Versatility in a (pale pink) glass: Top wines for spring entertaining please many palates

Christine Moore/ Special to the Town Crier
The right spring wine can be a cellar staple, transitioning from pre-soirée drinks to a weeknight takeout binge.

After a long and particularly wet winter, the recent mild weather has people yearning to socialize. Knowing how to fill your wine glass during the changeable weather of spring can be somewhat perplexing, but if you stock up on a few versatile vintages, you’ll be ready for every entertaining scenario.

It is with some reservation that I share my current go-to bubbly. There’s a portion of me compelled to hoard the remarkable value all to myself. At $14.99, Antech Emotion 2016 Crémant is as well priced as it is delicious.

East meets West with stuffed butternuts

Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s recipes showcase Middle Eastern flavors and flair. Her Stuffed Butternut Squash is a great source of nutrients.

Middle Eastern people love stuffing vegetables with a tantalizing combination of rice, meat and herbs such as parsley and mint. They stuff everything from zucchini and eggplant to potatoes, tomatoes and even carrots. Imagine the effort it takes to core out a carrot in order to stuff it with rice – but somehow, many a Middle Eastern grandmother has done the deed.

One vegetable “vessel” underutilized in the Middle East is butternut squash, which is not indigenous to the region. This deep-orange-fleshed gourd originated in Central and South America, then moved north to the United States. Butternut squash has a sweet and nutty taste with a tan-yellow outer skin. This vegetable is also a great source of fiber, magnesium and potassium, along with a good dose of vitamins C and A.

Meet the Brewers festival showcases both new and established breweries

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Off The Rails Brewing Co. brewmaster Michael Barker and his wife, Caroline, shared their Murphy Wheat at Meet the Brewers.

The Meet the Brewers Festival, held annually at Hermitage Brewing Co. in San Jose during SF Beer Week, celebrated its 10th anniversary in February. The brewery was packed full of local brewmasters pouring their wares and attendees enjoying the variety of offerings.

Off The Rails

The newest brewery at the festival this year was Off The Rails Brewing Co. in Sunnyvale, which opened just two weeks before the festival, in the Murphy Street space formerly occupied by Stoddard’s and Firehouse Brewery.

Cultures converge in local Irish delicacies

Christine Moore/Special to the Town Crier
The Irish Fry, a meat-centric breakfast made with pig of many kinds, pairs best with strong tea and buttered bread.

It is often said that on St. Patrick’s Day, everyone is Irish. And sure, why wouldn’t ye want to be Irish for a day? After all, the Irish are known for their vivacious spirits, ability to lighten the distress of others with their wit and capacity to have a “craic” (Irish slang for a “good time”).

Becoming Irish for a day in Silicon Valley is relatively simple, but only with help from a wide array of cultures, from Irish immigrants importing foods to American industrialists building stately homes and local independent grocers and German meat markets creating Irish delicacies. It is the diversity of Silicon Valley that brings the bounty of Ireland to life here.

The Domesticated Cupid: Cooking up weekday romance (with wine)

Christine Moore/ Special to the Town Crier
Spaghetti and meatballs makes for a romantic and simple dinner.

If only Cupid, that mischievous cherub of love, had enrolled in a home economics course instead of archery. His doing so would have allowed him to wield a needle and thread – stitching lovers’ hearts together rather than zinging couples with bow and arrow.

Nonetheless, I’m convinced that within the endless dirty dishes, kids’ sports schedules, monthly bills, piles of laundry and work trips, romance lurks even after that first zing. While grand gestures of love are noteworthy, sustained care for one another is the stuff of all the greatest relationships. Simple acts of kindness scattered throughout domestic life stoke the passions of love, and demonstrate how two hearts can become one in life.

Raise a glass of red ale on Valentine's Day

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Rod And Reel, a collaboration between Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery and Libertine Brewing Co., was brewed with Swedish Fish candies in the boil.

Valentine’s Day is a holiday when everything is red – roses, hearts, valentine cards and, of course, beers. Following is a selection of red-colored ales to match the decorations on your Valentine’s dinner table.

Rod And Reel

Because candy is a big part of many Valentine’s Day celebrations, it only seems appropriate to include a red ale actually brewed with Swedish Fish candies. Rod And Reel is a collaboration between San Francisco’s Seven Stills Brewery & Distillery and San Luis Obispo’s Libertine Brewing Co. A very clear copper-red in color with a rocky khaki head of foam, the beer has an aroma that actually captures the sweet strawberry-cherry character of the candies. The brewers also included significant amounts of El Dorado hops, which contributes additional cherry character to the aroma and flavor, though on the palate the watermelon notes from the hops are even more dominant. The beer has relatively low carbonation, and malt character doesn’t really come through, nor does the hop bitterness. As a result, the brew is somewhat one-note, with the fruity sweetness lasting from the initial impression all the way through the finish.

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