Tag Archives: food

Praying for Poutine: the bucket-list dish that begs for beer

Praying for Poutine: the bucket-list dish that begs for beer
by Kate Cone
Poutine and beer at Foulmouthed Brewing Company, South Portland, Maine
If you haven’t made the acquaintance with this Quebecois dish yet, wait no longer. Several entities claim the invention of it, so take your pick. According to Sean Hutchinson of Mental Floss, it is sometimes attributed to a Canadian restaurant patron in 1957 who asked for cheese curds on his to-go french fries because he was in a hurry. The owner, Fernand Lachance, looked in the bag and pronounced it a poutine, “a mess.” Thank you, Mr. Lachance, or “merci,” to be correct. The gravy was added later by restaurant owner Jean Paul Roy, who noticed customers were ordering gravy to go atop their fries and curds. That was 1964, and a star was born.
You might think poutine is a dish for cold weather, and you’d be right some of the time. But I had my first taste of poutine on July 8, 2016, a warm summer day. Why do I recall the exact date? Blame my steel-trap memory (my husband hates it), or the fact that I had poutine on a beer bus tour lunch stop, at a jazzy new brewpub that is celebrating its first anniversary this summer. Beer, great food and the camaraderie of fellow beer lovers is hard to forget.
Foulmouthed Brewing Company is located just over the million dollar bridge in South Portland, or SoPo as my friends called it way back in the 1970’s, in a building that once housed a gas station. Craig and Julia Dilger are the owners and Dan Lindberg is the chef. With cooking “chops” as impressive as a stint at Portland’s high-end Hugo’s, Dan took a leap of faith when his friends proposed his running the kitchen in their brewpub-in-planning. “Leap and the net will appear,” is my favorite Zen saying, and that jump has paid off for patrons in a fabulous, modern-yet-cozy space where you can pair beer made right there with Dan’s kitchen creations.
Dan told me that he loved cooking when he was a kid, and helped his grandmother, who did a lot of the cooking for his family. She once started preparing a dish Dan didn’t particularly like, so while she wasn’t looking, he added a bit of dish soap. When it was discovered, the family sent out for pizza that night, but he got into a wee bit of trouble for ruining dinner. Crafty kid. I’m sure they all laugh about it now.
Here’s the thing about making poutine at home: you could spend three days doing all the prepping, including simmering pork bones for the stock, which will be made into the gravy, peeling and frying the potatoes for the fries and making your own cheese curds (if you use them). Most of us just don’t have the time or inclination for the labor involved.
Here’s my recommendation. I’ve tried this several times, resulting in a  poutine that is savory, melty and delicious. Doctor the very best jarred or canned gravy (I use Campbell’s Pork Gravy) by adding a squirt of lemon juice or a dash of vinegar, says Dan. Use the best supermarket frozen french fries, like Alexia organic, and buy cheese curds. We even have curds made locally.
My suggestion? Try making it at home, then head over to Foulmouthed to try Dan’s. Oh, and don’t forget to order a flight of their house-brewed beers to wash it all down with. Gym? Oh, seriously. Wait til Monday. Cheers!
Kate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England: a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs (Down East Books, 2016)
What’s Brewing in New England: a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs (Down East Books, 2016)

Beer and Brat’s Potato Chips Review

So one afternoon I’m strolling through my local grocery store and what do I spy with my little eye? I see an end-cap filled with the newest offerings of the “weird flavored” Frito Lay potato chips, and right in the middle of this display… a snack food pairing made in heaven, Beer and Brat flavored potato chips! Out the way Queso and red bag of whatever flavor, Merica is here and it has arrived in the form of Beer and Brat potato chips!

Of course buying this bag of chips was a total impulse but at $3 I’m more than fine with that.  Truthfully I don’t normally go for Lays chips, I much prefer my local option of Better Maid, but with such a wonderful flavor combination how could one resist? So in the cart these bad boys go along with a plethora of other healthy snacks, potato is a vegetable even in chip form, and to the register we went.

Upon arriving home it became snack time.  After all grocery shopping is a very strenuous activity and you need to restore your strength for the afternoon, it’s not like sports are going to watch themselves on tv.  To no real surprise these chips looked like potato chips, almost suspiciously so if it wasn’t for the bag informing me that they were in fact chips and not a dehydrated bratwurst. Time to crack a beer and chow down as we settle in.

The chips themselves are alright, they probably don’t warrant the build up I’ve set up for them.  Basically what you’re getting are potato chips with some dry mustard on them for seasoning.  Whatever the beer flavor is supposed to be I didn’t get, but that’s ok, we have ways of adding beer flavor to pretty much anything.  These chips are good but calling them beer and bratwurst flavored is kind of a reach.  However if you like the flavor of mustard, and who doesn’t, these chips are worth grabbing a bag of and trying. In the meantime I’ll continue to wait for other snack foods that combine beer and delicious food.  Beer and pizza chips, Beer and taco Dortios, and course beer and pretzel pretzels! The possibilities are endless.


How to Make Sommbeer Mustard

When it comes to condiments you could make a strong case that mustard is the only condiment that is actually necessary.  It’s perfect for sausages, hot dogs, sandwiches, pretzels, and countless other delectable morsels that beg for a bit of a tangy savory sweetness to  enhance a meal. Of course when it comes to mustard there are endless varieties, yellow, brown, honey, Dijon, etc. However the best mustard by far will always be beer mustard!  I started making my own mustard a few years back and over time it has developed into a craft. Is it perfect? Probably not, in all honesty I doctor the recipe a little with each batch, still this mustard constantly comes out as a success.  So without further adieu let’s make Sommbeer Mustard!



  • 1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups malt vinegar
  • 2 cups beer, preferably a porter or stout
  • 5 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 cup dry ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

This mustard recipe is pretty easy to complete but there is some prep-time involved.  To start you are going to want to take your all your mustard seeds, and pour them in a jar or bowl with the vinegar and about 1 1/2 cups of beer. These are going to have to chill out in your fridge for at least 12 hours.  This is going to soften up the seeds and of course absorb up some delicious flavor from whichever beer you choose for your Sommbeer Mustard.

When it comes to picking a beer you’re the master of your own mustard destiny.  Personally I like to use a porter or a stout that ranges in the 5-7% ABV range and is more traditional to the style.  If you pick a beer with chocolate or fruit in it those flavors will peak out in your mustard, so if you would like chocolate mustard go nuts but that’s not what I usually go for.  Really any beer that you would enjoy along with food that you put mustard on is a good candidate to make mustard with.  I’ve had good results with Oktoberfests, Red Ales, Scotch Ales, and Vienna Lagers (Sam Adams is actually a really good option for making mustard with).

After your seeds are sufficiently subdued in their beer and vinegar cocktail take the mix out of the fridge and grab yourself a blender and a medium-sized sauce pan. In the sauce pan you basically want to throw in all remaining ingredients and let this mix simmer. This is where you have the option to get creative, if you like a little bit of heat in your mustard maybe add some red pepper flakes or cayenne to the mix for example.  For me it’s not uncommon to add just a little more beer or honey in the mix. I would recommend that you keep the heat low though, with this much sugar in a pan it will bubble up quick and burned sugar and beer smells pretty gnarly.  Let that simmer for a few minutes than remove the mix from heat and put it into the blender.  Add in your jar of seeds and beer from the fridge and blend every thing together until your mustard is your desired consistency.

The end result is a golden brown delicacy fit to adorn your favorite pretzeled bread or tubed meat! Smear it on a sandwich with gusto or include it on a rub as you move some meats into your smoker.  No matter what you like using mustard for this will replace your go to squirt bottle in the fridge and will get the attention of any family and friends that you choose to share with.


Enjoy and cheers!

Keurig vs. Tassimo – A side by side comparison

Keurig vs. Tassimo – How to make bad coffee slightly better

Oh now stop it. We’ve all lowered ourselves for a quick caffeine fix. These single serve coffee makers are perfect when you want a quick cup of ordinary to awful cup of dark hot liquid.  They are on the same shame level as a foodie going to McDonalds or a beer nerd drinking a macro beer. It happens. It’s shameful but sometimes convenience trumps good taste.

I already have a Keurig, but when a friend (Random Ron) dropped off his german designed Bosch Tassimo I had to do a side by side comparison.

Winner: Tassimo
The Tassimo is compact. It artistically shines a beauty light on your coffee mug for goodness sake.

Winner: Tie
The Keurig sounds industrial the Tassimo spits and sputters. Both models fail the 5am sound check.

Winner: Keurig
Keurig dominates the US market for single serve coffee makers. As a result, there’s more economic support for the replacement k-cup market. I purchased a box of k-cups at Costco that was the size of a microwave once. I also wonder if design has a part to play in this pricing equation.

The Keurig k-cup is a shining example of design simplicity. Coffee grounds are packed on top of a paper filter, all of which is packaged inside a thin walled cup. The Tassimo disk just seems to have more plastic packaging complexity and heft.

Machine range: $80-$180
Cartridge: $0.35 – 1.00

Machine range: $80-$190
Cartridge: $0.50-$1.00

Ease of Use:
Winner: Tassimo
I always seem to be flipping the Keurig handle to reset the machine in an attempt to trigger a brew. Up, down and pushing buttons until something happens. The Keurig dance works until I realize the reservoir is empty.

The Tassimo machine reads the barcode on the top of the cartridge and determines how to brew the coffee for you. Granted there are less options, virtually none in fact, but I crave early morning simplicity. Also, the cleaning function is unreal. Put the yellow disk in place (stored in back of machine) and then push the button. The machine will automatically run through a short cleaning cycle or a 20 minute descaling routine.

Winner: Tassimo
I believe additional testing is required and would welcome additional feedback from our readers. For a fair test, the same roaster brand should be evaluated on both machines.

From my limited sampling, the Tassimo had a richer tasting brew that smelled good. The Keurig coffee had limited flavor and aroma, almost as if the water didn’t spend enough time in the grounds.

I do marvel at the k-cup design simplicity (again). Water is pushed through the top and exits at the bottom. Contrast that with the disk which demands that the water enters and exits the same side of the cartridge ( a water circuit best described as in-up-around-down). The water’s straight forward route in the k-cup leaves much less residual moisture in the grounds. Why is this important? I have no idea. 

The flavor, ease of use and aesthetics are superior for the Tassimo. However cost and vast coffee variety will continue to make the Keurig the market winner for the US market. If I were to choose between the two, I would choose the Keurig. Nothing from either of these singe serve machines will taste as good as coffee from a full pot maker. It’s all about convenience here. The Keurig allows consumers to buy their refill k-cups just about anywhere at an affordable price.

Beer and Food Pairings for the Craft Beer Football Fan

This article first appeared on Sommbeer and with the Super Bowl just days away this is the perfect time to revisit our recommendations for pairing craft beer with some foods commonly found at homes, bars, tailgates and many other gathering spots where football can be consumed!

It’s mid August and football season is upon us once again.  Football is a great game not only for the sport and the tradition, but for many people like myself it’s an event that provides the opportunity for social gatherings.  With Social gatherings comes serving of great food and of course enjoyment of great beer!  This clearly is an opportunity to make sure that you, and possibly your guests, are getting the most out of your food and beer pairings, so in the spirit of the the upcoming football season here are some of my favorite pairings of more traditional “football foods” and great brews to go with them.

Paring with Nachos:

Game day nachos, a great finger food perfect for munching on during the trench warfare that we affectionately call football.   Nachos give us a little bit of everything, savory, salty, meat and cheese the best way to pair this up for me is with a beer that’s a little on the sweet side and with enough body to counteract all the salt being taken in from the finger food of reckoning.  My choice beer to go with a heaping plate of Nachos is El Rojo Amber Ale by Griffin Claw Brewing company.  El Rojo is a rich and malty amber ale that provides an ABV of 6.5% and has been brewed with just a little bit of caramel making it ideal to hit the desire for both salty and sweet.  Nachos aren’t the most heavy food most times so I can justify that El Rojo is a bit more heavy than most beers brought up in this article but aside from the flavor, which is spectacular, the name begs you to serve this brew with a Mexican dish.


Paring with Chili:

Chili is one of my all around favorite foods, it’s one of two things that I could likely eat every day and never get tired of.  At this time of year my favorite thing to pair with a good bowl of chili is a delicious Oktoberfest brew.  My choice for a Oktoberfest brew is Bloktoberfest by Atwater Brewing.  Oktoberfest beers have the a great malty characteristic with the body of a well done lager and Bloktoberfest is no slouch.  A tasty 6.3% ABV followed by the nice warming feeling of a Marzen brew is one of the best things I can crack open while I enjoy a hearty bowl of chili on a cool fall day.  This might be my favorite pairing that is brought up in this entire article, and as previously stated it’s a pairing that I could likely enjoy every day without all to much argument.

Pairing with Sausage/Hot Dogs/Grilled Food:

I for one don’t like to cook during a game, so normally grilled food is not something that I am going to be preparing for my guests.  That being said I absolutely love hosts that are willing to grill up sausages, burgers, and things of this nature during a game.  For those willing to put the extra effort in to cook on the grill the extra effort to bring the right beer should also be present.  Releasing right at the beginning of football season is Bell’s Best Brown Ale, which is not only a great beer for fall grilling but also one of my all around favorite Brown Ales.  Best Brown packs a 5.8% ABV and like most brown ales is nice and Malty with some nutty flavoring whole delivering some cocoa and caramel notes.  Even though Best Brown can be found all through the winter months it is one of the best fall beers out there and has enough body to make any game and grilling combo a success.

Pairing with Pizza:

Who doesn’t love pizza?  Pizza might be the most all purpose food in the world, it’s practically the Swiss Army Knife of practicality when it comes to food and there’s no doubt that if your a football fan you will find your self enjoying some pizza during a game or two during this season.  There’s so many different beers that go really well with pizza but if I were to pick one as an all around “pizza beer” regardless of the type of pizza I have I would go with Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.  Not nearly as intense as it’s bigger brothers 90 and 120 minute IPA; 60 Minute IPA is a very good day to day drinkable beer that isn’t going to mix in the stomach with a few slices of pizza and make it feel like you’re carrying a medicine ball in your stomach.  60 Minute IPA comes in with a respectable 6% ABV and most of that will be soaked up with said pizza so you won’t likely be sloppy by halftime when enjoying this brew with your favorite pizza.

For the Tailgater:

Going to the game? One of the best traditions in football, be it on Saturday or Sunday is the Tailgating.  Tailgate parties can vary quit drastically in terms of both food and weather, both of which can be positively or negatively enhanced by the choice of beer.  When I’m tailgating I like to go with an all around, good for any occasion, pairs well with almost any food beer.  For that I go to Founders Brewing All Day IPA.  To start with All Day IPA is lighter, in more than one way, it doesn’t sit too heavy in the belly and it has a lower ABV (4.7 ABV) and if you’re starting your pre-game festivities at 10 am generally it’s in good taste to still be functioning by kick off time. All Day IPA brings it, packed with crisp yet refreshing and plenty of delicious hop flavor makes All Day IPA a great all around choice as a beer that sets you up for success no matter what weather conditions (cold, hot, rain, etc.) or food rolls up to the pigskin pre-party.  Add to that the availability of 15 pack cans that are significantly easier to travel with than bottles and you  have a winner.

If you have other suggestions we’d love to hear them, please leave them in the comments bellow!


John Fahrner



Thanks John!  I’m a fan of a strong (perhaps Imperial) IPA with pizza.  It’s funny but I find Bell’s Best Brown to be my “comfort beer”, it’s what I pick when I want an old standby.

– SommBeer

John Fahrner Bio:

John resides in Wolverine Lake, MI and is interested in craft beer, the Detroit Red Wings and MSU.

Twitter Bio  @fahrn13


#craftbeer #beer #MSU #redwings #sommbeer #football #ipa

Interested in becoming a SommBeer Contributor?

Send me a note   sommbeer@gmail.com

The Sommeats Junk Food Rankings!

I’m of the opinion that most of the time people should strive to eat real food, food that isn’t full of chemicals and other mystery ingredients that the majority of people have a hard time pronouncing.  However there is no shortage of junk food scattered throughout my home country (America) and really all over the world. Since, like junk food itself, the topic is pretty much unavoidable here are the Sommeats Junk Food Power Rankings!

10. Zingers

What are Zingers you ask? Well, if you are not familiar with them, Zingers are basically a Twinkie with a thin layer of frosting (that apparently makes the Zinger aerodynamic) on the top of them making them infinitely better than the much more well know Twinkie snack cake. These spongy delicious bastards often find their way into my pantry as an impulse buy while doing the grocery shopping.

9. Snickers

Ah Snickers, I’m not proud of it but there have been so many times that I have replaced meals with a Snickers bar. The Snickers bar has pretty much everything you need in a candy bar (chocolate, caramel, peanuts, and nougat) and as far as candy bars go actually makes it feel like you ate something. Plus they have some of the best commercials out there, especially their annual Super Bowl ads, FEAST!!!!

8.  Jack Link’s Beef Jerky

Jack Link’s, way better than its main competitor (slim jim) and Sasquatch approved! There’s a huge variety of Jack Link’s snacks out there and it’s a lot easier to pretend that beef jerky is a “healthy” snack when comparing it to a bag of Cheetohs.  Jack Link’s are my go to Road Trip snack

7. Twix

I hope the kids in my neighborhood don’t like Twix because every Halloween I buy the bag of candy that has Twix in it and every Halloween I hoard as many Twix bars as a can.  Sorry kids I have a candy bar line up to conduct and I need all the Twix I can get.

6. Potato Chips

Vintage Bag of #bettermade Sour Cream & Onion Potato Chips #bettermade85years

A photo posted by Better Made Snack Foods (@bettermade1930) on

The potato chip might be the most well known junk food item in the world.  It dominates the salty snacks aisle and comes in about a thousand different varieties.  In all honesty potato chips don’t really excite me, but if you put a bowl full of chips in front of me more than likely I’m going to snack on them until someone takes the bowl away.

5. Better Made Hot and Spicy Corn Chips

#junkfood rankings coming soon on #sommeats ! #bettermade

A photo posted by John (@sommeats) on

I would have these ranked even higher if I could find them on a regular basis.  These spicy delicious corn chips are normally found on the snack shelf in liquor stores and gas stations and often get over looked thanks to the Hot and Spicy potato chips.  The Hot and Spicy Corn Chips are, in my opinion, the Led Zeppelin of the Better Made family and something I buy a bag of every time I find them.

4. Skittles

Skittles are the definitive fruity candy.  Small, delicious, addictive, and available in a bunch of varieties Skittles just rock.  Like Snickers, the good people at Skittles also give us a great deal of entertainment with some of their fantastic commercials.

3. Doritos

Doritos are another advertising juggernaut that always makes a splash around the Super Bowl, but there’s no doubt these delicious snacks can sell themselves. I’m pretty sure everyone has a favorite flavor of Doritos that they simply can’t resist few companies have built their brand better than that of the Dorito.  These tortilla chips are great and I can already hear the bag in my kitchen calling my name.

2. Oreo

Oreo cookies are perfect.  They are the worlds perfect cookie and in my opinion a perfect desert.  You could fly me to France and sit me with some renowned pastry chef and if you put the fancy pants French desert on one plate and a few Oreo’s on another I’m going to choose the Oreos. All the different fillings they do now as limited release cookies are ok but nothing compares to the original.  Oreo claims to be milk’s favorite cookie, that’s true but milk will have to get out of my way because Oreo is my favorite cookie!

1. The Pretzel

“The Alternate Side” is on #Seinfeld tonight!

A photo posted by Seinfeld (@seinfeldtv) on

The pretzel is the perfect snack food.  It’s salty and delicious and best of all is the perfect companion for a pint of beer or whatever other beverage you might want to consume.  Whether you prefer the classic pretzel rod or a fresh from the oven big soft pretzel topped with some mustard you really can’t go wrong.  Anytime I go to a baseball game I get a pretzel, and every Sunday when the NFL kicks off I have pretzels around.  They’re simple and work for any occasion and, in comparison to things like potato chips or snickers, is relatively healthy.


What’s your favorite junk food? What essential scrumptious snack did I leave off this list? Let us know in the comments!


Federal Jack’s Chowder

Chris Charland’s Chowder:

chris-charland-of-federal-jacksFederal Jack’s chef shares his recipe for a sure respite from the winter weather
A couple of years ago, in my infinite wisdom, I asked Kennebunkport Brewing Company if I could brew with them for a day in February. I had done this back in the 1990’s for an article I wrote about the experience. This time it was February, oh, did I mention that? And even lovely Kennebunkport in southern Maine was a frigid eight degrees. “Dress in layers” was head brewer Mike Haley’s email instruction to me. Well, my layers were feeble and I froze to death until the mashing-in got into full swing, the steam eventually warming the brewery a tad. I should have dressed in seven layers of thick down ski clothes, but I didn’t. Instead, I clutched my cup of coffee and hoped the steaming liquid would warm me. It didn’t. All I could think about while I loaded the grain into the auger, weighed out hops and watched Mike Haley clean out the mash tun (hey, my hands were frozen) was lunch, when I could repair upstairs to Federal Jack’s Brewpub and have a bowl of hot-as-Hades chowder.

We all have that in common in our cold Maine winters. And the one dish we can make and enjoy all winter long, for both body and soul, is a hot, buttery, creamy chowder, thought to come from the French word for cauldron, chaudiere. It’s quick to put together, and gets better if you let it “age” for a few hours or even up to a few days. But if you think you’re going to keel over dead if you endure one more snowstorm, or bombogenesis, as that horrific storm in 2015 was labeled, you are welcome to eat it as soon as you make it. You have my permission.

When the leaves came down this autumn, and the balmy days turned cold, I thought about Fed Jack’s chowder once more. I asked chef Chris Charland if he would share his recipe and he did. No precious Top Chef or Chopped secret-keeping here. Just a simple and easy-but-foolproof recipe from Federal Jack’s chef of over eighteen years, who began as a prep cook and worked his way through the ranks to become head chef.

I asked Chris to tell me something about himself and was delighted to hear that he grew up and still lives in his home town of Biddeford. His cooking background? He attended Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) and was mentored by chef Christian Gordon. But even earlier, as a boy, Chris credits his grandmother with teaching him how to make his way around the kitchen.

“My grandparents had a garden so they did a lot of pickling. My grandmother also taught me how to make a great Thanksgiving dinner, blueberry pies, her delicious southern no-bake cookies (my favorite recipe from her) and what I call “Memere soup,” which is her tomato soup with noodles.”

Of his favorite dishes to make at Federal Jack’s, Chris says, “I enjoy working with local farmers and purveyors. Our weekly special menu is dedicated to doing just that. I take their products and give them my twist by incorporating our beers (made right below the restaurant and the freshest beer possible) into them. I sometimes use the beer itself in a braising liquid, the malts used in beer- making to make crusts for fish and meat and hops to make sauces.”

What do you bring to holiday dinners? “I usually make most of the meal such as turkey or prime rib, ham and some sides like fresh herb and olive oil smashed potatoes, maple roasted butternut squash with sage, or desserts.”
When he has a day off, Chris loves spending time with his two boys, Caiden, age 6 and Carson, 2. “We play sports or build ninja warrior courses for Caiden and go for adventure walks with my youngest.”

This is a recipe that doesn’t impose amounts for the ingredients. If you have never made chowder before, you can consult another recipe that does give them. I suggest you look at the list and decide what you like and just throw it in there. I prefer chunky chowders and add lots of rough chopped onions and potatoes. For clams, canned are fine. You might luck out if you live near a fish store, like Harbor Fish in Portland, that sells them by the quart. But the supermarket clams from Maine make a delicious “chaudiere.”

Here is our ingredient list
Whole unsalted butter
Small diced white onions
Small diced celery
Medium diced white Maine potatoes
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Fresh thyme [Kate’s note: I use a few pinches of dried when I don’t have fresh]
Chopped clams and juice
Clam stock [Kate’s note: Julia Child used bottled clam juice!]
Heavy cream

Melt butter in a heavy pot or pan.
Add onions and celery and seasonings and cook until onions are translucent.
Add clam stock and bring to boil.
Add potatoes and cream. [Kate’s note: I leave the milk/cream out until everything else is done, just to avoid separating.]
Bring to boil and reduce to simmer.
Cook until potatoes are fork tender.
Add chopped clams and simmer until clams are cooked.
In a separate mixing bowl, mix water and cornstarch to make a slurry.
Bring chowder to boil and slowly whisk in slurry.
Bring to boil until desired thickness.
Serve with oyster cracker and a pint of Export Ale.

kate-coneKate Cone is the author of What’s Brewing in New England, a guide to craft breweries and brewpubs. (Down East Books, 2016 and 1997). She loves to cook just about anything and chowder saves her life every winter. She lives in Waterville, Maine with her husband, Patrick Brancaccio.

Vivant – Can a Brewery have good beer and good food?

From David- Founder of Sommbeer:
I love my daughters.  They just aren’t’ too crazy about brew pubs.  When we announced we were going to Brewery Vivant after we saw the Museum in Grand Rapids, Emm’s response was “you’re going to drink beer while we eat warmed up frozen food”.  I bristled at her harsh response but knew it could be true.  Good breweries do not always measure up when it comes to food.IMG_3759
We walked into Vivant just a few minutes after they opened up for the day (no I wasn’t banging on the door).  We were immediately greeted by a hostess and seated in a booth.  I was already impressed as the interior was a beautifully renovated church.  She handed us all menu’s and I immediately panicked.  Nothing looked familiar. It was all “high end” French food, for the most part.  We coaxed Emm into trying some new stuff and then waited.
Food: The waiter was super friendly and talked to my family as I researched the beer menu.  Along the conversation, he suggested to Emm, that when she grows up and goes to college she should always remember to go back and visit her parents (Dude! I thought to myself, you just earned yourself a nice tip).  We ordered our food, beers and pops.
The appetizer showed up – Duck Confit Nachos (a mountain of chips smothered in sauce and duck meat).  We couldn’t be happier.
My wife and youngest ordered a hamburger and grilled cheese, both outstanding.
Emm ordered a bowl of wild mushroom soup.  Something she never had, trust me. She loved it.
I ordered deer sausage.  Fantastic earthy flavor, I even ate my brussel sprouts.   All the food is super high quality and unique.  In fact it was unique to the point that they took more than a few culinary risks – and succeeded.  Only issue was the cost $$$.  Our bill for two adults and two kids hit around $100.  That said, it was a great meal and we will be going back.
Beer: Our hostess explained later that Vivant is all about the Belgian wild yeast style of beer.
Update 2017: My taste has evolved since I first wrote this article. Belgian style beers have become one of my favorite styles of beer. It’s not uncommon on many a beer night for my belgians to even edge out my previous favorites – stouts and scottish ales.
I ordered a glass of their Egoiste and followed it with one last glass of Dubelicious – I loved them both.  Here’s what I learned about this style of beer, to enjoy it to it’s fullest I have to prepare myself for it.  Belgian wild yeast style is kinda tangy like sour dough bread.  Doesn’t matter the variety they make it still has that tangy flavor.  If beer is like music (a post on this later) then this tanginess is a high pitched trumpet. My wife ordered their Fat Paczk beer that arrived in a tulip glass.  That beer was out of this world good!  It’s been a week since our visit and she still talks about that one beer.
When we walked out, our hostess greeted us again (the service here is unreal).  My family took this opportunity to start shopping at the gift shop.  I grabbed a souvenir glass and the hostess recommended I purchase some Vivant beer (Acidulated Trip) to pair with my glass!  What an up-sell.
Emm and I avoiding Paparazzi
Emm and I avoiding Paparazzi
Brewery Vivant surprised me.  I have been in search of a brewery that has both great beer and food.  What I found was great food, beer and service.  My daughters are the toughest critics believe me and they were happy.  We will be going back.
Sommbeer – John Fahner @fahrn13 also reviewed some beers from Brewery Vivant.
– David
Check out this beer review for Brewery Vivant –> Solitude

How to make better coffee

Look.  I’m not here to make sweeping judgments about you or the people you care about. But if you use a K-cup or automatic drip, you are a monster.

You know what? I’m sorry about that. Like I said I am not here to…actually who am I kidding? I gotta go back to that K-cup/automatic drip thing. Why are you doing this? Did coffee hurt you in some way? Did someone raise you to believe you should go for the least best way to enjoy life? Including the stimulating dark as night bringer of joy and wonderment, coffee?

And I know we’re all busy. And I know at times we just need caffeine and we don’t have the time to have it in its best form.  But I also think that most of the time, you probably do. And I think you are selling coffee short. Especially since raising your morning coffee experience is easier than you think. So come with me on a journey where we can learn and grow.

Just kidding.

But here is how to make better coffee. It’s not that hard. Grow up.


Stop being a baby and get yourself a French Press. Sorry, I’m just still mad thinking of all that stale pre ground stuff that used to be coffee you have crammed in those K-cups.

But seriously. French Press.

Not only is it a relatively simple system, it is so much better than what you’re using. It’s not even close. Now some will champion pour over or Aeropress. And those people are not wrong. Those methods are fantastic. But they are a lot more sensitive to variables to get it just right. And you don’t need that kind of hassle. You’re a busy man/woman with a winning smile who grabs the bull by the horns. Yes, I am resorting to cheap flattery. But this is serious.

French Press.  Any one from Target or Bed Bath and Beyond will do. Bodum is a good brand and not expensive.


If you take nothing else out of this discussion I just hope in the name of all that is decent and right on God’s great earth it’s this: only buy whole bean coffee.

Please. Heaven knows I don’t ask you for much.

Coffee is actually pretty volatile. It goes stale pretty quick. So get whole bean and grind it right before you brew it.

Also, Starbucks is terrible. Find a hipster coffee shop near you and get beans from them. Now, nobody would mistake me for a hipster. But they contribute great things to coffee. Getting fresh roasted, local coffee is best. But if that isn’t possible most non-Starbucks whole bean coffees will do.

Even if you plan to stick with automatic drip coffee this will make your experience so much better. And you can believe me. Because I am always right.

Which brings us to our next element…


Invest in a conical burr grinder. I use a Cuisinart I got from Bed Bath and Beyond for 45 bucks.

It’s this one.

Sure, there are better ones, but this is the one I can afford, okay Zuckerberg?

The conical burr grinder is way better than those hand held ones. Those are dangerous for a couple reasons. One, they tend to “burn” the beans. And two, the grind is inconsistent. I’ve seen it compare to randomly chopping a steak all different sizes then throwing it on a grill and expecting it to all cook the same.

The burr grinder produces a very even grind and doesn’t ruin the beans.

If you are using a French Press (did I mention you should?) grind the beans to a coarse grind. If still using auto drip go for medium.

As a side note,  I will say the hand held grinders are still better than pre ground coffee, you animals. If you must use one don’t hold it down. Pulse it twice. Then shake it. Then pulse it two more times. Keep checking the beans until you have a relatively even grind.


The general idea is 2 tablespoons of ground coffee per 6 oz. of coffee. I tend to do a little more than that cause I like stronger coffee. My suggestion is to experiment during the weekends and times where a cup isn’t imperative or there isn’t a time crunch to get to work. It took me a good two weeks to get it right when I got serious about my coffee.

So, get the ratio right.  Do not be afraid to figure it out. Use you K-cup or auto drip and then figure this out in your off hours. Now, here’s how to brew….

Bring a tea kettle to whistle. Remove it from heat. Then grind your beans. Boiling water will burn your coffee. But waiting 30 – 60 seconds will bring the water down to perfect brewing temp.

Pour the coffee into the French Press. Pour just enough water over the coffee and mix it. It should be like a coffee mud. Let that sit for thirty seconds. It’ll expand. That releases the flavor.

Now, at this point, famous Food Network guy Alton Brown says to add a pinch of salt to reduce acidity. He is right. Not like a tablespoon. Just a pinch.

After that pour the rest of the water, give a stir to mix it all together, and let sit for three minutes. Now über snobs will tell you to plunge it for 30 seconds. But come on. Who has that kind of time? Just do a slow, steady plunge.


You will have a cup of coffee that is worlds ahead of the normal one. Mathematically it’s an 80% better cup of coffee with 10% more effort. These numbers are not official.

If you follow these rules, however, you will make a great cup of coffee every day.

Snow Smoke

This post utilizes the marinade I made in my last article “Drunken Marinade“.
I love to smoke.  I use my smoker all year long even in the winter.  It is a common belief that it’s difficult to do this when it is snowing and frigid outside. Not true.  In fact I have been successful even with my electric smoker.


To accomplish this I insulated the outside. The next smoker will have a more professional wrap, but what I have works.


Tips for solid snow smoking
1. Marinate the meat at least over night.  Beef can marinade for days.  Chicken should only have a few hours.
2. Consider milder wood like pecan and fruit woods (apple, peach) that is more forgiving and allows you to smoke continuously.  The strong stuff like hickory is too easy to over do, plus it’s just so common. Shake things up and experiment.  I commonly mix my woods during the same smoke (apple and pecan for example).
3. Keep the water tray full.  It helps to prevent the meat from drying out. Just grab some (clean) snow.
4. Enjoy a beer. This is the best part about smoking outdoors in the winter. Bundle up grab a beer and chill.
5. Smoking takes time, throw in some appetizers to tide you over. We added cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapenos.

Seems nobody hangs out, outside in my neighborhood. I’ve always thought this was weird but it does help my smoking by limiting distractions.  I can tend to the smoker for hours and not have any surprises.

Check out this action smoke video!

My Smoker Settings for beef and pork
1. Temperature: I run low at 200-210 degrees
2. Time: Minimum of 5 hours. Check the meat moisture for the last hour (tinfoil helps).  Internal temps need to be safe.


Have fun and Cheers!