Friday, May 4, 2012

Madison Craft Beer Week 2012

Time to celebrate craft beer in Madison again.

Wait, we do that every day here right?

Well, yes but now we have a whole week of awesome events to enjoy.

Craft beer is growing in this country but the majority of people still drink mass produced beer. So like last year Star Liquor is encouraging you, oh lover of good brew, to take this opportunity to convert someone. We all have that friend who won't stray from pale lagers made a billion gallons at a time. Grab that friend, find an event, and let the conversion begin. There is truly something for everyone. They probably just don't know that not every craft beer is a hyper-hopped IPA. We should all help them find out.

Star Liquor's Schedule for Madison Craft Beer Week 2012

All tastings 4pm until 7pm

Friday 5/4:               Central Waters Brewing and Crispin Cider
Saturday 5/5 :          House of Brews

Sunday 5/6 NOON: Great Taste of the Midwest Tickets On Sale

Thursday 5/10:       Utah Brewers Coop (Wasatch and Squatters)
Friday 5/11             Pearl Street Brewing
Saturday 5/12         Lake Louie 

For a full list of Madison Craft Beer Week events click here.

So go and partake, but also share the love with someone who needs your help to discover better beer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Wine and Travel: Tuscany 2003 Part 1

I still remember being at Star on that February afternoon when Jerry looked up from his phone call at the desk and said, "Adam, you have a passport right?" I answered him that I did. He then asked if I wanted to go to Italy. I am going to say that this was probably the easy question I have ever answered in my life.

I had known since I had started working full time at Star that there was a chance this trip would come about. Jerry had gone ten years earlier, and Jason had gone five years earlier. Still the suddenness with which it came about caught me a little off guard. I only found out I was going about five weeks before the trip would happen. This would be my first trip to Europe, and I couldn't wait.

I spent that seemingly never ending time preparing for the trip. After recieving the itinerary I spent some time trying to familiarize myself with the vineyards I would be going to and the wine that they make. Many of these trips are what they call "death marches" around Italy. Vineyard after vineyard with little or no free time. Often they cover the boot from tip to toe. Which I understand is a little like complaining that the weather has just been "too nice" but that much drinking and travel mixed together can be pretty exhausting. My trip however was going to be a bit more limited in scope. We would only be visiting Tuscany. Ha, only. 17 vineyards in 10 days. Places that make some of the worlds most celebrated wines from Chianti Classico, to Brunello di Montalcino, to Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Hooray.

The night before I left Jerry, Jason,and I sat in the basement of Star and they gave me some last
minute advice before I went off to represent Star in Italy. These were good tips, mostly involving phrases like, "have fun" and "don't make an ass of yourself". We sat and drank some good wine, ate some good cheese and oil, and laughed as all the while my excitement grew.
After driving to Chicago, and flying to Newark I met the first of my travelling companions for the week. They had been on the same flight out of Chicago as Brian was from Oshkosh and Charlie was from Milwaukee. I had not met them earlier because I am a bit solitary when on planes, my book and my music get most of my attention. Now in Newark we had hours to kill before our flight left for Rome. We found the gate where our flight would leave which happened to be an area full of large white rocking chairs. Perfect.

We ate, had a few beers and soon more people from our group began to trickle in. We met John (who would be my roommate on the trip) and Nancy from Maryland. Barb, David and Mark arrived from Denver, then Bob from Boston, then Susan from New Hampshire.

We ended up having a nearly 4 hours delay in Newark but with almost half of our travelling crew in place we spent the extra time getting to know each other. The flight was uneventful, but I will say that Al Italia has good food and wine and bizarre Italian movies.

When we landed in Rome we met Lara, our tour leader from New York and learned that we had missed our connection to Florence but no worries for they had a bus for us. For me this was preferable anyway, it was a 3 hour ride through Italy, my first exposure to Europe. Everyone else slept, I stared our the window with my mouth open, which it turns out is how I would spend the better part of the week.

More stories to come. Stay tuned.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Cooking with Spirits: Scotch Mustard Reduction Sauce

Hello all. This it the first in what I hope will be a more regular series of blogs by Star Liquor. Posted both by myself (Adam) and my coworkers.

I am going to start this renewed effort by sharing a wonderful recipe I learned at the Through the Seasons Cooking School at L'Etoile way back in 2002. The class I took was called red meat and scotch. This class was my first Xmas gift from Jerry as a Star employee and I have probably made it a hundred times over the last ten years.

The original recipe was for beef tenderloin filets but I have found it works very well with pork as well. At times I have substituted bourbon for scotch, this also works well. Any good recipe is just a starting point and only your imagination limits you.

There is no reason to use a fancy single malt for this sauce. A blended scotch will be cheaper and taste just fine. If you are going to use single malt remember that cooking with booze concentrates flavor, so a smoky scotch means a smoky sauce.

When you are at Star Liquor buying your whisky for this dish, A half pint (200ml) equals roughly a cup.

Scotch Mustard Reduction Sauce

6 T unsalted butter
2 shallots pealed and finely diced
1 cup scotch whisky
2 T whole grain mustard
1 cup of demi-glace

In a saute pan over high heat, melt 2 T of butter and sear your meat. Remove meat from pan and pour off any excess fat. Save the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. They are all flavor.

Add the shallots to the pan and brown slightly while stirring. Add the mustard to the pan and cook for about 1 minute while stirring so the mustard coats the shallots.

Remove the pan from the heat and add the scotch.

***Just an aside for safety's sake. When you are cooking with spirits always remember that BOOZE BURNS. Technically booze fumes burn and when you add spirits to a hot pan there are going to be fumes. So turn the burner off before you add the booze. Most of the fumes will dissipate in a minute or two. Even so keep a lid for your pan handy and a fire extinguisher should be in your kitchen too. This stuff is yummy but don't burn your kitchen down for it.***

Bring back the heat and reduce the scotch, mustard, shallot mixture to a thick paste. Add the beef demi-glace and bring to a simmer. Reduce this mixture by about half. Swirl in the remaining butter and serve right away over your meat.