Craft beer adventures and experiences… one pint at a time

Archive for November, 2016

Belgian Beer 101 – For People who Love People who Love Belgian Beer

Ideas to Help with Holiday Giving…

Every year when holiday season rolls around and I’m browsing my local craft beer aisle for new brews, I watch nervous parents, grandparents, husbands/wives, and other adults aimlessly scanning beer labels in hopes of choosing just the right combination of beers for their loved ones who love Belgian craft beer.

Harried sales clerks are often too busy to repeat their picks to yet another clueless customer whose son/daughter/boyfriend/girlfriend loves specialty beer.  While it’s easy to pick up a six-pack of something local, many are looking for an introduction to Belgian Beer so that they can make informed choices.

Note that beer drinkers are like art lovers or foodies!  There are often style/flavor preferences that differ between friends and family members about their beer preferences: the light beer drinkers who buy whatever is cheapest in the 24 can pack (stop reading now,) those who prefer Belgian beer (this is for you and yours,) those who are American craft beer lovers (see my next blog post,) while some are just getting into the “beer world.”   

For those who love Belgian beer and those who love them, I compiled Belgian Beer 101 – for yourself (if you want to know more) or print out for a loved one who simply isn’t as knowledgeable or passionate about Belgian beer as you are.  (You can thank me when you finally get a delicious gift of good Belgian Beer !)

One point to note – if you or your recipient is into BELGIAN BEER – buy Authentic Belgian!  

Don’t be swayed by a bottle or package of Belgian-style American craft beer (unless you’re really on a budget.)  Belgian imported brews have unique flavors that come through generations of pride, tradition, barrel aging and often wild Belgian (in the air) yeast.  It’s like being transported to Belgium and living the good life!  For me, the
deep richness that comes with my favorite Belgian brews are worth the extra couple of dollars I might spend.  (It might sound snobby, but I like what I like.)

Still stumped?

petrus-aged-red1Create a gift basket or 6 pack of several different Belgian beers:  For starters choose different styles that show the diversity of Belgian beers:

  1. One bottle of Lambic (you probably won’t think it is beer because it tastes more like a fruity champagne-style drink than a “traditional” U.S. style beer.  This is a great choice for anyone who might have to share their gift with someone who “isn’t really into the taste of beer” (we ALL know people who say this!)  Brouwerij  (Brewery) Van Honsebrouck N.V. brews St Louis lambics:  Framboise (French for Raspberry) and Kriek (French for Cherry);
  2. A couple of barrel-aged  brews such as the Brouwerij De Brabandere’s Petrus suite of beers including  Petrus Oude Bruin, Petrus Aged Red (my favorite – it’s deep  amber color and sweet) and Petrus Pale ale.  If you or your recipient are a bit adventurous, you might want to take a look at the combination “Sour Power 6-pack” (it comes with instructions on how to blend the brews to get your perfect taste!);
  3. One bottle each of a Dubbel, a Tripel and a Quad.

This would give you a nice varied six-pack of small (11.2 oz) bottles. If you want to create a basket – 2 or 3 of the larger 25 oz / 750 ml (wine bottle sized) bottles or a large and a couple of small bottles, together with a couple of Belgian beer goblets or flutes that match the brewery (or blank ones) makes a great gift. (I’d choose one of the Brewery De Bradandere’s barrel-aged brews, plus a Dubbel and a Quad for variation.)

Happy holiday season, and please share, like, comment – and let me know if this has helped you with your holiday giving !  If you’d like me to send you a copy by email, send me a note at caroldekkers@gmail.com with the subject Belgian Beer 101.  I’ll also be doing a Craft Beer 101 in the next couple of weeks.  Are you interested?

As the Belgians would say:  à votre santé (to your health) or Proost! (cheers!)

Belgian Beer 101 – Page 1

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Belgian Beer 101 – Page 2

Part 3: Orlando North TTD (Things To Do) – off the beaten (theme park) path…

Want a change of pace from the Orlando area theme park lines, crowds, fantasy and hype?

Why not get off the beaten theme park path and discover some hidden gems a short drive from the big parks?

(This is part 3 of a trilogy of posts – see also Beercation:  Take a look at Orlando North Seminole County FL – a Stones Throw from Theme Parks  and Part-2: Food Worth Going out for — Orlando North Delivers Taste over the top )

Here’s a few notable Seminole County (Orlando North) ideas for your consideration:

Just off of I-4 East of Orlando, the Lake Mary Marriott is a perfect pivot point for both Orlando proper and theme parks and Seminole County towns and villages.  In addition to comfortable rooms, the Lake Mary site boasts incredible food and catering (including craft beer and food pairings for events!)  Here’s a few pics to whet your whistle:

  • CRAFT BEER BAR:  Celery City Craft (craft beer taproom, wine, growlers, bistro) -Sanford, FL

Sanford, FL was originally known as “Celery Capital” based on the celery fields a hundred or so years ago.  Today, Celery City Craft is THE place for a wide choice of over 100 local, US and international beers (draught and bottles) with wine and food available.  Without the pretentiousness of many newfangled “craft beer” boutiques, Celery City is friendly,  down-home and a great place to grab a brew or two and settle in with good food.  Beer flights (sample sizes of multiple brews served on a “paddle”) available.

Make an entire evening out of dinner and live entertainment by  visiting the newly opened Route 46 area – stop for delicious country BBQ (with many sauces!) and then stay for live band entertainment at the outdoor seating area or visit the indoor “saloon” complete with a turn of the century bar.

  • NATURAL ISLAND GETAWAY WITH KAYAKS AND BBQs (in a city neighborhood!)  – Wekiva Island – 1014 Miami Springs Dr, Longwood, FL 32779

Nestled against the Wekiva River, this close to zero carbon footprint recreation area features craft beer (25 local and national craft beer taps + over 100 cans,) wine, foot trucks (Check out Firepit Fridays!), kayak and canoe rentals, boot launch, cabana rentals (weekday and weekends,) event areas (think weddings, receptions, corporate events), a gift shop and weekend entertainment.  Bring the family and friends and spend a lazy day/evening in the wilderness against the natural backdrop of FL cypress, the slow-moving Wekiva River, otters with BBQs available with all cabana.  Check their website (link above) for special events and evening hours. Boat stowage available.

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One word for this craft beer and wine bar (come furniture store by day) – AMBIANCE!  When the sun sets on the fine furniture at Washburn Imports in Sanford, the bar opens and the place comes alive.  Aside from the incredible artistic bar (designed by local artist Blair Sliger,) the beer is fresh and local, the wine exquisite and the decor – well, think about sitting on heavy, expensive, imported wood furniture that eeks of Malaysia or the Philipines.  If I lived closer, this would be my #1 choice for a Friday or Saturday night romantic spot – even if I didn’t have a date!  A must see in Sanford… even if you just stop in for a single nightcap.

  • SOMETHING DIFFERENT WITH FRIENDS – LimoCycle.Com – Sanford, FL

Ever wanted to convince yourself that you are burning calories and improving your health during an evening of bar-hopping?  I’m not a fitness and drinking crazed person, so I always opt for the “no-peddling” seat, but the Limo Cycle is lots of fun and exercise.  Drinks are included with the price (as low as $40 per person) and reservations are accepted.  Tell Steve (the owner) I sent you – he’s a great guy and knows plenty about the local area history.  Options range from 2 hour pub tours, game events to 5 hour birthday party tours.  Whether you’re single, a couple or part of a group that wants to try something different – LimoCycle.com is a good option with lots of available potential stops (Sanford Brewing, Wops Hops Brewing, Celery City Craft, etc.)

Part 2: Food Worth Going out For – Orlando North delivers Taste over the Top

 This is the 2nd in a 3 part series about the breweries, restaurants, and things to do in Seminole County / Orlando North.  For more info see Part 1: Beercation? Take a look at Orlando North/ Seminole County, FL – Within a stone’s throw of theme parks  Don’t forget about the upcoming (soon!) Sanford Beer Week (an entire week of events!) November 15-22, 2016.

Food, glorious Food!

I don’t know about you but in today’s lean economic times, I’m more careful about my discretionary spending – especially when it comes to eating out at a new restaurant in a new locale.

Before I get in the car, I  do research (internet, Facebook foodies groups, Better Business Bureau, plus online reviews (lots!), advice from friends and family.) It’s time-consuming, but I remind myself that it increases the odds of a good meal.  Given the myriad of factors happening behind the scenes at a restaurant (servers, ingredients, kitchen staff, day of the week, time, etc.) having a great meal sometimes seems to be more luck, than science.

UNTIL NOW…  When I was invited to a 3 day FAM trip in September (tourist jargon for FAMiliarization trip…) courtesy of DoOrlandoNorth.com/Seminole County Tourism, and Paradiseadv.com (thank you to Roseangela Santiago for Orlando North, Seminole County Tourism and Mary Jane Kolassa, Public Relations for setting it up!) I discovered Food Worth Going out For!  Without exception, I had some of the BEST FOOD ever in Seminole County… and I’m thrilled to share my finds with you!

What’s so Special about Seminole County for foodies and families?

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Seminole County is a combination of upscale, active, fun places with a down-home-authentic-FL-vibe (think “tropical suburbia”) and similar to a northeast U.S. village/ suburb with better climate and more affordable prices!

Sanford and the other villages I visited reminded me of New Haven, CT (with old-fashioned-country style downtown areas housing modern boutiques, restaurants and bars within walking distance of each other.)  The area is ideally suited for couples, families, and business visitors who want relaxation combined with  great food, glorious sunsets and Florida charm.

Where it’s worth going out…  in Seminole County

Restaurants are like movies – every one has a story and a unique angle and the restaurants and bars listed here shared one thing in common:  passion for the overall dining experience from customer service to fresh ingredients to unique presentations.  (Warning, food pics ahead!)

Here a few of the best in Seminole County:

tt-frontTennessee Truffle  – BREAKFAST AND LUNCH
Address: 125 W 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 942-3977
Hours: Tues-Sat 7:30 am – 2 pm

My quote:  “EVERYTHING I SAMPLED HERE WAS INCREDIBLE!”

Much like its namesake vegetable (the first bulb to pop-up in springtime,) newcomer restaurant Tennessee Truffle, started out as a pop-up restaurant experience for which demand quickly outgrew the occasions. Now that owner and executive chef, Nate Russell, has signed a 6-year lease, Tennessee Truffle has found a permanent home as a brick and mortar kitchen and restaurant.

There were so many interesting dishes on the menu (it would have been tough to choose only one!) so it was heaven when Nate proposed sample sizes of a few signature dishes (some pictured below) and ended with Buttered popcorn ice cream (made on site) and the Chocolate Gravy biscuit.

My personal favorite was the Florida citrus cured salmon – refreshing, fresh and slightly tart (everything I tried was delicious!) Most menu items allow for sampling (Cream corn & grits $4.50,  The next time I’m in Sanford, I’ll definitely make this a stop!

Notable notes about Tennessee Truffle:  Decor is unpretentious, clean and homey; restaurant is family friendly (with a special kids menu); staff is approachable (patient with questions!); and there are fun touches (you can draw on the tables with chalk – provided!)  You can even buy their specialty coffee and pickled ramp to take home.  Beer (local FL craft and domestics) and wine are also available.

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20160922_093144Crepevine – BREAKFAST, LUNCH, DINNER
Address: 249 FL-436, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
Phone: (321) 972-8999
Hours: Sun-Thurs 7:30 am – 9 pm ; Fri/Sat 7:30 am-10 pm

http://www.thecrepevine.com/

My quote: “BEST PLACE  FOR MADE-TO-ORDER CREPES AT GREAT PRICES.”

Crepevine lives up to its slogan “fast, fresh, friendly” with fresh, as-you-wait crepes ranging from savory to sweet – with an innovative selection of flavor combinations – or – you can choose your own.  It reminded me of similar restaurants I’ve only seen in London (UK) and Scandinavia where freshness and natural ingredients are prized.

Breakfast crepes (11 special ones) are served until 11am M-F and until 2pm on weekends, but the variety of crepes filling options available all day (5 fruits, 5 cheeses, 7 protein/meats, 10 veggies, and 11 sauces) plus an array of sweet crepes (such as kloob nika: banana, fresh straw berries, kiwi, whipped cream and nutella for $7.29) and even salads (all reasonably prices at 6.99.) — the combinations give an almost endless array of possibilities.

Prices range from $4.99 for a full sized custom veggie + egg or protein + egg breakfast crepe to $12.29 for the “annihilator”  (chicken x2, bacon x2, turkey, cheese x2, mushroom, green pepper, onion, spinach, lettuce, and topped with trifecta sauce!)  There’s also a children’s crepe menu (turkey or grilled cheese or PB&J or ham and cheese) priced at $3.29.

Bottled beer (yes, craft!) and wine are available (mimosas and crepes, yumm!)   The kitchen and the entire restaurant was pristine clean (I love that) and the staff all seemed happy to be working there (unusual in FL!)  Outdoor, dog-friendly seating (a staff member even took a dog dish out to patrons!) is also available.  Don’t miss this one!

Notable notes about Crepevine:  Dog-friendly patio, Gluten free crepes upon request, Friday night special (buy 2 savory crepes, get a free nutella crepe after 4pm on Fridays), take out orders available, children’s menu, beer/wine/champagne.

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20160922_123734Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe – LUNCH, DINNER
Address: 205 E 1st Street, Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 321-2204
Hours: Sun-Thurs 11 am – 9 pm; Fri/Sat 11 am-10 pm

www.hollerbachs.com

Magnolia Square Market (A True German Deli) – Sun-Thurs 10 am-7 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am-8 pm

My quote: “YOU WON’T FIND MORE AUTHENTIC GERMAN FOOD ANYWHERE.”

Proprietor and chef Theo Hollerbach started the restaurant and bar 15 years ago (15 year anniversary Aug 1, 2016) and continues his German family tradition as a 5th generation butcher and chef.

The food was varied (see the slide show for a few of the traditional dishes Theo serves up), tasty and absolutely authentic (he knows his stuff!)  German pride is evident in the food, decor, beer (both bottled and on tap,) ciders, Schnapps (a wide variety!) and traditions including the Schunkelabend nightly live entertainment Thurs-Sun.

Theo remarked that his restaurant packs in regulars ranging in age from 5 to 95 – with a cadre of regulars who frequent the restaurant for the food as much as the entertainment and German brews.  If you’re looking for authentic (and delicious) German fare with a side of fun, Hollerbach’s is a great choice.

Notable notes about Hollerbach’s:  It’s a family affair with Theo’s wife and daughter working at the restaurant.  The beer list (that’s my forte) is impressive and features both draught and bottle choices.  The outdoor seating expands the restaurant by approximately 40% and the venue is suitable for large family, team or corporate events.  Down-home German cooking!  (And if you’re here during October, be sure to stop in for the two day annual Sanford Oktoberfest at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe.)

The Magnolia Square Market (literally around the corner from the restaurant) is one of the area’s largest and most extensive German markets with fresh sausage, cheeses, and desserts made on premise, as well as non-perishable delicacies from overseas.  If you’re looking for direct-from-Germany food items, you’re likely to find it here.

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The Town House Restaurant  – BREAKFAST, LUNCH, AND DINNER

Address: 139 N Central Avenue, Oviedo, FL 32765
Phone: (407) 365-5151
Hours: Monday – Thursday 6:00 am – 10:00 pm
Friday – Saturday 6:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday 7:00 am – 10:00 pm

http://www.oviedotownhouse.com/

My quote:  “THE BEST LITTLE (WITH LOTS OF SEATING) DINER IN FL ”

Owner Leigh Ann’s obsession with chickens is just part of the local charm and down home goodness of The Town House Restaurant.  It’s no wonder this place is a favorite with locals and tourists alike.  Leigh Ann mentioned that their regulars are as close as family – especially the ones who eat every meal there (and staff will drive by their home if they don’t show up for dinner, just to make sure they are okay!)

The family atmosphere extends to the staff – their names are on the tables they serve, and the restaurant is a close-knit part of the community.  I dined at breakfast and had one of the best Florentine Benedict’s I’ve ever tasted.  It was large, fresh, and the hollandaise was pure heaven.  Unusual for a diner, Town House has several craft beers on tap (who doesn’t like beer for breakfast!)  I’d definitely come back to try their lunch or dinner specials based on the atmosphere (everyone in local government and the community dines here!)

Notable notes:  Bar stools at the counter create a cordial atmosphere for singles, and the place is open, airy and suitable for families and groups.  No outdoor dining but the large windows overlooking the bike and nature trail give a great outlook regardless of the weather.

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20160922_211153Lonnie’s Fusion Cuisine  – LUNCH AND DINNER

Address: 124 N. Fourth St., Lake Mary, FL 32746
Phone: (407) 878-5804
Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 am – 9:00 pm,  Closed Sundays

http://www.lonniesfusioncuisine.com/

My quote: “BEST CHOICE FOR A DATE NIGHT OUTING OR SPECIAL OCCASION”

While typically the term “fusion” implies Asian inspired dishes, owner and chef, Lonnie, describes his Fusion Cuisine as being “Caribbean French with sauces.”  The result is a menu of innovative dishes with the freshest ingredients available anywhere.  For example, Lonnie sources his seafood from the local fish market across the street daily and creates his menu based on availability of the fresh catch.  His buttered spinach was incredible (worth the visit itself!) as was the Grouper on Black Eyed Pea Cake with Citrus and Poblano Peppers.  My mouth waters just thinking of it.

The restaurant features mostly affordable (yet unique) wines, as well as half a dozen local craft beers on tap.  Other group members remarked favorably on their pork and other meat dishes, which all paired well with Lonnie’s featured wine (see pics below.)  Lonnie’s is ideal for a romantic date night or a small group (it’s not a large place) with indoor and sidewalk patio seating.  It’s a nice refuge for a quiet dinner, with a sports bar next door if diners are meeting up with a group or favoring a touch of sports to accompany a post dinner nightcap.

Notable Notes: Freshest ingredients, with innovative and flavorful taste combinations.  Great date night venue (upscale yet affordable) with comfortable outdoor seating.

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Smiling Bison Restaurant – DINNER
Address: 107 S Magnolia Ave,       Sanford, FL 32771
Phone: (407) 915-6086
Hours: Tue – Sat: 5 pm to 10 pm with Happy Hours: Tue – Sat 5 pm to 6 pm

http://smilingbison.com/sanford/

My quote: “SMILING BISON WILL HAVE YOU SMILING EAR-TO-EAR WITH A SATISFIED BELLY”

The farm-to-table reputation of Smiling Bison carries through to its rustic decor – chic yet reserved with lots of natural wood.  The food and menu carry through with fresh vegetables and high quality meats.  Portion sizes are large and shareable, savory (delish) and innovative.

The general atmosphere was friendly and reminded me of rustic, open plains, Colorado style restaurants – and the Bison Steak was incredible:  rare, lean, tender, and so so good!  We tasted many different appetizers and main course offerings and everything we tried was fresh, fresh, fresh!

Notable Notes:  Craft beer and wine are available to pair with the food.  While there is no outdoor seating (at least in front), the restaurant is open and airy with high ceilings.  Food is fresh and tasty – and a definite stop before heading out for an evening of bar hopping or brewery visiting in Sanford!

20160923_114248 Vinzo’s Italian Grill and Pizzeria – LUNCH AND DINNER
Address:  1006 State Road 436, Casselberry, FL 32707
Phone: (407) 331-9090
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 am – 10 pm

http://www.vinzos.com/

My quote:  “UNPRETENTIOUS ITALIAN WITH AUTHENTICITY”

If I lived in Casselberry, I’d be a regular at Vinzo’s both because of the food and the approachability and passion of the namesake owner.  Staying true to a solid gourmet lineup of Sicilian family recipes (Lobster Ravioli, Eggplant Parmigiana, Chicken Cacciatore, among many others!), Vinzo’s outdoes itself in presentation and taste.

Just seeing the pics and remembering the savory and rich tastes (I especially love the heartiness of fresh mushrooms in Italian dishes!) makes me hungry even if I’ve just finished a meal.  Located in a strip mall next to Bowigen’s Beer Company (a favorite and featured in my last post) – I know I’d be spending time and expanding my waistline (willingly!) at Vinzo’s.

I can almost smell the aroma !

Notable Notes:  Great for takeout and dining in – the wait staff are friendly and knowledgeable (and patient with questions on the menu,) and bottled beer and wine (wine is their specialty) are available.  I would say, hands-down, this was the best Italian I’ve had in a long time (including my recent visit to Italy in May!)  Worth a drive for a date or a family outing!

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I don’t know if I could live in Seminole County without gaining weight because all of these restaurants would be on my list of favorite haunts!

Please let me know what YOUR experience is like when you visit.  Happy fooding!

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