Snallygaster – Mythical Beast and Beer Fest of Legend

Following on the heels of my visit to the Applebutter Festival, this past Saturday involved a trip to a different kind of festival. A Beer Festival… And despite the existence of the “Little Monster Zone,” this event was far more adult-themed. For those of you who don’t belong to the beer nerd camp, Snallygaster was organized by Neighborhood Restaurant Group, a band of restaurateurs and beer enthusiasts that are responsible for Churchkey (my favorite bar in DC), Rustico, Birch and Barley, Red Apron Butcher, and their latest venture, a DC brewery by the name of Bluejacket. For the inaugural Snallygaster event, Beer Director Greg Engert hand-picked almost 150 of his favorite beers and ciders, including a selection of over 20 different Pumpkin ales to celebrate fall. The entire thing was a benefit for Arcadia Farms, which had an awesome school bus on site with fresh produce you could pick up (and pair with your beer?….)

I met up with 3 other beer nerds (although I hesitate to even include myself in such a community – I’m not sure I have enough street cred for that) at Yards Park just after the opening of the event. We wound our way through the stalls named for a variety of mythical beasts like Hydra, Jabberwock, Leviathan and Kraken. The organizers weren’t exactly subtle about how legendary they envisioned this festival to be. Along the way, and after consuming a couple taster portions, we grabbed some choice items from the Red Apron Butcher tent — a classic hot dog for me, and a sauerkraut, bacon and mustard-topped bratwurst for my friend. With a belly quickly filling with beer, this really hit the spot–especially when enjoyed overlooking the sparkling Potomac, listening to a live band right on the waterfront.

Over the course of the 4 hours we spent wandering and basking in the sun, I sampled 14 different beers – a total I’m pretty darn happy with. Here’s the breakdown:

  • Bluejacket & Mad Fox Mad Jacket | Weizenbock | DC & Virginia | 7.2%
  • Bluejacket & Oxbow Freestyle #10 | Saison | DC & Maine | 4%
  • Elysian The Great Pumpkin | Pumpkin Ale | Washington | 9.5%
  • Heavy Seas The Great Pumpkin | Pumpkin Ale | Maryland | 8%
  • Schneider Wiesen Edel-Weisse | Hefeweizen | Germany | 6.2%
  • Brewer’s Art Le Canard | Belgian Strong Dark Ale | Maryland | 8%
  • New Belgium Peach Porch Lounger | Saison (Peach) | Colorado | 9.4%
  • Fritz Briem 1809: Zymatore | Berliner Weisse (Pinot Noir Barrel-Aged) | Germany | 5%
  • Smuttynose Strawberry Short Weisse | Berliner Weisse (Strawberries) | New Hampshire | 3%
  • Timmermans Pumpkin Lambicus | Lambic (Pumpkin) | Belgium | 4%
  • Rogue 19 Original Colonies | Mead | Oregon | 5.2%
  • Bayerischer Bahnhof Leipziger Gose | Germany | 4.6%
  • Williamsburg AleWerks | Pumpkin Ale | Virginia | 7.3%
  • Kulmbacher | Eisbock | Germany | 9.2%

Pretty acceptable, right? I also snagged some Disco Fries (i.e. fries covered in sausage gravy…yum) at the end of the day–the better to prepare me for a night that may or may not have lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

So here’s to (hopefully) many future Snallygasters…but not the actual mythical beast because whoa, that thing looks surly.

The Art of Eating In

This has been the busiest fall season since college, and I’m pretty much grasping at anything that keeps me sane. Cooking has always been one of those things, and with my schedule these days, I really relish the rare opportunity to cook myself a proper meal. Grocery store prepackaged/chopped vegetables always perplex me because I find the act of preparing my meal so cathartic. So here’s my little lesson for fully appreciating a night on my own…

1. Remove all restrictive and otherwise uncomfortable garments. Ideally, you’ll just don your pajamas at this point–it’ll save you time later, and no one will see you in your yummy sushi pajamas anyway. (That was a Buffy reference for those of you that are paying attention).

2. Get your apron on. If you do not own an adorable apron, immediately go out and purchase one.

3. Pour yourself a nice big glass of wine. Refill when required.

4. Start chopping! I had a lot of random veggies to use up, so I did an easy sauté with a mix of yellow peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, tomatoes and garlic.

5. Round out your cooked veggies with spices, S&P, and a grain of some sort (I had red quinoa prepared in the fridge already), and top with a few poached eggs (made with these poachpods) for some protein. Refrain from making boob jokes.

6. Refill your wine and settle down to watch ______ (fill in the blank). Something trashy is always good, but you could be really ambitious and watch a documentary to feel smart.

7. Now, this is important. EAT DESSERT. You deserve ice cream. But not only ice cream–the best ice cream on the face of the planet.

8. Revel in how awesome that was. Pencil in another date with yourself for next week. Same time, same place.

Peril-free Potlucking

I spent a fabulous evening on Saturday with a group of singers at our opening season potluck. Of course, for a girl with allergies, this could’ve been a complete mess. But as much as my restrictions can be annoying, corn, peanuts and legumes are generally pretty easily identifiable. For instance, a lovely spinach and ricotta lasagna probably won’t be hiding those particular culprits, but beware a pesto sauce on a pasta or pizza. Why you ask? Just think of the hilarious (aka, terrifying) moment on How I Met Your Mother when Ted feeds his then-fiancé Stella a pesto sauce that has been laced with peanuts instead of the traditional pine nuts. The engagement might have been just a bit hasty, as evidenced by Ted’s ignorance of Stella’s (theoretically) life-threatening peanut allergy. Can I say terrifying again? Speaking of, in a future post, I’ll be exploring the do’s and don’ts of dating with dietary restrictions. Watch out.

“Maybe I should have said something about that life-threatening peanut allergy earlier.” “Yeah, maybe.”

Back to the potluck. Luckily, I have a few very close friends within the group that are aware of my issues, and omit those ingredients when planning their contributions to events. I invariably bring a dessert of some kind—pumpkin bread in honor of the first day of fall!—so that I ensure that there will be a least one sweet thing I can eat! I chose to downplay my allergies though, and didn’t ask that our host or the other guests make any special accommodations for me. It’s an interesting debate–one that is getting a lot of press lately. Most prominently, this New York Times article examines the evolution of our communal eating behaviors and mores. Who is responsible for providing a safe and enjoyable experience–the host or the guest? Should the host ask guests not to include certain common allergens in their dishes, or at least label their dishes, or should the person with dietary restrictions be encouraged to bring safe dishes for his or her own consumption?

There’s no one good answer to this problem—the issue is completely context-specific. Small family function? Go ahead and omit the offending ingredient(s) so that everyone around the table can eat the same food and not feel left out. 25+ potluck with people you know only casually? Make sure you bring a dish you can eat, and prepare to refuse a lot of food if necessary (and don’t show up ravenous; you might make bad choices out of desperation). Remember, most people aren’t aware of the seriousness of cross-contamination, and it would be a mistake to think that they are.

The article suggests that “it’s becoming harder for Americans to break bread together.”  It’s a romantic notion—a longing for yesteryear when we could all sit around a massive butcher block table and heartily down the common grub. I get it, but I can imagine that at least one person around that table would have been highly uncomfortable in the gastrointestinal department. The truth is, we’re becoming more aware of our body’s relationship with its environment in myriad ways and the increased awareness of potential food issues has also increased our ability to be proactive. Whether or not you announce your shellfish allergy or lactose intolerance to the world (and potluck attendees) is your choice, but the truth is that dietary restrictions are becoming ubiquitous in our society. Restrictions are only restrictive if we let them. Speak up, ask questions, and be proactive but friendly about your needs. You don’t need to send a mass email before a party warning that peanuts will kill you, and that all attendees should disinfect their countertops before making their dish. However, speaking individually with a few people  may lessen the embarrassment of having to refuse dishes, and may result in a few more safe dishes at the next potluck.

Ultimately, I was quite lucky this time. I was able to ask about ingredients in a few dishes, but almost everything on the table was corn and legume-free, and there literally wasn’t a peanut in sight! I’m also happy to report that someone was quite skilled with a cheese plate…I’m not sure it would be prudent for me to share how much brie I consumed that evening…