Hoosier Beer Geek's Craft Beer Meal That Comes Before Lunch

Wednesday, March 31, 2010 - 
This past Saturday, MM, hubby and I made our way to Brugge Brasserie for the Hoosier Beer Geek's 2nd Annual Craft Beer Meal That Comes Before Lunch.  We grabbed a seat with our two friends, AT and her boyfriend, K, we also met our other breakfast companion, N.  We were all ready for the adventure, which we knew would consist of lots of beer tasting and some tasty food from Brugge.


After a quick Hoosier Beer Geek introduction, the first beers started to arrive.  We would get a few bottles to share at the table, and they just kept coming.  Here they are...

First up, was White Ale, a product of Japan.  All I can say - sour.

Breakfast Stout was second - and I loved the label.  Beer was good too.

Good old Kosher love - I really enjoyed the date flavor!

From what I was hearing, the Chimay Ale was the favorite among the group.  It was definitely good, but I still leaned towards the Hebrew a bit more.

We never really took a break from tasting, but at this point, we got what I heard only great things about...the food!  Now, if you have never been to Brugge, I recommend you hit them up fast for some mussels and frites.  Delish.  Options are endless.  So good.  Anyway, we had an option of crepe with fillings OR steak and eggs.  I was debating between the two, and then I found out frites were served with the steak & eggs.  So that right there made my decision!

When it came, my two eggs were perfectly done, sunny side up (no runny yolks - that's the way to go.)  The steak, though hidden beneath the eggs, was perfectly cooked to medium, with a slight edge to rare.  So tender, so juicy, those frites underneath sopped up the goodness.  And yes - frites...perfectly fried. I selected the bleu cheese and spicy curry for my two sauces (and they have a selection!)  I've never had the spicy curry before and that was a mistake. It was hands down the best dipping sauce I've ever had at Brugge.  Hubby couldn't get his hands off, he had their ketchup and pesto.

As we continued/finished eating, we were back to the beers.  Now, the whole theme of the event was Bacon.  I love bacon.  But bacon beer?  Well, let's give it a try!  We had two beers brewed especially for this event.  First up, Sun King's Baconator:

The slight taste of bacon made it great for tasting.  

Not sure I would drink it on a regular basis, BUT I did tell Clay from SK that it would make an AMAZING marinade.  Can you imagine?  Bacon beer marinated pork loin, wrapped in bacon?!  Oh vey.  He did mention he would make a barbecue sauce out of it, but my marinade comment made him excited.  Sun King has brewers dinners, which I am now jonesing to go to, and I hope they capture this in food!

Up next: Brugge's Bier du Lardons.  They used the fat of bacon as well during the process, which you could definitely taste.  Unfortunately, because of this, all I could taste was that.  People definitely liked it, but I (with most of my table) could only taste fatty creaminess wrapped in smoke.  Is this a good taste in beer?  Maybe, but not on my palate.  But I can't say WOW enough for their creativity in the process!

 No, that is not chocolate milk - it's Bier du Lardons (and yes, that does say it all!)

And no my friends - the tasting wasn't over.  We were also given...

Sorry for the photo quality..

I normally adore raspberry, but the tart was overwhelming this time...

The CBMTCBL was over at this point...but they did give us the opportunity to try a few beers they brought in on our own.  With that, the taste continued...and my friends, I found a beautiful concoction.  If you are like me, and love all those spices that wrap you in fall love (ie. cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin, etc.,) you may need to try this:

 Seriously, it was like Christmas in a glass!

Come holiday time, you know what I'm getting....A BIG thank you to Hoosier Beer Geek for this event, and another BIG thank you to Brugge for hosting, the food, and great service that we received.  Rumors this may become a biannual event...if so, you can count me in!

National Candy Day - This is What Happens During 'Make Up Your Own Holiday'

Tuesday, March 30, 2010 - 
Yes, you read that correctly.  Friday was "Make Up Your Own Holiday" day.  So what does my place of business select as their holiday?  Candy Day!  I quickly threw together some fun games to break up the day, and of course, included candy in each and every one.

We started off with a game of Lollipop Grove.  Originally, I wanted to set up a "grove of lollipops" by having lollipop stands and rings to toss at them.  However, with 24 hours and a quick trip to the store, I settled on a memory type of game.  Four lollipops were awarded during this brain morning activity.

Thank you to RN for designing the Lollipop Grove cards

Memory Style Game - keeping those minds active!
Next up was Chocolate Swamp, which consisted of plastic eggs swimming in a "swamp" of filler.  Staff members would dig through the swamp for an egg, which would have a piece of paper saying mini, regular or king.  If you selected a mini, you won a Hershey kiss.  If you selected a regular or king, you had a choice of that size of candy bar.  Everyone walked away a winner!

The eggs were harder to find than you would anticipate - that filler was thick!

Candy Land (did you know this board game is celebrating 60 years?!) was also available to play during lunch.  I actually dined out for lunch (Grand Traverse Pie Co., which you can read about here) or I would have also shown Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (I love both versions of the movie, but my love for Tim Burton is extraordinary) in our conference room.  That way, people could watch a little bit of the movie while enjoying their lunch.  But alas, pie got in the way (and no, I'm not complaining at all!) 
Of course, the easiest themed candy game - Gumball Guess - was also part of the festivities.  Whoever guessed the correct number of gumballs, or was the closest, won just that, gumballs!

For the record, there were 639 gumballs

The final activity for the day was Candy, our version of Bingo.  Same rules apply, but markers were hard pieces of candy, and of course, winners won candy.

Thanks again to RN for her design skills in creating the logo

By the end of the day, everyone was geared up for the weekend (and completely jacked up on sugar!)  I guess that makes for a successful Candy Day on a time and financial budget!

Grand Traverse Pie Company

Recently, the Grand Traverse Pie Company opened a location near work.  There are two things I love about this.  1.) A new lunch spot near work is always appreciated.  2.) Any restaurant with pie in it should be applauded.  Another reason to be excited is that both our office Michigan natives raved about the location, so when Friday's lunch was open, I headed over with MM and MC in tow for a delightful lunch with another new friend, AT.

GTPie is similar to any of the casual sandwich and soup lunch spots.  You walk in, see all of their baked gourmet goodies (except this time, PIES!), a menu up above your head for viewing, and someone at the cash register to take your order.  We got there at a perfect time beating the rush, which worked for us as we had to review the plethora of options!

I ended up going with a combo option, which included (my choice of course) their Chicken Salad.  Served on a perfectly baked croissant, the chicken salad was perfectly simply seasoned with salt & pepper, and had a perfect crunch with red grapes.  Too much mayo can be a problem, and I was happy that this chicken salad had the perfect amount, just enough to keep it together.  Romaine lettuce and a slice of tomato were a perfect compliment to the sandwich.

Of course, a pickle spear was the perfect accompaniment.

The other half of my combo was their House Side.  I am happy that many restaurants aren't serving a basic salad as their house side these days, and GTPie was the same.  Greens were a mix of Spring and Romaine, topped with tomato, cucumber (this cucumber made me want summer to be here SO bad!,) red onion slices and croutons.  But the highlight for me was, of course, the cheese.  Not only was there feta, but there was also parmesan.  I love it when I have multiple options of my favorite dairy product (insert your Wisconsin jokes here.)  And to top it off, I selected the Mediterranean Feta dressing.  Chunks of feta cheese swirling in a balsamic and oil based herbed dressing.  Oh so good.  I dipped my bread in that, only to want another slice so I could have more dressing!

MC ordered a potato (and trust me, it was huge!) smothered in barbecue, nacho cheese, cheddar cheese and bacon.  And yes, she took of the deliciousness home for that evening.  This complimented her House Side salad (same dressing!) to round out the meal. 

MM ordered the Chicken Salad sandwich as well, but had soup as her other side.  Creamy broccoli, it was savory and blended well, as MM doesn't really like chunks of broccoli in her soup.  It was perfect on the rainy day.

 Do you see the magic in the background?  NOM

And of course, if you eat a restaurant with the word "pie" in the name, you best have some of their baked goodness.  They have pies, as a whole, for purchase and a few to buy by the slice (and you can add it to your meal for under $2!)  I indulged in a slice of banana cream.  The crust was perfectly flaky in all the right places, piled high with delicious pudding and banana chunks.  Not overly sweet, a smooth and creamy pudding then piled with whipped cream.  This photo doesn't do it justice.

Hello lover...

Will I be back to GTPie?  Absolutely.  Will I get more pie?  You can count on it.  Though my next purchase might have to be those cinnamon buns before heading into work.  Oh man...

Today is National Puppy Day!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 
Another day for celebration - National Puppy Day.  My friend MC divulged this little known fun fact by showcasing one of her dogs, Ruby, on her Tumblr account.  They also have another pup, Kaia.  You can read more about MC on her Tumblr account.

Why am I celebrating National Puppy Day?  Well, my pup of course!  Our 4 month pup's full name is Nala Alice de Ville Ahrens.  Yes, all references to Disney (I know, shocker) while maintaining a great name for our Shiba Inu pup. 
 I know, she's too cute to handle.  This is her at about 6 weeks back in December.

Every day, we are coming up with more names for her.  To list a few:

  • Book of Monster: she has this thing where she enjoys hiding under the bed and running out to nip at your feet if you dangle them there.  You know, like the Book of Monsters from Harry Potter. 

    Watch out for those puppy teeth!
    •  Padfoot: another HP reference, but only because one paw is white.  And Whitefoot just didn't fit as well...

      She's such a good paw model 
      (and yes, that evil look is because I put clothes on her...)
      • Tails: her two brothers (Erbert & Gerbert) are hedgehogs.  Reference to Sonic & Tails anyone?

         And trust me, the hedgehogs don't scare her...
          I love my pup.  I think she is gorgeous and a perfect compliment to our family.  She was a great Christmas present from my hubs, and now it's the five of us - hubs, myself, Nala, Erbert & Gerbert.

          Look at that fuzzy little girl (and yes, she is a Cheesehead like her parents!)

          Will I be sad when she isn't a pup?  Absolutely!  BUT, can you imagine how cute she is going to be when she isn't a pup too?!  Don't worry, you'll get recaps on that too.  She makes me photo happy, I can't help it.  I'm going to shower her with more love and make her these precious puppy treats when I get home from the gym, compliments of Martha Stewart (of course!)

          Credit to Martha Stewart Living, March 2010

          To all of you who have a pup or a dog - Happy National Puppy Day!

          Jambalaya: What hubby wants, hubby gets!

          Monday, March 22, 2010 - 
          If you asked hubs what his favorite dish that I cook is, he would immediately respond with "jambalaya!"  The funny thing is, I've only made it for him twice.  So when he said to me on Sunday as I was creating the menu for the week, "We have some brats in the fridge, what do you think about jambalaya sometime this week?" I agreed with minor hesitation. 

          Minor hesitation: brats are not the smoked sausage that I normally use.  Especially cheddar bratwurts.  But, I was willing to make it work.  After all, we had some scallops and shrimp in the freezer.  So why not?

          I gathered the spices and basics of my jambalaya mix.  Now, I know jambalaya varies for many people.  I've tweaked Ms. Paula Deen's recipe by adding a few spices here and there and mixing up the protein with whatever I have on hand, but the base is all the same.  Consisting mostly of minced onion, parsley and few other items, I mixed the spices together and gathered some beef bouillon cubes (which, to be honest, I really don't normally cook with) with some rice.

          Throw in a bay leaf and some other spices, and the jambalaya mix is complete!

          Next up, mixed together some diced tomatoes and tomato sauce with the rice.  Next up, chop up the sausage (excuse me, the cheddar brats) and add to the dish, along with the jambalaya seasoning.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect with the random cheese chunks, but to be honest, you couldn't really taste them in the end product.  So overall, it was okay by me (but I did add a bit more cayenne just in case...)

           You can't even see the cheddar (okay, this may because these photos were taken via phone...I couldn't find my camera during the excitement!  I promise it won't happen again...maybe...)

          After a quick boil and simmer for approximately 20 minutes, I then added the seafood and would normally let it cook until the seafood was done and rice was plump.  I did say normally...but for this occasion, I did end up cooking it a bit longer.  And that is because of the rice. 

          Quick rice tangent: for some reason, Meijer's brown rice and I have been fighting since day one.  I doubt we will be dating much longer as this is a reoccurring theme in the kitchen when I break out the brown rice.  But alas, my seafood ended being just a bit overdone, but still delish.

          Sorry about the splatter...

          The end result was a slightly spicy mixture of delight.  Scallops, shrimp and sausage (yes, brats) were deliciously intertwined with the spicy tomatoes and rice.  There was a bit more liquid than I normally would like (I blame the rice once again,) but it thickened up for lunch the next day.  Like chili and similar dishes, it was even better the next day for lunch.

          There you are hubs, anything for you! 

          101 Dalmatians Musical at Clowes

          Friday, March 19, 2010 - 
          Hubby likes to (or will) entertain my love of Disney in many ways.  This past week, he joined me for the 101 Dalmatians Musical which took place at Clowes Hall on Butler University's campus.  I had bought the tickets back in the day, and to be honest, it kind of snuck up on me.  And if something sneaks up on me, hubby has no idea it is coming since I'm the walking calendar of the relationship.

          We made our way to Clowes after hubby got home from work, cleaned up and we grabbed a bit to eat.  As it was a Thursday night, we figured we wouldn't be out too late as the show is definitely kid appropriate.  With tickets in hand, we visited the venue for the first time.

          Poster in main lobby
          We (among 40% of all those in attendance) made our way to the third floor balcony.  There is an elevator, but what's more fun than walking up three flights in heels?  While making our way to our seats while admiring the theater decor.  As Clowes is on a college campus, the shows that frequent the theater are all over the spectrum.  I appreciate that Broadway Across America does a few shows here (as they do at the Murat as well) as it makes a Thursday evening more time friendly for us Carmelites.

          Though photos aren't allowed, I managed to sneak one of the stage prior to the production, thanks to cell phone technology (I love you Palm Pre) and my sneakiness.  Don't underestimate it.  

           I know, not the best shot, but work with me here.  It was a cute stage!

          The show was absolutely precious.  I noticed no Disney was mentioned anywhere, so my thought of attending a Disney production was shattered (why did I not notice this prior?  I have no idea.)  I searched the Playbill only to find nothing, but overall, the show was very similar to the movie.  Characters names included, but there were a few tweaks here and there to vary it up from the Disney version. 

          Since humans were playing dogs (well, most of the dogs, which you'll see why below) the actors who were the "humans" walked around on stilts!  I had heard prior to the show that this made it a little awkward, but was happy that it didn't come across that way to me at all.  Now, this could have been due to our seats being the level they were, but it worked perfectly to differentiate.  I loved the costumes of the "dogs" to show their breed.  For example, the Irish Terriers wore kilts, the Poodles wore tutu's, and of course, the Dalmatians were in white with black dots.  All the "puppies" were child actors, which was just adorable.  They even had their own scenes and songs and they did a splendid job.

          My favorite part?  The REAL Dalmatians.  Right before intermission, the curtain raised (when Pongo finds all the puppies at Cruella's place) and there was at least 12 Dalmatians sitting pretty.  SO well trained, and just adorable.  Once in a while, they would have a real pup run across the stage, and this was always followed by laughter and "awww's" from the crowd.  But the best part of the real pups was at the end of the show.  It featured all of the Dalmation's (real that is) doing tricks to make Cruella's place "their own."  Pulling cords to uncover a dog house, pulling levers to reveal flowers on set, even weaving themselves through window bars...they were just precious.  I applauded with the rest of the audience for a job well done, and I knew when I got home to my pup, I would hug her a little bit harder than normal.

          I mean, how could you not hug this lady?!

          Overall, it was a good show.  Children would love it, and adults would appreciate it as well.  Do I wish Disney had involvement?  Absolutely.  But I wouldn't discredit the production at all as it was a job well done!

          Houlihan's & Alice in Wonderland!

          Wednesday, March 10, 2010 - 
          As many of you may know, I've been waiting (so patiently I might add!) for the release of Alice in Wonderland.  My anticipation was so steep...after all, it combines four of my loves: Disney, Alice in Wonderland, Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman

          Prior to the movie, friends and I began the evening with some delectable small plates & drinks from Houlihan's.    I had ordered the Wild Mushroom & Arugula Flatbread, and though I didn't expect too much of it, I was blown away!  Their flatbread was the perfect with the right amount of crispy crust ends, but so soft at the same time.  The mushrooms were perfectly sauteed, and blended well with the white truffle vinaigrette that was sprinkled on top.  The arugula left a light peppery taste to compliment...delish! 

          I also ordered 'Pickle Fries.'  Now, my love of fried pickles comes from college.  The Amherst Brewing Co. had fantastic fried pickle spears...I absolutely adored them.  And in my quest to match their deliciousness, I haven't been able to find spears.  Almost everyone serves chips...but Houlihan's delivered.  They were perfectly fried, with a crispy coating that wasn't too heavy.  Their size was also perfect, as it a pickle cut until six pieces, rather than quartered.  And the horseradish dipping sauce?!  Divine.  As was the honey mustard (and I am particular about my honey mustard!)

          The third small plate was absolutely the best of the night.  Goat cheese and artichoke poppers.  So. Good.  The artichokes and goat cheese were once again lightly battered, so it was a very crisp and not overwhelming coating upon frying.  The goat cheese was the perfect amount, as to not overwhelm the artichokes.  With the pop of lemon zest and thyme, there was a pleasant fresh taste to the fried goodness.  Plated with a fantastic combination of sauces, I slathered them with the trio and gobbled them down.  Of course, hubby had to have a bite...and he doesn't even like goat cheese, but praised how great they were!

          After dinner and drinks (I had a dirty martini, which was nothing to rave about, and a chocolate martini, which I was highly disappointed in) and a fantastic dessert (MC was kind enough to let me try her Snickers Crunch Ice Cream Dome, as the N's let me dabble their S'mores Fondue Crock!) we headed over to the showing of Alice in 3D at the IMAX. 

          Standing in line with the other fans, I was happy to see many individuals in costumes.  It made me think, "why did I not wear my Alice costume!?" myself, but honestly, we know I wouldn't have.  And of course, the glasses don't hurt the experience!

          N's & MC in line...quivering with anticipation of course!

          In great seats surrounded by great friends, we enjoyed the whole movie experience.  From the storyline to the music, the artistry and costumes, nothing left me disappointed.  The colors and imagination of it all, the movie was a fantastic theater production of Lewis Carrol's classic novel.

          To all those who didn't like it, I would only imagine that you don't really like Tim Burton and his creativity.  I think he is a genius and artist.  I mean really, how could you not?!  Teaming up with Johnny Depp is always great for both of them.  Mia Wasikowska was a fantastic Alice, I look forward to seeing her in the future.  Helena Bonham Carter is always amazing, and when she works with Tim Burton, amazing things happen. As the Red Queen, big head and all, her performance was flawless.   Anne Hathaway, your hand movements were perfect for the White Queen...I couldn't help but smile.  Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum, loved them.  Oh, and I want the Cheshire Cat (note: I don't like cats, but I want him.) 

          Costumes, I want Alice's dress when she was in her smallest form.  Loved. It.  I can't even imagine this movie not receiving some form of recognition for the great costume artistry that was had.  Make up was also phenomenal, though at times, I was distracted by the white eye makeup of the Madhatter.  But still, beautiful.  It was a perfect component of the use of color and set during the film.

          I can't say enough on how much I adored this movie.  It is a must see.  As for Disney releasing the movie one month earlier than normal, all I can say is thank you.  I look forward to the purchase!

          The End of Winter Office Olympic Games

          Wednesday, March 3, 2010 - 
          It is true.  All good things must come to end when speaking of the Office Olympics (and of course, the real Olympic games!)  But not without the effort of one final event and a closing ceremony.

          My version of hockey.  More of a sudden death shoot out.  Offletes shot a ball (it was a soft & squishy ball from a vendor of ours...remember, office equipment only!) to make a goal through the doors of the Conference Place.  And of course, this "goal" is being tended by another Offlete.

          JM can't handle TW's skills.

          The stick?  It is made out of a broom with cardboard to stabilize.

           Shot in action!

          Each Offlete had one attempt from each line (there were three total,) which had a point value - ranging one to three.

          TW takes a dive to save a goal (though, I believe she missed this one...)

          Closing Ceremony
          The closing ceremony (which to me, is the most dull out of all the Office Olympics) took place in the Conference Place.  Chants were sung, flags were paraded (with no affiliation, of course) and the medals were given out.  And yes, the torch was extinguished.

          WPV took gold, and they were ecstatic!  

          The medals?  Made out of cardboard and construction paper of course.  And ribbons...I mean, who doesn't have ribbons just laying around the office?!
           All the offletes and their medal.

          Successful Office Olympics?  I would say so.  Here is to 2012 and the return of the Summer Office Olympic Games - our version of London should be quite grand.  How about your work place?  Does your office get to participate in office debauchery like this?