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Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Astonishing Quasi-Return of Mahar's

This is exciting news for local craft beer aficionados.   The Allen Street Pub near St. Peters is essentially becoming the new home of Mahar's, including the beer tour.  Here's the note on their website:

WE ARE PROUD TO CONTINUE THE TRADITION ESTABLISHED AT MAHAR'S PUBLIC BAR IN ALBANY NY.
AT THE ALLEN STREET PUB WE ARE BEGINNIG OUR TRANSITION INTO OFFERING CASK CONDITIONED ALES, A MULTITUDE OF BOTTLED BEER FROM AROUND THE WORLD AND WITHIN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS, WILL EXPAND OUR DRAUGHT VARIETY BY ADDING 24 NEW LINES.  WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE, WE WILL OFFER 28 DIFFERENT DRAUGHT BEERS ALONG WITH TWO BEER ENGINES.  
ON SATURDAY NOVEMBER 9TH AT 5:00 PM WE INVITE YOU DOWN TO THE PUB TO MEET US ALONG WITH A FEW OF OUR STAFF MEMBERS.  THERE WILL BE SOME CASK BEER ON TAP FEATURING A SESSION IPA FROM WANDERING STAR CRAFT BREWERY IN PITTSFIELD MA CALLED "SECOND BREAKFAST".  ADDITIONALLY WE WILL BE  SERVING SIX DIFFERENT BEERS ON TAP ALONG WITH SEVERAL BOTTLED BEERS.  THERE WILL BE AN OPEN DISCUSSION ABOUT THE TYPES OF BEER WE SHOULD SERVE AND HOPE FOR MAXIMUM PARTICIPATION.
WE ARE VERY PLEASED TO CONTINUE THE LEGACY JIM BUILT AND CAN'T WAIT TO HAVE EVERYTHING RUNNING FULL BLAST.  WE ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO MEETING YOU ON SATURDAY!
CHEERS!
PAUL ENGEL & STEVE KITCHEN
PUBLICANS, CO-OWNERS OF THE ASP

Particularly since it's walking distance from us, this is excellent news.  I'm sure we'll see some of you there!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dancing Ewe Cooking Class

My in-laws bought me a gift certificate to the Arts Center of the Capital Region for Christmas last year, and last week I used the certificate on a cooking class. It was so fun. Have you seen the Dancing Ewe Farm at the Troy Farmer's Market? They usually have a line of admiring onlookers and really attractive looking charcuterie. Dancing Ewe Farm is a farm in Washington County ran by Louisa and Jody Somers. They have 150 sheep , spend part of the year in Italy harvesting olives to make olive oil, and are all around really impressive, laid-back people. The class that I took was about how to make things with ricotta. I personally love ricotta, but I don't ever really know what to do with it.

First, Jody explained to us the whole history of making ricotta in Italy and what it is used for over there (hint: its not globbed into lasagna the way it is here, its more likely to be served with an appetizer plate and some bread slices).

Then, we made a dessert. It was a really delicious ricotta mousse.  Luisa said that she believes the secret to good cooking is using quality ingredients and simple recipes. She said most of the recipes she makes are from her mother in Italy, and that she doesn't change things up too much. The ricotta mousse was so much better than I was expecting, and she topped it with some of the fabulous fig marmalade they sell at the Troy Farmer's Market which had some lemon zest in it. Basically, she just whipped up some Battenkill Creamery heavy cream with some powdered sugar and rum and whipped in a pound of ricotta. So amazing. They also supplied us with wine pairings, which was very thoughtful. You can read the mousse recipe on their website.

Then, we learned how to make gnudi. I watched a Martha Stewart special on it once, but a lot of people didn't know what it was. Gnudi is basically the filling of ravioli made a little firmer, and then made without the pasta on the outside (nude in Italian). We made ours with swiss chard from the Troy Farmer's Market blanched and then chopped up, mixed up with ricotta, an egg, salt and pepper, and flour. You basically want it to be firm but still a little moist and light. Then we all rolled them up into balls that looked like cookies and rolled them in flour. We threw them into a pot that had a drizzle of olive oil in it and salt and you know they are done when they start to float. Then, we made a sauce with butter, salt and pepper, and sage. It was pure heaven. I couldn't believe how easy it was and how impressive it seemed after we made them. All of us in the class stood around with a real sense of accomplishment at the end, staring at our big bowl of gnudi. I said "Can we add basil or garlic?" and Luisa said "No, the flavors are too delicate, keep it exactly the way it is in the recipe." You can read the gnudi recipe on their website. Check them out:


Taking a cooking class is a fun thing to do - you meet new people, you learn new things, and you find that some things are really easy in practice that may seem difficult when you read about them in a cookbook. 


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Squash and Squash and Squash


A couple weeks ago I was at The Berry Patch in Stephentown looking at produce. They had 18 different kinds of delicious looking squash, and the nice farmer lady, Dale, told me I should try them all and blog about my comparisons between all the different types. Well, that was a great idea, but I have to say I'm not sure I can eat enough to keep up. I bought this beautiful Blue Hubbard from them at the farm store and then went on to buy an acorn and a butternut from them at the Troy Farmer's Market a couple weeks later, and just this first one alone created 10 portions of soup. Isn't it a beautiful squash? I had never really heard of a Blue Hubbard before, and it is so delicious. It has a really unique flavor - not too sweet like some other ones. It took me like an entire Saturday night to carve it on up.



I was talking on the phone to my mom for a very long time and at the end she said "That must be a whole lot of squash!" It was. I measured it - 6 pounds worth! Do you think its funny I spent a Saturday night talking on the phone to my mother? Yeah, just like this girl

The soup I made it all into turned out great. Want the recipe? It is from the New York Times Essential Cookbook with some changes I've made.


Squash Cider Soup

Heat a medium saucepan over low heat. Add one sliced shallot, one minced clove garlic, and 1/4 cup water and cook until the shallot and garlic are softened. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add three cups peeled, seeded and cubed squash and enough chicken broth to cover the squash. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the squash is soft probably like 20-40 minutes.

I use the immersion blender to puree it, and that works great. Puree it all and then add 3/4 cup apple cider 1/4 cup sour cream, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and blend until well combined. Top with more salt and pepper, and if it seems bland, maybe a splash of champagne vinegar.

Delicious! And very healthy.

This weekend we also visited the oldest winery in the country, Brotherhood Winery. Their wines are all very solid, and the space is beautiful. We brought home a bottle of their Dry Reisling and a bottle of Blanc de Blanc for our friends who were hosting a Halloween party. Fall fun all around!