Thursday, September 25, 2014

Desert Hops: Beer & Food

As The Desert Hops International Beer Festival in Las Vegas approaches this Saturday, I thought I’d kick off the weekend and write about one of my favorite beer and food pairings. (Ignoring for awhile that there are so many beer styles that pair well with many types of food.)

I’ve been a hophead since my homebrewing days in the 80s and 90s. For years my favorites beer style has always been any type of Pale Ale or India Pale Ale. And then I discovered Imperial IPAs, the Big Kahuna of IPA! Average Alcohol By Volume ranges from 7.0% to 14.0% and the higher the IBUs the better!

A short list of my favorite beers:

  • Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA - An IPA with tastes that include hops, citrus and grassy (6.0% ABV / 60 IBU)
  • Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA - An Imperial IPA with tastes that include brandied fruitcake, raisin, and citrus. (9.0% ABV / 90 IBU)
  • Sierra Nevada Pale Ale - Not an IPA, but a great, widely available, basic, hoppy pale ale with piney and grapefruit aromas. (5.6% ABV / 38 IBU)
  • Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA - I’m guessing ‘Extra’ is like ‘Imperial’ only more new world sounding. Massive hop aromas of citrus, pine, and tropical fruit.  (7.2% ABV / 65 IBU)  
  • Stone Brewing Company India Pale Ale - A hoppy, citrusy IPA with grapefruit zest. (6.9% ABV / 77 IBU)
  • Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale - An American Strong Ale style beer with flavors of orange, citrus hops, and caramel. (7.2% ABV/ ‘Classified’ IBU)
Of course there are many other great IPAs or Imperial IPAs, like Russian River Brewing Company’s magical Pliny the Elder (8.0% ABV), but they aren’t on my radar for reasons of availability and/or price.
New Belgium has always made great beer and I’ve been a long-time fan of their Fat Tire Amber Ale (when I’m not drinking IPA), although I was never a big fan of their Ranger India Pale Ale (6.5% ABV / 70 IBU).

Recently I noticed Rampant* Imperial IPA (8.5% ABV / 85 IBU) at the grocery store and picked up a six pack. 
The first glass surprised me with a wonderful nose, taste, and hoppiness that I thought could only be found in a homebrewer’s fresh batch of homebrew. For a bottled beer it really has an 'on tap' freshness! Although BeerAdvocate only gave it an 85 rating I would say it should have at least a 90 rating.
*Synonyms for Rampant: uncontrolled, unrestrained, unchecked, unbridled, widespread.

The descriptive terms from New Belgium:  The hops include Mosaic, Calypso, Centennial and the malt bill is Pale and Black.
Visual - Golden with solid white foam and a slight hop sheen.
Aroma - Prominent lemon citrus and floral hop aroma and flavor including some nice dry-hopped fresh grass and spicy pine notes.
Flavor - Hint of sweetness in the background from malt, the rest is a story of ambitious but not overwhelming bitterness.
Mouthfeel - Warmth from alcohol is present but not conspicuous. Nice dry finish from carbonation and glass full of bitter hops.
Body - Medium-Light

Without knowing about the Brewers Association’s ‘Craft Beer and Food Pairing Chart’ I decided to have a Flank Steak with this tasty Imperial IPA. The chart recommends Imperial IPA be paired with smoked beef brisket, grilled lamb, or chicken-fried steak. Did they include the word ‘steak’ in their description? Close enough for me! And ‘smoked’ too?  I used apple wood smoking chips on my grill.

Guess what? Rampant Imperial IPA went very well with grilled/smoked Flank Steak, my famous Garlicky Spinach (click here for the garlicky spinach recipe) and La Brea Bakery’s Whole Grain Bread toasted on the grill. After a pretty warm day we enjoyed dinner on our patio and the beer hit the spot! I’d give it a 9/10 rating.  Maybe a Pliny the Elder would make it a 10 :-)

If this post has made you want to taste a wide variety of beers from around the world, you may want to go to The Desert Hops International Beer Festival in Las Vegas this Saturday. The people at the Cosmopolitan are pouring 150 beers from over 25 countries and serving multi-cultural food offerings from their restaurant partners—all in a lively social environment overlooking The Las Vegas Strip. Check it out and discover what beers you’ll enjoy with various occasions. It's the best bet on the Strip!



Twitter:      @TasteNTrip

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stomp Out Breast Cancer

“Stomp Out Breast Cancer” Wine Tasting
and Grape Stomping Competition 
The 10th anniversary celebration is Sunday, October 5, 2014 from 11:30am - 4:00pm at Oak Creek Golf Course, 1 Golf Course Drive, Irvine, CA 92618. 
Each ticket includes wine and beer tasting, appetizers and a BBQ lunch. Go for the fun grape stomping competition, live music, live and silent auctions, and car show.
All proceeds will support community education programs to ensure that breast cancer is detected at its earliest possible stage. Tickets are $125 through October 4th or $150 at the door.
Tanja Cebula and Dr. John West
The Be Aware Foundation was formed in 2004 by breast cancer survivor Tanja Cebula and Dr. John West to educate women about the risks of breast cancer, the life saving benefits of early an detection education program, and breast exam reminders. Visit or call 714-915-3101 for more info.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taco María

Prix Fixe at the OC Mix
Taco María is located inside the OC Mix @ SoCo Collection in Costa Mesa.
3313 Hyland Avenue, Ste C21, Costa Mesa, CA, 92626  (714) 538-8444
Dinner is available from Tuesday through Saturday, 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. We ate dinner there last Friday night.
Jonathan Golds 101 Best Restaurants 2014 - Los Angeles Times
Best Mexican Restaurant 2013 - OC Weekly
Best New Restaurants 2013 - OC Register

As good as the French Laundry Award 2014 - Taste N Trip

The Prix Fixe dinner was incredible! This was on par with dining at the French Laundry, only a shorter drive for us to get there. It was definitely the best dinner and wine pairing we have ever had in Southern California. 
There are two choices of prixe fixe dinners and you can order both choices to share as a couple.  Instead of one four course dinner, you can share the two different dinners and have half of eight different courses and eight different wines between two people. 
You might not expect it, but the amount of food and wine is more than enough!
Cucumber-melon-avocado, fennel, hyssop, blackberry paired with August Kessler, 2012 Riesling Kabinett, Pfalz, Germany.

Monterey squid, squid ink torilla, peanuts, purslane paired with Domaine Pichot, 2010 Chenin Blanc, Loire Valley, France.

Geoduck clam (pronounced "gooey duck”), abalone, Mayan octopus, avocado, tomato paired with Zocker, 2012 Gruner Veltliner, Edna Valley, California.

Beef heart tartare, serrano, lime, crisp rice, egg, yolk paired with Kaiken, 2012 Torrontes, Salta, Argentina.

FRIOLES de la OLLA (top) & PESCADO al PASTOR (bottom)
The frioles consisted of green & shelling beans, grilled cabbage, cueritos, meyer lemon paired with Leyda, 2013 Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile.
The pescado included pink grouper, achitoe, citrus, braised lettuce, green tomato paired with Paco and Lola, 2012 Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain.
Guinea fowl, lavender, onion, apple, cotija, bone broth paired with Bodegas Juan Gil 'Honoro Vera' 2013 Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain.

Pork cheek, blue grits, white peach, bacon, shisito peppers paired with Yangarra Estate, 2011 Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia.

Four courses were $52.

The wine pairings were an additional $26.
Both were well worth it!
All of the courses were excellent! My special favorites were:
    FRIOLES de la OLLA
And the wines I enjoyed the most were:
  • Paco and Lola, 2012 Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain
  • Bodegas Juan Gil 'Honoro Vera' 2013 Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain  
  • Yangarra Estate, 2011 Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia

If you ever find yourself looking for a place to eat dinner in Costa Mesa (Tues-Sat), this it the place!



Twitter:      @TasteNTrip

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

TnT Worldwide Audience

Cheers to Taste N Trip Blog Readers!

According to recent Google Blogger Stats the Taste N Trip Blog audience has viewed the pages on this blog 36,774 times.
It's great that readers in the U.S. have found this blog and have read about "Notes and pictures from tasting trips around California--Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, Ventura County Wine Trail and more."  I'm also surprised at how many people from a variety of other countries have visited here too.  Most of these countries produce world class wines as well (or at least consume them), so I'm curious about their interest in California wines.  

I took a quick online tour of the wines produced by these countries and now I would like to do a worldwide tasting trip! I've been to some wineries in France and Canada, but I only drank beer while I was in Germany. I noticed there's a Wine Fest at the Kiev Expo Plaza Exhibition Center in Kiev, Ukraine from November 5th - 7th, that could be fun.

I used images of the following wine bottles to create my graph above:

Balthasar Ress, Hattenheimer Schützenhaus, Rheingau Riesling, Kabinett


Lefkadia, 2010 Tanaida, Dry Red (Cabernet Sauvignon 45%, Merlot 25%, 15% Grenache, 12% Malbec, 3% Black Tsimlyansky) 
Although Rkatsiteli is a popular grape variety from Russia, I couldn’t find much about it online in the Russian Federation.  The only country I could find with information about it was The Republic of Georgia.


Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages, 100% Gamay
Beaujolais Nouveau Day will be here soon - November 20th. It is celebrated in France and around the world on the third Thursday of November when young Beaujolais wine is released for sale.

Red Rooster Winery Riesling, Okanagan Valley, Canada


Официальный сайт Ассоциации Сомелье Украины. Prince Trubetskoy Winery, 2008 Pearl of the Steppes, 100% Aligoté

United Kingdom

English Wine or British Wine?
English (or Welsh Wine) is made from grapes grown in England (or Wales) and produced in UK wineries.  British Wine is the product of imported grapes or grape concentrate that is made into wine in Britain. 
Glyndwr Vineyard 2013 Red (Rondo, Regent and Triomphe d’Alsace) is from Wales.

Kweichow Moutai (Maotai) Grain Wine, 53% Alc/Vol. 

I had a friend bring me a bottle of this back from China around 1984 and it had quite a kick with a very unique grain flavor.

Pamukkale 2011 Diamond red (Shiraz, Merlot, and Turkish varieties of Kalecik Karası and Boğazkere).

Latvijas Balzams Rigas Sampanietis - Sparkling Wine Rose, Latvia

If you are reading this blog and you're from Germany, Russia, France, Canada, Ukraine, United Kingdom, China, Turkey or Latvia, what wine would you have selected to represent your country? I realize there are many different wine regions and brands in every country, so there may not be an easy answer to this question.  Or, have you tasted any of the wines I listed? Were they any good?  Send me a message ...


Twitter:      @TasteNTrip