Sunday, July 29, 2012

Curious Traveler

I love finding unexpected boxes on the front porch.  Which, is exactly what happened this weekend.  As I picked the parcel up, I gave it a little shake.  Solid.  I put my ear to the top.  No ticking.  So far, so good.  I slid a knife under the tape and popped open the lid.  What did I find inside?  A Curious Traveler…and a mustache.

Hello Curious Traveler, come on inside.

The Curious Traveler

As much as I really love the stache, Curious Traveler is actually a beer, well technically, a shandy.  Hailing from the House of Shandy in Burlington, VT, Curious Traveler is another take on the shandy, this time blending the European tradition with American craft beer.

It would seem shandy's have taken over the last couple years.  Leinenkugel, I'm looking at you.  Their Summer Shandy is everywhere.  Although liked by many, and I'll certainly drink it if on hand, it is not one of my favorites.  More recently, Samuel Adams released Porch Rocker, another shandy take and one I like a lot.  Zoë even gives it a thumbs up and from my Corona loving wife, that says something.

The Pour

Of course when I think shandy, I go back to England.  For it is in Europe where the shandy is commonplace.  Not by brand, but by act.  Several of my friends have ordered "lager shandys".  Part fizzy lemonade, part lager…Heinekin, Kronenberg, you name it.  Lager.

I sort of wonder what would happen if you bellied up to a US bar and asked for a shandy without pointing to a Leinenkugel tap handle.

Sipping Shandy

Anyway, what do I make of my Curious Traveler?  I actually quite liked it.  The wheat ale base is present, with the addition of lemon and lime inviting and not overpowering.  This is a real, real easy drinker.

Sipping Sandy with Big Nose

In fact, I had it polished off before I realized it.

I "allowed" Zoë a sip and she gave it a "I'd have another one" look.  She did, however, refuse to wear the mustache.  Her loss.

This is one of those summer beers I can see going for immediately after a heavy round of yard work or perhaps, a slightly taxing journey of taking the trash out.  Although currently only available in limited markets, I'll be looking to give this Curious Traveler a home in my beer fridge.  

Curiious Traveler

In the meantime, i'm going to be enjoying my new facial hair.  Cheers.

Note: Curious Traveler was provided to me by the House of Shandy Brewing Company.  Although the shandy was appreciated, I'm really thrilled with the mustache.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Look Back: Planked Filets with Porcini Slather

Every once in awhile, I like to jump in the way back machine and revisit posts I've enjoyed in the past.  Planked Filets with Porcini Slather happens to be one of them.


I was on a huge planking kick last year and it looks like I need to re-visit it.  My mouth starts watering when I remember sinking my teeth into these things.  The whole tenderloin, woody slather combo is irresistible.  I've obviously been lacking in my planking lately, but what about you?  Any wood meat combos on your grill?

Topped Filets on the Plank

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

It's been a busy couple weeks full of airplanes and friends.  Last Saturday it all started with this Instagram photo I posted on the APP Facebook page.  It ended with this:

Sliced Brisket & Pulled Pork

Was met halfway here:

A 3  Grill Dinner

And made me re-appreciate just how much space the 26 inch Weber kettle offers up.

Ribs on the 26 inch Kettle

The day also provided plenty of use for the Outdoor Beer Dispensing Project.

Outdoor Beer Dispensing in operation! #homebrew

And wrapped up under night skies with swirling clouds of cigar smoke and citronella.


Oh, and the weekend before?  Airplanes.  Tons of airplanes.  It was the 2012 Dayton International Air Show and from what we didn't see at the flight line, we saw right over the backyard.  Living near an airport can definitely have its advantages. 

2012 Dayton Air Show

2012 Dayton Air Show

2012 Dayton Air Show

2012 Dayton Air Show

2012 Dayton Air Show

2012 Dayton Air Show

Happy Wednesday everyone.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What's on the Grill #248: Pulled Pork w/Samuel Adams BBQ Sauce

My friend Todd from Samuel Adams posted a blog update highlighting a new relationship with the brewery and a local Boston food truck, Pennypackers.  The momentous occasion? Taco Tuesday!  

On the first Tuesday of every month, Pennypackers develops a new recipe based on a surprise beer supplied by the brewery.  Pennypackers sauce recipe read like a winner and since I was already planning on smoking a boston butt, adding in their BBQ sauce was a no-brainer.  

The first beer supplied to Pennypackers was Dark Depths, which, I couldn't locate.   However, I did grab the equally great Cinder Bock, which I figured would work just as well, especially with its drool inducing rauchbier smokiness.  

Samuel Adams Cinder Bock

Pulled Pork w/ Samuel Adams BBQ Sauce
Based on the recipe from Pennypackers

Sauce Ingredients

3 jalapeño peppers
1 poblano pepper
2 red peppers
2 yellow onions
10 cloves garlic
2 Tbls cumin
2 Tbls paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1 cup molasses
1 cup brown sugar
11/2 cups cider vinegar
3 cups crushed tomatoes


Boston Butt 3-5 pounds
1/3 cup favorite BBQ rub
1 cup of wood chips (pecan, cherry or apple…take your pick), soaked in water for an hour

The Pennypacker recipe gives a grill/braise process to cook the pork.  When it comes to grilling a Boston Butt, I'm hard pressed to not smoke my meat for extended periods of time.  Although straight up smoking takes twice as long as the braise, either method gives superior results.  Do what works for you.

To further add to the mix, I opted to smoke on the Weber kettle, versus the Saffire.  My Saffire has done such heavy lifting the last few years, I went back to my trusty Weber mostly to make sure I hadn't forgotten how to use it.  It's been lonely lately and in dire need of love.

To get started, pull the pork from the refrigerator about an hour before grill time.  Pat dry and generously season all sides with the rub.  Allow to stand at room temperature.

Setting up the Grill

Prep the grill for indirect low heat using the modified minion method.

Wood Chunks on Coals

When the lit coals have been added to the unlit coals, toss on the wood chips and close the lid.  Once the smoke starts, add the pork to the grill and replace the lid again.

Boston Butt on Grate

Plan on smoking the pork until the internal temperature hits 190 F with an instant read thermometer, about 8-9 hours.   Also, if using heat on only one side of the pork, plan on rotating the butt 180 degrees about half way through the cook.

While the pork is smoking, work on the sauce.

Dice and sauté all the peppers, onions, and garlic in a little vegetable oil in a stock pot until well caramelized, 10-15 minutes.

Chopped Peppers

Deglaze the pan with the 22 oz bottle of Cinder Bock (or Dark Depths).


To crush the "crushed tomatoes" called for in the recipe, take a tomato, cut it in half and then rub it along the sides of a box grater.

Grating Tomato

I found this handy tip on Gourmet.  It works great.  This process also eliminates the need to remove the tomato skin, as the skin pulls back on its own the more you remove the flesh from inside the tomato.

Tomato on the Grater

Fast, simple, fresh and easy crushed tomatoes.

Grated Tomato

Add the crushed tomato, cider vinegar, brown sugar, molasses, cumin, paprika, ginger and allspice, and mix well.

Dropping Tomato

Allow the sauce to simmer 1-2 hours.

BBQ Sauce Makings

Add salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the pot and puree in a blender.  Return the sauce to the pot and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes.  When done, remove from the grill and allow to cool.

Grill Temperature

Almost there.  

When the pork reaches 190 F, remove from the grill.


Wrap the meat in foil and allow to rest for approximately 10-15 minutes.  Once done, grab a couple forks and shred the pork. A properly smoked boston butt will shred in minutes.

The fresh sauce ingredients, along with the wonderful presence of the Cinder Bock, really made the sauce.  It was quite different than the tangy sauces I'm used to and really, really good.  Oh, and the pork?  Those succulent strips of pork and charred black pieces of bark speak for themselves.  Now, how to get myself to Boston for August's Taco Tuesday?  I can only imagine what they will come up with next.

Pulled Pork Platter

What's your favorite beer to cook with?  Pulled pork goes great in tacos, what else do you use it for?  Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection

A few years ago Samuel Adams released the Barrel Room Collection.  A group of small batch experimental beers honed in the "Barrel Room" of their Boston Brewery and sold only in New England, New York and Denver, Colorado.  I'm pretty stoked that as of this month the release is going nationwide. I couldn't be more pleased.  This is some pretty awesome stuff.

My Favorite Room

My first taste of this collection goes back to 2010.  More recently, and much more notably, we hung out in the Samuel Adams Barrel Room during our trip to Boston this past March.  For in the Barrel Room all of the magic happens.

Samuel Adams Thirteenth Hour

The entire Barrel Room Collection is a take on Belgian brews.  The self described "soul" of this series is something the brewers call Kosmic Mother Funk, or KMF.  

When Todd first described KMF, it took me twice to register what he was actually saying and then a few tastes to appreciate what it was.  KMF is a special ale aged in oak tuns.  It truly is kosmic and funky.  I can only guess about its Mother.

Tun #2

If memory serves me correct, each of the tuns are aging batches of KMF at different intervals and then eventually added to the different styles of the Barrel Room Collection at different rates.

KMF is amazing all by itself and wonderfully predominant in the American Kriek and the new Belgian stout, Thirteenth Hour.

Samuel Adams Thirteenth Hour

Let me say this up front.  It's damn good. 

Samuel Adams Thirteenth Hour

The nose immediately hit me with a woody oak smell.  In the beer itself, I found carmel, cherry, chocolate and a cool funkiness certainly attributed to KMF.  The note I left to myself: fabulous.

Samuel Adams New World

The second release is New World, a Belgian Tripel.  New World poured with a huge creamy head and tasted of citrus, spice, honey and almost a fresh hop saison earthy sort of thing.  Another good solid beer, but second place to its stout brother.

Needles to say, I will be checking my local beer purveyors for more Thirteenth Hour.  Have you had a chance to try anything from Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection?  If so, what are your thoughts?  Leave them in the comments below.

Note: Samuel Adams provided me with the New World & Thirteenth Hour beers.  My thirst, photos and impressions are my own.  

Relatively Wordless Wednesday

What makes a hamburger great?
Burger Flame
A fried egg.  Oh, and no bun and lots of heat.
Lettuce Wrapped Super Hamburger
What makes chicken wings go from average to phenomenal?
Smoked Sriracha Whiskey Chicken Wings
Sriracha, whiskey and smoke.  It's a work in progress.  Recipe eventually to follow….
Happy Wednesday.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

What's on the Grill #247: Grilled Fajita Lettuce Wraps with Tomatillo Salsa

I love food I can eat with my hands: ribs, chicken wings and beer.  Well, beer technically require a glass, but you get the idea.  I also enjoy "wrapped" foods.  The list of items you can stuff into a tortilla is limitless.  Whether it be a planned meal, or a second day take on leftovers, wraps are a great excuse to leave the silverware in the drawer.

Although the tortilla is the all-purpose star of food wraps, romaine lettuce is quickly becoming my preferred vessel.  They offer a little more crunch and a whole lot more health than their rolled flour counterparts.  They are also cheaper, gluten free and an easy way to up your daily vegetable quotient.  Now if they could just hold beer...

Fajita Makings

Grilled Fajita Lettuce Wraps with Tomatillo Salsa
Salsa based on recipe from Epicurious

1 Flank Steak
1 head of Romaine Lettuce


12 oz beer (choose something malty/sweet, in this case I went with my Dunkelweizen)
1 clove smashed garlic
1/2 of lime, squeezed
1 bay leaf
1 t pickled jalapeño pepper juice
1 t cracked pepper
1 t kosher salt


1 pound fresh tomatillos
2 large cloves garlic
2 T chopped jalapeños
4 T chopped cilantro
juice of one lime
1 t kosher salt 

Mix together all of the marinade ingredients and add, with the flank steak, to a gallon size zip lock bag.   Allow to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but ideally overnight.  

Marinating Flank Steak

For the salsa, prep the grill for direct medium heat.  Husk and wash the tomatillos under cold water.  Pat dry and grill until the outsides are lightly charred, approximately 8-10 minutes turning several times throughout.

Grilled Tomatillos

Remove the tomatillos from the grill and coarsely chop.  Add them to a food processor with the remaining salsa ingredients and puree until smooth.  Add additional salt as needed.

Salsa Verde

When ready to grill the steak, remove from the refrigerator an hour prior to cooking.  Prep the grill for direct high heat.

Remove the steak from the marinade.  Discard the marinade and bag.  Pat the steak dry.  


A dry steak hitting the grill is key.  If the steak is still wet from the marinade, or has moisture on it, the initial contact with the grill will cause the exterior of the meat to steam versus brown.  The meat needs to brown in order to form a succulent flavorful crust (Maillard reaction).  A wet steak from a marinade stands in the way of this and depending on the marinade's sugar content, could set the stage for some bad flare-ups too.  Words to remember: dry steak hot grill.

Generously salt and pepper both side of the steak, then place the steak on the hot grill.  For medium rare, plan on about 8-10 minutes of grill time, turning over once halfway through.

Grilled Flank Steak

Use an instant read thermometer and pull the steak off around 125 F.   Allow to rest, covered in foil, approximately 5 minutes.

The great thing about fajitas is they can be topped with anything.  I added in some roasted yellow and poblano peppers, as well as the usual sprinkle of cheese and sour cream.

Sliced Flank Steak

When cutting flank, be sure to cut "against the grain" to break up the muscle fibers and have the tenderest piece of meat possible.

Finally, pull off and wash the largest leaves from the head of romaine.  From either a plate or hand, load the leaves with the fixings and whatever else suits your fancy. 

Wrap in Hand

 When dinner is done, clean up should be minimal and your belly full.

Lettuce Fajita Wrap


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Happy 4th of July

It's holiday time here in the US, so I'm off work and nurturing 5 pounds of smoking pork in the backyard.  I really couldn't ask for a better day.  

To all of my American readers, Happy Independence Day!  May your grills, fireworks and marshmallows burn bright!  

Flaming Marsh