Vegan Pumpkin Porter Dinner at Four Peaks

Arizona Restaurant Week brings special menus and special events at local restaurants around the Valley. This year I actually had the chance to enjoy one: a special vegan dinner at Tempe’s Four Peaks Brewery. The menu, designed by a local vegan chef and owner of 24 Carrots, was designed to pair with Four Peaks’ seasonal Pumpkin Porter. I joined my vegan friends for this five-course meal paired with a beer for each course.

I’ve never had an issue with vegan food (except vegan cheese – yuck). However, I don’t think I ever would have thought that a vegan meal could be so flavorful, so unique, and so incredible.

The Space

We were brought to a small area set aside for the special event, toward the back of Four Peaks’ dining area near the large brewery vats. Guests were seated at long tables decorated with a cute fall theme. We were all pleased at the effort made to make this event special, even going so far as to change Four Peaks’ usual aesthetic.

The Menu

First Course

The first course was a vegan version of a classic Indian street food called pani puri. The chef brought a piece of her Indian heritage, masterfully combining vegan choices with the brewery by using beer as the base for the “water” poured into the puff. This was an incredibly fun way to start a meal. Everyone enjoyed the new experience. The light, hollow puff is tapped to open a hole. The potato based filling is then stuffed, and the fizzy and spicy sauce is poured in and over. The powerful mix of flavors and textures made a strong impression on our palates and set high expectations for the rest of the meal.

It was paired with the Wow Wheat wheatbier. It seemed almost unnecessary due to the beer in the sauce, but it was the best tasting beer next to the porter.

Second Course

A light salad followed, perhaps less exciting than the starter, but delicious nonetheless. This salad of earthy salad based mostly in kale was lightened by citrus and fall fruits, counteracting the bitterness of kale. It was dressed with the perfect amount of dressing, imparting flavor consistently without drowning the individual flavors of each component. I would have only left out the chamomile flower. Though the chef described it as edible, it carried an overwhelming perfumed flavor out of place from the salad.

This was paired with a Raj IPA. I don’t particularly enjoy IPAs, but I noticed most of the table didn’t finish the entire drink.

Third Course

As I mentioned before, I’m generally cautious of anything vegan that is said to have “cheese” in it. However, instead of fake cheese this dish was made primarily with coconut milk and pumpkin to create the creamy texture of a cheese sauce. There was the slightest hint of spice, most prominent in the “beef” mixed with spicy peppers. At this point we were getting full, but no one was willing to put their fork down or stop themselves from finishing the food on their plate.

This course featured the star beer. The pumpkin porter is a dark beer suited to the sweet addition of the pumpkin. I’ve been looking for it at every grocery store because it was so delicious.

Fourth Course

I can only describe this dish as sorcery. To take a piece of mushroom, bread it and season it to the point that it is indistinguishable from meat, is pure skill. The breading was crisp and light. The mushroom was not too dense and the flavor was savory like fried chicken. However, the waffle was so dense it was hard to cut and chew. I have no idea how the chef made the “hunny” on it, but the sweetness was the perfect complement.

This course was paired with the Chai-PA. Again, I don’t care for IPA but the chai spices added to this were nice. I would not think to pair chai with “chikun” and waffles!

Fifth Course

Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, they bring out the piece de resistance, a beautiful slice of chocolate cake. The cake was perfectly moist. The frosting by itself tasted strongly of vegetable oil, but was sweetened to complement the rich cake. Paired with the crunch from sweet candied pecans and a hint of pumpkin caramel, we devoured this amazing dessert.

Porters go amazingly well with dessert. This last beer was the Double Pumpkin Porter. When I asked what the difference was, I was told this had a higher alcohol content.

Final Thoughts

My vegan friends were happy to find a vegan meal worthy of the hype for Restaurant Week. I was along for the ride and enjoying every bite. If Four Peaks ever does another event like this, I highly encourage vegans and non-vegans alike to attend. In the meantime, the chef has her own restaurant in the Valley – 24 Carrots in Tempe. I’ll definitely be visiting in the future!

This Week in the Kitchen

Things have been busy preparing for interview season! I’m finally getting enough free time to get back in the kitchen and try new recipes.

Foodie Fails

The cold brew I tried to make using milk instead of water actually turned to be okay when I poured it into black coffee. I also tried making my cold brew with fancy glacier bottled water to see if it made a big change in flavor. I’m excited to see what else my coffee book can teach me about making better cold brew at home

Slutty Brownies: These 6 layer slutty brownies from TikTok were supposed to be made with cookie butter but I used peanut butter instead. Apparently peanut butter has a boiling point? They boiled over and made a mess. The brownies were edible and people like them. Maybe next time I’ll switch the PB and nutella layers.

Around the World

Escites: I used a recipe from NY Times. It’s basically elote but off the cob. I could have eaten the entire bowl.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: The newest season of GBBO

Currently Reading: Books on the medical school interview

Week 6 Showstopper: Dobos Torte

European Cake Week ended with a Hungarian cake known as a dobos torte. Created in the late 1800’s, it is a sponge cake layered with chocolate buttercream and then topped with caramel. The sides of the cake have been traditionally coated with ground nuts. The bakers were asked to make a “contemporary” version with at least two tiers. In addition, the bakers were instructed to focus on caramel/sugar work for decoration.

Authentic Dobos Torte (Hungarian Dobos Cake Recipe in 21 Steps)

The Plan

For me, “contemporary” here is referring primarily to the appearance, especially considering the emphasize on sugar work. I’ll be using this recipe from Food52 for the sponge and frosting (mmm coffee). However I also included ideas from this baker in regard to decor. I’m actually most worried about the sugar work, as hot sugar can be dangerous and result in burns. I’ve also struggled with caramel in the past…

The Bake

  1. The Sponge

These European cakes have such weird batters! The egg whites were whipped separately from the batter containing a ton of egg yolks. The egg whites were folded into the thick batter. Thankfully this made it east to spread in the pans.

2. The Bake

The first few sponges were difficult. I tried greasing the pan and dusting with flour, which worked much better than parchment paper. The sponge tasted good, but I actually think my “thin” layer wasn’t thin enough so I ended up with only a few layers instead of the 12 I expected.

3. The Buttercream

Oh gosh. I have never struggled so badly with a buttercream. Buttercream is not my friend but I got impatient. I didn’t wait for the chocolate/coffee mix to cool enough. It was a whole 30 minutes and it was still hot! I tried putting in the butter and it melted. Adding more butter managed to make it slightly less liquid, but essentially I poured the frosting onto the cake.

4. The Assembly

With thick layers and liquid buttercream, let’s just say the assembly was a disaster. I think the image speaks for itself.

5. Decoration

I hoped to make pretty sugar work. I have no idea how brittle gets cut into pretty triangles… The brittle took forever to make and it was still a little chewy. I’m not 100% if I messed up or maybe it was just more humid that day? I was so exhausted I gave up on spinning sugar.

Final Thoughts

My husband and I tried this. It went better than the Princess cake but it was still a hot mess. He called it the cake equivalent of someone who wasn’t pretty but had a “good personality.” The buttercream had a nice coffee flavor mingled with the chocolate. The sponge was very light and sweet. Together it was nice, but it was hard to eat. Props to me for managing some semblance of layers!

This Week in the Kitchen

This week has been a week of “procrasti-baking”. I’m applying to medical school and I’ve been avoiding the essays like the plague. I’ve been getting my house in order – cleaning, organizing, and cooking. Mess and clutter adds to my stress, but I know it’s also a bit of a way to ignore my other work.

Recipes/Experiments

Mermaid Mimosa: My first sort-of cocktail. I really need to get a cocktail making kit so I know how much I’m actually putting in. Very blue, not bad tasting.

Pepper Lunch: A trend from TikTok. It seems to be a popular take-out lunch from a restaurant (possibly in Japan?) Needed more pepper.

Foodie Fails

I watched a TikTok video where someone took a mostly empty jar of Nutella, filled it with heavy cream, shook it, and froze it to make Nutella ice cream. Did not work for me. Maybe I should have melted the Nutella?

Around the World

Ramen “Bokumbap”: Bokumbap is fried rice. This recipe added Shin ramen (a Korean brand). Super tasty and easy to make!

Korean Corn Cheese: a cheesy corn dip that’s a popular bar food in Korea. I even got to use my new countertop oven.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: MasterChef (I’m on Season 11)

Currently Reading: Brew

I’m into the recipe part of this book. Hoping to try out some techniques and recipes soon.

Restaurants Tried

The Lola: Sunday brunch had a line out the door! Love their birthday celebration (Hint: it involves fireworks)

Chicken & Waffles

Steve’s Espresso: an eclectic coffee shop full of artsy types. They seem to be purists about certain coffees. I enjoyed iced French press coffee.

Recipe Notebook 2.0

I filled another notebook. There are two others floating around my house, but I thought I’d share the best and worst of the recipes scribbled among the to-do lists and wedding plans. Some of these may have been shared in m

Please note some recipes aren’t online so I can only share where I found them!

Recipes to Highlight:

Cardamom Orange Sugar Cookies: I made these for a Christmas cookie box and they nearly rivaled my famous ginger molasses cookies.

Aquafaba Meringues from NYT Cooking: You would never guess these are vegan.

Two Vinegar Chicken from NYT Cooking: Served over polenta, this vinegary chicken has a bold, acidic flavor.

BBQ Chicken Legs: These chicken drums were super easy to cook in a slow cooker with a sweet and tangy bourbon barbeque sauce.

Tomato Soup Cake: I know it sounds weird but it doesn’t taste like tomato at all. I found this because of a TikTok and it did not disappoint.

Spicy Asparagus: This amazing Korean woman shares recipes from her Korean home-cooking. Her whole channel is amazing.

Costco Copycat Muffins: These use a package of jello pudding and boxed cake mix to make super moist and rich muffins (honestly they’re really like small cakes). They almost didn’t make it to the potluck.

Foodie Fails:

Churro Lava Cakes: Not sure if this was an issue with the recipe or just a simple failure of execution. I made four of these cakes for the Great British Bake Through. There was definitely no lava in these lava cakes.

Mint Julep Part One: Another Great British Bake Through challenge, only this time I failed this one and chose a different recipe. The crust was smooshy and awful and the filling never set. Never make this pie.

Pane di Pasqua: Though it made a pretty Easter centerpiece, I don’t think I kneaded it enough, which made the dough thick. Despite baking it longer than suggested it was still raw inside.

There is another notebook in my kitchen right now mixed with all sorts of things. Let’s see how long it takes before I fill it.

This Week in the Kitchen

I haven’t been as active in the kitchen lately. Between work and my school applications I’ve been unmotivated. The physician I work for will be gone for most of the month of July. I’m hoping that will help restore my routine. It’s time to start meal prepping again.

Recipes/Experiments

Sweet & Salty Rice Krispies: Rice krispies with crumbled potato chips. Next time I think I need a sturdier chip.

Copycat Costco Muffins: Tweaking a box of cake mix and adding jello was supposed to make muffins similar to the ones from Costco. They weren’t really like Costco’s but they were super moist and delicious.

Foodie Fails

The cold brew I tried to make using milk instead of water actually turned to be okay when I poured it into black cofffee. I’m excited to see what my coffee book can teach me about making better cold brew at home

Slutty Brownies: These 6 layer slutty brownies from TikTok were supposed to be made with cookie butter but I used peanut butter instead. Apparently peanut butter has a boiling point? They boiled over and made a mess. The brownies were edible and people like them. Maybe next time I’ll switch the PB and nutella layers.

Around the World

Beef & Broccoli: I made my first recipe from Jet Tila’s cookbook “101 Asian Dishes to Make Before You Die”. With all these trips to the Asian markets have stocked my pantry with everything I need.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: MasterChef (I’m on Season 7)

Currently Reading: Brew

I’m almost done reading this! Currently debating on whether I should buy some different coffee makers like a Moka pot and Chemex.

Restaurants Tried

Kick Ass Coffee of Hawaii – I finally tried one of their signature lattes.

This Week in the Kitchen

A lot of my inspiration, cooking, and food lately has been focused on Asia. For those of you who don’t know me I lived in China for a year. My brother currently lives in Korea. My hobbies include listening to kpop and watching anime and other Asian dramas. I started experiencing Asian food modeling off the media I was consuming (snacks from T.V shows, recipes from celebrity’s favorites). Lately I’ve been visiting Asian markets and it has been supplying ingredients and new things to try.

Recipes/Experiments

Korean Soy-Sauce Eggs: These delicious soft-boiled eggs were marinated in several aromatics. Opening the lid when they were done marinating just smelled amazing. I took out the eggs and then marinated chicken in it!

I wanted to brag about the memorial day dinner I made. I made a Korean-inspired “cook out”. We grilled up some pre-marinated meat from H-mart (bulgogi and pork belly), made some Japanese mayo-based sauces, and made them into burgers. This was served with Kimchi potato salad from NY Times and blanched asparagus with a gochujang sauce.

I learned a new burger trick! Take store-bought burger buns, brush with egg white, sprinkle salt and pepper on top. Put into the oven at 375 for 5-8 minutes.

Foodie Fails

I saw someone on TikTok make their cold brew with milk. She had coffee pouches similar to a tea bag and a large mason jar. I tried using my standard cold brew maker from Amazon.

Around the World

The trips to Asian grocery stores continue! Last week I got an intense haul from H-Mart (a Korean market chain). Examples of snacks eaten include corn ice cream (it even looked like a little corn!), Takoyaki (fried octopus ball) puffs, and instant beef bone soup.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: MasterChef (I’m on Season 6)

Currently Reading: Brew

Restaurants Tried

Palette Collective Coffee Shop (Tempe)

This Week in the Kitchen

TikTok really has been showing me all these fun recipes and tricks. I feel like half of the things I’ve made in the kitchen lately have been from some TikTok.

Recipes/Experiments

Honeycomb Crispies: Switching out Honeycomb seemed like a delicious idea but adding the honey changed the texture of the

Lebanese Hummus: Another TikTok recipe. Absolutely amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever had hummus that tasted this good. I thought adding water would make it runny but it was a perfect smooth, thick texture. I am never buying Sabra hummus again.

Foodie Fails

I tried to make an omelette (fritatta?) from of a TikTok video. It used enoki mushrooms, which I love, but mine were thicker and bigger so the texture didn’t look as nice. Then I forgot to use my non-stick pan and ended up with scrambled eggs instead…

Around the World

I tried boba milk tea from a can. The milk tea wasn’t bad but the boba were awful!

Yuanyang Tea: This is a Hong Kong style beverage made from black tea and coffee. I need to figure out the right balance.

Foodie Media

Currently Watching: Best Baker in America

Currently Reading: Brew. This is going to turn me into SUCH a coffee snob I swear.

Restaurants Tried

I drove out to H-Mart in Mesa. Husband and I ate lunch at the food court. I had black bean noodles and he ordered Korean fried chicken from Left Wing.

Would you guys like me to write a guide to their Food Court?

This Week in the Kitchen

Welcome to a new series where I document my less exciting progress in the kitchen. I don’t always have time for my Great British Bake Off challenges, or fancier recipes to show off. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying new foods, playing around with new recipes, or going to restaurants around the Valley.

Recipes/Experiments

I fried eggs in cream based off of a suggestion from Food52. Delicious!

Mix peanut butter, plain yogurt (I use Siggis), and a little bit of honey. Dip apples in it for a delicious snack.

I made a Food Network recipe for flank steak with cabbage and bacon. I think this is the best steak I’ve made yet.

Foodie Fails

I tried to make cookie brittle from a cookbook called Genius Desserts (by Food52). It seemed simple until I forgot to add all of the flour and poured it into the pan… and realized after it started baking. I was so frustrated I just threw it away and didn’t try to remake it.

Around the World

I’ve been venturing to different Asian grocery stores in my community. I went to one near my house that I’d never seen before and picked up some goodies.

First I tried, Filipino spaghetti made from a package of sauce.

I also bought frozen ddeukboki, a Korean bar food/street food dish made with rice cakes, fish cakes, and a spicy sauce.

I also bought my first container of Japanese mayo, which I used in a “ramen hack” I saw on TikTok.

Foodie Media

Currently watching: Chopped Sweets.

Currently Reading: Brew

Restaurants Tried

Mochi Fresh (Tempe)

Bourbon Steak (Scottsdale) – Review coming soon!

My Recipe Notebook

As many of you may have assumed from my post on Mise En Place and learning to cook, I write down all of my recipes before I try them. I remember things best when I write them down. There are probably four or five notebooks around my house with various scribbles. Though they are primarily used for recipes I may have grocery lists, to-do lists, and other lists in them as well. Recently I filled one entire notebook. I thought it would be nice to reminisce on some memories and mention some of the best recipes.

This notebook seems to have started out for To-Do lists. I can tell it started in 2018 based on the Medical school list and the calculations I did for my taxes. It goes all the way through the pandemic, including my wedding, and into early 2021. The first few recipes don’t have titles. Based on the instructions I can tell one was a strawberry shortcake recipe. I can also see that this is where I started to venture out into global cuisines. There are recipes for curries, bubble & squeak, and other recipes with origins from outside of the U.S.

Please note some recipes aren’t online so I can only share where I found them!

Recipes to Highlight:

Peach Tart: the almond extract in this is a perfect note with the sweet, sweet peaches. The crust was crumbly and light. My family devoured it.

Peanut Butter Miso Cookies: The miso in this NY Times recipe adds an umami to a class peanut butter cookie. The contrast of this umami with the demerara sugar and sweet PB was heavenly.

Asparagus Orzo with Breadcrumbs: I think I ate 3 servings of this NY Times recipe. I couldn’t stop eating it! The tang of the lemon and the crunch of the breadcrumbs made this pasta dish out of this world.

Ribs with Balsamic BBQ Sauce: Cook your ribs however you want but make sure you use this rich, savory barbeque sauce from NY Times.

Baked Ziti: Simple, easy, and delicious. Hearty enough to feed hungry men.

Pureed Sweet Potatoes in Yogurt: Game changer. Super filling, healthy, and delicious.

Filipino Spaghetti: I heard this was made with something called “banana ketchup”. I found a pre-made sauce that made the sauce easy. Love the sweetness.

Bacon Kimchi Udon: If I hadn’t oversoaked the noodles it would have been absolutely perfect. Smoky, creamy, and slightly tart from the kimchi.

Foodie Fails:

Pão de queijo: I bought cassava flour, which may have been the mistake. They ended up dense and gummy, not light and fluffy.

Cold Cream of Mint & Pea Soup: My very first recipe from Jacque Pepin’s cookbook exploded out of my food processor! What a mess!

Biscuits: My husband’s family loves biscuits and gravy. I can make gravy just fine but I’ve failed biscuit recipe after biscuit recipe.

There are some recipes here I’m definitely going to have to re-visit. Some of the other notebooks are reaching their last few pages. Stay tuned!