Category: Good Eats

Guide to California Trails and Taquerias

By dweb247 on April 26th 2019

There’s nothing more gratifying after a long hike than a plate full of tacos and a cold cerveza. Trust us, we Toads are experts. With half of HQ born and bred Californians and the rest happy transplants, we’ve got this state pretty well covered. If you find yourself in the Golden State, here’s where we recommend heading. And we know you know, but stay on trails and pack-in-pack-out. Save your reckless abandon for the taquerias.

7th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

By cwiesendanger on April 9th 2019

Melted, gooey cheese. Golden toasty bread. Maybe some roasted jalapeño, a healthy heap of pork belly, a fig jam spread, perfectly crisped bacon. Yes, we’re talking about the grilled cheese sandwich and yes, the possibilities are endless.

There’s no better place to show off the versatility of this practically-perfect-in-every-way sandwich than at our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown – a battle among Toads, family, friends, and community members for the coveted Golden Spatula Award.

This year at our seventh annual, competition was tougher than ever. Here’s how it works: Everyone gathers in the Toad office backyard to watch our competing teams duke it out by whipping up their tastiest recipes. First sandwich off the grill goes to the judging table and the rest go to the salivating crowd (there’s a Peoples’ Choice Award too, so feeding the audience is equally as important!). If you can’t wait for the chefs’ creations, you can tide yourself over at the Make-Your-Own-GC station. And because nothing pairs with a grilled cheese like tomato soup and a cold one (or two, or three), we’re lucky that longtime partners Organic Soup Kitchen always show up with the soup and local fave Topa Topawas there to keep the beer flowing.

This year’s lineup consisted of 4 Toad teams, plus teams from our friends at Alpha Resource Center, Luno Life, Los Padres Forest Watch, Ontraport, Topa Topa, The Sandbox, SB Fire Department, and UCSB Bren School. A few masterpieces included “You Are Bacon Me Crazy,” “The Hogfather,” and “The Cubano.” Mouth watering yet? Us too.

When the sun sets, and panini presses are turned off, there can only be one Golden Spatula winner (OK, and a few runners up because we love to spread the celebrations). Congrats to the following teams!

All That Jazz: UCSB Bren School, Kimcheeze for Sheezy

Best Solo Act: Toad’s Ian, The Big Cheesy

Most Balanced: Los Padres Forest Watch, Gourmet Girls on Fire Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Peoples’ Choice: Alpha Resource Center, Pesto So Gouda

Golden Spatula (Best Overall): Toad’s Guin and Helena, Frankenfromage

AND we asked realllyyy nicely and got Guin and Helena to share their mouthwatering secret recipe with us. Get your aprons ready (and fair warning, this is some seriously gourmet stuff)!

What you’ll need:

  • -Equal parts Gouda and Gruyere
  • -Parmesan
  • -5 sweet white onions (we used Vidalia)
  • -Beef stock
  • -Sherry
  • -White wine (mostly for the cooks)
  • -Kerrygold butter (It’s the fancy-pants kind and so worth it)
  • -Milk
  • -Half and half (or cream)
  • -Flour
  • -Bay leaf
  • -Fresh thyme
  • -Fresh flat leaf parsley
  • -French bread

 

Chop, and then caramelize the heck outta the onions in a pot. Simmer 2 hours, de-glaze with 1/2 cup sherry and 1/2 cup white wine (the rest is for drinking, remember?). Cook down for 2 minutes, add a splash of beef stock, and a few thyme springs. Remove 2/3 of cooked onions (should be super brown for maximum tastiness), add to blender, and blend into a puree. Set aside.

Pour remaining beef stock into onion pot, add bay leaf, leave to reduce and simmer for a good long while. Salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile –

Grate all that cheese. Make a roux out of 1/2 stick butter and 1/2 cup flour, slowly add milk and half and half, (3 parts milk x 1 part half and half) until your reach nappe consistency. Teamwork really helps here—one whisking furiously while the other adds ingredients. Next, a handful at a time, add grated cheese until incorporated. Keep whisking until creamy and salt to taste. Add onion puree to cheese mixture. Once combined, pour mixture into a loaf pan lined with parchment. Allow to cool then toss in the refrigerator until solidified (most likely overnight).

Next, chop parsley. Slice bread (we like the slices thick), butter the outside like there’s no tomorrow, crust outside of bread with parmesan, cook parm-side down on in a buttered pan using low heat. Remove chilled cheese loaf from fridge, slice 1/2 inch thick, place on top of bread, and sprinkle with parsley. Top with a second slice of parm-crusted bread and wait until it gets super golden brown and tasty tasty looking on both sides. Don’t flip it too early. Here’s how you’ll know it’s done: It should be a rich brown color, and if you tap the bread and it makes a low hollow noise, you’re good to go.

Remember the beef stock we set aside? Pour into cute little bowls and use as au jus for your cheese masterpiece!

And while we’ve got you in that grilled cheese spirit, we asked two of our esteemed Toad judges for their favorite full belly-approved Toad items to wear while chowing down on the good stuff.

“I’m a big fan of the Mission Ridge Lean Pant. They’re so comfortable you’ll think you’re eating your grilled cheese at home on the couch. And if I’m grilled cheesing it up in the summertime, I’m all about the Lounge-Out Cord Short—because classics like cords and a tasty grilled cheese were meant for each other. And also, stretchy draw-cord waist. Enough said.” – Danny, Sr. Sales Ops

“Nothing screams summertime grilled cheeses like some 4-way stretch shorts, so the Cetacean Block Board Short is my go-to. I like to keep it classy on top with the Mattock II Short Sleeve Shirt, which also looks surprisingly good with a napkin bib.” -Neil, Sr. Ops Manager

10 Reasons Why Guinness Is Good For You

By cwiesendanger on March 14th 2019

Spinach, kale, avocado, Guinness—A few of our favorite health foods. OK maybe we’re using the word “health food” a little freely, but we do have proof that it’s good for you (just like the old advertising slogan says). So this St. Patrick’s Day, fill your pint glass with the good stuff. Sláinte! (Which btw, is an Irish Gaelic saying for “cheers” and literally translates to “health.” Coincidence? We think not).

1) Antioxidants make it heart healthy

Move over, red wine. A 2003 study claimed that a pint of Guinness could cut the risk of blood clots forming in the arteries, while other beers didn’t have the same effect. You can thank flavonoids, a plant-based antioxidant found in certain drinks and dark chocolate, for this heart healthy benefit.

2) Iron does a body good

Though Guinness only contains .3 mg of iron per pint, most adults don’t reach their recommended 9-18 mg/day, so we say every sip counts! There was even a time when Guinness was given to post-op patients and pregnant women, and as recently as 2010, it was given to people after they donated blood to help replenish their iron levels.

3) It’s considered a “light” beer

Don’t let the color fool ya. A Guinness only has 15 more calories than a Bud Light and 5 more calories than the same amount of skim milk. Plus, you’re going to feel a lot fuller after a Guinness than a Bud Light (thanks to the CO2 and Nitrogen carbonation that leads to its thick, creamy texture), saving yourself from the extra food calories later. Drunchies beware.

4) It’s good for your bones

Beer contains a plant hormone called phytoestrogen, which is key to building dense bones, plus has calcium and dietary silicon, important for growth and development of bone and connective tissues. Studies have shown moderate beer drinkers to be less likely to have osteoporosis and lower risk of hip fractures. Of course, like with anything, moderation is key – overindulging can have reverse effects.

5) It’s relatively low on alcohol content

When comparing to other beers, Guinness has a lower ABV (4.2% compared with your average beer at 5%). So for party goers and bar frequenters, Guinness leans on the more responsible side.

6) It will make you the life of the party

If Elle Woods taught us anything, it’s that endorphins make us happy. Light to moderate drinking triggers these “feel good” chemicals in your brain (though as many of us have probably experienced, overdoing it will have the opposite effect). So on St. Patrick’s Day, help yourself to a pint or two of Guinness, and enjoy being the most fun, social, happiest friend at the party. Bonus effect: It will make everyone around you more fun and attractive too.

7) It contains folate, fiber, and ferulic acid

Guinness contains more folate, a nutrient we need to make DNA, than any other beer. And it’s high in barley, which makes it one of the beers with the highest levels of fiber (while Bud Light and most other light beers don’t contain any. Thank u, next). High levels of barley also equal high levels of ferulic acid, which is associated with improved immune function. And all that fiber and ferulic acid lead to a couple of other benefits too…

8) It’s anti-inflammatory

Studies have shown the consumption of hops (in beer form) interfere with inflammation causing compounds. Plus, a fiber rich diet can help reduce inflammation.

9) It lowers bad cholesterol

Not to sound like a broken record, but have we told you about the benefits of fiber? It’s really good for you. And the soluble fiber in beer can help reduce LDL (aka “bad” cholesterol) – plus it has a variety of other health benefits like promoting healthy blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels.

10) It helps hydrate post-workout

Maybe the most surprising of them all, one study showed that people who drank a post-workout pint of beer were more hydrated than those who drank water. Probably why a beer at the top of a hike feels so right.

So there you have it. A little bit of science and a little bit of Irish luck. Either way, feel good this weekend when you reach for that creamy, malty goodness.

Not feeling the booze? Just like Guinness is now vegan (true story!), we like to keep it green every day too.

How to Make Simple Syrup

By dweb247 on March 4th 2019

It’s called “simple” for a reason. No matter how fancy they sound, they all boil down to water and sugar… boiled down. Kick up any drink with these 6 simple syrup recipes. Enjoy responsibly with friends.

Basic Simple Syrup

Need: 1 cup water, 1 cup granulated white sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes until sugar dissolves. Cool immediately. Store in the fridge for a month or freeze forever. Use in any cocktail to sweeten things up!

Hibiscus Grapefruit

Need: 3/4 cup water, 1/4 cup whole dried hibiscus flowers, 1/4 cup sugar, and peels from half a grapefruit. Bring to a boil and simmer for 3 minutes, then strain and chill. Great with mezcal or tequila.

Cinnamon Syrup

Need: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, a couple of cinnamon sticks. You know the drill – bring to a boil, then add cinnamon sticks. Simmer 2-3 mins, then remove and chill. Great in an old fashioned or bourbon.

Rosemary Syrup

Need: 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 or 2 rosemary sprigs. Bring all ingredients to a boil and simmer for 3 mins until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool for 30 mins. Strain (or just remove remove rosemary) and chill. Great in greyhounds or palomas (or any cocktail with grapefruit juice).

Habanero Simple Syrup

Need: 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 2 habanero peppers, quartered. Bring sugar and water to a boil until sugar is dissolved. Add peppers and reduce heat to low, simmer about 15 minutes (or longer if you like it spicy!). Remove from heat and let cool for 1 hour. Strain and chill. Pairs well with vodka or in a margarita.

Turmeric Simple Syrup

Need: 1 cup water, 3/4 cup sugar, a big thumb’s worth of fresh ginger root (peeled and sliced), 1 tsp turmeric powder. Bring water, sugar and ginger to a boil and simmer for 10 mins (if it’s not sweet enough, add a touch more sugar or a dollop of honey). Stir in turmeric until it’s dissolved. Strain through a coffee filter and chill. Tastes amazing in margaritas or screwdrivers.

Now we just need a good view and a good book

@shotsoflouis making us thirsty in Marrakesh

Watch This, Drink That: Holiday Movie Drinking Games

By cwiesendanger on December 17th 2018

Nothing gets us in the holiday spirit like a festive cocktail and a good holiday flick (and maybe a Cashmoore Blanket). Gather your bar cart, light a fire, and curl up – we’ve got your holiday couch agenda covered with our favorite drinking games for Christmas and holiday movies. As always, drink responsibly and refrain from operating sleighs after consumption.

Watch: Elf – Released 15 years ago (Yikes, we know – take a drink for that), this cheery comedy is one of our Yuletide faves. Will Ferrell as the tallest, most enthusiastic elf-slash-human, can do no wrong.

Drink: Spiked egg nog, with a dash of maple syrup. Drink every time Buddy the Elf refers to himself in the third person, every time sugar is referenced, and every time you hear a holiday-friendly alternative to a swear or an insult.

New Line Cinema, via Giphy

Watch: The Santa Clause – Despite the fact that things start out a little dark (Let’s not forget this movie begins with Santa’s traumatic fall off the roof), things quickly turn around and The Santa Clause is a true holiday classic.

Drink: Hot cocoa (with peppermint schnapps). Not too hot. Extra chocolate. Shaken, not stirred. Drink every time Tim Allen raises his eyebrows, every time Neil rocks an awful (but also kind of awesome) sweater, and every time someone mentions The North Pole.

Walt Disney Pictures, via Giphy

Watch: The Holiday – Filled with adorable (and OK, totally unrealistic) meet cutes, Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet’s life swap turned love story gets us in the spirit to celebrate “being young and being alive” year after year.

Drink:A champagne toast. Drink every time you catch yourself staring at Jude Law, every time someone cries, and finish your drink when you get on Airbnb to look for holiday homes.

Watch: Home Alone – Kevin McAllister, master of booby traps, makes a left-home-alone-holiday look equal parts amazing and terrifying.

Drink: Pepsi with a shot of whiskey. For the Home Alone drinking game, drink every time Kevin McAllister talks to himself (can’t say we blame him), every time Harry’s (aka Joe Pesci) gold tooth sparkles, and every time someone runs panicked through an airport.

Twentieth Century Fox, via Giphy

Watch: Bridget Jones’s Diary – A hilarious adaptation of the novel, Renée Zellweger as Bridget Jones makes us all feel a little bit better about our own lives during the holidays.

Drink: A bottle of whatever is in the fridge. No time for judgment here. Drink every time there’s an expletive, every time Bridget drops some shade, and every time you see your favorite reindeer jumper.

Miramax, via Giphy

Watch: Die Hard – This 1988 action thriller was voted the greatest Christmas movie by readers of British film magazine Empire in 2015. Enough said.

Drink: Straight Vodka. Drink every time someone says, “This isn’t a Christmas movie,” every time there’s a reference to Christmas (to prove your point), and take a shot in Alan Rickman’s honor whenever you feel like it.

Watch: Love Actually –Nine stories intertwine to bring us a watch-every-year-and-it-never-gets-old holiday favorite. Plus, Hugh Grant dancing.

Drink: Mulled Wine (a favorite, easy recipe here). Drink every time you hear the smash-hit “Christmas is All Around,” every time someone orchestrates a big romantic gesture, and every time Sarah’s (Laura Linney) phone rings. When you’re through with the Love Actually drinking game, you’ll likely be dancing along.

Universal Pictures, via Giphy

Watch: A Very Murray Christmas –Because there’s never a bad moment for some quality time with Mr. Murray, and this eclectic musical comedy includes a lengthy list of guest appearances (George Clooney, Jason Schwartzman, Miley Cyrus, Maya Rudolph, the list goes on…)

Drink: A strong martini. Bonus points if you’ve got a white piano to sit atop. Drink every time a new celeb makes a cameo (don’t plan on driving anywhere after this game).

Watch: How the Grinch Stole Christmas – The first Dr. Seuss book to be adapted into a full-length feature film, this unexpectedly heartwarming holiday favorite reminds us that Christmas “doesn’t come from a store,” and that The Grinch drinking game is always a good idea.

Drink: The Santa Shot. 1 part grenadine syrup, 1 part green creme de menthe, 1 part peppermint schnapps (recipe here). Drink every time The Grinch accidentally rhymes, has a fleeting moment of feeling, and every time Cindy Lou Who visits Mount Crumpit. Finish your drink when The Grinch’s heart grows.

Universal Pictures, via Giphy