Recently I met with my friends Kathi and Donna at a local brewery to celebrate our birthdays. We don’t get together often since we all have busy lives, but when we do we celebrate big. Our paths first collided when I was in the dental field 30 years ago. Donna and I met at Diablo Valley College in a microbiology class. We were both trying to get into the dental hygiene program. We studied at each other’s houses while our one year old children played together. We eventually worked in the same offices which was fun.
Kathi and I worked as dental assistants in a small dental practice in Concord. Kathi taught me everything I needed to know about keeping kids happy in the dental chair. She called the light “Mr. Sunshine”, the suction “Mr. Thirsty” and showed me how to keep kids calm and happy during their visit. Our boys played on the same soccer team and my husband was their coach. All three of us ladies have stayed in touch over the years. We remember each others’ birthdays and I’m grateful for their continued friendship.I digress… Back to the BEER.
Calicraft is fairly new in the East Bay. It is located in an Industrial Park area near Kaiser Park Shadelands and most people don’t know about it. Calicraft offers a large variety of lagers. They offer various brown ales with fun and catchy names like “Oaktown” referring to the city of Oakland California that is about 20 minutes away. They have interesting flavors such as Sour Strawberry a blonde beer with 8.5% alcohol, a Sour Black Currant beer at 8.5% alcohol, a Reserve Sauvignon Peach which is a sparkling ale that is made with grapes at 12% alcohol, and their special Reserve Sparkling Rose’ that is made with raspberries, cherries and zinfandel.
I decided to try their beer flight and I was able to choose four different kinds of beer. We were disappointed that they didn’t offer more to eat. They sold bags of potato chips and beef jerky, but luckily we had nuts in our car. Kathi spoiled me and purchased my beer flight. I was interested in the summer sour strawberry, the sour black currant, the apricot haze IPA, and the Buzzerkeley sparkling ale. Each beer was full of flavor and exciting to try. The bartender was nice to share a lime with me since I love drinking beer with citrus.
Calicraft’s marketing team has gotten extremely creative. I’m crazy for the name Buzzerkeley because it makes fun of the town of Berkeley not too far, about 20 minutes from the brewery. They named a Mexican Lager “Chico Lager” which is only 5.6% alcohol, but must be a favorite since this town hosts one of the more popular colleges in California. In fact, both of my sister’s attended Chico in the 80’s.
Another variety that Calicraft offers is a beer called “Coast” which is a Kolsch-style ale and is 4.8% alcohol. Then there is a “Guava Tree” wheat served at 6.2%. Fun was had by all. It was nice to try out the new brewery and us girls had a blast chatting it up.
Speaking of beer, a few years back, I hosted a dinner party with beer pairings for some of our soccer friends. We borrowed special glasses to get the most out of each beer. Each family brought their favorite beer, Stella, Guinness, a Boston Lager and Corona. I served each beer with a small serving of protein (shrimp, pork carnitas,and steak) that went perfectly with the beer. I also made a gingerbread cake for dessert substituting a dark Guinness beer instead of water in the recipe. The cake is topped with a cream cheese frosting that is tart and sweet. It is a dessert you go back to often when thinking of what to serve your guests. The cake is moist and studded with lots of candied ginger, my favorite. You could substitute vanilla ice cream or whipped cream instead of frosting the cake if you wish.
Whether you are meeting up with good friends at the local bar or entertaining friends at home, keep those you love close. Stay in touch frequently and continue to foster those relationships near and far like Kathi, Donna and I have.
Here’s a wonderful tomato soup recipe that you will want to make. It is best with fresh heirloom tomatoes picked straight from the garden, but any ripe tomato will do.
Roasted Cipollini Onion and Heirloom Tomato Soup
8 Cipollini Onions (Can substitute 1 small white or yellow onion)
1 Pound ripe heirloom tomatoes, halved
4 Poblano Peppers (can substitute 1 jalapeno instead)
3 cloves garlic, peeled
⅓ C Olive Oil
1 tsp Thyme chopped
2 C Chicken or Vegetable stock
¾ C a dry White Wine (Pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, or unoaked chardonnay)
1 tsp Kosher Salt
½ tsp freshly ground Tellicherry black pepper
Creme fraiche and thyme blossom for garnish
Preheat Oven to 400 degrees
Place the onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic on a sheet pan. Toss with Olive Oil, sprinkle chopped thyme, and salt and pepper on veggies and roast in oven for about 20 minutes until caramelized and soft.
Puree the roasted veggies with ½ C chicken stock in a blender. Push through a sieve to remove seeds and skin.
Place pureed liquid with remaining stock and white wine into a large pot. Cook on simmer for about 30 minutes or up to an hour.
To serve, ladle soup in a shallow soup bowl and garnish with creme fraiche and a thyme blossom.