Monthly Archives: December 2013

Make Ahead Egg Bakes to Feed a Crowd

Standard

Has it really been a whole week since my last post?

That’s probably the longest I’ve gone without blogging since I’ve started this blog.

Well another Christmas has come and gone.

xmas tree 2013

Now it’s time to wrap up 2013 and celebrate the New Year. I’ve got some ideas on how I want to review this past year, but that’ll be for an upcoming post. For now, let’s talk about how to feed a crowd for breakfast or brunch any time of year!

Y’all, I’m talking about Egg Bakes or Egg Casseroles.

Over the Christmas holiday, my mom was going in to work at 1 am and working ten to twelve hour shifts. She had little time to sleep on such a schedule.

And knowing full-well that she’d have to feed six adults, one teenage girl and three growing boys on Christmas morning, she was thinking ahead. She wrote down the recipes for two egg bakes – one savory and one sweet – for me to assemble on Christmas Eve and pop into the fridge while she was at work pounding out last-minute dinner rolls, Christmas cookies and croissants for all of the last-minute shoppers.

On Christmas morning, she slid them in the oven…

and they turned out beautifully.

Unfortunately, I can’t give credit to the origins of these recipes because my mom copied them down by hand.

Sausage And Egg Casserole Recipe

Serves 8 to 10

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices bread, cubed {I only had a French Loaf, so I used 12 slices of that.}
  • 1 lb sausage, browned, drained
  • 1.5 cups shredded Cheddar cheese {or more!}
  • 8 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp salt
  • fresh ground pepper to taste

Method:

  • Grease a 9×13 baking dish. {I used butter.}
  • Cube bread and place evenly in greased 9×13 pan or baking dish.
  • Sprinkle evenly with browned, drained and cooled sausage and then the cheese.
  • Mix eggs, milk, salt and pepper.
  • Pour mixture over ingredients already in pan.
  • Cover and chill overnight.
  • Remove from refrigerator 15 minutes before baking.
  • Bake 45 minutes at 325 degrees or until set.
  • Cut into squares to serve.

*NOTE: I thought that the dish didn’t look saturated enough with the egg mixture and that the dish would come out dry, but this was not the case. So fear not!

~

Baked French Toast Casserole with Praline Topping

Casserole Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf French bread {The one my mom left for me was gigantic!}
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups half and half {Tip: 1 pint = 2 cups}
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of salt

Praline Topping Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb butter, melted {Tip: 1/2 lb = 2 sticks}
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Method:

  • Slice French bread into approximately 20 slices.
  • Grease a 9×13 baking dish. {I used butter.}
  • Transfer slices to the dish, arranging in two rows, overlapping the slices. {I got creative here because my baking dish was a little bigger and I wanted to fill up some holes. It worked just fine.}
  • In a large bowl, combine eggs, half and half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.
  • Beat with a hand mixer or by hand until combined, but not bubbly.
  • Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure to cover evenly to saturate all of the bread pieces.
  • Spoon some of the mixture between slices, if needed.
  • Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.
  • In a medium bowl, combine all praline topping ingredients and mix well.
  • Cover praline topping mixture and refrigerate over night.
  • When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Spread praline topping over the bread.
  • Bake 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden brown.
  • Serve with maple syrup, if desired. {We didn’t think this was necessary. It was sweet enough!}

*NOTES: While the Sausage Egg Bake seemed like it wasn’t saturated enough with egg mixture when assembled, the French Toast one seemed overly saturated and runny after I put it together. However, they both turned out wonderfully.

~

My mom put both of the Bakes in the oven at the same time and just adjusted for time and temperature. When combined with bagels and mom’s family-adored cheesy potatoes, this was more than enough food for ten people. It was a Carb Overload! But Oh. So. Good.

My friend Sally recommended this Eggs Benedict Casserole recipe when my in-laws were in town earlier this year. It was hit! My husband, who often shies away from anything with the word “casserole” in it, even loved it. He couldn’t stop telling me how good it was for an egg bake and how surprised he was. Sally’s tip for this recipe: “I use a little more Canadian bacon. I use two packages of the sliced Canadian bacon you buy in the store. One layer on the very bottom of the pan and another layer on top.”

When you are feeding a crowd, egg bakes and casseroles are perfect any time of year!

What is your favorite Egg Bake or Breakfast Casserole recipe?

Cheers~
Carrie

Advertisements

Five Things Friday

Standard

I’m still on “vacation.” It’s been crazy! But instead of being stressed, I’m eating it up. {We’ll get to that within the next week or two.} And I’ve been enjoying and appreciating every minute of it of the time I get to spend with everyone!

I’ve always loved when other bloggers do their Five Things Friday posts. It can include items they are loving right now, other posts or articles that spoke to them or important things in their lives. I’ve been introduced to some wonderful new websites and products and learned from others’ insights. So today, I thought I’d share some with you.

1) How to Choose Gratitude over Stress this Holiday Season – I actually came to this place on my own this year. {Yay, me!} But this post is a good one to help anyone throwing their hands up in the air, looking for some solace right now.

2) The End of an Era  – Earlier this week – December 17th to be exact – marked my 10-year anniversary with The Traveling Vineyard. And I resigned. This is big news! And don’t worry, nothing bad happened. I still love the company. It was just my time. They’ll be a post on that, too, soon… And all the wonderful things I took away from the experience. I will be forever grateful!

3) The Career Path Less Traveled – Just entering the workforce? Don’t worry about your exact career. Just live life. Here’s how.

4) Last Minute Christmas Gift IdeasChristmas Lists from Running with Racheal, last year’s Top 5 Gifts for the Hard-to-Buy-For-Person-Who-Has-Everything and Gifts They’ll Actually Use.

5) This… Just to make you smile:

Who is the most difficult person on your shopping list?

Merry Christmas!

Cheers~
Carrie

It Feels Like Vacation…

Standard

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been participating in the Food & Fitness linkup the last couple of weeks. That’s because we haven’t been home!

Well, actually, we are at home.

We aren’t on vacation, but it feels like we are on vacation. {Well, except for going to work 7:30am – 4pm weekdays.}

People, we have been out every night for the last week and a half. But I’m not complaining! I was looking back this weekend, wondering how I could get a hold of this runaway season and realized that this feels sort of like vacation. We are going out to dinner, meeting friends {old and new} and discovering new parts of our cities.

Instead of being stressed about when I’ll get those holiday cards out {sometime this week} and when I’ll finish Christmas shopping {almost done}, I’ve decided to embrace and relish in every moment I have with all of these friends we’ve made time to see. That’s the reason we planned it, isn’t it?! ‘Tis the season to be grateful for all of those important people in our lives.

In the past week, I have:

And it isn’t ending. My husband and I have something planned every night up until we leave for Green Bay for Christmas. And then I have planned to meet up with long {but not lost!} friends and family while we are there.

And I’m very happy about it!

Unfortunately, I haven’t been getting any fitness into my routine. Surely, there is no excuse. But I’m grateful that it’s making me realize that I need to make it a priority once “vacation” is over.

planning

Because I won’t be home even one night this week, I made lunches on Sunday and plans for potential breakfasts throughout the week:

  • Breakfasts: PB Toast OR granola with milk OR protein bar OR scrambled eggs with spinach
  • Lunch: Every lunch this week will consist of: cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, two halos, applesauce and a piece of dark chocolate
  • Dinner: This means that at dinner, my plan is to get in as many veggies as possible.

What do you slow down to embrace and enjoy the holiday season?

Cheers~
Carrie

His & Hers Gift Guide – What They’ll Actually Use

Standard

This time of year, I’ve been getting a lot of searches that link to this post from last year: Top 5 Gifts for the Hard to Buy For Person Who Has Everything. I want to offer up some more gift ideas this year. But I don’t want to give away my surprises of what I’ll be gifting.

Instead, I thought I’d create a different kind of list.

Part One – His

If you read last year’s post, you’ll know that my shopping for my husband is very difficult. He usually just buys what he wants when he wants it. And no matter how much thought I put into them, the gifts I get him end up in a drawer or on the shelf in the closet. So, instead, the HIS GIFT LIST will include items that Rob has either bought himself or has been given, but that he uses all the time.

Part Two – Hers

Here you will get a my Christmas Wish List. No, this is not a post to get what I want for Christmas. Besides, probably only one person I’m exchanging with actually reads this blog. And I’m pretty certain my mom is done with her Christmas shopping already. 😉 Instead, it’s just a list of things, that if offered to me this holiday season {or any old time}, that I would not turn down! It’s meant to give you ideas for women you may know like me.

Let’s start with the guys, since they seem to be the hardest to shop for, right? For additional ideas, please read Running with Racheal’s post from last year.

Great Gifts for Guys

{aka items Rob uses ALL THE TIME}

  • Smartphone – His iPhone is the one gift that Rob thanks me for throughout the year. He doesn’t know now, how in the world he ever lived without it. The thing is, it was a surprise a couple of years ago. He didn’t even know he’d want one. Because of the never-ending thank yous, it’s the gift that keeps on giving!
  • iPhone Wallet – Rob bought this for himself within the last year and it’s made his life so much simpler. When getting ready for work in the morning, he no longer has to go in search of his wallet and his phone. It’s all together now. He found his on eBay and there are several styles. His is pictured below. He gets compliments all of the time. They are cheap, too!
  • Extra iPhone Chargers – Rob found these cheap online, too. I never strayed away from my one charger that came with my iPhone. But once we got extra, it made life so much easier! I can’t tell you how nice it is to have one in my car, one to keep in my suitcase or carry-on, purse, one for the office and the living room. Rob keeps one at work, too. It was handy when we left one behind on vacation to have extras on hand. Only downfall: When we finally upgrade to iPhone 5 or later, we’ll have to buy all new ones. But no matter, these were seriously cheap.
  • Flashlight(s) – Laugh all you want, but whenever we need a flashlight we can’t find one. This year, a friend of ours put flashlights in our golf tournament goodie bags. Of course, they were meant to keep in our golf bags to look for lost balls. But since we are too lazy to look for them are such good golfers, we use them around the house. Now, if we had about 5 more of those…
  • Lounge Pants – I don’t know about you, but we live in comfy pants over the weekend. That is, until we leave the house, of course. We’ve received lounge/sleepwear pants for Christmas a couple of times and now I don’t know what we’d do without them. They come in many styles. Rob’s collection includes Guinness and ESPN lounge pants, among others.
  • Packer/Wolverine Gear – You can never have enough gear to cheer on your team. Just make sure it is the size, style and fit that your recipient likes. I’m just sayin’, when I get him this kind of stuff, it always gets used!
  • Hammock – Once upon a time, Rob bought a hammock from Hammocks.com. And on any beautiful day in the spring, summer and fall, I come home to him reading, relaxing or napping in that thing. The dogs join sometimes, too! We bought our friends, who invite us up to their cabin every year, one as a thank you gift. It’s a priceless gift, really. It may be hard to think about when it’s so cold, but that’s why they are on sale today! We recommend the Quilted Island Bay with metal stand. Rob’s tip: Get coupons and promo codes when shopping online by typing in “Hammocks.com Coupon” instead of just “Hammocks.com” to save extra dough!
  • Dinner out – Rob nearly always takes me out to dinner, so it’s a special treat when I buy. Sometimes, I’ll make my own little certificate stating such {as I explained in this post} or what restaurant I’m planning on taking him, like I did for his birthday one year.

~

Great Gifts for Gals

{aka gifts I would Graciously and Gratefully accept}

  • Socks – Not kidding here. As it grew colder this fall and I had to put the sandals away, I found that many of my socks were either missing a sibling or developed a hole. I’ve thrown away quite a few. I like fun, funky socks, but they can be hard to rotate within the wardrobe and Rob isn’t a fan. So even just comfortable black socks will do!
  • Turtleneck Sweaters – Are these out of style? I’m having such a hard time finding nice ones! I’m a freeze baby. So in the winter, I like warm sweaters. When I’m trying to overcome Pirate Eyes in the early, black a.m. of winter, I don’t want to have to think about my outfit before work. I want to put on a warm turtleneck sweater and dress it up with a scarf. DONE. Solid colors are best… and timeless.
  • Alligator Clips – This is the name Rob gave to a hair clip I used to rely on all of the time. I’ve lost it since our trip to California this fall and just feel LOST. I am all about low maintenance when it comes to my hair and rarely use a hair dryer. I used to twist it and put it up with my alligator clip when wet. Later in the evening or the next morning, I can wear it down without having to do very much with it! We’ve search stores everywhere for more, but just found them online under other names – beak clip, Japanese clip, concorde clip. There are lots of colors and styles to choose from!

Beak Clip

  • Opolo Mountain Zinfandel – This is one of our favorite wines, but it’s not really priced for everyday. So it’s a treat when we get it!
  • Davis Family Vineyards Pinot NoirGuy Davis knows his Pinot. I never actually liked Pinot Noir until I tasted his at his tasting room on a trip to the Russian River Valley. You can’t find it in stores, so you’ll have to order some. Might as well get a case while you’re add it. Your life will be transformed.
  • Davis Family Vineyards Wine Club Membership – Hell, why not just join the club? I did join the Davis Family Vineyards Friends and Family Club after that trip, but canceled when we needed to buckle down to buy our house. I should just get back in this club and swear never to buy a cheap bottle again and savor every drop of this wine. Quality over quantity, right?
  • Other Wine Goodies – I love this post by grapefriend, with some unique wine-related finds. In particular, I’m intrigued by the wine2go flask and the rewined carmenere candle.
  • Champagne – I love me some bubbly. But it’s extra special to receive a bottle of real champagne!
  • St. Germain – This elderflower liqueur is one of my all-time favorites. I haven’t met a cocktail I didn’t like when it’s made with it.
  • High Quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil – At one point, we bought a Groupon to join an olive oil club. Each month for three months, we got high quality, expeller pressed Italian olive oils! We didn’t continue because it took us all year to use them. The third bottle is almost empty, so we’re in the market for more. I also love this idea of adopting an olive tree and receiving the olive oil produced from it.
  • Cheese of the Month Club – Um. I’m from Wisconsin. I’m a Francophile. No brainer.
  • Fruit of the Month Club – I’ve always wanted this! Fresh fruit delivered to my door every month, yes please! I’ve been eyeing the Arizona Orange Company for two years now…
  • CSA Share – I absolutely adored my CSA box in the summer! But it just proved to be too much food, even split with a friend. They had solo shares this year, but were more basic and sold out right away. If you want to give someone a CSA share, make sure the pick-up location and window is doable for them.
  • Donation to a Cause I Support/Admire – Like a Pet Rescue or Shelter, such as Homeward Bound, where I found Sophie almost 9 years ago and the Carver-Scott County Humane Society, where we found Shamrock this year. When friends of ours refused to let us pitch in for the timeshare and rental car when they invited us to join them in Hawaii, we donated to the Marine Mammal Center in support of the endangered Monk Seals on the island of Kaua’i. We were lucky enough to see them there.
  • Packer Gear – Can never have enough!
  • Packer Tickets – Hey, I am getting higher up on the waiting list; but if anyone can spare a pair, we’ll take ’em! {We support our team during winning AND losing seasons!}
  • Gourmet Coffee – I’m always willing to try a new brew.
  • Tickets to Evita – I love musicals and Evita will be in Minneapolis this year. I loved the music in the movie and have never seen it performed live.
  • Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake – Laugh if you must. I had a roommate with whom we bought these for each other’s birthdays! The Bonus is that the two of us shared it, so we both got to pick away at it All. Week. Long. It’s been years since I’ve had one, though, so maybe my tastes have changed. Wouldn’t hurt to find out!
  • Gift Certificates – I know some people think that these are impersonal, but I love them. They say to me, “I know you like to shop here, so pick out what you want!” or “We really loved this place and thought you might like it, too.” I also like to save them to use as fitness or weight loss rewards. Here are some great places for which to receive gift cards:
    • Sul Lago – Our favorite restaurant “South of the River.” The very first time we visited, we saw about a dozen or so people come in to order gift certificates at the bar!
    • Restaurants – We like to dine out, so any place we haven’t tried, under our Restaurant Impressions Wishlist will do. Otherwise, we always like to try other people’s favorites, so recommendations are welcome.
    • Kohl’s – I don’t buy clothes very often, but when I do it’s because I need something. Kohl’s is close and familiar. I like to save gift cards here as rewards to myself. I’ve found a lot of good deals on workout gear here, too!
    • Barnes & Noble – I don’t have a Kindle or Nook. I still read real books. But I really think B&N gift certificates are good for travel guidebooks. We love to travel. If you know someone is traveling somewhere, buy them the most current guidebook. Or, they can walk right into a store and flip through guidebooks to see which ones suit them best.
    • Spa – I don’t know any girl who wouldn’t appreciate a spa day or to choose their own spa treatment. Just a pedicure can do wonders.
    • Movies – We don’t go to the movies often, but when we do, we ask ourselves why we don’t do it more!
    • Car Washes & Oil Changes – Okay, this one sounds really impersonal. But truthfully, I hate spending money on this kind of stuff myself. So having a card to just use whenever it is needed would be so wonderful.
    • Amazon Gift Card – Well, because you can use it for ANYTHING!

All I truly need for Christmas is health, love, spending time with family and reconnecting with old friends.

However, sometimes we just fret over that perfect gift for a loved one. So I hope these his and hers lists inspire you with ideas for the rest of your shopping this year. Or sit down and make out your own list. You might just come up with something for someone else!

What is a gift you wouldn’t turn down?

Did this post give you any ideas for someone else?

Cheers~
Carrie

Ale Fest 2013

Standard

A few months after we started dating, Rob wanted to teach me more about beer. So on our of our dates, he threw an Ale Fest.” He bought a series of beers that were unique and new-to-me.

This was ten years ago.

Rob and I have been trying to recall what beers we tasted back then. I knew one of his favorite beers at that time was Fullers ESB, but I’m sure he had me tasting that well before Ale Fest. And the closest thing we had to local microbrews at the time was Summit. Rob was lost not having any of the variety that he had while living in Seattle.

I recalled tasting some beers from Unibroue, a Barleywine and maybe something festive or with a vintage.

But Rob, who can hardly remember what I told him yesterday, recalled more specifically:

Now that I look back at that list, I’m thinking… Was he just trying to get me drunk!? 😉

I remember we also tasted the Quelque Chose Ale by Unibroue. I vaguely remember Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, but maybe that’s just a stout that I remember from those early days and not particularly that evening. Perhaps I’m confusing Sammy Smith’s with Samichlaus…

So why am I telling you all of this… my vague recollections of Ale Fest 2003?

Because when I asked Rob what he wanted to do during his birthday weekend he exclaimed,

“ALE FEST!”

So I present to you…

Ale Fest 2013

photo 2

When it comes to our personal Ale Festthere are NO rules! Just as Rob did for the original Ale Fest, we picked whichever beers spoke to us from the shelves. Or they just jumped into our basket. Yes, those are pretty animated beers.

We chose our beers from Zipp’s Liquor in Minneapolis. We’d never been there before, but it had good reviews and was just minutes away from Parka, where we enjoyed Rob’s birthday dinner.

There was a pretty decent selection. We chose about 11 beers, knowing full well that there would be no way we’d finish them all. But we wanted a variety to choose from when we finally sat down to sip.

Before I present these beers to you, I would like to point out that although I feel sort of snobbish about beer, I can’t really describe it. I read reviews on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer and sometimes get lost in the descriptions, as if it’s written in a foreign language.

Now I understand how people feel when I try to describe wine!

Still, I can describe beers at a basic level. I know the difference between ales and lagers. I can describe beers as hoppy or malty and can pick out the coffee and/or chocolate characteristics in porters and stouts. But I still have a lot of evolving to do. Maybe those of you new to beer can appreciate my simplistic reviews.

But as for all you beer geeks out there, please take my descriptions of these beers with a grain of salt. Something else to note: Our Ale Fest is very casual. We relaxed and took no notes. So this is all from memory {or lack thereof as the night progressed…}

Keep in mind that there were also no real rules to the order in which we tasted. This would make me cringe if I saw someone tasting wines in the wrong order! So I’m sure some of you will cringe when you hear about the order of these beers. But just humor us. Mkay?

~

#1 – Deschutes Chasin’ Freshies Fresh Hop IPA

Oregon – American IPA – 7.2% ABV – 22 oz bottle for $5.29

I chose to crack open this one first because I actually was thinking a little about order. A hoppy IPA would work much more nicely before any porters, stouts or bourbon barrel fermented beers.

We were interested in this one because it was made with Amarillo Hops – something neither of us had had before. We are huge IPA fans. Although I think my days as an IPA fanatic are coming to an end. It’s those bourbon barrel fermented beers that have been capturing my heart as of late. And I don’t even like bourbon.

Anyway, this beer = not my cup of tea pint of beer. It had a strange aftertaste to me. So much so that it was the first beer in a long time that I dumped out. Sure, I probably would have finished it if I were in a restaurant. But we had just started Ale Fest and I knew there were a lot more beers to go. I wasn’t going to waste the alcohol on this one.

~

#2 – Surly Abrasive Ale

Minnesota – Double IPA – 9% ABV – pint-sized can – $15.99 for a 4-pack

Okay, so yes, we have had this one before. But it’s not often on tap. And Rob said he rarely sees it in cans. He snatched it up, as it was the last single left. We are a huge fan of Surly Brewery. In fact, it’s all because of the Surly bill that we have so many craft breweries and taprooms in Minnesota now.

I actually find DIPAs smoother-tasting that IPAs, despite the higher alcohol percentage. Of course, this one didn’t disappoint. YAY, Minnesota!

~

#3 Thornbridge Bracia Rich Dark Ale

UK – English Strong Ale – 10% ABV – 1 pint .9 Fl oz for $18.99

photo 2(5)

Maybe you can read why this one peaked my interest:

photo 1(5)

However, I was a little disappointed. Sometimes I forget how subtle the flavors are in English beers. Drinking all the local American microbrews lately, I’ve hardly had anything English in a while. It was a very, very good beer; but I think I’d spend my $18.99 elsewhere next time.

~

#4 – North Coast Grand Cru

California – Belgian Strong Pale Ale – 12.9% – 500 mL bottle with cork for $14.79

This beautiful bottle lured me with wine words: Grand Cru. Plus it had that beautiful gold label and was stopped with a cork. Then reading this on the bottle sealed the deal:

ALE BREWED WITH AGAVE NECTAR AND AGED IN BOURBON BARRELS

Well, you can’t judge a book by its cover, because I just a tad disappointed. It was very good. But I think I’ve been spoiled by the bourbon barrel beers I’ve had at Steel Toe and in Temecula.

C’est la vie. First world problems.

~

#5 – Indeed Old Friend Holiday Ale

Minnesota – Winter Warmer – 7% ABV – 500 ml wax-sealed bottle for $10.79

There is something familiar about this wine. I think the description on the back of the bottle says it all:

photo 3(1)

It was pretty good. And unique. You can definitely taste the ginger. I’d order it on tap if I happened upon it. But my #1 fave from Indeed Brewing is still their LSD.

~

#6 – Indeed Stir Crazy

Minnesota – Winter Ale – 6.5% ABV – 12 oz can for $.65

photo 1(3)

Okay, so the sticker right on the can reads “$1.99,” but our receipt reads just 65 cents for this can. Considering that we were charged the $15.99 for the full 4-pack of Surly when we only got the single, I will be a little more careful watching the ring-up at Zipp’s next time.

photo 4

I have to say that I like the Stir Crazy. I have since ordered it on tap, too. But the “rich caramel” description is stretching it a little, in my opinion.

~

#6 – Boulder Shake Chocolate Porter

Colorado – Porter – 5.9% – 12 oz bottle for $1.99

photo 2

Boulder Shake – Chocolate Porter {2nd from right}

This beer tasted just like a chocolate shake! YUM! Yup, that’s all I’ve got.

~

#7 – Big City Jamaica Stout

Jamaica – Stout – 7.6% ABV – 12 oz bottle for $1.99

photo 3Apparently, we opened this. I don’t remember it. Rob said we liked it. I can hardly think I wouldn’t. I enjoy most stouts.

~

So, there you have it… An account of Ale Fest 2013. Ten years from now {unless the lights go out and we have a (R)Evolution}, I shouldn’t have to think back to what we tried. I’m sure that my palate will have evolved a lot more by then. And I might just be able to describe a beer appropriately…

In any case, I’m sure I’ll still be enjoying every last sip.

Tell me about a unique beer or beverage you’ve tried lately.

Cheers~
Carrie

The Post Fulton Diaries

Standard

After our venture to Fulton Brewery, we sought out a bite to eat. We decided to drive around until we found something. We had nothing planned, so it would be spontaneous! This sometimes backfires when we I can’t may up our my minds.

We drove around and less than a mile away we passed the Smack Shack. Do you know how many times we’ve seen this place online and in local magazines?! We’ve heard rave reviews about their food truck and particularly their Lobster Roll.

As we passed it, we went in search for a place to park. {Note: Just because you can park, doesn’t mean it’s free. It cost us only $1.75 to park not far from Fulton for 3 hours. But it cost us $42 to park near Smack Shack. Why? We didn’t feed the electronic meter! DOH! I won’t be making that mistake again.}

We got out of the car and made our way over the block and a half to the Smack Shack. On our way, we walked passed Cuzzy’s. Oh no. Decisions, decisions. I made Rob choose. It was, after all, almost his birthday.

He said we’d start at Smack Shack. Maybe we’d hit Cuzzy’s, too. He wanted to check both boxes.

Smack Shack

I thought this place was named for the fact that you’d be smacking your lips because the food was so good. Silly girl. There is a another meaning to the word…

Smack: (Eastern U.S.) : fishing vessel, especially one having a well for keeping catch alive.

Okay. That totally makes sense now. No wonder they are known for their lobster rolls. The funny thing? I wasn’t in the mood for seafood. I have no idea why. Maybe it was because it was 7pm and I last ate at 11am and felt like I was just famished. I was also indecisive. I can’t tell you how long we looked at that bar menu.

They had a small handful of beers on tap, including the local Fulton we had just visited a few blocks down. I do love that in Minneapolis, restaurants are great about serving the beers from their local community! But at that point, I chose a Sparkling Sake instead.

Why? Because I saw it on the menu and I had never had one before.

I liked it.

It was low in alcohol.

And I like sake.

And I like bubbly.

Win-Win-Win.

Then we ordered a couple of small plates.

BRAISED BEEF SHORT RIB with Pickled Fresno & Ancho Garlic Mayo 6.95

Braised Beef Shortrib Taco with Pickled Fresno & Ancho Garlic Mayo – $6.95

There are no words to describe how good these are! The beef is tender and the flavors are so well integrated and balanced. When we raved about them, our bartender said that the smoked pork tacos were even better. We couldn’t even imagine that was possible!

Seasoned Fries 4

Seasoned Fries – $4

The fries were pretty good, but nothing to completely rave about. We didn’t finish them, especially since this was the point when Rob admitted that he wanted to go to Cuzzy’s, too.

We agreed that we’d go back to the Smack Shack, especially if we have people in town who love seafood!

Cuzzy’s

We walked into Cuzzy’s knowing it was going to feel more like a bar than a restaurant. And with that comes bar food. There were dollar bills all over the walls and ceiling, but nothing like McGuire’s in Pensacola, where we hosted dinner after our beach wedding.

It was the first time I realized why Fulton named their blonde ale the Lonely Blonde. A guy walked in, sat down at the bar and said, “I’d like a Lonely Blonde, please.” People are ordering Lonely Blondes all over Minneapolis! Clever. And I hadn’t even realized it until I heard someone order it.

We opted for a burger and tots to split. I never expect this when we mention that we are going to split something, but they split it in the back for us. Never, ever expected, but always appreciated!

 Black and Bleu Burger With portobello mushrooms, bleu cheese and Cajun seasoning 8.99

Black and Bleu Burger with portobello mushrooms, bleu cheese and Cajun seasoning – $8.99

This burger was excellent and hit the spot! I can’t even begin to explain how perfect those portobello mushrooms were. The flavor was well balanced with just the right amount of seasoning and blue cheese.

And although I was no longer hungry after we polished off our burger, when the gal next to us ordered a Mexican dish, I turned to look at it because it smelled so good! It looked fresh and yummy, too, not just slopped on a plate like you find some version of Mexican food.

Looking for bar food in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis or close to the Twins’ Target Field? I think you’ll be satisfied here. Maybe even impressed. We were.

The cuisine at Smack Shack and Cuzzy’s is completely different. Some would say that Smack Shack’s food is a bit more elevated; but for bar food, I’d probably say the same about Cuzzy’s.

In my opinion, while different, they are equally enjoyable. We’ll be back to both! The problem will be choosing which one. Maybe it will be depend on our food mood. But if we can’t decide, we just might have to flip a coin.

What are your favorite types of small plates?

What kind of food do you like to split?

Cheers~
Carrie

Fulton Brewery – Minneapolis

Standard

Soooooo…

We’ve been to a few of the breweries in the west Twin Cities metro area, but really that’s about it. It’s kind of hard to believe when we’ve been to five breweries in Charlotte and six breweries in Temecula!

My husband occasionally participates in a co-worker Happy Hour at Steel Toe, one of our faves in the Twin Cities. We also support a lot of local breweries when we are dining out.

But how is it that we haven’t made it to the Fulton taproom yet? It was, after all, the first brewery taproom in the Twin Cities!

Well, when Rob’s co-workers arranged an outing to the brewery and Rob invited me along, he did not have to twist my arm.

Fulton-1

The boys of Fulton made their first beer in a one-car garage in the Fulton neighborhood of South Minneapolis in 2006. According to the story on their website, Fulton served their first keg at Happy Gnome in October of 2009.

As they grew, they moved a few times to have enough room to brew. This means that they are no longer brewing out of that South Minneapolis garage in the Fulton neighborhood. And in 2012, they relocated to downtown Minneapolis, where they opened the first brewery taproom in the Twin Cities.

With its newly expanded patio and extra bike parking, Fulton has been referred to as an “Urban Oasis.”

And even though we drove there in rush hour traffic on a cold, cold night, I’d wholeheartedly agree.

Fulton-2

You’ll find the Sweet Child of Vine IPA and Lonely Blonde Ale on tap all over the Twin Cities Metro. But come to the brewery for some specialty beers.

We’ve found it on tap at some obscure places, but served at the taproom is one of our absolute Fulton favorites – the Libertine Imperial Red Ale.

Fulton

It was my beer of choice for the evening. The funny thing is that I’m not generally not into red ales. But this beer goes against any brewing rules. It’s a fall beer, generally available September through November.

We were crossing our fingers that our other fave Fulton would be available: the Worthy Adversary Russian Imperial Stout. We had it back in January at the Pig & Fiddle. We put it up against the Founders Imperial Stout which was also on tap that night.

Battle of the RIS

Oh dear, are they both heavenly! It was actually pretty difficult to differentiate between the two. If we had to choose one, we would say that Founders beat out Fulton by 1/100th of a point. In other words, we will always order the local Worthy Adversary if we find it on tap.

But alas, Worthy Adversary isn’t available until December. We arrived on November 21st. I guess that means there is a winter trip to Fulton in store for us…

When the taproom is open, a food truck is parked outside. While we were there, it was Lulu’s Street Food. Boy did that food look good! A couple of our friends tried it:

Mark ordered a Crab Cake Sandwich and said it was probably the best crab cake he had ever had! Nora said that her Wild Mushroom Hash would have been way too dry if it wasn’t for the runny egg.

I assumed that we would be food-trucking it that night, but Rob wanted to find another place in the neighborhood. Although I had a beer under my belt and was feeling almost hangry having had lunch around 11am, I could hardly say, “no” considering it was his birthday the next day and he had the day off. {Come back Thursday to find out where we dined post-Fulton!}

As Rob finished his last beer, I sipped on a Blueberry Cream House Made Soda {Yes! They have those, too!} It was a little over vanilla-ed for my taste. Then we stocked up on some Fulton purchases before heading our way out.

Fulton-3

Growler of Libertine + Fulton Pint Glass + the softest ever green Fulton t-shirt = awesomeness

Empty growler now = required trip back to Fulton.

Question: Who wants to join us?

Cheers~
Carrie