Monthly Archive: May 2011

Tiny, she ain’t

And before you go trying to get me into trouble … I was referring to a beer!
Big bottle, big color, big taste.

You may recall Tiny as the beer that our friendly brewer Chad from the NoDa Brewery shared with us, while we were sampling at the Common Market beer tasting.

Weyerbacher describes this as:
“a Belgian inspired Imperial Stout weighing in at 11.8%.
You’ll find big chocolate and roasted notes, balanced with the Belgian flavors from the Abbey yeast strain.”

I found that this was quite a hit.

We bought a bottle, as we found the small sample couldn’t satisfy.

WineGirl couldn’t wait for me to start with my notebook, but I was able to collect a few of her thoughts:
“I don’t know if it goes with the pesto, but damn that’s good!”
and
“Probably one of the best beers I’ve ever had”
That’s high praise from a practiced drinker (not the pesto part, silly), and I was eager to dig in.

And now for the requisite review:

Serving: 22oz bottle and tulip-shaped glass
Appearance: Black like cola with a mocha-colored head
Smell: Cocoa, smoke
Taste: Cocoa, Cola (not coca-cola), and molasses; alcohol bite on the finish.
Mouthfeel: Velvety. Full but not chewy. The carbonation is just right.

We both really liked this beer, in spite of the pesto, and the taste coupled with the professional recommendation earn this our highest rating.

Go grab a bottle of Tiny, but you better use both hands!
5 of 5 Kegs

Beer Guy

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Chocolate Steak

Last Friday night I had one of the most intriguing entrees that I’ve ever eaten.  You remember that BG whisked me away for my 35th birthday, right?  As part off our reservations at the Mast Farm Inn, we were scheduled to have dinner there on Saturday night, leaving Friday’s dinner up for grabs.  Upon recommendation from the Inn Keeper we decided to try Crippen’s in the nearby mountain town of Blowing Rock.

The weather was perfect, so we opted to dine al fresco in the front garden.

We were warned, both by the Maitre’D and our server that a family of ducks lived there so that we wouldn’t be alarmed if they decided to come fuss at us for dining in their happy home.  Fortunately they did not decide to fuss, but I was at least hoping to catch a glimpse of them.

I have to say, for a “country inn restaurant” in a relatively small town, this place had quite an eclectic menu and a wine list to match.  For apps we enjoyed Popcorn Dusted Sea Scallops with Bacon Creamed Corn.

Yes, that’s actual crumbled popcorn on the top.  We also had a little bread with our choice of three dipping or spreading options:  homemade butter, white bean hummus, or olive oil infused with a Scotch Bonnet pepper.

Let me tell you, that last one had a kick!  Of course, no lovely dinner out is complete without a nice bottle of wine.  Our server told us that all the wines in the list had been hand picked by the chef to compliment the current menu, so anything we chose would be complimentary to our meal.  We decided to go with an Australian Shiraz.

Of course, I’ve got to do my thing.

It was nice, but given the richness of my entree I think I would have preferred a full-bodied Cab.  And speaking of entrees…

That’s what this whole post is boiling down to.  BG ordered a Juniper Marinated Venison Tenderloin.

Oh, and FYI – it was floating in a Blueberry Sauce with Truffle Goat Cheese Mashed Potatoes on the side.  I just want to make sure y’all got all that -

TRUFFLE GOAT CHEESE MASHED POTATOES!!!

The only thing I can manage to say about that is – DDDAAAAMMMMNNN!  Truth be told, even though they came with BG’s entree, I ate about half of them. :)

As awesome as those potatoes were, I have to admit that they were not the star of the show.  That, instead, would be my entree – the Bittersweet Chocolate Infused Espresso Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Irish Cream Sauce and White Cheddar Potato Au Gratin.

Now, the concept of cocoa, coffee, and steak was not new to me.  While on our 10th anniversary trip to the Russian River Valley, I enjoyed an Espresso Crusted Filet in a Cocoa Cabernet Sauce at Mosaic in Forestville, CA.  Let me tell you, that was out of this world!  Needless to say, I was expecting something similar this time around.  But what I got…

was chocolate OOZING out of my steak as I cut into it.  Seriously.  No, SERIOUSLY!!  Check out that pick again.  Please note the oozing!

According to our server, it is prepared by slicing the tenderloin and having a bittersweet chocolate square placed inside before it is then rolled in crushed espresso beans and cooked.  It sounds weird but it was INCREDIBLE.  I, of course, let BG have a bite of this unique dish.  He agreed with me, but stated “It’s hard to tell whether that is dinner or dessert.”

I didn’t care, though.  How many times in her life does a girl get to say she had CHOCOLATE STEAK for dinner?

Cheers y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/831

Hidden In Plain Sight

So did you figure it out? You know, the hints…my secret birthday getaway… Well, I certainly didn’t figure it out.  BG kept telling me that I had all the information I needed to figure it out, but in the end he had to spell it out for me.  After he finally told me where we were going, I have to say, he was right.  All the info he gave me adds up to exactly where we landed, although, as he so astutely pointed out, I would have had an easier time figuring it out from his clues if I had remembered them correctly.  Apparently, I left a couple key words out of the hints that I posted here.  So let me correct myself and add up the hints for you.

Hint #1-
(My version) It’s in the valley of  “sportiness” and “loveliness.”

(His version) It’s in the VALLEY of “loveliness.”

Ok, important word here is valley.  Apparently, I merged two hints in my head.  Note the discrepancy between my version and his version above.  His second hint was

Hint #2 – It will be a CROSS between “sportiness” and “loveliness.”

Take home message from this hint – cross.  There was no dispute between his version and my version of the third hint.  Like I mentioned before, “sportiness” meant that we took our bikes.

Hint #3 - It’s north of Georgia, east of Nashville, south of Ohio, and it’s not a beach.

Based on that one, I had myself convinced we were going somewhere in Virginia.  I was wrong, but the description fit the bill exactly.  It’s not my fault, really.  BG overestimated how long it would take us to get there.

Hint #4 - It’s 3.5-4 hrs from Charlotte .

Not exactly.  It only took us 3 hrs to get there from Charlotte.  And, I was right – this was by car.  Knowing the actual commute time now, I see that Virginia was a stretch.  We did not leave NC.

Hint #5 – MASTerful!

I was clueless on this one…Let’s add all these up, shall we?

VALLEY + CROSS+ MAST+NC+SPORTY & LOVELY = The Mast Farm Inn in Valle Crucis, NC!!

The website leaves a little to be desired, but the inn most certainly does not.  Check it out…

The Grounds

Of course no Southern inn is complete with out a big ol’ porch to sit on and enjoy a glass of wine before supper.

And all that is just the outside!  Inside there was a lovely little bar and place to purchase yummy Southern goodies as well as other assorted loveliness.

Guess what I found when we got to our room…

Don’t think for one second that I didn’t jump in there in the morning and sip my coffee while reading my book!  And, speaking of coffee, look what was left outside our door at 8am each morning.

Such a lovely little basket of coffee.  Of course, the REAL treats were served downstairs at breakfast!

(Day 1 Yogurt Parfait)

(Day 1 - Potato/Mushroom Quiche, Grits, Sausage, Biscuit, & Fruit)

(Day 2 - Ricotta/Herb Streusel)

(Day 2 - Baked French Toast with Bacon)

I’m pretty sure I gained a pound for every year of my age this weekend.  Unfortunately, we weren’t able to bring the food or the chef home with us, but we did manage to grab some souvenirs on the way out.

I couldn’t help but notice that these resembled the mugs we brought home from my all time favorite inn and vacation spot.

I think we’ve started a collection!

I’ve got to say, spending the weekend at the Mast Farm Inn in the beautiful NC mountains certainly took the edge off the Big 3-5! Stay tuned!  There’s more birthday deliciousness to come!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Permanent link to this article: http://kitchendoesnttravel.com/blog/archives/830

The Hints

I have a confession to make. My big 3-5 is looming. That’s right. In less than a week I will be 35 yrs old. How did THAT happen? Wasn’t I just in college? I’m not really bothered about officially being in my mid-thirties. I’m just not all that excited about the fact that I will soon round up to 40.  Again…how did that happen? Didn’t I just get married? How is that I’m now within arms length of my 40’s? Seriously? WOW!!

This thought process is spurning a lot of self-reflection…you’ll probably hear more about that as I process it.

So, while I’m not all that excited about the fact that my pending birthday will be my 35th birthday, I am excited that it is my birthday in general. I’ve always loved my birthday. My mom always made such a fuss over my birthday and I guess it’s always stuck with me. So, despite the ever increasing number associated with my birthday, I generally start getting giddy at the thought of it weeks ahead of time.

In an effort to ease the blow of this milestone year, BG has decided to whisk me away for a birthday weekend getaway. Much to my delight AND chagrin, he refuses to tell me where he’s taking me. I love surprises, but at the same time I’m dying to know. I beg and plead with him to tell me, then he’ll say “Ok. Do you really want to know? If you do, I’ll tell you right now.” In response to which I take a deep breath, squeal and say “No! It’s not my birthday. It’s not time!!”

BG finds this little dance very amusing. I’m pretty sure that if I actually said yes he’d refuse anyway. He just likes teasing me. So, to either appease my excruciating curiosity or just confuse me more, he’s been giving me hints. See if you can help me figure it out…

Hint# 1 – It’s in the valley of  “sportiness” and “loveliness.”

From this I’ve gotten him to admit that we will be taking the bikes with us.

Hint# 2 – It’s north of Georgia, east of Nashville, south of Ohio, and it’s not a beach.

Umm…there’s like a million places that fit that description.

Hint #3 – It’s about a 3.5-4 hr trip from Charlotte.

He won’t specify whether that is by plane or by car.  Although, I doubt he’d torture me by making me fly on my birthday, and I think that since we are taking the bikes it’s probably a road trip.

Hint #4 – Masterful!

And…what am I supposed to glean from that exactly?

He’s been on a business trip for the last three days and promises me a great hint upon his return.  In his absence, though, I’ve been scouring the internet trying to figure it out.  Here are some options I’ve come across.

The Grove Park Inn and Spa in Asheville –

(Image courtesy of ashevillenc.com)

Well it sort of goes with Hint #1 in that I hear the inn is just beautiful and there are tons of places to go biking around Asheville.  But…I think this would be considered more of a mountain getaway versus a “valley.”  It’s certainly “north of Georgia, east of Nashville, south of Ohio, and not a beach.”  As far as Hint #4 is concerned, it supposedly has one of the best spas in the U.S.  I’d think that fulfills the “masterful” requirement.  But…it might be too close to Charlotte to meet the 3.5-4 hr commute.  Plus, we’re going to spend a weekend in Asheville in August.  So, I’m not sure he’d repeat cities that rapidly. Hmm…

What about the Inn at Westwood Farm in Orange, Virginia?

(Image courtesy of http://www.innatwestwoodfarm.com/)

The best I can tell, this seems to be in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  The Inn looks to be quite lovely…especially as it is within driving distance of Barboursville Vineyards (Oh how I love visiting a vineyard!).  Plus with all that surrounding beautiful Virginia nature there’s lots of places to bike about and be sporty.  Location requirements?  Check!  According to my iPhone GPS, though, it’s a 5-hr drive from Charlotte.  This may be too far away to be it.

Speaking of Barboursville Vineyards, looks like there’s an inn on site there.

(Image courtesy of http://www.barboursvillewine.net/winery/the-1804-inn)

The 1804 Inn to be exact.  Of course, if BG took me there, I might think that I died and went to heaven rather than celebrated yet another year of life.

Maybe I’m looking too far north. What about Charleston?

The term “lovely” doesn’t even begin to do this gem of city justice.  We’ve been there before, but it’s been a while, and we’ve been talking about wanting to go back. There’s not much about Charleston that I would consider to be sporty, though.  It certainly fits the regional and commute hints. Although, while not technically consider a beach town, it may be too coastal to be a match.  And, I’m not sure how the “valley” terminology would fit here.  Best to keep looking…

Dare I hope and pray?  Could it possibly be Blackberry Farm?

(Image courtesy of http://www.blackberryfarm.com/farm)

This place meets nearly all the hint requirements…except the valley bit.  Word of warning, BG.  If this is it, I may refuse to leave!!

Where ever it is, I know I’ll love it and I’ll be thrilled to spend a long weekend, just hanging with my guy!  In the meantime, if anybody else has any thoughts or interpretations of the clues, hook a girl up!  I’M ABOUT TO BURST!!!!!!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

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He Said/She Said: To Market We Go!

BG was one of those lucky folks who got Good Friday off of work. Unfortunately for me, healthcare does not adhere to all national holidays. While enjoying his day off, BG treated himself to a haircut and apparently got into a nice beer discussion with his stylist. She – aghast that as a fellow beer lover didn’t know about this place – tipped him off to a local beer gem, The Common Market. While I was slaving away in the speech therapy world, I got a text from BG at precisely 12:55 pm saying “Going to check out a new beer store in Plaza Midwood.”

Somebody’s enjoying his day off…

Four hours later I got a follow-up text “Beer tasting next Wed at 6:30 – Common Market.” Ok, sounds fun. Have you been there all this time? I returned home to find three new beers in my fridge

and a giddy, smiling husband in my kitchen.

Wednesday finally rolled around and off to The Market we went!

Upon entering, there is a distinct “convenience store” vibe.  You know, candy aisle, sodas, etc.  But as you keep walking towards the back a whole new world appears.  There’s an entire wall of beer – GOOD, CRAFT BEER – not just your typical garden-variety convenience store beer collection.  Then there are crates and crates of wine tagged with ratings and tasting notes.

These are capped off with a mini Wine Bar/Tap “Room” just before heading out the back door and onto the patio…where you can eat your fresh gourmet deli sandwiches.

To our surprise, the Charlotte Beer Club, which we didn’t know existed (Sign us up?  Yes, please!) was there for the tasting.  “On tap” for the tasting were 4 beers from the Southern Tier Brewing Co.

First up was the Southern Tier Hop Sun –

He Said: Pours a clear, pale straw color with minimal head. Wheat taste, with a dry finish.
Even though they gave out free pint glasses, for some reason we started with the plastic cups — so perhaps the “Dixie Cup Ambiance” reduced the head a little.

She Said: I’d drink this in the summer…although it is a smidge dry and hoppy for my taste.  Nice crisp finish.  And do I detect a bit of citrus?  Lemon maybe?

As with all tastings, the pours were small. :)

Next up was the Southern Tier IPA

He Said: Pours clear, golden with little head. Crisp and floral, but I’m having trouble smelling the beers today. Perhaps it’s the Dixie cups, perhaps it’s the North Carolina allergies.

She Said: I can smell ‘em!  Nice floral nose.  And after the first sip…WHOOO-that’s hoppy!   Another crisp and light finish.  I know enough to know this is a nice representative of the varietal but…

WineGirl clarified, “I’m generally not a fan of IPA’s”.
BeerGuy countered, “I’m generally not a fan of Dixie cups”, as he picked up the free glass for the next round.

Round three – Southern Tier IBA.  That is, the Iniquity Imperial Black Ale.

He Said: Yum! I got this in a snifter when we first walked in. To give away my secrets, the BeerGuy tends to head straight for the bar upon entering a drinking establishment, and then beer in hand, turns to take in the environment.

My one note was “Get a Bottle!” It’s too big and black to shortchange, so we’ll write up a separate review.

She Said: By this point in the game I was too busy being sociable to make tasting notes or take pics.  Luckily a bottle of this came home with us, so, as BG promised, a more detailed review will come later.  I may not have made a lot of notes, but I do remember that I liked it and was intrigued by the uniqueness of the black ale.  Third time’s the charm, right?

And finally, the Southern Tier Jah-Va…an Imperial Coffee Stout.

He Said: When I first visited, Thomas (manager?, owner?, enthusiastic beer-dude!) recommended this so highly that I took one home for the WineGirl. We haven’t popped it yet, and I had trouble smelling the sample at the tasting, so we’ll write this up separately. High hopes, though, that we’ve found a new breakfast beer.  :)

She Said:  Ah…a beer after my own heart!  Again, no formal notes from the tasting, but there’s a bottle in the fridge!!

Some may say that the star of the tasting show tonight was the Southern Tier Brewing Co., but I say it was the camaraderie.  You see, this was one of the most unorganized laid back tastings I’ve ever been to.  Don’t get me wrong. The laid back vibe totally fit the atmosphere. I’m just saying that usually at a tasting, the pouring is very organized, the beers are brought out on a schedule and the brew master or beer company rep really wants to talk to you about the beer and describe the taste, process, philosophy of the brew.  Here, the tasters just mingled and socialized and the hosts seemed to randomly decide to open up the next brew, giving a pour to whomever held their glass out the fastest.

While that put my little OCD heart on edge, the mingling allowed us to get to know some of our fellow beer enthusiasts.

We chatted with 1) the head of the Charlotte Beer Club, 2) a naturopathic physician who just happens to brew a little on the side, and 3) the Brew Master of the new NoDa Brewing Co. (scheduled to open in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood this fall).  These people are true beer lovers who want not just to enjoy the beer for themselves, but to share it with others as well.  To that end as the NoDa Brew Master was describing to us a particular beer he loved, he stopped mid-sentence, grabbed a bottle of it out of the cooler, opened it up, and shared it with us.  Ladies and gentlemen, meet TINY.

Brought a bottle of this home too…and it gets a post all to itself.

Believe it or not, TINY, wasn’t the only privately purchased bottle someone shared with us out of good-beer will.  Another fine young lad simply smiled and handed over a bottle of this from his 6-pack after the naturopathic physician complimented him on his beer choice.

We split it three ways.  Once again, BG has deemed this one good enough for its own post.  So…stay tuned!

All in all, this evening included three of my favorite things – good beer, good conversation, and good atmosphere.  Not bad for being out on a school night!  And, P.S., guess who does wine tastings every Tuesday night?  You got it, The Common Market.  After this evening’s success, it is safe to say we’ll definitely be checking that out very soon!

Cheers, y’all!

Wine Girl

Beer Guy

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