Friday, February 6, 2009


It's not Extra Special Bitter, Extra Strong Bitter, or Extra Special Brew, this one is Early Spring Beer. Turns out beer companies like acronyms... who knew? Anyway, this is the latest seasonal offering from Sierra Nevada: ESB 2009 edition. It's not quite early Spring just yet but I'm not complaining - it's good! Nice hops, nice malt, nice color, 5.9% ABV. As with most Sierra Nevada brews this one has pronounced hop flavor. As a self-proclaimed hop head, that's not a bad thing in my book. In fact, I would go as far as saying this one almost tastes like an IPA (there's that acronym thing again) but this one is a little heavier on the malt than an IPA. So if you want a nice late winter or early spring beer, check out your local grocery or liquor store. This is a seasonal brew so it won't be around forever.

P.S. For future reference, I won't just post any old beer up here. If it makes the blog it's worth checking out. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cast Iron Grilling

Here's my new grill toy: it's a cast iron grill grate made by Lodge. I've been wanting this for quite a while now but I finally gathered up the $30 needed to buy it. In other words, it's fairly cheap to purchase but I've just been lazy and haven't clicked the few buttons on so they could send me one. You might ask, What's so good about cast iron? My grill works fine just as it is. You're right. This item isn't a necessity and that's partly why it took me so long to order it to begin with. Your grill probably works fine, as did mine, but what if you could help it work a little better?

Some higher end grills already come with cast iron grates. Some of them even come with enameled cast iron grates but sadly, my Weber charcoal grill does not - one of the very few pet peeves I have about Weber charcoal grills.

Whether it is a cast iron pan on the stove top or a grill grate like this one, cast iron heats up relatively slowly and evenly but it also holds on to that heat once food has been placed onto it. The advantage is that compared to a thin, wiry grill grate, (like the kind that comes with Weber charcoal grills) food placed on one of these thick cast iron grates will not cool off the metal as quickly. A deeper, darker sear is attained much more easily because the grate says hotter longer.

For our Super Bowl Sunday dinner I grilled a steak. As is evident from these pictures, our super-thick ribeye has dark, smokey, crispy grill marks. Yum! I can easily say that it was the best steak I've cooked on this grill.

The picture above is taken after just one turn so you can clearly see the grill marks made by the cast iron. The steak turned out great; a crisp salty-peppery crust.

Because this ribeye was so thick I only cooked one and sliced it. Served with it is an endive, mushroom, and sweet pea melange that I saw on Jacques Pepin: Fast Food My Way, and a simple baked sweet potato with butter.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Scraps the Fox

If I do say so myself, here are a couple great shots of our resident red fox that we have lovingly nicknamed Scraps. She (or he) has been visiting our backyard for the past year or so. She is a beauty and I'm really happy that she comes to visit every now and then. We think it is a female because neighbors have spotted her with a couple other foxes, possibly her kits.

Last summer, Scraps appeared rather regularly, every other day or so, whenever I happened to leave her a tasty squirrel. I got into the habit of laying the "dispatched" squirrels at the back of our yard near a large oak tree (in the right of the picture), sharing in the bounty. Scraps would come by, grab the squirrel, then trot off to areas unknown. Our hope was that she was feeding her young and, again, based on the reports from neighbors, she may have been doing just that. Enjoy the pictures!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Squirrels & Beer

There comes a time when each blogger comes into harmony with the title of his or her said blog... Today is that day. Below you will see the remnants of squirrel #69. That's right, I ate one.

If you can't tell from the pictures, I only used the legs. The squirrels are so small that actually breaking down the animal is rather difficult. Especially when your butchery is regulated to the backyard patio and a plastic cutting board. I've had this guy in the freezer for about 6 weeks or so until I gathered up the gumption to actually defrost it and cook it. Part of my encouragement came from a New York Times article on squirrel cookery in Great Britain. Turns out that squirrels are being served on restaurant tables all over the country and people are loving it. You can read the article for more interesting and useful squirrel cookery information.

I cooked this squirrel in a very simple braise of carrots, onion, celery, garlic, and herbs. The braising liquid was of course... beer (and a little water). I used a Redhook Winter Hook brew with plenty of good flavor. The squirrel was pretty damn good - not at all gamey or musky. While avoiding the "it tastes like chicken" cliche, if I were to compare it to other meats I've had in the past, I would say it is most similar to rabbit with a hint of squirrel, I guess! So next time you're in the mood for something different, stop on by our house. I'll try to keep a squirrel or 2 in the freezer for some drop-in dinner guests.