Bay Area brewers take center stage during annual Beer Week event

Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Bay Area homebrewer Craig Danielson went professional in 2016 as the brewmaster and head of brewery operations for Livermore’s Shadow Puppet Brewing Co.

One of my personal highlights of San Francisco Beer Week each year is the Meet the Brewers event at Hermitage Brewing Co.

As the name suggests, the masterminds behind some of the finest craft beers in the region attend and are happy to chat with beer lovers. In its ninth year, the festival showcased more than 30 breweries from the greater Bay Area.

Bircher mueslis break the fast, fast

Eliza Ridgeway/Town Crier
Cobble together overnight oats from fruit and nuts already on hand.

Overnight oats rely on a basic premise: capturing the versatility and simplicity of oatmeal, without time at the stovetop. The “just add milk” simplicity of some recipes make for a satisfyingly instant breakfast. A historical example of the genre, modified for modern palates, loads in ingredients with crunch, protein and flavor.

Bircher muesli was invented in the early 1900s by a Swiss physician, Maximilian Bircher-Brenner. An evangelist for the wholesome power of raw fruits and vegetables, his muesli self-assembles overnight, with the key last-minute addition of chopped or coarsely grated apple in equal or greater proportion to oats. During peak apple season, fresh-pressed apple juice makes a thrilling alternative liquid to milk. Juice plumps up oats as either an exclusively vegan option or backdrop for a yogurt scoop added at the eleventh hour.

Auspicious treats usher in the Lunar New Year

Photos by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Chef Lawrence Chu of Chef Chu’s, left, puts sweet and sour sauce on a whole fish, a must-have on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Revelers never finish the fish on Lunar New Year’s Eve, because the Chinese word for fish, “yu,” sounds the same as “surplus” – meaning save some for next year.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, the seafood departments at local Chinese markets gear up for more orders of fish, a must-have for the Chinese New Year’s celebrations that kick off Feb. 16.

Chinese families always share a whole fish on Lunar New Year’s Eve, either at home or at their favorite restaurant. However, they never finish the fish, because the Chinese word for fish, “yu,” sounds the same as “surplus” or “savings” – meaning they have to save the surplus for the year(s) to come.

Romance and wine: Discovering the perfect bottle to celebrate your love

Courtesy of Christine Moore
A carefully selected bottle of wine can convey more than a simple Valentine’s Day gift.

There are certain items intrinsically linked to Valentine’s Day – mushy cards, paper hearts, little velvet boxes, red roses, dark chocolate, Barry White’s voice and wine.

Of all of these, wine has something above the rest. That’s because wine boosts the appeal of every classically romantic gift out there. Even simple paper hearts laid on a table are elevated to utter romance when they surround a chilled bottle of champagne.

Friendly vibe accompanies tasty brews at Blue Oak Brewing Co. in San Carlos

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Beer lovers who visit the taproom at Blue Oak Brewing Co. in San Carlos can sample a tap list that features a mix of Belgian and American brews, including a passion fruit kettle sour and a barrel-aged saison.

I first enjoyed Blue Oak Brewing Co.’s beers at the San Mateo County Brewery Festival last summer and finally got around to visiting its cozy taproom on a cool, rainy Thursday evening in January.

Tucked away in an industrial neighborhood in San Carlos, the bar offers seating at a handful of oak barrels with a clear view of the seven-barrel brewhouse where owner and brewer Alex Porter concocts his delicious beers.

Paleo brownies start new year indulgently

Photos Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s brownies use “secret” ingredients such as protein powder and pumpkin. She suggests adding fruit and yogurt to make a sundae.

I have grown frustrated with throwing so-called healthy brownies into the trash. Fibrous black-bean brownies; funky, reddish, beet brownies; mealy garbanzo-bean brownies; and even greenish spinach brownies have all met their demise after one bite.

The mantra in nutritious recipe forums goes like this: If you grind up a vegetable long enough and add some sugar, cocoa and whole-grain flour, you are all set for a no-guilt brownie.

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