Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Beer And Chocolate - Yeah it's A Thing

For the last couple of years, we have celebrated February as Chocolate month at Paradocx Vineyard. After all, chocolate deserves an entire month. Our wine maker selects PDX wines and pairs with local handmade truffles from Nuechatel Swiss Chocolates.

Last year, as we were rolling out craft beer for the first time, I was asked to pair beer with chocolate truffles.

When I mentioned I would pair craft beer with chocolate, I got a few puzzled looks like "is that a thing"? or "I never heard of beer and chocolate". Well, I am here to tell you, not only is it a thing, but it pairs better than wine. What a bold statement-don't tell Gabriel!

Let me explain why. First, it's not just chocolate that pairs so well with beer but all foods, even those challenging wine pairing foods, such as asparagus and eggplant. Oh, and don't let me get started on cheese. I will save that for another post.

Before you understand why beer pairs so well with foods, especially chocolate is to understand a few tasting characteristics of beer. Remember there are over 100 beer styles, not to mention the ever changing amount of sub-styles. 

What difference does this make? Well, the many styles are so diverse in flavor, color, body, aroma, that for every single food, there is a beer to accompany it.

Think of the many flavors and textures of food. Take the 5 tastes. Salty, Sweet, Sour, Bitter and Umami. You have foods that are acidic like citrus and vinegar, you have spicy foods like jalapeno and horseradish, sweet foods like caramel and cake, salty foods like popcorn and chips, savory foods like mushrooms and eggplant and tomatoes,  poultry, lamb, beef, game, fish, shellfish, greens, herbs, spices, milk, yogurt, candy and potatoes, etc.

Now with beer, You can have sour beers, fruity beers, wheat beers, dark, smokey beers, creamy beers, spicy beers, pumpkin beers, chocolate beers, coffee beers, toasty beers, dry beers, sweet beers. bitter beers, light beers, strong beers, and it goes on and on. Beers that range from 3.5 % abv to 21% abv..

I am not going to get too nerdy, but here are a few good examples. 

Pair strong bitter chocolates with big strong malty beers such as barley wines and Belgium Doubles. Go with a salted caramel with a brown ale. Hoppy beers are a challenge. Try a chocolate with Grand Marnier or a citrus flavored truffle with an IPA.

Also, try a rich dark chocolate with a sweet Lambic Framboise. Here is one I like, Dark chocolate with Smokey Rauchbiers. And finally a pumpkin beer with a cinnamon chocolate truffle.

One Final Thought

You don't Say

How many times have you heard or said to yourself. "I was wrong the whole time?" well apparently I was too, or shall I say I just didn't know.

No Germans were harmed in making this 

Did you know that the German Chocolate Cake has no German (country) origins whatsoever? Neither did I. So in 1852, an American named Sammual German, who worked for the Baker Chocolate company, developed a dark chocolate for the company and later was branded as Baker German's Sweet Chocolate.  

In 1957, a homemaker, Mrs George Clay developed a chocolate cake she called German's Chocolate Cake using Baker's German's Chocolate. The recipe became a hit and Baker chocolates became a huge success.

I'm The King Of The World

Milton Hershey, the founder of Hershey's Chocolate almost met his demise aboard the Titanic. Thankfully, he and his wife had important business matters to attend to, and canceled their trip. Would that have been the end of Hershey Kisses, or would his status as a chocolate giant have secured his seat in one of the not so many life boats. 

Chocolate Love

In Mexico and Central America, Cocoa beans were so luxurious they were once used as currency. 4 beans would get you a pumpkin, 10 beans would get you a rabbit and another 10 would get you a lady for the night.

Wife: Where were you all night? You were supposed to bring home dinner.

Husband: Sorry, they were all out of rabbits. 

Friday, January 19, 2018

Take Our wine, Please!

I am from Delaware but, I work here in PA. Don't worry, it's not like I am traveling two hours away, though I did that once before. In PA, there is a thing called BYOB, Bring your own bottle. You probably knew that, but in Delaware, there is no such thing, as far as a restaurant is concerned.

In Kennet Square, at our shop and bar at The Market At liberty Place, we have quite a few customers purchase a bottle of Paradocx wine to take to their local BYOB restaurant. This is great news for them, and us. We happen to be conveniently located in the center of town on State Street, where you can just stroll on down to your favorite restaurant.

I thought, in this post, I would tell you folks about some of your options. I will break this up into cuisines.

The first is the one I hear the most about, Portabellos,  located at 115 West State Street, just a short stroll from The Market. I have yet to dine there. So sad, but the menu is amazing and I love how the menu reflects the seasons. The winter menu is hearty and diverse. Oh, and expect some clever mushroom preparations as well-it is Kennett Square after all. Some sample dishes include the Beef Stroganoff made with short ribs and Crimini Mushrooms. Another offering is the Crispy Duck with French cherries and a Merlot reduction. You had me at crispy duck.

What to bring? Try our 2015 Merlot for the duck and our 2013 Cabernet Franc with the Stroganoff.

Another choice within close proximity is Lily Asian Restaurant at 104 West Street in Kennett Square, PA. Lilys specializes in super fresh sushi, but also prepares other Asian favorites, such as Pad Thai and Kung Pao Chicken. The food is incredibly fresh and well seasoned. They are also well known for their Tuesday all you can eat sushi. You may want to arrive early for that one. Take our 2016 Vidal Blanc or Pinot Grigio for the sushi.

Finally, if you're in the mood for a no-frills authentic Mexican restaurant then look no further then La Pena at 609 West Cyprus Street Kennett Square, PA. This is definitely my go to when all I crave is authentic Mexican. Now they do offer a few classic Tex-Mex dishes but this is the real deal. Tamales, beef tongue tacos, dried beef chilaquillas, etc. Take our Barn Red or White Wash to cut through the spiciness. 

One Final Thought

Say what? In English please

"Please Pass the Jelly."

Do you remember that commercial in the 80s? A bunch of people are sitting at a well dressed table enjoying a fancy meal and they continue to ask for the Polaner All Fruit Spread, but when it comes to a less posh guest, in a southern accent, he says "please pass the jelly" - Classic. 

Do you also remember when we were kids and we picked up a menu and under the entree section, it said Lasagna, 8.99, and that was pretty much it. We knew what to expect and didn't really question it. We ordered it. Maybe we liked it. Maybe we didn't. 

Fast forward to the 90s and present time, and the description of a menu item is like taking a foreign language, with a whole lot of fluff and BS.  Does work?

Tell me if this sounds familiar? 

Dry-aged and free-ranged porterhouse, pan roasted with caramelized pearl onions and served with a red wine reduction sauce, accompanied with Gorgonzola laced polenta. Say what?

Here is how it translates: Beef that comes from cattle that has been allowed to roam around on it's own, then cut by a master butcher into large portions of beef, then hung up in a special air controlled room for several weeks or months then cut into thick tender steaks.

Placed into a preheated super hot pan then finished cooking in the oven. Then we take pealed pearl onions, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper then roasted in the oven until sweet and sticky. Maybe honey was added, who knows? 

There is more. When the steak is done (Medium Rare), you remove from the pan, pour in wine, and reduce to a sauce. Maybe butter is added, maybe beef stocked is added. who cares? It sounds great. Finally, you serve it with cornmeal mush that has had Italian blue cheese added. Yummy but who knew? 

New straightforward boring description

Steak with little onions and wine sauce served with cheesy cornmeal mush. 

Which would you want?

Here are a few other over-described menu descriptions:

Roasted shallot brined pork tenderloin, grilled to perfection and topped with a chiffanade of Thai basil and sake macerated watermelon. 

Grilled to perfection? Like the alternative is to grill it to mediocre?  Duh. Brined? Fancy term for salty marinade. Macerated? That's a term for steeped in liquid. Chiffanade of basil?  Herbs cut in thin strips. I just love it.

Cold smoked salmon crostini topped with roasted garlic and tarragon aioili served along side a salad of toasted  couscous and candied orange zest. 

Cold smoked? Is that possible? It's really smoking meats or seafood at low temperatures. Crostini, what's that?  Bread slices. Toasted couscous? Couscous that has been added to a hot pan maybe with oil until lightly brown and toasty. Aioili? That's mayonnaise. And finally candied orange zest. The peel of an orange dried with sugar. Boom! 

Seared Jamon wrapped chicken breast with grilled radicchio and sage infused olive oil, topped with pan grilled local stone fruit, drizzled with a reduction of barrel aged balsamic vinegar. 

Jamon is the French word for ham, and radichio, which is a leaf vegetable in the chicory family. Very Italian, usually red leaves. Stone fruit is simply summer fruit with a large hard seed such as peaches, nectarines and plums.Why didn't you just say so? 

Reduction of barrel aged balsamic? The good stuff  (red wine vinegar) is typically barrel aged anyway, and a reduction is no more than cooking a liquid down to a thicker substance, intensifying the flavor. Forget the drizzle, just cover the whole thing.

Is all the fluff really worth it? Maybe. I like it to a point. Sometimes I find it to be a little over the top, but it does certainly sounds enticing, and as long as they are being honest, it allows us to make better choices. What it boils down to is does the food taste good or not? That's what's most important. "Please pass the mayonnaise"

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Behind The Glasses - The Character In The Blog

Behind the eyeglasses, behind the wine glasses, behind the pint glasses. Why is everyone keeping me behind glass?

So I have been asked to reveal my true myself. The one with the bad jokes, the one who keeps getting in trouble in Europe, and the one who works for peanuts-wait, don't let my bosses hear that one.

So Mr Huff, when were you born, where did you grow up, what do you like to drink, who is your favorite singer? Do you really want to know all that stuff? Too bad, though David Bowie wins hands down.

Who Are You?

I think a great way to get to know a bit about me is to understand why I work for Paradocx.

Quite a few years back I had an office desk job working at a claims processing facility, auditing claims. Snoresville. I was restless, bored, and unchallenged. Trust me. it had it's perks, but I just had a really hard time staying motivated. "Patrick, Wake up!"

At the time, I started a beer blog and it was getting pretty serious. One night, at one of our infamous Christmas parties, I asked the group how many of them loved their jobs. Only one raised their hand, isn't that sad.

Work. Work. Work.

I later found out that only about 13% of Americans enjoy their careers. Well that wouldn't be so bad if we didn't spend such a large part of our life working. 

I think about my wife who gets up at 7 am. Get's to work by 9 am. leaves work at 5:00 pm, and gets home at 5:30 pm. That's 10.5 hours a day set aside for her career. That's 52.5 hours per week. Most of us, including me, for quite some time, hate their jobs.

The reasons are varied, but for me, I just wanted my career to line up with my passions and bubbly personality. First, I am quite the social butterfly; I like people. Second, I love food and drink. Last but not least, third, I have an over-following river of  creativity.

Will You Take Me In? 

Luckily, I am able to channel all of those characteristics at Paradocx. Was I originally looking for Paradocx? Well sort of. I was building a relationship with Hard Cider.   I found a cidery/winery in MD.   I worked there for a short time but the commute was two hours one way.   The interest remained and I found myself later looking in the same industry - Wine, Beer, or Cider. 

In the meantime, I completed my Cicerone training (Sommelier for Beer), taking an endless amount of social media and online marketing courses. I have more certificates than I could possibly need. 

I sent my resume to some local wineries in the Brandywine Valley. It's all about timing you know. This was August of 2014. I stopped into The Market at Liberty Place and dropped off my resume. Luckily, they called soon after and the rest is history.

Well not quite. I worked mainly in the tasting room in Landenberg, at the winery. I loved it. The staff, the overlords, the customers, but of course I wanted new challenges, and eventually they learned about my blog and newsletter talents. I jumped right in and found my true element. 

I was soon offered a role developing social media graphics and banners. This was pretty new for me but I stepped up, put my big boy pants on and rose to the challenge. I have quite a bit to keep me busy  and absolutely love it. They allow me to put my personality into it and to wear shorts.

The winery is growing and I plan to grow along with it. Though I think I really stopped growing at 15. Nevertheless, I enjoy it here and can't wait to see what's next.

One Final Thought

Ok. I promised not to bore you with nonsense trivial matter, but that's too bad. Here are a couple useless facts about me.

Favorite PDX wine? Yield

What food are you into now? Poke. It's like sushi in a bowl.

How tall are you? Depends who I am standing next to.

What is your favorite TV show? It involves a blue police box and a doctor.

How old are you? None of your business, but there was no internet or video games at the time. Well does Pong count?

What car do you drive? A big wheel. Try fitting a keg of beer on that, but where there is a will, there's a way!

Boxers or briefs? Depends who I am standing next to.

What's you favorite gadget? Echo Dot. Alexa, How many people read my blog? 

Cheers. Find me at the winery some time. Ask for Sir Patrick. That's my official title. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A New Brewery In Town

Crowded Castle

Do you remember that ska band in the 80's called Crowded House? Am I showing my age? Sorry, it's the first thing I thought of when I first heard of Crowded Castle Brewery. OK, actual castles are much bigger and very important people typically live there. Lucky for me, some even allow visitors every once and a while.

Personally, I like trying on the helmets and imagining how heavy a knight might actually weigh sporting all that armor. Oh, and of course, the dungeon room. Oh, the simple things that amuse me.

Back To The Brewery

Every Brewery has a story and after reading Crowded Castle's blog, it makes me really appreciate new breweries more than I already did.  First of all, Crowded Castle hangs their helmet in Phoenixville, PA, and thanks to other breweries such as Sly Fox and Stable 12, Phoenixville's beer scene is really booming.

Let me take a long story on how Crowded Castle got it's name and shorten it up a bit. It mainly started with a few blokes who went from beer making kits to all grain brewing.

The original five guys bottled their first red ale titled King Leo's Imperial Red Ale. The King part became a regular joke in the "Beer Making" kitchen which later became known as the Castle.

After graduating from partly mashed beers to whole grain brewing, they decided on W5 as their name. They started a brew club in their kitchen and the Castle became a bit "Crowded", but there is always room for more.

About 18 months into W5, they decided it was time to introduce their well seasoned beer to the rest of the world or rather local community, and Crowded Castle was founded.

Our General Manager Trish visited Crowded Castle a while back to talk wine and the possibility of bringing in their beer to Paradocx. We sampled a couple crowlers and were more than pleased. It would be a few months before we would have the opportunity to tap a Crowded Castle keg.

Though I have yet to visit or sample all their beers, we brought in an Amber Ale and a tropical IPA (No longer available). Our customers and the staff members have been pleased. Even Carol our resident "I don't like beer" staff member loved it.

The Amber, called Iron Amber Ale represents it's style perfectly. If you find yourself avoiding hoppy beers then this is for you. A bold malt profile, medium bodied, and a caramel finish.

The Tropical IPA is a west coast style IPA with notes of mango, papaya, and grapefruit. The tropical and grapefruit notes come from the aromatic hops. This is an Imperial style and clocks at 7.75 abv.

Stop by the winery this month for a pint of Crowded Castle's Iron Amber. Cheers

One Final Thought

First of all, Happy New Year. I hope 2018 is full of good times, good choices and good wine and beer. 

Totally Gnarly Wave Brah!

In a neighborhood slum in London, Oct 17, 1814, the unthinkable happened, or shall I say undrinkable. The Horseshoe Brewery held 3,500 barrels of brown porter beer in a 22 foot wooden fermenting tank. The tank was held together by massive iron rings. 

You know where I am going with this don't you? Well the pressure of the hot fermenting beer caused one of the rings to burst off the tank, sending a tsunami like force of beer that broke the back wall. The force also blasted more vats releasing about 320,000 gallons of beer onto the streets. 

Happy Hour

A 15 ft wave of frothy beer flooded the streets and gave the community one heck of a scare. Free beer for all. Locals wasted no time filling their jugs and cans with fresh debris filled ale. Not sure if I would risk it but who knows? I wasn't there. 

I can't help but imagine the stench that followed. It goes without saying, wooden tanks were soon phased out. Imagine if they had smart phones? Or surf boards?