Last year, Will and I celebrated our twentieth wedding anniversary in August. My brother, Heath, and his wife, Michelle, celebrated theirs in December. As a treat for the four of us, Michelle purchased tickets for the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad Ales on Rails trip in October. It was a surprise for me and Will. I cannot begin to tell you how much fun we had sampling delicious food perfectly paired with ales we had never tried.
This year, in commemoration of our splendid trip and our twenty-first anniversaries, I recreated the outing in my kitchen. My brother and sister-in-law thought they were simply coming for dinner. They had no idea what I had in store for them.
I began my search for the ales the minute I noticed the fall beer selections popping up in the grocery store. Woodchuck’s Pumpkin Cider was high on our list of favorites and the first purchased. It’s seasonal so you’ll want to pick it up now before it disappears. Same with Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale which disappears shortly after Halloween.
Next was Well’s Banana Bread Beer and Victory HopDevil, a lovely IPA. I’ve seen both throughout the year. Even though you can get them regularly, I wouldn’t drag my feet trying them. Nor should you hesitate to try Smuttynose Robust Porter and Vunderbar Pilsner, the last two rounding out our beer menu.
A special ‘Thank You’ to Jason Wigley, Brandon Snyder, and Peter Egleston, all of Smuttynose Brewing, who responded promptly to my request for the Vunderbar Pilsner. Their efforts ensured that I found it in a grocery store close to home. Fabulous customer service, gentlemen!
We received glasses etched with the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad emblem on the original trip. We used them again this past Saturday. I recreated the menu, slightly tweaked for our tastes and increased to dinner portions rather than hors d’oeuvre size.
In keeping with the train themed party, I made tickets for the trip, which I punched as our guests came in. We were serenaded by the Andrews Sisters’ rendition of Chattanooga Choo Choo and lulled by the big band sound of Glen Miller. I had to laugh at one point as the four of us swayed to the music and my sister-in-law commented, “I can feel the rocking of the train just sitting here.”
Our food and ale menu included:
Buffalo Cheddar Cheese Dip and Pretzel Chips paired with Woodchuck Pumpkin Cider
Mixed Greens with Cranberries, Goat Cheese, Sunflower Seeds, and Raspberry Vinaigrette paired with Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner
Sweet Italian Sausage with Sautéed Onions served with Victory HopDevil IPA
German Potato Salad paired with Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Turtle Brownie paired with Smuttynose Robust Porter
Extra Aged Parmesan Cheese with Honey and Black Pepper and Toasted Almonds served with Wells Banana Bread Beer