Girl + Fire = Food



Monday, October 29, 2012

Day Drinking at Hollywood On Tap

I like beer. It's frothy. But I only really like specific beers. Mostly in the Belgian style, like Hoegaarden and Blue Moon. I'm a fan of the Trappist ales like Chimay, too. But I what I truly love are the superduper sour red ales. If it tastes like carbonated vinegar, I'm probably in love with it.

What I don't like is bitter, hoppy beer. It leaves my mouth feeling like it's covered in moss. Or carpet. In other words, not good.

And these days, most "craft" beers are exactly that: really bitter, hoppy beers. I don't understand the appeal, but I'm just one person. To each his own.

All that to say that when my buddy Rob had an extra ticket to the Hollywood On Tap craft beer fest held on Paramount Studio's "Streets of New York," I figured I'd tag along.

I don't think I've ever seen Rob drink beer (he's the Whisky Guy, after all), so this was going to be interesting. I'd also just cleared my entire weekend of all the responsible things I should have been doing, so why not waste the day drinking instead?

I knew there wasn't going to be much of a selection catering to my tastes, but I was willing to try something new. While Rob concentrated on the stouts (beers that taste like tree bark to me), I sought out anything claiming to be red ales.

There were but a mere handful.

The first stop was the Abita Brewing Company out of Louisiana. I was intrigued by their Pecan Harvest Ale simply because it wasn't the traditional fall pumpkin offering. You could smell and taste the subtle roasted pecans, which was nice. It completely deviated from my hunt for the sour reds but what the hell, right?

It was, of course, a bit too bitter for me. Sigh.

Next up was the Sacramento-based Ruhstaller, which has an interesting history. The California Red Ale was also too bitter for my taste, but it came with a delightful story.

In a bit of serendipitous planning on the event organizers' part, in the booth just next door was the local Monkish Brewing Company beers. This is where I found a winner. The Red Table was still a bit hoppy, but closest of all to what I wanted. And paired with a pink peppercorn, it was quite, dare I say, yummy.

This was the only booth we stopped at that paired their beers with a food product, so I really appreciated that. I'm a dummy for not also indulging in a taste of their Feminist, which came with some dried hibiscus flowers.

This misstep simply guarantees that I'll head down to Torrance for this and the rest of Monkish's frosty beverages. Yay for local breweries!

Now, let's talk food, lest this become a drinking blog (Girl + Quaff?). Two weeks in a row of concentrating solely on alcohol is making me sound like a drunk. I'm not.


There were a number of food trucks at the festival, none of which I'd ever tried. We settled on Germany's Famous Bratwurst. Rob, being of German descent, had the traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut and German potato salad. I, being of spicy descent, opted for the currywurst with garlic fries. Served with curry-laden ketchup it was so damn good.


If you're in the LA area, and have a hankering for German sausage, find this truck. It will make your tastebuds happy. They seem to concentrate on downtown and the Valley, but it's probably worth the trek.

On a weekend, anyway.

When you don't feel like being responsible either.

And then get yourself a local beer. They go so well together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Girl + Conference: Liquid Refresments, Las Vegas Style

I don't know what your conferences are like, but apparently when you have one for meeting industry professionals, there will be alcohol EVERYWHERE.

I'm not complaining. I just wonder if this is true for everyone else.

Last week I regaled you with stories of eating my way through Las Vegas. Part two is all about the accompanying libations.

At our first stop at the Paris Hotel, we were greeted by tuxedoed waiters offering two types of wine and something blue. I've learned that I can't drink anything that is sweet because I will end up very sick. And that's not how one comports themselves while trying to network. The blue drink was VERY sweet.

I don't know what was in it, but it was red on the bottom. Pretty, but suffice to say it screamed danger to me, so I stuck to the white wine.

The next night our local friends treated us to the "local experience": the Double Down Saloon. 10 years ago it was called The Junkyard and we had taken a party bus from LA to Vegas to see my friend's band play in it. It's still a terribly awesome dive bar, but now there's a half-full vending machine in it.

Their two signature drinks are the Bacon Martini and Ass Juice. Yes, you read that correctly:

The martini is nothing more than a typical vodka martini with smokey bacon flavoring added. It's not horrible, but you don't need more than one. The ass juice shot is served with a Twinkie.  Twinkies have a shelf life of about one million years, and I loved them as a kid. But as an adult, one bite and I can't imagine what I ever found appetizing about them. As for the "juice," it's super sweet. No idea what's in it, but I stuck to beer lest I end up needing the puke insurance they sell at the bar.

No joke. I mean, look at the sign behind the pool table. Insurance is $20.

Back on the tradeshow floor, there was free alcohol everywhere. Every third booth had champagne. And then the floor receptions! The photo at the top of this booth was from the tequila tasting in Mexico's booth.

At the end of one day, the Japanese tourism group gave us sake, then whisked us off to a Japanese restaurant with more champagne. And beer. And wine.

The next party took us to the Hard Rock Cafe, where I stuck my cake pop in my beer. And then there was dancing. Because that's what you do when men in afro wigs are playing funk music for you. You dance!

And eat cake pops.

After the big closing night party at a hip nightclub...

...we returned to the Double Down on the last night of our stay. Apparently we felt the need to go from high brow to very, very low brow for the after-party. Inside we found a few wayward Australians (different than the ones from the first night) that were also in town for the conference. Who knows how they wandered so far off the strip, but they'd never had Twinkies so they ordered one of these shots...and immediately regretted the Twinkie offering. It was pretty hilarious.

I love Australians.

I have three conferences in Las Vegas in 2013. I imagine I'll be seeing the Double Down a few more times, if my friends have any say. Though I'll probably avoid the Twinkies.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Girl + Conference: The Eats, Las Vegas Style

One of the best things about being an event planner is attending an event for which you are in NO WAY responsible. This is especially true when you've just come off an 11-month stint of planning and executing a 3-day event for 2000 people. Some might even call this a vacation, if such a thing existed for event planners. (They don't. You're always planning, whether it's your next 3 events or your next blog post.)

IMEX America is an amazing tradeshow in Las Vegas, which was, up until last week, one of my least favorite places. But spending time with some LV natives, off the Strip, taught me I might actually like Vegas.

And while I was able to do excellent networking and connect with industry friends, the parties are really what  this post is about. Because we ate (and drank) our way up and down Las Vegas Blvd (and off it) over the course of 5 days.

It was exactly what I needed. First up, the food. Next time, the drinks.

Note, when I remembered to shoot a picture of food (or drink), it wasn't with a real camera in perfectly lit conditions. It was with a crappy iPhone under mood lighting, because Las Vegas is very mood-oriented (read: dark).

We arrived at 3:45 pm on Sunday, which gave us just enough time to check-in to our hotel and hustle over to the Venetian | Palazzo, before being escorted to the Paris Hotel to be wined, dined and then whisked downstairs to see Jersey Boys. Bucking the standard, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant has delicious food. Also, floor to ceiling windows and beautiful sunset lighting (and a great view of the Bellagio Hotel seen above)!

Lox with cream cheese, fried cheese, and prosciutto with figs. Next time I'll show you what they offered to drink. Mmm.

This is what you eat at a classy evening reception. What you eat at 2 am after several hours of dancing, flirting with Australians, and drinking nothing but whisky at Gilley's over at Treasure Island isn't quite as beautiful. But damn if it ain't filling:

Nachos are good anytime. Especially at 2 am in Las Vegas.

Monday was a low-key day. We only had one reception before exploring the Vegas low-spots, like the ultimate dive bar Double Down Saloon that I had actually been to 10 years earlier. More on that next time.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian | Palazzo has excellent massage therapists. Also, delightful food, like cheesy bacon-stuffed jalapeño and mini cheesecake. We ate far too many of these finger foods.

Tuesday was filled with vendor meetings all day followed by back-to-back receptions. They started on the tradeshow floor at 4 pm (sushi and sake at the Japan booth, tequila tasting at the Mexico booth, countless others) and continued off-site at various locations. We opted for tidbits at Shibuya, followed by drinks at the Hard Rock, capped off by dancing at eyecandy.

On top: tuna on a slice of avocado topped with caviar. Bottom: pickled cucumber (similar to ajad) and tempura rock shrimp. 

The Hard Rock had great little cake pops. I popped one into my beer (for picture-taking purposes only, of course). You aren't choosy at the open bar spots.

There was very little elegant eating after this. A quick tea latte in the morning, a bar sandwich after dancing till  2 am. You know, the usual.

There was delicious Korean BBQ at 3 am somewhere...but you know what you're not doing at 3 am while eating Korean BBQ? Remembering to take pictures under fluorescent lights, that's what.

Next time we'll focus on the liquid aspect of this event. Las Vegas is, after all, a desert. You have to keep hydrated.

On gin & tonics. Or whatever they're serving at the open bar.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper & Chipotle Pesto

When I came across Aida Mollenkamp's recipe for a roasted red pepper pesto, I was intrigued. But as I read through it, I was disappointed by the ingredients.

Don't get me wrong, I love goat cheese. It's my favorite cheese. But the rest of the ingredients lacked oomph. I have a serious disdain for red pepper flakes.

They are fine on pizza, if you're into that. But for my sauce, I wanted a good spice kick blended throughout and not little flakes getting stuck in my teeth. At first I considered adding sriracha, but thought it might be a bit too extreme. I settled on chipotle peppers. And that's when this became a Mexican dish.

I figured chipotle and my beloved goat cheese, both being strong flavors, would compete for attention, but chipotle and queso fresco pair beautifully together. And it crumbles so nicely. Great on refried beans, delicious on chipotle & roasted pepper spaghetti. And since we were already going the Latino route, why not go all the way and use cilantro instead of thyme?

What came out was nothing like what Aida started with. It was so much better. Even without nuts.

The next morning, one of the taste testers mixed this dish with the citrus quinoa, wrapped it in flat bread and called it breakfast. He then tweeted a picture. Boys. They'll eat anything!

I think this sauce might be equally as good as a soup. That's an idea for next time.

print recipe

Roasted Red Pepper & Chipotle Pesto
Adapted from Roasted Pepper Pesto
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 8 roasted red peppers (1 16-ounce jar), chopped
  • 1 chipotle pepper in sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 ounces queso fresco (Mexican white cheese), crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Cook the pasta according to the directions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the past water then drain the pasta.2. While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until just as it begins to take on color, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic for the last 30 seconds. 3. Add the tomato paste, both types of peppers (roasted and chipotle), chipotle sauce, and sugar (this balances the sourness from the tomato paste). Cook until thickened.4. Transfer the sauce to a blender and process until smooth. Return to the pan with the drained pasta and salt, and stir to combine. Add 1 cup of the pasta water and cook over medium heat until the sauce clings to the noodles. Add more water as needed to thin the sauce. 5. Serve topped with crumbled cheese and chopped cilantro.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lemon Whisky Apple Butter

Warning: this apple butter will make you drunk.

It's also full of stuff that's good for you, so as you're hitting the point where you're too dizzy to stand up straight, at least you're also getting some fruit in your system. And you know what they say about apples and doctors and such.

I really like apples, which is partially while I'll never die (at least not from seeing a doctor). I also really like applesauce because it reminds me of my childhood. And apple pie. Mmm. I experimented with this twice, both times with a cup full of Highland Park 12. Not bacon scotch, mind you, but a just a good single malt. The house smelled divine.

Making applesauce is pretty easy: chop up a bunch of peeled apples (or unpeeled, if you have a food mill—I don't) and let them simmer in a bit of water with cinnamon until the apples break down into mush. It'll take about an hour. You can liven it up by dropping in some orange zest stabbed with cloves. Also yummy. Or, you can add a cup of scotch and some lemon zest and enjoy the aroma as your apples get drunk. (Pour yourself a shot too.)

That last one is my favorite.

The first time I made this, I didn't mash the apples up much so the texture was a bit more chunky. As taste tester Whisky Guy Rob ate it, he fantasized about putting it on waffles or ice cream. So I had that for breakfast. It's a hot toddy on a plate!

The second time, I opted to use the food processor and get the consistency down to a smooth apple butter. Then I served it to a bunch of food bloggers. The reviews were hilarious.

  • Kim Burnell of Rustic Garden Bistro: Delicious. Amen.
  • Dorothy Reinhold of Shockingly Delicious: That was some dang fine whiskey apple butter. I needed a designated driver to get home!
  • Neha Mathur of From My Heart: Mmm...That was so good...I still have a hangover.

Don't say you weren't warned!

Next time I'm baking this into a pie. Drunken apple pie!!

print recipe

Whisky Apple Butter
A decidedly adult twist on the standard comfort food.
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped (about a 2-inch piece)
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium Gala apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (tied in a muslin pouch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quality single malt scotch whisky, such as Highland Park 12
1. Brown the butter in a large saucepan. Once you can smell the slightly nutty aroma, add the ginger and sauté for one minute. 2. Add remaining ingredients: apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest in its pouch, and bourbon. Simmer uncovered until apples are very tender and liquid is almost all gone, about 60 minutes.3. Remove lemon zest pouch and mash the apples for a chunky consistency. Or, puree in a food processor until desired consistency is achieved.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings