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Friday, July 22, 2011

Finger Lakes Summer Recipe

Some dishes just say summer. A group of us (managers, chef & owner) from the Rogues' Harbor Inn took a summer wine tour by boat last week. We had an entire day of sun, wine, and creative food pairings all around Cayuga Lake. It was the perfect summer day for a pack of foodies.
First stop was Long Point Winery in Aurora. They served us outside over looking the water. It was like sipping wine at a hilltop chateau- they have one of the best winery lake views on Cayuga. We had 6 or 7 courses with wine pairings. All were just amazing, but three stood out for me. We sampled aged cheddar with their Reserve Chardonnay, BBQ beef with their Syrah and my personal favorite blueberry cheesecake with their Vidal Blanc. It was paradise.
Second stop was Sheldrake Point in Ovid. We've all been there many times, but couldn't pass by without stopping. I tried their Late Harvest Riesling and the staff tried a few of their reserves. As always, we were not disappointed.
Last stop was Buttonwood Grove Winery in Romulus. None of us had been there before and we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. It was a picturesque farmstead winery with vineyards, fields, pond, Scottish Shetland cow & goats, and a cabin like tasting room. The owner was funny and friendly and more than happy to continuously fill our glasses. We tried  local cheddar curds with an Estate Chardonnay, spinach salad with fresh raspberries paired with Cayuga Lake Mist ( a 100% Cayuga White wine) and the very best, truly, was their Cabernet Franc with wine marinated watermelon. It just epitomized the day. It was refreshing, summery happy food. They were kind enough to share their chef's recipe. So, we're passing it along with high marks and offering it as evidence that really good food doesn't have to be complicated. Simple is good. So soak up some sun, put your toes in the water and have some watermelon. It's that simple. That's summer in the Finger Lakes.

Cabernet Franc Fruit Marinade:

1  cup Buttonwood Cabernet Franc
1/2  cup sugar
1  3" cinnamon stick
1  tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1  tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
8  whole cloves
Mix all ingredients in saucepan & bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes. Strain dressing & refrigerate till cold. Serve over melon (or berries).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Brewing 101: Malt

In what seems like forever now (apologies for the long absence) we took a look at what role hops played in the brewing process. This time around we're going to take a good look at what malt brings to the concoction that is beer.

The majority of malt used in brewing is a malted barley. The short form of how it's created is that the barley is wetted and allowed to germinate before being dried. The drying process used, and varying degrees of heat will help to create malt ranging from light, grainy malt, to deeply roasted bitter malts. While barley isn't the only malted grain used in brewing (malted wheat and rye are also used in some brews), it is the most prominent one.

Malt is the backbone of beer, it contributes to flavor, color, and the body of the beer. The base malt, that is the malt that makes up the bulk of the malt used in your beer, is going to help you get the bulk of your fermentables. Most base malts are lighter in color as the more deeply you roast your grain the more you burn off the starches (these are what get converted to sugars during the brewing process). There are, however, several processes used in the malting of these lighter malts, not to mention where the grain was grown, that give different characteristics to every type of base malt. This is the malt upon which the beer is being built, so like every other ingredient a lot goes into selecting the particular malt as it will also be the malt nearly all your beers will be built upon.

The specialty malts are the ones which are used to fine tune your beers. A beer with a single malt can be good, but it will be rather one dimensional. Specialty malts will add character to your beer. Many of the lighter speciality malts will give nice toasty or biscuity characteristics to the beer. There are also malts known as caramel (sometimes also referred to as crystal) malts which range from fairly light, to darker red in color. They are created by a special stewing process that creates a sugar inside the hull of the grain. The darker caramel ones are then dried at great temperatures which creates the stronger caramel flavors that this type of grain is named for. Some of them can contribute flavors ranging from raisin like to plum like flavors. Most of the sugars they give off are fairly unfermentable so they can give a slight sweetness to the beer. They also will give the beer red colors that can range from just a slight tint, to a dark ruby hue depending on how dark and how much of the malt is used. The darkest malts are the roasted ones. These malts, even in fairly small amounts can contribute very dark colors to the beer. They also give flavors that range from chocolate like flavoring, to a strong coffee character, and some of the heaviest roasted malts give a very astringent bitter taste. These ones are used sparingly as you want them to primarily contribute to the color of your beer.

There are many different malters who have their own techniques, special roasts, and all sorts of tricks up their sleeves for bringing some unique characteristic to the beer. It's easy to become greatly overwhelmed by the varieties and can take a lot of research and experimentation to find just the right combination to obtain the flavor and color profiles that you are looking for in your beer. For me, however, the best part of brewing is how the processs of using the malt fills the brewery with those sweet grain aromas. It's one of my favorite smells in the world.

Next time we'll take a look at yeast and what it brings to the brewing process.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fun, Fun, Fun

We had a boisterous crowd at the Rogues' Harbor Inn restaurant tonight and we liked it. It always makes us happy to know for certain that everyone is enjoying themselves- smiling faces, uproarious laughter, plates licked clean, more drinks for everyone...In the Bed & Breakfast we had a big family here for a reunion, a few other guests here for high school reunions and some wedding revelers. Really nice folks enjoying each other's company, a generous dinner, a few drinks and some well told stories.
The stories are a bonus for us. We love meeting everyone, making sure they're well fed and watered, and catching a few tales of big fun. Over the years, listening to deeds of misadventure, a scale has evolved in my mind. The "fun" scale reveals the level of planning required for the Rogues' happy hour, dinner, Finger Lakes wine tour, microbrewery visit, pub crawl, concert weekend, canoe trip... and the craziness of the antics anticipated. There are always those that choose to fly by the seat of their pants, but there are some real planners among us this evening and they have some tales to tell.

Level One: Shut off the cell phone
Level Two: Designate a driver- always prudent
Level Three: Ladies bring second pair of comfy  shoes for late night, Men always ready
Level Four: Stock up on Tylenol or alka seltzer
Level Five: Ladies shave legs, wear matching bra & undies, Men always ready
Level Six: Bring an entire extra set of clothes & a tooth brush
Level Seven: Create an elaborate alias: name, hometown, profession, family
Level Eight:  Hide your wallet and valuables
Level Nine: Book a room, no really book room
Level Ten: Bring enough cash to post bail
Level Ten Plus (from @brewcuse on twitter): Have the DA's or your lawyer's number on speed dial
I promise that we have heard each of these pre-celebratory preparations in a story. Level Ten I was just made aware of this evening and I think that it is totally over the top. My husband was in the Merchant Marine for 20 plus years and when i told him about Level Ten he was not surprised in the slightest. In fact, when he worked as a Chief Mate on several ships it was on his check list of pre-departure duties to account for all crew. If any were missing he was to take some cash (set aside just for this eventuality) and go post bail for the missing revellers stuck on shore.
The Inn was named for a harbor of rogues and we love a good time. So if you want to head to Ithaca, the Heart of the Finger Lakes for some fun, sun, Cayuga wineries & microbreweries, hiking, maybe live music in a pub or at Grass Roots festival, this is the place for you. But if your preparations exceed Level Six, maybe you'd better head to Vegas. Bring some friends and family and live it up- and bring your best stories. We love a good bed time story.