Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gastronomy: Bird is the Word, Beer Can Chicken

When my husband declared "beer can chicken" as the most delectable roasted chicken he has ever tasted, I was more than a little skeptical. If you simply look at our picture to the left, you probably understand what I am talking about: The small, roasting chicken standing upright with everything still intact except for its head. It's weird, right? Although, it looks a little uncomfortable, I can assure you that once you have tasted this treat, you will not be able to get it out of your head. I have even known some chicken haters (you know who you are) that are undeniably hooked. Like a teenager in love, I am infatuated with this technique—it is truly the most flavorful, tender, and unbelievably juicy bird that I have ever encountered. Here are a few tips to making what some call the "best chicken in the world."

  • First things first: Purchase the original Chickcan tool online or from your local cooking or hardware store. It is an essential component as it holds the beer can and the chicken in place. Whether using the oven or the grill, I would not attempt it without this very inexpensive tool.
  • When selecting a chicken, it should be over four pounds. If the cavity of the bird is too small, it will not fit on the can.
  • Using a 12 oz. can of your favorite beer, pour out 1/3 of the contents; reserve the beer for the pie pan or cooking tray that is used under the bird.
  • Remember to evenly distribute salt, pepper, and a dry rub all over the body of the chicken. You may purchase a pre-made blend at the grocery or create one of your own from the spice cabinet. Mesquite works really well when grilling, but I have made it with a French provincial herb blend that was terrific, too.
  • For additional flavor, place a half of a lemon or orange inside the cavity and a teaspoon of the rub in the can of beer.
  • Be sure to keep the temperature stable at 350 degrees for the entire 2 hours of cooking time.
  • If using a grill, smoking enhances the bird’s flavor dramatically, so we recommend using a combination of two different chips, mesquite and hickory.
  • Lastly, when done, remember to keep those bones. When buying a whole, roasting chicken, you get two meals for the price of one. Combine the bones with water, onions, and veggies to make a deliciously rich chicken stock.

With the weather finally turning around after our brutally morbid Midwest winter, we decided to pick up a fresh chicken and crank up the grill. It was just as delectable as I remembered—ridiculously moist meat with crispy, savory skin, and a light, lingering hint of citrus. I have spent most of my adult life trying to master whole roasted chicken and can honestly attest that beer can chicken is far superior to any that I have ever made. The next spring night, turn on the grill, crack open an iced cold one, and delight in this succulent bird—you will not be disappointed. Details:

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Obsession: Spicing It Up!

The Midwest has a longstanding reputation for baseball, hotdogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet. And while this is all good and well, I’m going to go out on a limb and add The Spice House to this prized mix. When I moved from the Midwest, I didn’t realize how much I relied on these cherished merchants to perk-up my meals: My pork chops disappeared more quickly when massaged with the Historic Pullman Pork Chop Rub, my beer can chicken became more savory when slathered with their Herbs de Provence, and my chili was richer and more complex when fortified with The Spice House chili powder. Now, with online ordering, my family and my meals will never have to go without again!

Not only am I able to order my favorite spices and rubs online, The Spice House website describes each spice or blend in detail, including region, popular uses, a dab of history, and links to complimentary recipes. In addition, they also provide themed gift boxes and suggestions. Whether you’re looking for that perfect “season’s greetings” gift idea or you simply want to spice-up your life, The Spice House will provide. Details:

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Adventure San Francisco: Tea-licious

Staying in San Francisco's Nob Hill provided the perfect location for my children to visit (and re-visit) Chinatown. Of course I knew they’d enjoy it, but I wasn’t prepared for their new-found addiction—the over-abundance of toys and knick-knacks that they could easily afford with their own pocket money and all within walking distance of our hotel. After our ump-teenth excursion, I was more than ready to finally treat myself to a little something of my own. The answer was surprisingly right in front of me in three convenient Chinatown locations—Vital Tea Leaf.

The boys and I wandered in, attracted by the in-your-face sign that screamed “free tea tasting.” Since I’m a die-hard coffee drinker, my sons don’t exactly get excited about tea-time, and the place obviously catered to tourists, I was more than skeptical. But, on the other hand, I needed an immediate pick-me-up, so we quickly bellied ourselves up to the counter.

Vital Tea Leaf’s walls were adorned with shelves that house over three hundred types of tea, all sporting really fun names. Once inside, the ambiance actually felt more like a wine bar than a tourist haven. We were greeted by the owner who asked us what we knew about tea ("uuuuh, not much") and what kind of tea we enjoyed ("uuuuh, not sure"). Based on our responses, he selected an assortment of tea to taste, guaranteeing that we would feel better when we left and that my sons would enjoy some of the selections "more than Coca-Cola." After teaching us how to make, taste, and select teas, we sampled six and sat for over an hour soaking in the atmosphere, talking to the owner and some locals, crunching on fortune cookies, and sipping really diverse and complex teas.

Although I’m not sure my sons liked some of the teas more than Coca-Cola, they certainly had an easy time downing their samples. After buying their favorites—Iron Goddess King and Lichee Black, we were able to face just a few more souvenir shops revitalized and refreshed. Details: 1044 Grant Ave., San Francisco,

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Obsession: Simply Lovely

I know, in these times, buying original artwork or a limited edition print isn't the first purchase on everyone's mind. However, if you experience a sudden, overwhelming desire to personally contribute to the stimulus package or if you need to buy that "special someone" an original gift, check out Melissa Moss's precious nature-inspired prints.

I originally discovered Moss's work on Abbott Kinney Blvd., Venice, California's uber-artsy playground. But, now, for only $35, Moss has made her digitally-colored ink drawings available on ETSY. I don't know if you'll be as obsessed as we are, but her priced-to-sell pieces inspire creative gift giving and an offering of simple beauty even in the hardest of times. Details: ETSY.

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Adventure (26) Gastronomy (38) Obsession (39) Style (26)

About Mod City Mom

After becoming mothers, sisters Sarah Romine and Leah Weyandt wanted to marry the activities and interests that they experienced before motherhood with their new found lives with children. This was not always an easy task—traveling to obscure places, shopping at off-beat boutiques, and sipping lazy-afternoon cocktails doesn't always fit neatly with parenthood. Stemming from their frustration, they meticulously searched, and continue to search, for activities, establishments, and entertainment that they take pleasure in and their families benefit from. The result? Mod City Mom.

About Sarah

Sarah is a passionate cook, fashionista, writer, actor, and mother. Like all actors, she ended up working at many-a-restaurant to make ends meet and shopping at countless bargain boutiques to maintain her sense of personal style. Her culinary journey, love affair with fashion, and desire to remain true to herself after becoming a mother are the inspirations for this site. Sarah lives with her husband and two sons in Chicago.

About Leah

A polymath wannabe, Leah loves books, films, music, cooking, and travel. After co-starting a writing and editing shop in 2002, Leah has spent her spare time frequenting her favorite cities, hangouts, and haunts. Her obsession with finding the new, innovative, and quirky is the impetus behind this site. Leah lives with her two sons and husband in North San Diego County.
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