The Great Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

DSCN2353It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  That is, if you happen to love autumn, as I do.  The leaves are changing colors, it’s cool enough to wear scarves again, and the time is right to watch repetitively It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.  Speaking of great pumpkins, have you yet stocked up on all of the cans of pumpkin that you’ll need for the next three months?  If not, I trust that you’re working on it.  While you’re gearing up to make the first of many pumpkin pies, why not really get into the spirit of the season with a little pumpkin pie cocktail?  Yes, please.

This easy-peezy martini has all of the flavor of pumpkin pie and takes a fraction of the time to assemble and serve.  It involves pumpkin, spices, and a milk product, just like the real thing, but with the pleasant additions of Kahlua and butterscotch schnapps.  If you don’t yet have Kahlua and/or butterscotch schnapps on hand, I highly recommend investing in both; they both can be used throughout the holiday season(s) to make any number of festive cocktails.  For now, however, let’s focus on making this liquid pumpkin pie dream a reality.

The Great Pumpkin Pie Cocktail

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients

1.25 oz. Kahlua or another coffee liqueur

1.25 oz. butterscotch schnapps

2 oz. cold milk (any kind)

.75 oz pumpkin puree

1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice

dollop of whipped cream (optional, for garnish)

To Make the Cocktail:

Halfway fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.  Atop the ice, ad the Kahlua, butterscotch schnapps, milk, pumpkin, and pumpkin pie spice.  Gently mix with a spoon to start to incorporate the pumpkin and spices.  Vigorously shake the shaker for 30 seconds.  Pour the contents of the shaker into a martini glass.  If you like, garnish the cocktail with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

Cafe Frangelico

DSCN2145My grandparents are all about being European.  My grandfather, whom my cousins and I call “Opa” (German for “grandfather”) is from Germany, and his wife is from Austria.  Now that they’re retired, they make annual trips to Europe to tour new places and visit familiar ones.  Afternoon cake and coffee is a daily occurrence, not only when they’re abroad, but here in the States, too.  While this routine does mean that any and all afternoon visits are fairly lengthy due to the whole process (table setting, coffee, cake, some more coffee, etc.), the idea itself is a lovely notion.  (Also, Tante, if you happen to read this, I’d like to put in a request for your Black Forest Cake for my birthday.  I’m positive that 23 is not too old for birthday cake.)

The fast pace of everyday American life doesn’t often allow time for such luxuries as afternoon coffee, but, thankfully, that’s what weekends are for.  There are few things I love more than an afternoon gab session with a ladyfriends, and introducing a bit of European-ism to the equation could only serve to improve it.  Just to mix things up, why not invite a friend over for an afternoon get-together, and, rather than the usual beer or glass of wine on the couch, why not try spiked coffee and a slice of cake on the deck?  It’d be a good excuse to be fancy for a while, and what girl doesn’t like to be fancy?

Cafe Frangelico is way, way too simple to make (coffee + liqueur + liqueur + whipped cream) and takes virtually no effort to enjoy.  The additions of Frangelico (an Italian hazelnut liqueur) adds a bit of nutty sweetness, and a topping of real whipped cream (it takes all of 5 minutes to make) curbs some of the bitterness from the coffee.  No need for creamer here!  So chic and so European!  Feel free to bust out your fancy dishes and favorite floral dress for this occasion, too.

Cafe Frangelico

Adapted from Cocktail Mixer

Makes 1 cocktail

Ingredients:

1 oz. Frangelico (or other hazelnut liqueur)

1 oz. Kahlua (or other coffee liqueur)

0.5 oz. whipped cream vodka (optional)

strong, hot coffee

whipped cream (for topping)

To Make Cafe Frangelico:

In a mug, combine the Frangelico, Kahlua, and whipped cream vodka (if using).  Top with hot coffee, leaving 1/2″ for the whipped cream.  Top with whipped cream.  Enjoy!

To Make Whipped Cream:

In a large mixing bowl, combine one cup of heavy whipping cream, 2 Tbs. of granulated sugar, and 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract.  Using an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium speed for 1-2 minutes, until you notice bubbles starting to form and the cream beginning to whip up.  Gradually, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and continue to whip the cream just until stiff peaks form and it holds its shape.  Don’t whip it too much, or you’ll end up with butter.  Enjoy!

Day Out: Schooner Exact Brewing Company

Image from Schooner Exact

When I was a kid, my family took a lot of road trips in our RV.  My dad worked in the construction industry, and many of his projects involved working on dams, so many of our trips involved driving along various rivers across the state.  More often than not, we’d pass by one of many signs featuring the silhouettes of Lewis and Clark pointing to God only knew what (Sasquatch?), indicating that a historical site could be found ahead.  My mom liked stopping at these sites.  I did not.  Being subjected to involuntary education during my precious summer months was not my idea of fun.  I remained vehemently opposed to history lessons for years to come.  Not until high school, when, on a whim, I signed up for AP US History, did I begin to take an interest in the happenings of the past.  To my genuine surprise, I loved that history class, and now, I’ll even go out of my way to learn about the places I am and their historical significance (thank you, Mr. Schneider!).  My 7 year-old self would be appalled.

Schooner Exact Brewing Company gives its patrons a hefty dose of Seattle history with every pint.  Founded by former teachers Matt and Heather McClung in 2007, the brewery’s name itself is an homage to the city’s founding: on November 13, 1851, the twenty-two passengers, all members of Seattle’s “five founding families”, aboard the schooner Exact made landfall in what is now West Seattle (read more about the landing here).  One of Seattle’s fastest growing breweries, Schooner Exact is currently located in Seattle’s SoDo district, and, within the past year, opened a restaurant in addition to the taproom.  During last week’s Seattle Beer Week, I stopped by for a bite, a pint, and some brief shelter from the rain.

Image from Schooner Exact

When I pulled up on a cloudy afternoon, the brewery’s daily operations were already well underway with brewers scurrying about and a truck out front full of Jack Daniel’s barrels waiting to be unloaded.  Taking a seat, I was pleasantly surprised to find that rather than having the restaurant area finitely separated from the brewhouse, the space was completely open: one could feasibly order a pint at the bar, then take a few steps back and be leaning up against one of numerous fermenters.  To the left of the bar stood a slightly different scene: rather than an endless hall of metallic cylinders, the wall was lined with barrels upon barrels of aging beers.  As far as immersing visitors in a full-on beer experience, Schooner Exact takes the cake.

DSCN2052I took a seat near the bar, affording myself an unimpeded view of the brewhouse, the listings behind the bar, and that most intriguing stock of barrels aligning the wall opposite.  Not wanting to miss out on one of Schooner Exact’s more unique offerings, I ordered up a pint of the day’s on-tap seasonal, a double IPA by the name of Evergreen.  Deep golden with a frothy white head, Evergreen greeted me with a comforting aroma of citrus with a bit of pine, the beautiful result of dry-hopping with Simcoe hops.  Along with my trusty pint of IPA, I enjoyed a pulled pork sandwich which left me wondering why I’ve never endeavored to be a more adept grill master.  The sandwich was to die for.  The pulled pork was seasoned with cumin and chili, then given a refreshing contrast by way of cilantro-cabbage coleslaw and a hit of lime aioli.  Though I’d had no doubts about it before, my lunch of one heck of a mouth-watering sandwich and a crisp and slaking IPA reassured me that my drive across the state had been well worth it.

Back to those promising and thought-provoking barrels, it turns out that barrel-aged brews is somewhat of a specialty of Schooner Exacts.  With the exception of their Barrel-Aged Imperial Porter (yes, I left with a bottle of it), all of the brewery’s barrel-aged beers are currently available only on tap.  I’ll be the first to declare that I think bourbon barrel-aged beers are the bomb(.com), but I’m more than a little curious to someday try some of Schooner Exact’s more adventurous barreled creations, such as their Kriek, aged for “over a year in [Washington] red wine barrels using a golden wheat base with Montmorency sour cherries”.  Wine and beer combinations could very well be the next big thing in brewing (check out Dogfish Head’s Noble Rot or Sixty-One if you’re curious), and I think that Schooner Exact is right on with their craftsmanship of what is sure to be a beer jam-packed with flavor and with a great story to tell.

Speaking of stories, Schooner Exact is chocked full of ’em, from the barrels it uses for aging to the names of its beers to the owners themselves.  As I mentioned, both Heather and Matt McClung are both former teachers.  A few years ago, they both gave up teaching to devote their full attentions to their brewery: Matt is the head brewer, and Heather keeps track of the books (and serves as president of the Washington Brewers Guild).  Schooner Exact began as a nano-brewery (defined as having a capacity of “three barrels or less” by Jeff Alworth at Beervana, though the Brewers Association doesn’t presently have an official definition) just over six years ago, but they now have six 30-barrel fermenters residing in their brewhouse and a capacity of over 3,000 barrels per year.  Of those beers, their flagship brew is 3-Grid IPA, named in reference to the bizarre and befuddling layout of downtown Seattle’s street system.  For those who prefer something a bit less hoppy, there’s King Street Brown, named, I can only assume, for King Street Station in Pioneer Square.  Paying homage to Seattle’s promiscuous past, there’s Seamstress Union Raspberry Wheat Ale, which I was fortunate enough to try filtered with fresh raspberries, rhubarb, and Hallertau hops at the Pine Box’s Randall event later that afternoon.  If you’re unfamiliar with the link between promiscuity and sewing, please, allow me to fill you in: in Seattle’s earlier years, it was somewhat expected that one may run into a lady of the evening here or there.  While prostitution was all well and good as a way to make a living, loitering about downtown by one’s lonesome was rather frowned upon.  The city of Seattle mandated that everyone carry proof of employment or union affiliation on his or her person, so the working girls of the Emerald City formed the Seamstress Union and took care of the area men’s tailoring and, uh hmm, other things that they may have needed taken care of….  Additionally, if you happen to be into the notion of promiscuously-inclined brews, I also recommend Pike Brewing Company’s Naughty Nellie, “named for Nellie Curtis, madam of the LaSalle Hotel (read: brothel), where the Pike was founded.”  Who knew that Seattle had such a colorful past?

I never thought I’d be all that interested in history.  Then again, I never thought I’d be a beer drinker, much less an all-out beer geek.  It’s fascinating to see who we grow up to be, find out what we end up doing, and discover what our passions may be.  I think it’s amazing that the McClungs both up and left the safety of their day jobs to pursue their mutual love of great beer and fantastic that they’ve experienced such tremendous success with their company.  I had a great time visiting Schooner Exact’s brewery and am a huge fan of both their beers and their clever infusions of Seattle history into their products.  I haven’t the foggiest idea where I’ll find myself in the years to come or what I’ll end up doing, and I have to think that, based on previous experience, it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to guess with any accuracy where or what that may be.  Nonetheless, I’m eager to find out.  Perhaps I’ll speculate it over a pint.

Night Out: IronFest Finale and Twigs

Would anyone care for an Iron Man-hattan?

Would anyone care for an Iron Man-hattan?

It’s finally here.  The end of an era.  After months of anticipation and weeks’ worth of preparation, the grand finale of IronFest 2013 has come and gone.  And what a finale it was!  Complete with with cocktails, themed outfits, and a big-screen premiere, it was definitely an event worth looking forward to.

Last Thursday, Amy, Amy’s husband, two of our married friends, and I sported our crimson and gold and headed out to Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar before heading out to the town’s first showing of Iron Man 3.   Twigs is one of the premiere martini bars in Spokane, and there are multiple locations throughout town.  This evening, we visited the Valley location, which features a spacious dining room and an impressive wall of colorful and well-organized liquors.  When possible, I recommend sitting in the lounge, where you are able to enjoy a warm fireplace, multiple televisions (if you follow sports), and the aforementioned booze array.

After sitting down, my friends and I ordered our drinks and quickly caught up on the news of the week: someone finished with school for the semester, someone else had plans to go out of town in the coming weeks, yet another had a new development at work to share.  Once we were all up to speed on the week’s happenings, we were free to jump into the topic of conversation we were all eager to get started on: what do you think the movie’s going to be like?!  It did make me laugh that despite the facts that we are all working adults with bills and responsibilities, we still get excited about seeing new movies and are willing to stay out late so that we can be the first to see them.

As fun as it is to go to midnight movie screenings, I do have one problem with them: they’re so late!  I realize that this makes me sound like an old woman, but the truth of the matter is, I’m just not a night owl.  I’d much rather get up early than stay up late.  That said, I was secretly thrilled that the “midnight showing” of Iron Man 3 was actually a 9:30pm showing.  Score!  With plenty of time to spare, we claimed our spots in the theater and speculated on the film to come.  Amy’s husband and I, both avid Iron Man fans, shared our thoughts and looked forward to finding out whether our plot hypotheses would prove correct.  As it turns out, most of them would not.

In my opinion, the movie was a blast, and I was glad that my friends and I made the effort to get together and go see it.  There were twists and turns, laughs and suspense, and a plot twist that none of us saw coming (I gasped when it was revealed).  More than anything, I was glad that we all had something to look forward to and enjoy together.  As we all get older, it becomes more and more difficult to coordinate everyone’s schedules.  There’s work, school, family obligations, and myriad other responsibilities that take up time and prevent us from getting together as often as we’d really like to.  It takes effort on everyone’s part to meet up and set aside time to enjoy each others’ company.  On this particular outing, many of us have now known each other for the better part of a decade.  We’ve been able to watch each other grow into the people that we now are and witness the various trials and tribulations that we each experienced along the way.  At times, we’ve grown apart for one reason or another, but it’s comforting that we’ve been able to find our ways back to each other and continue what have become fulfilling and cherished friendships.  Whether it’s to celebrate a wedding, someone’s birthday, or a movie we all want to see, I, personally, am glad that I have people with whom I am able to not only enjoy myself, but be myself, no matter how goofy, nerdy, or otherwise embarassingly unconventional I may be.

Tropic-ale Breeze

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“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

This statement almost exclusively serves as a disclaimer for an activity that almost certainly turned out to be a bad idea.  The present case is a happy exception.  This cocktail seemed like a good idea at the time, and, to my delighted dismay, it actually was good.  Really good.

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As an admitted beer geek, I had distinct feelings of trepidation and doubt when I first heard the premise of a beer cocktail.  Why would one want to mix beer with anything else?  I understand the allure of a celebratory Irish Car Bomb on St. Patty’s day, but beyond that, it seems like a waste of a good beer to mix it with liquor.  Well, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.

The good people of Spokane recently enjoyed the thrill of having a Total Wine & More store added to their growing retail base.  It’s about the closest thing to a grown-up toy store (save the naughty type) that there is.  There are so many choices, and where to begin?!  As part of the “& More” of its name, the store features all manner of peculiar spirits and exotic beers, so the mixing and matching possibilities are endless.  During a recent visit, my curiosity was piqued when I came across  Northwest Brewing Company‘s Mango Weizen.  Color me intrigued!  I had to have it.  That said, I purchased it, and it’s been sitting in my refrigerator ever since.  I didn’t feel right drinking a tropically themed beer while it was still lingering in the 40s outside.  However, the temperature has now warmed, and Mango Weizen’s time to shine has finally come.

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It’s time to get in the spirit of pre-summer.  As I later had plans to watch a film in which a variety of players come together to create one super team on the day I dreamt up this concoction, it was only appropriate that the evening’s selected beverage do that same, albeit with a fruity twist. (If you guessed that I was describing The Avengers, you were all-the-way right.  Well done.)  Mango Weizen will serve as the fearless leader (Captain America), a bit of orange juice will add a bold bit of flash and pizzazz (Iron Man), and a shot of peach schnapps will add some extra power (Thor).  To top things off, let’s garnish it wish a slice of fresh lime (I didn’t forget about you, Hulk).  Done and done.

Tropic-ale Breeze

1.5 oz peach schnapps

8 oz. Mango Weizen

3 oz. orange juice (fresh-squeezed or from concentrate)

1 slice of fresh lime (optional)

To Make the Cocktail:

In a pint glass, combine the orange juice and peach schnapps.  With the glass slightly tilted, gently pour in the beer.  Add a few ice cubes until the glass is full.  Garnish with slice of fresh lime.  Enjoy!