Tuesday, November 15

Begyle Brewing + G.H. Cretors Popcorn

G.H. Cretors
Begyle Brewing
Chicago Craft Beer
Begyle Brewing
Last week I was given the delicious task of creating flavor pairings between G.H. Cretors popcorn, and craft beer from the lovely folks behind Ravenswood's Begyle Brewing. Through some social media conversation research, G.H. Cretors discovered many consumers were pairing various flavors of popcorn with craft beer. It totally makes sense - beers from lagers to stouts can pair perfectly with both sweet and savory popcorn flavors. 

G.H. Cretors sent me to Begyle Brewing to meet with head brewer, Liz French, and chat about all things beer and popcorn. I had SO much fun coming up with popcorn and beer pairings, but really, it was just an excuse to try all of Begyle's amazing brews and stuff my face with every variety of G.H. Cretors popcorn.  

I'm a fan of G.H. Cretors products because they use high-quality, recognizable ingredients and no artificial colors or flavors. They are actually quite a historic brand too; Charles Cretors created the first popcorn machine in 1885, and now for five generations, the Cretors family has followed in his footsteps. Each of its six flavors is made in small batches including:
  • The Mix (caramel corn and cheddar cheese corn)
  • Just the Cheese Corn 
  • Just the Caramel Corn 
  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil 
  • Organic Dill Pickle 
  • Organic Chile Jalapeño White Cheddar

I have to say I'm partial to The Mix, as well as the Dill Pickle and Chile Jalapeño White Cheddar (especially the last two mixed together, trust me).

Here are my five favorite beer and popcorn pairings I came up with at the brewery:

1) First Shift American Pale Wheat Ale paired with Dill Pickle and Chile Jalapeño White Cheddar

While these two popcorn flavors might sound like an odd pairing, they work so well together. The Dill Pickle has a sharp acidity, that is balanced out by the spicy Chile Jalapeño White Cheddar. I chose an American Pale Wheat Ale since it's crisp, citrusy, and cools down the heat from the popcorn.

Begyle Brewing
First Shift American Pale Wheat Ale Paired With Dill Pickle and Chile Jalapeño White Cheddar

2) Flannel Pajamas Oatmeal Stout paired with Just the Caramel Corn

This pairing was a no-brainer. The dark stout has hints of cocoa and caramel so naturally it went well with the sweet caramel corn. 

Begyle Brewing
Flannel Pajamas Oatmeal Stout Paired With Just The Caramel Corn

3) Oh Hey English Porter paired with The Mix

Pairing the English Porter with The Mix, a combo of caramel corn and cheddar corn, worked well because the beer's toffee and caramel notes blended with both flavors.

Begyle Brewing
Oh Hey English Porter Paired with The Mix
4) J-Bird Citra Pale Ale paired with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The Extra Virgin Olive Oil popcorn is definitely the lightest flavor of G.H. Cretors popcorn, so it needed a beer that packed a flavor punch. Enter the J-Bird Citra Pale Ale. If you know me, you know that citra hops are my jam. The citrus fruit flavor of the pale ale is great with the mild olive oil popcorn.

Begyle Brewing
J-Bird Citra Pale Ale Paired with Extra Virgin Olive Oil

5) Free Bird American Pale Ale paired with Just the Cheese Corn


Lastly, the Free Bird American Pale Ale has hints of lemon and malt, so it worked well with Just the Cheese Corn which has a strong aged cheddar flavor, that can have a slightly sour finish.

Begyle Brewing
Free Bird American Pale Ale Paired With Just the Cheese Corn
After my beer and popcorn tasting, Liz took me on a tour where I learned more about the brewery. Begyle got its start in 2012 when it was known as Argyle Brewery for a short time...until they were told they had to change their name by a winery with the same name. Apparently it was too deceptively similar. So what did they do? They changed their name to Begyle Brewing because Begyle means to charm, trick, enchant or deceive. Talk about clever!

Chicago Craft Beer
An Old Sign for Argyle Brewing
Begyle only distributes within the Chicagoland area but has increased their production from 75 barrels in 2012, to an estimated 2,000 barrels in 2016. The brewery operates on a staff of 11, none of whom had experience brewing commercially before. In fact, Liz's background is in microbiology and she learned how to brew when she joined the Begyle team.  We walked through the brewery as she pointed out the bottling machine, brewhouse, and fermentation tanks. 

I had a blast hanging out with the team at Begyle Brewing and coming up with tasty craft beer and popcorn pairings!

Chicago Craft Beer
Bottling System

Chicago Craft Beer
Brewhouse
To find out where you can purchase G.H. Cretors popcorn, visit their store locator and be sure to stop by Begyle Brewing's taproom in Ravenswood for a pint or two (and popcorn samples, while supplies last)!

Note: This post is sponsored by G.H. Cretors, however, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 10

Next Door Chef: Chicago

A few weeks ago, I joined a number of guests at Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef: Chicago, an exclusive holiday-inspired dining experience. It was a truly unique evening hosted by acclaimed Chicago chef Jason Vincent of Giant. Chef Vincent was joined in the kitchen by a beginner cook, Cara, who he showed how to prepare a restaurant-quality meal using various Morton salts. The coolest part? The whole event was held right in Cara’s apartment in Chicago's Wicker Park Neighborhood. That’s right, Morton Salt transformed Cara’s apartment into a one-day-only pop-up restaurant.

Jason Vincent
Chef Jason Vincent
Credit: Morton Salt

Morton Salt
Cara's

Upon arrival to the restaurant (cleverly named Cara’s), I was greeted by the hostess and directed to the bar where I picked up a gin-based margarita dusted with a Morton Kosher Salt rim. I joined other Chicago bloggers in the cozy restaurant adorned with navy and gold accents. It was pretty incredible to think we were sitting in someone’s apartment - it really felt like we were at a hip Chicago spot. We also learned that our dinner experience was being filmed for a television commercial that is on The Food Network.

Morton Salt
Morton Salty Rita

Morton Salt
Morton Salt's Next Door Chef Pop-Up Restaurant
Credit: Morton Salt
After our brief cocktail hour, we took our seats to enjoy the delicious three course meal. The goal of the event was to highlight how the proper use of salt can really transform home-cooked dishes. We began with Brussels sprouts with pear, raisins, nuts, ginger, pecorino, and Morton Kosher Salt and Sea Salt. This was one of my favorite dishes - it had a nice balance of bitter and sweet, and the salt blended in seamlessly with the sprouts.

I’m a big fan of Morton Kosher Salt especially - I love its texture, especially when used on top of freshly baked bread like baguettes or soft pretzels. It’s also easier to sprinkle kosher salt evenly since you can see the larger salt granules. 

Morton Salt
The Full Menu

Morton Salt
Brussels Sprouts with Pecorino Crispies
Credit: Morton Salt
The second course of our holiday-inspired meal was brined roasted turkey with spicy rice, and a side of sweet potatoes. The turkey was extra tender (that’s brining for ya!) and I loved the spicy rice. Even though the rice was spicy, it was totally unexpected to have that hint of spice from Thai chili combined with the turkey. From now on, I want spicy turkey at every Thanksgiving!  The sweet potatoes had a secret ingredient that really boosted the overall flavor profile: anchovies! OK, there was also bacon, Parmesan, maple syrup, and butter, so it was comfort food at its finest.

Morton Salt
Roasted Turkey with Spicy Rice
Lastly, we enjoyed oven-fresh chocolate chip cookies garnished with orange zest, raw sugar, and Morton Sea Salt. The cookies were uber thin which allowed for a crispy edge and chewy middle. I loved the flaky Morton Sea Salt on top that added a slight crunch and a nice flavor contrast with the orange zest. Check out the recipe at the end of this post if you’re interested in making these buttery cookies at home!

I had a great time being a part of the first-ever Next Door Chef event, especially in such a cool setting, and with one of Chicago’s biggest chefs! If you’re interested in hosting your own holiday meal, you can go to MortonSalt.com/NextDoorChef to download your own hosting kit complete with recipe ideas using Morton Kosher or Sea Salt.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Morton Salt

Ingredients:

1 1/2 tsp. Morton Kosher Salt
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. molasses
8 oz. butter (cut into cubes)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cup pastry flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. chocolate extract
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cup chocolate drops (large, 58% chocolate)
Sugar in the raw for garnish
Large sea salt for garnish
Orange zest for garnish

Directions:

1. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the salt, both sugars, butter, and molasses. Cream on high until the butter is light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl frequently.

2. Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed.

3. Add the extracts.

4. Sift together the flours and baking soda; add on low speed. Mix until just incorporated.

5. Add the chocolate.

6. Heat oven to 300 degrees F.

7. Place dough in large balls on a baking pan with plenty of room for them to spread. Flatten to 1/2" and garnish with salt, sugar, and orange.

8. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool completely.

9. For crispy cookies, bake for an additional 5-10 minutes.

10. Finish with coarse sea salt.


Note: This post is sponsored by Morton Salt, however all opinions expressed are my own.
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