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Posts Tagged plates and pints

Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series an inspired hit

Feb 15

With a name like Bitter Brothers Brewing Company (4170 Morena Boulevard, Bay Ho), one might think it a bit of a standoffish operation and think twice about attending its “family dinner” events. But taking part in one of these affairs is actually rather sweet. Company co-founder Bill Warnke was a professional chef for many years before getting into the beer-biz. Not only does all that experience mean he has chops in the kitchen. It also means he has a vast number of friends in kitchens all over San Diego County. It’s these very taste buds that help make Bitter Brothers’ Family Dinner series so special. Read more »

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Chicken-Fried Awesomeness @ Common Theory

Jul 14

When one goes out to dine on Convoy Street, they come expecting fantastic dishes hailing from nearly every culinary culture throughout eastern Asia. It’s what this Kearny Mesa thoroughfare is best known for, and rightfully so. No other microbial section of San Diego boasts such a dense and impressive concentration of Asian eateries. I’m used to coming across everything there, from kung pao, kanpachi and kimchee to jellyfish, frog’s legs and chicken intestines. But recently I stumbled upon something undoubtedly American—in fact, I’m relatively certain this satiating wonder could only ever happen in this country—that I immediately knew I needed in my life. Enter the chicken-fried cheeseburger.

Hopefully that paragraph-break provided you sufficient time to pull yourself up from the floor. Just reading those words floored me. It was one of those moments where you wonder how something like that doesn’t already exist. This instinctual query seldom fails to predict a good thing and that was certainly the case with this delicacy, a product of the kitchen team at Common Theory Public House (4805 Convoy Street, Kearny Mesa). It was crispy on the outside while retaining all the juicy, meaty mammal-appeal one desires in a traditional burger. Throw on some fun toppings—scallions, horseradish-accented Havarti cheese and an herbed bacon aioli—and epic-status was achieved.

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Chicken-fried cheeseburger @ Common Theory

“Our whole approach on food is to create delicious pub-fare with an upscale twist, while providing emphasis on making the dishes pair-able with our craft beers,” says Common Theory co-owner Cris Liang. “The idea behind this dish was to fulfill the craving for a delicious chicken-fried steak, so our twist on this authentic Southern-style cuisine was to create a burger version that could be enjoyed in the palm of your hands. Southern comfort-food and a refreshing beer. What else do you need?”

On the beer-front, there’s plenty to choose from. The beer was actually what led me to check out Common Theory in the first place. (Have I ever mentioned I’m pretty into beer?) I found Thorn St. Brewery’s Got Nelson? India pale ale a great brew for cutting through the richness of the burger, but there were dozens of other beers on-tap that would have fit the bill.

Recent visitors to Convoy have probably noticed that craft-beer has crept its way into the equation for many restaurants, new-and-old. So much that, each month, a promotional event called the Convoy Flight takes place, where a selected guest brewery will put numerous beers from its portfolio on tap at four designated businesses—Common Theory, Dumpling Inn’s Shanghai Saloon, O’Brien’s Pub and SoHo—so guests can enjoy ever-changing pub-crawl experiences.

Craft is big-business on Convoy now, but it actually wasn’t part of the equation for Cris and business partner Joon Lee when they decided to go into the hospitality business.

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Common Theory’s bar

“Now, everyone knows and feels how important craft beer is, even the non-craft drinkers and the craft beer haters…who will soon be converted anyway,” Cris says with a chuckle. “After a year-and-a-half of searching for a location for a hospitality business, and going through multiple concepts and business plans, a light-bulb went on in my head. My friends and I were always searching for and drinking craft beers, constantly buying different bottles to try at home, spending every weekend visiting breweries. We loved craft beer, craft beer drinking was on the rise, and a space good enough finally became available, so we dove in head-first and here we are celebrating more than two years in business.”

I’m glad they took the plunge into Convoy’s rising pool of quality ales and lagers. More craft beer and a most-decadent and inventive take on the almighty burger are good things .So good that I’ve been thinking about that deep-fried gem ever since having it. Now it’s time to share the dish with all of you—along with the recipe thanks to the generosity of Common Theory. Give it a whirl or roll down Convoy and indulge in the genuine article. Either way, you’ll want to do it with a beer, of course.

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Everyday I’m Trufflin’

Dec 8

Somehow, I’d never heard of Andrea. It’s possible that you haven’t either. But after a San Diego Beer Week campaign that saw her collaborate with such big name venues as Gordon Biersch, Mike Hess Brewing, KnB Wine Cellars, Monkey Paw and South Park Brewing, loads of craft beer enthusiasts are now familiar not only with her name, but with her confectionery handiwork as the namesake sweets maven behind local business, Andrea’s Truffles. It’s fitting she should collaborate with craft brewers. It’s their entrepreneurial spirit that partially inspired her to start her own business.

“I graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 1999, but left the biz in 2006 to have a normal life,” Andrea Davis recalls with a chuckle. “But when I revamped my truffle recipe, it was something everyone seemed to want. It seemed like everyone was starting their own business. It was such a great time and awesome vibe, so I just went for it.”

Her first and staunchest supporters early on were Hanis Cavin and Sara Stroud, the co-owner couple behind the Carnitas’ Snack Shack chain. Eateries that champion craft beer as passionately as they do pork in all its delicious forms, the provided Andrea a nice introduction and indoctrination into the flavorful ales being brewed throughout San Diego. The symbiosis that could be attained between those beers and her sweets fast became obvious.

andrea's truffles“When I first started trufflin’, I spend a lot of time at Carnitas’ Snack Shack in North Park. Different brewers were always in and out of there. Hanis would always give them a truffle and a new relationship would begin,” says Andrea. “When they got their beer-and-wine license, Hanis handed me two bottles of Green Flash Double Stout to make truffles with. After that, it was all over…in a good way. There is such a sense of community with my beer-centric pals, so much support and love.”

From Valentine’s Day beer-and-truffle pairings at Mike Hess Brewing in North Park to a Truffles On Tap pairing series for The Patio Restaurant Group to custom truffles built around the flavor profiles of specific beers, she is like a sugar-fueled whirlwind swirling all over San Diego County. Andrea is wild about all of her craft beer collaborators, but says her latest source of pride and joy is a carrot cake truffle commissioned by beer bar baron Scot Blair to pair with a beer his brewpub, Monkey Paw, had a hand in producing with Escondido’s Stone Brewing Co. and award-winning local homebrewer Juli Goldenberg called 24 Carrot Golden Ale.

A Belgian strong ale brewed with lactose, carrot juice, raisins and spices, it was billed as carrot cake in a glass. The truffle’s white chocolate coating creates a creamy, buttery component to mirror the cream cheese frosting elements of the beer while actual carrot cake, cinnamon, ginger and raisins take care of the rest. It’s a tasty example of Andrea’s creativity and ability to step up to even the most challenging and outlandish of beers.

A trio of holiday-ready recipes (including the one for those carrot cake truffles) are the gift of this generous dessertier this yuletide season. Further evidence of her giving nature will be provided on December 11 at the newly debuted AleSmith Brewing Co. tasting room in Miramar when her specially crafted gingerbread truffles are paired with AleSmith Noël, a traditional Belgian-style Christmas ale brewed to support the Beer to the Rescue anti-lupus fundraising campaign. Consider them sweets from the sweet.

Basic Chocolate Truffles
Yield: 16 truffles

16 oz. heavy cream, room temperature
8 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 oz. unsalted butter, cubed
16 oz. dark chocolate (preferably 70% cacao)

Mix the cream and semisweet chocolate in the top vessel of a double boiler over low heat. When the chocolate is almost melted, turn off the heat and whisk until completely incorporated. Whisk the butter into the mixture, several cubes at a time. When the ingredients are completely incorporated, pour the chocolate into a foil pan lined with plastic. Place the pan in the refrigerator and let cool for at least 12 hours.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator and cut the chocolate into squares or use a ball-scooper to dole into equal-sized segments. Melt the dark chocolate in the top vessel of a double boiler over low heat. When the chocolate reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit, maintain that temperature, being sure not to overheat it. One at a time, dip the truffles in the chocolate to coat then place on a Sil-Pat lined sheet pan to cool and set. Serve.

Andrea’s Tricks to Trufflin’

  • Whatever liquid you add to your melted chocolate, cream and butter mixture (i.e., stout, liquor), make sure you are taking the same amount of heavy cream. You do not want a runny mixture.
  • While cooking a stout down to thicken before incorporating into the chocolate mixture, add a little brown sugar. And don’t be afraid to cook the stout down to an almost tar-like consistency. A 64-ounce growler of beer should reduce into no more than 3 or 4 ounces of liquid. When adding it to your chocolate mixture, add a little at a time. This way it won’t clump up.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, a good way of tell if the chocolate is the proper temperature is if it is warm like a the serving temperature for a baby’s bottle.

Carrot Cake (AKA “Blair-rot Cake”) Truffles
Yield: 50 truffles
Paired with Juli Goldenberg / Monkey Paw / Stone 24 Carrot Golden Ale

20 oz. white chocolate (preferably Callebout)
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 Tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch kosher salt
1 Tbsp plus pinch ground cinnamon
prepared carrot cake (preferably produced using Betty Crocker’s carrot cake recipe), cut into chunks
1 lb. white chocolate, for coating
1 cup raisins (optional)
1 cup walnuts (optional)
sea salt flakes (optional)

In a large stainless steel bowl, combine 20 oz. of white chocolate with the cream cheese, heavy cream, ginger, vanilla, salt and 1 tablespoon of the cinnamon. Transfer the mixture to the top vessel of a double boiler over low heat and stir occasionally until the ingredients are completely incorporated. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Spread the mixture into an even layer, then gently push chunks of the cake into the chocolate. Cover snugly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Remove the pan from the refrigerator. Remove the plastic wrap then invert the chocolate-coated cake onto a Sil-Pat-lined baking sheet with a one-inch lip. In the top vessel of a double boiler, heat half the remaining white chocolate and cinnamon. When the mixture is melted, turn off the heat and stir in the rest of the chocolate. When the mixture is smooth and lukewarm, drizzle the white chocolate over the carrot cake or cut the cake into equal-sized square portions and dip in the melted white chocolate, one at a time, returning each truffle to the pan to cool once coated. Garnish with raisins, walnuts and sea salt, and serve.

Vanilla Hazelnuts
Yield: 14 ounces

8 oz. granulated sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch salt (preferably from La Jolla Salt Co.)
14 oz. blanched hazelnuts, whole or pieces

Mix the sugar, vanilla and salt together in a sauté pan over medium heat. When the mixture is halfway melted, stir in the nuts and continue stirring until the mixture takes on a golden-brown color and there is a shiny gloss over the nuts. Remove from heat and spread the mixture over a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Let cool. Serve or transfer the nuts to an airtight container for storage.

Recipes courtesy Andrea Davis, Owner, Andrea’s Truffles

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