Light the Grill....Crack a Beer....Crank the Tunes

Light the Grill....Crack a Beer....Crank the Tunes

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Grilled Saganaki and Spinach Wrap with Dill Fetaziki Sauce/Upland Brewing Bad Elmer's Porter/Corrosion of Conformity "America's Volume Dealer"

Admittedly, this wrap sounds a little out there.  Trust us though, the Grecian flavors of grilled saganaki, kalamata olives, feta and tzaziki all layered in a wrap worked amazingly well.  The wrap is centered around the saganaki and the cool dill fetaziki sauce.   A warmed wheat tortilla is filled with baby spinach that has been tossed in the fetaziki sauce.  The grilled saganaki goes on top followed by thinly sliced red onion and chopped kalamata olives.  Everything gets wrapped up burrito-style and grilled until slightly crisp then served with a side of the fetaziki.  For the beer, we went with Bloomington Indiana's Upland Brewing Co and their Bad Elmer's Porter.  For the tunes, we went back a few years to CoC's 2000 release "America's Volume Dealer".

Grilled Saganaki and Spinach Wrap with Dill Fetaziki Sauce - This was a fun one to make, any time you can ignite a huge flame to crisp up a block of cheese, it's a good time.   Before we get to the cheese arson, let's get to work on this trademarked (not really) dill fetaziki sauce.  For that we'll need 1/2 of a seedless cucumber, one 8 oz container of plain Greek yogurt, one 12 oz. container of feta cheese, a medium sized handful of fresh dill, the juice of one lemon, black pepper and 1/4 to 1/2 cup of olive oil.

Add all of the ingredients except for the olive oil to a blender.  Blend, while slowly drizzling the olive oil in until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

All that is left is the cheese and veggies.  For the saganaki we found a block of jalapeƱo halloumi cheese that we were excited to use.  For directions on grilling saganaki, click here.  Once the cheese is browned and crisp remove from heat.

The last step before we construct the wrap is to toss baby spinach with the fetaziki sauce until thoroughly covered.

And now we build.  Warm a flour tortilla and spread the spinach mixture along the bottom of one side.  Place two slices of the saganaki on top.

Next up comes the thinly sliced red onions and chopped kalamata olives, right on top of the cheese.

Fold everything up burrito-style with the seam on the bottom then place on the grill seam-side down.

Grill for only a few seconds until slightly browned and crisp and remove from heat.  Slice in half and serve with reserved sauce.  This unique wrap was incredible, like a combination of saganaki and Greek Village salad all wrapped up in a tortilla.

Upland Brewing Bad Elmer's Porter - Our first sample from Bloomington Indiana's Upland Brewing is their cooly labeled Bad Elmer's Porter.   Not a typical choice for us, especially with Greek food, but the beer fridge was running bare before our Labor Day Weekend shopping spree.   Bad Elmer's pours a dark brown, almost black cola color with a fairly thin tan head.  There is a strong vanilla bean aroma on the nose balanced by some black coffee notes.   Those same things come through on the flavor side finishing up with a bitter hoppy bite.  The mouthfeel is light for a porter, even though this is one full-flavored beer.   The fairly strong flavors were a little much for the lighter wrap, but not horrible as the beer was still fairly easy-drinking.  On its own, the beer was fantastic.

Corrosion of Conformity "America's Volume Dealer" - CoC. These guys are the best, flat-out one of the coolest bands ever.   "America's Volume Dealer" was released after the successful "Deliverance" and "Wiseblood" albums and was primed to catapult CoC to even further heights.  The production is slicker, the tracks are a mix of groove-based rockers and slower tunes and the songs are much more "mainstream approachable" comparatively speaking.  CoC's "Load" and Reload" this album ain't, it still has enough of that patented Corrosion edge and swampy heaviness to elevate it to one of their best releases. The album begins with "Over Me", one of two songs released before the album was officially out.   A killer riff kicks the song off immediately before things slow down to a fairly chill verse then ramping back up on the chorus.  Every CoC album starts off with a song that rips and sets the tone for the disc and "Over Me" follows suit.  The second song that was prematurely released was "Congratulations Song" with a chunky, heavy and fuzzy riff.  One of our all time favorite chill, late evening drinking by the fire pit tunes is "Stare Too Long".  Very cool guitar work and gritty vocals make this a song we can listen to over and over and usually do when its a late night outside.   "Diablo Blvd." is a classic Pepper-led CoC track.  Heavy, dirty and sludges along like a mother.   One of CoC's trademarks is their penchant for heavy, yet hook-laden riffs.  "Doublewide" features such a riff.  It's a hard and catchy tune that needs to be played at max volume.  "Zippo", like "Diablo" is another classic track, with Pepper's famous southern drawl/sneer at the forefront.  "Who's Got the Fire" could easily be a track off of "Wiseblood", one of their heaviest albums with Pepper but still grooves like crazy.  Slowing down things again is "Sleeping Martyr" with its Spanish-influenced acoustic guitar leading the way and slow drawn out raspy vocals.   "Take What You Want" harkens back to the "Blind" Karl Agell days, edgy and charged tune with a certain old school 70s rock sound.   The third slow song on the album is the completely chill and atmospheric "13 Angels" which would make it on any playlist that also contained "Planet Caravan" and "Nutshell" on it.  The album finishes with the thrashy old school punk of "Gittin It On".   "America's Volume Dealer" is such a classic album start to finish making it not only one of our favorite CoC albums, but one of our favorite all time albums as well.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Grilled Carnitas and Chorizo Quesadillas/Clown Shoes Galactica IPA/ Truckfighters "Gravity X"

Two of our favorite pork products, carnitas and chorizo are put to good use in this incredible quesadilla combination.  Slow smoked and braised pork shoulder and spicy crumbled chorizo gets liberally sprinkled on top of freshly shredded jack and cheddar cheese in large flour tortillas.  These get grilled up on a griddle until golden brown and slightly crunchy on the outside but gooey and cheesy in the middle.  The quesadillas are simply served with a cool avocado and tomatillo sauce.  For the beer, we sampled Clown Shoes' Galactica IPA.  The tunes were courtesy of one of our favorite bands, Sweden's Truckfighters and their excellent "Gravity X" release.

Grilled Carnitas and Chorizo Quesadillas - Assuming you already have some of our beer-braised carnitas ready, this dish comes together in just a few minutes.   For the meats, we just warm up some of the carnitas and brown a link of the chorizo.  Keep warm and set aside.

Next up comes the cheese in the form of two blocks each of cheddar and jack cheese.  Finely shred both and mix to combine.

The final step before hitting the griddle is knocking out this avocado and tomatillo sauce, which is simply blending two avocados with a fresh tomatillo salsa.

With everything ready to go, it's just a matter of putting it all together and slapping it on the griddle.  We start with large flour tortillas that go down on a hot griddle that has been brushed with grape seed oil and warm the tortilla on one side then flip over and add a couple of handfuls of the cheese immediately.

Next up comes the meat with a heavy layer of the chorizo and carnitas placed on top of the cheese.

Fold the tortilla in half and lightly press down to flatten.  This will also allow for some of the chorizo oil to drain slightly on the griddle which will add incredible flavor to the tortilla as well as turn it a beautiful reddish brown color.  Cook on both sides until that color is reached and the cheese is thoroughly melted.  If someone invented a chorizo oil that could be bottled, we would probably buy it by the case.

Remove the quesadilla from the griddle and slice into triangles, serve with the avocado sauce.  Quesadillas are normally not one of our "go-tos" on any bar app menu, but filled with carnitas and chorizo and served with the cool and tangy sauce, it would be.

Clown Shoes Galactica IPA - We saw this IPA available as a choice in the choose your own six pack section of one of our liquors stores, so we picked up a few to try.  Normally, Clown Shoes offerings are in the 22 oz. bomber format, this was a first for us seeing then in 12 oz. form.   The Galactica IPA pours a bubbly auburn color with a slight cream colored head.  The aroma is lemony and a little soapy with some pine notes as well.  As for the taste, it is sweet and fairly malt forward with the flavors of molasses, fig and tobacco vying for top position with the more bitter pine notes.  Oddly, our bottles had a decent amount of sediment signifying they may have been past their prime, so even though the malty, non-citrusy IPAs are not normally our favorite, we'll need to reserve our opinion on Galactica until after we get our hands on a fresher sample.  The beer wasn't super enjoyable, so it didn't do much for the pairing.

Truckfighters "Gravity X" -  Another killer release from Sweden's Truckfighters is 2005's "Gravity X".    Things were a little more raw sounding for the band back then, while still being super fuzzed out.  The opening track "Desert Cruiser" has an awesome heavy riff, with an old school 70's groove like classic Cactus.   The melodic soaring vocals just add to the catchiness of the tune.   "Gargarismo" has a bit in common with the rhythmic doom of fellow Swedes Witchcraft, just a little heavier.   The ultra-chill and atmospheric "Momentum" has a similar feel to their classic "Majestic" with its powerful building chorus.  The song bottoms out on the low end about halfway through allowing the bass to rattle the walls if you've got the song cranked up loud enough, and with this track its hard not to do that.   "Freewheelin'"shares some similarities with Fu Manchu, mostly due to the vocal cadence as well as Tool-like instrumental breakdown.   On "The Deal" the band pulls from the Orange Goblin-esque bike rock with excellent results.  "Manhattan Project" is a hard-driving, yet catchy number with a great fuzzy riff.  "In Search Of" kicks off with a heavy "Children of the Grave"-like riff which mixed with the huge vocals make this one of the best tracks on the album.  Continuing with the excellent songs that end the album, "Zapruder" which is heavy and funky in an old school RHCP way, is delivered in purely Swedish stoner rock fashion; fuzzy, groove-oriented and great vocals.  The album ends with the eight and a half minute appropriately named "Altered State".   The track is an exercise in some seriously mind-bending instrumental work that needs to be played in the appropriate environment.  For the better part of a decade, these guys have just plain killed it on all of their releases and "Gravity X" is no different.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Grilled Pepper and Black Bean Burrito Wrap/Saugatuck Brewing Co. Backyard IPA/Stone Antica "Stone Antica"

After almost a week away, we were excited to get back to the grill.   We had actually seen a vegetarian wrap on the menu at Grand Rapids' Topcat and our brain started racing on a vegetarian creation of our own.   We sliced red peppers, banana peppers and red onions into strips then tossed them in a little grape seed oil, cumin and chili powder.  We grilled them until slightly soft and charred then topped the hot veggies with a combination of freshly shredded jack and cheddar cheese until melted.  The cheesy vegetable mixture gets scooped on to a warmed whole wheat tortillas then topped with black beans, fire-roasted corn, cucumber and tomato before being wrapped up burrito-style and grilled until slightly crisp.  We serve the wrap with a side of ranchero salsa and tortilla chips.  For the beer, we brought back a growler of the easy-drinking Backyard IPA from Saugatuck Brewing Co.  The tunes were provided by Sweden's Stone Antica and their summery blend of funkified, groove-based grunge rock on their self-titled release.

Grilled Pepper and Black Bean Burrito Wrap -  This wrap has a killer combination of warm, grilled veggies and crunchy cool fresh veggies that makes for a delicious juxtaposition of textures and flavors.  We start with the grilled vegetables first and gather 2 ears of corn, 2 red peppers, 1 banana pepper and a red onion.  Slice the peppers and onions into thick strips and remove the husks from the corn.

On a grill that's at a medium heat, add the ears of corn directly over the flame.  Turn often until charred in spots.

In a grill pan add the sliced veggies then splash with grape seed oil and dust with cumin and chile powder.

Grill over the medium flame and toss often until soft and charred in spots.  Next we shred 1/4 block each of jack cheese and cheddar cheese and top the veggies with the cheese.

Cover the grill until the cheese is thoroughly melted.  Warm a flour tortilla then scoop the cheesy vegetable mixture into the tortilla.

Slice the kernels off the corn cob and add the corn as well as some black beans.

The fresh veggies come next.  We chop a beefsteak tomato and english cucumber then add the diced vegetables to the wrap.

Roll up the tortilla burrito-style with the seam on the bottom then place the wraps seam-side down on the grill.  Grill until the seam is sealed and the wrap is slightly crisp.

Slice in half and serve with the ranchero salsa and a helping of tortilla chips.   This wrap was just what the doctor ordered after a week of heavy eating, delivering big flavors and cheesy goodness without being the least bit heavy.

Saugatuck Brewing Co. Backyard IPA -  Anytime we're lucky enough to pair up our food with a fresh growler from a local microbrewery, we consider ourselves lucky.  In this case with Saugatuck Brewing Co.'s Backyard IPA, we consider ourselves very lucky.   The Backyard IPA pours a cloudy apple cider color with a thin bubbly head.  The aroma is sweet with mango and bitter citrus peel notes.   The flavor actually is more more bitter than sweet, leaning more to the strong pine side of the IPA spectrum rather than the fruity mango/citrus side.   The mouthfeel is extremely light making this a smooth, yet pungent summer sipper.   These low alcohol, yet super hoppy IPAs may very well be the best thing that has ever hit the microbrew world.  Ok, that may be a bit of a hyperbole, but not by much.  We could drink this beer all day long.  The pairing was spot-on; an easy-drinking hoppy IPA with a light and tasty grilled veggie wrap was perfect.

Stone Antica "Stone Antica" -  Sweden's Stone Antica kind of breaks the mold a little in terms of the fuzzed out rock you would expect to hear from a Swedish rock band, at least around these parts.  In the place of down-tuned fuzziness is a downright groove-based sound that also leans heavily on 90s grunge.  The opening track "Hypnotizer" is a perfect example; a fat bass groove and funky guitar riff make up the backbone of this Meat Puppets-esque tune.  The song is catchy and summery, yet still rocks.  "Wily, Tricky, Foxy, Sharp" is a rolling number which features a jazzy riff that will have your head bopping along to it from the first chord.   The song gets progressively heavier as it goes on but never loses its groove.   The semi-chill "On Your Way" is a really cool tune that is at times atmospheric and other times a rollicking a good time.   Things get moderately heavy on "They'll Strike You Out" with its revved up "Summer In The City" feel.   "Slip Away" is an airy summery tune along the lines of Fuel.  The album's high water mark is "Trigger".  Amazing guitar work and vocals carry this tune to amazing heights, resulting in a track similar to Stone Sour's "Bother", but a lot better.  Keeping with the  good time vibes is "Sun", a Californian summer track that has some Lit qualities to it mixed with the latin influences of Los Lonely Boys.  "You" kicks off with a modified "Cheap Sunglasses" riff that digs into some classic Texas blues territory with great results.  The album ends with the flamenco-sounding "Counting the Days", a beautiful acoustic number that further shows the band's wide range.   This album was an amazing surprise and one that we can't off our stereo, it's a perfect album for the season and one that we've cranked up loud almost daily for the last couple of weeks.