Friendly vibe accompanies tasty brews at Blue Oak Brewing Co. in San Carlos

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
Beer lovers who visit the taproom at Blue Oak Brewing Co. in San Carlos can sample a tap list that features a mix of Belgian and American brews, including a passion fruit kettle sour and a barrel-aged saison.

I first enjoyed Blue Oak Brewing Co.’s beers at the San Mateo County Brewery Festival last summer and finally got around to visiting its cozy taproom on a cool, rainy Thursday evening in January.

Tucked away in an industrial neighborhood in San Carlos, the bar offers seating at a handful of oak barrels with a clear view of the seven-barrel brewhouse where owner and brewer Alex Porter concocts his delicious beers.

Romance and wine: Discovering the perfect bottle to celebrate your love

Courtesy of Christine Moore
A carefully selected bottle of wine can convey more than a simple Valentine’s Day gift.

There are certain items intrinsically linked to Valentine’s Day – mushy cards, paper hearts, little velvet boxes, red roses, dark chocolate, Barry White’s voice and wine.

Of all of these, wine has something above the rest. That’s because wine boosts the appeal of every classically romantic gift out there. Even simple paper hearts laid on a table are elevated to utter romance when they surround a chilled bottle of champagne.

Auspicious treats usher in the Lunar New Year

Photos by Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Chef Lawrence Chu of Chef Chu’s, left, puts sweet and sour sauce on a whole fish, a must-have on Lunar New Year’s Eve. Revelers never finish the fish on Lunar New Year’s Eve, because the Chinese word for fish, “yu,” sounds the same as “surplus” – meaning save some for next year.

As the Lunar New Year approaches, the seafood departments at local Chinese markets gear up for more orders of fish, a must-have for the Chinese New Year’s celebrations that kick off Feb. 16.

Chinese families always share a whole fish on Lunar New Year’s Eve, either at home or at their favorite restaurant. However, they never finish the fish, because the Chinese word for fish, “yu,” sounds the same as “surplus” or “savings” – meaning they have to save the surplus for the year(s) to come.

Quick breads deliver flavor for beginners

Rita Held/Special to the Town Crier
Cranberry-Orange Pecan Bread maximizes flavor with minimal effort.

Even if you’re not an avid baker, quick breads are not to be ignored – especially during busy times of year.

They are simple to prepare, yet they usually deliver so much flavor and enjoyment.

A toast to independent craft brews like Clandestine

Derek Wolfgram/Special to the Town Crier
A mural paying tribute to brewing ingredients and process adorns Clandestine Brewing’s new tap room in San Jose.

As I shopped for my last column in 2017, ending up with beers from three breweries that have been bought out in the past two years, it really struck me just how far the large corporate ownership of craft breweries has advanced.

For the past four and a half years, this column has focused on California-brewed craft beers. In the spirit of showcasing unique, local, independent breweries, my New Year’s resolution for 2018 and beyond is that future columns will include only beers produced by breweries that meet the Brewers Association’s definition of craft brewers.

Paleo brownies start new year indulgently

Photos Courtesy of Blanche Shaheen
Blanche Shaheen’s brownies use “secret” ingredients such as protein powder and pumpkin. She suggests adding fruit and yogurt to make a sundae.

I have grown frustrated with throwing so-called healthy brownies into the trash. Fibrous black-bean brownies; funky, reddish, beet brownies; mealy garbanzo-bean brownies; and even greenish spinach brownies have all met their demise after one bite.

The mantra in nutritious recipe forums goes like this: If you grind up a vegetable long enough and add some sugar, cocoa and whole-grain flour, you are all set for a no-guilt brownie.

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