Confections and Cocktails at Williams-Sonoma

What’s better than dessert?

Dessert when you add BOOZE!

Whoah, did I jump into this too fast? Let me rewind.

Kory over at Aversa PR gave me the opportunity of a new-Philly resident’s lifetime: a chance to join a number of fellow Philly bloggers at Williams-Sonoma on Walnut Street for an event featuring the Executive Chefs at the Bellevue Hyatt and Restaurant XIX and a selection of Confections and Cocktails? You KNOW I couldn’t say no.

Just a selection of the tasty treats!

White turtle cheesecakes, pear pumpkin trifle, mini apple pies, ginger snaps, brownies…. I can’t even.

Kory was moving and shaking, so I tried to make a few moves myself.

Kory was unstoppable.

Williams-Sonoma showed us how they run their in-store classes, and chefs from
showed us the ropes as well.  It was incredible.

Pumpkin bars were first and foremost. And delicious.

Jeff, master chef (err… cook… W-S master of ceremonies.)

Brenda from Williams-Sonoma handing out the finished product!

These were delicious and SO easy to make!! (Link to the recipe)

We also got a chance to meet Judy Ellis-Taylor from the Hyatt at the Bellevue (AND their beloved restaurant, XIX) who shared with us the glory of Pinot Grigio-soaked apples as a cocktail ingredient.

Brilliant

The result was a fresh, tart, sneakily-boozy cocktail perfect for all the tasty apples that are so perfect in the fall season. And Judy was pretty fantastic herself…

Also sweet and tart!

My buddy, Martha, and I are already planning a happy hour trip to XIX for a visit with this lovely lady…

Speaking of which, I asked around and found my ideal plus one in Martha who, despite being gluten-free, enjoyed the heck out of the event. I think she just likes sipping fancy cocktails. And dressing up. And looking fabulous doing both.

Too cute.

After watching Bradley from XIX whip up some gingersnaps (which were SO much better than classic gingersnaps you get in the box that end up being rock-hard and miserable), we enjoyed the event that it seemed every was hyped up for: Watching bartender Nate craft some cocktails!

Atta boy

He showed us how to make the most DELICIOUS version of a whiskey sour I’ve ever had.

Ingredients?

  • 2 oz Jameson
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz lemon juice
  • 1 oz lime juice
  • 1 oz simple syrup
  • 1/2 oz OJ
  • 3/4 oz honey
  • 2 pieces of candied ginger
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • pumpkin spice
  • sugar
  • honey

The recipe was pretty simple:

  1. Rim glass with honey, sugar, and pumpkin spice
  2. Dry shake other ingredients to mix well, and add to a tumbler filled with ice

Couldn’t get enough, it was like some sort of apple pie in a glass.

Beautiful, warm colors to compliment any seasonal dessert!

After observing the creation of the confections and cocktails for a bit, we were invited to sample everything… Don’t have to ask me twice.

bottoms up!

Cocktail made with Patron XO Cafe, pear and pumpkin trifle, and chocolate brownie with cream cheese frosting (I think.)

Other highlights? That time that I won a giftcard in the end-of-event raffle!

For ME?!

I know I’d obviously be back to Williams-Sonoma otherwise, but the gift card might make that sooner rather than later…. Gotta get some holiday shopping done, right?

BUT, as a newbie in Philly, I’d never known about XIX or all the tasty experiences I could have just a few blocks away… Looks like Happy Hour planning might ALSO be taking place sooner rather than later.

Thanks to Kory at Aversa PR, Judy and her team at XIX, and Brenda, Jeff and the gang at Williams-Sonoma for my FIRST blogging event as a Philly resident (and HOPEFULLY not my last!)

Cheers!

What’s your favorite seasonal fall dessert?

I once won a pie-eating contest with a pumpkin pie. Get on my level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Scenes from New Belgium

The Saturday after we went to GABF, we got the chance to do one of the things I’d been looking forward to more than anything. Yes, I was excited to head to the festival. Yes, I was excited to try Biker Jim’s. Yes, I was stoked to see Denver.

But there’s a little spot about an hour and some change away from Denver called Ft. Collins, CO. And Ft. Collins is the home of this not-so-little brewery called New Belgium.  This brewery consistently puts out some of my favorite beers including, but not limited to:

  • Shift
  • Tart Lychee
  • Ranger IPA
  • Somersault
  • La Folie
  • Cocoa Mole (OOoh baby)
  • Kick
  • Vrienden
  • Valentine’s Day Beer (does this have another name I’m unaware of? Either way, it’s DELICIOUS!)

Unfortunately, New Belgium doesn’t (yet!) distribute to PA/NJ/DE. I’ve been itching to get my fix. What better way than to go straight to the source?

We had a brief (2 hour) wait in the tasting room since we missed our scheduled tour time…. but that was okay, there was plenty to do drink.

I’ll take one of everything.

Just a sample of the samples…

Can this be my bedroom wall?

Two hours of enjoying some delicious NB Brews, and we managed to squeeze into a tour.  YES!! The luckiest of ducks.

I’ve been on a number of brewery tours in my day but there are few that truly stand out as both educational and fun.  Yuengling had the title before this…. Now, I’m not so sure.

Our AMAZING tour guide, Lauren (who I mistakenly called Kate maybe 3x)

Our tour guide was incredible. She taught us to romance our beer, warming it with our hands (and our hearts).

Getting pretty intimate

We tried a number of delicious beers as we traveled through the brewery, getting up close and personal with the inner workings of New Belgium.

Gotta catch em all.

 

Mmmm it smelled like oatmeal.

We even got to check out some of the barrels they use for whipping up those tasty barrel-aged beers (one of which we got to try later).

Beautiful Barrel

Oooh la la, Leopold?! (Which we tried later that night!)

True Love

At the end of the tour, full of beer and overflowing with happiness, I couldn’t resist nabbing a sweatshirt (that I’m currently wearing). AND a chance to model that shirt in front of their sign.

Sorta Sorority Squat

This tour was whimsical, educational, and DELICIOUS! If you’re ever ANYWHERE near Ft. Collins, please, do yourself a solid, and book the tour! For the low cost of $Free.99, you, too, can enjoy the heck out of a magical Willy Wonka-esque beer factory.

Just make sure you are careful when you slide your way back to the real world.

Too fun.

What would be your ideal factory/brewery to tour?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rackhouse Beer School: Sours 101

Has anyone else noticed how trendy sour beers are lately? Well, maybe not “lately” but as a relative noob to the craft beer community, I had my hop-head phase, and am now full on riding the sour-beer train. Luckily, despite the trend being a few years old, I’m not too late to get in on the action. Some establishments are more than happy to continue the trend and perfect it to the best of their ability. And I am more than happy to consume their attempts in the meantime.

Enter: Rackhouse Beer School’s Sours 101 class!

(pulled from their website)

Talk about edu-tainment.

We showed up at Rackhouse Pub armed with an unquenchable thirst (it was GABF weekend and I hadn’t even had a SIP of beer. Ok, maybe a sip of a Coors Light on the plane, but only because I had a drink ticket that was about to expire and I knew I wouldn’t enjoy any of Colorado’s not-so-crafty brewery any other time over the weekend) ready to learn. And man, were they ready to teach.

Admit it…

The gold on Avery bottles reminds you of The Golden Ticket…. No? Just me?

Chad Yakobson of Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project, Andy Parker of Avery Brewing Company and Troy Casey of AC Golden hosted a guided talk and tasting of a selection of delicious sours to pucker the lips and pique the interest of all drinkers.

Fact: bottles look better with red wax covering them.

Wild Wild Brett Blue from Crooked Stave

And, the thing is, sometimes when dreamy men talk about beer with authority, I listen… but maybe I don’t always hear. It’s easy to be distracted by their blonde hair and knowledge of wild yeast strains.

The following is a picture I took of him which doesn’t do him an ounce of justice.

Be still, my heart.

I know I chuckled before at Greg Koch’s fan boys, but seriously, I don’t think I would’ve been able to speak if Andy had said a word to me. Luckily, I had my notes to distract me.

So studious

Things that I learned:

  • Just calling a beer a “sour” isn’t enough. The style is so unique to each beer, that the blanket statement can confuse drinkers.
  • It can take a LONG time to make a good sour (we’re talking 2-3 years).
  • A good sour beer makes you “gleek all over” (that’s a direct quote from Mr. Parker.)
  • There’s a high attrition rate for sours, and they can go from good to bad very easily.
  • “At some point, you gotta embrace the chaos…. some of that beer is gonna suck.”
  • Brettanomyces alone does not a sour beer make.
  • Sometimes, sour beers are super low in ABV…. other times (in the case of Avery’s Dihos Dactylion) it’s boozy as hell (10.3%, what a way to start!)

The class definitely focused a lot on HOW to make the sour beers and, though lots of the questions were over my head as a) I’m not a homebrewer and b) I was a little distracted, the experience was a great one.

Dihos Dactylion, Immitis, and Oud Floris

I think that the Oud Floris was my favorite of the bunch, tasting complex, tart, but a little smoother than the Dihos. Turns out it is a blend of 4 different beers (67% aged in Cab Sauv Barrels, 17% aged in Bourbon Barrels, 8% aged in Rum Barrels, and 8% aged in Chardonnay Barrels).

Chad from Crooked Stave probably knows enough about sour beers and yeast to school all potential brewers.

It was definitely the Chad.

His offerings, to me, received mixed reviews. I felt like the Wild Wild Brett Blue (WWBB) was dark and hoppy but almost a little too oat-y…. like cereal. He mentioned that oats and blueberries go together naturally, but it was a little chewy tasting for me.

Batch One (or Wild Wild Brett Rouge), on the other hand, was a delicious adventure for my tongue. Bright, sharp, and intense, the raspberry flavor was like a sassy slap to my tastebuds.

The final section of the class probably would’ve been better off going first. Troy from AC Golden, while knowledgeable and entertaining, offered beers much weaker in flavor and depth than the previous two fellows, and I think he maybe lost the crowd a little bit on that account. I know he lost me. So I had Melissa take a snapshot of my beer school experience.

Getting tipsy in class = win in my book

That’s Troy in the back, flailing around explaining how gross old apricots are…. Yeah, I basically mentally checked out.

Maybe that’s because, in a few short minutes, I was headed to my first ever GABF!

(or maybe I was just staring at Andy.)

Either way, great class, incredible prelude to the festival.  I guess I’ll have to share that one next….

 

 

A Revolution Without [Cleaning] is Not a Revolution Worth Having

Ok, so I know I wasn’t the only one…. BUT I recently was asked to participate in the Finish® Sticky Dish Challenge and:

Create an amazingly tasty, messy, sticky, and difficult-to-clean meal to put Finish to the test

The folks at Finish offered me a gift card to Williams-Sonoma in order to nab something shiny to mess up with food and goop, along with a sample of their Finish® Quantum® 10-pack to see what it could take. The rules were simple:

  1. Get dish.
  2. Make food (and, by default, make mess.)
  3. Do NOT clean, just let it sit overnight and get funkier/stickier.
  4. Try out the goods.

Best mail EVER!

Since I’ve been obsessed with enchiladas lately, and had about 7 oz of goat cheese to use, I went for something extra special.

Sara (from The Sprouted Kitchen)’s Roasted Zucchini, Black Bean, and Goat Cheese enchiladas! It had all the stickiest ingredients: roasted veggies, so much sauce, cheese, black beany goodness (just TRY not to make a mess with black beans). I was ready.

Let’s do this!

(bonus: Since I already had the goat cheese, the whole dish cost me about $10 to make!)

(Except the wine. That was brought by my cooking buddy, Jess, to make our dish more creative.)

This recipe was a blast to make. We laughed as we chopped and roasted….

So vibrant

We I cried while I chopped the onion.

Don’t cry for me Onion-tina

And filled the enchiladas with delicious healthy ingredients. Black beans, goat cheese, roasted zucchini and red pepper, and spinach, of course!

Steamy

Then, I got to make the mess I’d been waiting for…

Saucey

So much filling all OVER that pan!

All cooked, let’s check it out!

Ready for my closeup

Yep, that’s caked-on-the-pan, gooey enchilada goodness.

I shall call YOU lunch

If the enchiladas looked like gorgeous supermodels, the pan looked like…. a crusty lady in red after a salsa fight.

ew.

 

Gross.

Luckily, I had a (not-so) secret weapon… Wanna see how Finish Quantum did? CHECK OUT MY FIRST VLOG IN WHICH MY VOICE SOUNDS REALLY WEIRD!!

I swear, this was USED! Not brand new, as it looks…

I’ll admit, I’ve used a LOT of different dishwashing detergents before. In fact, when I was living abroad in Italy for a month, we used Glass Cleaner for the first wash before realizing it wasn’t detergent (oops…. poison? Nah, we rinsed the dishes….)

That being said, this stuff was the JAM! We also put our used dishes in there, some nice wine glasses…. not a streak in the bunch, and no food bits left behind. Incredible. I was blown away.

Big ups to the #FinishRevolution for making a convert out of me. I know I appreciated the opportunity, and I’m pretty sure my buddy Jess enjoyed the fruits of my cooking labor. Check out below if you’re trying to get in on the Finish Quantum action!
*I received this Finish® product free of charge in order to try it out and share the results with my readers (that’s y’all!!). The opinions are mine alone (though I did ask my buddy, Jess, what she thought, and the results are based on our delicious experience. I had a BLAST with this, and am happy to let anyone know that if they’d like to try out this awesome product, you can get a free sample on their Facebook Page!

Just Call Me Elle Woods.

You know that part in Legally Blonde where Elle shows up to the costume party all dolled up, looking cute as hell, and no one else knew there was a theme?

Wait…. what?

Well…. sometimes, that kinda stuff really happens in real life.

Like when your buddy has an “I Love the 90s” party and you get so stoked to dress up in your wacky old prom dress….

All dressed up with no place to go

And yes, maybe that dress isn’t crushed velvet so it wasn’t EXACTLY the 90s, but I went for it. And you know who else at the party went for it?

NO ONE!

Maybe 3 flannel shirts (a la grunge?) and a confused girl in neon, but other than that…. folks just showed up. What happened to dedication to the THEME, people?!?!

Whatever, I made those two lonely skinny “bangs” strands of hair look GOOD.

Good, of course, is a relative term.

Can someone explain to me why that was a trend? I’m pretty sure I have a picture of elementary school me with similar strands. Oh, fashion….

Theme parties: love em (and go all out) or hate em (and know that I will forever show up at all your future non-theme parties dressed in some wacky theme)?!

Favorite themes for parties?

 

 

Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs

I’m a lover of many things.

The University of North Carolina. Sour beers. Sleeping in. Philly soft pretzels. Hot dogs. Chilly mornings. Swimming in salt water. Learning. Jellyfish. Fancy cheese parties. Melissa.

You know, the best things in life.

On Friday, after waking up at an ungodly hour on Friday morning (equivalent to 2 a.m. Denver time), walking to the train station, training to the airport, and flying off to the Mile High City, I was greeted not just by one of those things (my hostess, MELISSA!) but, shortly after, 3 more of them.

I thought I’d be a zombie after traveling all day but, considering I slept about 2/3 of the 4 hour plane ride, I was surprisingly refreshed. When offered the chance to nap or to nibble, guess what I chose?

Not just ANY hot dogs

Biker Jim’s, according to the internet and the Colorado natives, is a Denver staple. These charred and grilled dogs are not your standard summer BBQ fare. Instead, the casing is filled with exotic meats like reindeer, wild boar, rattlesnake, elk, and buffalo.  Knowing that we had much beer ahead of us, we knew that we needed to fill our bellies to fuel our day/night.

I was initially a bit overwhelmed with the choices.

Too many options

While my North Carolina aching heart was initially distracted by the options of fried mac and cheese, fried green tomatoes and the side salad (HA, no, not even a little), Melissa reminded me of my real goal. The dogs.

After much deliberation, we decided to split two. Elk Jalapeño Cheddar and a Linguisa (Portuguese style  pork with paprika and red wine). When asked for a suggestion of what to top them with, the answer was nearly immediate:

[get them] torpedoed with Coca-Cola soaked grilled onions and a swizzle of cream cheese unloaded from the front end of a caulking gun.

Well, who am I to say no to the wisdom of the natives?

And, as I waited for my brats to cook, I watched the restaurant gradually get filled with a Friday lunch rush. You do NOT wanna stop in any time shortly after noon if you’re in a rush.

Quite the hood

And then, they were ready.

Stop drooling

The verdict?

Admittedly, the Linguisa was a little lacking with flavor. It was slightly sweeter than I like my dogs to be.  Luckily, I had my jalapeño cheddar half waiting for me in the wings.

It was juicy, it was full of flavor, and those onions should top any and all of my future meals.

Paired with some house-made potato chips which were crunchy (and also great with the onions), this food was the ideal energy boost for a LONG day of beer consumption.  And that’s what awaited us…

But I’ve got school to learn. So thanks, Biker Jim’s, for filling our bellies with the best brats Denver’s got!

Let’s DO THIS!

More GABF next post. Or, at least some sort of beer-related post.

 

GABF Teaser

Just in case y’all were wondering, I made it back from Denver in one piece (though my three pieces of luggage on the flight home may have suggested otherwise). And, though I’m cranking out a paper right now, I couldn’t resist posting a few pictures as a taste of the trip. That, and procrastination is the best way to recover post-GABF. I read that somewhere. In a book.

The Welcome Wagon was ALL over Denver! This was pre-tasty hot dogs at Biker Jim’s.

Who’s that peeking out of the corkscrew slide?

Making sure I fit in some learning with all that drinking

Beer and pretzels? My heart melts.

Recognize that phrase, anyone?

Ultimate in Craft Beer Couture

I was rocking on the haute hops attire courtesy of my buddy, Robin, who is the QUEEN of beer fashion (THANKS, ROBIN!!)

Ok, ok, ok.

I GUESS this whole graduate program is a LITTLE more important than gushing over GABF some more.

But only a little.

This is How a Heart Breaks

The moments after you’re dumped, I’m pretty sure you feel every single emotion and feeling possible. Well, if you’re me, you do.

I think it went something like this:

heartbreak.depression.rage.shame.freedom.desperation.exhaustion.chaos.pride.disappointment.vengeance.impatience.boredom.fury(is that the same as rage? Whatever, I felt it).fear.dread.tension.stress.thrill.infatuation.love.hate.insecurity.humiliation.homesickness.astonishment.loathing.contempt.acceptance.empathy.frustration.regret.hostility.loneliness.homesickness.

Lucky for me, that last one was easy to remedy.  Thank GOODNESS this happened after I moved back to Pennsylvania. I can only imagine how much of a lost soul I’d be in North Carolina (not that my buddies in the land of the long leaf pine wouldn’t hook me up with love and support). But, after I semi-stopped crying (don’t worry, I picked up back up quite a few times) I packed a bag or two (I literally have no clue what’s in those bags… emotional packing is equivalent to rolling around in glue, then roll around in all of your belongings, and then shake off whatever you collected into a bag).

My mother and sister hopped in a car without asking any questions, drove to my home (that, up until recently, I shared with my partner) and grabbed my bags full of random whatnot to toss them in the car.

I’ll save everyone details of the breakup, but I’ll say that I wasn’t totally SHOCKED, and that while I can see some of the reasoning behind why he dumped me, I had no desire or intention to break up. I didn’t grovel (though I contemplated doing it). I didn’t cry hysterically. HA, come on y’all, you know me. I’d hysterically cry at a Taylor Swift music video about a couple breaking up… You better believe my shirt sleeves are soaked with salty tears.

I’m not sure what exactly to do with myself now. I’ll continue living in my apartment (score). I’ve got midterms this week, so there’s no real time to dwell too much on my feelings. And then I’m off to GABF on Friday morning… But, I’ll admit, the moment I came home, I just wanted to sit with my mom and sister and eat a grilled cheese and try not to feel feelings anymore.

Grilled Cheese? Yes, please.

I don’t know what exactly I’ll do next… but I know that I’m SO grateful for the immediate outpouring of support and love from my family, my friends, and even all of you crazy readers who don’t even know me IRL, but occasionally like what I tweet.

Whatever happens, I’ve got a support blanket full of loved ones, a belly full of grilled cheese, and the world at my finger tips. And maybe, just maybe, extremely optimistic cliches will help disguise my heart breaking into a million little pieces so that I can build myself back into the confident, brave, proud SWF that I know I can be.

Protein WHAT NOW?!

Just a quick post, because I can’t stop thinking about this:

Must we jam ALL of our meals/dishes with protein powder? Smoothies, pancakes, muffins, cupcakes, frosting?

Mac and cheese? Jello? Burgers? (Ok, these are a little wacky and I haven’t really seen them pop up on blogs too often… but ew.)

Pardon my abbreviation, but WTF?!

I understand it’s important…. but come on.

PSA: Not EVERY food you make/eat must be jammed full of protein powder in order to fit protein into your diet.

(And, I know, for some people, it’s tough to get protein in their diet otherwise. And more power to you for making the effort. But the idea of some of these recipes…. revolting.)

More Like Federal GO-NUTS! Federal Donuts in Center City

Ever see that flick, Wicker Park? The one where some girl dates Josh Hartnett, then she leaves him, and then some other crazy girl is obsessed with him or something. I clearly was only watching to ogle Mr. Hartnett, but I do remember the one quote from the end of the trailer.

Love makes you do crazy things, insane things… can’t help it.

Point in case? This morning, I woke up before the sun because I’m in love. In love with donuts. My crack-of-dawn-wake-up-call was all to be one of the first to taste the heavenly decadence of Federal Donuts‘ newest location in Center City.  Clearly, I was pretty amped.

LET’S DO THIS!

I got to soak up some of the Monday morning sights of Philadelphia… Namely, the piles of trash on the street, as it’s trash-pickup-day.

classy.

Smell that sweet, morning air.

As I crossed through the park, I was greeted by streaks of light and sunshine. And, as my stomach growled with excitement,

Good morning, world. Did you wanna share my donuts?

When I rolled up to their new location (1632 Sansom Street, if you’re wondering), the inside was bustling with activity.

No surprise, this go-getter was the first in line (a line of two for a while…)

I AM NUMBER ONE!

Before we knew it, the 14 minute wait was over, and it was time to get at the good stuff.  We were offered our choice of four of their donuts. This was absolutely not an easy choice for me, considering they had 6 fancies (flavors listed under the pictures) and 3 “hots” that were made fresh (flavors of hots included strawberry fennel, vanilla spice, and Turkish mocha).

(Clockwise, from Upper Left) Maple Bacon, Green Tea Sesame, Mint Chocolate (I THINK) and Butter Pecan (I think? I had tunnel vision.)

Right side: Spicy PB&J on the top, Lemon Bar on the bottom

Icing!!

Icing the Fancies

HOT hots!

I carefully observed and plotted and licked my lips.  And then, I decided on my four and excitedly walked out with a bag of goodies.

The Final Four

I went with 3 fancies:

  • Maple Bacon (White frosting with a brown drizzle, looks like a flower. I KNEW Ry would love that one!)
  • Green Tea Sesame (Green, with sesame explosion!)
  • Spicy PB&J (PB&J stripes!)

And ONE perfect, highly recommended hot:

  • Strawberry fennel (Pink fairy dust!)

As I walked back into the apartment, donuts in hand, Ryan assumed I was a heavily armed killer. Lucky for him, the only heat I was packing was my single hot donut AND I was ready to share.

We split two for breakfast (and are saving the other two for dessert tonight).  The Maple Bacon was mind-boggling. I didn’t see any bacon… but I tasted it in the frosting drizzle. And it tasted like a savory salty creaminess, one which I’ve never experienced before.  I didn’t taste as much of the maple, but it was still delicious.

The star of our morning, though, was the strawberry fennel. HOW DO THEY MAKE THE PINK STRAWBERRY FENNEL CRYSTALS OF GOODNESS?!?!!? This is a mystery to me, a delicious mystery that is best served warm and split with a loved one while catching up on your favorite cartoons.

FedNuts opens its Sansom location officially on Wednesday morning, and you better BELIEVE I’ll be back soon. For donuts, yes, and to finally try some of their infamous fried chicken. Yes, donuts and chicken.  The healthiest, right? I never said I was a role model.

Can’t wait to try round two tonight….

Which flavors would you have chosen?