Sunday, October 27, 2013

Harpoon UFO Pumpkin Ale

I know it's been far too long since my last post, but now I'm baaack! A big thanks goes out to my biggest fan Paul, for the encouragement and shaming, reminding me that I "smell and haven't been blogging lately."

Since the weather has gotten colder and we're fully into Fall, I thought I'd kick things off with a seasonal favorite. So let me gush about Harpoon's UFO Pumpkin Ale.

I've had a love affair with pumpkin ales since the moment I was brave enough to try "classy" beers beyond Miller Light. Each time I see a pumpkin beer on a menu at a restaurant, I have to try it. That's exactly how I came across this one. 

I was visiting my younger brother in Boston a few years ago, and he took me to a quaint little dive bar near his house. I saw Harpoon on the menu, and asked him if he'd had it before. "Yes, and it's awesome," he said, "If you don't try it, you're a moron." I was sold. The bartender served me my beer in a pint glass that was rimmed with sugar and had pumpkin pie spice sprinkled on the top. Whoa. This was serious business. After one sip, I was hooked. It was like drinking a pumpkin pie. The bartender just gave me a smug look, like he was thinking, "You stupid girl. Of course my pumpkin ale is the shiz. How dare you doubt me." Ah-maze-ing.  I had found my holy grail of pumpkin ales. 

When I returned to Chicago after my trip, I was sadly disappointed that none of the bars had it on tap like the one in Boston did. I also struggled to find it bottled at my favorite beer stores. After two years of searching, I kind of gave up on ever finding it in the Chicago area. 

On a random trip to Binny's last month, I thought I'd give it another shot, and asked the guy working the beer aisle if they carried it. He led me over to a bottom shelf and pulled out the last six pack, which was hiding behind all the fruity flavored beers! It was like a Christmas miracle! I finally had my pumpkin ale! All the others I had along the way just didn't live up to my Harpoon. 

If you are lucky enough to find a six pack of Harpoon's UFO Pumpkin Ale near you, here's how you properly prepare it for drinking, just like I had it in that dive bar in Boston. 

Let your beer properly chill overnight so that it's ice cold. Pour a little sugar in a small bowl or on a small plate.  White sugar works, but it's even better with Turbanado Raw Sugar because it has a deep, molasses flavor. Take a wet paper towel and wet the rim of a clean pint glass. Roll the rim in your sugar. Open your beer bottle and pour it straight down into the glass until the glass is half filled. Don't tilt the glass or any of that crazy business; pour straight down. You want the foam because it makes it extra delicious.


When the foam has gone down to about a quarter of its original height, pour the remainder of the beer straight down into the glass. Once again, let the foam dissipate to about a quarter of its original height. Now comes the best part. Sprinkle a dash of pumpkin pie spice on the top to just barely cover the foam. If you don't have the pre-made spice, a quick mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves will work, but mix them up and taste them before putting them on the beer in case you need to make any recipe adjustments. You don't want to ruin a perfectly good beer with a funky spice mix.


Harpoon's website has a beer finder so you can find Pumpkin Ale near you. I got a six pack at Binny's in Chicago for $8.99.

Please keep in mind that this drink is a perfectly acceptable substitute for dessert on Thanksgiving, since you're basically drinking a pumpkin pie. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Potato Chip Perfection

I have found the perfect chip to pair with my earlier post on Heluva Good Dip!
Kettle Brand Bakes

I was shopping at Whole Foods today and came across an aisle end cap that featured a sale on potato chips. Since chips are one of my major weaknesses, I of course had to stop and check it out. The brand name caught my eye first. I've been a big fan of Kettle Brand chips ever since I saw their CMO speak about their branding and customer engagement strategies at a marketing conference a few years ago. They do a great job involving their customers in choosing the next new product or flavor.

Anyway, I've been on a bit of a health kick since the new year, but I still can't deny my cravings for salty snacks. These baked chips seemed to be a good compromise - they're still delicious, but better for you than regular Lay's. I know I don't normally need much to justify why I eat a snack food, but Kettle Brand Bakes actually make me feel good about what I'm eating. There are three ingredients listed (potatoes, safflower and/or sunflower oil, and sea salt) on my bag of Sea Salt flavored chips, so I know that I'm not eating a lot of artificial things. Also, believe it or not, the chips actually look like they came from potatoes! Unlike the Baked Lay's, which I still eat, but are just a bunch of tiny chip particles mashed together to form a chip shape, Kettle Brand Bakes look like they were sliced off a potato. Probably because they were. Again, this shouldn't be a crazy concept, but I swear that 90% of all food has been so processed that you can hardly tell what it started out as. These chips are baked and sprinkled with just the right amount of sea salt. When it comes to dip-ability, these are the best because they're thicker than most potato chips and are less likely to break when you cover them in delicious chip dip. They even taste good!

Kettle Brand Bakes
They look like they're made of real potatoes... because they are!

According to the Kettle Brand website, the Bakes chips come in five different flavors: Sea Salt & Vinegar, Hickory Honey Barbeque, Sea Salt, Cheddar & Roasted Tomato, and Sour Cream & Onion. I'm a traditional girl, so I got a bag of Sea Salt. Delish!

Like I mentioned earlier, I got my chips on sale at Whole Foods - 2 for $5. The bag size is smaller than your typical potato chip bag, but that's probably a good thing because once I start eating, I practically eat the whole bag in one sitting, regardless of bag size. According to Kettle Brand's product locator, they stock these at pretty much all the major grocery stores around me.

So go grab some Heluva Good Dip with your Kettle Brand Bakes, and get ready for a tasty treat!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Rothbury Farms Cheese Garlic Croutons

To go along with my salad theme, I have to tell you about my crouton obsession! Every good salad needs them.

I love croutons. They're like crack for me. I can eat them straight out of the bag all day. I know a lot of people like to get fancy and make their own homemade ones, but let's be honest... it's just so much easier to buy them.

I've tried all sorts of crouton brands and wasn't really impressed with any of them. That is, until I found Rothbury Farms Cheese Garlic Croutons. These bad boys are like super power crack. I have literally chowed down half a bag in one sitting without realizing it.

Because I'm a garlic lover, I, of course, prefer the Cheese Garlic flavored version. I haven't even tried any of the other flavors. You can definitely taste the cheese, garlic, and herbs in each tasty morsel. My favorite part about these is the texture. They're harder and crunchier than most other crouton brands. They don't crumble in your salad or get soggy.

I have a tough time finding this product in grocery stores, but fortunately the manufacturer's website has a listing of what stores carry this product. When you do find them in stores, you'll realize that you're getting a real bargain... they're just $2 a bag!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Newman's Own Olive Oil & Vinegar Salad Dressing

When I think of summertime, I think of big salads with all the fresh seasonal produce. They're delicious and filling, but still allow you to keep that beach body that you've worked so hard for.

To top off my salads, I've been really into vinaigrette style dressings lately. My favorite of those is Newman's Own Olive Oil & Vinegar. It has everything I love - it's light, a little garlicky, and full of flavor. A little goes a long way, and only a tablespoon or two is needed on a medium-sized salad. Because it's made with all natural ingredients, the good stuff normally settles at the bottom. Make sure you shake the bottle well before using to mix up the contents. The only negative is that it's a full fat dressing, so use it sparingly if you're watching your weight.

I'm able to find this salad dressing at most grocery stores in the condiments aisle. It's normally around $3-4 per bottle. You can check out all the nutritional information and some recipe ideas using this product on the Newman's Own website, or even purchase it online if you can't find it in stores. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Stone-Ground Express Mustard

Wowza. I found this product during a regular trip to Whole Foods. It was a sampling day, and they had a sampling station set up with Local Folks products. I think I sampled one of everything, but it was the Stone-Ground Express Mustard on a pretzel rod that totally won me over.

This is the best mustard you'll ever have. Hands down. If you're a fan of brown, Dijon, or other fancy mustards, you'll love it. The consistency is not like your typical mustard; instead of being smooth and spreadable, it is thousands of little mustard seeds in a nice mustard base. This stuff feels homemade. You can actually recognize the simple ingredients that go into it (mustard seed, honey, rice wine vinegar, bell peppers, jalapeƱos, salt, cilantro, lemon juice).... no weird chemicals here.

Stone-Ground Express Mustard is so delicious that I find excuses to put it on anything... sandwiches, meats, or just for dipping with pretzels. My hubby makes a killer brussel sprouts dish with this mustard... it's a must try!

Jason's Brussel Sprouts

2 servings fresh brussel sprouts, halved
2 TBSP Local Folks Stone-Ground Express Mustard
1 TBSP maple syrup
1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
optional: 2 strips bacon, diced
salt & pepper to taste

If using bacon, cook up bacon pieces in a hot skillet. When cooked fully, add all other ingredients to the pan and sautee over medium heat until sprouts are cooked through. It's delicious and serves 2.

Overall, so good! It's a must try!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Faygo Rock & Rye

Oh Rock & Rye, how I love you! You've been a favorite my entire life, though now I usually go for your diet version instead of the original.

Whenever I'm drinking a Rock & Rye, the first thing people ask me is "What does Rock & Rye taste like?" .... well let me tell you. It's like a fruity cola soda. Not quite a cream soda, though it does have some hints of creamy flavor. Definitely not a cola either. With undertones of cherry and vanilla, it's a unique flavor all its own.

I grew up in Michigan, so Faygo brand sodas were everywhere. They were always cheaper than Coke or Pepsi, and came in crazy flavors like Pineapple and Black Cherry. It's really a kid's dream! Faygo's headquarters are in Detroit, so they mostly have distribution in the Midwest. I live in Chicago now, and it's extremely difficult to find Faygo here. It's a real treat when my family and friends from Michigan visit me and bring me a case of Rock & Rye!

Rock & Rye comes both in original and diet versions. The diet version only comes in 20 oz bottles. It's tough to locate around Chicago, but in Michigan, you can find it at most grocery and convenience stores. The 20 oz bottles normally go for around 99 cents. You can also purchase cases of a limited selection of Faygo flavors in 12 oz cans on their website for $7 each.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Heluva Good Dip

Oh how I love my guilty pleasures. Chips and dip is definitely one of them. You can set me down with a bag of chips and container of dip, and I will hoover it all until it's gone or someone takes it away from me.

If I'm going to splurge on a tasty snack like this, I like to do it right. Heluva Good Dip is the best french onion chip dip I've found so far. It's creamy and delicious. The consistency is so much better than that of other dips out there.

I found it on sale at the grocery store today for $2.50 in the dairy section. Pair it with some Kettle brand Sea Salt potato chips for a truly awesome snack.