Sat04252015

Food & Wine

Gateway brews for people who (think that they) don't like craft beers


805 Blonde Ale

Spring is a time for new beginnings, which means it’s a great time to introduce a friend or family member to craft beer.

While beer lovers might enjoy super-hoppy double IPAs, viscous imperial stouts or mouth-puckering sours, such beers can intimidate newcomers to the world of full-flavored beer.

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Better bites with bitters


courtesy of Rita Held
Deviled eggs, a springtime tradition, take on a new twist with subtly flavorful Angostura bitters.

Los Altos resident Rita Held has spent her career in test kitchens and culinary consulting. She develops recipes for food companies in the Bay Area and nationwide, and blogs at getcookingsimply.com. This is her first column for the Town Crier – welcome, Rita!

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Lions, lambs and Cab Franc for March


Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
Oven fries, a slice of feta cheese and the bite of harissa mayonnaise make for a late-winter, early-spring dinner perfectly paired with Cabernet Franc.

I can’t help but wonder whether March will come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.

In an attempt to cover both bets, I’m planning ahead. My Lion’s Mane Ragout with Creamy Polenta kicked off the month. And I’ll close out March, and welcome spring, with Lamb Burgers with Harissa Mayonnaise and Rosemary Oven Fries.

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Dim sum, ramen, artisan pizza and more: Four new Los Altos restaurants open or soon to debut


Ramen on State Street

Cho’s Mandarin Dim Sum, formerly a standby for the budget-oriented on California Avenue in Palo Alto, recently opened at 209 First St., next door to Tin Pot Creamery.

The eatery – open for an extended lunch for now, 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily – offers pork buns, egg rolls, Shanghai pork balls, shrimp dumplings and pork and chicken potstickers. A serving of three nibbles costs $2.50-$3.25, a dish of six runs $5-$6.25.

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Pro and not-yet-pro brewers turn out for local beer events


Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Craft Artisan Ales’ Nebulous Imperial IPA is one of California’s latest small-scale craft ales to earn a place at local beer events.

While SF Beer Week is now behind us – and there won’t be another intense concentration of beer events until Silicon Valley Beer Week this summer – plenty of interesting events are still happening.

Steins Beer Garden in Mountain View is scheduled to celebrate its second anniversary March 28 with its first homebrew competition, which aims to become an annual event. With the theme “Spring into Beer,” the contest has official sanction from the Beer Judge Certification Program, and the beer selected as the best springtime brew will be professionally brewed and served at Steins, with proceeds supporting a charity of the brewer’s choice. Entrants must register on the Steins website by March 13. Visit steinsbeergarden.com for more details.

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Cupid takes aim: Pairing wine with dessert


Courtesy of CHristine Moore
Looking to impress your sweetheart on Valentine’s Day? Pair a Yalumba Antique Tawny Museum Reserve Dessert Wine with truffles.

When I imagine Cupid stringing his bow and taking aim at a soon-to-be-in-love couple, I envision a platter of some sweet concoction and a goblet of dessert wine beside him. Both seem to be the most fitting fuel for the winged master of amore as he goes about his happy business of sparking love.

Of course, I also imagine that pairing wine with dessert comes easily for Cupid, who knows a thing or two about passionate pairings. For us mere mortals, however, deciding on which wine to drink with dessert can be a bit more hit and miss. To get your aim right this Valentine’s Day, I’m offering some thoughts on dessert and wine pairing.

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What's sweet on the outside but tart when you bite?


Courtesy of Pooja Mottl
The sweet-and-sour flavor of kumquats complements a seasonal salad of winter greens.

Whether you’re buying them dangling pendulously from trees near Costco’s entrance or heaped in bags at San Francisco’s Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market, kumquats are dotting the region this month.

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Aging big beers develops complex flavors


Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Firestone Walker Brewing Co. in Paso Robles offers barrel-aged beers you can taste across multiple years’ vintages.

In recent years, increasing numbers of beer enthusiasts have been developing the patience to cellar high-alcohol beers for enjoyment months or even years later.

Great candidates for aging include barleywines, imperial stouts and Belgian dark strong or golden strong ales, all of which have enough alcohol and malt complexity to continue developing through the aging process. A beer’s hop character will fade relatively quickly as a beer ages, which is why India Pale Ales should always be consumed as fresh as possible and not cellared for a special occasion. But bigger beers can develop in interesting ways.

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Take a walk on the sour side: Beers offer a palate shock worth seeking


Photos courtesy of Derek Wolfgram and the Rare Barrel
Berkeley’s The Rare Barrel barrel-ages sour beers to create drinks like the Flanders-style All Systems Go which is aged in oak with Sightglass coffee beans.

One of the quickest ways to ignite a lively discussion among beer geeks is to bring up sour beers.

A growing number of craft beer drinkers enjoy these funky, tart, acidic concoctions, while others find them even more distasteful than weak mass-market lagers.

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A new burger for a new year: Start off right with a vegan kibbeh variant


Photos by Blanche Shaheen/ Special to the Town Crier
Avoid the mystery ingredients found in store-bought veggie burgers by mincing up a vegan version inspired by a Middle Eastern dish. The recipe can serve double duty as deep-fried croquettes or patties,.

Canola oil, corn oil and soy protein isolate are all heavily processed and genetically modified ingredients that often end up in store-bought veggie burgers. Other offenders include artificial flavors, variants of monosodium glutamate and chemicals like thiamine hydrochloride (hydro what?).

Put all these ingredients together and you could have the recipe for a “veggie” burger that could survive a nuclear holocaust. During this time of year, when people want to start off with fresh and healthful meals, making your own veggie burgers really isn’t that difficult. You can also store any leftovers in the freezer and enjoy the burgers all month long.

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12 glassfuls for Christmas


Photo Courtesy of Erin Gleeson
From an apple galette to Colorado whiskey to an old world wine, holiday treats do double duty as feast and gift.

Partridges in pear trees and all those lords a-leaping don’t really make it onto Christmas wish lists these days. The idea behind the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is phenomenally festive, though, and served as great inspiration for a list of 12 drink-related treats to get you happily through the holiday season.

In compiling my list, I had the blissful fortune to recruit help from local cookbook author and blogger Erin Gleeson and Laurie Lindrup, director of business development and senior assistant operations manager at Beltramo’s Wines and Spirits, for wine recommendations.

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Bake barazek cookies for cultural impact


Photos by Blanche Shaheen
Barazek cookies pair pistachios on their base and sesame on their crowns. A honey glaze holds everything in place.

Some cookies have the power to take you to distant lands with one bite. When I travel to other countries, I love to visit local bakeries, where I can experience the tastes, smells and traditions of that particular culture.

Usually on the last day of my trip, I like to buy a little box of sweets to take home with me – the last taste of a country, which I can share with family once I step off the plane. Middle Eastern sweet shops are filled with sensory experiences – baklava dripping with nuts and honey, shredded filo layers filled with custard or cheese, buttery semolina shortbreads and barazek.

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Giving thanks – and wine recommendations


Courtesy of Christine Moore
Try a Robert Mondavi 2013 Napa Valley Fumé Blanc with a selection of holiday appetizers.

I’m thankful for my family and my children’s limitless curiosity that insists I experience the world anew. I’m thankful for my husband’s laughter because it fills our home with playfulness. I’m thankful for the telephone because it allows me to speak with my mom on a daily basis and for the smallest of reasons.

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Add Middle Eastern zing to Thanksgiving with za'atar


Blanche ShaHeen/SPecial to the Town Crier
Za’atar, a Middle Eastern spice mix, adds zest to Thanksgiving dressing, and makes a tasty rub for chicken or turkey.

My late Aunt Bahia, who lived to be 95 years old, used to say, “Remember, Blanche, a spoon of za’atar a day will keep the doctor away.”

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Raw, bitter, slow – delight? A counter-intuitive food week

FOOD MandarinaBavaria fmt

The Town Crier's food writers explore food origins, cooking techniques and trends in local beer this week. Did you know that some Los Altos milk-lovers get their dairy straight (yes, raw!) from the cow?

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Fasoolya: A weeknight meal fit for fall


Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Fasoolya can be tailored to a family’s taste, using chicken or lamb to top any variety of grains or greens. Prepared the night before, it can stew all day while the family’s away.

Autumn is a frenetic time of year for me. With days spent working, writing, bill paying, preparing school lunches, cleaning, grocery shopping, doing laundry, volunteering at school and carpooling to soccer practice, ballet rehearsals, swimming and piano lessons, cooking takes a backseat. My pots and pans seem to give me attitude, like they’re saying, “Wanna piece of me?”

How do I squeeze in easy, healthful dinners without relying on processed food or takeout? The slow cooker, one of the best inventions ever (sorry, pots and pans).

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Local service celebrates the raw and fermented


Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Raw milk’s rareness has made it a coveted commodity in much of the U.S. – in California, licensing has allowed production to increase.

Raw milk has become a precious – and sometimes illicit – commodity among American eaters drawn to less processed, more primal foods. It’s banned in some states or permitted only to those who own their own cows. Even in California, a bastion of alternative eating, only four dairies have received licenses to sell raw milk.

But local residents have unusual access these days, due to a service that picks up milk at two raw dairies each week and delivers to Los Altos and Mountain View, in addition to other Bay Area locations.

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Terroir: Finding where you are in a glass of wine


Courtesy of Christine Moore
Many wine drinkers believe that grapes echo their land.

I’ll never forget my first glass of good red wine. It happened while I was in college, full of heady independence and curiosity. It helped that I had this glass with a dear girlfriend named Dawn. Dawn knew the chef of a small, hole-in-the-wall, jewel of a restaurant tucked away in the parking lot of a boat-launch site. He pointed us in the direction of the right wine for our dinner. I am forever grateful for that first, extraordinary introduction.

The wine was a Wild Horse Pinot Noir, and two things happened when I drank it. First, my eyes sprung wide open to the way wine amplifies the pleasure of a meal. Second, the wine was produced near where I lived at the time, and I was blown away by its ability to encapsulate that place.

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Props to crops of nonstop hops: Enjoy the variety of Bay Area IPAs


Courtesy of Hermitage Brewing Co.
Hermitage Brewing Co.’s Mandarina Bavaria joins a series of single-hop varietal releases, this one highlighting a new orange-inflected German offering.

One of the most persistent trends in craft beer is the progressive cultivation of more “hophead” beer drinkers, who enjoy the intense hop flavors of India pale ales (IPAs), one of the largest segments of craft beer sales in the U.S.

As IPAs have grown in popularity, brewers have expanded the definition of the style to include West Coast IPAs, East Coast IPAs, English IPAs, Belgian IPAs, white IPAs, red IPAs, brown IPAs, black IPAs, wheat IPAs, rye IPAs, wild-fermented Brettanomyces IPAs, double (or imperial) IPAs, triple IPAs and even quadruple IPAs.

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Food Brief

Strike Brewing Co. opens taproom

Strike Brewing Co., the craft brewery launched in a Los Altos kitchen, continues to grow, opening a warehouse taproom and stand-alone brewery in San Jose this fall.

The brewery, which began with a team of three and initially shared space in a larger brewery, opened its new location on South 10th Street in San Jose last week.

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Tips and tricks: Grilling eggplant


Blanche Shaheen/Special to the Town Crier
Grilled eggplant adds nutrient-rich heft to sandwiches, above, and salads, below.

While eggplant is revered in the Middle East, it is generally ignored by the western world. When I mention how much I love eggplant to friends and acquaintances, I tend to get negative comments or puzzled looks. Even raw-food vegan enthusiasts reject this vegetable, because, frankly, have you ever tried raw eggplant?

“Raw eggplant is delicious,” said no one, ever.

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