Friday, September 30, 2011

Merchant's event has been cancelled!

Boy, this makes me sad. $30 for over 50 beers, a full buffet, a BJCP styles table, ice cream made from beer from Treat Dreams, and lots of giveaways. We didn't sell ONE SINGLE TICKET. BIG sigh.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How much can one person eat?

We found out last week when we went on a 4 day eating and drinking binge to Traverse City. Wow.
 *Incredible scenery! We climbed the big dune (Sleeping Bear), and walked o'er many a hill o'sand to (finally!) reach Lake Michigan. Driving from Bellaire to Traverse was gorgeous too, as were the turning trees everywhere!
 *Beer! Including stops at Walldorff brewery in Hastings, Michigan Beer Cellars in Sparta, Short's, Right Brain (yeh!!), North Peak, and Jolly Pumpkin. This deserves its own post, and I'll set Mr Cicerone onto that, I think.
* Cider! Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay. If only we'd been able to ride OUR tandem there. The ciders are great, especially their dry Farmhouse and the Pommeau. And the pickled eggs!
*Food! Where to start. Okay- here we go...

9 Bean Rows bakery & coffee house in Traverse City. Good coffee, lovingly prepared fresh for each patron. They had an incredible pastry selection, but not being much for sweet things at lunch, we had their quiche, made from scratch including the puff pastry crust. Delectable- the crust was flaky perfect, and the filling (spinach and goat cheese for me, and classic Lorraine for Mr Cicerone) was light, creamy and just delectable. The best quiche I've ever had.

Mission Table on the Mission Peninsula. It also houses the Jolly Pumpkin pub and restaurant. We had a fantastic dinner there, enhanced by JP Bambiere in the JP pub beforehand, JP beers paired with our meal, and more JP after dinner back at the pub.Our meal was an exquisite selection of small plates, each made from locally sourced fresh ingredients. For starters- beet & parsnip salad in a buttery sauce, and exquisite rabbit ravioli, enjoyed with JP La Parcela pumpkin beer. Next up- wild mushroom risotto, fresh (local) whitefish on a bed of white beans (Oh! This was divine!), with Jolly Pumpkin's Oro De Calabaza. Then, Madrugada Obscura stout for dessert back at the JP pub.

Brasserie Amie in Traverse City.Another place with fantastic home-made pastries. But, we opted for a savoury lunch of fried green tomatoes on corn cakes, topped with fried eggs and tomato relish, and a truffled omelet rolled around liver pate. Groan.... They have an incredible selection of Benedicts there, too, but we didn't make it back, sadly. Too many dishes, too little time!

Red Ginger in Traverse City. We enjoyed a delicious appetizer of calamari cooked in a Korean spicy orangey sauce, which we paired with Rogue's Morimoto Soba ale. Mr Cicerone was extremely pleased with his entree of Vietnamese Shaking Beef, a striking dish comprising seared beef tenderloin on a bed of baby bok choy, sweet onions and mint, all nested on a "Shanghai noodle pillow". Umami, umami, umami. Paired with Rogue Morimoto Black Obi Soba ale. Me- huge shrimp and lots of sweet crab meat atop udon noodles dressed with mustard cream and cilantro. And, a wonderfully nuanced glass of good sake.

The Cook's House in Traverse City. Our final night saw us here, at this tiny restaurant in a house, sitting at "The Chef's Table", which is a counter top, with enough space for 2, at the back of the restaurant about one foot from where Chef Eric and his team cook and plate the food. The best seat in the house if you ask me! (You have to ask to be seated here.)  We spent 3 1/2 hours eating, 8 courses in all. We had chosen the 7 course tasting menu, and Chef had overheard our conversation about a particular dish that wasn't part of this menu, and he surprised us with it! The whole experience was superb. Every dish was perfect- ingredients, preparation, cooking, presentation. One of the most memorable dining experiences I've had. Watching the team work to get all the meals out was also something else. The attention to detail was extraordinary. And, every one of the kitchen staff had a smile on their face- it was truly art to them all. The restaurant is much more wine-focused than beer-focused- there was a wine pairing for every course in the tasting menu. The beer selection was small, but adequate, and we did okay with the small selection, though we did opt for wine with our steak course. Chef Eric managed to chat with us amidst his ongoing, never-ending cooking marathon, and he did say that he was just really starting to learn about craft beer and food, and announced to us that the first beer dinner there was happening soon. There's two scheduled- Right Brain and New Holland. Wish we could go!
So, I'll just post this link to all our pictures from the trip, including the meal from The Cook's House- every course pictured, including our pairings....(click on each picture to read the details.)

 *Hat Shop! (We're still on the "Highlights" list.)

*Staying in Cupid's Cove at one of B & B's, chosen 100% because of its proximity to the breweries. How many angels does it take to make a room cringeable?

* Counting the teddy bears in our room at another cutesy B & B (See reason above!)
* Being woken at 8AM while on vacation, by the guests in yet the third B & B, all clomping down to communal breakfast (location, location, location!).

...Full post

Monday, September 12, 2011


I was overdue to smoke us some malt. We like our rauchbier here at Chez Cicerone. We also like to include a wee bit of smoked malt when we make porter. As we got to planning Beer Camp #2 for the Slows BarBQ folks, it became clear that it was time. See, our friend Chef Mike is going to be one of the campers this time around, and he loves him some porter. All right, then.

This is the first time I've used my current barbecue for malt smokery, but I expected it to be easy, owing to the separate firebox. I made a basket from aluminum window screen fabric, sized the same as the grill space and able to accommodate about a 3" or  4" deep load of malt. My precise calculations told me that this would equal around 20 lbs. of malt, which is a manageable amount. I moistened the malt with some fresh water, letting it get damp but not sodden, and we were off. In the firebox was lump charcoal for fuel, and water-soaked hickory and mesquite chips for smoke. 3 hours of smoke and gentle heat, with not too frequent turning, turned 20 lbs. of pilsener malt into something more like smokey Munich malt. Next day, I did 20 more. Now we just rest the malt in the open air for a few days, and bag it up until we need it. We are looking forward to the next homemade rauchbier....

At last....

Possums notwithstanding, we finally sat down to one of our favourites- tomato and cheese pie! Lots of tomatoes, cheese (I use whatever I have in the fridge that needs using; this time it was smoked fresh mozzarella, manchego, a wee bit o'chevre and some pecorino), green onion & fresh herbs from the garden, binded with some mayo. And all wrapped in a buttery pate brisee crust. Mr Cicerone's Maibock (Boo hoo! It's gone!) was the perfect beery accompaniment.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Well, not rats. The day the man came and took our problem 'possum away, I came home to this:

I had not noticed another 'mater missing a bite that morning, but reckoned I had just missed it in my rush to work. Looked recent, though...

...Full post

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Upcoming beer events

Thursday September 15
Andiamo, Dearborn
Atwater Brewing beer dinner

Tuesday September 20
Foran's Grand Trunk Pub
Founders Beer Dinner

Friday October 7
Merchant's Fine Wine Beer tasting event at Knights of Columbus O'Kelly banquet hall, Dearborn, including cider, mead and sake. Ciceroney stuff, too ("Styles" table). Lots of food, including  Dearborn Sausage Co hot dog stand, and Treat Dreams ice cream. More info on the way.....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Beer Brunch 2011

It's over, again. Only 365 more days until the next one! Here's the menu....

Shipyard's XXXX IPA with grilled shrimp and pineapple tostadas. (The original beer match was Liberty Street's 42nd Parallel IPA, but it was a limited release and we were unable to acquire more.)
Mr Cicerone's Maibock with horseradish deviled  eggs. (Wow!) (It was supposed to be deviled DUCK eggs, but sadly the promised duck eggs did not actualize.)
Mr Cicerone's "Buster 2010" Uber Doppelbock with grape and almond gazpacho. (This soup was really delicious and different. Green grapes, a little cucumber, toasted almonds, yoghurt, buttermilk, cream cheese, a little cayenne and fresh dill, pulverized together, and garnished with fresh red currants. We tried many beers with this dish, and only something as intensely flavoured as the chosen uber doppelbock could stand up to the soup!)
Mr Cicerone's Nugget Pale Ale with duo of toasts & marmalades (Avalon Bakery rye sourdough with blood orange marmalade, and Avalon sublimely-superbly-spectacular brioche loaf with tangerine marmalade.) (This course came about as Mr Cicerone was pondering what might taste great with his Nugget pale ale "which tastes like toast & marmalade") (Note: Trying to have 34 pieces of hot toast arrive at the table at the same time was not necessarily fun.)

Arbor Brewing's Sacred Cow IPA with chick pea curry. (Oh, look! There's Rene & Matt Greff! What a coincidence! For those unaware, they are about to open a brewpub in Bangalore, India, where Sacred Cow IPA will be renamed Raging Elephant IPA.)
Mr Cicerone's Rye Peppercorn Pale Ale & Stone Brewing's Smoked Porter with truffled macaroni & cheese. An oldie but a goodie. We used a Michigan cheese called "Truffle Jack" that had huge pieces of black truffle dispersed through it! Both beers were spectacular with it, especially the smoked porter!

INTERMEZZO Honey ginger-wheat beer paletas. 

Mr Cicerone's Cask-conditioned Stout with crawfish etouffee.  Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Mr Cicerone's Atmospherium Saison with miso-dressed cucumbers over soba noodles. A favourite amongst the attendees.

Schlenkerla Rauchbier with bacon, lettuce, & tomato on Laugenbrotchen with chipotle mayo. That would be Nueske applewood-smoked bacon, home-grown Caspian Pink tomatoes, arugula, and home-made mayo made with some of the bacon fat and chipotle oil. (A grueling 30 minutes of continuous hand-whisking the day before. Worth it!)

Dessert:  Dragonmead's Sin Eater Belgian strong ale & vanilla ice cream float. 

Kitty dressed for the occasion

Mr & Mrs Cicerone, thanking everyone who came!

...Full post

Tale of the Tomato Thief

We have devoted more than a couple posts to fresh, ripe heirloom tomatoes, especially our prized Caspian Pinks. Each year, we start plants indoors to get a head start. This year, we used a soil testing kit to help us optimize the conditions for the luscious fruit. We got huge plants, lots of flowers, but... not many actual fruits. It seemed the very hot, very wet weather made for sticky, clumpy pollen, which doesn't spread as easily as when it is powdery. But we did start getting fruits off of our two Caspians. Meanwhile, a Brandywine plant produced exactly one fruit, and then essentially croaked. Mrs. C. trimmed back all the dead leaves and stems and left us with a spindly plant with one big beefy tomato. See?

Well, at least we'll get to try one of the famed Brandywines, we thought. The day came when it was red and ripe, and we planned to have it with our dinner that night. Except when we came home, it was gone! What the heck? Neighborhood kids? Next day, two more ready-to-pick 'maters are found to have large chunks missing from them. Scheiss! A search of the garage led me to the culprit:

This little devil likes tomatoes.

Having had only the odd transient 'possum encounters around the house, I futzed around for a couple days trying to figure out what to do, until the more sensible Mrs. C. located Brian the Possum Guy, who actually knows what to do. Thus...

...Full post