Category Archives: Flavors

Cooking Beef Stroganoff


Today, I used my slow cooker for the first time to make beef stroganoff. This is one of my favorite dishes to eat and make, but this was the first time I’d use a slow cooker.

I threw in a can of cream of mushroom soup and stew beef into the slow cooker. About eight hours later, I added some sour cream and cooked the noodles.


Other than adding too much sour cream, I thought this dish turned out pretty good.


A toast to bartenders


Behind the counter at Tonicx Bar and Patio, a curly haired bartender named Heather runs back and forth, a yellow towel hanging from her pocket as she fulfills everyone’s drink orders. A minute later she walks over to the table, one hand carrying a pitcher while the other balances a tray with four beers.

Heather is one of many bartenders who spend their Saturday nights serving the patrons who come to the bars from all over Spokane.

In some ways, bartenders like Heather act like a therapist. They listen to our problems, they console us by saying that “everything will be alright,” and they give medicine to help make our problems temporarily go away. In some ways bartenders are also like parents. They break up fights, discipline us if we get rowdy and make sure we are safe before we leave.

I have come to know a lot of great bartenders over the years. Some of them would talk to you as i you were a close friend. Others would go out of their way to make sure you have a good time whether it is entertaining you or adding a little something extra to your drink. There are some who will have a drink with you at the end of their shift.

I have had the opportunity to attend a class with bartender at Goofy’s, who is a talented graphic designer.

The next time you are at the bar, make sure you give some love to the bartender. I’m not saying you have to tip them your entire paycheck, but pay them with a compliment; one that will not result in you getting slapped with a sexual harassment lawsuit. At the very least, say “thank you.”

Do you have a favorite bartender? Tell me in the comment section below or send a tweet to @alstover.

Patience can lead to free beer

This was a memory I had from 2013. It goes to show that patience can be rewarded.

Like most bars, JJ’s Grill and Brewhouse gets packed on their trivia nights.

Whether it is the drink specials or the thrill of the competition, customers journey to the bar in swarms.

For anyone who is not playing trivia – such as the college student who just wants to have a seat where he can have a beer and put the finishing touches on his term paper – this situation can be irritating because most of the seating is taken by trivia players, some of whom would probably sell their own mothers in exchange for the answer to the question “How many red stripes are on the U.S. flag?” It’s seven by the way.

It also makes it difficult for bartenders and waitresses to see if the non-trivia playing customers are finished with their drinks, because they are distracted by the trivia players who waited to place their drink order after their team debated on which two athletes were paid the most amount of money in 2012. The answer to that is Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Still, this is not all bad. Even if takes them time to notice you, most bartenders are good at taking care of their customers.

The student could have walked away and ate at the McDonalds across the street, but instead he decided to wait it out and in return the bartender bought him the first beer, which was a 27-ounce man mug of Bud Light.

Even though we are live in a culture that is used to being serviced on the spot, having patience has its rewards.

Poke Post: So long Pikachu coffee mug


This morning, I sent one of my favorite household wares into the sunset.

I had usual cup of coffee – not Ricky Steamboat’s cup of coffee and filled most of the way. As I was drinking, I noticed small splotches on my journal pages – not to where they were ruined – and a small stain on my jeans. I went to the kitchen, poured the coffee into a cup, then started pouring water into it to assess the damage. I found a small leak toward the bottom.

I’m not one to put a lot of stock or emotion in material things, but when I buy something I like to try and take care of it – especially if I use it on a daily basis. I don’t collect coffee mugs like I used, but this was special because it was my first Pokemon coffee mug and it had my favorite Pokemon on it. I bought this mug and a Charmander mug – which still functions well – at Spencer’s Gifts at around Christmas as a present for myself. I used it as a coffee mug when I worked at the Cheney Free Press, replacing the Super Friends coffee mug I broke earlier.

Here’s the description of the Pikachu Spinner Coffee Mug from Spencer’s

Wake up with your favorite Pokemon while you drink coffee from your Pikachu Yellow Spinner Mug. This officially licensed yellow and black mug features a Pokeball that spins for added character.

Officially Licensed
Dimensions: 4″ H x 5.7″ W x 5.7: D
Capacity: 20 oz.
Material: Ceramic
Care: Hand wash

I had lost the little Pokeball spinner by the time I left the Cheney Free Press office. I didn’t use the coffee mug at the Ritzville Journal because I now mainly drink coffee at home. The Pikachu coffee mug was on a rotation with the Charmander coffee mug and the Wolf Lake mug, which my mother bought me a few years ago.

I’m a little sad that I will no longer be able to drink from the Pikachu coffee mug, but I’ll keep it on my refrigerator next to the empty bottle of Game of Thrones’ Take the Black Stout and figurine of Khal Drogo.

Meet Kate at Doc Z’s

Note: This is from one of my adventures in Wolf Point, Montana.

The original plan had been to go to a MMA event in Poplar. Sadly, the thunder, lightning and rain decided to team up and prevent me from leaving. Instead I decided to spend part of my night at Doc’Z.

When I arrived, the bartender, who I normally saw during the morning when I made my daily stop to get some coffee, was surprised I wanted a beer. I took a seat next to a woman wearing a Missoula Montana hoodie sweatshirt. Because of her short blond hair, I assumed she worked at the pub, or at least knew the family as the majority of Zilkoski had blond hair.

After I had gotten a pint of Highland Cow Scottish Ale,the bartender, who I realized lived in the same apartment building as me, were shortly engaged in conversation before the blond woman interjected herself into conversation. I expected the usual rounds of “where are you from?” and “why you are here?” What I did not expect was her beginning the conversation with “I personally hate religion; they should do away with it.” I also learned this lady was not a fan of politics and that everyone in Wolf Point would take advantage of you.

Although I like to think of myself as a guy who loves his creator, I also realized that the good Lord was testing me in a sense that we should be open to everyone, no matter their beliefs.I also realized that he liked to test me when it came into being in the company with a pretty gal.

Once I had finished my beer and got past the fear that I would say something foolish, I opened up a little bit and shared me belief that 1) people should be allowed to believe what they want and 2) if religion makes you a better person, then maybe you need it. She agreed.

Besides her opinions of religion and politics, the woman talked about her experiences as a bartender back in Missoula. She also told me about her daughter. The funny thing was that we didn’t properly introduce ourselves until approximately 20 minutes into the conversation. Then I got the Where’s and When’s and Why’s.

As I have done with other people in Wolf Point, I shared a little bit about myself. I can tell she had been snubbed in previous relationships, so I shared my own heartaches with her. We talked about sports, mostly football and fighting. We talked about beer. We talked about previous employers, though I managed to stop myself from spilling my guts about how much I wanted to punch my old boss in the face.

After she bought me a beer, Kate asked about my editor job at the Herald-News and I told her I enjoyed it. Then Kate surprised me and said she hated living in Wolf Point and she wanted to leave again. This was interesting to me because everyone who I have met that has lived in Wolf Point likes it here and doesn’t want to leave or can’t seem to leave on their own. Even the folks who do leave, end up coming back.

After we had finished our second beer, Kate asked the bartender if she could buy some orange slices because of she had some Blue Moon at home. We shook hands and then she left.

A shot by any other name may not be as sweet

Note: This is a post about the time I tried a motoroil shot in Wolf Point.

It was my second weekend in Wolf Point when I decided to head to the Elks club for some Saturday night beers.

Unlike the previous weekend, the Elk was slow. This was probably because everyone was “partied out” from the Wild Horse Stampede that had taken place the week before.  One person mentioned how people in Wolf Point don’t seem to have a lot of money in the second week of July because they spent most of it on the Stampede. So at the bar it was just me, the guy at the other end of the bar and the blond-haired bartender who looked like my friend Michael from back home.  The bartender wasn’t too thrilled with it being slow, though she did that it gave her a chance to close down early.

Behind us was a group of gentlemen shooting pool and laughing. When they came to the bar, one of them, in an accent that I guessed was Irish or German, ordered two shots of tequila mixed with rum, which sent shivers down my spine just thinking about it. Rum and tequila were dangerous enough on their own, but it was not the alcohol content that I concerned me, but rather the taste.

After the guys had their shots, they began talking with us at the bar. One of the men, wearing a green shirt, hat and glasses, explained that they had come to Wolf Point for some work and they were celebrating his friend’s bachelor party. The bartender asked the future groom what his fiancé thought of them being away from home, but he said she came to visit him.

When I finished my Coors Light, the bartender, out of what I guessed was boredom, began looking on her phone of different disgusting shots. I did my best not to cringe as she began reading off the different recipes for shots she had found. One had mayonnaise and tobacco sauce with Tequila. Another had cottage cheese in the mix.

A shot that intrigued me was called the New Jersey Turnpike,   where you take the barmat that sits on the bar and drain all of the alcohol that is soaked into the mat, in a shot glass. It reminded me of the game King’s Cup and I told the bartender she should use it as a drinking game in the future.

Then she found one called Motor Oil, which was Jagermeister, peppermint schnapps, Goldschlager cinnamon schnapps and Malibu coconut rum. Again, each is dangerous on their own – well Malibu not so much – but Lord knows the impact they could have together.

Unfortunately the bartender did not have Goldschlager, so she used substitute liquor instead. After she poured five glasses, she made all of us a deal that if we did not make a terrible face, she would buy our next beers. Being one of the kings of the bitter beer face, I silently pumped myself up and

After toasting with my fellow guinea pigs, I poured the shot down my throat. To my surprise, it was entirely sweet and left me with no urge to make the bitter face. My companions also commented on how sweet the shot tasted.

The bartender shook her head in defeat. We all agreed that had the shot would have been different if she had the Goldschlager. Nevertheless, she bought all of our next beers, but vowed to make us pay in the future.

As for the group of men, I saw them at the store the next day, but they did not seem to recall the night at Elks. Perhaps the shot of Motor oil was more powerful than I thought.


Motor Oil

1 oz Jagermeister

1/2 oz peppermint schnapps

1/2 oz Goldschlager

1/2 oz Malibu coconut rum

Sand Pike Stout and Cow Scottish Ale

Note: This was a blog post I wrote about Sand Pike Stout and Cow Scottish Ale from Doc Z’s in Montana.

(Editor’s note: This is a column about the different experiences I have in Wolf Point.)

Over the years, I’ve learned that it’s okay to have a beer or two after hours, even if it is on a weekday.

The original plan was I going to cover a jam session at Doc’Z, but the plan was dashed when there appeared to be no band or instruments set up in the corner. Despite no band, I decided to stick around and sip on the microbrews the pub had to offer.

As I approached the building, my nose picked up what smelled like wet dog with a slight hint of tomato soup. I would later learn that the smell was actually the beer being brewed in the back.

I had noticed the atmosphere was a little bit different in the evening than in the day. My attention gravitated toward the dozens of empty growlers that sat on the shelves and above the bars. As a fan of beer, I appreciated the selection of microbrews. For my first beer of the night, I decided to try to the Sand Pike Stout.

Although it appeared as dark as other stouts I had in the past, I was taken with the slight bite the beer had as it reached my lips.

Just as I was about to begin the stout, one guy introduced himself to me while moments before one of the customers and said “Hey you’re that guy whose picture I saw in the paper.”

I have to admit, that people recognizing my face is kind of overwhelming, mostly because I’m not used to people recognizing me for being a news reporter. For a long time, people only recognized me as “The McDonald’s guy” and then they would go on about a terrible experience they had at the restaurant. Still, like Bilbo Baggins when he ventured off with Thorin Oakenshield and his company, I learned that you have to leave behind what you know and be ready for the little surprises of the future.

The music playing over the speakers was mostly classic rock with Journey’s Any Way You Want It playing as I ordered a glass of the Highland Cow Scottish ale. It was a little bit citrus with a nutty color that was smooth for the most part. Fleetwood Mac’s You Can Go Your Own Way had been playing later in the evening, but I decided to wait until another day to break out my Lindsey Buckingham impression.

Once I had taken a sip of ale, a guy from the hospital said hello and mentioned he was from Dallas, Texas. When I told him I was from Spokane, Wash., I got the usual answer of “This is quite the culture shock for you, isn’t it?” I haven’t quite felt it yet, but I’m sure it will come. The people in Wolf Point have been friendly, which makes adjusting to a new scene a bit easier.

After I had made a new friend, I overheard some patrons discussing topics like John Lennon and Jerry Garcia, how a man had gotten a gold tooth for his dog and how wonderful it would be to have it be 50 degrees on a summer day.

For my third choice, I picked Wolf Wheat, which is what most of the other customers were drinking. It was similar in color as other wheat beers I’ve tried, but it had a smooth taste that made it easy to drink.

After one week in Wolf Point, Doc’Z has made quite an impression on me and I will surely making frequent visits.