Saturday, December 31, 2016

Beer Chocolate Truffles, Davidson, North Carolina

Davidson, NC—South Main Sweet Shop has some surprising beer chocolates. The shop, located in the heart of Davidson, a town just an hour’s drive north of Charlotte, has a variety of chocolates. But the most surprising ones are made with actual beer and not just beer flavoring.

Moonstruck Chocolate Company Oregon Craft Brewers Collection truffles,
starting clockwise from upper lefthand side and going right: Deschutes
Brewery Black Butte Porter, Widmer Brothers Brewing Hefeweizen,
Full Sail Brewing Co. IPA, and Rogue Ales Hazelnut Brown Nectar
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey

When I went to the shop, back in June, they were selling Moonstruck Chocolate Company’s Oregon Craft Brewers Collection beer infused truffles ($2.50 each). There were four types and I bought them all. They were Deschutes Brewery (Asheville & Oregon)-Black Butte Porter truffle; Widmer Brothers Brewing (Portland, OR)-Hefeweizen truffle; Full Sail Brewing Co (Hood River, OR)-IPA truffle; and Rogue Ales (Portland, OR)-Hazelnut Brown Nectar truffle.

The most outstanding truffle for beer taste for me was— Full Sail Brewing Company’s IPA truffle with a milk chocolate cap/top. The IPA’s floral flavor notes brought out the creamy deliciousness to the white chocolate that only could be satisfied with eating more truffles.

My next favorite truffle was made with bittersweet chocolate and Rogue Ales Hazelnut Brown Nectar. It had waves of delicious flavor from caramel to ripe bananas to hazelnut and to a sweet, almost boozy bourbon taste.

Next on my yum list was also made with bittersweet chocolate and was combined with Widmer Brothers Brewing Hefeweizen. The lightness of the beer brought out a spicy, earthiness in the chocolate.

The truffle that did not work for me, surprisingly, was the one made with Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter and bittersweet chocolate.  The chocolate flavor eclipsed the porter leaving only hints of brown bread, sweet butter and caramel.

All in all the experience was delicious and the next time I am in Davidson I plan to go back for more.

You can order these beer truffles directly from Moonstruck Chocolate Company or go to South Main Sweet Shop located at 107 N. Main Street, Davidson, NC 28036

Phone (704) 997-5767

These beer truffles would make a great Valentine’s Day gift.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vermouth Barrel Finished Gin, St. Augustine Distillery, Fla.

St. Augustine, Fla.—It looks like bourbon but it smells like gin with a secret. It’s vermouth barrel-finished gin made by St. Augustine Distillery. It’s made with Florida grown sugar cane juice, Florida citrus peel and 25 other botanicals. It is like a martini in a bottle. It has a fabulous, I-think-I-just-walked-into-the-most-expensive –spice-shop-in-the-world-in-a-glass, kind of gin taste.

Red Vermouth Barrel Finished New World Gin by
St. Augustine Distillery, St. Augustine, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
St. Augustine Distillery released this rare, experimental craft spirit, earlier this year, at their St. Augustine, Florida location. Using their award winning small batch New World Gin as a base they produced just 1200 white and 1200 red vermouth barrel finished spirit bottles.

Kara Pound, PR spokesperson for St. Augustine distillery said, “Typically, gin is not barrel aged at all. It can be aged in bourbon barrels and yes, we wanted to make a natural martini (white vermouth) and negroni (red vermouth).”

Before I bought my the red vermouth barrel finished gin I asked one of the distillers if I could buy it anywhere else and he said, “Oh no, it is an experimental gin and can only be purchased in our distillery.” So I bought two bottles of the red vermouth barrel finished gin, at $45 each, even though I am not a gin drinker. 

Getting home I poured a small measure of gin into a glass, neat, without ice. Then I began swirling the liquid both to aerate and release any excess alcohol from the amber deliciousness lurking in the bottom of my glass.

I also blew into the glass every few minutes to push the remaining alcohol particles free.

Sticking my nose deep into the glass I inhaled. It was like I was standing at the threshold of a spice shop in Thailand or old Bombay.

Gingerly, I took a long, smooth sip and swirled the liquid across my tongue inhaling as it slid across my mouth and down my throat. Subtle aromas of sweet dried apricots and vanilla mixed with bold hints of juniper, anise, ginger, cinnamon, brown sugar and caramelized citrus. Wow.

This is a gin to be sipped for flavor and not gulped for buzz. If you want a buzz choose a cheaper, mass produced brand. If you want to be transported away from the hassles of everyday life, even for a moment, then buy this gin and sip yourself into another state of mind.

So if you get a chance to get up to the St. Augustine Distillery before the end of the year or before they run out of this marvelous gin, then snag yourself a bottle or two and don’t complain about the price because you’ll be sipping a one of a kind gin made with Florida grown sugar cane juice and other Florida grown ingredients.

They are located at: 112 Riberia Street, St. Augustine, Florida 32084
Phone: (904) 825-4962

Thursday, October 13, 2016

20th Americas Food & Beverage Show, Embraces Farming

Miami Beach, Fla.—There was an indoor farm at the 20th Americas Food & Beverage Show. Located at the front of the Miami Beach Convention Center’s main hall, the double rowed, raised bed farm of many produce items took two days to erect. The staff of Nickey Gregory Company, LLC wanted to stand out from the other produce vendors at the show.

Nickey Gregory Company, LLC's indoor raised bed farm display at 20th
Americas Food & Beverage Show, Miami Beach Convention Center,
Miami Beach, Fla. Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
Exotic tropical fruit displays, colorful gourds, decorative harvest corn, banana fronds, mushrooms and enormous pumpkins surrounded their vegetable rows.

Tropical fruit display at Nickey Gregory Company, LLC
indoor farm, 20th Americas Food & Beverage Show,
Miami Beach, Fla. Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey

At then end of the show, they offered up the produce to show attendees because they did not want to haul it back home. It took seconds for the display to be dismantled according to a neighboring company stall.

“You should have seen the frenzy of activity when the stall was dismantled, everything was gone in seconds.”

What was left over went to a local food bank in Miami-Dade County.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Beer Bloggers And Writers Conference, Tampa, Fla.

Tampa, Fla.—This is not a conference for the faint of heart or weak of liver. The Beer Blogging & Writers Conference is an emersion style conference where your every thought, sight, taste, smell and hearing sense is filled with information about beer. It has been organized by Zephyr Conferences, a branch of Zephyr Adventures, each year for the past seven.

Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference by Zephyr Conferences, Tampa, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
This year the conference was held at the Marriott Tampa Waterside and officially started on July 8 and went through July 10th. But there was a choice of either a pre (Jacksonville) or post (Tampa/St. Pete) or both beer tours making the conference experience last five days long. I chose just to go on the post tour of St. Petersburg.

I also got to meet beer bloggers from all over the country and the world. I met beer judges, and got to see behind the scenes of local breweries and ask questions I might not have been able to ask on my own.

Night Of Many Bottles event, Beer Bloggers & Writers
Conference by Zephyr Conferences, Tampa, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
And there was beer to be drunk everywhere, outside the conference rooms, inside the conference rooms, at lunch, at dinner, at mid-morning snack, at afternoon snack, on a bus between breweries, at breweries, and at a live beer blogging event held at J.J. Taylor Distributing Florida, Inc.

I learned a lot, possible more than I intended about the beer industry. It was still a lot of fun despite my first hangover ever.

Turns out the Tampa/St. Pete area have recently been voted the best beer area in the country with 60 breweries.

Next year, Zephyr Conferences is going to have their Beer Blogging & Writers Conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from August 3-6. You can go to their website to register and find out more information.

But you won’t see me there because I’ll still be recovering from all the beer I drank at the 2016 conference.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Tomoka Brewing Company, Port Orange, Fla. Local Ingredients

Port Orange, Fla.--Tomoka Brewing Company uses Florida ingredients in both their brews and food.  This brewery, open more than four years ago near Daytona Beach, really embraces the farm-to-glass style of brewing. They use locally sourced, Florida-grown seasonal ingredients like strawberries, watermelon, blueberries, sugar cane, muscadine grape juice and more, whenever they can.

Tomoka Brewing Company bar logo, Port Orange, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A. Lockey
They have two tap room/brewery locations, their original in Ormond Beach and the one I visited was in Port Orange.

I went in earlier this year for a flight of beer ($8 for four glasses and $2 for each additional glass).

From left to right in the below picture I selected Pumpernickel Porter (6.2% ABV), Tomoka The King Elvis-Imperial Brown Ale (8.5% ABV), Tomoka Mutha Fuggle EPA (6.1% ABV) and Tomoka Tangerine Weisse (4.2% ABV).

I also got Tomoka Twist of Cane Double IPA (8.6% ABV) and Jen's Gin Saison (7.6 % ABV), not pictured below.

Tomoka Brewing Company beer flight, Port Orange, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey

My favorite was Jen's Gin Saison, made with real cucumber juice. It smelt like incense in a glass with aromas of Jamaican Hibiscus mixed with herbaceous cucumber. And the taste continued in the delicious path of the aroma with sweet honeysuckle like flavors followed by refreshing cucumber and ending with a light tartness. It was wonderfully refreshing.

I also liked the Twist of Cane Double IPA that had a light, crisp sweetness (from the real Florida sugar cane) that mellowed to a floral hops bitterness that perfectly balanced the sugar start.

The Tangerine Weisse had a nice, light, beginners sour taste and was very drinkable.

The King Elvis Imperial Brown Ale had a strong smoky, boozy smell and taste. I also detected flavors of chocolate, molasses and strangely enough pumpernickel bread.

Oddly enough the pumpernickel porter did not taste like its namesake, to me. Instead it had a crystalized brown sugar smell and taste.

Their Port Orange tasting room/brewery is open seven days a week usually opening their doors at 11 a.m. except on Sunday when they open one hour earlier and closing most days at 11 p.m.

Tomoka Brewing Company has 22 house taps and a great pizza style kitchen that uses their beer in their food.

Their selection of beers changes constantly so hurry in before your favorite is gone. They also make beer cocktails and serve wine.

Tomoka Brewing is located at 4647 S. Clyde Morris Blvd, Port Orange, FL 32129
Phone (386)352-4679

Thursday, July 7, 2016

St. Louis Premium Framboise, Raspberry Beer Bliss

St. Louis Premium Framboise overflows with good old-fashioned raspberry taste. Bierkasteel Van Honsebrouck, a brewery in Belgium, brews it. Their lambic style fruit beer gets its intoxicating taste from 25 percent Willamette raspberry juice. What makes it very drinkable is its low Alcohol By Volume (ABV) rate of 2.8 percent.

St. Louis Premium Framboise Ale guest tap, Daytona Beach Brewing
Company, Daytona Beach, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
I encountered this bliss in a glass through a guest tap at the Florida based Daytona Beach Brewing Company last month.

At first sniff I was in love. This was the rich raspberry scent of my childhood, not the current worn out scent of supermarket shelved fruit.

As I continued to breath in the aroma of this beer the walls of the Daytona Beach Brewing Company melted away and I was transported back in time to my favorite childhood raspberry patch in Maine. The smell of the beer was the same as what would emerge from my patch on the hottest, calmest days of summer when the birds were sleeping and the bees were buzzing.

The bushes were always heavy with warm, plump, ripe red berries ready for the picking. And I would always push my way deep into the patch ignoring scratches from thorns as I searched for the one perfect berry.

It was always a raspberry that fell easily into my hand leaving a sweet red smear of fruit on my skin as I popped it into my mouth. And as the sweet elixir juice of that berry from my past trickled down my throat the walls of the Daytona Beach Brewery Company suddenly reappear and I realized I had taken my first sip of Framboise.

I was glad I bought a snifter ($6) so I could relive my childhood with each additional sip. It was mouthwateringly delicious with a crisp, tart finish just like my wild raspberries.

Unfortunately, the Daytona Beach Brewing Company no longer has that beer on tap but the Belgian company Bierkasteel Van Honsebrouck does sell it by the bottle.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Green Mango & Spicy Shrimp Paste, Fla. Style

It’s mango season again in South Florida. And that means Thai sour, unripe, green mangoes are available to satiate my Asian treat tooth.

Florida grown sour, green, unripe mango and spicy shrimp paste,
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
I spent part of my childhood in Thailand where I learned to love sour, spicy, salty food combinations. One that I picked up, and kept, was eating sour green mangoes with spicy shrimp paste.

Thai mangoes have several names, depending on the nursery that grows them, but basically they have a thin, wavy shape with green skin on the outside. Inside, their flesh ranges in color from slightly pale green to yellow.

Their flavor ranges from very tart lemon/granny smith apple taste to slightly tart. And their texture is crisp and juicy.

The shrimp paste has a strong fishy smell to it and is very spicy if eaten straight.

But sour, unripe, Thai mangoes have a very high starch content which equalizes the heat of the chili peppers in the shrimp paste.

I bought my mango at a Lantana fruit stand and shrimp paste (Ginisang Bagoong brand) at Kabayan Oriental Mart in Royal Palm Beach, Fla.

Both the salt and spice bring out the flavors of the mango, but it’s really the spice that matters. I’ve tried going non spicy but the flavors were not the same.

So if you are into adventurous food pairings then check out this one. I think you will be amazed at how well they go together.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden, Rainforest, WPB, Fla.

West Palm Beach, Fla.—Tour Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden and save yourself a plane ticket to Brazil. Gene Joyner started his botanical garden in 1970 with the intention of making it into a self-sustaining rainforest. It is situated on 2.5-acres of land, with a one-mile path, and a collection of over 2000 plants, 150 of which are tropical fruit trees.

Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden, Tropical Rainforest, West Palm Beach, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
I’m walking with a diverse group of people, on a warm May afternoon, through a thick forest of plants with Joyner. Mulch crunches underfoot and the only other sounds are those of Joyner as he points out plants telling us about their histories, growing challenges and tips.

Gene Joyner of Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden,
Tropical Rainforest, West Palm Beach, Fla.,
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
Grabbing hold of a thick piece of bamboo he says, “Indian bamboo can grow 80 feet in one season.” Many people in our group have questions, which he answers with ease.

“A lot of these plants haven’t seen fertilizer in 25 years,” says Joyner. He adds he only gives fertilizer to new tree plantings. And as for pesticides, he uses none except for lizards. “They are very good at controlling pests,” Joyner says with a smile.

Bamboo grove, Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden, West Palm
Beach, Fla. Copyright 2016 Helen A Lockey
The soil was originally sugar sand but with years of mulching and allowing the plants to naturally decompose their leaves and other parts, the land now has a rich layer of dark topsoil. “I’ve built up six inches of topsoil in 30 years,” said Joyner.

Some of the results are a 80-foot tall Kapok Tree, a 40-year old cashew Nut Tree, a 40-year-old Baobab Tree and a 35-year old bamboo stand started from a single section of bamboo.

Joyner has travelled the world to source his plants for his garden. Now he also travels to educate people about plants.

Sausage Tree pods at Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden,
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
At the front entrance there is a large Sausage Tree with large, brown colored, hard shelled sausage shaped fruits hanging from long chord. These are inedible for humans, Joyner says but in Africa where the tree is from Giraffe and Hippos love the fruit. And the local women use it in the fermentation process of their honey beer.

If you want to go to the garden it is open to the public on the second Tuesday of every month and costs $10 a person.

But if you want to visit at any other time you have to call the garden 561-242-1686, and leave a message for a reservation.

The Unbelievable Acres Botanic Garden is located at 470 63rd Trail N, West Palm Beach, FL 33413.

Parking is limited so if you can car pool then do so. They have mosquito spray and water available at the kiosk where you pay to get in.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Florida Grown White Asian Eggplant

Wellington, Fla.--Fresh Florida grown white Asian eggplant is delicious. They are a unique, slim, cucumber-like shaped eggplant with pale white, thin skin. Their sweet, delicate flavor lacks the bitterness usually associated with purple, Italian eggplant.

Florida grown white Asian eggplant, Wellington, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey

I bought some earlier this month, which had been picked the day before, from the Seed To Bloom booth at the Wellington Green Market in south Florida. I choose the tiniest eggplant I could find. They cost $4 a pound.

I took them home and immediately started preparing them for dinner.

I preheated the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and lined a backing sheet with aluminum foil. Next I cut off all the green tops off each eggplant and slit them, lengthways, in half from top to tail making them look like thick string beans.

Then I tossed them in safflower oil (a high smoke/heat oil). 

If you are allergic to daisies do not use this safflower oil. Instead use another high smoke oil like coconut, macadamia nut or grape seed oil.

I placed each oiled eggplant strip on the aluminum foiled baking sheet leaving about a quarter inch of gap between each strip.

Oven baked Florida grown white Asian eggplant, Wellington,
Fla. Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey
I put the tray into the oven and cooked the eggplant for 30 minutes until they were golden brown.

They were creamy, crunchy and slightly sweet in flavor.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Barrel Of Monks Brewing LLC, Boca Raton, Fla.

Barrel of Monks Brewing had a birthday party, with a few hundred paid guests, this past weekend. The brewery located in Boca Raton, Florida, turned one this year and they celebrated with food truck treats, guest taps and all of their delicious brewed creations.

Barrel Of Monks 1801 Mocha Kaffie Dark Saison, Barrel Of Monks Brewing,
Boca Raton, Fla.
Copyright 2016 by Helen A Lockey 
The brewery owned by Matthew Saady, Keith DeLoach and Bill McFee, Belgian beer enthusiasts and home-brewers, could not find a decent beer outside of Belgium, so they decided to start their own brewery last year. They built the only Floridian Belgian trappist style brewery. "We are the only ones dedicated to traditional Belgian style," said Tasting Room Manager Zachary Agran, during an interview last year.  

To keep the beers truly European they import their yeast from Belgium, and their grains from Belgium, England, Scotland, and Germany. And to keep the quality high they hired brewmaster Kevin Abbott who previously worked for Funky Budda's and Due South.

"Our goal is to make Belgians the right way," said Matt Saady during last year's Holiday party.

Despite all the importing they still support local by using Florida citrus in their recipes. And they follow other Florida brewery trends by giving their spent grain mash to a local animal farm for feed. "We're very much about local produce and supporting local," said Agran.

The anniversary party went from 2 to 6 p.m. and was a lot of bubbly fun. My favorite brew was the 1801 Mocha because it had deliciously bold flavors of coffee and chocolate.

You can find Barrel Of Monks beers at many South Florida restaurants and bars and at many stores but the best place to try it is at their tasting room in Boca Raton, just off of Clint Moore Road.

Barrel Of Monks Brewing is located at 1141 S. Rogers Circle #5, Boca Raton, FL 33487
Phone: (561) 510-1253

Just one note, Barrel Of Monks Brewing LLC has a strict 21 years and over policy so if you have children under that age they will not be allowed into their tasting room.