Monthly Archives: April 2013

Mikkeller Monk’s Brew

(Always drink responsibly.  Seek help when alcohol affects your life and the lives of those around you.  For readers of a legal drinking age.)

mikkeller monk's brew

mikkeller monk’s brew

This is the third Mikkeller beer I have tasted, and if there’s one trend among all three distinct brews, it was that each was super impactful in its own way.  This time, I was overcome by the tangy, fruity quality; this 10% ABV/unknown IBU Belgian ale is brewed with raspberries and aged in wine barrels.  For being an ale, it didn’t have the bitter ale taste characteristic of the style; its fruitiness was so complex for me, I had to enlist Zach’s help in writing about this one (he’s the superior supertaster between us).  My nose reminded me of fruitcake when I poured the glass and before I read the label.  When I noticed “raspberries” explicitly printed, I totally smelled it.  The flavor in its aftertaste lingers pleasantly as fermented fruit.  Therefore, there was some acidity and astringency from the tannins, typically not found in beer.  Your palate can appreciate that real raspberries were used.

Grilled Flank Steak with Chimichurri, Elote Corn on the Cob, and Jalapeño Cheddar Mashed Potatoes

There are so many variations on meat and potatoes, it doesn’t even compare to Bubba listing different types of shrimp preparation in Forrest Gump.  With Cinco de Mayo fast approaching, we’re doing a nod to Mexican flavors with elotes y chimichurri.  Okay, to be honest, elotes are Mexican but chimichurri, derived from tximitxurri, is Basque for “a little of this, a little of that.”  Many Hispanic cultures have adopted the word chimichurri to describe a sauce that usually has garlic, olive oil, lime juice, and a combination of fresh herbs.  August tried making chimichurri once in 2007; it was that memorable because it took her two hours to mince all the ingredients without a food processor!

Serves 4 as per the recipes (but we only did 2 corn ears for ourselves)

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• For the mashed potatoes:

4 large Yukon Gold potatoes, washed

1/2 to 3/4 cup of fat free milk, depending on desired consistency

1/2 cup of shredded Rumiano mild cheddar cheese

1 jalapeño pepper

4 tbs. of butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Over an open heat source like a stove top burner, hold the pepper over the heat until the skin blackens and the pepper slightly softens.  Put in a bowl and cover in plastic wrap to steam for 10 minutes.  This will help cook it further, and make the skin very easy to remove; remove the skin once it’s cool enough to touch.  Split in half and discard the seeds.  Dice up the pepper and set aside.

In a medium pot, boil the potatoes in about 12-16 cups of water, or at least so they are covered by water.  Cook low heat to achieve a slow boil so that the potatoes don’t break apart.  Boil for about 45 minutes or until a thin, sharp knife easily sinks in.

Drain potatoes in a strainer.  Add the milk and butter to the potato pot, then transfer the potatoes back in along with all other ingredients; Chef Zach recommends to start with about 2 tsp. of salt.  That might sound like a lot of salt to some people, but potatoes need a lot of it.  Mix with a hand mixer on low speed until thoroughly mixed.

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• For the avocado butter:

1 medium-size avocado

2 oz. of softened butter

A pinch of salt

avocado butter

avocado butter

Mash the avocado with a fork, then add the butter and salt and thoroughly incorporate.

• For the corn:

4 ears of corn (although we did 2)

Avocado butter

1/4 cup of crumbled queso fresco

1/2 of one lime

Paprika for dusting

Shuck and clean the corn.  Grill on a barbecue or open grill for 10-12 minutes, or until the corn just starts to brown.  Not every single kernel has to be brown (notice the pictures throughout the article).

Spread the ears with avocado butter, squeeze the lime for juice, dust paprika, and evenly sprinkle the queso fresco.

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• For the steak’s chimichurri sauce:

1 cup of lightly packed flat leaf parsley

1 cup of lightly packed cilantro

3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil

1 shallot

4 garlic cloves

3 tbs. of red wine vinegar

2 tbs. of fresh lime juice

1 tsp. of salt

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Combine all ingredients except for the olive oil in a food processor.  Pulse the food processor about 15 times to break down the herbs but not completely liquify them.  Turn the food processor to ON and slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream.

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Once all the oil has been added and mixed in, set aside until serving.

•For the flank steak:

1 1/2 lbs. of pasture-raised beef flank steak

1 tbs. of paprika

1 tbs. of kosher salt

1 tsp. of ground cumin

1 tsp. of garlic powder

1 tsp. of onion powder

1/2 tsp. of ground white pepper

Mix all the dry ingredients to make a rub.  With your hands, work the rub all over all surfaces of the flank steak.  Let sit in on a sheet pan the refrigerator for an hour, covered with plastic wrap.

guest appearance by bea

guest appearance by our dog bea

If you’re following this recipe and good with your timing, the grill will already be on for the elotes.  Grill the flank steak on each side for 4-5 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cut.  Don’t fidget with the steak; the only times you should touch it are when you put it on the grill, flip it, and remove it.

Slice on the bias, against the grain, for thin strips.  Garnish with chimichurri (and serve in Arakawa Pottery).

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2013 Asparagus Festival, Stockton CA

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For three days, 129 non-profit organizations of San Joaquin County kept the 2013 Asparagus Festival exciting and active.  After our experience yesterday, we were so happy to attend a festival today that heartily celebrated the food in the event’s name.

Asparagus is part of the lily family; if not harvested, eventually the tip of the stalk flowers.  It is a liver protector, we learned, and an excellent hangover cure because of that – important information for many of the revelers out today.

Multiple stages with big bands (like Gin Blossoms!) and local talent, shopping vendors, children’s activities, dog agility competitions, paddleboats, and a sea lion exhibit were some of the non-asparagus things entertaining the masses, just like there was lots of non-asparagus food.  But there was plenty of asparagus-loaded food, and we eagerly tried it all!

The Asparagus Festival takes up a HUGE part of Stockton, and we were lucky enough to find the last parking spot in a private lot that was close(ish) to an entrance.  All the same, it required a little bit of walking to get to the booth to buy food and beverage tickets ($1 per ticket, and most items were 3-6 tickets).  Not long after getting our first batch of tickets, and well before making our way to Asparagus Alley where all the non-profits were working to serve up asparagus fare, we found a stand of margarita machines.  These weren’t typical, of course; why are we here again?  Yes, we tried an asparagus margarita brought by The Margarita Man!  Honestly the asparagus taste was very, very mild, as likely the alcohol helps to cancel out the chlorophyll.  But it was refreshing and quenching on this hot day in the valley.

asparagus sliders

asparagus sliders

Sweet Delights, which normally does standard event food, made sure to bring asparagus items.  The asparagus sliders were delightful, something that we would eat in real life if available.  The slider patties were essentially like asparagus fritters or mini veggie burgers with an asparagus base.  From being fried, the exterior was thin and crispy and the inside was a delicate texture.  Ripe, sweet tomatoes and fresh mixed greens were simple toppings, sandwiched in little soft French rolls.  An added bonus was the pesto aioli spread, a much better pairing than something like plain mayonnaise would have been.

asparagus gyro

asparagus gyro

Also from Sweet Delights, the asparagus gyro was served more like a pizza, even being sliced into four quarters.  It started with a pesto base covered in gooey mozzarella, then more of the same ripe, sweet tomatoes, and grilled asparagus that maintained just a little bit of natural crunch.  For how simple it was, it was a great vegetarian flatbread pizza.

asparagus lemonade

asparagus lemonade

Sweet Delights went above and beyond, even bringing asparagus lemonade.  We never would have come upon this idea ourselves because it just doesn’t seem normal, but folks, it works.  It was made with real lemons, wasn’t overly sweet, and had a nice, mild, asparagus aftertaste.



We made our way to Asparagus Alley, where groups of fraternity brothers, AT&T associates, and community members worked together under huge tents to accommodate the demand for asparagus.  Asparagus burritos were made with steak and refried beans, served with a side of scratch salsa.  The steak was freshly grilled, tender, and very flavorful; the asparagus was also grilled, and the beans were homemade.  It was a really good burrito, and if in a taquería, it’s something that we would order.

asparagus steak sandwich

asparagus steak sandwich

Like a hoagie and with the same steak as the burrito, the asparagus sandwich was just as tasty.  Instead of refried beans, it had grilled onions which were cooked just right.  Throw some cheese on here, and it would be an excellent version of a Philly cheesesteak.  August wanted more, but we had to be responsible and eat just a little so that we could try other things, as well.

asparagus pasta

asparagus pasta

The asparagus pasta was like the pasta salad August grew up with, except with asparagus.  Fresh tomatoes, black olives, mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, cracked black pepper, and grilled asparagus made for a great mix that we’ll likely recreate at home.  Hearty but light, refreshing and filling, this would be good for a side dish or a main entree.

multiple stations for cranking out deep fried asparagus

multiple stations for cranking out deep fried asparagus

Deep fried asparagus, being the most familiar item, was undoubtedly the most popular, and the event planners knew it would be so they planned accordingly.  This is just a fraction of the area cordoned off for making batches of hot stalks.

deep fried asparagus

deep fried asparagus

So of course we tried some, but they fell a little flat.  We don’t blame the volunteers, we know it’s tough working like they were, but to be honest we got to try a stalk fried in lumpia, gifted to us by the Margarita Man at the start of the day, and that was awesome.

asparaberry shortcake

asparaberry shortcake

Like the asparagus lemonade, asparagus strawberry shortcake is not something we thought we’d ever see.  And also like the lemonade, it really works.  The pound cake (yes, there was a little bit under there) was fresh and rich, and we only wish there was more of it.  The strawberries were ripe and in a decadent syrup, the whipped cream was made with real cream, and blanched asparagus bits provided color and flavor.  In Zach’s opinion, forget that it’s asparagus – it’s no different than adding a little mint to your dessert.  Not saying that asparagus tastes like mint, but you get it.  It’s a garnish, and it was good.

asparagus ice cream

asparagus ice cream

Finally, what everyone wants to know about: we present the asparagus ice cream.  With a rich, creamy, vanilla base, this was light with asparagus flavor.  Don’t let the deep green color fool you.  It’s more of a novelty, but it was still yummy.  There were no unhappy children eating this!  If you have a hard time introducing your kids to new foods, this would be a great way to do it.

What a day!  We barely scratched the surface, since we came on Day 3 and with only two of us, we couldn’t be in enough different places to catch it all.  For example, it would have been nice to see the professional chef competition or the asparagus eating challenge, but now we know to plan for more time to dedicate next year.  With lots of kids stuff, many crafts booths, and plenty of alcohol stands, there really was something for everyone here.