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Kettle Brand Limited Batch Cheddar Beer Potato Chips

cheddar beer kettle chips

cheddar beer kettle chips

Kettle Brand Potato Chips has come a long way – over thirty years ago it began selling chips out of a van, and now it is the largest natural chip brand in the country.  What’s best is Kettle Brand is first potato chip maker to be verified by the Non-GMO Project.  In honor of its history, last year it launched four limited release bags of popular flavors.  We had not heard of the release nor any of the press around the celebrations in 2012, however we just found a bag of the cheddar beer variety at BevMo by chance that was still far from its expiration date.  Of all places, BevMo would be the place to find cheddar beer chips, especially when Kettle has a section on their website for pairing beer with chips.  Thick yet crispy and super crunchy, Kettle chips are known the world over for amazing texture and mouth appeal, .  Over a dozen flavors are all tempting, but cheddar beer might be one of the most creative.  The cheddar flavor is there but not strong, and the beer comes off more like a bittersweet essence mimicking hops and malt.  It’s a tasty chip that stands well on its own with no dip.

Pan-Seared Catfish with Papaya Chutney Over Creamy Cheddar Jalapeño Grits

To impress anyone’s palate in both flavor and intense spiciness, try this recipe.  It was the entree of our Can You Beat the Heat? dinner party for family, friends, and readers, and it was a hit; making it more enjoyable was the milkshake to help cool down between bites.

Makes 6 (it’s best to make this in small batches, even if you have way more than 6 guests)

• For the papaya chutney:

chutney ingredients

chutney ingredients

2 cups of peeled and seeded papaya meat

1/2 cup of diced red onion

1/4 cup of raisins

1/4 cup of water

1/8 cup of crystallized ginger

3 tbs. of red wine vinegar

2 tbs. of Blair’s Beyond Death Sauce

2 tbs. of brown sugar

1 tbs. of soybean oil

1 garlic clove

Pinch of salt

sauteing onion and garlic

sauteing onion and garlic

In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat to saute the diced red onion and garlic clove for about 6 minutes until tender.

stewing the chutney

stewing the chutney

Add all other ingredients, bring to a simmer, then reduce to the lowest heat setting and cook for about 30 minutes.

done

done

You want to achieve a consistency of a super thick and chunky applesauce.

• For the grits:

2 1/2 cups of water

1 1/2 cups of shredded cheddar cheese

1 1/2 cups of whole milk

1 cup of Bob’s Red Mill organic grits

3 tbs. of Blair’s Jalapeño Death Sauce

2 tbs. of butter

2 tbs. of kosher salt

Combine the water and milk in a small saucepan with the salt and bring to a light simmer on medium heat.  Once simmering, reduce to medium-low and add the grits and hot sauce.  Cook for 6-10 minutes, depending on the desired texture (shorter time for al dente, longer for softer).  Stir frequently and scrape down the sides and bottom of the pan to make sure nothing sticks.  After 6-10 minutes, remove from heat and stir in the cheese and butter.  Taste test for saltiness and add a pinch if necessary.  Let sit for a minute, then serve.

• For the catfish:

6 catfish filets

1 tbs. of butter

Salt and pepper for seasoning

Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat, and melt the butter.  Season both sides of the filets with salt and pepper, then lay each one in the pan, one at a time and 15 seconds apart so as not to shock-cool the pan and the butter.  Depending on the size of the pan, cook only 2-3 filets at a time.  Cook about 4 minutes on each side until they achieve a nice golden brown crust.  The fish will be firm and slightly flaky when done.

catfish, papaya chutney, cheddar jalapeño grits

catfish, papaya chutney, cheddar jalapeño grits

Layer the chutney over the filet on top of a scoop of grits.  Sprinkle a little more Jalapeño Death for good measure.

Walnut Creek Yacht Club, Walnut Creek CA

After a long day of personal and professional errands, we ended up in Walnut Creek for a late dinner and the Walnut Creek Yacht Club was still open.  Living in Oakland now, we had to seize the opportunity to dine here while in town, and we had been looking forward to tasting their famous super fresh seafood for some time.  Having a very close relationship with a seafood purveyor, all the seafood is guaranteed never frozen, in neither transport nor preparation.  The story on the back of the menu says that 99% of the items are made in house – our attentive, informative, and friendly waiter Tony attested that just about the only things not made in house are the ice cream from The Latest Scoop of Berkeley and the bread from Acme Bread Co.

jalapeño, cheddar & potato gratin

jalapeño, cheddar & potato gratin

There’s lots of “extra rigging,” or side dishes, and since Zach’s entree came with set sides, he added the gratin to try.  As a jalapeño and cheddar fan, he thought this was a cheesy gooey delight, and very spicy but with natural bold jalapeño flavor.  Don’t get us wrong, it’s not overly spicy but it’s definitely not mild, either.

pancetta wrapped rhode island monkfish

pancetta wrapped rhode island monkfish

Zach’s monkfish was well portioned, succulent, and with a texture between scallop and lobster.  It was tender enough to “melt in your mouth” and the crisp, perfectly rendered panceta added a little saltiness to each bite to enhance the flavor.  It came with a mushroom-herb risotto cake, which was crispy on the outside but with a soft center and deep, rich mushroom and thyme flavor.  It was “everything you would want in a risotto” but fried and with that wonderful mushroom flavor permeating throughout.  The mushrooms, like the asparagus, were hand picked by Joe Rubino Produce, and you can’t go wrong with supremely grilled local asparagus.  The sauce was tart and tangy with a red wine base and a slight earthiness from pink peppercorns.  Overall it was a very well-balanced dish

idaho rainbow trout with polenta fries

idaho rainbow trout with polenta fries

August’s piece of grilled rainbow trout had beautiful sear marks, and the taste was just as beautiful.  The texture was moist and flaky, and every nibble disappeared.  She thoroughly enjoyed the two sauces she chose from the myriad, stone ground mustard & dill and citrus scallion butter.  Under the delicious fish were four polenta fries with a zingy lemon aioli.  Crunchy outside with a typical polenta-texture inside, these were pleasantly surprising and distinctive.  An added bonus was the garnish pile with pickled onions; she doesn’t know if they were supposed to be more than a garnish, but they were good.

There’s no way for any boat, and clearly not a yacht, to get to Walnut Creek.  We always wondered why this restaurant/bar would be called “yacht club,” and we learned that it is indicative of the atmosphere that owners Ellen McCarty and Kevin Weinberg wish to create.  The seafood, though, is the main attraction and it never fails to put on a show.