Pork Chops and Applesauce Paired with Oktoberfest

Quick—what is the best beer to pair with pork chops and applesauce? Did you guess Oktoberfest?! How did you know? Was it because you read the title of this blog post? :)

Pork Chops and Applesauce Paired with Oktoberfest

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year for beer. It also happens to be my favorite for food too….what a coincidence! This recipe pairing was actually not even intended to be a blog post, but after I made this dish, it was so good, I knew I just had to share it with anyone and everyone. ACTUALLY, this blog post exists purely because I bought a 30 pound box of apples a few weeks ago and made two huge batches of applesauce. What is the best thing in the world to pair with applesauce? Pork Chops!

Now, the applesauce should be another blog post on its own. But honestly, its so easy to make–Cut and peel about 10 apples, throw it into the crockpot with 1 cup of water, about 1/2 cup of sugar and some cinnamon. Heat on high for about 3 hours. After 3 hours, the apples should be soft enough to mash. Just mash with a potato masher or puree if you want it less chunky.

Homemade Applesauce and Pork Chops

The Pairing

If you were to ask me what my favorite amber-colored, malty, lightly hopped ale in the entire world is, it would be Oktoberfest. That is pretty specific, but it’s the truth. Oktoberfest is definitely up there with my other favorite beers—right behind saisons and sours—and I think it deserves such a high placement. Oktoberfest is one of the easiest beers to pair things with since it isn’t too hoppy, has a great maltiness, and is light enough not to overpower most dishes. However, it can also stand up to big, flavorful foods as well. Think about what the Germans eat during Oktoberfest—sausage, brats, sauerkraut, cheese, pretzels…Oktoberfest beers go with all these. But what makes Oktoberfest even better is that it goes with sweet accompaniments too, like the applesauce in my recipe, which is a little more difficult for other beverages to do.

Sam Adams is my favorite domestic example of the Oktoberfest style. Note: American versions of Oktoberfest beers are usually darker, stronger, and maltier than examples from Europe. I’m also in love with a local Las Vegas brewery, Tenaya Creek’s, version of Oktoberfest. Unfortunately they don’t bottle theirs, but I’ve got a keg coming my way in just a few days for the house :)

Sam Adams Oktoberfest Paired with Pork Chops

Paulaner Oktoberfest and Spaten Oktoberfest are my favorites from Germany, and actually, I think the Paulaner went a little better with this dish than the Sam Adams. Maybe not better, just different. Its worth it to pick up both and compare them for yourself, not only to learn what you like better but to get an understanding of the differences between an American Oktoberfest-style and a European.

Pork Chops and Applesauce paired with Oktoberfest Lager

The Recipe

This recipe is nothing fancy–in fact, I take pride in knowing its a simple, weeknight-dinner kind of meal. The kind of meal you can make quickly and enjoy a beer with. I made these pork chops with the applesauce and also potato pancakes, making for a complete anything-but-green meal. I originally found it on The Pioneer Woman and make it whenever I want to make a nice meal but have zero time. I hope you enjoy this one!

Easy Pan-Fried Pork Chops

6 thin-cut, bone-in or boneless pork chops

3/4 Cup All-purpose flour

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp seasoned salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 Cup canola oil

1 Tbsp butter


1.  Combine all dry ingredients in a shallow pan. I use a small casserole dish.

2. Salt and Pepper both sides of the pork chops. Place into the dish with the dry ingredients and dredge both sides, making sure every side of the pork chop is covered in the flour mixture. Repeat with all pork chops.

3. Heat oil and butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, place 3 pork chops in the pan and cook 3-4 minutes per side. When finished, set aside and continue with the second batch of pork chops. Serve with homemade applesauce and potato pancakes, and of course, Oktoberfest.



I Don’t Hate Vodka

“Why do you have to hate on Vodka? What did vodka ever do to you?”

This is the statement Tony Abou-Gani, author of Vodka Distilled, opened up with in the Spirits Academy vodka seminar a few weeks ago. Ask me what I would have told you had you asked me if I liked vodka two minutes prior to that statement. I would have told you I hate vodka, I can’t stand it, and I don’t understand why its still the number one selling distilled spirit in the world.

Gypsy Queen Vodka Cocktail

Why did I hate vodka? Because since I have been old enough to drink, the only drinks I ever hear ordered at bars are vodka-redbulls, vodka-cranberries, and vodka-sodas. Vodka this, vodka that. Shots of vodka (ugh…college days). No wonder I hated vodka, I didn’t know how to drink it! Why add vodka to orange juice? I’ll just have the orange juice, thanks. I just didn’t get it, and when I started discovering cocktails, I wanted anything but vodka in them to prove I was better than that.

It’s not just me, its a growing trend in the mixology world to hate on vodka right now since we don’t want to be associated with the vodka-redbull fad. I think all of us enthusiasts think we’re too cool for it. Tony told us a story of one time recently that he went to a great cocktail bar in town. He asked the bartender what vodkas they had available as he didn’t see any on the back bar. The bartender told him (in a wonderful snobby voice) that they had two, “and in his opinion, that was two too many”. Okay, maybe this hatred has gotten out of hand. Too good to have vodka at your bar? You’ve crossed the line.

Gyspy Queen

Needless to say, after a wonderful presentation, an awesome 11-vodka tasting flight, and another 6 flavored vodkas tasting, my mind has been changed about vodka. (And yes, we were spitting all of those vodkas. C’mon.) I was so excited when I went home that night to tell Andrew all about my new appreciation for vodka. He immediately went to our vodka stash and presented a tasting of all the vodkas we had in the cabinet. Unfortunately, our selection was pretty pitiful:

Vodka Collection

Seriously, all we had was vodka in a gun-shaped bottle, a plastic bottle of “Potters” (I highly do not recommend), a vodka in a skull bottle he had signed by Dan Akroyd, and another one shaped like a fire extinguisher. Most of these were left over from college or gifts; shows you what kind of vodka drinkers we are! (Shortly after, I purchased a bottle of Belvedere, one of my favorites from the tasting.)

The Cocktail

So I have come to realize that our hatred of vodka stems from Americans not knowing how to drink vodka. There’s a lot of great cocktails out there with vodka in them, and no I’m not talking about the strawberry martini made with strawberry-flavored vodka. These are real cocktails that use vodka to enhance the flavor of the overall drink, not hide it. I will admit…I’m still not a vodka drinker. That tasting I did of straight vodkas was pretty hard for me, so I know I wouldn’t enjoy straight vodka poured over ice (as most skilled vodka drinkers do), but I have learned how to appreciate it in our cocktail culture.

Tony’s book has lots of classic cocktail recipes in it, so Andrew made me this “Gypsy Queen”cocktail I’m sharing with you on this post. I absolutely loved it! It is very easy to make, but be careful, it is boozy! (It is actually straight booze, no mixers added.) Since it has benedictine in it, think of it as an herbal-floral concoction that has flavor and fruitiness but is not necessarily sweet. If you are a new cocktail drinker, this might be a little strong, so order another classic vodka-based cocktail, like a moscow mule or harvey wallbanger next time you’re out at a bar.

Gypsy Queen Cocktail CaretoPair.com


2 oz vodka of choice

1 oz Benedictine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

thin slice of lemon peel (for garnish)


In an ice-filled mixing glass add vodka, benedictine, and angostura bitters. Stir until very cold. Strain into a chilled low-ball glass. Garnish with a thin slice of lemon peel.

How to Rediscover Vodka

Okay, so I hope my spiel above has changed your mind about vodka. If you know its still not your cup of tea, no worries. As I said, the tasting I did in my class was tough as I don’t particularly enjoy drinking vodka straight. However, it was so cool to taste the differences between the different brands; if you have the opportunity to taste through 3 or more in a sitting, do it (but make sure you’re spitting those out, no need to get plastered from it!). My favorites from the tasting were Russian Standard, Belvedere, and Zyr–they were all different, but all appealing. Others, that I’ll leave unnamed, were awful to me. But that’s just my preferences, yours could be completely different.

Also–next time you’re at a mixology bar, don’t be afraid to order a vodka-based cocktail. Try to keep it classic though, like a gypsy queen, moscow mule, harvey wallbanger, cosmopolitan, or lemon drop. Hopefully these drinks will change your mind about vodka, as my mind has certainly been changed.

A Little Info on Vodka

  • Vodka can be made from anything that contains fermentable sugars, but most are made from wheat, potato, or rye
  • Its highly debated whether vodka originated in Poland or Russia (no one knows the factual answer)
  • Historically Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, and Greenland all have a rich heritage and tradition with vodka production, so we call these countries the “Vodka Belt”
  • Vodka struggled in America for the first part of the 20th century. The first vodka distillery built in America was Smirnoff, which was built in 1934. It was unsucessful at first and had to be marketed as “white whiskey”.
  • Ian Fleming invented the vesper cocktail through his James Bond series, and we can thank him for the vodka martini, as the classic martini was gin-based prior to his phenomenon





Bolognese Sauce and Barbera

Confession: I am in love with Bolognese sauce. I don’t really think that needs to be a confession, it is more of a proclamation. Of love. Yes its that bad. I’m not really even sure of the first time I had it, or the “aha!” moment I had when I decided I love it, but I just know that if I’m at a restaurant and its on the menu, no other dish stands a chance.

Bolognese Sauce on CaretoPair.com

What makes bolognese sauce so good anyway? When I made this recipe that I’m about to share with you, it all came back. For me, its the ground beef. So simple and familiar, but in this sauce it is turned into a celebrity. And the tomatoes. I bought special Italian canned tomatoes, and it really made the dish. So flavorful, my mouth is watering while I write this.

Now, lets talk about Barbera…have you ever even heard of this grape varietal? Its not too popular with us Americans, but grows really well in Amador County, California. I recently went there on a trip (its about an hour south of Sacramento…total gold rush area, very historic) and barbera was all the rage. Amador is known for its zins, but barbera was a refreshing alternative. My friend that went with me quickly decided this was her new favorite grape varietal, and I don’t blame her!

Chiarlo and Pasta

The Wine

Barbera is a high-acid, relatively light bodied grape indigenous to Italy. It is from Piedmont, a region in northwest Italy that is more famous for its big Barolos and sweet moscato d’asti. Compared to these infinitely better known wines, Barbera is kind of looked over to us Americans, especially since we don’t see them available in the grocery stores or even in liquor stores. As I was looking for a bottle of this at Total Wine, I counted 3 from America and 5 from Piedmont…not too much of a selection in a sea of other Italian wines.

Michele Chiarlo and Bolognese

But barbera deserves some recognition—it’s a great little grape, it works hard to produce some incredible flavors, and it is relatively affordable to us consumers! When I said it was high-acid before, that means it makes you salivate after your first sip, making you immediately want more. This makes this wine incredibly good with food, which for purposes of this blog, makes it my friend.

Bolognese Sauce on CaretoPair.com

The Pairing

Ohhhh Bolognese sauce. I must admit, before this first attempt, I had never made it before. I was so excited to try this recipe from a pretty legit Italian Cookbook I recently came across, and I cannot believe the outcome after my first try. YUMMMMMMY!

This is a no-brainer pairing. When I first tried the Bolognese sauce, I couldn’t believe how much acidity there was from the Italian tomatoes I used. Every bite I took, my mouth was just salivating for more. See a commonality? I had to match this high-acid dish to a high-acid wine. Mhm. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Beyond that, I can’t really explain much more, you are just going to have to buy a bottle of barbera, find 4 hours out of your day to make this sauce (its completely worth it, I promise), and see for yourself!


Pair Ahi Tuna Salad with Japanese Lager

Ahi Tuna Paired with Japanese Lager

Oh my goodness, what a week. First, I apologize I haven’t posted in 3 weeks. Second, I’m engaged! Yay! I don’t intend to make this blog too personal…but I just have to share a picture!

I don't think the picture does the ring's shininess justice

I don’t think the picture does the ring’s shininess justice

Andrew proposed on the top of mount charleston during the sunset. The view was absolutely gorgeous. I don’t think he could have done any better…

charleston sunset

Anyway, a lot has happened in the last 3 weeks that has interfered with this blog. However, some of the experiences will lead to some GREAT future blog posts. But for now, here’s a great recipe Andrew, my new fiancé, and I made that was simple, healthy, and made for a really good Sunday evening dinner on a hot night:

Ahi Tuna Salad and Sapporo

The Pairing

Pairings do not have to be complicated. This pairing that I’ve chosen for the Tuna Salad is the simplest I’ve chosen for the blog so far. But I did it on purpose; to show that you don’t need to make things complicated if you don’t want to!

There are three Japanese lagers that are readily available to us Americans—Sapporo, Kirin, and Asahi. What is the distinction between the three? Not much…the difference is very subtle. BUT the thing these three have in common, which is the most important to this pairing, is that they are very dry. What in the world does that mean? Think about taking a sip of beer. The beer can be refreshing—it is high in carbonation and doesn’t really leave any lingering taste in the back of your mouth after you finish that sip. That defines a dry beer—one that is refreshing and finishes clean. Actual flavor is low which makes for a great pairing with light dishes. Japanese beers are notoriously “dry” because there is a high amount of rice used to make them. It also makes them great with spicy foods and sushi.

Ahi Tuna Salad and Beer

I chose these Japanese beers with this salad because, although the dish wasn’t crazy spicy, it fit the theme. This salad is light, healthy, and in a way, refreshing. Drinking a Japanese lager with that enhances the whole experience!

The Recipe

Andrew and I decided to try this Ahi Tuna Salad recipe on a whim; as I mentioned earlier, it was a 100 degree day and all we wanted was something easy to make and fresh. I found it over on The Enchanted Cook’s blog. This recipe was pretty easy, you just need to make a trip to the store for those ahi steaks and a few oddball ingredients that we didn’t have. The whole meal took less than 30 minutes though! Enjoy this with any of the Japanese Beers I suggested or any other light lager that is rice-based and not too hoppy.

Ahi Tuna Salad CaretoPair.com

Other Pairing Suggestions

  • Kirin Extra Dry, Saporro, Orion, or Asahi Japanese Lagers
  • Rogue Brewery’s Morimoto Soba Ale
  • Champagne (Brut)
  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad with Sesame Dressing
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
  • 2 Ahi Tuna Steaks (I had to use frozen since I live in the desert, but try to get fresh ones)
  • 4 Cups mixed salad greens
  • 2-3 Tbsp shelled edamame seeds (optional but definitely worth it)
  • ½ diced red bell pepper
  • fresh lime (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • kosher salt
  • ¼ Cup plus 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • ¼ toasted sesame oil
  • 1½ Tbsp tahini paste
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tsp finely minced fresh ginger
  • ½ tsp salt
  1. First make the dressing. Whisk together rice vinegar, sesame oil, tahini paste, honey, garlic, ginger and ½ tsp salt until well combined. Proportions make about ½ Cup sauce total, make more if you want to really drench your tuna steaks in them.
  2. Assemble the salad: Place salad greens, red bell pepper, and edamame in a bowl along with a little of the dressing. Mix them all together to coat with the dressing. Place mixture on two plates.
  3. MIx together the sesame seeds and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Sprinkle the Tuna Steaks with Kosher salt, then dredge them in the sesame mixture, covering both sides. Pat the sides of the tuna with your hands to make sure the seeds stick to it.
  4. Heat the canola oil in a pan until it becomes very hot! Sear the steaks on each side for approximately 45 seconds. Remove from the pan, slice, and place on top of the salad. Squeeze lime over steaks right before eating. Use the remaining dressing as a dipping sauce or drizzle more over the salad.