Well Brewed in Kalamazoo…

I opened the first two Bell’s bottles on a nice night in the Tasting Room.  I ordered myself Localthe Chef’s Local Tasting which at that time was on the regular dinner menu.  I enjoyed a delectable soup and salad combination which consisted of Jonagold Apples, Watermelon Radishes, toasted pecans, house made Sourdough Bread, and a Romanesco Cauliflower Soup, and to wash it all down, a delicious and refreshing Bell’s Amber.  To follow was my dessert, a Bell’s Best Brown, and wonderful conversation with a dear friend.

If you read my last blog, I wasn’t all that thrilled at the time to drink my way through the six Bell’s beers on our list.  I guess I was just more excited to try the ones from Breweries that I wasn’t all that familiar with, like Brewery Vivant, and Tri-City.  Bell’s had slowly became a customary item to me.  How quickly I forgot about the year I spent in Detroit pining for six pack of Oberon on what Kalamazoo-ins call “Oberon Day.”  But what I love about writing this blog, and taking this ride on my beer adventure, is that I keep surprising myself.  What I found was a greater respect and a greater knowledge of Bell’s beers and I am happy to say that I enjoyed all six that Webster’s Prime had to offer me.Bell's Blog

The Amber I had enjoyed many times before, and I knew it was one of those easy to drink beers.  It has a cloudy and golden-amber appearance.  The Amber is extremely floral, with slight notes of hops and carbonation.  But what I really like about the Amber is that it is a well balanced beer.  It is one of Bell’s year-round brands that sits right in the middle between malt and hop intensity.  This is an easy one to enjoy!

Bell’s Best Brown is a step up on that malt, hop intensity scale that I mentioned.  It is a seasonal brand for Bell’s, that has more hop and malt intensity than the Amber does.  It is dark brown in color and possesses a nutty/ malty aroma.  This Ale was light and easy to drink with hints of cocoa and caramel.  It is nice and balanced, do not let the color of this one steer you away, it is not a heavy beer by any means.bells-oarsman

Now, I’ll admit I did not actually drink the next four brews in the Webster’s Prime Tasting Room.  Sometimes a restaurant girl needs a little break from the hustle and bustle of the busy season.  So I ran down to Drake Party Center and built myself a six pack, took the bottles home, and had a Bell’s experience on the couch.  (Beers mentioned are on the Webster’s Prime beer list!!)

I started with the Bell’s Oarsman Ale, a year round beer for the brewery, and an astringent, refreshing brew that would be of great reward after a 5k or while sitting on the pontoon boat on a hot afternoon.  It has an apple cider fruitiness, tart with hints of lemon and lemongrass.  This is a traditional sour wheat ale, using traditional mash methods.  It is cloudy and yellow in appearance, citrus on the nose, and sour to your taste buds.  I am extremely sensitive to sour, it makes my upper lip sweat, so this beer was difficult for me, but it would be really nice for someone less sensitive to sour.  Maybe I’m slightly allergic to lactic and citric acid?  It is a session (clean finish, high drink-ability)/wheat beer with use of citrus hops and bright notes; you really get that sour on the sides of your tongue.  With its light carbonation this would be a great chugging beer on a hot day.Bell's Blog 2

Next I enjoyed the Winter White Ale, a great wheat/witbeir/Belgian style ale.  This is a winter seasonal for Bell’s that is cloudy orange in color and has sweet wheat, citrus on the nose with slight malt coming across.  It has that “bready” type quality that I love.  With its full mouth feel it reminded me of a Belgian White Ale.  It has lemon, orange, banana, and clove aroma and taste.  Very easy to drink, and highly recommended for those looking for a lighter beer during the winter months.

Then I was on to the Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, this is an Indian Pale Ale (American-Style) with American malts and hops and a nice crisp finish.  It has a floral hop aroma, but a subtle hop flavor on the tongue.  This one is not overly hoppy; it has the perfect light hop background with grapefruit forward.  Very easy to drink, clean, slight dryness on the finish that leaves you wanting another sip.  It also possesses a slight “booziness,” with grassy hops and a malt finish.  VERY, VERY GOOD!  Want to amp it up?  Try a Hopslam next, if you like the Two-Hearted.Two Hearted

Lastly, I was ready for the grand finale, the Kalamazoo Stout.  A wonderful American stout, brewed with brewers licorice.  It is a full-bodied beer with flavors of roast and dark chocolate.  It is very dark in color, almost black, with a roasted coffee and chocolate aroma and finish.  Some mild hop presence and a roasted malty full body.  Nice creamy mouth feel, some caramel notes, hints of molasses, and anise.  Delicious!

All in all I have to say that Bell’s makes some Bell's Blog 1great beers.  They are easy to drink, they have vivid full aromas, and they are extremely well balanced.  I’m looking forward to our upcoming workshop at Bell’s and their Chef’s Table at Zazios Restaurant in Kalamazoo.  I have attended a Bell’s Chef Table dinner at Zazios once before, but I am so excited to attend another, a year later, during Kalamazoo Beer Week.  Pumped to try their Kal-Haven Ale, and their Midwestern Pale Ale, in addition to their Hell Hath No Fury, and Black Note.

Speaking of Kalamazoo Beer Week, please join Webster’s for our “Meet the Brewers” events Monday, January 14th through Wednesday, January 16th, and Friday, January 18th.  Monday we will have Founders, Tuesday Arbor, Wednesday Arcadia, and Friday Perrin Brewing Company (a newbie from Grand Rapids.)  On Thursday, January 17th please join us for a New Holland After Party featuring musical artist, Megan Dooley!  The party kicks off around 8:00pm; look forward to seeing you there!

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season, and please have a wonderful NYE!

Alana Fisher
Event Coordinator


Kids and Christmas Cookies

It is that time of year again.  Time for shopping til you drop, cooking til you drop, putting up with family until you pull all of your hair out (like mine), and SNOW!  Well, if we’re lucky, this is Michigan after all.  More than all of that, it is time for the beloved Christmas cookie bake off.cookies 013

Ever since I can remember this was my favorite part about the Holidays, except the presents of course.  I loved being in the kitchen with my mother and grandmother baking cookies and cakes.  From what I remember, baking with my mom was always so easy going, and there never seemed to be any problems.  Man, was I wrong.  You never realize how much of a marathon it is to bake with children until you have your own.  Now I know the abuse I put my mother through.  When I was young it was just me, so now that my fiancé (Bryn) and I have two less than two years apart, I feel that fate is playing tricks on us.  Not only are there two of them, they seem to work with each other as partners to distract us in one direction while they are robbing us in another.  Little fingers are in everything; frosting, dough, butter, eggs, and then all of the sudden there is a dust cloud of flour hovering in the kitchen.  It’s as if little Pillsbury ninjas dropped smoke bombs and escaped with a cookie from the batch fresh out of the oven.  I may be exaggerating a little, but not by much.cookies 003

O.k. all jokes aside, as I said before baking in the kitchen with mom and grandma was one of my favorite times as a child growing up.  Now Bryn and I get to share that with our two wonderful children, Claira 3, and Joey 1.  It brings me back to when I was younger.  It gets me more excited now that I get to share these traditions with my very own.  What’s better is that they get excited about it.  Every time I’m at home in the kitchen chopping, sautéing, baking, roasting or whatever, they are right there next to me, step stool in hand, trying to see on top of the counter, stove or peeking into the oven.  Now when something is in the oven, it is standard protocol to have the oven light on at all times so they can see.  The ooohs and ahhhs that come out of their mouths send chills up my spine every time.  There is nothing better as a parent to share what you love to do in life with your children, and they love it just as much.cookies 2 011

So this holiday season we are back in the kitchen armed with parchment paper and our favorite sheet trays.  We tend to stay pretty classic with sugar cookies, which aren’t my favorite, but they are a great cookie for the kids to get involved with.  The recipe is simple and the little ones feel like they are really doing something special when they get to roll, cut, frost and sprinkle the cookies.  Another cookie classic for me is the cornflake no bake.  This is not a glorious cookie by any means, and not really a Christmas cookie by tradition, but when I was growing up this was the cookie that meant the holidays were near.  On top of that they are totally addicting.  I can’t keep my hands off of them and neither can my little ninjas.  They seem to disappear without anyone knowing. (The cookies and the kids)cookies 2 021

We get excited every year when this time comes around.  Now it’s all about the kids and the sacrifices you make for them.  To see them light up when they realize what Christmas is has no comparison to anything else in the world.  Their happiness means everything to us.  It has been a true blessing to start our own family traditions in the kitchen.  There is nothing that makes me more proud than their little smiling faces in the most used room in the house.  I encourage everyone to take as much time with your little ninjas as much as you can.  Even though my kids are so little, I realize how fast time goes.  I want them to grow and pass on these traditions that we have with them to their own families.  Every minute you have with them counts, don’t waste it.cookies 005

As I wrap this up I would like to take the time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  I’m sure you can tell that this time of the year means a lot to me, from my past to my future.  I would like to leave you with a little gift as well, so following this are the two recipes that I talked about.  Let the bake off begin!  Happy Holidays to you and all the little ninjas.Cookies


Cornflake no bake:

¾ C   corn syrup

1 C granulated sugar

12 oz. Peanut butter

6 C. Corn flakes

Method:  In a large stock pot melt, on medium low, the corn syrup and sugar until dissolved.  Stir in the peanut butter until mixture is combined.  Last stir in the cornflakes and coat them evenly with the mixture.  Layout a piece of parchment and using a spoon drop small mounds of the cornflake mixture onto the parchment and allow to set.cookies 030


Sugar cookie:

1 C. butter

1 C. granulated sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

1.5 tsp. baking powder

.5 tsp. salt

.25 tsp. nutmeg

3 C. flour

Method:  In a mixer cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  Add in the vanilla and egg and combine.  Add all dry ingredients until well combined.  Remove from mixer and place on a layer on plastic wrap.  Shape into a rectangular loaf, wrap and refrigerate for one hour.  Lay the dough onto a piece of parchment the size of your baking tray and roll to a thickness of ¼ inch.  Cut out your shapes on the parchment and remove excess dough from the cutouts and repeat.  Transfer parchment to the baking tray and bake for 6 – 10 minutes. Allow to cool before icing.


Royal icing:

3 large egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla

4 C. powder sugar

Method:  Whip egg whites until frothy add vanilla and sugar a little at a time.  Whip in low until icing gets a sheen.  Continue to whip on high until stiff peaks form.


Joe Pearson
Lead Line Cook

Turned off by Turnips?

In a world with such a variety of vegetables, us cooks are always challenged with produce that people do not typically like. This is also where we strive to create dishes that stretch taste buds and change people’s minds. I hated onions when I was a kid, pushing my mother’s hard work around the edges of the plate like it was toxic. For instance, if it was french onion soup, all the bread, cheese and broth would be gone leaving a pile of lonely onion in the bottom of the bowl. It wasn’t until I started having onions in different and interesting preparations that I learned the beautiful complexity of an onion and its flavor (not to insult french onion soup). Onions and I have been close ever since.

A Turnip from my Mother's Garden

A Turnip from my Mother’s Garden

Apart from the onion, I have heard many people explain their dislike for turnips. Turnips are abundant this time of year and usually have a cheap price tag. I also think this misunderstood vegetable is the most delicious root vegetables there is. With the strength of a potato and the delicate flavor of a sweet radish, turnips are universal in the cooking world. There are many easy ways to prepare this lost vegetable, even far beyond my knowledge. These are a few of my favorites:

Grilled Turnips: An all-time favorite. In a salted pot of boiling water, cook turnips whole until tender. You can check this easily with a toothpick, just like a potato. Make an ice bath with equal parts ice and water and a few pinches of salt. Place cooked turnips in the ice bath until they cool to room temperature. The skins should peel very easily from the turnip. Once the skins are discarded, slice the turnips into pieces that will be easy to grill. Toss with salt and olive oil and place on a hot grill until nicely marked on both sides.

Turnip and Potato Hash: Great with eggs in the morning, or next to a grilled steak, or both! Just dice your potatoes and turnips evenly and boil in salted water until tender. Remove and saute in a hot skillet with olive oil and salt until crispy. Add thinly slivered red onion and fresh thyme to deepen the flavor. Toss with a tab of butter and a small amount of lemon juice to sweeten and add acid.

Pickled Turnip: There are a wide variety of pickling brines out there, and I’m not sure if I’ve found my favorite for turnips yet. I have had great success with making simple brines (consisting of vinegar, water, sugar and salt). Heat water and vinegar, whisk in salt and sugar until they’ve dissolved. Pour the hot brine over raw turnips, wedged or whole, and refrigerate for at least a week. If you are not very familiar with making pickling brines, try David Chang’s pickling brine from Momofuku, www.esquire.com/features/guy-food/momofuku-recipe-1009 .*

Momofuku Pickled Turnips

Momofuku Pickled Turnips

Turnip Chitara: Derived from the Italian word for guitar, chitara is cutting vegetables in a spaghetti-like shape, emulating guitar strings. There are mandolins and other gadgets that whip out a beautiful chitara, but with a steady hand and patience, this can be done with just a knife. Saute in olive oil with a small amount of garlic, but not for long, as you don’t want your chitara to overcook. De-glaze your pan with white wine and add heavy cream to create a pan sauce. Reduce until a nice thick consistency occurs and season with salt. Garnish with parmesan cheese and fresh radishes. Add bacon or ground pork in the beginning to make this a heavier dish.

Turnips from Kirklin Gardens

Turnips from Kirklin Gardens

There are a million possibilities for turnips and other vegetables out there, we just have to experiment and never be afraid to try new things. So the next time your child says, “I don’t like onions”, or you find yourself not ordering a dish because of an ingredient, please remember that our taste buds change daily, and that there is always a way to make something delicious.

Happy Holidays,

Nathan Shaw
Lead Line Cook


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