Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Guest Post: Kona Brewers Fest and Kona Brewery

Guest Post by Doug Franz

Confession. I am not a Happy Hour Honey, although I am marrying one, thus giving me the credentials to write a small guest piece on the blog, right? While I won’t live up to their writing prowess, I’m hoping to not completely embarrass myself when I tell you about my recent trip to Kona, Hawaii for the Kona Brewers Festival and the amazing dinner I had at the Kona Brewery.  

Being a cold-blooded Scandinavian, I had always tried to avoid hot places such as Hawaii. 80 degrees? No thanks. But after a few years of avoiding the islands and the promise of beer, I finally got myself on a plane to Hawaii to meet some old friends for a week of sun, culminating with the Kona Brewers Festival. Our first goal of the week was check out what the local breweries had to offer, thus bringing us to our evening at Kona Brewery.

As a Northwest native, knowing beer and pub food is a must. I have been to my share of brewpubs and consider myself well-educated in what to normally expect food-wise at such establishments. Kona Brewery was far from the norm when it came their food. While they did serve the standard nachos and wings, what really stood out was their creative take on old classics and their locally-influenced plates.

We started with a round of beers, both house exclusive and flagship. The Fire Rock Pale Ale and Duke’s Blonde Ale were both tasty but as a group it was decided that the Castaway IPA was the surest of bets. A full-bodied IPA, it didn’t kick you in the face with hops but it didn’t overpower you with maltiness. This high in alcohol (7.0%) but easy to drink IPA we continued to drink at various Island bars throughout the week because we liked it so much. To accompany this, we ordered plates of the Naalehu Nachos ($10) and the Chipotle Chicken Dip ($12). The nachos were huge and a very standard but good choice. Our second plate, the Chipotle Chicken Dip, was fantastic. Just a explosion of cheesy chicken-y spicy goodness. Even my “lactose cautious” friend couldn’t resist. The heat from the jalapenos and chipotle did a number on us and we ended up getting another round of drinks and a plate of the Pawai Pepperoni Rolls ($8).

The pepperoni rolls were my favorite food of the night. Made with dough made from beer-making grains, the rolls were spicy and perfect for any pizza lover. That and a good complement to my favorite Kona beer, the Black Sand Porter. While too full to order more, we were definitely eye-balling the Kawaihae Cajun Seared Ahi and Kona Crab Cakes at the table next to us and were tempted... but alas, that was enough for the evening. We left the huge crowds at the restaurant and stumbled our way home to relax and rest up for the Kona Brewers Festival feeling full and happy.

Kona Brewers Festival week was amazing, full of delicious beer, amazing food, unbelievable sunsets, and great friends. I look forward to coming back next year and making a stop at the Kona Brewery a new tradition. The food holds its own against any gastropub I’ve been to and the taproom exclusive beers are worth seeking out. Check it out, fellow Kona travelers - you won’t be disappointed!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

SALEP Topic: Vermouth

 (Wait, what's SALEP? Find out here.)


What it is:
Vermouth is a fortified wine available in dry (white) or sweet (red).

It is made by steeping wine with an assortment of herbs, barks, roots, and fruits, and then adding brandy and other sweeteners, like sugar or honey.

How its used:
Vermouth is a popular aperitif in Europe, where it is enjoyed over ice.

In the US, it is more often used as a sweetener or flavor-enhancer in classic cocktails like martinis (dry vermouth), negronis (sweet vermouth), and manhattans (sweet vermouth).

Brief history:
Vermouth was first created in the mid-1700s in Northwest Italy as a way to mask inferior wines. Winemakers added spices like cardamom, allspice, marjoram, and wormwood (same ingredient used to make absinthe).

Sweet, red vermouths are usually associated with Italy and dry, white vermouths with France.

Vermouth gets its name from the German word for wormwood: “Vermud”. European vermouth-makers are required to use wormwood in all wines that are labeled as vermouth.


The latest:
Vermouth is making a big comeback thanks to the recent craft cocktail craze. The New York Times published an article about American-made vermouths in February and Drink Portland included vermouth on its list of this year’s “5 Hot Cocktail Trends in Portland.”

More varieties of vermouths are popping up including amber and rosé vermouths as well as vermouths that don’t use wormwood at all (legal in the US, but not Europe).

Buy it here:
Pearl Specialty Market & Spirits has several dry and sweet vermouths to choose from, including vermouths made by Imbue Cellars, a local distillery.

Drink it here:
Clyde Common, Free House (on NE Fremont), Tasty n Sons (find vermouth on the aperitifs menu), and Nostrana (negronis!)

Salep Cocktail: Bronx (photo above)
2oz gin · .5oz dry vermouth · .5oz sweet vermouth · 1oz fresh orange juice

Combine all ingredients in shaker, shake, & strain into chilled glass. Garnish with orange twist. 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Introducing SALEP!

The idea for SALEP probably came around from me complaining to Kelly about my old book club. The ladies were very sweet, but there were rules I just couldn't get behind, like no alcohol at meetings or no books-where-bad-things-happen-to-children. (I know, right? It was very limiting. Think about it.)

So while I was certainly attracted to the intellectual stimulation that my book club promised, meetings were honestly not that fun. Hence the complaining.

But then Kelly came up with a great idea: what if we nixed the iffy part (ladies who refuse to read awesome books like Room) and invited all our friends instead? And, since not all our friends are that into reading (hey, it happens), what if we had a club about something we know we all enjoy like... I don't know... drinking?

And so the idea for SALEP was planted.

One year later (we're busy people, mkay?), Doug and I got around to ironing out some details and we had our inaugural meeting.

Here are the SALEP basics:

SALEP = Society for the Advancement of Alcohol Edification and Potation 

Each meeting, one member is in charge of preparing a short presentation about a spirit, beer, wine, liqueur, etc. of their choice. Samples must be provided. The goal is to introduce the group to something new and interesting. And maybe get a little tipsy.

All other members are in charge of bringing snacks. 

You are only invited if you:
a) are there to learn as well as drink
b) plan to host your own meeting at some point

And that's it! Pretty simple and, if our first meeting was any indication, pretty fun too.

Kel and I will post summaries from each meeting so you non-Portlanders can share in our SALEP education.

Stay tuned for a post about our first topic: Vermouth!