Springfield Furniture

A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a weekend with my family in Springfield, Illinois, to be tourists for the Abraham Lincoln sights and history. We were celebrating my father’s birthday, and Springfield is just about halfway for all of us to meet up. Can I say just how nice it was to see and spend time with them? I’m always happy to see my parents, and my brother and I got along the whole weekend. (Sorry dude, but you know we get really frustrated with each other) I’ve missed all of them so much, and it simultaneously made being here easier (felt refreshed after quality family time) and being here a lot harder (felt a little lonely coming back to an empty apartment after quality family time). Even aside from that Springfield was really interesting and such a fun trip for me. Now when I say fun, I mean historic, interesting, and informative. I loved it, and if you’re interested in history (especially Abraham Lincoln) I think you will too.

Things you shouldn’t miss

Ditzy Blonde

Breakfast/Lunch at Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery
If the weather is nice, try to sit outside on their patio. If you go on Sunday, buy an appetizer and be prepared to wait a while for you food. It’s brunch, so enjoy the sun and be patient. Get the Eggs Benedict with the country ham. If you want lunch, get the fish & chips. I can’t recommend the Strawberry beer they had the other weekend, but I did enjoy the Ditzy Blonde.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
Wear comfortable shoes and take your time, because this museum is so well done. Do not miss this stop. It’s good to go here in the afternoon, because it’s air conditioned and there are plenty of benches/chairs so you can rest if you or any other family get tired along the way.

The Lincoln Home

The Lincoln Home
This National Park has preserved about four blocks of the Lincoln neighborhood as it was when Lincoln lived in Springfield. If you want to go on the tour of the home, get here early so you can grab a ticket before they stop issuing them for the day. Now what is really cool is if you go by the neighborhood at night after everything closes. The streets aren’t blocked off or locked up, so you can park right outside the neighborhood and stroll around for a little while. The streets are dark, it’s extremely quiet, and I think it’s about as close to experiencing what night was like back then as I’ve seen. Maybe Williamsburg was closer, but it’s been a really long time since we went there so my memory doesn’t serve me as well.

P.S. Wild wallpaper, huh?

State House Inn

Lodging

The State House Inn
This place is awesome. 
1) The rates are reasonable for how lovely the rooms are.
2) Think 1960s style (molded Eames chairs), but with modern day hotel niceties.
3) It’s about two blocks away from the Amtrak station and one block from the new state capitol.
4) Don’t try to go there for breakfast. The coffe is okay, but the breakfast is lacking (standard bagels, bananas, okay orange juice).

Bonus

If you’re traveling back on I-55 South, on your way to St. Louis stop at the Pink Elephant Antique Store, which is in an old high school. (You can imagine how big this place is.) Even if you have no interest in going to an antique store, it’ll give you an excuse to buy an ice cream. Yes, please.

Antiques

Twistee Treats

Peach cobbler with beer

Peach cobbler with beer

If you’ve been here a while you may have noticed that I don’t do a whole lot of baking with beer. It really intimidates me and I have not had a lot of luck in the past, but I think it’s because I haven’t taken the time or had the patience to do try it again. This weekend I said enough is enough. Let’s get weird.

Normally this cobbler is very tart (especially with perfectly ripe peaches) and bright, and using this bit of beer rounds the flavor out. If you don’t want to make the leap in using beer in a whole recipe, I would recommend taking the portion of cut peaches you would use for one cobbler and cover that with the beer described below. This way you can still try the beer in one of the cobblers and be able to compare it to the regular recipe (sans beer). You know what the best part of this recipe is, though? The  step that calls for “Drink the rest of the beer.”

Fountain Square Workingman’s Pilsner Peach Cobbler
using a slightly adapted version of Joy the Baker’s topping

2 large ripe peaches
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C packed dark brown sugar
3 Tablespoon rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 Tablespoons slivered almonds or granola
3 Tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 bottle Fountain Square Workingman’s Pilsner (or other pilsner you can find)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare the topping by dicing butter into 1/4 inch slices, then placing in the freezer (on the cutting board, with the knife) for about 15 minutes to stiffen. Now cut again into 1/4 inch cubes. (This is my way of getting the butter down to really small pieces before you start mixing it with dry ingredients)
2. Mix all dry ingredients together in a small bowl, add butter, and mix with your hands. Crumble the butter into smaller pieces with the dry mixture until the mixture can be patted down and sticks together so that you can create a kind of crust on top of the fruit. (The motions are almost like kneading bread)
3. Peel the peaches, and slice into one inch cubes. Place into a small bowl.
4. Pour the pilsner over the peaches until they are covered and let sit for about five minutes. Drink the rest of the beer.
4. Spray Pam or butter the inside of small ramekins (I used three).
5. Drain peaches and fill ramekins until the peaches are even with the top. Pour 1-2 teaspoons beer over peaches. Sprinkle the topping generously over the peaches until the are covered and press down so the topping is compact.
6. Place ramekins on a cookie sheet and bake for 20 minutes. (I use a cookie sheet in case the fruit juice spills over a little. This happened to me once, so better safe than sorry, I say)
7. Serve hot and preferably with vanilla ice cream. Obviously.

Peach cobbler with beer

Mesa-Mule-Happyolks-11-1024x682

I’m spending a few minutes once a month introducing a blog I think you should spend your lazy Sunday morning getting to know (if you don’t love them already). *Photo from Happyolks*

If there’s one thing we can always use more of it is certainly hope. Make a cup of coffee, tuck your feet under you on the couch, and go dive into Happyolks to meet Kelsey & Shaun and get a big helping of hope this morning. I honestly feel that this is the one of two blogs I would read even if they didn’t have beautiful pictures accompanying their posts. Kelsey’s writing is genuine, uplifting, inspiring, and so hopeful. I regularly go back to this post whenever I feel completely overwhelmed by everything – everything that I love, everything that I want to do in the time that doesn’t seem to exist, everything that makes my heart soar and everything about life that intimidates me. She seems to have the hope that though we don’t have it all figured out, it’s still going to be okay. That post reminds me that yes, when we see life as a beautiful thing it can cover us in joy and it can also give us a swift kick. It’s messy, it leaves us lost sometimes, but that is part of the good. It’s wonderful when everything is neat and sweet, but those are short moments in between what makes life, well, life. These words lift me up.

P.S. And for camp cooking, the girl has some great recipes and lovely videos to accompany them.

Pasta with red sauce

I wrote a few weeks ago about getting into a better rhythm in the evenings by making dinner, and I have to say it’s taken some patience and easy recipes. I’m starting off small and humble, but as I’m getting a few easy pasta dishes under my belt I’m feeling more brave about taking it up a notch. But for now, here’s one of my go-to pasta sauces.

Red Pasta Sauce 
Lovechild of The Best Pasta Sauce & Smitten Kitchen’s Pasta Sauce
Use with 6-8 ounces pasta, to make two small servings

1 can plain diced tomatoes
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion (the size of your palm)
1 garlic clove, smashed
handful of basil
1/4 – 1/3 cup fresh ricotta cheese
salt & pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil on medium in a medium saucepan.
2. Finely chop onion and smash garlic. Sautee garlic & onion until onions are slightly clear and garlic is fragrant.
3. Drain can of tomatoes and pour into saucepan. If the garlic starts to brown sooner than the onions are ready, go ahead and pour the tomatoes in.
4. Let the tomatoes get to a simmer and drop the 2 Tablespoons butter in. Turn heat down to medium low, so that the tomatoes are barely bubbling. Let cook about 15 minutes.
5. Using a potato masher (I don’t have one so I used a clumsily use a whisk – it works with a little more effort), crush tomatoes until you have your desired consistency. Keep draining saucepan if the sauce is too watery.
6. Add basil leaves and let simmer five more minutes. Press basil until the leaves are soft.
7. Serve over 8 ounces of hot cooked pasta, add your dollop of ricotta and toss together until the dish is creamy.
8. Eat everything.

Schlafly Summer Lager

This beer is what my summer has looked like. Cool nights, calm, unassuming, and…quality. Just quality. Quality time relaxing, quality time baking in the sun listening to Frank Ocean, quality time cooking dinner every night, quality time kicking up my feet on the porch table, and quality time reading outside as it gets dark. This beer is just right for this summer. It’s a staple on my grocery list, and I really hope that this is a regular on their summer lineup.

All in all…
What is a summer lager supposed to taste like anyways? Well I certainly don’t claim to know, but if you’re looking for one start here. It’s not a stout so I can’t tell you all about how smooth and rich it is. It’s not a porter so I can’t tell you that it’s smoky. It’s not an IPA so I can’t tell you if the hops smell like grapefruit or pine cones. It’s not a pale ale so I can’t tell you how well they balanced the hops and malt. It’s not a Belgian so I can’t tell you that it smells like bread as it’s rising. It’s a lager, and it’s damn good.

Recommend to a friend?
Absolutely

Lightweight-safe?
Yes! 4.5%

Plus one?
For sure. Enjoy a few for one laid-back evening.

Get a six pack?
This is great for a six pack. Keep these in stock all summer long. You don’t have to think twice about having another as it’s affordable and low in ABV.

The Hops
The St. Louis Brewery – St. Louis, MO
Summer Lager

Schlafly Summer Lager

I remember the moment I fell in love with Paris. Head over heels love for a city. I was in serious culture shock for a very long time after my family moved, and it wasn’t until May 16, 2006 that I was happy. My friend Tiffany and I were walking across one of the bridges from Île de la Cité back to the metro station, the sun was setting, it was warm, and everything finally just clicked. And pardon my high-school journal, but I went home ti write “I promised myself I wouldn’t let this happen…I wouldn’t get attached to people. but I can’t help it anymore. I fell in love with Paris. I can’t help but breathe everything in walking home at night. The air is so warm and sweet, the sky a deep blue, the spotlight from the Effel Tower shining….I’m sitting on my window ledge with the windows wide open. The air is perfect.”

I’m glad that it’s taken a lot less time for me to adjust here, but I realized today that it’s going to be really really hard to leave. I went into the city yesterday to go to the Soulard Farmers Market for the second time (woke up naturally at 6:30 am on a Saturday…go figure), and then ventured over to Mud House and Whisk Sustainable Bakery afterward. This farmers market is a thing of wonder: open from Wednesdays through Saturdays, four wings (four!) with more choices than I know what to do with. Two pasta makers, meats, cheeses, flowers, herbs, a spice shop, a flower shop, it goes on and on. The first time I went I found most of my groceries for under $40 (all below), and only had to buy milk, diced tomatoes, hummus, and orange juice at the store. (Granted, I still had quite a few staples from my last grocery store trip). As a side-note, I keep reading great things about the Tower Grove Farmers Market too so I think next time I’ll give that a try. Any other recommendations?

After my trip to the market yesterday morning I drove over to Mud House after seeing it featured on this gal’s blog Food Year Resolutions. She is trying all of the best rated restaurants by Sauce Magazine in St. Louis in one year – awesome (and ambitious) idea. While I think there are just a few that she’s written up so far, I can’t wait to see what she thinks about the rest. This place seriously exceeded my expectations and is just what you would imagine a locally owned coffee house in an old neighborhood should be. We’re talking brick walls, beautiful posters, quirky decorations, dim lighting on a grey morning, and a cozy outdoor patio with couples enjoying a lazy Saturday morning. And of course some incredible coffee. I sat down in the back (next to an incredibly fluffy German Shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix) with my latte and flipped through one of their copies of Feast. As I looked through the articles, pictures, and interviews with culinary figures from St. Louis I was overwhelmed, excited, and extremely intimidated. Every single line in this magazine contains a new name or restaurant or brewery that I immediately wanted to go try. How will I ever be able to choose? I’ve barely barely skimmed the surface just by reading about the food and beer scene in this city, and I already have stars in my eyes. And I haven’t even started on the craft breweries yet. (I know I know)

As if that wasn’t enough, I walked down the street to window shop (antique shops seem to be everywhere) and found Whisk Bakery. Mud House was exactly what you’d want from a coffee shop and Whisk Bakery seems to be right on track with what you’d want from a bakery. I can’t wait to go back again and get some pictures, because again, with the blue. I’m loving these great shades of blue in decor lately. I picked up a chocolate chip cookie with sea salt & bacon (it works, trust me), and then bought some of Mila Sweets‘ macarons to-go (yum-my). Since I got stuck in traffic on my way back I went ahead and got a head start with the Pistachio and Lemon. So good.

This is all to say, I’m really happy where I am right now, and again, I love where I live. I don’t expect that I’ll be here forever, but this has been and is going to continue to be an amazing city to live near and a great community I hope I can be a small part of. Come visit and you’ll see.

Groceries from the market

Bunches of basil

Hazelnuts from the market

Soulard Farmers Market

Soulard Farmers Market

Pasta from the farmers market

Sunflowers!

Spice Center

Outside view

Anchor Steam

This month’s topic forThe Session is a prompt from James Davidson over at Beer Bar Band for your “elevator pitch,” for beer:

Elevator pitch” is a term used by marketers, sales people, film/tv makers and the like. It’s the delivery of a short but powerful summary that will sell their idea or concept to the listener in one swift hit.

Here’s the scenario:

You walk into an elevator and hit the button for your destination level. Already in the elevator is someone holding a beer…and it’s a beer that annoys you because, in your view, it represents all that is bad with the current state of beer.

You can’t help but say something, so you confront your lift passenger with the reason why their beer choice is bad.

30 seconds is all you have to sell your pitch for better beer, before the lift reaches the destination floor. There’s no time, space or words to waste. You must capture and persuade the person’s attention as quickly as possible. When that person walks out of the elevator, you want them to be convinced that you have the right angle on how to make a better beer world.

I love this topic because this is a situation we (as craft beer lovers) face all the time. We know it’s getting better. We know that craft breweries are taking a greater hold of the overall beer market from articles we’ve read and from the expanding choices we see even at chain restaurants. But it still needs to get better. The thing is, just like many big battles to win, I don’t think this can’t be done effectively by telling people their choice is bad. Trying to get anyone to change their mind or open their hearts to something new by saying they’re wrong right out the gate is a tough tough sell. We can’t explain away someone’s taste. We can try to tell anyone who will listen why craft beer is better until the end of our days, but simply put, they just have to try it first. Then we can start the conversation.

So here’s my elevator pitch, not for the person in the elevator, but to you. Here’s my pitch for how we should introduce others to craft beer:

Take your friends to good bars with friendly bartenders. Take your friends to good bars with a relaxed atmosphere, and with people around you who won’t judge anyone for ordering something they like even if that is a Michelob Ultra, or a Budweiser, or a cherry beer. When we’re around accepting people we’re more willing to try things that are outside of our comfort zone. Offer to buy them a beer they’ve never tried before. Hell, pretend the bartender accidentally poured something different so they don’t feel obliged to drink it if they don’t like it. When you have friends over, suggest they try one of the beers you picked up at the store. Pour them a small glass before you finish filling yours. We’re never in a position to tell someone their tastes are wrong, but we can encourage them in better ways to try new things. These are small moments that we all had the opportunity to experience leading us into a great world of craft beer. Let’s take that and create those same moments and opportunities for others now.

P.S. I really like this beer.

the session