Amazecheezeballs! And Chocolate! And Craft Beer! OH MY!

I feel I need to explain the title of my post. One of my favorite celebs is Giuliana Rancic.  It’s odd how much I like her because I’m not a fan of reality t.v., and I don’t usually care for celebrities. I did cry over meeting Gene Simmons of KISS, but I was about 5 years old, and I was really scared.  I also cried at a few New Kids on the Block concerts.  And a George Michael concert.  OK, maybe I do like SOME celebrities.  Anyway, I started watching G’s reality show, Giuliana and Bill, when she was just starting to have infertility issues and I never missed an episode since.  One of her favorite words is “amazeballs”.  Let me be clear, I hate the word – I can hardly even write it! – balls.  However, if “amaze” or “schweddy” is placed in front of it, it seems ok.

Classic SNL

Now that I got that out of the way, my beer blogging friend (www.hoptologysd.com) suggested that the two of us collaborate and host a pairing of all pairings: cheese, chocolate, and beer.  I could do a cheese, cheese and cheese pairing, so adding two of my other favorite things in the world was a no-brainer!  The plan was that I would pick the cheeses and chocolates, inform him of my selections, and he would select beers to complement.  My first order of business was to get my mind under control.  Why?  Because I could really overthink the options.  I held myself to 5 pairings and had to keep the cost low.  Another thing I had to consider: people’s tastes.  I am happy to have cheeses on my plate that one could swear might get off of the plate and walk away.  I like super funky cheeses.  Having said that, I also love a simple Muenster.  I knew I had to create a nice balance of flavors – not too overwhelming, but not underwhelming.  Then I had to consider the chocolate – some people hate milk chocolate while some hate dark.  My goal was for someone to have thought he or she didn’t like something and discover that, along with the right pairing, it was tastier than the person thought.

The Glasses Are Just Asking To Be Filled!

The Glasses Are Just Asking To Be Filled!

A Little Guidance Navigating the Tastes

A Little Guidance Navigating the Tastes

Here’s how it all went down:

Pairing #1: English Vintage Reserve Cheddar paired with Dark Chocolate Covered Cranberries.  Beer: Ninkasi Total Domination IPA

Pairing #2: Uniekaas Reserve (Aged Gouda) paired with option #1 Chili Infused Dark Chocolate and/or option #2 Chuao Firecracker which consists of dark chocolate, chipotle, sea salt and Pop Rocks.  Beer: Drake’s Black Robusto Porter

Pairing #3: Point Reyes Aged Blue with Dark Chocolate (85%).  Beer: Ommegang Abby Ale

Pairing #4: Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese (from Trader Joe’s!) with Dark Chocolate (75%) and Almonds.  Beer: Ayinger Brauweisse Hefeweizen

Pairing #5: Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream with a selection of Chocolate Truffles (Participants’ Choice of either a Dark Chocolate Truffle, Godiva Milk Chocolate with Caramel, White Chocolate Ganache and Toffee Truffle, or Chocolate Caramel Truffle).  Beer: St. Bernardus Tripel

Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese From Trader Joe's Was Fantastic!

Cinnamon Apple Goat Cheese From Trader Joe’s Was Fantastic!

Always Delicious Cheese Choice: Point Reyes Aged Blue (From Whole Foods)

Always Delicious Cheese Choice: Point Reyes Aged Blue (From Whole Foods)

Like Butta (or Butter to some)! Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream From Trader Joe's

Like Butta (or Butter to some)! Le Delice de Bourgogne Triple

Cream From Trader Joe’s

It’s fascinating watching people during a tasting like this.  Some people want to know “the rules”.  What order should I follow?  Do I try the beer first, then the cheese, then the chocolate?  Then you have people who spot a favorite cheese, and just jump in, suggestions be damned!  While others follow suggestions for a bit, then start really playing around with mixing and matching.  This really could be a psychological test!  Hmmmm.  My buddy, Tom, and I gave a little guidance and I prepared a menu with a suggested order and pairing, but we really encouraged experimenting.  People quickly started asking what were the favorites.  It was near impossible to make a decision.  I thought the beer pairings were spot on!  I have a weakness for Blue Cheeses, so the slightly pungent flavor with the creamy texture of the Point Reyes was almost mind blowing with the very slight sweetness of the Ommegang Abby Ale.  And following the Ale, the bite of Dark Chocolate brought that little bit of sweetness back around.   If you ever taste cheese with me, be prepared for an emotional ride!

I think Flo Rida sums it up:

He’s obviously singing about a cheese, chocolate and beer pairing evening!

Another perfect pairing that really threw me for a loop was the Aged Gouda, Porter, and Chuao Firecracker.  Chuao is an amazing Chocolatier located in San Diego.  You can purchase at Cafes in Del Mar or Encinitas.  La Jolla UTC mall used to have one, but it is no longer open.  These creative and tasty chocolates can be found at stores around town and can be purchased online (http://chuaochocolatier.com/).  For this tasting, I bought my Chuao at Bed Bath & Beyond. I love BB&B because I love using coupons!!!   And, regarding the cheese, I picked this Gouda because it is unlike your average Gouda.  There is a snap to it and a smokiness not always tasted in a Gouda.  The chocolate with its hint of chipotle really brought out that smoky flavor and then, BAM!!!, Pop Rocks kick in!  Then, WHAM!!!, a sip of Drake’s roasty Porter!  KAZAAM!  It’s like you are fighting Superheroes in your mouth! Fortunately, with this battle, every one wins!

We had the good fortune of hosting this event on October 26th, so I loved bringing in some Halloween decorations.  Yep, it was one of the best nights EVER!!

Full TableFull Room View with Hanny

Halloween Decor #2 Halloween Decor #1

I Had Way Too Much Fun Creating This Tablecloth!

I Had Way Too Much Fun Creating This Tablecloth!

I Love Adding Little Touches! I Placed A Bowl With "Cobwebs" In The Center Of The Table & Had Spider Rings Coming Out Of It!

I Love Adding Little Touches! I Placed A Bowl With “Cobwebs” In The Center Of The Table & Had Spider Rings Coming Out Of It!

What A Fun Night! And Notice The Decapitated Head In The Background.  I Love Halloween!

What A Fun Night! And Notice The Decapitated Head In The Background. I Love Halloween!

Perfection On A Plate!

Perfection On A Plate!

The Beermeister, His Wife, And Some Guy Off The Street Who Likes Gouda

The Beermeister, His Wife, And Some Guy Off The Street

Who Likes Gouda

I can’t tell you how happy this event made me.  What could be better than getting a group of friends together to eat and drink amazing things and talk about it!  This was a great start to many more Pairing Gatherings!  Have you done something similar?  Let me know!!! And head over to the guy who made this night happen and read his side of the story: www.hoptologysd.com.

Take Care and Happy Pairing!

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Happy Halloween And My Emmy Weekend (Part I)

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!  This is my FAVORITE day of the year!  My favorites things in life all come together: scary movies, eating lots of candy (and it’s totally acceptable), dressing up like a fool, and getting together with friends!  What could be better?  On a more serious note, I have many friends and family that are affected by Sandy, so I will continue sending good thoughts your way!!  I was supposed to be on a red-eye flight to NYC last night, but Mother Nature had other plans. Now I can finally finish this post!  More importantly, now I need to go out and get Halloween candy for trick-or-treaters!!  And I’ve heard Halloween is being delayed in some areas, so here’s an image that will keep you in the Halloween spirit . . .

I apologize for taking so long to write about my weekend in L.A. I’m sure you’ve all been on the edge of your seats! Through People Magazine and L’Oreal, I won a trip to sit in the bleacher area of the Red Carpet at the Emmys. So on Saturday, September 22nd, a driver picked me and my husband up at our house and whisked us away to the airport to begin our star-studded weekend. Franz was looking forward to a weekend in L.A., but he had to ask me what the Emmy Awards celebrated. In his defense, there are a lot of award shows.

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We stayed at The London (http://www.thelondonwesthollywood.com/), my new favorite hotel in L.A. The complimentary breakfast at Gordon Ramsay‘s Boxwood Cafe was amazing! It reminded me of a scrumptious hotel breakfast I had once in Vienna – but this might have been even better! The hotel is perched on a hill in West Hollywood, so the view from the dining room was beautiful. Watching the sun rising as I had a delicious croissant and latte was a perfect way to begin the day. The decor was a cross between Restoration Hardware and a tea party in a doll house. That sounds bad, but it worked and I loved it. Our hotel room was so spacious. Maybe I’m getting too used to hotels in NYC and San Francisco, but this room was huge and so comfortable. The roof top pool had great views of the surrounding WeHo area (as I discovered it was called) and hosted the BBC party for the Emmy weekend. So not only did Franz and I take a dip, we were able to see a few stars. Unfortunately, I have yet to watch any of the nominated shows – but now I will! The cast of Sherlock was getting a ton of attention. The fans were not allowed into the hotel, unless they were guests, so many were camped out in front of the hotel. Of course, now I want to see what all the buzz is about, so I’ll have to rent the first season.  Another great thing about this hotel is the complimentary driver available for relatively short distances.  I love when hotels have this perk.  The car is beautiful, comfortable and clean, and the driver is always friendly.  Just grab the driver’s card, and most likely he can pick you up as well.  Not having to take a taxi: priceless.

Gordon Ramsay at the London on Urbanspoon

There have been two restaurants I’ve been wanting to check out: Animal (http://www.animalrestaurant.com/) and The Bazaar by Jose Andres (http://www.thebazaar.com/).  Friday night, we checked out The Bazaar and wished we hadn’t.  Maybe it was all of the hype, maybe it was because I thought Chef Andres was awesome on 60 Minutes when he described his philosophy on life and cooking, or maybe it was because I really wanted to try a molecular twist on a Philly Cheesesteak , but I was disappointed.  I ordered “The Ultimate Gin and Tonic”.  $18?  It better have been the ultimate!  I will say it was a beautiful drink.  It is served in a stout glass with a wide mouth.  It was perfect for taking in all of the lovely smells within the glass.  You have a choice of gin: Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Oxley or Hendrick’s.  I opted for Bombay Sapphire, my favorite gin.  I needed help on my next choice – tonic.  I will admit that I have never given tonic a second thought, and I thought it was a little silly to start at this point. There were two choices: Fever Tree or Stirrings.  I asked our server for guidance in this matter.  He explained that Fever Tree has tighter bubbles, and that was his recommendation for this drink.  Alrighty!  I will admit, I tried the tonic on its own, and it was really good!  Since my trip, I started reading about different tonics, and I was amazed how much I have to learn about this one little beverage.  I will not even attempt to go into it at this point, but I will suggest that you keep an eye out for restaurants that offer various tonics and give them a go.  It’s always fun to taste new things!  And because of this, I will never look at tonic in the same way.  I will also add that it was the best G&T I’ve ever had in my life.  At least it lived up to its name!

Franz and I proceeded with ordering a few items of the tapas menu: Papas Canarias (salted wrinkly potatoes with mojo verde), Seared Scallops (AMAZING!), Veal Loin with Cippolini, Roasted Sweet Long Peppers with a Romesco Sauce, Roasted Beets, the  famous “Philly Cheesesteak”, and Japanese Tacos with Eel and Chicharron.  The scallops were so tasty that after one bite, we asked for a second order.  I guess I was expecting to be blown away.  Everything was o.k., but The Bazaar wasn’t inspiring in its presentation or with its flavors.  Maybe we didn’t order the most creative items on the menu?  I was expecting more molecular gastronomy in each dish.  The Philly Cheesesteak was the only item that came close due to the way the flavors suggested a cheesesteak, but in fact was nothing like one you would get in Philadelphia.  If you decide to go here, make sure you eat before you go or plan on visiting another restaurant afterwards.  You will not leave full, and you will have spent a lot of money.  I was fine with that because I was looking for “the experience”, but I never got that experience.  I’m glad I tried it, but I will not go back.

The Bazaar By José Andrés on Urbanspoon

Check out Chef Andres on 60 Minutes: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=6754666n

After dinner, we checked out a band at The Viper Room, another place that has always spiked my curiosity (http://viperroom.com/).  I didn’t like the beers available, so I ordered a gin and tonic.  Big mistake!  The Bazaar may have ruined me for life! The band playing, Brainspoon, was good.  I wished we could have stayed longer to see the headliner act, Boy Hits Car, but we knew we had a long day ahead of us.  Even if I’ve never heard of a band, I love hearing live music.  I don’t do that enough anymore!

The following morning we had the delicious complimentary breakfast offered at the hotel, and headed back to our room to await my make-up artist, Christiane Gendrey, and hair stylist, Joey, provided by People Magazine and L’Oreal.  Joey did a casual and fun up do, and Christiane kept the make-up light and natural.  Both were perfect ways to go considering it was a crazy hot day in L.A.  I have no idea how all of the actors wore tuxedos and heavy gowns without sweating right through them!  I did notice assistants wiping people down and reapplying sunscreen to women’s backs, especially the reporters.

Attending the Emmy Red Carpet was a very interesting and unusual experience.  There are many people who obtain the passes to sit in the bleacher area every single year.  I can’t imagine doing that.  Once was fine for me!  It’s an entire day that begins with a lot of waiting – and then more waiting.  Once you finally make it to the secured entrance, you are seated in the bleacher area, and you wait some more.  We watched Fashion Police on the Red Carpet being recorded (http://www.eonline.com/shows/fashion_police).  I love Giuliana Rancic, so that was kind of cool.  And I loved seeing Kelly Osbourne’s purple hair in person.  We were able to participate in some of their fashion polls.  Franz was wondering what the heck he got himself into at that point.  He was one of the few men in the bleacher area.  He was a trooper!  It was fun to have family and friends call us throughout the event to say they had spotted us on t.v.

Once the stars started rolling onto the scene, it was pandemonium.  I thought the Red Carpet would have some sense of order.  It was a sea of penguins and ball gowns.  After a period of time, it almost became overwhelming.  I was taking so many photos, but I realized I should put the camera down and just start watching.  Franz loved seeing “Al Bundy” (Ed O’Neill) and the cast from Modern Family.  We thought it was really cool seeing Michael J. Fox and Tom Hanks.  However, Franz didn’t have the same reaction to seeing Jon Hamm as I did.  That was awesome!  I couldn’t believe Don Draper had to go through metal detectors!  That’s not right!

I still have to write about a few places we checked out during our L.A. weekend: The Surly Goat, Hamburger Mary’s, Rosewood Tavern, and Animal.  A couple were hug hits, and one was fun, but the food was a miss.  Spoiler alert!  I think Animal is one of the best restaurants I’ve visited.  I promise Part 2 will be posted soon with some more food details!

Until Then, Take Care and Happy Eating!