28 April, 2009

Gland Slam

Tonight I paired homemade pizza (potato & margherita; dough courtesy Sarcone's) and a Kenzinger with the Phils 7-1 victory over the Nati'nals. Beer, pizza and 7 Philadelphia runs make for a most pleasant fake summer evening in '09.

Also, got to enjoy a Kenzinger (or two) at the homerun derby/game against the Nats on Monday. One of the best games I've seen in person. Ra-oooooooooooooooooool!!!

NYT ♥ Pennsylvania Pilsners

Eric Asimov, wine/beer/spirits critic at the New York Times, reviews pilsners and fully half of the top ten were born in PA.  First place went to Victory Prima Pils, Pennsylvania Brewing's Kaiser Pils came in 2nd, and Troegs Sunshine Pils rounded out the top three.  Sly Fox Pikeland Pils (#7) and Stoudt's Pils (#8) also made the top ten.

26 April, 2009

Travelbrog: New York & Atlanta

Last weekend HM and I celebrated our anniversary in New York.  Lunch at Per Se was phenomenal and filling, though beerless (I had hoped to try the Blue Apron Ale by Brooklyn Brewery but decided to let the sommelier choose a few wines for us).  I may write about it another time, but suffice to say it was superb in every way.

After a long walk around Central Park that afternoon, we ate dinner at the Fatty Crab in the West Village.  It's a tiny Malaysian-inspired place with a small but thoughtful beer list.  At the bartender's recommendation, I had the Pork Slap Pale Ale from Butternuts Beer & Ale in Garrattsville, NY.  It went well with our shared appetizer of steamed buns (pork for me, veggie for HM), and with the spicy eggplant and sepia entrée.  Butternuts is one of the few microbreweries to use cans instead of bottles (along with Sly Fox and Oskar Blues).  Too bad they don't distribute to Pennsylvania - I'd like to try their other brews.

On Thursday, I had a quick trip to Atlanta for work.  I stayed in the Buckhead neighborhood and had a great dinner at Holeman & Finch Public House.  It's a hip little restaurant with a serious commitment to meat and charcuterie, as well as a decent beer list.  Naturally, I loved it.  

With rustic-modern decor and mostly young, tattooed (and very knowledgeable) waitstaff, H&F would fit right into the Philly beer bar scene.  The draft list included import staples like Guinness, one local brew (Terrapin Rye Pale Ale) and surprisingly, two Philly-area beers: Victory Prima Pils and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA.  They were out of Terrapin, so I settled on a bottle of Shipyard Brewery's Old Thumper from Portland, Maine.

From left: lonzino, smoked lardo, bresaola

The menu was a collection of appetizer-size plates, with a few larger dishes meant for sharing.  To start, I sampled three of H&F's charcuterie offerings: bresaola (cured beef shoulder eye of round), lonzino (cured pork loin) and smoked lardo (pork fatback, cured and smoked).  The bresaola and lonzino were good but on the dry side, both enhanced by the house-made spicy mustard.  The lardo, however, was simply sublime.  I think it might be the best lardo I've ever had -- slightly sweet, meltingly fatty and a hint of smoke that lingered on the palate.  

Pork belly confit, because the lardo and lonzino just weren't enough...

I followed up with pork belly confit, served with collard greens and chow-chow.  I'd never heard of chow-chow before -- it's a Southern condiment, a sweet relish of pickled vegetables.  This one was slightly spicy as well, and the sweet and spice helped to cut the fattiness of the pork belly.  The confit was delicious, with a crispy exterior and rich, yielding interior. 

The cheese stands alone...  except for the bread, horseradish and honey

The cheese board was my final course: Humboldt Fog, an English farmhouse cheddar and a semi-soft cow's milk cheese whose name escapes me, all served with nice crusty bread, spicy horseradish and a dish of honey.  A satisfying end to a very good meal.  I highly recommend Holeman & Finch to anyone visiting Atlanta.  

11 April, 2009

What We Brew Is Secret #1: British "Pub Ale"

Today your Broggers set to bottling a batch of beer we brewed on February 28.  This was a second attempt at the beer of January 17: originally meant as a Boddington's-inpsired "cream ale," it ended up stronger and hoppier than its Mancunian forebear.  On February 28, we tried to re-do the recipe to tone down the alcohol and get a little closer to the "Cream of Manchester."  

The January 17 beer is on the left; February 28 on the right.

Did we succeed?  Perhaps -- this version seems lighter in color, body, bitterness and hop flavor.  It comes in around 4.9% ABV, about 0.9% less than our first batch.  (By comparison, Boddington's is 3.5% ABV in its canned version.)  

While we didn't nail the ABV, we did get close to its flavor profile: malty and somewhat fruity at first, with a hop finish and a very distinctive roasted-malt aftertaste.  The January 17 attempt also had these characteristics, but with more malt and hops and less residual sweetness.  With the added alcohol, that beer was closer to an India Pale Ale than we intended.  We'll taste our second version again in a couple of weeks, once the bottles are conditioned.

No comment.

07 April, 2009

Troegs Wins!

Villanova may not have made it to the finals this year, but Troegs did.  Hopback Amber Ale beat Ommegang Hennepin to win this year's Washington Post Beer Madness!

Congrats to the team at Troegs and to the panel at the WaPo for having such good taste.  

06 April, 2009


Last Thursday I had a hankering for spicy food.  I had errands in Center City, so I stopped by José Pistola's and enjoyed their fish tacos with a Troegs Nugget Nectar for lunch.  The tacos were really good, with a spicy mayonnaise, but I needed more.  Intrigued by reports of MangoMoon in the City Paper and Inquirer, I called up Mal and we agreed to meet in Manayunk for dinner.

For a place that got a very positive two-bell review from Craig Laban the previous Sunday, the resatuarant was curiously empty on what seemed to be an otherwise busy Manayunk night.  After the meal we had, I can only assume this is more due to the (lack of) adventurousness of Manayunk restaurant patrons than due to the quality of the food.

Seated next to floor-to-ceiling windows by the third-story bar, beneath a dramatic ceiling tapestry, we ordered a round of beers from Japanese craft brewery Hitachino Nest: Red Rice Ale for Mal and Real Ginger Brew for me.  

Hitachino Nest Real Ginger Brew

I expected a sweet, fruity beer heavy on the ginger, but was pleasantly surprised that the Ginger Brew wasn't sweet at all, and the ginger was quite refreshing.  The Red Rice Ale was much richer, with some earthy, funky overtones.  

MangoMoon seems to specialize in small plates, with their more interesting items offered under that section of the menu (rather than the entrees).  We ordered four to start, thinking we might need more, but the portions were generous enough that four was plenty. 

Baby octopus salad

First up was baby octopus salad with plenty of cilantro, lemongrass and chilis.  The baby octopi were tender and plentiful, and the peppers added the heat I'd been craving.  This was by far the spiciest dish of the night (though my heat tolerance is limited, so maybe I'm not the best judge).

Crispy taro and tofu

Next was a plate of crispy slivers of taro and tofu -- sort of a Thai adaptation of french fries.  The tofu were superior, I thought - crisp on the outside and molten inside, while the taro seemed a bit soggy outside and mealy inside.  They were served with a sweet chili dipping sauce studded with bits of peanut.  I forgot to take a picture before we attacked it -- hence the rather empty plate above.

Northern Thai style sasuage 

After reading Trey Popp's rave, I knew I had to order the sausage.  It was indeed delicious, cooked to a nice outer char and still juicy inside.  I could see loading a hoagie roll with one of these along with some onions and cilantro and a spicy mayo.  

Grilled pork neck

Our final dish was marinated and grilled pork neck -- little nuggets of pork with a chili-peanut dipping sauce.  These were very tasty but probably the least interesting plate of the evening.  By this time I'd finished my Hitachino and ordered a Chang, Thailand's native beer.  It reminded me of Yuengling in both color and taste.  For an industrial lager, I thought it was rather well done.  

Too full for dessert, we headed to our respective homes.  Next time I need spicy food, I know where to go.  

Photo credit: MangoMoon

Shola Olunloyo Dinner @ Blackfish

Here's another extremely tardy report from Philly Beer Week.  Actually, this wasn't officially a Beer Week event, but since beer was drunk at dinner I think it counts.

I'd read a lot over the years about private chef Shola Olunloyo, and his now-legendary Studiokitchen dinners in West Philadelphia -- but never had an opportunity to try his food.  Food bloggers and eGulleteers raved about his modern cuisine, and Shola's own Studiokitchen blog - featuring his considerable photographic skills - fueled the fire.  When Phoodie announced that Shola would be cooking a 4-course meal at Blackfish restaurant in Conshohocken, I scrambled to score a table.  

So the night after the Vintage Beer Brunch, Mal and I found ourselves at Blackfish with a bomber of our own British-style ale and a bottle of 2005 Domaine Barmes-Buecher Pinot Blanc Rosenberg.  

Carrot soup, miso applesauce, aromatic milk

We drank the beer with the first course, switching over to wine during the second course. The beer, a British-style session ale somewhere between an ESB and a pale ale, was a good but not inspired pairing to the carrot soup. The soup set the tone for the meal, with a combination of familiar and novel flavors that was interesting in a thoughtful way: rich and sweet, pungent and perfumed at the same time.  

Hiramasa, spicy yuzu glaze, peanut-cauliflower, brown butter

Next up was the fish course, featuring hiramasa (also known as yellowtail amberjack).  This dish was more subtle than the soup, and the "spicy yuzu glaze" didn't seem all that spicy.  But the fish was perfectly cooked and the peanut-cauliflower purée was so delicious that I found myself using bread to mop it up off the plate.  

Veal breast and ravioli, celeriac-apple purée, 
black trumpet mushrooms, hazelnut sherry jus

The meat course followed.  A single ravioli, cooked al dente, rested atop a round of veal breast and the whole assembly was crowned with trumpet mushrooms and a pair of veal sweetbreads.  This course was the night's highlight -- though the ravioli didn't seem to add much, the veal breast was outrageously good and the sweetbreads were crispy on the outside and molten on the inside.  And again, the purée was so good that I mopped it up to savor every last bit.  The wine was a perfect complement to this course, nicely rounding out the savory portion of the meal.

Yogurt sorbet, berries, elderflower, yogurt powder

The dessert course was right up my alley.  I can usually do without sweets at the end of a meal - just a good espresso.  I wish more desserts were like this one: easy on the sugar and with a bit of sourness from the yogurt.  The yogurt powder was the most interesting aspect of the plate - when it dissolved on the tongue, it released a burst of intense, pure yogurt flavor.  The berries were lightly dusted with it too.  With some La Colombe coffee, it was a nice end to the meal.

During the meal, we watched as Shola worked the room, stopping to pose for pictures and chat with his fans.  Several other diners were taking pictures of their meals, and we saw Phoodie doing the same as we waited for our table.

After all the internet hype from Shola's fans, I'm not sure if the meal met my expectations -- I wasn't blown away by culinary fireworks, but certainly charmed by the obvious creativity and attention to execution.  I think that says more about my assumptions than it does about the meal and I look forward to eating Shola's food again.

I highly recommend Shola's website and blog - both are chock full of creative thinking, cooking and photography.

Vintage Beer Brunch @ Memphis Taproom

This is way, way late but I've been meaning to write about the highlight of my Philly Beer Week 2009, the Memphis Taproom's Vintage Beer Brunch.

The day's moving had worked up the thirsts and appetites of your humble Broggers and the MTR did not disappoint. The concept for the brunch was to serve two vintages of a particular beer, paired with a dish from Chef Jesse Kimball.

I've always enjoyed eating at Memphis - the kitchen turns out some great comfort food. But for this brunch, Kimball really stepped up in a big way and delivered a killer 5-course tasting menu to complement owner Brendan Hartranft's beer selections.

1. Orval. Mini pancakes with speck, maple syrup and crumbled cheddar.

2. Cantillon Gueze. Smoked salmon terrine with red onion compote, fried capers and tomatoes.

3. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter & Stone Oatmeal Stout. Shirred egg with braised beef short rib.

4. Rochefort 10, 2004 & 2008. Asparagus salad with goat cheese and blood orange.

All the beers were excellent (sadly I neglected to write down the vintages of the first two courses). The Rochefort course stood out in particular; the older 2004 bottling had an appealing roundness and deep malt character that the newer bottle only hinted at, its alcohol heat overshadowing more delicate flavors. The Flying Dog Imperial Porter was also fantastic; if I remember correctly that bottle was also from 2004. The 3rd and 5th courses paired two different beers rather than a true vintage tasting, though they were similar in style.

As I mentioned above, the food was great -- showing not only a knack for creative flavor combinations, but also an eye for visually appealing dishes. (And naturally I forgot my camera.) The second course, smoked salmon terrine, was the most visually dramatic and also the most surprisingly tasty dish for me. I'm not normally a fan of smoked salmon, but in chef Kimball's hands, the fishiness of the salmon blended with creamy goat cheese, fried capers and sweet onion compote to create a harmonious whole. The Cantillon paired well, with its bracingly sour notes.

While the terrine was my favorite individual dish, the best pairing of the afternoon was the third course: the dark, velvety Flying Dog Gonzo with luxurious braised short rib and shirred egg. After such a rich course, the asparagus salad refreshed us with its bright goat cheese and vibrant blood orange. A cheese plate rounded out the meal with three generous cuts of artisanal goat, sheep and cow cheese and tasty house-made condiments.

The brunch was so good that Mal and I will be attending chef Kimball's upcoming gastropub cooking class at Fosters. Maybe we'll see you there.
Thanks to MTR co-owner Leigh Maida for helping me out with the menu information.