The Gleeful Gourmand: November 2014

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Tips and Tricks!

Thanksgiving is officially one week away from today! If you follow me on Twitter, you know I've been sending out tweets on Thanksgiving tips. I throw them out there as they occur to me, and today I've decided to organize them all in one place.

Maybe you're hosting Thanksgiving for the first time. Maybe you're an old pro who's been in the Thanksgiving game (our culinary Super Bowl, am I right??) for years. Maybe you're a guest who's not sure what to bring. Don't worry, I have tips for you all. I certainly remember the first holiday feast I hosted all on my own, and I know I would have been sunk without these time-saving tips and tricks. So pour yourself a glass of wine (or bourbon), roll up your sleeves, grab a pen and let's get started:

1). Order your turkey now.  This may seem like a no-brainer for most of you. In fact, most of us have already ordered the bird. If you haven't done it yet, now is the time. Stop stalling and do it already. If you have questions about size and cooking time, there are lots of knowledgeable folks (like the folks you order from) who can answer your questions.

2) Make a list.  I cannot stress the importance of this one enough. Without a list to work from, you can find yourself in the weeds before Thanksgiving even happens. Write down every single dish you plan on serving, and next to those items, write out all the ingredients you'll need. Take that list and plan on doing your grocery shopping this Saturday. Don't wait until the week of Thanksgiving to stock up on all you need. Produce will be freshest at the store now, and everything will still be relatively well-stocked. Get it out of the way, and that's one less thing you'll have on your to-do list.

Bourbon-glazed turkey.

3) Make a second list.  Decide what time you want to sit down to eat dinner, and write down a schedule of when certain things need to go in the oven or on the stovetop to meet that timeline. If someone is helping you cook, make sure you make this particular list together so that your movements in the kitchen will be in good synchronization. Like a lot of people, I have a small kitchen with only one oven and 4 burners to work with. I may love all things gourmet, but a gourmet kitchen I do not have. But I still crank out delicious holiday dinners on time because of this list, and the next tip:

4) Look at your list and find things to make ahead and freeze.  This is a big one. Almost as important as the list. If you can knock out a few items to make and freeze, you'll be ahead of the game come Turkey Day, and able to relax with your family and guests instead of freaking out. Some things that can be frozen: Pie dough, breads, and cranberry relish (can be made and stored in the fridge up to 3 days out). Stuffing can be assembled (not baked) the day before.

5) Delegate.  Guests always want to know what they can bring (listen up, guests, NEVER arrive empty-handed!), but this could go one of two ways. Either you want them to bring a dish to join your lineup, or you don't. If you do, be prepared that it might not mesh well with what you're serving. Or it might not be good. It's a big risk. If you say yes, own it and be prepared to deal with the consequences. Let them know what you're missing in the lineup and give them direction on what they can make. It's in their hands on whether or not they do what you've asked.

If you decide not to let them bring a dish, here is a great way to make them feel useful and included: Ask them to prepare an appetizer or two, or a fun cocktail to enjoy before the big feast. Or, tell them how you're preparing the turkey and ask them to bring a couple of bottles of wine to complement the flavor. Always pair the wine to the turkey - don't worry how it will mesh with all the sides. GUESTS: If this is the route you go, but you're not confident in picking out wines, don't stress out. Go to your nearest wine shop, and let someone there help you. They really know what they're talking about! Guests, if you're still unsure what to bring and your host has said no to dishes and beverages, bring flowers. That's a safe bet.

6) Get the guest room ready. Speaking of guests, some of them might be sleeping in your home. Don't wait until the day of, or even the day before to get the room ready. If you have 20 spare minutes this Sunday, do a quick clean of the room (or rooms), make sure the linens are fresh, and everything is ready to go. Make sure it's as comfortable and accommodating as possible. I always like to have a vase of fresh flowers for my guests on their nightstand. Another nice touch is a luggage stand that can be folded flat for storage when not in use. Small bottles of water are nice, as are little snacks like chocolate so your guests don't have to feel embarrassed scrounging for nibbles in the middle of the night.

My table last Thanksgiving.

7) Set the table the day before.  This might be tricky if you have small children, since they seem to always sense when something nice has been set out and they go after it with great gusto, but this can be a huge timesaver. The great thing about Thanksgiving is that trends right now for the dining room table are all over the place. You seriously could put a pile of pinecones in the middle of the table and it would be considered chic. But seriously, don't stress out about this. Lay out your table exactly how you want it, down to the last detail. It doesn't have to match, because mismatched dishes are actually en vogue right now. Do what looks pretty to you. Last year, I was looking to jazz up my table, so I found some mini pumpkins for ¢99 and put them on a linen napkin on top of my china. The point is: Have fun with it! If you still can't figure out what would look best, remember that a good floral arrangement with some votive candles can go a long, long way. But once that table is set - bam! One less thing you have to do on Turkey Day. Only have one table and need to use it during the day? Grab a guest before it's time to sit down and have them set the table for you while you finish the meal.

8) Day-of Mise-En-Place. "Mise-en-place" is French for "putting in place," or better known as "prep work." Take a look at your dishes and their ingredients. For each dish you make, get your mise-en-place on as much as you can the morning of (with the Thanksgiving Day Parade blaring in the background, of course!). Things that need to be chopped, diced, sliced, what-have-you can be done and put in small bowls or Tupperware and stored away in the fridge until you need them. Lay out each casserole, platter, and plate you'll need and put a sticky note on each so you'll know which dish to use for what. That keeps the flow going.

It might not end up looking like this, and that's okay!
9) Enjoy and Have Fun! Listen. Your real life probably does not look like Pinterest. It is not the pages of Southern Living or a Pottery Barn catalog. I can say that with complete confidence now that I know how to style food and take pretty pictures of them. So don't freak out if your home, your table, or your food doesn't closely resemble what you've Pinned. That is not the point. The real point is the fun you had, the memories you made, and how much you laughed along the way. And if something goes wrong, like (Heaven forbid), you ruin the turkey, don't worry. In my family, the legend of the Thanksgiving turkey that toppled off the pan, bounced across the kitchen floor and then rolled under the dinging room table is still told with tears of laughter and fun to this day. Enjoy the day, your family, and your guests. That's what truly matters in the end.

Did I miss anything? Leave it in the comments! Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hardywood Park VS. Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery

When my husband, Buck, asked if he could write a guest post about beer, I had no idea what to expect. But knowing him, I figured it would be funny and informative. Boy, is it ever. The opinions below are completely his own. This post was not sponsored in any way, shape, or form. Enjoy!

There are precious few things in life that a man is truly loyal towards…his wife, his barber, his football team, his wife, his country, his wife, and his favorite brand of beer. Let’s face it, guys, at our core we all stand ready to try any new adventures that might come along at the drop of a hat. We justify our hardwired infidelity by continually referencing our unshakeable loyalty to those things we hold sacred. Honestly, do you know how many times I’ve pointed to my unflinching loyalty to the Oakland Raiders as a shining example of just what a faithful and reliable soul I really am? Who’s going to question a guy who has remained committed to da Raiders for the past 10 years?? 

Actually, loyalty lies at the center of my chosen profession. I’m a lifelong member of the advertising community, and at our root, most of what we do in advertising is either attempting to create new loyalty to a brand, or break an existing relationship and seduce you away. We’re not much better than the succubus at the end of the bar trying to get you to forget that ring around your finger, whispering seductive promises that it can all be yours…but only if you use our brand of razors, eat our chips, etc.

But as a true, red-blooded MAN, there’s supposed to be one loyalty that is unshakeable… a commitment forged in steel and anchored in stone.  A vow that must go unbroken. For it is written, “Once thou hast picked a beer that is thine own, thou shalt remain faithful and true to that malted elixir of life FOREVER!” (Insert dramatic trumpet blast here.)

That’s why I decided to write this blog post. It’s actually a declaration of guilt. I have a cheating heart. And the worst part about it - I LOVED it.  And that’s where the guilt that can only be understood by those readers who had both Jewish and Catholic parents can truly empathize. This is my confession:

I cheated on my beer.

No, it wasn’t just a one-night stand that could be attributed to a crappy beer menu that didn’t offer my favorite brew… we’ve all been there before, and that’s an easy one to justify.  “But honey, I totally would have had you, but you weren’t on the menu… c’mon, I still love you!  Now come over here and give me a swig!”  No, this, my friends, has blossomed into a full-fledged, torrid affair of the heart (and liver) that has caused me to leave behind everything I once held dear. I look in the mirror, and I don’t recognize the face I see before me: The face of a Lickinghole lover.

The farm and brew house at LCCB. Photo Courtesy of Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery.

Yes, there, I said it!  I LOVE LICKINGHOLE!!  And I am not afraid to shout it from the roof tops, no matter how many strange looks I might receive or how many people shout back, “pervert!” or “You’ll rot in Hell for that!”  I don’t care, because dare I say it? I covet it.

It wasn’t always that way. I used to belong to another, and we were happy together for many years. Yes, there was a time when Hardywood Park and I shared unbridled passion. I swore that I would be forever true to Hardywood. I waited in lines for hours, surrounded by bearded hipsters in skinny jeans. Sure, I might not be exactly the kind of young and virile consumer that Hardywood seemed to attract, but dang it, I loved them and that love and devotion had to count for something! Even if I wasn’t their ideal demographic, I would MAKE them love me… I would SHOW them that a middle-aged dad from the ‘burbs could be cool too! I would spend copious amounts of money on their specialty beers, and in the end, I would make them realize that I was the one they really wanted, despite my seemingly genetic inability to grow a proper beard.

But then, one night, I was lamenting the lack of Hardywood beer in my fridge and feeling especially low, resorting to the comforting and familiar embrace of a former flame – Legend. I was approached by the bartender and offered something that would change my life.

Of all the beer pubs in all the world, they had to be offering this new concoction with a utterly ridiculous name in mine… Lickinghole! What kind of name is that?!  I couldn’t even imagine being even mildly attracted to her. I mean, c’mon: “Hey Joe, can I have another Lickinghole?”  “Honey, I’m out of Lickinghole… I need to get s’more!”  Ridiculous… my devotion lay with a beer with a strong and noble name: Hardywood. My God, if that doesn’t sound like something a real MAN would drink, I don’t know what does… heck, I’m sure the makers of Viagra and Cialis wished they’d thought of it!  HARDYWOOD… not Lickinghole. But then, in a moment of weakness, I let my lips go where my ears were unwilling and like Bobby Brady seeing the fireworks in that episode where he gets his first kiss (or was it Peter?), lightning struck and my world was turned inexorably on its head.

It started innocently enough…I would still buy Hardywood, but it was no longer exclusive. I would buy three bottles of Hardywood for every one Lickinghole, using my larger investment as proof (PROOF!) of my continuing fidelity. But then, as I sat at my desk at 3:00 p.m. on a Friday, dreaming about the decadence that was only a couple short hours away, I began to realize that I wasn’t salivating in anticipation of a delicious, frosty Hardywood. No, I was dreaming of Lickinghole! Gasp! Get behind me, you cruel harpy of a beer! But the damage was done… and the seal was permanently broken. 
Lickinghole was no longer just an occasional mistress, stealing broken sips in the shadows, unwilling to reveal our love in the light, subject to the judgment of others. No, I had to finally admit that my heart belonged to the Hole and that despite what others might say – how they might snicker and laugh whenever I ordered her – I was in love and I didn’t care who knew it.

It is cleansing to finally tell my tale – therapeutic, in fact.  In the months that have followed my admission, so much has changed.  My beer fridge is now stocked almost exclusively with three or four different varieties of Lickinghole. I still have three bottles of Hardywood’s Bourbon Cru that I’m holding onto for old time’s sake, but that’s just because it’s out of production until next Spring, and frankly, sometimes it’s nice to take a drink down memory lane.  Lickinghole doesn’t mind – she knows that while I may wax nostalgic from time-to-time and perhaps even have a dance or two with Hardywood on occasion, I’ll always come back.

Photo courtesy of Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery
And I’ve gotten over whatever stigma I feared might come as a repercussion. Now I can proudly order Lickinghole without blushing, and have even taken several of my friends out to meet her.  Once they see her beautiful, bucolic brew house set amongst the trees and fields of Goochland county and spend some time getting to know her while listening to bluegrass music and, perhaps, playing a little Frisbee golf, they all seem to understand my decision.*

My only real fear… what if one day my new love and old flame finally meet?  Would they fight over my affection, hissing and scratching at one another?  Would they be civil?  Would it be awkward? What if… what if they were ever to combine their forces?!  Would I feel like some kind of polygamist?  Would some kind of unholy union be hatched?  And would I have the fortitude to actually ask for either a Lickingwood or a Hardyhole beer?!  My liver shudders at the thought.

The Rosemary Saison. Photo courtesy of Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery.

I will always bear a fond place in my liver for the wonderful beers from Hardywood.  Founded in 2010, in Richmond, VA by partners Eric McKay and Patrick Murtaugh, Hardywood has enjoyed meteoric growth and success thanks to its amazing line of exceptional, creative beers… and as their distribution starts to expand beyond Central Virginia to Maryland, Pennsylvania and beyond, you would be very wise to put any/all of their beers on your hit list… but be warned, many of their offerings are “potent,” to say the least.  You won’t find any watered down, low-carb, sissy beers amongst this crowd.  Here are a few of the key players:

Singel – Their most popular and widely distributed beer, this 6.2% ABV Belgian Abbey style Blond is Hardywood’s flagship.  It’s also one of their most drinkable beers under a wide variety of different occasions – not quite as robust as some of their other offerings, I consider it very refreshing, while at the same time having enough flavor – and punch – to make for a very pleasant drinking experience.

Gingerbread Stout – A seasonal favorite that has achieved mythical status in and around RVA; the GBS was rated a perfect 100 by BeerAdvocate Magazine in 2012. For many in the Richmond area, this has become the quintessential flavor of the holidays. An imperial milk stout flavored with locally sourced ginger and honey, GBS packs a firm punch (9.2% ABV), but it’s also so heavy that you’re unlikely to drink more than one in a sitting. 

Bourbon Cru – Just as there’s always one former flame that you never forget, I will always carry a torch for this beauty of a beer.  But like a lot of beautiful ladies, you need to keep your wits about you or she’ll leave you in a world of hurt.  At 12% ABV, this is no amateur’s undertaking. An Abbey-style Quad seasoned in Virginia bourbon barrels, this complex, caramel-flavored concoction is the perfect love child of a great foundational brew coupled with the bold remnants of its bourbon prison. The vanguard of Hardywood’s “Barrel Series,” the release of Bourbon Cru is as beautiful an aspect of Spring as the first flowers or returning song birds.

When you visit the gorgeous farm that’s the birthplace of Lickinghole Creek’s beer, you can’t help but wonder if they work some of that bucolic beauty into every one of their creations. Considering how many of the ingredients come from the farm itself, there may be a lot of truth to that notion. Located on 260 acres in rural Goochland County, Virginia, the Lickinghole brewery is the ideal location to enjoy a pint while soaking up the wonders of a Virginia summer sunset. The owners, Lisa and Sean-Thomas Pumphrey, pride themselves on growing the hops and other essential ingredients on the property, as well as drawing much of the water they use from the breweries namesake – the Lickinghole Creek that bisects the property. In less than two years, they’ve built up an impressive catalogue of beers and a very loyal following.  Here are a few of their better known offerings – but again, consider yourself forewarned; at 9+% ABV, several of these pack a real punch!

Three Chopt Tripel – This is one HECK of a great beer… and that is not only evidenced by the amount of it that I constantly keep in supply, but also by the fact that Lickinghole uses it as the basis for an ever-expanding array of specialty beers like their Bourbon Barrel Three Chopt (recently ranked as the #7 most popular tripel in the world by BeerAdvocate, along with a stellar rating of 95) and the forthcoming La Calavera Catrina Tequila barrel aged tripel with lime zest (I can hardly wait to try it!). This is just an outstanding everyday beer that you can enjoy with a great meal, yet refreshing enough to pop open after an afternoon sweating in the yard. Full bodied and extremely flavorful, if you like Belgians, then you’ll love this baby.

Rosemary Saison – Lickinghole’s Rosemary Saison was just recently thrust into the spotlight thanks to praise and accolades that it received coming out of this year’s Great American Beer Festival.  In fact, went so far as to declare it “the best beer at the GABF,” which is no small compliment. It’s also one of Lickinghole’s newest offerings, so it’s making a nice splash right out of the gates (it also happens to be my wife’s favorite, so it’s got that going for it as well). A 6.8% dry and hoppy farmhouse ale, combined with rosemary grown right on the farm, this beer is everything a saison is supposed to be…but like many other Lickinghole offerings, this lovely was only bottled on a very limited basis (2,500 bottles), so get it quick or suffer the waiting game that so many Lickinghole aficionados have become all too familiar with.

Batchelors Delight – I am 99% certain that this is the BEST beer I have ever tasted in my life.  And I say that with a VERY heavy heart knowing that it’s completely sold out and unavailable until 2015… oh, the humanity!!  A Nicaraguan Rum barrel aged Belgian Quad sporting a hearty 12% ABV, this gem gets its unique (and no, that’s not a misspelling) name from “one of the most notorious and important pirate ships in history.”  This beer is so good, that like the pirates its named in honor of, there are an unlimited number of despicable and treacherous acts that I would be willing to commit in order to get my hands on more of it… but luckily all I have to do is remain patient until it’s released again.  Gives me time to set aside a special fund so that once it is available again, I can buy it by the truck load!

*GG: Plus they have a playground for the kids. I mean, come on.