Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Aarti's Beer Party

I had a great time drinking beer and eating great beer snacks with my friend and fellow beer chick Aarti Sequeira, who happens to be the winner of Season 6 of The Next Food Network Star, and now she has her very own rad show called Aarti Party (She also has an awesome blog at

I've received about a trillion emails asking everything from what glassware we used at the party, to how we came up with the beer pairings for Aarti's delicious and interesting dishes, to what beers to pick if the ones listed on her show aren't available in your area.

The first dish that Aarti made was called Chewda a crunchy Indian snack mix made with cornflakes, peanuts, pumpkin seeds, plantain chips, golden raisins and my favorite fried curry leaves. I thought that a crisp, dry and lighter bodied beer would be best here. A traditional Kolsch is perfect for its depth of flavor and its lightly sweet finish. I chose the Reissdorf Kolsch by Privat-Brauerei Heinrich Reissdorf, a brewery in Cologne, Germany.  Alternatives: Schlafly Kolsch from St. Louis, Missouri; Goose Island Brewing Co. Summertime Ale and Alaskan Summer Ale from Juneau, Alaska.

The next pairing was the Lebanese pita snacks called Arayes.  They are baked with a spicy beef and pine nut filling.  I chose the dry and nutty Deschutes Black Butte Porter from Bend, Oregon.  Don't let the look of this beer fool you.  It pours dark, but it's got a light and bright body, nutty and smoky flavors and a dry finish that works perfectly with this snack.  Also try this recipe with Anchor Brewing Company Porter from San Francisco, CA; Sierra Nevada Porter from Chico, CA and Bell's Brewery Porter from Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Finally, Aarti's Fish Tacos featured pan-seared mahi mahi with coriander and ancho chile powder, with warm corn tortillas, garlic-mint mayo, shredded cabbage, and pickled banana peppers. They were paired with Allagash White Ale) from Portland, Maine.  This beer is brewed with coriander and bitter orange peel that harmonized with the spices in the dish and also providing herbaceousness and citrus! Alternatives: Unibroue Blanche De Chambly from Chambly, Quebec; Alaskan Brewing Co. White Ale from Juneau, Alaska or Blue Moon Belgian White Ale from Coors.

Just like with wine, the right beer glass can make a huge difference in the flavor, aromatics and the mouthfeel of a beer.  Spiegelau makes the beautifully designed glassware that we used at the party.  Their Beer Classics line has a "Stemmed Pilsner Glass" that I use when I'm evaluating almost all beers.

Now I can cross "Get on the Food Network" off my bucket list!  Thank you to all who watched and wrote.  Beer is good!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cook It: French Onion Beer Soup

In Los Angeles, we Beer Chicks know that fall is here when the clouds come onshore all the way up to Beverly Hills and it finally starts to rain (read mist). We know it by the crazy drivers who apparently only come out when it rains. But mostly we know it by an intense craving for our special Rad French Onion Soup made to perfection with the addition of Flanders Red Ale!

In order to make the perfect French Onion Soup, we've experimented with several "best" recipes featuring different "secret" ingredients ranging from Cognac, Sherry, Port Wine and dry white wine, but it wasn't until we heard about the addition of Balsamic Vinegar as the celebrated element that we got that spark of beer inspiration.

Why are we so excited about Balsamic Vinegar you might ask? Well, because the same fermentation (Lactobacillus) that gives Balsamic Vinegar its sizzle of puckering sour acidity is also used in one of our favorite beer styles, Flanders Red Ale.

A Beer Chick's mind is always going in ways that try and figure out how to add beer to everything, so out goes the Balsamic Vinegar and in goes the Flanders Red Ale. In this recipe we used a beer called Rodenbach from Brouwerij Rodenbach out of Roeselare, Belgium. Brewed since 1836, this beer is a blend of 75% young beer and 25% aged beer. This deep, dark red-brown ale is fruity, slatey and oaky, with a puckering tartness that harmonizes perfectly with the carmelized onions and cuts through the melted French Gruyere cheese of the perfect French Onion Soup.

The Beer Chicks Rad French Onion Soup


1/2 stick of butter 6 onions sliced 6 garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 cup Rodenbach Flanders Red Ale*
6 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon Sierra Nevada Porter Mustard**
1/8 teaspoon truffle oil (optional)
Salt & pepper
4 French bread slices, toasted
1 cup grated Gruyere cheese

Melt butter in heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are tender and very brown and carmelized (about 40 minutes). Add the Flanders Red Ale to deglaze the pan and simmer about 3 minutes. Combine beef broth and mustard and add to the saucepan. Simmer about 35 minutes. Add truffle oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Preheat broiler. Ladle soup into broilerproof bowls, making sure there is room for the toast and cheese. Top each bowl with slice of toast and grated cheeses. Broil until cheeses melt, brown and bubble. Enjoy with a Flanders Red Ale or for a completely different but equally delicious pairing, try a peppery and citrusy Belgian Saison!

*Other Flanders Red Ales that would be great with this recipe are Duchesse de Bourgogne from Brouwerij Verhaeghe, Vichte Belgium or La Folie from New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, CO.
**We love this mustard that we bought during a visit to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, CA. You can substitute it with any Dijon mustard.