Friday, August 30, 2013

Honeymoon in San Francisco: The Beer

We decided to go to San Francisco for our honeymoon because we've been trying to plan a trip out there for about four years. We also went for the food. And the beer.

Z is a major craft beer fan, and he knows a lot about the stuff. I am the lucky woman who gets to sample a crap ton of beers alongside him. We had a list of beer bars and breweries that we wanted to hit while in SF, and, boy, did we hit them all...and then some.

Here are some of my favorite beer bars and breweries that we went to. Cheers!

Monk's Kettle, Mission District: I talked about Monk's Kettle's food yesterday, but their beer list was also spectacular. I ordered a Death & Taxes by Moonlight Brewing Company, and it was fabulous.

The Willows, SoMa: Z and I stumbled upon this spot accidentally, but we were so glad we did. The owner is from Boston, so they had a good amount of East Coast beers on tap...that are hard to find on tap on the East Coast (like Smashed Pumpkin by Shipyard). I went for The Illinois by Goose Island, one of my favorite breweries. 

Us at The Willows!

City Beer Store, SoMa: We ended up going here twice. This is a fantastic spot to enjoy some great beer on tap, and they even have bottles for sale. The food here is scarce, but they do let you come in with food if you really want to eat something. The second time we went there I had a Habanero Sculpin by Ballast Point Brewing Co., and it was wonderfully spicy without being too fiery.

Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, CA: This place is the only reason we went to Santa Rosa. Russian River is the holy grail in Z's eyes, and now I know why. Having their beer fresh and on tap was an incredible experience for my mouth (although, not so much for my liver), and their food is quite good, too. My favorite beers of the evening were Supplication and Temptation.

Lagunitas, Petaluma, CA: Lagunitas is also the only reason we went to Petaluma. We did one of their brewery tours, and it was one of the best ones I've been on - it was informative, entertaining, and we could be on it with beer in hand. After the tour, we drank and ate in their large patio area, and ended up sitting with a couple from Massachusetts. Small world! I loved their bourbon barrel-aged Cappuccino Stout. It's strong, but worth savoring every sip.

Other honorable mentions: Church Key, Toronado, Marin Brewing Company.

Are you a beer drinker? If so, what's your favorite kind of beer?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Honeymoon in San Francisco: The Food

Six days in San Francisco left me full. And very, very happy.

Z and I went into our honeymoon with a list of restaurants and beer bars (more on that tomorrow) that we wanted to try. [Side note: Thank you for all your recommendations!]. We hit just about every place we wanted to, and every meal - with the exception of one (at Greens) - was a delicious success. It was difficult to narrow them down, but here are some of my favorite places that we visited on this trip:


Holey Bagel, Noe Valley: We stayed in Noe Valley, and one morning, when Z ventured out to find us breakfast, he came back with Holey Bagels. I had an egg, cheese, tomato, and avocado sandwich on a sundried tomato bagel (he had the same on a jalapeno bagel), and every bite was flavorful and satisfying. 

Martha & Bros. Coffee, Noe Valley: Martha & Bros. has several cafe locations throughout San Francisco, but we were lucky enough to have one right up the street from our rental (on 24th Street). They have a ton of coffee concoctions, pastries, and more, but we always went for the iced coffee or iced mocha. Both were delightfully strong and delicious each time. 

Omelette Express, Santa Rosa, CA: We paid a visit to Russian River Brewing Company (more on that later), and the next morning, an employee at our hotel recommended Omelette Express. It was just a few short steps from our hotel, so we decided to check it out. This is a casual spot with a great staff, good food, huge portions, and very affordable prices.   

Lunch and/or Dinner:

Monk's Kettle, Mission District: We came here for the beer, but were pleasantly surprised by the food. I highly recommend trying the Grilled Flatbread ($13), which, when we visited, was slathered with asparagus pesto and piled high with cantaloupe, lightly dressed arugula, and goat cheese.

Gracias Madre, Mission District: The wait for this 100 percent vegan Mexican restaurant might be long (we waited a good hour), but every single minute is worth it. I'd go for the Coconut Ceviche ($10.50) and/or the tacos (any of them).

Coconut Ceviche.

The Slanted Door, Embarcadero: Z's parents graciously gave us a gift certificate to this highly acclaimed restaurant, and it was honestly one of the best meals we had on our trip. I had the Vegetarian Spring Rolls ($11) and Green Papaya salad ($12) to start, followed by the Dirty Girl Farm Spicy Haricots Vert ($11). For dessert, we had the incredible Doughnuts ($9), which came with an addictive butterscotch dipping sauce. Their cocktails are also fantastic, and the atmosphere is upscale without being pretentious. Oh, and be sure to make reservations - this place books up fast.

boon eat + drink, Guerneville, CA: One day, on our way to the Napa region, we stopped to check out the Russian River. When we got hungry for lunch, Yelp recommended boon - and thank gosh it did. Boon sources most of their ingredients right from Sonoma County, and they had a small yet all-local wine list that we were excited to dig into. For lunch, I enjoyed an incredibly fresh kale and peach salad (I don't have the price, but it was around $8 or $9), and the waiter even gave us a free order of Truffle Fries ($8) because we had to wait a few extra minutes for a table. 

Hawker Fare, Oakland, CA: We flew in and out of Oakland (much cheaper), and the night before our red eye home, we met up with some friends at Hawker Fare. Our waiter at boon actually recommended it, and we definitely had one memorable meal there. The Blistered Green Beans ($7) were a big hit with our table thanks to the curry paste they were tossed in (we got them vegetarian, but they're usually served with pork bacon). For my entree, I had the Gang Dang Tofu ($9.50) which is tofu and pumpkin simmered in a spicy coconut milk red curry with bamboo and herbs. Let's just say this meal was the perfect grand finale for our eating adventures in SF!

Tomorrow, I'll give you the lowdown on the beer we washed all of this food down with. San Francisco has some damn good beer bars and breweries!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Just Married

Hello, friends! We are back from our wedding and honeymoon, and I must say, everything was absolutely perfect. The weather was gorgeous every single day, we ate and drank like royalty, and, on our big day, we were surrounded by our closest family and friends. Does it get any better than that?

I have a couple of honeymoon and wedding recaps planned for you all, but as I wrap my head around all of the information I want to share, I figured I'd at least show you guys a few photos. Our amazing photographer, Eric McCallister, sent us a few photos, and here are some of my favorites so far. (Side note: our wedding venue was Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield, N.H. More to come on that, too!). I hope you enjoy, and more fun posts will come this week!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Wedding Time Has Come

Well friends, the time has come. Z and I leave tonight for our wedding, then we're jetting off for two weeks on our honeymoon (we're going to San Francisco and Napa).

I'll be sure to recap all of the details from our wedding and trip after we return (I'll probably be posting photos during the festivities on Instagram, too). Until then, I hope you all enjoy these last few weeks of summer to the fullest!

See you soon.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

White Bean Burgers with Garlic and Scallions

We're currently in eat-everything-in-the-house-before-we-leave-for-two-weeks mode. And the best ingredient to start a "dump" meal, in my opinion, is with a can of beans. Because, who doesn't have beans in their pantry? They're an easy protein to turn into a satisfying - and affordable - meal.

Here are some of my favorite meals that have started with a can of beans:

-Spicy Tofu Tacos with Corn and Black Bean Salsa
-Curry Hummus
-Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili
-White Bean, Ricotta, and Pesto Pizza
-Indian-Style Chickpeas and Potatoes
-Homemade Black Bean Burgers

And now, I have a new one to add to this line-up: these White Bean Burgers with Garlic and Scallions. I made these spicy and savory burgers the other day - on IPA day - so we could pair them with a glass of Heady Topper. Let's just say, the pairing was a successful one!

Please excuse the mediocre photo...

White Bean Burgers with Garlic and Scallions
Yields: 3 medium-sized burgers
-1 15 ounce can small white beans, drained and rinsed
-2 cloves garlic, chopped
-1 egg
-1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
-1/4 cup chopped scallions
-Generous pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
-1/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
-Salt and black pepper, to taste
-Squirt of lemon juice
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-3 slices of cheddar (we used spicy Buffalo Wing Cheddar - highly recommend it!)
-3 hamburger buns
-Arugula and tomato slices for garnish (or, whatever you desire)

1.) Place beans and garlic in a food processor; pulse until mostly smooth.
2.) Pour beans and garlic in a medium-sized bowl. Add remaining ingredients (up until olive oil) and stir, ensuring mixture is well combined.
3.) Form bean mixture into 3 patties. Put patties on a plate and cover with plastic wrap; place in fridge for 30 minutes to allow flavors to combine.
4.) Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is hot, add burgers and cook for about 3-5 minutes on each side, or until browned and burgers are cooked through. Top burgers with cheese when there is about 1 minute of cooking time left.
5.) Place burgers on buns and top with arugula and tomato. Enjoy!

[Print this recipe]

These burgers were full of flavor thanks to the garlic, but also had a great bite of spice from the scallions and crushed red pepper. It's amazing what a can of beans can turn into!

Do you have a favorite recipe that involves beans? If so, what is it?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Nutella Cream Cheese Chocolate Chunk Brownies

Our wedding is nine days away. If you're wondering what my "wedding diet" has consisted of, these brownies are it. My soon-to-be husband is one lucky fella.

We still have some leftover homemade cream cheese in our fridge, so I decided to use up some of it in a revamped version of my Nutella Brownies. The end result was a fudgy, decadent brownie that is dangerous to have in the house nine days before your wedding. Just F.Y.I.

Nutella Cream Cheese Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Yields: 9 servings

-1/2 cup butter (or 1 stick), softened, plus extra for greasing
-1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chunks, plus extra for sprinkling on top of brownies
-1/4 cup Nutella
-1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
-Pinch of salt
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-2 eggs
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder

Cream Cheese Topping:
-8 ounces (or 1 cup) cream cheese
-1/3 cup granulated sugar
-1 egg
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla
-Pinch of salt

1.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 baking pan with butter.
2.) Place the butter and chocolate chunks in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water; stir until mostly melted. Add Nutella, and stir until smooth. Remove from heat, and let cool slightly.
3.) In a medium bowl, combine sugar, salt, and vanilla extract. Add chocolate and Nutella mixture and stir.
4.) Add the eggs to the bowl, one at a time, stirring well until blended.
5.) Add the flour and cocoa to the brownie batter and beat until smooth.
6.) Pour the batter into the greased cake pan.

Cream Cheese Topping:
1.) Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until it has a whipped consistency.
2.) Add sugar and mix; then, add vanilla, egg, and salt, and mix until well-blended.
3.) Spoon cheese mixture over brownie batter in dollops, leaving some brownie showing in-between. Gently swirl through batter several times with a butter knife to create a marbled effect. Sprinkle several chocolate chunks over the top of the batter.
4.) Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.

I loved how the cream cheese helped to prevent these brownies from becoming too sweet, while adding to their richness and deliciousness.

Oh, and you may have some cream cheese mixture leftover, but that's never an issue, right? Right.