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Five of the Best Craft Beer Bargains from New York to grace your Thanksgiving Table

Last Thanksgiving, Brendon O’Brien, (DeCicco & Sons ‘Merchant of Joy’ / Director of Beer) and I sat down to discuss one of the most extravagant and expensive craft beers (from the USA and Europe) that one could possibly purchase to accompany one’s Thanksgiving Meal and ended up with at least a couple of beers in our selection that exceeded the cost of a bottle of half decent Champagne!!

So this year, I thought we should see if we could come up with a great selection of craft beers for Thanksgiving that would suit everybody’s budget and perfectly pair with the classic flavors of this most sumptuous of meals. We also felt it was high time we showcased the local beer ‘harvest’ from what we think are among the best brewers located within an hour or so of us, here in the Lower Hudson Valley, in the great State of New York

After all, Beer is a social drink which one usually buys for a group. We love to support our local producers and it’s great to have reasonably priced people friendly beer for entertaining, especially with all the see sawing Dow Jones and Nasdaq this Fall!

Another first for this review (which is also very much a sign of the times), is that every Beer we chose is available in the now best selling non-draft craft brew industry format of 16 oz cans. According to Brendon, cans are simply better for storing the beer, as the light that filtered into even the darker bottles had an impact on the drink within

Enough with the preamble, here is our selection for this Thanksgiving:

Threes Brewing – ‘Vliet’ (pronounced ‘vleet’) – Pilsner Vol. 5.1% from Brooklyn, NY – $ 13.99 per 4 pack

Threes Brewing - Vliet

Threes Brewing – Vliet

Threes Brewing is a New York brewery that very much marches to beat of it’s own drum. Their specialty is making classic representations of historic beer styles but putting their own twist on things. According to Brendon, Threes Brewing’s beers tend to be well balanced and well executed. You can taste all the ingredients they use which work harmoniously as if in concert together

Vliet is their take on the currently on trend classic Pilsner. It is true to the style clean, crisp and refreshing. Threes Brewing call it ‘Verdant’, as Vliet certainly has a green and grassy freshness to it’s taste

It has incredible pairing potential and will work with everything you might eat during your Holiday Meal but we reckon that it is best served as a pleasant welcome drink and easy slide into the gastronomic feat that is Thanksgiving for its participants

As Brendon puts it, this is a beer that is so easy on the taste buds that even your old fashioned Uncle who has never tried a Craft Beer and prefers his ‘suds’ would love it

Singlecut Beersmiths – ‘Kim’ – Sour Lager Vol. 4.2% from Astoria, Queens NY – $16.99 Price per 4 pack

Singlecut - Kim

Singlecut Beersmiths – Kim

Singlecut is one of DeCiccos’ best sellers with a great reputation as a brewery

This beer, is their delicious Sour Lager with an infusion of hibiscus and blackcurrant. It is tart and refreshing to taste, floral on both nose and tongue with a ruddy pink color in the glass

Brendon thinks it is a great compliment to the Thanksgiving Meal with it’s blackcurrant sharpness and a generous helping of acidity in the Sour, which compliments perfectly with the fat in the food

On top of this, it will also appeal to the wine drinkers among one’s Thanksgiving guests, as the fruit and acidity in this delicious brew almost mimics a lively Sauvignon Blanc or dry Rose in palate, reminding us of the past Summer whose harvest, Thanksgiving celebrates

This beer is a perfect match for Cranberry Sauce and in fact, if you like, we reckon it would reduce well if you want to add it into the ingredients, when you make Cranberry sauce

You could serve Kim both to accompany your starters , or along with the Big Bird itself. Your call….

Captain Lawrence Brewing Co & Barrier Brewing Co (collaboration) – Communal Hoppiness IPA – Vol. 7.5% from Elmsford, NY and Oceanside, Long Island, NY respectively – $17.99 per 4 pack

Captain Lawrence Brewing & Barrier Brewing - Communal Hoppiness

Captain Lawrence Brewing & Barrier Brewing – Communal Hoppiness

The most expensive of this year’s selection but worth every penny (we promise)!

One cannot write about American Craft Beer without including an IPA. That’s the rule (says Brendon) and Captain Lawrence for me is as local as a Brewer can be, as they are just a 10 minute drive from my home – so, what’s not to like?

This collaborative brew is labelled ‘NEIPA’ meaning Northeast IPA and by nature is a hazy hop filled form of the style

What makes it so interesting to the palate is that Communal Hoppiness has been brewed with ‘Lupulin Powder’, which is essentially the most concentrated element from the Hops. It is the orange gold ‘pollen’ of the hop, which one finds, when one cracks open the hop. Adding Lupulin intensifies the hop aroma and taste several times

On drinking, one gets a juicy and full flavored hit packed through with citrus flavor with ripe orange through passion fruit and mango elements. It’s what we call ‘the tropical one’ full of summer memories

It is a great Beer which, although Brendon says he would not normally have chosen for the Thanksgiving Meal, it is so delightful, it will work with everything on your plate. In particular, those of our readers, like Brendon and I who like to add a spicy element to their traditional meal, such as a stuffing with Habanero, or even Ghost peppers, will appreciate the way this brew will work with the hotter warming taste notes these chilies will bring to the party

Newburgh Brewing Co – Brown Ale – Vol. 4.2% from Newburgh NY – $9.99 per 4 pack

Newburgh - Brown Ale

Newburgh Brewing Company – Brown Ale

Every year Brendon says he gets really excited about the Fall, as you can still get outside to enjoy in the great New York countryside and forests to enjoy the Autumnal Colors and even though it’s cooler, it’s not too cold to do so

In his view, Brown Ale is a perfect complement to the seasonal weather, darker, like the mornings and early nights, but warmer than the winter coming

Newburgh’s straightforwardly named Brown Ale is a Southern English style of Brown Ale, malty and dark, almost black in appearance. It smells like the Fall, with an aroma of leaves with the wind blown dryness so redolent of this time of year. On tasting the ale, one detects nutty and earthy notes and a toffee like flavor

This brew is perfect with turkey and brown gravy, a marriage made in food heaven which also syncs admirably with classic Thanksgiving sides like candied yams and sweet potato pie

Indeed, if there was only one budget beer Brendon could choose for his Thanksgiving Meal this would be the one. Of course you might beg to differ?

Sloop Brewing Company – Chocolate Milk Baked – Vol. 6.5% from Hopewell Junction (near Poughkeepsie) – $14.99 per 4 pack

Sloop Brewery - Chocolate Milk Baked

Sloop Brewing Company – Chocolate Milk Baked

Sloop Brewing have really built a strong reputation for IPAs but they also make some fabulous Sours and Stouts

This year, we have chosen one of their ‘baked goods’ range, as the beer that would best work as an accompaniment to the end of the Thanksgiving Meal, the desert, a playful and fun end to the feast

Brewed with malted oats to add creaminess and lactose milk sugar to add a rounded sweetness, then finished by resting on cocoa nibs give this beer a fantastic chocolaty edge. It is a delight

It truly lives up to its name as it is silky smooth, creamy and full of scrumptious chocolate taste, just like the ubiquitous fudge brownie. On pouring its color and head reminds one of a frothy hot cup of cocoa

According to Brendon, the origin of the baked series from Sloop was to try and represent the qualities we know and love in baked goods into a beer and, boy, with Chocolate Milk Bake, they sure have succeeded!

This beer works perfectly with cake, ice cream or pecan pie and of course a gooey chocolate pudding…. BUT hey, if you don’t have the space for why not skip dessert and just have a drink Chocolate Milk Baked instead.

A liquid dessert for Thanksgiving in a 16 oz can!
Final Thoughts

These are beers Brendon and I genuinely love and would really want to bring to the party. We hope you find something in our selection which will please everyone one of your guests at the Thanksgiving Meal

Why don’t you let us know which of these beers you would like best for your Thanksgiving by taking part in our Poll below?


Web-links to the Brewers

http://www.threesbrewing.com

http://www.singlecut.com

http://www.captainlawrencebrewing.com

http://www.barrierbrewing.com

http://www.newburghbrewing.com

http://www.sloopbrewing.com

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Not Quite Coleslaw

As a Kid I just loved a classic coleslaw salad served with burgers cooked on the grill, or with one’s fish and chips, as they do in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

However, these days, my tastes have become a little more ‘fancy,’ (as my children put it) and my wife just hates mayonnaise.  So, this summer, I found myself looking for a way to reinvent coleslaw that my kids would still eat, my wife would find delicious and the finished salad would also be a lot more healthy and nutritious than the original

This is my really simple recipe for an offbeat version of this famous side salad, which I came up with as the BBQ season kicked off here on the Eastern Seaboard of the US and the summer truly got into its stride

Try it out!

Ingredients

Ingredients

Key Ingredients

  • Three or four large raw peeled rainbow (multi colored) carrots but you can also use regular carrots
  • One raw medium red cabbage, outer leaves discarded
  • A heaped quarter cup of rough chopped raw walnuts
  • A quarter cup of golden raisins (sultanas)
  • A generous tablespoon of blood orange infused olive oil (I used Arlotta’s Californian version which I picked up in Irvington Farmer’s Market)
  • A tablespoon of Aged Balsamic Vinegar
  • A generous pinch or two of sea salt and several grinds of black pepper to taste

Method

Carrots & Cabbage Grated

Grating the veggies

  • If you own a food processor this is going to be unbelievably easy – simply attach your grater disc and blitz the carrots and cabbage! If not, then it will mean a little more work – you will have to hand grate the carrots and cabbage
  • Combine the cabbage and carrots in a large bowl
  • Add the walnuts and raisins and toss everything together
  • Pour in the oil and balsamic vinegar, add the seasoning and toss again
Combine Ingredients

Combining ingredients

Serve as a great summer side to outdoor eating, whether meat or fish.  I hope you enjoy this quick, easy to make salad full of summer color with a sweet citrus tang and a nutty crunch as much as my family and co-blogger Lindsey do!

Infused Olive Oil from:

Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil – Premium Organic Kosher California

 

 

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Sicilian Food Stories

Italy is one of my favourite countries to visit. I love the culture, the people and of course their passion for food- growing it, making it, talking about it and eating it! On my travel bucket list was Sicily and  an Italian cooking course which I did recently.

Piazza Duomo, Catania

I visited Catania and Southern Sicily staying in  a beautiful villa on an  agriturismo farm in Rosolini with Flavours Holidays.  Sicily has so much history that has influenced the cuisine.  My key learning was ‘less is more’ with the simplicity of the recipes, using only a few ingredients and  the amazing local produce.  The understanding of how to combine them to ‘make them sing’ . Using olive oil with one or two herbs at most , perhaps a touch of garlic, delivering an incredible tasting dish- a symphony  on the tongue!

Mount Etna view, Catania

In Catania, Mount Etna, Europe’s largest active volcano dominates the area and  its black soil is fertile producing some fantastic  food & wine such as  lemons,  olives, olive oil , honey, chestnuts, pistachios, almonds, Etna Rosso wines but more of that later.

A trip to Savia, the oldest  Pasticceria in Catania was a must. Friday afternoon was busy with locals enjoying an espresso and a pastry. I tried two Sicilian specialities – Arancini al Ragù   & Cannoli.

Arancini at Pasticceria Savia, Catania

Arancini are  risotto rice balls filled with a rich tomato, vegetable, meat & cheese filling, dipped in breadcrumbs and fried until golden. The Sicilian arancini are ‘cone shaped’, with the shape supposedly making it easier to eat, by hand as the locals informed me.  A bit of a challenge, I did eventually resort to using a fork, very tasty and filling with the layers of flavour.

Cannoli – a Sicilian Speciality, Pasticceria Savia

The cannoli were fabulous- thin, crisp outer shell with a lightly whipped ricotta filling with tiny cubes of candied lemon and crushed pistachios at each end. Much lighter & less sweet  than those I’ve tried before and absolutely delicious.

Pistachio pastry and an espresso at Pasticceria Savia, Catania

 

Meandering around the cobbled streets in search of pizza, I found myself outside Pizzeria Locanda Cerami, a restaurant with a buzzy atmosphere and  full of locals, always a good sign. They had a fantastic selection but what caught my eye was one using pistachio pesto instead of the usual tomato sauce- something I’ve never had on a pizza but can highly recommend.

Pizza with Pistachio Pesto at Pizzeria Locanda Cerami, Catania

It was delicious with some local cherry tomatoes, speck, mozzarella  and crushed pistachios on top. A perfect Friday night Sicilian supper with a glass of Etna Rosso taking in the atmosphere. I found out afterwards from Claudia, our Cooking School host , that I had eaten in one of the best pizza places in Catania.  I did a walking tour of Etna, visiting a cave and then via a cable car & all terrain vehicle up to  2500 metres .

Trekking on Mount Etna

Walking around with the contrast of black volcanic rock & soil, white snow, and steam rising from the enormous craters. An incredible and unforgettable experience- other worldly and magical. We visited a farm to taste some of the local olive oil, pesto, honey , fruit curds, and wines produced on Etna. After enjoying the pizza I bought some pistachio pesto and chestnut honey. Following a day trekking on Etna I was ready for dinner and stumbled upon one of the best restaurants in Catania – Giardino Di Bacco.

Fantastic fish tasting plate at Giardino Di Bacco,Catania

I chose  their fish tasting plate so I could sample a number of local dishes . I tasted swordfish rolls and long rolls, squid stuffed with prawns and asparagus and tuna wrapped in lemon leaves and grilled. I also enjoyed a glass of Frappato Sicilian red wine. This was  one of the best meals I have eaten and definitely a restaurant I would go back to and recommend. After my short visit to Catania  I met up with my fellow Flavours Cooking Crew- 8 enthusiastic foodies for a week cooking and touring around Southern Sicily. Our base was a beautiful 19th century villa on Schembari farm near Rosolini surrounded by fields of olive, lemon, almond and carob trees- so picturesque.  Carmela our chef was a great teacher, and she guided us through lots of Sicilian specialities with a smile and nod of encouragement and approval – she only spoke Italian- so Claudia our fab  host translated.

Carmela our chef making arancini

The savoury recipes we cooked were: arancini, ravioli filled with ricotta, tomato sauce, cavatelli pasta, meatballs with Sicilian lemon, caponata with aubergines, Falsomagro, or ‘ False Thin’ , a rolled beef or veal joint layered with salami, ham, sausagemeat and boiled eggs, then cooked in a tomato sauce-served  in slices . Definitely a dish for festivals and celebrations.

Sicilian Meatballs wrapped in Lemon Leaves from the farm

Homemade Cavatelli with tomato sauce

One of my favourites was  Scacce  Modicane – a savoury thin  pastry filled with various fillings including ricotta & sausage; tomato, aubergine, basil; potato, parsley & onion with some local casiacavallo cheese then  rolled up like a Swiss roll & baked.

Making Scacce Modicane

It was then sliced – delicious eaten just warm and also the next day  cold – perfect picnic food.

Scacce Modicane

The sweet recipes were cannoli,  the trickiest recipe we made but great fun.

 

 

Also biancomangiare, a cold blancmange made with homemade almond milk, sugar flavoured with lemon rind & topped with crushed pistachios.  

Torrone- caramelised almond brittle

We made almond biscuits and torrone- caramelised almond brittle. This was used to top my favourite dessert  a semi freddo – semi frozen ice cream-  served  with a dark chocolate sauce using the famous chocolate from Antica Dolceria Bonajuto, the oldest Sicilian chocolate maker in Modica. Rich, indulgent and totally yummy. Definitely  Delizioso!  

Semi Freddo with torrone & dark chocolate sauce

We would have classes in the morning and eat what we cooked for lunch. The classes were lots of fun- with banter & bonding over who could roll the thinnest pasta!

We also visited Modica, with its history of chocolate making; Syracuse and Ortigia Island , a fab foodie market with lots of tomato paste, nuts & cheese purchased- especially after meeting Antonio the cheese maker from Borderi Gli Artisti.

Antonio the Cheese maker from Borderi, Ortigia Island

He had Italian charisma, flirting and  plying us with samples of his triple baked ricotta and pecorino with peppercorns. A great character and very effective salesman as we all ended up buying lots of cheese.

Cheese from Boderi, Food Market, Ortigia Island

We enjoyed lunch at a fish restaurant, sampling the mussels, clams, calamari and prawns, Frito Misto Di Mare and pasta alla Norma – with aubergines and rich tomato sauce.

Sicilian seafood platter, Ortigia Island

We went to Marzamemi, an old fishing village , with some wonderful wine tasting & canapés at Feudoromaddini a local vineyard nearby.

Wine Tasting at Feudormaddini Vineyard

We visited some picturesque towns such as Noto & Ragusa Ibla – beautiful baroque architecture, cathedrals and churches, and stunning views.

Claudia & Flavours Cooking Crew in Noto

Sunset travelling to Ragusa Ibla

I fell in love with Sicily – a beautiful island with great culture, people  and food. I hope to return to see more of the island for more Sicilian food stories.

Carmela & Flavours Cooking Crew