Cafe Society

Warm squash salad with bacon, goat cheese and Dry Dock's barleywine is more than comforting

Though it pains me to say it, seeing as how it signifies the fast-approaching end of hiking season, fall has begun. I do enjoy this time of the year though, mostly for its comforting nature: chilly enough to bundle up, but not uncomfortably so; colorful enough to lift the spirits, but softly, so as not to induce guilt for staying inside.

And probably no other produce represents the soothing sentiment of fall than squash. Striking in color, yet humble in flavor, it's the ideal ingredient for comfort.

With that in mind, I took a trip to In Season Local Market in Highland the other afternoon, assuming they'd have some squash. Some, turned out to be major understatement. Half the store was stocked with it. I happily grabbed an armful of various types and headed home to contemplate dinner.

On the way, I stopped by the liquor store and was absolutely ecstatic to find a bomber of Dry Dock Brewing's Signature Series Barleywine, aged for seven months in, um, anonymous whiskey barrels. I was so excited in fact, that I didn't even notice the price tag, which turned out to be twenty bucks. I didn't mind though, sometimes, extravagance is necessary for a beer nerd. Besides, I figured a sweet, aged ale would not only help me decide what to do with my squash, but would pair well with it to boot.

A short pour of the barleywine later, and I was in heaven; by far one of the best beers I've had this year. It had so many flavors going on: sweet, dark fruit, vanilla oak, leathery whiskey, roasty, smoky malt; none of which were overpowering. It is high in alcohol however, and by that point I was feeling especially relaxed and not entirely motivated to cook. That's one of the comforting things about squash though, it doesn't require much effort. I lazily decided to roast it (that way, I could continue to sip the delicious brew), and throw together a warm squash salad, with bacon and goat cheese.

The salad was wonderful and spot on with the rest of the beer. In fact, they pleasantly mirrored one another in their sweet, subtle complexity. The warm whiskey notes in the beer politely stood out more than anything else. I was quite satisfied with the salad, but man, I can't say enough about the beer. Kudos to crew at Dry Dock!

Here's the recipe:

3 acorn squash (or any other squash you like) 2 dried red chilies 1 pound bacon 8 ounces goat cheese (I highly recommend applewood smoked chevre from Haystack) 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 1 tablespoon fresh sage, finely chopped Salt and fresh ground pepper Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 2. Carefully cut squash in half and remove seeds. 3. Cut halves into quarters, place on a baking sheet and rub with olive oil. 4. In a pestle and mortar, ground together a tablespoon each of salt and pepper, and the dried chilies. 5. Sprinkle salt/pepper/chili powder over the squash evenly and roast for 30 minutes, or until soft, set aside to cool when done. 6. While squash roasts, cook bacon until crisp (remember, always save the grease, it's pure fatty goodness). 7. Roughly chop bacon into bits. 8. Using your hands, tear up the squash and add to a large mixing bowl. 9. Add bacon bits, sage, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with olive oil and toss to combine. 10. Crumble goat cheese over the salad and toss.