Making Meal Time Magic

Long time readers know I’ve been a big fan of kitchen witch Dawn Hunt and her Cucina Aurora products for years. We’ve been fortunate enough to share several recipes/articles from her here on the site (Shepherd’s Pie, Spinach Quiche, and Pumpkin Cheesecake) and I got to interview her when the cookbook she contributed to and edited “Tastes From the Temple” released. My husband and I are also HUGE fans of Cucina Aurora Rosemary Oregano Infused Olive Oil. It’s great for dipping bread into and we cook chicken in it. SO GOOD!

As great as it is to read Dawn’s writing, it’s the best to see her cook and talk live. However if you’re like me and had to miss Celebrate Samhain this year (where she was presenting) and want to know what it’s like to see her live, now you can know. There is now an ongoing video series, “Making Meal Time Magic” with Dawn Hunt from Cucina Aurora. These short videos not only feature recipes, but also highlight food folklore and showcase a little bit of Dawn’s kitchen witchery. Try out Spicy Marinara Simmer Sauce:

If this video piqued your interest in Cucina Aurora you can learn more at www.cucinaaurora.com. If you’re inspired to try out some goodies while you’re there, now is a great time! Cucina Aurora is charging no shipping on orders until November 9, 2014! Enter Coupon Code WINGS at check out and enjoy free shipping on all orders. Limited to ONE use per customer. Valid only on online purchase at www.cucinaaurora.com. Offer expired November 9, 2014.

What’s Inside a Red Bull & Vodka

I tried Red Bull once. It tasted nasty. So I stick with my numerous other vices. However, I have always wondered what the heck was in it. I mean, you can read the side of the can, but what does it all mean? Fortunately, for information and entertainment, Wired Magazine’s web series “What’s Inside” answers this question.

When I think of Red Bull I always think of it as mixed in the “cocktail” Red Bull & Vodka. It’s actually why I tried Red Bull, the idea of drinking Red Bulls & Vodkas. Not happening. Anyway, it turns out Wired also did a “What’s Inside” about Vodka so why not complete the combo?

Red Bull & Vodka

Now you know exactly what’s inside those Red Bulls & Vodkas you toss back. I’m sure enough Vodka makes the Red Bull taste okay, but seriously, there are tastier ways to get drunk my friends. They usually involve rum. Mmmmm……..rum.

Visiting Helderberg Meadworks

Some of you may remember that I was lucky enough to interview Peter Voelker, the owner of Helderberg Meadworks. Apparently The Magical Buffet community made a good enough impression that I got invited over to actually see the mysterious, alchemical process that goes into making their varieties of mead! Squeee!

To be honest, it’s no serious mystery as to how mead is made. First you take some of this:

Water

Then you add some of this:

Honey

Although Helderberg doesn’t use any old honey, this is raw honey direct from a local beekeeper. I got to taste it and it was amazing. It was sweet, but then it had a zingy flavor at the end. Peter explained that the zippy flavor comes from where the bees live and travel.

Lastly, you need some of this:

Yeast
Yeast

Then, you let it hang out and ferment.

FYI, it even tastes good while fermenting.

After three months it’s finally ready to be filtered and put into bottles. Then it gets the cool wax top.

Many crayons died to bring you this lid.

They put one of their bad ass looking labels on it.

You can get that on a shirt.

And you end up with something beautiful.

Beautiful.

Two people make all of THIS.

This.
And this.

So that all of us can do this!

DRINK!

Available right now from Helderberg Meadworks is Heritage, which is a honey mead, and apple Mead, which is their honey mead blended with Indian Ladder Farms apples. Both are smooth and very drinkable. Personally, I like the Heritage at room temperature and the Apple cold.

I know what you’re thinking, those sound great, I’m going to go get me some of that! That is fantastic, you should do that. However you should know that in August they’re adding TWO MORE varieties to their line up! Oh and they both sound wonderful!

There will be Maple Mead. Much like the Apple Mead, the Maple Mead will start life with the honey mead base but by working with Wilderhook Maple Farm they will be adding maple to the mix. I didn’t get to try this one but I was told that it maintains a maple flavor without being overly sweet. I’m pretty excited to compare this one with their Heritage Mead.

Now for the grand finale, Feral Mead. This mead is made from yeast that was gathered and cultivated from right outside the Meadworks. Seriously. Peter told us about collecting it. How he would gather some and it would be all weirdly colored and just dump it out. But finally he got something that looked right, and smelled right, so then he set about using it for a small test. And then the last test, he drank the results! That takes some kind of balls people! I’m no longer impressed by the guy who took down the 10 point buck. Have you gathered your own yeast in the wild? No? Then move along. The most important part of this Feral Mead story is this, it tastes AMAZING! Just so, so good. It’s like Heritage Mead’s beautiful sister.

If you want to learn more about Helderberg Meadworks and where you can buy their tasty meads, you can visit their website.

Me with the Helderberg Crew

Kirsten, Peter, and Me

Wychwood’s Scarecrow

Back in 2012 I shared with you my experience trying out Wychcraft from Wychwood Brewery. That’s when I learned that you guys love talking about booze! I knew I liked you guys. Anyway, I’m back again with another bottle from Wychwood Brewery, Scarecrow.

As I outlined in my previous article, I tend to prefer lighter beers like pilsners. Scarecrow is described on the label as a “Golden Pale Ale”; between that and how much I like Wychcraft I had to give it a try. It’s like the pilsner of the gods; light, refreshing, and with just enough body to let you know you’re drinking an English ale. What makes an interesting side note is that Scarecrow is USDA certified organic.

Yep, Scarecrow is an organic beer. The description on the back of the bottle reads, “Scarecrow Organic Ale is brewed using organically grown Plumage Archer barley malt & Target hops to create a refreshing tasting beer of exceptional flavor & character. Ingredients grown to organic standards prohibits the use of synthetic pesticides & fertilizers.”

Is it the organic nature of Scarecrow that makes it so delicious? Proponents of organic food and drink I’m sure would say yes. However I suspect it’s just the inherent magical nature of Wychwood Brewery that makes Scarecrow taste so darn good. It’s just what they do.

10 Questions with Peter Voelker

1. What is mead?
In short, mead is any fermented alcoholic beverage made using honey as the primary fermentable.

2. What makes Helderberg Mead different from other meads?
Most mead that you can buy in the wine stores around here either tastes like a low alcohol honey syrup or a nice soft white wine. While there’s nothing wrong with that (I love a nice Vidal Blanc), HMW takes a different approach. We use techniques that would have been used many moons ago and produce a mead that has big, bold and feral qualities to it. We’ve adapted old world methods to modern day sanitation and palettes without catering to any particular group of consumers. This is mead as we think it should be. With that said, there are 2 major differences between HMWs mead and others. The first is our alcohol content, which has a range on the label of 15% to 16%. Our current “Burgundy Wax” batch is at the high side of that range. Most others are from 8% to 11%. The second difference is our use of oak aging. Back in the days before metals were commonly available, oak would have been the preferred storage vessel for nearly all drinks. We have taken this concept and applied it to our mead. The result is a powerful mead (shouldn’t all traditional mead be POWERFUL?) with a whiskey-like nose and great honey flavor without being overly sweet.

3. Why did you decide to start selling your mead to the public?
After making mead for myself over the past 15 years or so, I was still very disappointed in the lack of commercial meads choices. They are all in the same family of taste, where ours is completely different. The initial investment to start small was small enough that we could finance it ourselves. Our hope all along was that there would be enough people out there who truly appreciate it for what it is. There are always those who are stuck in their little boxes, but it’s those who taste it and say “wow!” who make it worthwhile! Along with that, I also did not want to look back 10 years from now and wonder why I didn’t even try to go full production commercial.

4. Helderberg Meadworks makes several different varieties of mead. Can you explain their differences?
a. Heritage – this is our traditional mead, sometimes referred to as a “show mead” because it’s nothing more than honey and water. Sometimes the simple recipes are the most difficult to achieve because they hide NOTHING in other flavors.
b. Apple – A cyser in meadspeak. We have always been a fan of cysers. Prior to going commercial our second best mead was our own cyser, so logically this would be our next production mead. Introduced in October, the response has been outstanding!
c. Maple (TBD) – This is a mead that is still in the approval process. Following all appropriate federal and state regulations, we have numerous steps of approval before being able to sell it. Suffice it to say though, that we at HMW took a step back and looked at what we enjoy. We like NY and the northeast. We already have an apple mead, so the next step was to look at what else is something of a local pride product. Maple syrup! We are working with a local maple syrup producer to find the best tasting syrup to use in the production of our Maple Mead. Test batches of it are outstanding. Imagine the flavor of our mead followed by maple syrup filling your mouth without all the sweetness of drinking syrup.
d. ?????? Mead. This is going to be something rarely, if ever, done at production levels in the USA. I’m keeping it under wraps for now but it is very difficult to make and will be very unique. I hope to have it available by Fall 2014.

5. What’s the best way to drink mead; chilled, over iced, etc.?
Yep. 😀 Consumer’s choice. Our mead is an “outside the box” beverage so there really are no confines to how you are supposed like it. We encourage people to experiment and see how they like it best. Our preference? The Heritage at room temperature and the apple mead served COLD.

6. How does mead pair with food?
It makes an excellent marinade.

This is a difficult question to answer. We try to steer clear of questions that would be typical when discussing a wine. When we do festivals and tastings, we tell people to try it first THEN tell us what they think it would pair best with. The responses we get from people after they try it are all over the map with respect to what they would pair it with. Some find it as an after dinner honey port. Some think it’s great with poultry, others with a grilled steak. The best thing people can do is try it and decide for themselves. We always post when and where people can find and taste our mead before buying it, so watch our Facebook page if you want to try before you buy.

7. Your meadery has an awesome logo which is not only on your bottles but also on some cool looking t-shirts. How did the logo come about?
I have a friend in Maine who is a graphic designer, Jen Goodwin of Goodwin Glass and Graphics. She had done some of my homebrew mead labels for fun in the past, so I knew I wanted her to design the Heritage label. I gave her some of my ideas and things that I didn’t want. One of which was a Viking image. She sent me some design ideas, all of which were great but somehow didn’t strike me enough. Then she said she had a surprise with the caveat of “I know we weren’t going to use…” and it was done. That was design awesomeness right there. It set our mead apart on the shelf and gave us a whole design concept to work with. It’s a great mead and she gave us the look that gets people to notice it among the other bottles.

8. When not drinking mead, what do you enjoy drinking?
We like local wines and spirits above all. This is the hardest question to answer because there are too many to list! Some of our favorites are KyMar Mapple Jack, Thousand Islands Winery Frontenac (with a shot of cognac), Brimstone Hill Vidal Blanc, Bootlegger 21 Vodka, Warwick Valley Gin, Brookview Station Baco Noir and Cassis Port. We have a long standing favorite with Leonard Kreusch Kabinett Riesling. Plus I have a current fascination with absinthe on top of all that.

9. What’s next for Helderberg Meadworks?
Co-owner Kirsten is developing her own signature mead. All options are on the table for that! We are very excited about it.

Our ????? mead and of course more expansion! Every penny earned is invested back into the meadery. This winter we will be adding new and much larger tanks. Our production goal that we had planned on reaching at the 5 year mark will be achieved in year 2. It’s an amazing accomplishment and it reassures us that there are still people out there who can appreciate a quality craft.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.
Just 1? I have to ask – what was it that drew your attention to our mead?

We at HMW are always looking for ways to reach great people that may not know about us and learning about our customers helps us to reach them better!

I got to try your mead at the New York State tastings at Exit 9 Wine and Liquor Warehouse. I enjoyed it and took your business card with me. At this point I’ve tried your Apple Mead and your Heritage Mead and they were both DELICIOUS!

About Peter Voelker and Helderberg Meadworks:
Helderberg Meadworks is one of a precious few “meaderies” in the state who only produce mead. Owner and meadmaker Peter Voelker has been making a variety of meads for many years. In 2010 he decided to open the meadery with his wife Kirsten to share what he considers the best mead in the country.

Our philosophy is to create a mead that is as close as possible to mead that may very well have been made hundreds, and even thousands of years ago, while using modern equipment and methods. We use minimal sulfites and minimal production handling. This means that each batch is unique. Every harvest of local honey is different, so every batch will taste a bit different. In order to differentiate batches for our customers, we plan to use a different color wax top.

Lights, Camera, Booze!

I’ve always had a soft spot for the movie “The Princess Bride”. Then when my husband and I got married we made reference to the book at our ceremony so we never officially declared it, but the movie sort of became “our” film. So obviously we did what any reasonable married couple would do with such a special film, we invited our friends over for “The Princess Bride”: The Drinking Game.

Yes my friends, you read that correctly. I received a review copy of “Lights, Camera, Booze: Drinking Games for Your Favorite Movies” by Kourtney Jason and Lauren Metz and illustrated by Amanda Lanzone, and you can’t get a book like that and not take it for a test drive. There were tons of tempting options: “The Goonies”, “Back to the Future”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “Clerks”, “Fight Club”, “Monty Python & the Holy Grail”, and so many more! Yet when everything was said and done my husband and I picked “our” movie, “The Princess Bride”.

With the difficult decision of film picked out, we all gathered and prepared for the fun. “Lights, Camera, Booze” tells you when to drink. In this case, drink when….
1. “Farmboy”
2. As you wish
3. Mawwiage
4. Anyone mentions Andre the Giant’s size
5. Inconceivable
6. “My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
7. True love
8. The grandson interrupts
9. Sword fight
10. The Machine
11. Horse Rides
12. Dread Pirate Roberts
13. Rodents of Unusual Size
14. Man in Black
15. Westley defeats a foe.
16. 6-fingered man.
17. Prince Humperdinck
18. Buttercup is referred to as Highness or Princess

Each movie, along with the “drink when”, has a cocktail paired up with it. For “The Princess Bride” the drink is the True Love Cocktail. A mix of coconut rum (RUM!), peach schnapps, and cranberry juice. The first few to try it proclaimed that it “tasted like college” and others agreed. It was pretty sweet and needless to say, tasted better the more you had.

Being the super hostess, I had provided potato chips. I refer to them as fried sliced potato tapas. Fortunately a few of our friends had other things in mind. One friend brought roasted in the shell peanuts (“Anybody want a peanut?”), and snack size Snickers (to emulate the oversized chocolate Miracle Max pill). A different pair brought beer bread (Yum!) and M.L.T.s, yep, mutton, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches (Miracle Max’s favorite!). They were DELICIOUS!

The book stresses that when you “drink”, it’s a sip, not a pounding back the whole glass. Although even with that rule in place most of us thought we were in trouble with just the plot background at the start of the film. We were like, Buttercup, quit saying Farmboy and for the love of God Westley, shut up on the “As you wish”! Depending on the size of the glass, some folks were refilling by the time Buttercup was vowing she would never love again. It was ugly and it was HILARIOUS!

We all had a great time and when it was over I shared the trivia that “Lights, Camera, Booze” provides. They also have a game, which for The Princess Bride was a toy sword fight. Being adults, full of True Love Cocktails, in our crowded apartment; we opted to pass on the game. There’s also a Hot Topics section with some conversational questions which I totally forgot about and by this point my friends wanted to go through and look at other movies.

By the end of the evening people were talking about what the next movie/drinking game night should be and what other movies should have been in the book. With that in mind, I would give Jason & Metz’s “Lights, Camera, Booze” two thumbs up, way up.

10 Questions with Brian Patton (aka The Sexy Vegan)

1. After “The Sexy Vegan Cookbook”, what made you decide to make your next book “The Sexy Vegan’s Happy Hour at Home”?

I was sitting at my computer one day and got an email from my editor at New World Library. As I remember it, she said something to the effect of, “your first book is selling really well, and we project that it will continue to sell…and we love you better than all of our other authors, and you’re the best at everything, oh, and do you have any ideas for another book?” I had recently started a tradition in my house of doing a little “happy hour” on our little balcony with me and my girlfriend (who has since become my wife). It was a tapas kind of thing with small plates and, of course, some adult beverages. I presented this idea to the editors and presto! Happy Hour at Home was created!

2. You have very specific rules as to what constitutes a happy hour. Do you mind sharing them with my readers?

Yes, well, these are the rules I use in my own home. You can use these, make up your own, or have complete anarchy and chaos.

1. Happy Hour is always served on the balcony.
2. Happy hour season may begin only when the weather is such that once the sun goes down, even the whiniest of guests won’t get chilly sitting outside, because, see rule #1.
3. Happy hour is on Friday. Period.
4. Happy hour is for four people. Any more and you’d have a dinner party, and that’s a different book.
5. Happy hour guests may not be made privy to the menu until the chef posts it.
6. Guests bring the booze at the chef’s instruction.
7. And finally..there’s no crying in happy hour.

3. Is it hard being a vegan when going out to an average restaurant’s happy hour?

It is. Usually going out to eat as a vegan in a non vegan world is not a difficult thing once you get the hang of it, but a happy hour poses it’s own challenges. The menu is usually limited to bar food like buffalo wings, chicken fingers, nachos, sliders, jalapeno poppers, etc. There’s always fries, and sometimes onion rings, but those onion rings most likely came out of a big industrial bag and were frozen solid 5 minutes before they were served to you. “Happy Hour at Home” is the solution to these problems…and if all else fails, we still have gin…thank Dog that’s vegan…makes things much easier.

4. What is your favorite food recipe from “Happy Hour at Home”?

The stromboli from the first menu is very near and dear to my heart, because I ate stromboli growing up. There were all kinds, too. Regular stromboli had salami, ham, cheese and veggies. Then there was the cheesesteak stromboli, which was awesome! And I’ve even had buffalo chicken stromboli! I really wanted to veganize it, and with all the great new vegan cheese options out there, it made it pretty easy. So I get to have stromboli once again…really good stromboli.

5. What’s your favorite drink recipe from your latest book?

For many reasons, my favorite cocktail is The Bloody Vulcan. While a blood mary is made with tomatoes, and colored red, a Bloody Vulcan is made with tomatillos and colored green…like the blood of a vulcan. It’s fresh tomatillo juice mixed with lime, agave, and tequila.

6. The Bloody Vulcan as a Star Trek reference is all well and good, but now what are you going to do about those alienated Star Wars fans?

Well, if you pay attention to my instagram, facebook or twitter feed, you can see that I have hung a large R2D2 pinata in my unborn child’s nursery. I give both Star Wars and Star Trek equal time in my life…but I can’t *ahem* FORCE myself to come up with a Star Wars themed drink. It just didn’t happen this time. While I can’t think of a drink, however, the only thing I can come up with off the top of my head here is: “Boba Fett-uccine”…a pasta dish, with a “bounty” of fresh veggies. See? That’s what happens when I force it.

7. And let’s face it, once you’ve got Star Wars covered you better have a Lord of the Rings drink lined up too. Ideas?

Oh wow. Okay… umm… How about a shot called “The Fires of Mordor”. Tomato juice, carrot juice, tequila and a squirt of Siracha..then float Bacardi 151 on top and set it ablaze. I totally just made that up and it is untested..I may have to give it a try though.

8. With your first book you were a guy with a girlfriend. Now you’re married to that girlfriend with a baby on the way. What’s a vegan infant’s diet going to be like?

Well, it’s going to start with breast milk, which technically isn’t vegan, I suppose, but I’ll let that one slide. Once the kid starts eating solid food, it’ll be the same as any other baby, pureed fruits and veggies. At some point, most people “introduce” animal products into a child’s diet. We’re just going to skip that part, and make sure he’s getting all the vitamins and nutrients he needs with plants. I’m not all that worried about it. I know plenty of kids that have been vegan from birth, they seem more than fine.

Update: Say Hello to baby Oliver!

9. So, you’re the executive chef for Vegin’ Out in Los Angeles. You still do the Sexy Vegan instructional YouTube videos, you’ve authored two cookbooks, you travel the country to attend events, and now you’re about to become a father. What’s next for Brian Patton?

Retirement. Ah, if only. I’m doing some menu consulting for a new vegan restaurant that’s coming together in Los Angeles, and I’m toying with the idea of doing some pop-up dinners and things like that. I’ve got more book ideas that I’m fleshing out as well, but that’s a ways off. Mainly I’m going to be making sure my dogs don’t eat my baby..at least for the next few months or so. I don’t think they will, they’re pretty good dogs.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question.

What will be your first order of business once you, Rebecca, become the “Supreme Ruler of the world?”

I have three words for you: Bring back Firefly.

About Brian Patton:
Brian L. Patton is the executive chef for Vegin’ Out, a vegan food delivery service in Los Angeles. The quintessential “regular dude” vegan chef, he started posting instructional cooking videos on YouTube as his witty, ukulele-playing alter ego “The Sexy Vegan” and quickly gained a large following. Brian offers his popular cooking demonstrations at stores, restaurants, and community centers throughout Southern California and in his travels around the country.

Talk Like a Pirate Day 2013

Well here it is again, another International Talk Like a Pirate Day. A day of significance for those of the Pastafarian faith, but also a day of fun and hijinks for both young and old alike to break out their best pirate swaggers.

The day is also celebrated with rum….

Most of you may be aware that I’m rather fond of rum.

So in honor of this special day, and my love of rum, I’m going to share with you a rum cocktail I made up all by myself. The Civilized Pirate.

Geek Month in Review: July 2013

By JB Sanders

Scorching July…

Weird Things in Urban Environments
What weird things, I hear you ask? There’s the over 500 dogs living in the Moscow subway system, or the City Below Kansas City (businesses and storage, mostly) in the old limestone mines, or Thames Town, which is a completely artificial English town just outside Shanghai. Plenty of urban weird to go around. How about the town in Pennsylvania that has been on fire since 1962, and will probably keep burning for another 250 years? Or the abandoned island city of Gunkanjima? It looks a lot like that dream city from Inception, actually.

The Right Way to Rehabilitate a Quarry
Those folks in China sure know how to revitalize an abandoned quarry: build a nearly billion-dollar hotel/resort inside it. With a 100m waterfall visible from all the rooms. Extra bonus points: looks like a James Bond villain’s lair

That’s Not a Train Set, This is a Train Set
Ever wonder what the greatest model train setup in the world would look like? Think you’ve already seen it? Nope.

Sci-Fi Cooking
First episode of this YouTube series? Cooking Klingon Gagh and Blood Wine.

Robot Spider, Check
So this company has a robot spider for sale, or you can order the plans to print it from your handy 3D printer. It comes with an eye camera in the thorax. That’s not creepy at all, right?

Magnetic Levitation & Mobius Strip Tracks
Scientist shoots a video of not only a “train” floating along a track in the shape of a Mobius strip, but also explains everything. It’s Science-y!

Beer Labels in Motion
I don’t know if this is geeky or just plain weird. Some inventive person has taken clever microbrew beer labels and animated them. How long before we have active-display labels on products?

How to Be Invisible to Mosquitos
The answer: wear the special patch that exudes a chemical that confuses a mosquito’s CO2 sense. That’s how they find you, the CO2.

Details of the Siberian Princess’ Tattoos
See the designs of the Siberian Princess, preserved for several millennia in the permafrost.

New Star Control Game?
Some of you, those of you old enough to remember a computer game from 20+ years ago, may remember the ship-to-ship combat and strategy game Star Control. Well, someone acquired the rights to it and is looking to make a sequel.

Mid-Air Haptic Interface
So the folks at Disney Research (did you know that Disney had an R&D department?) are working on a haptic response interface that works by using puffs of air to provide feedback for systems that rely strictly on hand and body motions (like Microsoft’s Kinect).

Largest Virtual Space Battle Ever
You know it’s a New Geek World when giant space battles are reported on the BBC’s front news page. Eve Online held a 4000-player space battle between two of its largest factions for control of a few systems’ worth of resources. Which is pretty neat.

Beethoven on the Theremin
Here’s an orchestral arrangement of Beethoven’s 9th symphony done on 167 theremins and 1 piano.

That’s Not a Snow-blower!
This is a snow blower. Brought to you by Switzerland, the land that doesn’t do things by halves.

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: http://glenandtyler.blogspot.com