Saying a fond farewell to Santa Clara Valley Brewing Co.

Courtesy of Derek Wolfgram
Santa Clara Valley Brewing Co. brewmaster Steve Donohue, left, and Derek Wolfgram – with Chico Mayor Randall Stone in the background – enjoy the brewery’s Resilience event in December 2018.

Santa Clara Valley Brewing Co., one of the premier Bay Area breweries, closed its doors in December after seven years.

From the initial release of Electric Tower IPA in mid-2013 to the Saved By the Helles collaboration with Clandestine Brewing released just a week before the brewery’s closure, brewmaster Steve Donohue and his business partner Tom Clark never strayed from their commitment to well-crafted beers brewed in traditional styles. They always had a knack for pushing the boundaries, though: New Almaden Red Ale’s 10% alcohol by volume was one of the strongest – and best – imperial red ales I’ve tasted.

All was calm, thanks to an easy Christmas brunch

Courtesy of Christine Moore
An easy Christmas brunch allows the hosts to have a relaxing holiday morning.

We learn in the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” that when ’twas the night before Christmas, “Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” The poem’s author, Clement Clarke Moore, might not have taken note of the hosts who not only stir, but also whisk, mix, blend, whip and knead plenty as they prepare all manner of holiday foods for family and friends.

Nutritious, warming winter soups you can make in a flash

Photos Courtesy of Rita Held
Rita Held’s Lentil Soup, left, and Butternut Squash Soup, above, are both simple and nutritious winter soups that take advantage of an immersion blender. The Butternut Squash Soup recipe includes only four ingredients.

Wintertime is homemade soup time. The following recipes are nutritious, delicious and easy – yes, “cooking simply” is my motto.

Pumpkin bread heads cakeward

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Robyn Budelli’s pumpkin bread/cake

During the season of pumpkin, I’ve developed a ratings system for when a recipe hits peak gourd: spicy enough to wake me up, moist enough to remember its slimy orange source material.

This autumn Los Altos resident Robyn Budelli’s go-to pumpkin bread recipe earned accolades from the newsroom and posed the question: Doesn’t this really qualify as a cake? It might be shaped in a loaf and sliced like a bread, but its tender, rich crumb is unmistakably decadent, perfectly suited to a newsy tea time.

Creating a simple and sentimental Thanksgiving

Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
Affordable, versatile wines such as a Zinfandel or dry Rosé mirror the varied flavors of a Thanksgiving meal.

Some years we may feel we are facing the holiday season rather than embracing it. Difficulties of all shapes and sizes can make Thanksgiving a day we look to with some trepidation. One way to navigate these feelings is to create a Thanksgiving of simplicity and sentimentality.

Asking for help, adjusting traditions and reducing the number of side dishes are three ways to simplify the day and meal. If you always host, consider letting someone else play that role. Instead of spending hours in the kitchen, think about ordering the feast pre-made. As for creating a sentimental Thanksgiving, layer the day in shared memories and tributes to what your family has to be grateful for by sprinkling host and guest-given toasts throughout.

Medal-winning California brews enliven your Thanksgiving feast

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Santa Clara Valley Brewing Co.’s Dry Creek Blonde Ale netted a bronze metal at the 2019 Great American Beer Festival.

Autumn brings two wonderful events that provide a showcase for beer – Denver’s Great American Beer Festival (GABF) in September and Thanksgiving in November.

I always enjoy choosing beers to complement the rich flavors of a Thanksgiving feast, and I decided to make my selections this year from award-winning brews from the 2019 GABF. This year’s GABF competition included nearly 9,500 beers from approximately 2,300 breweries, entered into 107 categories, from which 318 medals were awarded. Of those, 68 medal-winning brews from 55 breweries hailed from California, so plenty of local choices exist for your meal pairings.

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