The Perfect Grapefruit Margarita

COMMENTS: 7

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by Jessica at SEE Salt

With Cinco de Mayo right around the corner, this is a no-brainer cocktail to make! Buuuut lets be honest. Don’t you think this would be good ALL SUMMER?! Oh, the words summer and cocktail make me smile so big. I can hardly wait.

I love this Grapefruit Margarita so much, and here are a few reasons why:
It’s gorgeous. 
It’s simple. 
It’s delicious. 
It has Cointreau!
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Smart Snacks

COMMENTS: 6

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Bitsy’s Brainfood is a new name in our pantry, but I’m pretty excited about them.

They’re a natural food company for kids founded by two parents with a mission to make healthy fun. Because, let’s face it, the grocery store options for packaged snacks and playful cereals has been lacking for years: “the healthy aisle was no fun—and the fun aisle wasn’t healthy.”

To be honest, I’m not sure why there are so many artificial dyes and flavors and unpronounceable ingredients in kids’ snack foods. (And as much I have some fond nostalgia for that pink sugary milk that gets left in the wake of some of those bright-colored breakfast cereals, it just seems wrong.)

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Homemade Kumquat Marmalade

COMMENTS: 12

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Our Kumquat trees really produced a lot of fruit this year—so much so that I turned to Instagram for suggestions about how to use it all. Someone suggested making a marmalade with simply kumquats and sugar, in a ratio ranging anywhere from 1:1 to 2:1, which really appealed to us. So many recipes call for other citrus or the addition of pectin, and I love how straightforward this one is.

We went closer to the slightly sweeter 1:1 ratio, and were happy to find that the tart and slightly bitter characters are still there. It’s fantastic on toast with butter, over sharp cheddar cheese, with ice cream, or with cocktails. But my favorite combination is perhaps on a crusty slice of baguette with fresh, whole-milk ricotta.

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Raise a glass: drink more water

COMMENTS: 23

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Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make it easier to make healthy choices around the house: bright, colorful fruits and vegetables out on the table, and sliced or otherwise at-the-ready in the fridge. A cold pitcher of water front-and-center.

In Davis, our water is sourced from wells and the taste doesn’t exactly have me running to the tap. So when Soma (the people behind that beautiful carafe) got in touch about trying their lovely new 10-cup water filter pitcher—a size that makes sense for our family—I was eager to give it a try.

Of all the habits I’d like to form, starting the day with a glass of water really should be simple.

Hither and Thither-08I’ve noticed that when we bring home oranges or berries home (these strawberries were just picked at our local field!), we all reach for them first. I want that to be my relationship to water.

Have you heard that thirst and hunger cues are actually the same? I sometimes open the refrigerator door with neither cue (prompted more by restlessness or ritual), but there are many times I would be satisfied by a glass of water when I have instead grabbed a snack. In fact, a friend once told me that she drinks a glass of water before ordering at a restaurant or going grocery shopping—to try and keep from making decisions she’ll later regret.

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(Sidenote: I promise you that counter did not stay clean and strawberry-free for long. Skyler is such a mess when she eats—thus, no shirt.)

Some of my highlights about the new Soma pitcher:
⋅ Obviously, it’s lovely to look at: simple lines with a sustainable white-oak handle. It looks good, and that’s no small thing when you’re trying to start a habit—something I learned here.
⋅ The filters make the water taste better! Made of coconut shell carbon, the filters have been tested by the Water Quality Association and shown to remove chlorine and improve taste. They last through 40-gallons of use (about two months).
⋅ The new pitcher uses the same filter that the Soma carafe does (so if you’re already subscribed to receive replacement filters, you can use those in both).

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I remember reading an article in a beauty magazine about secret weapons, years ago—the ultimate hairbrush, the lipstick that gives you fuller lips, the anti-aging creams—and what really struck a chord was when one doctor (a dermatologist, I believe) said something to the effect of everyone is always looking for that one magic thing, and spending so much money to find it, when it already exists: “water.” “And,” she added, “sunscreen.”

Virtually every article I’ve read on the topics of health or beauty since has reminded me that I need to be more vigilant about my consumption.

I’d prefer to open the refrigerator and let the sight of a beautiful pitcher filled with filtered, clean-tasting water do that.

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How about you? What’s the habit you’d most like to form? 

*If you are like me and drinking more water is on your list, I’ve got some good news: the first 100 readers to use the code onefreefilter will get credit for 1 free replacement filter with their first Soma order.

P.S. It’s not lost on me that while I whine about trying to remember to pour some of my abundant drinking water multiple times a day, there are 748 million people around the world who don’t have access to clean water. I’m happy to learn that for every Soma filter purchased, clean drinking water is donated through Soma’s partner, charity: water—a non-profit that is dedicated to bringing clean, safe drinking water to people in developing countries.

This post is sponsored by Soma. Thank you for supporting Hither & Thither. 

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Egg Salad Tartine

COMMENTS: 8

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by Jessica at SEE Salt

I love Spring. Absolutely, everything, about, it. I love the daffodil sprigs at Trader Joe’s, the little girls’ spring dresses and, of course, the food!

We love to dye our Easter eggs together as a family, and of course we always dye more than we can fathom to eat. So we wanted to come up with a fresh twist on the classic egg salad that would make us fall back in love with all of those hard-boiled eggs.

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In other words, this is not your grandmother’s egg salad: a little fresh lemon zest, dill, and some crunchy fresh radish revamped this classic in no time.

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We also ended up topping ours with icy cold fresh shrimp—a flavor combination inspired by travels in Norway.

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This is our new post-Easter snack or lunch. I think these would also be so lovely for entertaining. I would probably suggest toasting your bread and having everything prepared in advance such that you can top the tartines right before guests arrive (thus ensuring the bread stays crusty and your toppings stay chilled).

A crusty tartine we hope you enjoy—here’s how to make them…

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Picnicking at Tomales Bay Oyster Company

COMMENTS: 14


On the list of things I’ve been excited to do since moving back to California, driving out to Tomales Bay—a long, narrow inlet on the fringe of Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin—for fresh oysters has been high for a while. I’d heard, however, that weekends at the oyster farms can be mobbed so we waited until a day when we could drive out midweek.

Aron was tasked with researching where to go. Ever since he read Mark Kurlansky’s The Big Oyster, a history of New York as revealed through the lens of the bivalve, he’s been our resident expert—or at least aficionado. I enjoy them tremendously, but as much for the romance and the experience of eating them as for the flavor.

He chose the Tomales Bay Oyster company—partly based on location and partly because they only have a shuck-them-yourself set-up (as opposed to a restaurant). But there are a few Oyster farms in the area; Hog Island is perhaps the best known and offers both pre-shucked and do-it-yourself service.

We were able to snag a waterside picnic table without issue on a Thursday in mid-March, but I recommend you look into the option of reserving a table if you’re headed out on a (busy) weekend. Here are the official details on picnicking at the Tomales Bay Oyster Company (and Yelp is a good resource for recent tips).

They grow Pacifics here, in a variety of sizes—I find the larger ones better for grilling and we wanted to eat these fresh, so we went with smalls.

Briny and fresh: we got a quick tutorial in shucking.

Smaller yet were a second (east coast) variety, the Kumamotos. 

I hear the picnic scene can get elaborate, but we simply brought a bottle of wine from Scribe and stopped by Cowgirl Creamery on the way through Point Reyes Station and picked up some great cheeses and a baguette. You can’t go wrong with Cowgirl Creamery (the Red Hawk is probably our favorite, but Aron picked out a fresh cheese and I chose their new-ish Inverness to try).


It was about as perfect a lunch as I could have asked for: the cheese and wine would have been enough. As would have been the view of the sun bouncing off the water. But then throw in a few dozen oysters, grown within eyeshot, and it would be hard to beat. And so if you ever do a chance to go midweek, when the place is relatively quiet, I recommend you take it.

P.S. Oyster beds off Cape Cod. And off Korçula Island in Croatia.

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Munchery: Dinner’s at the door

COMMENTS: 9

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I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not, but many of the recipes I’ve shared on here fall into the category of breakfast or dessert. Dinner? Not so much. It’s not usually my favorite meal to make.

Perhaps it has something to do with being unprepared. There’s a last-minute scramble to see what’s around—what can be thrown together—during which one or both kids realize they’re starving (for food, if not attention). Snacking ensues while the oven preheats and soon I realize that we won’t be sitting down for at least another 30 minutes—roughly 25 minutes more than seems ideal at that moment.

I once received the brilliant advice (Here, in fact!): “Start dinner in your early afternoon lull. If it’s 5pm and happy hour has kicked in, abandon ship. Opt for cheese and crackers or cereal. Dinner never seems to be worth it in the end.” And it’s my favorite sentiment. I think of it all the time—especially on nights when I unwrap three cheeses and slice up some coppa: ‘Go easy on yourself. Choose the path of least resistance,’ it seems to read. Prepare dinner if you can. And if you can’t, relax

So I confess: I’m not a stickler about dinner.

And I’m always looking for the path of ease—which I believe is called “delivery.” In this case, it was specifically called Munchery.

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I’d been reading a lot about Munchery—a delivery service whose promise is “nourishing, affordable, chef-cooked meals” at your door. Rave reviews abounded online. They got in touch to see if I’d like to try it out, and so I looked for an opening in my busy meal-planning schedule (wink, nudge) with one condition being that they include a discount for readers in their delivery range to try it, too (see below).

Basically, if you’re in one of their delivery zones (currently New York, San Francisco, and Seattle), you can schedule for delivery tonight or order up to a week in advance online—mains for adults and kids, sides, salads, desserts, and even drinks—and menus change daily. They sent over a selection for us to try.

Munchery

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Simple Spring Cocktails (Greened for St. Patrick’s)

COMMENTS: 8


I’m afraid I can’t say I’ll be making any St. Patrick’s day crafts next week—do most people? It’s news to me! When we were living in New York, I’d always make a point of following the sound of bagpipes to see the St. Paddy’s day parade; and when I was younger I’d of course be sure to wear green so as to avoid being pinched. But come this Tuesday you’re more likely to find me baking a cake that calls for a chocolatey stout (so that I can sip it while the oven’s warm), or drinking a cocktail and revisiting photos of Ireland to celebrate.

It got me thinking: what does a good St. Patrick’s Day cocktail look like if you prefer to steer clear of Crème de Menthe, and Midori Sour?

Here are five cocktails that would be equally suited to St. Patrick’s as to a spring fling.
I looked to limes, cucumbers, and fresh herbs for a hint of green instead.
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Homemade Granola Bars

COMMENTS: 6

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by Jessica at SEE Salt

Chewy, salty, sweet, hearty granola bars. Are we the only ones who stand in the breakfast-bar aisle looking for the perfect one—only to bring home ten different kinds that all turn out to be too sweet, processed, and just unsatisfying? The solution: make your own!

We chose to load ours with pistachios, dried apricots, and chia seeds. They are so yummy and packed full of nutrition. Here’s how to do it yourself…

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Shake Shack Las Vegas

COMMENTS: 15

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You might recall that open letter I posted to Shake Shack a while back, pretty-pleasing them to come out west with us? I’m pleased to say that Danny Meyer’s wonderful little hot-dog-cart-turned-burger-joint has finally opened its doors west of the Mississippi—at, fittingly, New York, New York on the Las Vegas Strip. And now that they’ve gone public on the Stock Exchange, I have high hopes that they’ll be in California before too long.

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Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche

COMMENTS: 5

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Pear & Blackberry Galette with Honey Vanilla Crème Fraîche
by Jessica at SEE Salt

Ok, so what is all this talk about galettes? We wanted to find out, so we started to play! Galettes are simply a rustic (non-perfect) style tart or pastry. Which we love here at SEE Salt because we are unfortunately not skilled bakers. And by un-skilled I mean virtually inept. Hey, we all have our thing right? But this was so easy and fun and since we have been obsessed.

View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/kitchenengagment

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Courtesan au Chocolat

COMMENTS: 11

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Yesterday, while watching the Oscars, I realized that just about the only nominee I’d seen is director Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

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I’d like to pretend that had I realized it in time, I would have shown up to the annual Oscar watching party with one of the movie’s iconic pastel pastries, beloved by Ralph Fiennes’ character, M. Gustave—a Courtesan au Chocolat.

If you’d like to try it, Wes Anderson filmed a short film featuring the recipe.

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Did you watch the Oscars? Favorite dress or moment?

Flat design of Courtesan au Chocolat by Lorena G; Blu-Ray cover image; Mendls; Pastry with box by Sprinkle Bakes; Video still.

P.S. A way to replicate the Mendl’s box. And the inside of Mendl’s reminds me a bit of this experience in Paris.

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Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios

COMMENTS: 5

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View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/seesaltcitrussalad

Jessica Helgeson and I started talking last February, after I shared one of her recipes here—and have been trying to work together since. So I’m thrilled finally introduce you! In addition to creating gorgeous recipe videos for her own site, SEE Salt, Jessica will be contributing recipes to Hither & Thither on a regular basis.

Today, she worked with photographer Melissa Jill to contribute a delicious salad to our winter citrus menu.

Citrus Salad with Candied Pistachios
by Jessica at SEE Salt
We are so thrilled to share this AMAZING citrus salad with you! This salad doesn’t mean to be vain but it truly has it all. Beauty, simplicity and delicious-ness! We chose kale because of its nutrition packed profile and its gorgeous deep green color. It holds up excellent for parties and the late-comers to the dinner table! We dressed the greens with an outstanding dressing using fresh orange juice concentrate. This is a very fun ingredient to play with! … But, little goes a long way, so be careful—and probably stick to the the recipe for your first time around.

Salad Ingredients
Kale
Citrus: Blood Orange, Cara Cara Orange & Navel Orange
Radish
Farmer’s Cheese
Candied Pistachios: pistachios, butter & brown sugar

Dressing
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp orange juice concentrate
1 tbsp white balsamic
1/2 tbsp honey
2 pinches fresh orange zest
pinch of red pepper flakes
sea salt and pepper to taste

View More: http://melissajill.pass.us/seesaltcitrussalad

We peeled and sliced our Blood Oranges, Cara Caras, and Navels. The blood oranges tend to be slightly drier and may not slice like this every time depending on the crop. Don’t be bummed. They are gorgeous however “the cookie crumbles” !

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For our candied pistachios, we melted butter and brown sugar, and tossed them together in a skillet, before throwing them in the oven on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees and baking until crispy. When cooled, roughly chop  and add this candied goodness to the top of your salad alongside the Farmer’s Cheese.

Have you ever tried Farmer’s Cheese? It’s wonderful. Very mild, slightly salty and crumbles well. You should be able to find it at most of the nicer grocery stores.

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Whisk your dressing ingredients together, drizzle, and toss!

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We love this salad so much, we hope you do also!
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Thank you so much, Jessica!

SEE Salt is created by Jessica with her Mom Terri who has always taught her the confidence to create. Together they love to play in the kitchen and hug n’ kiss on Jessica‘s two little babes; Caroline and Benjamin. 

P.S. Candied Citrus inspiration.

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A Valentine dinner for friends (Winter-Citrus themed)

COMMENTS: 31

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I didn’t want Valentine’s day to pass this year without getting a chance to let some of the friends in my life know how special they are—the holiday is really just a good excuse to tell people you love them, romantically or otherwise. So when Camille Styles reached out to ask if I’d like to be featured in her “Entertaining With” series, I took it as the prompting I needed to start planning.

The feature ran on her site yesterday, and I loved seeing how Michelle Drewes captured the preparations for the Winter Citrus-themed dinner. Head over to Camille Styles to read the interview and to find the recipe for the main dish, a one-pot Meyer Lemon Roasted Chicken with Olives that my friend Emarie introduced to me.

Above are a few photos from the shoot that Michelle was kind enough to share.  And of course I couldn’t help but snap some more of my own while she was working, below…

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Food, a symbol of love (a Valentine’s Gift Guide)

COMMENTS: 3

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I read somewhere that food tends to be the symbol of love when words are inadequate.

Perhaps that’s the reason why so many of us scramble for restaurant reservations come Valentine’s day. (Actually, studies reveal that our dopamine system kicks in when we look at someone we love or at a favorite food so our brains really do connect food to love and a sense of well-being.*)

A friend of mine recently shared that she and her husband have a tradition for the holiday: every year, for eight years now, they’ve spent the Valentine’s evening cooking together. They make the same thing every year. It was something that sounded delicious, involving avocado and perhaps crab, but they only make it on that night. It’s something special. It’s romantic, but also very smart! (The pressure is off! The planning is done!) I tried to think of what my one dish would be, should I have the chance to choose a single item. My first thought would be something involving truffles and pasta (see above)… or stinky cheese… but I wouldn’t want those items to be off the table, so to speak, for the rest of the year. Mario Batali’s Mint Love Letters could be appropriate, but it’s tricky, really, when you think about it, to come up with that single dish.

So here’s a take on the tradition I thought might be nice. For every Valentine’s day, a new cookbook. And a new dish to be made together. Here are the cookbooks from 2014 that I’d be most inspired to wrap up (or to find wrapped up). Bonus: many of these are affiliated with a restaurant, for another night.

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Bar Tartine // Flour + Water // The Fat Radish Kitchen Diaries // A Kitchen in France // The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone // 
Food52 Genius Recipes // Plenty More // The Slanted Door // Huckleberry // Sunday Suppers
& Not pictured: Date Night In: More than 120 Recipes to Nourish Your Relationship

Breakfast

And don’t forget: breakfast counts, too. This Valentine’s Day falls on a Saturday after all. Pictured: The secret to perfect soft-cooked eggs and to the best buttermilk waffles.

Any traditions you keep for this holiday? 

P.S. If you do prefer to go another route, try one of these gift guides. More thoughts on Valentine’s Day.

*As pointed out by John Allen, and discussed on All Things Considered

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Game-Day Prep: Beer for Superbowl Sunday

COMMENTS: 4

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Do you like beer? With Superbowl Sunday around the corner, it seems like an appropriate time to talk a bit about it. After all, Americans will consume something like 50 million cases of beer on Sunday (17 times more than average)—you’re likely to be offered one, whether you like it or not.

I felt like it wasn’t until I found myself in a beer garden in Germany with beers served in glasses (and not in plastic red Solo cups) that I started to see the appeal. Like so many things, I find it’s just a matter of trying lots of new things and figuring out what suits you best.

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When we first moved to Davis, Aron’s parents had us over for lunch with UC Davis’s brewmaster, Charlie Bamforth—or as the professor of malting and brewing sciences is sometimes known, “The Pope of Foam.” (Davis’s is the top brewing program in the country.) The completely charming Brit brought over a sampling of beers (and a dry wit) and took us on a far-reaching tour of barley and rye and hops.

(I’ve mentioned before that I’m a complete sucker for taste tests and such, so this was such a pleasure. Recall our pseudo-scientific port-tasting party? And wine school?)

If you’re interested in hearing a bit about the science of brewing—some applicable inspiration to help you appreciate the stuff (or at least some trivia to share) before game day—there’s a wonderful mini-documentary featuring Dr. Bamforth called “The Art and Science of Beer.” The whole thing is only five minutes, but here’s a shorter clip just about foam:

I’ve collected some of my favorite Bamforth wisdom from these clips, and elsewhere:

Go for the Popular One. In a bar with a lot of choices on tap, there are likely a few that have sat for a long time—long enough for oxygen to sneak in and make the beer stale.

Don’t Overlook the Can. Light is the enemy of beer. Brown glass—or better yet, a can—will keep the light out. Green, clear, or blue glass tends to allow too much in.

But Serve Beer in a Glass. All the better for your nose to “dangle” in it, and your nose is what really determines taste.

Pour with vigor! Release the foam! Beside being a “hedonically fantastic vision of beauty,” beers with the better foam are always thought to taste better. Don’t dump the beer to the point you have a volcanic mess, but avoid the slow pour against the side of the glass that give you something akin to “cold tea.”

Beer goes with everything. In fact it can be a better match to cheese than wine, Bamforth has said: It doesn’t overpower it; it complements it. But the selection of foods that pair well is, “almost unlimited.” … “From white sausage and pretzel with hefeweissen for breakfast to chocolate cake and barley wine for dessert after supper … Think Singha with Thai Red Curry. Think Bass Ale with roast beef. Think Bock with hot wings.”

It’s a matter of taste. 1 in 3 people will actually choose the (technically improperly) skunky beer. All that matters is what you like.

But if you’re still hoping for more direct advice, Epicurious has produced a list of five easily sourced beers that pair well with typical game day fare.

P.S. Expecting, driving, or just abstaining? My picks for the best non-alcoholic beers.

[Photos from top: a beer garden in Germany; screenshot of Charlie Bamforth via YouTube; Davis’s annual Bike & Brew Fest, held each August with local breweries like Davis’s Sudwerk and West Sacramento’s Bike Dog in attendance.]

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