Fish n Chips + Beer

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It’s weeks like these when I’m away from home, up in the ‘big smoke’, when I really miss my daily beach trips.

I also miss my laptop, writing a blog post on a phone is relatively hard!

A couple of Fridays ago my partner and I took fish n chips down to the beach, the sun was setting and we could hear music and laughing from the nearby bar. Happy days!

It’s funny to think how many times you see Fish n Chips on a menu and it sets you back almost $30 just for one serve. Forget that, give me a mass of food for less than $20, a view like this and a bottle of delicious beer. On this occasion we had Little Creatures pints purchased from Cape Cellars in Busselton, they almost always have them on a great 2 for deal!

Now that’s how you finish the working week!

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Margaret River + 4 Hours

What to do in Margaret River for 4 hours?

You could walk through the town centre, pick up a take away coffee from The Urban Bean and duck your head into any one of the great stores for local produce, gifts, surf wear or a good book to read. You could park yourself at Settlers Tavern, try a pint of something locally brewed and order a generous and hearty lunch. Or … if you’re me … you cram as much food and beer into that 4 hours as you can …

What to do in Margaret River for 4 hours?

You could walk through the town centre, pick up a take away coffee from The Urban Bean and duck your head into any one of the great stores for local produce, gifts, surf wear or a good book to read.

You could park yourself at Settlers Tavern, try a pint of something locally brewed and order a generous and hearty lunch.

You could drive down to the River Mouth and, if you’re not completely uncoordinated like me, have a surf, then lie on the sand where champion world surfers like Kelly Slater have hung out during the famous Margaret River Masters surf comp.

Or … if you’re me … you cram as much food and beer into that 4 hours as you can …

Stop #1 – Margaret River Dairy Company | Bussell Highway, on your way south towards Margaret River

Margaret River Cheese Shop … the more quaint one

Beer and Cheese are just meant to be. There was no way I was going to just drive past without stopping and the best thing about the Margaret River Dairy Company, apart from yummy cheese, is that they give you two shots at making sure you get some. Both shops are on Bussell Highway, admittedly one is pretty big and the other is a quaint little shop but as long as there is cheese I’m not complaining! I always seem to go to the second shop; it could be because I like the country-feel of the smaller shop or, more likely, I fail to stop in time for the first one.

My normal purchase is the $30 pack which consists of Water Crackers, Marinated Fetta, your choice of Cheddar, Brie or Camembert and a choice of one of their Farmhouse Cheeses. Great gifts if you can resist opening them and diving head first into cheese-topia.

This time I changed things up and opted for some others that I had not eaten recently, selecting some Emmental, Double Cream Camembert, regular Camembert and Baked Ricotta. Beer and Cheese night at the house will be happening shortly!

Hand picked and soon to be devoured in a beer + cheese frenzy

Stop #2 – Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River

I arrived before the lunch rush and, since it’s school holidays, managed to avoid lots of kids running around being human trip hazards. After a short chatter with the brewers Mal and Sorcha, I started to feel guilty as I was doing nothing and they were hauling kegs around so I thought I’d better make a move. Of course I had to try the Kolsch before departure which Sorcha poured for me and I was much appreciative. They are using a paler malt now and it’s getting closer to Mal’s experience of a true Cologne (Germany) Kolsch. Delicate and citrusy, it was indeed very good! The Baltic Porter, or “balty” as Mal referred to it, is very close to release, give it another couple of weeks and keep your eyes on Facebook.

Colonial Brewery … Baltic Porter coming soon!

Stop #3 – Margaret River Venison Farm | 5103 Caves Road, Margaret River

Margaret River Venison Farm

I had intended on going from Colonial to Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery. I took Cowaramup Bay Road (that would end at gorgeous Gracetown) and approached Caves Road. I knew that if I turned right I would be only a few kilometres from Cheeky Monkey however signage told me that if I turned left it was a mere 3km to the Margaret River Venison Farm. I thought about their Coat of Arms Chorizo and turned left whilst trying not to drool.

I walked out with a small selection of goods with the idea of meat + beer buzzing in my head and wondered what would match with Emu Ham, Coat of Arms Chorizo (Kangaroo and Emu) and Smoked Beef. I gotta get myself to the International Beer Shop sooner rather than later!

Meat, glorious meat …

Stop #4 – Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery | 4259 Caves Road, Margaret River

Sitting down to a middy of their Old Reliable Classic Pale Ale meant I had now tried all the Cheeky Monkey beers on offer. I also got to meet and chat with “Red”, the Head Brewer and it was well over an hour later before I stopped inundating him with questions. Poor guy.

The Pale Ale, nicknamed amongst staff as “space monkey” (check out the graphics to see why) was great with well balanced hop bitterness and nice biscuity notes. Had I not been driving I would have easily and happily indulged in a pint. There are plenty of ideas of the next few single batches, or “Brewer’s Choice” releases so its well worth keeping an eye out for those on their Facebook page.

And that was my afternoon, back home in time to walk the puppy and cook some dinner and wonder why we didn’t move to the South West sooner!

Cheeky Monkey Brewery & Cidery
Margaret River

Here’s a rough map (i.e. please don’t use it in lieu of proper directions!) of my afternoon …

Bread + Beer

Coopers Pale Ale Damper and trying their 150th celebration ale, funnily enough named Thomas Cooper’s Celebration Ale

Whilst writing up my post for Coopers Pale Ale I stumbled across a recipe from the Coopers website for Damper. Bread beer, huh? Yeah, I’d like that.

First I had a couple of hurdles to overcome. One was not having any beer after a rather indulgent weekend so a trip to the local bottleshop soon fixed that. The second was a little more difficult – we don’t have a sieve in the house and neither did our local IGA. Damn. Whilst I was staring at a large tea strainer and wondering just how much patience I possessed (as a female only child the answer was unflatteringly clear); my boyfriend was juggling a packet of paper cups. It seemed like a decent solution – poke some holes and Bob’s your uncle! (and I do have an Uncle Bob).

After stabbing several paper cups with a variety of instruments – corkscrew, screwdriver, pen and sewing needle – it became glaringly apparently it wasn’t such a good idea after all. I continued on with the ingredients list and threw in rosemary picked fresh from our backyard and thickly sliced Spanish olives and, of course, a generous bit of Coopers Pale Ale. It was a strange thing to pour beer into a measuring glass so, for good measure I poured the rest of the 750ml bottle into two glasses for myself and my boyfriend.

As I write this the damper has another ten minutes in the oven so I thought I’d look into the origins of damper since I don’t much except some association with Australian Aborigines; I think I remember doing some sort of damper cooking thing as a kid at primary school. Wikipedia describes damper as “Australian soda bread” by mixing flour, water and milk (if available) and shoving it into the ashes of the camp fire. I figure since mine is in the oven it’s gotta have a fighting chance of being half decent .. surely.

Whilst at the bottleshop, reaching for a king brown size bottle of Coopers Pale Ale, I noticed the Thomas Cooper’s Selection Celebration Ale and just had to grab a 6 pack. Released in celebration of their 150th year, the Celebration Ale uses hops from Australia, New Zealand and United States and local malt. I hadn’t read a great deal about the ale but in my head I was expecting some sort of hybrid of their pale and vintage ale, instead it’s more of a hopped, sweeter and earthier pale ale with a nice deep red colour. As it warmed up in the glass all the flavours came together with really nice balance and medium body. A nice drop.

Just over an hour and 2 Cooper’s Celebrations Ales later …

Not a resounding success, it was still a bit doughy in the middle and perhaps being in a cake tin didn’t help it much either. I went a little overboard in the rosemary department but the olives were delightful. Looking at other recipes I think I can easily improve on the Coopers one by actually making a dough rather than a goo and do the whole kneading thing. We ate it anyway in a platter of marinated octopus, grilled chorizo, camembert and red capsicum dip.  Oh well, it means I will have to get some more Coopers Pale and try it again sometime …

Coopers + Busselton Jetty

But there are beers that you happily return to time and time again, that you’ll take a 6 pack to dinner at a friend’s house, that you’ll reach for in the bottleshop safe in the knowledge you’ll get something you will really enjoy. Coopers Pale Ale most certainly falls into that category for me.

A clear and beautiful winter day at The Jetty

I love the Busselton Jetty, it’s intriguing, romantic and historic all at the same time.

It’s a lovely stroll along 1.8km of timber which apparently makes it the longest timber piled jetty in the Southern Hemisphere; apparently you can’t have a major tourist attraction unless it’s the biggest, longest, tallest, something-est etc. Whether record breaking or not, the walk will take you past people casting lines out into the ocean; there’s significant black splotches on the timber to indicate it’s a good spot for catching squid. There’s a fair few tired looking kids with parents full of encouragement who just want to convince the kid it’s worth getting to the end of the Jetty; always funny to see a temper tantrum in full action. Outside of the great people watching there is, of course, the Jetty itself with the walk taking you along beautiful blue water and the Underwater Observatory going 8 metres below sea level to reveal hundreds of species of marine life. As you walk the Jetty there are stories to be found, bits of history to take in and sections of the old jetty linger as more tangible reminder of what used to be there.

One of two weather vanes on Busselton Jetty

Every visit is a little different. Sometimes I will do the Underwater Observatory, sometimes it’s just a walk to the end and back and sometimes it’s just a quick look before heading into The Goose for some breakfast. I can go and visit the Jetty time and time again and it’s always enjoyable … just like your favourite beer.

Now I should probably scratch those words “favourite beer” because they don’t mean much, I can’t pick a single favourite beer. Hell, I can’t even pick a single favourite beer style. It depends on mood, time of day, the people you’re with, what you’re eating, what music you’re listening too …

But there are beers you happily return to time and time again, that you’ll take a 6 pack to dinner at a friend’s house, that you’ll reach for in the bottleshop safe in the knowledge you’ll get something you will really enjoy. Coopers Pale Ale most certainly falls into that category for me.

Coopers Pale Ale is brewed without any artificial preservatives or anything nasty like that and it’s bottle conditioned, meaning yeast will go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle after it’s been capped. This processes creates carbon dioxide for natural carbonation rather than using an injection of CO2 to force carbonation. This mean lots of great things for the beer such as longer shelf life, more complex flavours, finer carbonation and better head retention and, all in all, a happier beer.

I might not have spent the weekend trying to cook up some sort of Masterchef inspired dish to match it and it’s not a limited release or a collaboration brew. What it is, however, is a damn fine beer that is fruity with light malt and a pleasantly bitter finish; it is consistently good quality, all Australian owned and with a rich history and all of this for a good price. It’s the beer my boyfriend and I have been enjoying this weekend and it’s nice to remember that great beer isn’t just the one-off cross country collaboration brews but also the home grown, well crafted beers you’ve been drinking for years.

girl + beer … on location

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse. Mal is Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery in Margaret River and invited me to hang out in the brewery for the day whilst they brewed the next Limited Edition Colonial beer – a Baltic Porter. Due to release in late June/early July – start planning your South West getaway now!

girl+beer on location at Colonial Brewing, Margaret River

Friday 25th May 2012 …

Only in the South West could an attempt to catch up with a mate result in a day in a brewhouse …

I’ve spent many a happy conversation chatting with Mal, Head Brewer at Colonial Brewery at various beer events. At some of these events Colonial have been offering beautiful Western Australian oysters with their Kolsch and I’ve indulged in more than one (or five) at a time, shovelling them as elegantly as I could manage whilst standing up and juggling a beer.

Mal and I have been meaning to catch up over a pint for a while now so when I found myself with a Friday off I thought it would be a great opportunity. After all, who could refuse a Friday afternoon beer?! However my suggestion was nicely one-up-ed  by Mal’s invitation to spend a day at the brewhouse whilst they brewed the next limited release – a Baltic Porter. “Do you want to come and join in?”, he asked. I think my reply was “hell yes”.

I was excited … really excited. Mash in was scheduled for 8am and Mal gave me an open invitation to head over whenever. There seemed to be an understanding that 8am might be what I’d consider “violently early”. I really wanted to be there for the mash and my boyfriend pointed out that I’d be mad to miss it. I knew he was right so I set my alarm and dreamt a beery-sleep. It was still very dark outside when my alarm started making seriously unpleasant noises. It went off again after the factory determined “snooze” time was up and it was still dark and it was really cold and as you’ve probably guessed by now, I missed the mash in.

I arrived just after 9am after a quick read through my Oxford Companion to Beer to remind myself about Baltic Porters.

An English style, referring to strong Porter beers exported off to the Baltic countries such as Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

Mal introduced me to his partner in brewing crime, Sorcha, and I proceeded to spend the day being either one of their shadows. I was encouraged to ask as many questions as I liked and, in most cases, needed because keeping up with brewer jargon in the wild is a little fast paced for this beer drinking gal. I’ve done a number of tours through breweries in my career – Matilda Bay, Gage Roads, Little Creatures, White Rabbit and Elmar’s in the Valley but it’s all surface stuff – here’s some equipment, here’s what is does, and so forth which is always great, don’t get me wrong, but compared to spending a whole day at a brewery … it’s the difference between listening to a CD and seeing the act live on stage.

The Colonial Baltic Porter will follow in the footsteps of earlier limited edition beers Keutebier and Mumme to continue the journey in old beer styles that have been a little neglected in recent times. Without concern for the latest trending styles or what Joe Bloggs is brewing down the road or on the other side of the Earth for that matter, Mal and Colonial are about beer styles that have captured their attention and, in turn, their desire to brew it for themselves. Colonial’s Limited Editions have gained significant momentum, flying out the door of the brewery, on show at sister venues The Royal and The Raffles and a few stray kegs making their way to like minded beer venues like Clancy’s Fish Pub Dunsborough and The Norfolk Hotel.

Having not brewed the Baltic Porter before the process was almost like baby sitting a small child, watching everything it was doing to make sure it was okay. It can’t be too hot or too cold or too thick and there was continuous testing. As the morning went on I had started to feel somewhat of a really incompetent stalker, following too closely behind poor Mal and Sorcha, so I volunteered to help with the testing. I was proud as punch as I stood in the brewery with a beaker of soon-to-be Baltic Porter in a small tub of ice water, swishing it around and watching the thermometer reach 20 degrees when it was ready for testing. I must have resembled some sort of mad Asian scientist, swishing a black liquid and smiling a slightly deranged smile. It’s a miracle I was invited back again or perhaps Mal was just being super polite.

The first step I got to see was the mash being transferred to the lauder tun. I peered in to see what was happening whilst the contents of the tank slowly rose as the pump worked diligently. That pump certainly had it’s work cut out for it with the Baltic Porter mash being a much thicker one than it had previously dealt with so we were on the look out for any signs of struggle. As the mash began recirculating Sorcha and I decided it looked a little like a cappuccino.

Now it was time for sparging. I used to think sparging was simply washing the mash with water from a thing that looked like an upside sprinkler. Whilst I’m not essentially wrong I did learn a lot more. Yes, it’s about washing the mash and basically making sure you’re getting the most good stuff that you can but it’s also a balancing act between too little, too much, too hot and too cold. There was more staring into the tank at this stage and without a functioning torch it was trickier but thankfully Sorcha had a back up – the iPhone Torch app. It was severely battery draining but turned out to be rather handy on this particular day. Oh and even now on reflection I still stand by my original thinking that the sparging bit looks like an upside down sprinkler.

Soon it was time for the almost-beer to move house again. This time from the lauter tun to the kettle, ready for the boil and the whirlpool. As it bubbled along I was once again struck by the intricacy of it all. Who’ve have thought beer was so sensitive? I mean I knew it was an art and I knew, in theory, that any number of factors could affect the final outcome but it’s really ANY number of factors, no matter how seemingly small. It’s crazy. As we watched the bubbles, monitoring what they were doing, Sorcha remarked it sounded like a babbling brook and from there we came up with the idea for a ‘Sounds of the Brewery’ relaxation tape. I think we were half serious; I’ll have to chat with her later to further develop the idea.

Now it was time for hops and so carefully measured doses of East Kent Goldings and Northern Brewer were thrown in for a nice hot bubbly swim in the kettle. I spent more time with my head in the tank and although I was blinking profusely as my contact lens’ struggled with the steam; I was also enjoying the aromas.

“Time for the messy part” I was told. Sorcha and Mal played around with the forklift and positioned a big white tub under the gaping mouth of the lauter tun. Then a slightly scary looking piece of machinery with spinny things was wheeled in. The process I am poorly describing is the removal of all the spent grain from the lauter tun, ready to be taken away and eaten by the local cattle or, sometimes, pigs. Apparently pigs go nuts for it. Those crazy, drunken pigs.

Mal started up the machine and it was damn loud. He declared himself to be a gentlemen as he handed me his ear muffs for my already slightly deteriorated ears. The spent grain overfilled two of these huge tubs, hitting home again just how much of a bigger style the Baltic Porter is going to be.

Time for the whirlpool. The whirlpool removes all the hop fragments and other bits and pieces that don’t belong by whirling it all up into one mass of stuff called the trub. We had to listen out for the gurgling noises and I remarked how it sounded like a bath tub being emptied. From here it was time to cool things down and the heat exchanger quickly went to work since yeast doesn’t really like to be boiled. Fair enough too.

The first Colonial Baltic Porter was now well on it’s way to completion! It was time to celebrate and unwind with a little more testing, this time of the tasting variety …

The limited release beers I’ve tried in recent memory have all been big, hoppy American styles and I’ve enjoyed them all but, as a category, pale ale is wider reaching than this and Colonial Pale Ale is a great reminder to this. Inspired by German ale styles the Colonial Pale Ale is an Altbier, a type of Pale Ale, that is beautiful with great biscuity malt, peppery spice and medium body. The background for Altbier evolves from older German ales, like the Keutebier style which was Colonial’s last limited release, with the name “alt” meaning “old” being a relative term to when lagers were gaining in popularity.

Next up we tasted the Kolsch and although by strict definition a true Kolsch is brewed in Cologne, Germany, there are a couple of great Australian breweries producing their own Kolsch style beers. I’ve enjoyed countless Colonial Kolsch pints and it’s always a sensational beer exhibiting great balance in spiciness, bitterness and hoppiness. I also love this style because it’s a great one to recommend to people who are tipping their toes in the water of craft brewing. When I was working at Five Bar we recommended it to a bunch of fellow hospitality folk and they drank us out of both the Sunner Kolsch, from Cologne, and 4 Pines Kolsch.

The final taster was the Colonial Porter, a fittingly dark number to end the day on with coffee and chocolate delivered with medium body.

I left Colonial with a massive smile on my face, as I normally do anyway, and a far better understanding of the beer making process. Mal and Sorcha were fantastic hosts, as well as Sarah in the bar for making me a great coffee and Adam in the kitchen for an epic fish burger for lunch. Be sure to look out for Colonial’s next Limited Edition – Baltic Porter – due to land in late June/early July. What a perfect excuse for a winter South West getaway, huh?

Colonial Brewing | Osmington Road, Margaret River
Open Daily 11am – 6pm

Nøgne Ø + International Beer Shop

International Beer Shop + Kjetil Jikiun, Head Brewer of Nøgne Ø + 4 great Nøgne Ø beers = a happy beer girl

Kjetil Jikiun from Nøgne ø + Me
Nøgne ø … the brewery from Norway that refuses to compromise, committed to taste, committed to craft beer

This is the first sentence you see on the Nøgne Ø website. I like it’s simplicity and directness. There’s no messing around here – it’s not sunshine and lollipops it’s just damn fine beer. Their beers, from the ones I have experienced so far, certainly seem to reflect these elements too. If you have time, read through the story behind Nøgne Ø. It is an interesting read because it feels like a real story from a human being instead of a marketing spiel, edited and changed to a more romantic version of events. You could almost be sitting beside Kjetil Jikiun (Founder, Head Brewer, Owner and All Round Nice Guy) enjoying a beer and listening to the history of the brewery unfold on the bar table. As a side note, he is described in the website as “the bearded giant”. Since it was pretty close to the first thing I thought when I met him, I thought that was worth mentioning.

The International Beer Shop played hosted to Kjetil Jikiun on Monday night for a Nøgne Ø Tasting and Tap Takeover, an hour of beer talk and sampling of four of their beers. With almost 20 beers in year round production and countless other special, seasonal and collaboration brews it was a delight to taste a nice cross section of their different offerings.

  • India Saison
  • Brown Ale
  • Kollaborator
  • #500 Imperial IPA
I wanted to take photos but it proved rather tricky. I had tasting notes in one hand and beer in the other and I didn’t fancy drawing attention to myself as I tried juggling them. For those who know me, hand/eye coordination doesn’t spring to mind as one of my strong points. You’ll just have to head down to The International Beer Shop (or even shop online!) and grab them to see and try for yourselves. In the mean time, perhaps I can tempt you further with a brief run down on how beautiful these beers are.
India Saison – in collaboration with Victorian brewery Bridge Road Brewers
I first had this a few months ago and recycled the bottle for flowers I was given. Trying it the second time around I was struck by how spicy it was, I didn’t remember that from the first time! It is balanced out very nicely with tropical notes from fresh Australian hops and cheekily weighs in at 7.5% ABV.
Brown Ale – one of their regulars
The carbonation was bigger than I had expected and was a pleasant surprise, giving a delightfully light and playful mouth feel. Putting my nose in the glass reminded me of opening a fresh bag of coffee beans. Spicy and malty and delicious.
#500 Imperial IPA – another of their regulars
Imperial IPA. There’s something great about this style, taking a IPA – a bigger version of Pale Ales – and then just making it bigger again which is great for my already beaten up taste buds. As the name suggests, it’s a celebratory brew, made to signify the 500th batch of ale. It’s nothing short of slap-you-in-the-face big, heaving with hops and bitterness. With the recent explosion of New Zealand hops around, other hops heads might recognise the Nelson Sauvin hop notes in there with very unsubtle fruit thanks to the dry hopping.
Nogne O Kollaborator – in collaboration with Ægir, a fellow Norwegian craft brewer.
It’s a DoppelBock, doppel = strong and bock = lager so the style becomes simple math. Rich, boozy with lots of dark fruits. It’s got great thick texture and just begs to be sipped on whilst reading a good book in winter. Or, in the case of my boyfriend and I last night, devoured in gulps with rich blue cheese and exclaiming how great the two go together!
Kjetil Jikiun at International Beer Shop
This is what happens when I visit the International Beer Shop

Home Food + Pale Ale

I do like my chilli and I like my American Pale Ales, good thing they are such good bed fellows! Beautifully floral flavours going head to head with a bit of heat and spices. Gotta love it. Who says eating at home is boring?!

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Oh wonderful Pale Ale, let me count all the foods that go together so nicely with you!

A case of Little Creatures Pale Ale made its way home with my boyfriend on Friday night so it has been a bit of a Pale Ale + Chilli-Fest at the house. It’s one of those classic matches, it comes up constantly in beer + food writings. I’ve done it in a number of events and it’s always been really well received. It’s the floral and the bitterness going up against the heat of the chilli and the balance of flavours in everything, food and beer. The bubbles kinda make way for more food flavours to come in, like rolling out a long welcome mat.

Here’s what has been cooking on the stove this weekend, simmering slowly and devoured in minutes!

Green Chicken & Potato Curry
Chicken Breast, cut into large pieces
Ruby Red Potato, diced
1/2 Red & 1/2 Green Capsicum, cut into strips
Button Mushrooms, sliced
1/2 Onion, finely diced
2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
Red and Green Chilli
4 big spoons of Green Curry Paste (despite the fact the jar only calls for 3)
Coconut Cream

Cook chicken, add rest and simmer for as long as it takes! I cheat and nuke the potato before throwing it in the curry to simmer. I threw in a tablespoon of plain flour too to really thicken up the sauce. Serve with Rice and a great American Pale Ale!

Chilli in a Toasted Turkish Bread Bowl with Capel Cheddar
Beef Mince
1 teaspoon Spiced Stout Chutney
2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
2 Chillies
Tomato Paste
Pasta Sauce
Button Mushrooms
1/2 Capsicum
Nandos Extra Hot Peri Peri Sauce
Paprika
Chilli Flakes
Shredded Capel Cheddar
Sour Cream
Fresh Turkish Bread Rolls

Throw everything into a big pan and let it simmer away happily. Pop your buns into the oven (*ahem*) and let them get all toasty and warm.

Cut into the bun, take its guts out and whack in the chilli! Garnish with cheese (yup, cheese garnish – nothing fancy here) and put its head back on. Oh and don’t forget the sour cream. Tasty and oh-so-winter food …