Do you love beer? Are you or can you be near Lexington this weekend? Do you want to strike a blow back against Anheuser-Busch and their reprehensible campaign against those of us who enjoy seeking out new and interesting beers?
Then get yourself to the Lexington Convention Center on Saturday for Alltech’s 2nd Annual Craft Brews and Food Fest, featuring 175 beers from 50 breweries, both local and far-flung. $30 ($35 at the door) gets you 20 beer samples, three food samples, five bands, and a commemorative glass.
If you’ve never been to a big beer festival like this one, it goes something like this: they give you a nice little tasting glass. You go to the nice people at the booths, chat about their products, and they pour you a sample. You drink it. Repeat. If that sounds like a great afternoon to you, we should definitely hang out sometime.
But like Othello, Texas Hold-Em, and Craigslist hookups, the beer festival game takes a minute to learn and a lifetime to master. Here is some wisdom I’ve gleaned from doing more than a few of these over the years:
Eat something. You’ve got a long afternoon in front of you, buddy. Yes, there will be food there, but you don’t know how big the portions will be and the lines may be long, plus you’re going to be all “Woohoo! Beer!”. Don’t take the chance. If you’re planning to hit the doors at noon, you should brunch hard beforehand (I’m partial to Winchell’s).
Should you drink any at said brunch? (Certain co-hosts of mine have suggested that it’s not really brunch if there’s no booze–it’s just a late breakfast.) I say go for it, but not so hard that you won’t be back to zero when the festival starts. Consider that bloody mary a warmup for your liver.
There will come a time a few hours and many samples into the festival at which you will become ravenous and will want to totally crush the available food options. You should definitely go for it–not that your body needs food at that point, but your soul does, and the satisfaction it will bring will be like few you’ve experienced. Yes, this is shaping up to be a fairly caloric undertaking, which is why you shouldn’t do this every weekend.
Make a plan and hit the good stuff first. For one thing, they might run out of it. For another, the combination of heavily-flavored beers and the alcohol therein means that after the first five or six samples your ability to fully appreciate or objectively evaluate each beer starts to diminish–indeed, after that point, they’re all pretty good, because…
All that beer adds up fast. “But Jonathan,” you’re saying, “you sexy beast, we’re talking about 2 oz. samples of beer here. How tipsy can I get off that?” Pretty darn tipsy, it turns out. When it comes to boozing it up, slow and steady wins the race, if the finish line of the race is waking up in your hotel room having somehow left your pants at a Denny’s.
Even the initially allotted 20 samples adds up to several beers. And we’re not talking about Michelob Ultra here–in the world of the beer festival, 5-6% is practically “lite”. All I’m saying here is to take a cab. Lyft works particularly well in Lexington, in my experience. And keep in mind that…
You’re not obligated to finish every sample. I know, I know–it’s a sin to pour out good beer. But for the above reasons, you only have so much “beer space” for the day, so with such a bounty available, why waste any of it on a beer that isn’t blowing your skirt up? There are always dump buckets available. I think it’s generally polite not to dump out a beer in front of its purveyor, though; just wait until you’re at the next stop and casually toss it as you’re introducing yourself.
If you’re with people you don’t mind swapping a little spit with, don’t overlap samples and pass them around. If there’s something you really want more of, you can go back and get one.
Keep good notes. “Oh, I’ll totally remember that one beer I really loved.” No. No, you won’t. You’ll go searching in vain for it later and you’ll never have that moment of magic again.
Hydrate. At least a 1-1 ratio of beer to water. You’ll spend more time in line for the bathroom, but you’ll thank me.
The pretzel necklace! There is some debate among beerfest goers as to whether the pretzel necklace is a smart and useful accessory sported by those in the know or a reliable indicator that one is a tool. I say screw the haters. Pretzels help cleanse the palate between samples, provide salt to keep you a little thirsty and to help wake up the taste buds, and can be surprisingly fashionable when taken to Mr. T levels of excess.
Don’t make big plans later. Even if you manage not to get truly crunk, a beer fest can be a fairly punishing afternoon or early evening. A light dinner and some Netflix is probably about right.
Heed these words well and your Saturday afternoon should be a blast! And when you’re making that list of beers to hit first, here are a few I’d suggest:
- Kentucky Old Fashioned Barrel Ale. Alltech is using its own festival to roll out this ale brewed with orange peel and aged in bourbon barrels and bitters barrels with tart cherry juice, which sounds delicious.
- Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Because you should drink this whenever it’s available.
- Country Boy’s Warehouse Experiment 3. Whatever those guys are doing is usually worth checking out.
- Against the Grain 70K. AtG always swings for the fences, and they usually connect. The 70K is an imperial stout aged in Angel’s Envy barrels, which has to be delicious, though at a whopping 13.6% you might want to split a sample with someone. Also check out their Wowzer Snake, a pale ale with a hop profile you won’t find anywhere else.
- Ethereal Brewing No Talent Ass Clown Brett APA. I’m sure it’s going to be great, but I admit I’m putting it here for the name.
- Cigar City Cider and Mead. Not many cider offerings at this fest, but these folks from Tampa will have their flagship Hard Cider, a Fight the Power Sour, and Cowboy Dan’s Holiday Extravaganza, a caramel apple cider.
- Sierra Nevada’s Barrel Aged Bigfoot. The king of the craft breweries gets in on the barrel aging trend by giving its classic Bigfoot Barleywine some time on the oak. This one will go fast, so don’t wait.
See you there!
As powerhouses in the world of Appalachian food media, you probably think Jonathan and Jenny are stacking paper to the ceiling and rolling on 24-inch chrome. And in a perfect world, you’d be right. But here in this cold and unfair existence we instead have to come to you twice a year to ask for your support for this mildly insane cooking show, and for the slightly less mildly insane radio station that airs it every month. When it happens in the spring we call it the Spring Fund Drive on 88.7 WMMT-FM, and it’s happening May 4-14!
So that’s why Wednesday (5/6) on the World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of), Jonathan will take off his apron and sit down at the microphone to play some of his favorite clips from the show and take your calls (633-1208, or 1-888-396-1208) to pledge to the show! He’ll also talk a bit about his recent travels and he’ll take your questions about cooking, about the show, or about anything at all!
And what do you get for your pledge, besides the knowledge that you’re supporting Real Food Radio?
- Every single donor during the show gets an official WCN! Can Koozie!
- For a $25 donation you can get an official Kitchen Angels t-shirt (while they last), designed by Bailey Richards and modeled here by Allison Tse:
- For a $100 donation, we’ll do a custom show just for you! Tell us what you like, we’ll plan a show around it, and you and three friends can join us as VIP guests while we cook it up live on the air! (Only one available!)
Big, little, or in the middle, it’s your support that keeps this tub afloat. So call us (633-1208 or 888-396-1208) or go to wmmtfm.org and hit that big green DONATE button, and tell ’em WCN! sent you!
And tune in tomorrow, 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM, or stream it online at wmmtfm.org. Don’t miss it, and don’t miss your chance to support Real People Radio in the Mountains!
Follow What’s Cookin’ Now! on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you’d like to support WCN! and other great shows like it, visit wmmtfm.org and click on the big green DONATE button.
Since it’s National Poetry Month, we wanted to share this lovely chickpea poem with you…
A Chickpea Leaps
by Rumi, translated by Coleman Barks
A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot
where it’s being boiled
“Why are you doing this to me?”
The cook knocks it down with the ladle.
“Don’t you try to jump out.
You think I’m torturing you,
I’m giving you flavor,
so you can mix with spices and rice
and be the lovely vitality of a human being.
Remember when you drank rain in the garden.
That was for this.”
Grace first. Sexual pleasure,
then a boiling new life begins,
and the Friend has something good to eat.
Special thanks to friend of the show Robert Donnan for sharing this poem with us.
Of all the good things that have come out (and continue to come out) of last year’s Appalachian Food Summit, one of my personal favorites has been getting to know Ronni Lundy. She’s the author of eight books including Shuck Beans, Stack Cakes, and Honest Fried Chicken and Cornbread Nation 3: Foods of the Mountain South, she’s contributed to nearly every food publication worth reading, and she’s one of the leading voices in the definition, dissemination, and continual discovery of Appalachian cuisine.
She’s back with a new book called Sorghum’s Savor, which tells the story of the beloved sweetener through anecdotes, biographies, and recipes. We had a chance to chat with Ronni about sorghum–what it is, why we love it, and how we use it–and about what exactly we mean by Appalachian cuisine. Here is the version of the interview we aired on our 4/1/15 episode.
And in this Web Exclusive, we talk about whether Appalachian cuisine is having a moment, the “Asheville effect”, and shishito peppers, among other things.
Thanks so much to Ronni for the interview! Now go buy her book!
Is there anything quite like sorghum? Rich, earthy, and funky, it’s like molasses with a deep, dark secret. Chefs and home cooks everywhere are figuring out what those of us in the South have always known–sweet sorghum syrup is a great way to add depth, umami, and character to anything that needs sweetened up.
We here at The World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of) know that there’s no better application for sorghum than drizzled over a hot biscuit, but on this month’s show we’re going to show you some new ways to incorporate it into your cooking routine. We’ll be talking with Appalachian food afficionado Ronni Lundy about her new book Sorghum’s Savor, and hopefully we’ll have a sorghum maker in the studio to tell us how it’s done.
That’s Wednesday, April 1, 6-7 PM on 88.7 WMMT-FM. Stream it live here; archived version will be up eventually. And if you’re in or near Whitesburg, come on over and join the Tasting/Dishwashing Panel!
Don’t miss it!
I think I speak for the vast majority of us when I say that this winter bullsh*t is getting old. Don’t get me wrong–I appreciate the fact that we get all four seasons here in Kentucky, sometimes in the same week. But when it’s almost time to Spring Forward and I’m looking at big dirty piles of snow from the week before last and plumber bills from the frozen pipes, I’m ready to set my wool coat on fire and head someplace where I could wear shorts to Christmas dinner.
That’s why The World’s Only Live Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of) is making like the smarter varieties of bird and flying south for the rest of the winter. We’ll be cooking a couple of stews from warmer climates that have enough substance to keep us warm in the frigid temps but can transport our minds and our souls to places that don’t even have words for snow.
And speaking of keeping warm, Jonathan will be talking about his trek to Louisville for the Bourbon Classic, where he spent several days trying to keep warm Kentucky-style. And like one always does when flying south, he’ll stop in Atlanta for a Georgia-inspired cocktail that won his heart at the Bourbon Classic Cocktail Competition.
That’s Wednesday, March 4, 6-7PM, on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg–you can stream it live here. And if you happen to be nearby, we’d love to have you on our Tasting/Dishwashing Panel, so come on by the opulent kitchen studio of the Appalshop!
Don’t miss it!
(Note: if you’re planning to see Alton’s tour at some point, I suggest you stop reading right here and enjoy the show as it comes. If you’re not planning to see it, then I’d strongly encourage you to change your mind about that, and still stop reading here. If you’ve already seen it, or if it’s just not possible for you, then OK, keep reading.)
I had no idea what to expect from the Edible Inevitable Tour, Alton Brown‘s big theater extravaganza.
It wouldn’t be the first time Tamara and I had seen him live; several years ago we trekked to Nashville for a demo in which he set up his Turkey Derrick (well before it appeared on Good Eats) and deep-fried a turkey in the middle of the Opryland Hotel, probably taking years off the life of more than one fire marshal. But this had to be more than a cooking demo, even an over-the-top one; this was Alton’s attempt to combine his senses of whimsy, kitchen nerdery, and grandiosity into a compelling evening at the theatre.
It was a good bet that we would be on board for whatever he had in store–he is, after all, the patron saint of What’s Cookin’ Now!. But even with the high expectations that such a title brings with it, I’m happy to say that Alton’s show blew them away.
The show broke down into roughly four parts, which I’ll discuss separately.
Alton spent most of the first act alone on stage with only a few simple graphics behind him, doing a talk called Things I’m Pretty Sure About About Food. At the beginning of his career Alton started keeping a notebook in which he kept track of things about food he was absolutely certain about, most of which ended up getting scratched out later on. When he looked back at what was left, it was a pretty short list:
- Chickens don’t have fingers.
- Trout does not belong in ice cream.
- Don’t leave out the NaCl.
- Raisins are always optional.
- Never eat shrimp cocktail in an airport.
These nuggets of wisdom came with stories, including his attempt to scare his daughter’s friends away from chicken fingers, his experience watching Iron Chef Sakai making trout ice cream and the horror that ensued from his tasting portion, and a cautionary tale from his early cooking days about dumping an industrial batch of unsalted bread dough in a Dumpster in the raging Georgia heat.
If the entire show had been nothing but Alton telling stories, I would have been perfectly happy. The chance to stretch out into a longer form than television allows him clearly suits him. It reminded me of Kevin Smith’s “Q&A” sessions, in which the questions just become jumping-off points for lengthy and hilarious stories about his experiences making movies. If Alton ever wants to scale it back, he’d be excellent in Smith’s format.
Each act contained a large-scale, ridiculous, and fairly dangerous cooking demonstration. Alton has always expressed his disdain for “unitaskers” by saying that the only thing in the kitchen that should only have one job is the fire extinguisher, but after he had one fail at the task (because he neglected to keep it charged) he decided to stop giving it a pass. So he brought out a rig that allowed him to inject CO2 into a chamber filled with chocolate-infused cream, which not only made a gallon of chocolate ice cream in ten seconds but also carbonated said ice cream.
I do think Alton could have spent a little more time explaining exactly what was happening, science-wise; he gavea brief explanation along with a slide of the Joule-Thomson equation, but it wasn’t up to his usual level of making kitchen science understandable. But as a demonstration of what awesome things you can do when you bring science to the party, it was fantastic.
The science behind the second demo was fairly self-explanatory. He talked about getting hold of his cousin’s Easy-Bake Oven as a kid and trying to ramp it up by replacing the 100-watt bulb with a 150, only to melt down the plastic housing. He never gave up the dream of the light-powered oven with More Cowbell, though, and those dreams eventually became the Mega-Bake, powered by 54 Par 64 cans (theatrical lights) and achieving temperatures of up to 1000 degrees. With the help of an audience member (who signed a waiver on the way up), he made two pizzas and cooked them in four minutes.
These demos were a blast to watch, but I especially loved the way they gave us a look directly into Alton’s id. The Mega-Bake is not something he conceived for this show; he showed a picture of a sketch he made of such a device when he was a teenager. He talked of building prototypes of the Jet Cream in his own garage (and the subsequent damage). As he said at the beginning, this show was not created for the audience’s amusement, but for his own amusement, and it’s obvious to me that if he didn’t have an audience he’d still be finding ridiculous ways to cook. “Why?” he asked, after explaining that he was going to cook pizzas in four minutes? “Because I freakin’ can.”
The second act contained a Q&A portion, with the questions submitted via Twitter and chosen randomly. It didn’t last as long as I wish it had (other parts of the show ran long), but it was fun. For instance, he claims that his logo has six fingers as a tribute to Inigo Montoya (though I’m skeptical), he likes the simple sabotages more than the more ridiculous ones on Cutthroat Kitchen, and he was surprised to find that people would buy his yeast puppets at the merch stand even though they’re socks with eyes purchased at Michael’s.
The show was punctuated by four songs scattered out through the acts. While Alton is a pretty good guitarist (who picked up a sweet Rickenbacker at Wilcutt while he was in town, showing that he knows a great guitar shop when he sees one), the songs missed more than they hit. The worst was the opening number, a rap (yes, a rap, complete with Run-D.M.C. hat and diamond-studded donut on a chain) entitled “TV Chef” that was at least as bad as you might imagine. It was cringeworthy in a way that made me feel bad for Alton’s now-15-year-old daughter, who I suspect wants to disappear into the walls even more than teenage girls when their parents get going. “I guess it’s all uphill from here,” he said when it was over, and he wasn’t wrong.
The best of the songs was “Easy-Bake”, a more straightforward rocker that served as an intro to the Mega-Bake demo and included a reference to Spinal Tap’s “Stonehenge” debacle, possibly my favorite movie scene ever. And the closing number, a song written to help explain to his daughter that cooking is not as hard as he makes it look on TV, was sweet and a great way to bring the energy back down at the end.
This show, for better or worse (and almost entirely for better), is 2 1/2 hours inside Alton Brown’s head. It’s not a bad place to spend an evening if you’re a fan of cooking, science, spectacle, or even just entertaining stories. See this show while you can.
(Note: I cannot say enough about what a great facility the new EKU Center for the Arts is, and what terrific stuff they’re bringing in. That Hot Sardines show coming up is worth checking out. Huge thanks to Shawn for getting WCN! into the meet-and-greet. And to our dear friends the Collinses for the excellent seats.)
Did you know that more songs have been written about honey than any other food? Actually I made that up, but it almost has to be true, right? Honey has become a metaphor for just about everything that’s good, and it’s easy to see why. It’s delicious, it’s useful in the kitchen, it takes a lot of work to make it go bad, and it can be a completely local product.
Jonathan and Jenny have been teaching at the Eastern Kentucky Beekeeping School for the last couple of years, so we’re bringing some of that knowledge to The World’s Only LIVE Radio Cooking Show (That We Know Of). We’ll be focusing on savory dishes and how honey can punch them up. We’ll also talk about how you can use science to make infused honey, and of course we’ll talk about some great ways to use honey in cocktails.
We’ll also have a preview of the Bourbon Classic 2015, coming up this month in Louisville! We’ll have some audio that Jonathan and Tamara recorded at last year’s Bourbon Classic Cocktail Competition, and a preview of what’s coming up this year.
That’s Wednesday, February 4, 6-7PM on 88.7 WMMT-FM in Whitesburg. As always, you can stream it here. And if you happen to be in Whitesburg, we’d love to have you on our Tasting/Dishwashing Panel!
Don’t miss it!
I didn’t get any pictures of the cocktails I did in our session at the 2015 Eastern Kentucky Beekeeping School, but I thought I’d get the recipes down anyway. The first one is original; the second one is not.
For the “Winter Honey”:
1 half-pint honey
1 cinnamon stick
zest of 1 medium orange
1/2 tsp vanilla
If you have an immersion circulator, combine all ingredients in a half-pint Mason jar and place in a 120 degree F water bath for six hours. If you don’t, either combine all the ingredients in a jar and leave for at least 5 days, or combine them in a saucepan and heat over low heat for 30 minutes or until tasty, then cool completely. See the previous post for details on infusing honey.
For two cocktails:
3 barspoons “Winter Honey”
3 dashes Angostura bitters
3 ounces Appleton Estate XO rum
2 coins of orange peel
Place the honey and bitters in a mixing glass and swirl around with a muddler. Add the rum and swirl some more. Add ice and stir until the glass is cold. Strain onto clean ice in an Old Fashioned glass and top with a flamed orange peel.
(originally created by T.J. Siegel at Milk & Honey, NYC)
For the honey syrup:
Combine equal parts honey and water and heat just until the honey dissolves, then cool completely. Or, if you have a sous vide setup, place equal parts honey and water in a Mason jar and place in a 120 degree water bath for 2 hours.
For two cocktails:
4 ounces high-proof bourbon (such as Old Forester 100 or Old Granddad Bonded)
1 1/2 oz lemon juice (fresh squeezed or don’t bother)
1 1/2 oz honey syrup
Pinch of salt
Shake vigorously with ice and strain onto clean ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
This recipe is from What’s Cookin’ Now!’s “Cooking with Honey” presentation at the East Kentucky Beekeeping School in Hazard on January 24, 2015.
Infusing honey presents a dilemma. The easiest way to do it is to just chuck something flavorful into a jar of honey and let it sit until the flavor infuses, but you’re going to have to wait at least five days and probably more before you get any real intensity. Heating up the honey mixture speeds up the process considerably, but it’s very hard to do without pasteurizing the honey. Pasteurization is the process of heating raw honey until the wild yeasts still present in it are thoroughly vanquished; it’s a function of temperature and time, but at 161 degrees F it takes less than 30 seconds to be considered pasteurized, and it’s really hard to maintain a temperature lower than that on the stovetop. Health advocates say that pasteurization destroys many of the health benefits you get from the raw stuff, and honey connoisseurs say that it blunts the complex flavors that can make honey so interesting. So how do you infuse honey but keep it as raw as the Wu-Tang Clan likes it?
Enter the immersion circulator!
Maintaining those low temperatures is exactly what sous vide cooking is all about. If you happen to own a Sansaire (or other circulator), just put your honey and flavorant in a Mason jar, seal it up, and put it in a 120 degree water bath. At 130 degrees honey will pasteurize after about seven hours; six hours at 120 degrees F gives you a nice infusion and spares most of the yeast from execution.
Now, have I Pepsi Challenged honey infusions made in the circulator vs. those made on the stovetop or those just left to sit and infuse at room temperature? No, I haven’t. But it’s a nice tool to have in your arsenal.
My original plan was to serve the rosemary honey over fried eggplant, as they often do with honey or molasses in Spanish tapas bars. (Curate, possibly the best Spanish tapas bar that isn’t in Spain, does theirs with honey and garnishes it with rosemary.) But since it’s January and the few eggplants I could find in the store didn’t look very good, I decided to use some of Old Homeplace Farm‘s awesome butternut squash instead. I’m really glad I did, because this one’s a keeper. It can be a side dish on its own, or a main dish served over quinoa with a little lemon juice, and the leftovers would be excellent tossed into a salad.
Sauteed Butternut Squash with Rosemary Honey
For the honey:
1 pint raw honey
4-5 sprigs rosemary
Seal honey and rosemary in a pint mason jar and put in a 120 degree water bath for six hours, or until the flavor is as intense as you’d like. Alternately, let it sit for several days, or put it on the stovetop over low heat until it’s tasty (shouldn’t take long at that temperature).
You won’t use the whole pint. If you intend to store it for more than a few days, strain out the rosemary and keep it in the fridge, but once you realize how good it is poured over a sheet pan of popcorn and parked in a low oven for a while, it won’t last long.
For the squash:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup water
salt, pepper (to taste)
Melt the butter in a 12″ saute pan along with the canola oil over medium-high heat. Add the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Let some good browning develop. Add some salt (three-finger pinch) and a few grinds of pepper and pour in the water and a couple of tablespoons of the honey. Cook down until the water is nearly gone. Remove to a plate, drizzle another half-cup or so of honey over the top, and garnish with a sprig or two of rosemary.
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