I grew up with Yankee baseball. I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I went to my first game, but I was definitely pretty young, like maybe 4 or 5 years old. My mother grew up on the Grand Concourse, a stone’s throw away from Yankee Stadium, and my father is from the Bronx too- so Yankee baseball is in my blood. But that’s really where sports started and ended in our family. If it wasn’t Yankee baseball it was nothing. Up until last week I had never been to any other professional sporting events- no football, no hockey and no basketball. But things changed when my husband’s cousin Melissa, who was in Denver visiting us (again!), scored three tickets for the Broncos-Redskins game.
Excitement over the ticket-score quickly turned to worry, for the night before the game I came down with flu-like symptoms, including high fever and a sore throat. So I drank a few cups of hot tea with lemon and honey, popped a bunch of Halls cough drops into my mouth, managed to swallow a few ibuprofen and then went to bed…hoping that I'd feel better in the morning.
Except that I couldn’t sleep. The pain was awful and swallowing, at this point, was nearly impossible. Knowing that something was wrong, I went to an Urgent Care Center (which thankfully accepted my insurance) and there I was given the diagnosis: acute tonsillitis caused by an extreme streptocchocal infection. Not exactly the news I wanted to receive.
Now here in Denver football is like a religion and almost everyone is a parishioner, including Megan, the nurse practitioner who was treating me. She understood the severity of the situation - and we both knew that unless I was going to be medevaced or put in the I.C.U., I simply had to be in those section 509 seats! We both agreed that time was of the essence, so she took out the "big guns" (so to speak) and pretty much guaranteed that they would do the trick.
I got a steroid injection in a place…well, let's just say it was in a location other than my arm…which made me feel like a true professional athlete. I began a course of antibiotics immediately, and as promised, by kickoff time I was feeling much better. I was almost as good as new.
As we made our way to the stadium I briefly feared that I would be outted as an imposter, as someone who had only recently learned the rules of the game (two weeks ago). But I was wearing bright orange threads and seamlessly made the transition from I-don’t-know-the-first-thing-about-football to hells-yeah-you-better-believe-I’m-a-Broncos-fan. It was awesome.
The crowd was electric…all 76,000 people in attendance were cheering on the hometown team. I followed along: 1st down, 2nd down, another 10 yards so 1st down again, incomplete, touchdown and so on. You get the picture. It was amazing. There were fans, and players, and horses, and fireworks, and a half-time show that included a re-enactment of Thriller (it was Halloween weekend), cheerleaders, more fireworks, more horses, acrobats and lots of pretzel eating by yours truly. The people watching was great too. There were dedicated fans with painted faces, grandmothers with Broncos medallions hanging from their earrings, fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, older folks and younger folks. And lots of people in orange. At times the cheering was deafening, which is just the way I like professional sporting events...
So now I get it. This whole football thing. It grasps the city of Denver every year. And every one of the season's 16 games are exciting, especially if the Broncos win…which they did on that beautiful autumn afternoon.
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Since I've been bitten by the Broncos bug, I’m pretty sure that we will be hosting a game or two this season. I was thinking of starting things off with home made pretzels and various dipping sauces…to be followed by this Pumpkin, Cheese and Beer Soup which I spotted on Spoon Fork Bacon. As the recipe title indicates, there's lots of cheese in this soup and the orange color from the pumpkin and cheddar makes it a perfect dish for the season- as well as for the novice Broncos fan who just can’t get enough of Eric Decker. Go Broncos!
Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup (Adapted slightly from Spoon Fork Bacon)
Pumpkin Beer Cheese Soup (Adapted slightly from Spoon Fork Bacon)
Serves 3 to 4
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 large leek, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 rib celery, diced
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh thyme
1 (12 ounce) bottle pumpkin ale
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk (low-fat is fine)
2/3 cup pumpkin puree (I added another tablespoon)
3 ½- 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (I used almost all of a .75 lbs. block)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste (this is key before serving)
simple butter croutons:
1 cup diced sourdough bread
3 1/2 tablespoon melted salted butter
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
For croutons: Place all the ingredients into a bowl and toss them together until they are evenly coated. Pour the croutons into a large skillet and place them over medium heat. Toast the croutons for 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove them from the heat and allow them to cool and crisp. Set the croutons aside until you're ready to use them.
- Pour the oil into a medium pot and place over medium-high heat. Add the onion and leek and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until onions and leeks have become translucent. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and season with salt and pepper. Sauté the vegetables for 4 to 5 minutes and stir in 2 tablespoons thyme. Add the beer and broth and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetable mixture is fork tender. Remove it from the heat and set aside.
- In another medium pot melt the butter. Whisk in the flour to create a roux and continue to whisk for 2 to 3 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk (about ¼ cup at a time) until there are no lumps remaining and the mixture thickens. Stir in the pumpkin puree and mix until smooth. Toss the cheese together with the lemon juice before stirring it into the milk mixture. Stir until the cheese sauce is smooth. Stir in the remaining spices.
- Pour the cheese mixture and broth mixture into a blender and blend until smooth (or use an immersion blender which is what I did- it makes clean up much easier). Pour the mixture back into a pot and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes or until soup thickens slightly. Stir in the remaining thyme and adjust the seasonings (salt and pepper are key here).
- Ladle the soup into bowls and top with buttered croutons. Then serve!
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Now what's football without beer? I wanted to find a seasonal beer that would pair well with the aforementioned Pumpkin Cheese Soup, so I Asked A Beer Guy.
Chris Cohen, a friend of mine who's beer savvy, a Certified Cicerone and founder of the San Francisco Homebrewer's Guild (plus all-around awesome guy) had a few ideas:
"The pumpkin cheese beer soup is super rich and dense, with some seriously intense flavor. Many people think wine is the way to go when pairing with cheese, but beer lovers know that’s just ridiculous! You’ll want an intensely flavored beer that can stand up to the soup’s rich cheesy flavor and dense mouthfeel. If you want to keep things seasonal, go with a wet hop IPA like Sierra Nevada’s Northern Harvest Wet Hop Ale, or if you’re lucky enough to be able to find a bottle, grab one of Almanac Beer Co.’s Fresh Hop IPAs. Fresh hop IPAs are beers made with hops that have been picked within the previous day or so, and they often impart a grassy herbal hop character, though it depends on the hop varietal used. Fresh hop IPAs have the high abv, malt backbone, and big fresh hop character to stand up to a flavorful cheese soup, plus their herbal and grassy fresh hop character should pair perfectly with thyme or other herbs in the dish."
Thanks, Chris! You can find out more about Chris's work and beer consultation on his website, as well as beer related things on the SFHG Facebook page. Now I'm ready to watch football, ladle some soup and drink beer! (Don't worry friends, I still won't wear fleece, jerseys or crocks.)
Stay tuned, Ask A Beer Guy will be back with beer pairing suggestions for middle-eastern pumpkin fatayer appetizers and pumpkin ravioli too!