, brining/rotisserie, smoking, frying (which I still have never done!), and rotisserie.  At the t-minus 2 day mark, I decided on the rotisserie on the kettle.

Mounted and ready to spin

With only four people eating, we used a small 12 pound turkey.  The cavity was stuffed with sliced oranges and ginger.  The skin was rubbed with olive oil and seasoned with salt, pepper, ginger powder, and orange zest. 

Ready for the table

I trussed the bird and set it on the kettle for indirect cooking.  It spun for about two hours.  The flavor was excellent, but I left it on a little too long.  Too much talking, too much distraction, and maybe just a little picture taking delayed me.  Whoops.

Turkey...on black

Now my part of the meal was simple.  Zoe, on the other hand, prepared everything else.  Besides broccoli, stuffing, cranberries, and gravy, the highlight, of course, was the bourbon and molasses mashed sweet potatoes.  I get misty eyed just thinking about them.

Carrots + Melted Butter = Fire

The grilled carrots, brushed with butter and nutmeg, where also a hit (and quite flammable on the grill). 

Stone's Vertical Epic 09-09-09

Mom’s Graham Cracker Cream Pie and a Stone Vertical epic 09-09-09 capped off a wonderful night.  We have a lot to be thankful for, and full bellies is only a small part. 

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What’s on the Grill #152

Grilled Rosemary Rubbed Rack of Lamb with a Grilled Onion Vinaigrette!  What is this?  A blog post about food?  Could it be?  Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you.  After too long of a time, I am finally getting back to my mainstay: flesh on fire.  Without a doubt, the beer posts have been easy.  I open a bottle or pour a pint, take a picture, and talk about it.  However, my 3 hour dinner excursions have been a bit trickier to fit in.  But fear not, they are back.

Surprisingly, the last time I blogged about rack of lamb was almost a year ago!  I have had lamb since then, but I guess not a rack.  Too bad, because this is by far my favorite way to prepare this delicate and adorable little creature.

This recipe was essentially a spin on the thyme rack of lamb from the Weber “brown book”.  The only difference being I did not have any shallots and I did not have any thyme.  What I did have was a boatload of onion and a Rosemary plant which has turned into a small bush.

Rack on Grill

The rack of lamb, which already arrived “frenched”, was rubbed in a mixture of salt, pepper, and chopped rosemary and lightly massaged in olive oil.  I also covered the bones with aluminum foil so they would look “pretty” when the rack was done and not burned to toothpicks as if the lamb was pulled from a fiery car inferno prior to serving.

Rack on Board

The rack was seared bone side down over direct medium heat for two minutes and then flipped over for an additional four.  Next, the rack was placed over indirect medium heat and cooked for another 20 minutes.  It is important to serve lamb medium rare, so be careful not to overcook it.  Once done, allow the lamb to sit.  I shot for an internal temperature around 130 degrees and it arrived on the rare side of medium rare. 

The only difference between the shallot vinaigrette and the onion vinaigrette is the onion substitution.  In a pinch, I found it to work quite well.

Rack on Plate

Besides the meat, I pulled together some smashed rosemary and garlic potatoes (I had a little bit of a theme going…and a very large rosemary bush, remember?!) and some ginger/garlic sautéed kale and red chard.

To me, this is a great and really simple meal.  I’m back to the grill, and it feels good. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Stone Pilgrimage Part II: The Tour

The Stone website suggests you show up at least 2 hours early to reserve a space for a tour of the brewery.  We arrived about 45 minutes early and managed to snag the last 3 tickets for the 1 PM Sunday tour.  I think it was the deranged and desperate look in my eyes that led to our good fortune!


Dan, our illustrious tour guide, led us through the 55,000 square foot brewery.  The only (well not only…) difference between a homebrewer and a professional brewer is the size of the equipment.  If you were to take our typical Backyard Brewing Society tools, increase their scale dramatically and dress everything in beautiful stainless steel, you would, in essence, have a brewery.  Now obviously a lot more goes into a Stone beer than our haphazard monthly brew sessions, but the process is essentially the same.

The Stone TabletThe Grist Mill

According to Dan, under California law, the only way we could be provided with free beer is by making the tour educational.  In order to complete this requirement, Dan went into a great explanation about the brewing of beer and delved into discussions of water (Stone uses municipal water that is run through a reverse osmosis system and then tweaked), hops (they use pellets…not sure why I thought differently here), and malted barley (Almost all of their beers use 2-row as a base malt).

Brew Kettle and Mash Tun
The Brew Kettle

To reinforce the scale difference between homebrewing and commercial brewing, I witnessed the largest blow off tube and bucket ever.  One of the large fermenters was obviously fermenting and had a 3 inch blow off tube stuck in a 55 gallon plastic drum.  It was bubbling ferociously.  In fact, it was putting off so much CO2 that Dan asked someone to step back from it so this person would not suddenly pass out from a lack of Oxygen.  Dare I say, at home I’m not too worried about creating an oxygen void outside of my fermenting bucket.

One rather large blow off tubeFermentors

For some reason, I thought the brewery would be bigger.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s huge, but it’s not ginormous.  (It’s even bigger when you realize Stone has never spent a dollar on advertising.  The company has been built on word of mouth between beer lovers.)  Besides Dan mentioning Stone doesn't serve “fizzy yellow beers”, he also indicated that if the masses don’t like Stone beers, it’s fine by them.  As I have discussed on these pages before, beers such as Miller Lite & Bud Light are enjoyed by so many because they are watered down to such a bland consistency they offend no one.  Stone’s beers are unique and not appreciated by everyone.  This is a good thing.

The Bottling AreaAB in a keg

After touring through the bottling area, we entered the 8000 square foot refrigeration cooler.  As we stepped inside, I questioned Dan why there wasn’t a soundtrack of angels singing.  He said he would look into it.  I was pretty awestruck by the cooler.  Besides stacks and stacks of kegs and bottles, I spotted a rack of firkins.  The firkins, I believe, were one off brews: Double Bastard with American Oak and Sublimely Self Righteous Ale with Amarillo.  I can’t imagine the kind of experimentation they do. 

My kind of cooler
Some interesting sounding firkins!


No sooner than our tour began, it ended in the gift shop with tastings of Smoked Porter, Arrogant Bastard, Pale Ale, and something else which escapes me.  I find it a wonderful experience to walk through a business where you genuinely feel the love, respect, and attention the employees give towards their job and their product.  Stone definitely has a family atmosphere, and in my opinion their beers are better because of it.  As I sip my next glass of Arrogant Bastard, I feel a little more kinship with the beer, much like I did when having Old Speckled Hen after touring Green King in Bury St. Edmunds.  I have a feeling if I were to retire and move to Southern California, I would simply be happy bussing tables at the Bistro.  My thanks to Dan for a great tour and everyone at Stone for a wonderful experience.  Brew on!

A Stone Cone

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Stone Pilgrimage

The weekend before last, I spent the weekend in Long Beach with my sister, Anne, and youngest brother, Matthew.  During a visit earlier this year, we sojourned down to the Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, which is just north of San Diego.  Having had such a good time before, it was Anne’s idea to head down there again.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance.

2007 Stone Imperial Russian Stout

For the uninitiated, Stone is one of the premier craft brewers in the United States.  Known for their unique, bitter, and well, in your face beers, they have steadily grown since their beginnings in 1996.  While the rest of the country deals with the tanking economy, Stone’s revenue has increased 24% during just the first quarter of 2009.  Since 2006, they have doubled their production with plans to produce 100,000 plus barrels of beer this year (More Stone facts). 

Stone Brewing Company

Stone’s current brewery is tucked away in an unassuming industrial park.  Among beer aficionados, a trip to Stone is indeed a pilgrimage (just check out these comments in my Flickr stream).  With no exterior signage, the lovers of good beer still somehow easily find their way to the “faucet”.

What's on Tap at StoneIgnoring Me

With 30 some beers on draft, I was tempted to venture outside of a Stone beer, but since this was a special treat, I deemed such a purchase to be sacrilege!  I started off with a 2007 Imperial Russian Stout and later moved on to an Arrogant Bastard and a Pale Ale.  In typical Matthew fashion, as soon as my camera came out he pretended to not know me tried to move over a bar stool. 

Stone Pale Ale

Our visit marked the beginning of San Diego Beer Week as well as the beginning of Arrogant Bastard Week back home.  Stone hosts a competition each year to find the “Most Arrogant Pub” in the US based upon consumption of Arrogant Bastard in one week.  Boston’s, our local here in Dayton, has won twice in the last three years.  We are hoping to take top honors again this year.  I found it quite fitting to celebrate the beginning of the week at Stone and the end back at Boston’s in Dayton.         

Artisanal Sausage Plate

Besides a brewery, Stone also houses the Stone World Bistro & Gardens.  During our trip earlier this year, I didn’t know what to expect on the food side of the equation.  What I found beat all of my expectations.  Stone’s menu ranges runs the gamut.  Bison Ribeyes to BBQ Duck Tacos to Mac ‘n Beer Cheese (which was fabulous!) to Lamb Osso Buco.  For lunch I had the Artisanal Sausage Platter served over herb roasted potatoes and braised cabbage with a side of Stone Pale Ale mustard.  The food was local, fresh, and amazing.

The Bistro Gardens

The Bistro itself is mostly open air and spills out into the gardens.  With an indoor and outdoor bar to cater to guests, it really is an oasis for a meal or drinks with friends.  During our lunch, the upstairs dining area was host to a chocolate and beer pairing.  Events like these occur continuously.  At a Sunday lunch, the bistro already had a steady crowd moving in.  I can’t imagine a slow period here.

Me and my brew

Since during our last visit we didn’t have time for the tour, I made sure we arrived plenty early to book a spot.  Next post, The Tour…

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Indian Summer Brewing

As I alluded to earlier, although my grilling has been minimal, my brewing has been on target.  The Oatmeal Stout from last month (was it last month?) turned out great.  Now, with October’ meeting of the Backyard Brewing Society on deck, I needed something festive, so I decided on pumpkin ale.

The Pumpkin in my Pumpkin Ale

The Drew was kind enough to host our “session” (What else do you call a 9 hour stretch of brewing, frying, & grilling?!) because he has a beautiful house overlooking the ocean bordered by a monastery and a nature reserve.  Ahhh, who am I kidding?  He was host because he has this:

Pulling a pint

Drew's Beer Board

Yes, Drew’s 3 tap kegerator was the centerpiece of the day.  It also paved the way for my own fridge/keg conversion (Thank you Zoe!).  Now take note of the ABVs of Drew’s fine brews.  Not exactly session brews, are they?

Mike checking his kettleKeith collecting the run-offDrew working the kettle

The rest of the day was typical brewmania: loud noisy burners, sweet smells of wort, and good food.  With 6 of us brewing, the day was in constant motion.  I struggled a little bit with my mash temp, but was able to overcome my problems…I think.  Drew relished in his new burner and Dave had his second all grain batch down pat. 

Eric, Extract, & Some Fish MitsThe Backyard of The Drew
Eric & the GuysCheers!

The food, thanks to Mike and his amazing frying ability, was stellar.  Although I don’t have any pictures of the grub (it was dark…and other reasons relating to balance and focus), it looked the same as brew days past: succulent wings, a killer pork loin, and an onion loaf the size of a small man.

Homebrew Celebratory Taste

Outside of a joint taste of one of Drew’s older vintage brews, the funniest part of the day came from Drew’s daughter who was thrilled, disappointed, and then thrilled with our all day event.

Reese's Sign

With cold weather definitely on tap (no pun intended), the Backyard Brewers will be moving to the garage in the coming months.  None to worry, a roof over our heads doesn’t take away the fun, it simply adds to our chance of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The Backyard Brewers

I’m back!

Well after weeks of neglect, I’m back.  Unfortunately, the real world takes over from time to time and puts the hurting on my non-stop fun of 3 hour weeknight dinners and long weekend brew sessions.  Well maybe the dinners have been on hold, but not the brewing.  A man must have priorities after all.

Suffice to say, I have worked very hard on a personal mission the last two months and I am happy to report I was successful (No, my name is not now Michelle, nor was I successful in re-launching Hands Across America).  This recent mission of mine, and subsequent perma-smile on my face, doesn’t even touch on the fact I recently sold a picture to a certain company I respect immensely or spent the last weekend visiting with my sister & brother in California and getting a tour of the Stone Brewing Company.  Yes, life has been that good.

So, in order to dip back into the blogging pool, let me remind you, and also myself, of what this blog is all about:

Beef meets flame

and this:

 A Growling Bastard