Monday, December 23, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 23

I've been having Anchor's Christmas Ales since before I was legal to have them. This year it is super dark. The flavors include grapefruit, a little clove, coffee, and burnt malt. It has the characteristic Anchor bitterness, and tastes a bit thin given the dark colors and full flavors.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 22

When I opened the package for today's Advent beer, I knew I had something unusual. When I took the first sip, I knew I had something special. The first thing I noticed was the custom bottle had no label. The cap says Trappist Westvleteren with a little 12 in a circle on the bottom. Looking it up, I find that this is Westvleteren 12 from a brewery run by Trappist monks from the Abby of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren. They only make enough beer to keep the Abby running despite demand for this beer, which some people call "The best beer in the world."

"Best" might be a stretch, but it is very, very good. The first smell is like fudge cooking, sweet but with depth. It has a creamy mouth-feel that coats my tongue with malt, chocolate, caramel, and a bit of coffee flavor.

It turns out this beer is extremely hard to get. In 2012 Craft Beer Cellar sold out their allotment in 30 minutes. So, it feels like a great gift to get this bottle in the Advent box. I can't wait to see what the next two days will bring.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 21

Today is day 21 of the Craft Beer Cellar Advent box. Today is also the winter solstice. I shouldn't have been surprised to get a Winter Solstice Seasonal Ale. It is a winter warmer from Anderson Valley Brewing Company close to where my family lives in California.

Gail and I also shared the little bell-shaped goat cheese we got today from MA-France. We always find fun surprises in this cute new Lexington cheese shop. I often find fresh goat cheese to be somewhat bland, but this bell combined grass and lemon flavors in a nice young texture. I'm sad it's gone.

Back to the beer, which was full of nuance. It had a slight hoppy and yeasty aroma, unusual for this style. The bitterness was also slight, but noticeable, again unusual. It had the typical malt highlights, which gave way to caramel and a hint of nutmeg. I'm sad it's gone too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 20

Tonight's Advent beer is Old Jubilation Ale from Avery Brewing. This one wasn't my favorite. It is more malt-forward than I prefer, and those malt flavors are more toasted than I prefer. They can't all match my taste.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 19

Today's advent beer is a new style to me. Rodenbach (the beer) is named after Rodenbach (the brewery) now owned by Palm. The beer is a sour, Flemish red style beer from Belgium. The beer lacks the normal hops characteristics, but isn't really malty either. Although, malty is probably the closest way to describe this if you haven't had this style before. I'm tasting lemons, sour cherries and a little apple. This Advent box is full of surprises and new experiences. Well done Craft Brew Cellar.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 18

I decided to save today's beer for a different day. It is 413 Farmhouse Ale from Big Elm Brewing. I'll report back on it when I drink it.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 17

Sierra Nevada was one of the first craft beer producers, and they continue to be one of the best. They have been brewing Celebration since 1981, just a year after the brewery opened.

Celebration is not the typical malty Christmas beer. Indeed it is one of the first examples of the IPA style in American craft brewing. Oddly though, the strong bitterness on the back of my tongue reminds me of a spiced beer, with flavors like mace, ginger, pepper and perhaps a little evergreen. It is a great beer to sip while sitting around the tree.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 16

Santa tried to steal my beer. I can't blame him for wanting this Organic Chocolate Stout from Samuel Smith. I might have guessed that Craft Beer Cellar would include a beer from Samuel Smith, but I would have guessed the Winter Welcome Ale that I gave to my daughter earlier this month.

This is the most chocolaty stout I've ever had, both in aroma and flavor. It's delicious. Turns out it is not only organic, but also vegan.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 15

This 2XMAS is as spicy as you can get and still be called beer. The label says "Brewed in the tradition of Swedish Glögg." Southern Tier says it has figs, orange peels, cardamom, cinnamon, clove and ginger root. The cardamom taste is strong, and I also taste black pepper and a hint of grapefruit.

This is just the kind of thing I was hoping for from Craft Beer Cellar's Advent box. I'm very glad it was included. It's interesting and expands my horizons, even though it's not the kind of beer I'd lean to regularly.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 14

Tonight's Advent beer is Adoration dark winter ale from Ommegang. The first thing I noticed was thick, round mouth-feel followed by an explosion of tiny bubbles on the front of my tongue. The effect makes me really enjoy sipping the beer, and savoring both the flavors and the feel. The flavor is of citrus and malt, and is just a bit sweeter than I prefer. I'm never disappointed by Ommegang.

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 13

Look at that lovely, unopened Brooklyn Winter Ale. This is the second time I couldn't drink the Advent beer. Looks like I need a break about once a week.  Fortunately, I have all winter to get to it. Since both my daughters live in Brooklyn, I'll think of them when I drink it.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 12

A Belgian ale is the perfect starting point for a Christmas beer. And this Scaldis de Noël is the perfect Belgian Christmas ale. Put out by Brasserie Dubuisson, this beer takes the typical richness of a Belgian ale and turns it up a notch. It reminds me of burnt caramel and roses, and despite the intensity of sugar, it's not a bit cloying.

This is my new favorite from this Craft Beer Cellar Advent box.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 11

Today's Advent gift is Hoponius Union from local brewery Jack's Abby in Framingham. This is quite an unusual departure from the ordinary. It's an IPL, or Indian Pale Lager. Lagers are known for smooth, clean flavors, while the traditional IPA (as in ale) is known for kick-in-the-pants aggressiveness. The marriage lets the bitterness and hop flavors stand out more. It works well, but with a less creamy mouth feel than a typical IPA.

Thank you Craft Beer Cellar for making me a more educated beer drinker.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 10

Today's Craft Beer Cellar Advent beer is Hibernation Ale from Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver. From the department of overly specific recommendations (specifically, the label): "Suggested food pairings: Romano, an aged hard Dutch cow's milk cheese, grilled beef tenderloin, apple crisp with ginger ice cream." It probably would go well with ginger ice cream. It has the malty sweetness prominent in this seasonal selection so far. I initially smelled some dry hopping, but that went away half way through. This beer does have some coffee notes that I don't prefer in beer, but these made me think more of chocolate cake with a hint of coffee.

This was a good choice for a winter night of hibernating.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 9

Alta Gracia Coffee Porter from Wolver's Organic Brewing was today's Advent beer surprise. It had notes of coffee, burnt barley and vanilla. It seems perfectly good, but I don't have sufficient love for cold coffee flavors.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 8

Note the unopened bottle of Peak Organic Brewing Company's Winter Session Ale. I'll save this one to share with my newly 21 year-old daughter when she comes home for Christmas. I'll edit this post with tasting notes after that.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 7

Day 7's Advent beer is the best in the box so far. The horned Santa on the label hints at the intensity of Christmas spirit in this Troegs double bock, traditionally named Trogenator. The horns are to invoke billy goats, a pun on the German word for bock. At 8.2%, the alcohol levels are low for a double, but the flavor is fully as rich and chewy as to deserve the label "liquid bread" given to it by the monks who started brewing it. Trogenator is sweet but not cloying with flavors of malt and grapes.

I will be happily surprised if Craft Beer Cellar can beat this in future days.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 6

Day 6 of my Craft Beer Cellar Advent beer adventure was Cold Front from Ithaca Beer Company. It's a Belgian Amber Ale with all the flavors that remind me of Brussels: low hops profile, strong malty flavors and the characteristic sourness of the Belgian yeasts. This was just the dessert I was looking for.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 5

Today's Beer was Dogfish Head Raison D'Etre. The label reads "A deep mahogany ale brewed with Belgian beer sugars, green raisins & a sense of purpose." Honestly, "Dark Belgian ale" would have worked just fine. I can't tell the difference between Belgian sugar and German sugar, or green and purple raisins, but the beer is good.

On a side note, you can see the pepperoni slices that Santa brought me today to go with my beers. This beer went particularly well with pepperoni.

This beer is great for the season. As ever, thanks Craft Beer Cellar!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 4

 Bah humbug. I feel a bit the Scrooge for being disappointed by today's beer. There's really nothing wrong with it. It is the All Day IPA from Founders Brewing Company. It's a lighter IPA than I prefer, but there's nothing wrong with that. I would call it clean, refreshing and light, more like a hop-heavy Pilsner, with light flavoring, almost no aromatic hops, and heavy bittering hops.

I don't associate IPAs with the Advent season. It's more of a summer beer to me. I'm sure it's difficult for Craft Beer Cellar to find 24 Christmas beers, and this feels like an addition in the spirit of giving. It isn't possible that I will love them all.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 3

When I opened today's Advent beer I wondered what Global Warmer had to do with the Christmas season. After reading the back of the can (yes, good beer can come in cans now) I saw the pun with Winter Warmer. I now can't imagine how I missed that.

Sixpoint Brewery's winter offering is like a strong IPA modified to be sweeter for the season. It has a hops-heavy taste, especially in a mouthful of that big, lacy head. It also has the full bitterness of an IPA, which goes surprisingly well with the lingering sweetness.

Three days, no disappointments. Thanks again Craft Beer Cellar!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Craft Beer Cellar Advent Beer Day 2

Today's beer was Winter Oatmeal Stout from Mayflower Brewing Company in Plymouth. It was dominated with coffee flavor and lingering hints of oats and lemon. There was a creamy mouth feel from the oatmeal and large amount of residual sugar, which made for a nice Christmas treat.

This advent box is starting out nicely. Thanks Craft Beer Cellar!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

An Advent Box of Beer from Craft Beer Cellar

Happy Advent!

Our family has a tradition of creating Advent boxes. An advent box has 24 little presents to open in the days leading up to Christmas. When I saw that Craft Beer Cellar had an advent box of beer, I couldn't pass it up.

The first beer was Breckenridge Brewery's Christmas Ale. It was a really nice introduction to the box. It had a good head and color, with a low-hopped malt flavor that went well with the spice notes. The spices were notably different from the pie spices found in pumpkin spice beers. I'm guessing it is a combination of clove, and allspice, without cinnamon. I'm enjoying the last few creamy sips right now.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Delicious Severino Pasta

Gail planned a yummy pasta dinner for tonight. As we went through our weekend drive-about, we found ourselves augmenting the plan with a new EVOO, a nice grating cheese, and a special loaf of bread. Regular pasta wouldn't do. So we went to Whole Foods and picked up a package of Severino pasta. The label called the shape Mafaldine, but that doesn't mean much.  It looks like lasagna sheets where someone took out most of the flat part in the middle.  Cool look, but the flavor was truly wonderful. This had all the fullness of homemade fresh pasta. It's a difficult flavor to describe, but imagine a little egg, a little bread, possibly a little mushroom. Everything was delicious, but the pasta was the clear star.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Mushroom Reduction

My daughter Noele cooks by the seat of her pants like I do.  I used to be better at it, but I'm out of practice. Noele, on the other hand, is great at it.

Last night she made us a sweet potato gnocchi and topped it with a mushroom reduction. And once again, the flavors of her vegan dishes are really wonderful.

Sweet potato was a great base for the gnocchi. The sweet potato dough made pillows that were decently chewy but still light.

The mushrooms were super rich with distinguishable flavors of fruity wine, tart balsamic vinegar, and earthy fungus. They mixed really well with the gnocchi.

Given Noele's cooking style, here's the best recipes you'll get, but this should be enough for you to figure it out.

Noele's Sweet Potato Gnocci
1 large sweet potato
1½ cup flour
  1. Boil and mash the sweet potato
  2. Mix in about a cup of the flour, then roll the dough in the remaining flour until you get the texture you want
  3. Roll the dough into ropes, and cut them into bite-sized pillows
  4. Boil about 5 minutes

Noele's Mushroom Reduction
A bunch of wild mushrooms
Simon and Garfunkel spices (parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme)
A little olive oil
Red wine
Balsamic vinegar
  1. Finely chop the mushrooms
  2. Saute them in olive oil
  3. Add spices and saute some more
  4. Add the wine and vinegar and saute some more
  5. Add some of the gnocchi water as needed to get the right consistency

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Legal Sea Foods is Boston Strong

We have always been big fans of Legal Sea Foods. We found their recent commercial in support of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to be particularly powerful. Now we are bigger fans.

Bagel Land of Winchester is Boston Strong


I've been amazed at the outpouring of support for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.The owner of Bagel Land in Winchester has pledged all of the proceeds of his retail shop to The One Fund until, according to his sign, "the last victim comes home!" Gail and I got bagels there this morning in solidarity with his effort.


IMG_2649We were glad to find that these are really great bagels. As it turns out, we just picked up our cheese share from Formaggio Kitchen. It included a fresh goat cheese from Bedford Blueberry Goat Farm. We also had another fresh goat cheese from the Concord Cheese Shop: Petit Billy from Triballat Noyal in the Loire
Valley of France. Both these cheeses were a nice alternative to cream cheese.

The Bedford Blueberry was much lighter and milder than the Petit Billy. The Petit Billy's flavor was milky with slight goat and grass flavors. It stood nicely on it's own. We found the Bedford to be a little too mild, but it was beautifully packaged. Later in the day, we added a little balsamic vinegar, which worked nicely with the mild flavors. We expect to get it again to serve it with balsamic and oil on a cheese board.

The bagels were light with a great chewy texture. These are the bagels we look for, but never actually find, when we visit New York City. We've found our bagel shop.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Vegan Treats from Sprouted Raw Foods

IMG_2486Our daughter Noele has been introducing us to vegetarian and vegan foods, so I had to stop at the vegan treats booth we saw at the Mahoney's Farmer's Market. I find vegan food oddly wonderful, and the treats from Sprouted Raw Foods were no exception. Don't let "raw" and "vegan" scare you away. These restrictions push their proponents to make the food with extra care.

Sprouted Raw Foods has both sweet and savory lines. We came home with a kale and onion crisp that was striped with green kale. It was rich, slightly salty and featured the kale flavors well. It paired nicely with a cheese plate, but don't tell the vegans we used them that way. We also got a cranberry citrus nut cluster. It was a bright and slightly tart granola; a great cookie replacement.

Do take the chance to visit them. Besides the good food they are helpful and friendly. I took my picture moments after spilling my coffee all over the booth (sorry). See, still a smile.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Pretty Things Saint Botolph's Town

IMG_2263 Another strong showing from Pretty Things. This beer is a delicious Belgian-flavored brown ale that reminds me of St. Bernardus Abt 12. It has a full, slightly sweet flavor without a touch of hops taste. It is perfect for a winter night.

Night Shift Taza Stout

IMG_2228 Our whole family loves Taza Chocolate, so I couldn't pass up this stout made with Taza chocolate. The flavors in this stout were more coffee-like than chocolaty, but I did get a hint of the chocolate flavor. Taza aside, the beer itself was beautify crafted and clean. I'll be heading back to the Night Shift well.

St. Bernardus Christmas Ale

IMG_2191This was my favorite Christmas beer this season. Although, how could it not be. The regular St. Bernardus Abt 12 is a truly amazing beer with full, chewy malt flavors but not a lot of hops. The Christmas beer has fuller flavors with spicy notes. And look at the beautiful head.

Special thanks to Gail for my new beer glass.

Cheese Log: Ascutney Mountain - Cobb Hill Cheese

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Name: Ascutney Mountain
Maker: Cobb Hill Cheese
Milk: Cow

Strong aged cheddar flavors with a Gouda texture.

Sample Information:
January 6, 2013, $7.00 (0.27lb@$25.95/lb)- Formaggio Kitchen

Cheese Log: Butterwick - Twig Farm

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Name: Butterwick
Maker: Twig Farm
Milk: Cow

This had a brie-like texture and flavor, but a little stronger.

Sample Information:
January 6, 2013, Price unknown - Formaggio Kitchen as part of the January cheese share.

Cheese Log: Slyboro - Consider Bardwell

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Name: Slyboro
MakerConsider Bardwell
Milk: Goat

We waited too long to taste this, and it went mostly bad. I was able to get a small taste from the middle of the end, but even that was overly funky with ammonia tastes. We'll give it a fair try some other time.

Sample Information:
January 6, 2013, Price unknown - Formaggio Kitchen as part of the January cheese share. We waited too long to sample this and the result was an ammonia rotted sample that barely had a small edible center.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Pretty Things/Once Upon a Time East India Pale Ale 1879

IMG_2248I'm a huge fan of Pretty Things beer and was really excited to pick up this bottle of IPA from their Once Upon a Time line. They recreate historic recipes as authentically as they can manage. This IPA comes from a recipe originally brewed in 1879.

I was interested to see how the IPA style has changed as craft brewing has grown the style. Today's IPAs are strongly hopped and full of flavor. I had expected to taste a mild but bitter brew. I had quinine sensibilities in mind. I was surprised to find the same full flavor and fruity floral notes as any craft IPA today. In fact, it strongly reminded me of Pretty Things' own Meadowlark IPA. The difference was that this beer lacked any hop aroma, and had an initial attack that was slightly watery. I was also struck by the creamy, stout-like head. After forty-five minutes it is still hanging in there.

Now I'm eager to try the other Once Upon a Time creations.

Cheese Log: Landaff - Landaff Creamery

IMG_2233 IMG_2246

Name: Landaff
Maker: Landaff Creamery
Milk: Cow

Strong aged cheddar flavors with a buttery smooth texture.

Sample Information:
January 6, 2013, Price unknown - Formaggio Kitchen as part of the January cheese share

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Cheese Log: Lake's Edge - Blue Ledge Farm

IMG_2236 IMG_2241b

Name: Lake's Edge
Maker: Blue Ledge Farm
Milk: Goat

Soft, spreadable center with an ash line. Gooey edge and an edible soft white rind. Tastes like a buttery chèvre with a hint of lemon. The combination of three textures are delightful.

Sample Information:
January 6, 2013, Price unknown - Formaggio Kitchen as part of the January cheese share

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Visiting Prague

This post is long in coming, but can't really be skipped. I visited my daughter in Prague while she was on her semester abroad. I was struck by three things about Prague. First, the old architecture in the tourist areas is remarkable and untouched by either WWII or by communism. Second, outside the main city, the architecture is bleak from years of communist rule. Third, there are outcroppings of hopefulness and style from a city that has grown out of communism since the Velvet Revolution in 1989.


Prague is an interesting food city. Gail and I made Czech food while Noele was in Prague, so it was nice to taste the local versions of the knedliky (bread dumplings), svíčková (meat in gravy), brambory (potatoes) and Nakládaný hermelín (marinated cheese).

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trdelnikOne traditional street food, trdelnik, was particularly fun. These dough tubes are cooked over a wood fire to create a smoky, sweet treat.

IMG_1927We also had a nice lunch in a bakery/lunch counter called Bakeshop. It is run by a British ex-pat, and feels like an integral part of the new Czech culture. This is a pumpkin soup Noele had, and I had a pumpkin quiche with feta. They make the tight seating space fun having patrons duck under the table to sit on the window sill all around the edge.

Noele also shared her favorite breakfast place with me, Bohemia Bagels. I had the eggs Benedict with crab, and it really was amazing.


On the high end, Noele and I went out to a nice dinner before heading to the opera. We went to the restaurant Leonardo in the Hotel DeVinci in old town. The meal was delightful and the whole dinner including appetizers and wine was just over $60. Amazing!


But the opera itself was a special highlight. We got outstanding tickets to the Dvořák opera Rusalka. For just over $100, we got floor level box seats just off the stage. We felt so elegant. It was fun to see an opera by a Czech composer, and we were more surprised that the opera Rusalka is the basis of The Little Mermaid story. I enjoyed the special time with my daughter, and will probably let her take me to more opera in the future.