Mini Carnitas Paninis with Cool and Spicy Jalapeño Dipping Sauce- At any given time, our freezer is full of some sort of slowly smoked meat, be it pulled pork, brisket or in this case grilled and beer braised carnitas. We pull a big container of it out and reheat.
All we need to do once we have that warmed and ready to go is shred a block of pepperjack cheese then slice a sweet onion and finely chop some cilantro.
With the sandwich ingredients mostly ready, we can turn our attention to the cool, creamy yet spicy jalapeño dipping sauce that we adapted from a Fine Cooking magazine. In a blender, combine 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup sour cream, the juice of one lime, a small handful of cilantro, 1 tablespoon of honey and one jalapeño. Blend until smooth and creamy then season with salt and pepper.
Back to the sandwiches. We're using the small take and bake dinner rolls that we bake then slice in half.
A big spoonful of carnitas goes down, followed by the shredded pepper jack, a couple of slices of the onion and cilantro mix and some pickled jalapeño rings.
Close up the sandwich and carefully place them on a panini press or grill. Grill until the cheese is melted and the bread crisps up slightly.
Remove from the press and place a bunch of these on platter and serve with the dipping sauce. They're absolutely phenomenal accentuated by the dipping sauce that would be good on just about anything.
Dark Horse Brewing Crooked Tree IPA - Our first foray into Marshall, Michigan's Dark Horse Brewing's stable of beers ("stable", see what we did there?) is their Crooked Tree IPA. From a purely looks perspective, there is nothing not to love about this beer. On the outside of the bottle a very cool label with an even cooler name. On the inside, an ale that pours super cloudy and a beautiful shade of reddish orange. Top everything off (literally) with a foamy, marshmallow-like head and what you're looking at is a piece of art. The aroma is bursting with strong pine flavors as well as some subtlety sweet orange. Interestingly, bitter yet sweet orange peel is the dominant flavor with almost no notable pine notes. The mouthfeel is resiny but not overly viscous with the bitterness having a slight numbing effect on the tongue. This is a serious IPA that is seriously delicious. It's a big beer for only 6.5% ABV and we thought maybe it would be too much for the mini sandwiches but it wound up being just the right call.
Greenleaf "Trails & Passes" - A new Greenleaf album is always cause for celebration. There are very few bands that put out consistently great albums one after another, even fewer still when you consider the line-up changes this band has gone through. On "Trails and Passes" the biggest change comes in the vocal department. Whereas on past Greenleaf albums, you may have had different vocalists but at least they were recognizable from their already successful full-time bands be it Lowrider, Dozer or Truckfighters. This time around Arvid Jonsson is on the mic, bringing his own vibe to the band which leads to a bit of a change with the style of music. The heavy, groove-laden fuzzed out Swedish stoner rock sound is all but gone, replacing it with the organ-heavy retro sounding rock of Deep Purple that meets the hard rock fusion of Atomic Bitchwax. "Our Mother Ash" is the opening track and sounds like it's straight out of 1972. It's got Purple written all over it, going back to their more psychedelic "Hush"-era sound. On "Ocean Deep", the band gets into its swing right off the bat. It's a rock and jazz fusion that resembles The Police right up until the jam that just smokes. Who needs more cowbell? Look no further than "Equators" which shares the same head banging beat with Ram Jam's "Black Betty". The bluesy shuffle on "Depth of Sun" is almost trance-inducing especially when paired up with the layered atmospheric vocals. "Humans" has an STP feel, partly due to the trademark groove but also due to the Weiland-like vocals. After all these catchy hook-laden gems, the band tosses in an 8+ minute dark opus "With Eyes Wide Open". The song trudges along in a eerie, atmospheric universe for most of the song. Things pick up about halfway through resulting in a heavier track albeit no less dark. "The Drum" is a fuzzed out funky tune, that has more than a little Stevie Wonder to it. The best track on the album may be "Bound to be Machines". It's heavy, yet melodic and really catchy. The album ends with its title track which doesn't cool the engines one bit, and if anything kicks things up a little. The Police reference rears its head again on this one mixed with the straight forward boogie of Freedom Hawk. It puts a loud and fitting exclamation point on a great album.