Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Brew Part II - Bottling

Last Sunday was time to bottle our first beer. After sterilizing the bottling bucket, hoses, racking cane, bottles, caps, etc., put the carboy of beer on a high metal table, with the bottling bucket on a stool below. The instructions say to put the racking cane in the carboy, fill the hose with water, attach one end to the racking cane, drop the other in the bucket, and voila, the beer will start to flow. Nope. Try again. Nope. Problem is I can't get the hose full of water, try as I might. I've got our friend Jeff holding one end under the faucet, and I'm stretching the hose out straight down to the floor, pinch it off when the water is running through all over the floor (finally got smart enough to put a pan down there), but still the dang thing is only half full.

As a backup (the book says only as a LAST resort), I decide to siphon the beer by sucking on the hose. To do this, you must sterilize your mouth by gargling with vodka. Not a problem, but the only vodka I have is in the freezer. So now I'm standing in the kitchen, gargling ice cold vodka. Good news is, I'm sure I don't have cavities.

Down on my knees, I start sucking on the hose until the beer flows. Can't spit it in the bucket, so have to swallow the mouthful of warm, flat beer. Several times I get the beer flowing, but then it stops. Mouthful after mouthful of warm, flat beer. But the great thing is, it tastes like beer!

Finally I call on my high school physics, and this time once I get the beer flowing I plunge the end of the hose into the beer in the bucket. Now we're flowing well. Have to hold the racking cane through the whole process, as the sediment is deeper than the end cap on the cane...don't want all that sediment in the beer.

Bottling from the bucked proves much easier due to the nifty bottling cane. Attach the end of the cane to the hose, hose to the spigot, turn on the spigot, and then push the other end of the cane into the bottom of the bottle. Lift up, and the flow stops. My trusty assistant Jeff and I fill 2 cases of 22 ouncers, me bottling and him capping. Finally all done, put down in the basement to rest for a couple of weeks.

Next report - How does it taste?

Monday, April 13, 2009

New Cheese Classes @Taste!

Cheese classes at Taste are a lot of fun - hopefully as much fun for the students as they are for us! We've met some great new folks at our recent classes and look forward to seeing them - and you - at an upcoming class or two. And we've even given a bit of incentive to get folks to enroll before the end of April. Sign up for either the May 12th or June 3rd classes before April 30th and save $5 off the enrollment fee. Enjoy a great evening of cheese and wine for just $40!
In addition to the great lineup of classes listed below, we've been invited to participate in a Spirits & Cheese pairing on May 6th at Wine Vault & Bistro and to join our friends up at Stone World Bistro & Gardens in a pair of Beer & Cheese classes on June 14th. Check their respective websites for details and enrollment information and be sure to let them know we sent you!
And without further ado, here's the schedule for Taste classes over the next couple months:

Springtime Beer & Cheese
w/O’Brien’s Pub
**3rd Class Just Added!**
Sunday, May 3rd, 6:30pm
Once again we have sold out of the two scheduled sessions of our biannual Beer & Cheese classes with our friends Tom and Lindsey Nickel from O’Brien’s Pub in Kearny Mesa. And by popular demand, we have added a 3rd and final class to be held at O’Brien’s on Sunday, May 3rd. If you thought you missed out, think again! But not for too long – this class is also filling fast. To enroll, stop by Taste or O’Brien’s or call us at (619) 683-2306. If you miss out this time, you’ll have to wait until fall!

Wines for the Blues**
Tuesday, May 12th, 6:30pm
$45 (**$40 if you enroll by 4/30)
At Taste, we love the blues. From sweet Gorgonzola Dolce, to fruity Cashel Blue, to decadent Roquefort Carles - if it's blue, we're a fan. And likewise, we love wines. Pretty much any style has a place at our table. And so we decided to pull together a class that marries 2 of our favorite things...hence 'Wines for the Blues'. From sparkling wines to lush whites to fruity reds and luscious ports, we'll introduce you to some incredible blues to pair with your favorite wines. We'll give 'singing the blues' a whole new definition!

Whites & Knights**
w/Rey Knight of Knight Salumi Co.
Wednesday, June 3rd, 6:30pm
$45 (**$40 if you enroll by 4/30)
We've been loving the incredible meats from San Diego's Knight Salumi Co., and by all accounts, so have our customers - it's been tough to keep stocked up! So we've invited the producer himself - Rey Knight - to join us for a fun class where we'll match his salumi with tasty white wines and artisan cheeses. This class is definitely non-vegetarian! Meat eaters rejoice...and plan to join us for a tasty tour of San Diego's finest salumi!

DIY Taste Cheese & Wine Class!
Call Taste to schedule a date!
From $45 per person (Minimum 6 guests / Maximum 10 guests)
What's that you say? Missed out on one of our great Cheese101@ Taste classes? Well then, let us help you create an event just for you and a few friends! DIY Taste Cheese & Wine Classes are custom events we create with you. Just pull together a group of 6-10 people, pick a theme (or call for suggestions), and schedule a date. Your group will have a private, in-shop event, hosted by Taste cheese mongers George and Mary Palmer. Prices start at just $45 per person for cheese and wine classes! Call or email Taste for more information.

Grilled Cheese Recipes from Some Friends

We're just about half way thru Grilled Cheese Month and we have a couple excellent recipes to share from some of our favorite local bloggers Kathy from Pannini Happy and Lori from Recipe Girl. They were gracious enough to share them with us an allow us to post here on the Blend. We'd love to share your recipes too! Send them to and we'll add them to our growing treasure trove of great uses for melted cheese!

Mary & George

Bacon, Cheddar & Grilled Tomato Panini
by Kathy at Panini Happy (
Serves 4

4 roma tomatoes, halved lengthwise, pulp and seeds removed
Olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
8 basil leaves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 slices sourdough bread
8 slices bacon, fully cooked*
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, thinly sliced


NOTE: The grilled tomatoes portion of this recipe is adapted from the Grilled Tomatoes recipe on Simply Recipes, modified for the panini grill. If you prefer to grill the tomatoes on a barbecue grill, I recommend following the original recipe.

Preheat the panini grill to high heat. Ensure the grill is on a slight tilt (not completely flat) and be sure to attach your drip tray.

Brush the cut side of the tomatoes with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes, cut side down, onto the panini grill. Lower the top grate to just above the tomatoes without touching them. Grill tomatoes for 10-12 minutes until the outer skins are wrinkly and the tomatoes are soft. Check the tomatoes often, as some may cook faster than others. Remove the tomatoes from the grill and sprinkle with basil.

Brush melted butter onto the outer sides of each slice of bread.

For each sandwich, layer two slices of bacon, two grilled tomatoes and 1/4 of the cheese in between two slices of bread (buttered side out).

Grill the panini for 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted and the bread is toasted.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

* I cook mine on a broiler tray in the toaster oven at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.

Serves: 1


2 slices of desired bread, preferably something fun… like Rosemary Sourdough or Rustic French

spreadable butter

goat cheese

tomato (combo of red & yellow are fun)

arugula leaves

prosciutto slices (or thin sliced ham)

havarti cheese (can sub another type, if desired)


1. Spread butter on bread slices. Turn over and spread the other side of one slice with goat cheese.

2. Heat skillet and place goat cheese slice butter-side-down in pan. Layer tomato, arugula, prosciutto and havarti on top of the goat cheese. Top with 2nd slice of bread, butter-side-up).

3. Cover, and heat sandwich on low until lightly browned. Carefully flip and toast the other side.

4. Remove to cutting board. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then cut with a serrated knife and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


Having been gifted by my lovely wife with a beer making kit for Christmas, I finally worked up the courage to brew. Well, not really courage...we had a move and it's tough to lug around a 60lb. jar o' beer. Never tried this before, so armed with instructions from Home Brew Mart and my new kit, off we went. Oops, should have checked this earlier... hydrometer is broken.

Off Mary goes to HBM to get another one. Second oops, I really don't need a hydrometer immediately. Oh well, she'll come back with a growler of Dopplebock from Ballast Point, so the trip won't be wasted.

Sterilize everything, get a couple gallons boiling in my 12qt stockpot, here we go. Turn off heat, dump 3lbs of malt extract into the pot. Ouch, boil over. Not only that, but the malt has congealed immediately into this thick, tar-like cap over the water, so break it apart and stir to mix, making even more mess. Add the remaining 3lbs and repeat the process, including the mess. Turn the heat on, bring back to vigorous boil as instructed, dang, another boil over, extinguishing my flame. Re-light, bring back to a boil, add hops, almost a third boil over.

Now the flame is caramelizing the malt extract all around my burner...this will be a bear to clean up. This is all so tragic, but I'm brewing beer, so all I can do is laugh my butt off at how hopeless I am. Mary arrives with the growler, and we pour us each a big glass and laugh again.

After an hour of boiling the wort, time to add the final hops and turn off the heat. Move the stockpot of wort to the sink, and bathe it in cold water while Mary pours a couple gallons of cold water into the glass carboy which will be home to our beer for the next week or two. Add the wort, top off with cold water. Now pour us another beer. Set the air lock on top, but not sure I'm doing this right? Does the plastic cap go over the top while the beer ferments, or is the cap over the glass tube all I need. Call our friend Ray Taylor, an experienced brewer, to ask a couple questions.

After trying to explain what the air lock looks like to Ray, we finally decide we've done it right. Now I'm explaining what the beer looks like to Ray. He asks "did it do anything when you added the yeast?" Yikes, I totally forgot about the yeast. Good thing we called, it might have been hours before we saw our mistake.

Ray tells me I've got to get the yeast distributed. Dang, that'll be one heavy bottle to pick up and shake. Ray says just tilt it on it's edge and swirl it. Doh! Guess we won't leave it on that stool. Set it on the floor, get a good swirl going, put the air lock back on, and then we're off to clean up.

Now, here's a couple things I'd do differently next time. If I can find a cheap, bigger pot, I'll get one. I'm a vigorous stirrer, and I think this will save us mess. Next, I sure won't dump a whole 3lb. bag of extract in all at once. Trying to stir was tough and another contributor to the whole mess. Adding slowly, stirring at the same time, probably is the call here.

Second day, beer looks good, bubbles coming up in the air lock, guess we're fermenting. I'll post tasting notes in a couple of weeks. Big thanks to Cy at Ballast Point/HBM and Ray for their tips, advice, and support. And Mary, for the kit, her love and support, and scraping all that crap off the stove top.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


We love April for a lot of reasons – the start of baseball season and blooming spring flowers for instance. But our new favorite reason to celebrate April is that it’s National Grilled Cheese Month! Who knew?! To kick off the celebration, we’re offering up one of our favorite grilled cheese sandwich recipes here. And what’s more, we want your recipes too! Send your favorite grilled cheese recipe to and we’ll share them with our readers in an upcoming issue of TASTYbits, our email newsletter. Here’s one of our favorite recipes…

Roasted Fennel Pollen Pork Grilled Cheese Sammy

1 Pork Loin (we use the ones from Costco)
2 tsp fennel pollen1 tsp Spanish paprika, the mild smoky one
1/2 tsp dried thyme, or 1 tsp fresh, finely minced
Dash of Sea Salt
Cracked pepper to taste
2 Tbs Good quality EVOO (just enough so mixture will stick to the pork loin.)

Handful Taste Shredded Blend (or other mix)
Sweet Hawaiian Bread (2 slices per sandwich, approx. ¼ inch each)

Roast Pork Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 425-degrees

2. Make the rub by mixing fennel pollen, paprika, EVOO, thyme, salt and pepper in small bowl.

3. Pat dry pork loin if wet from packaging.
4. Rub outside thoroughly with prepared fennel pollen rub.

5. Roast pork in preheated oven for 22-23 mins or until thermometer reads 130-degrees.

6. Remove from oven and let cool.

Note: Pork may be prepared up to a week in advance.

Sandwich Preparation:

1. Slice cooled pork as thinly as possible.

2. Generously butter one side of each slice of bread

3. Place one slice, butter-side down in a heated skillet

4. Sprinkle with ½ serving of Shredded Blend

5. Layer thin pork slices on cheese

6. Add remaining Shredded Blend

7. Place other slice of bread, non-buttered side down on top of cheese.

8. Cook until bread on bottom is slightly browned

9. Gently turn and continue cooking until cheese is melted and other side of sandwich is browned. Turn as necessary.