Friday, December 25, 2009
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Friday, September 25, 2009
Posts on DC Foodies have come and gone. My ongoing series about the D.C. area's best beer bars continues. The latest bar I profiled was Franklin's in Hyattsville, Md. It's a great brewpub and an interesting story about how a guy who sold toys went out on a limb and started a successful restaurant and brewery. At least that was the story I set out to tell. Judging by the comments I received on the article, the post was also an attack on Hyattsville itself. Sure I may have made a quip or two about there not being much in little Hyattsville (I believe I used the term "squat" at one point), but I meant no harm. They were throw away lines primarily meant to set up the fact that this brewery is a success despite being in a small community (no small feat). However, the proud people of Hyattsville let me know on the blog and by e-mail that they didn't think I was particularly funny. They're probably right, but I didn't see that coming.
What I did see coming was the guy who wanted to shove my next meal down my throat. After reading about a local restaurant that was repeatedly vandalized by anti-foie gras protesters, I decided it was time to talk about foie gras and the other taboo product, veal. In the animal rights world there are few food stuffs more reviled than foie gras and veal. And while I know that the members of PETA and the Humane Society know what these products are and how they're made, many of the people they're trying to reach through their protests and campaigns don't. So I figured the least I could do was talk about how these products are produced, and highlight a few of the better farms. To no surprise, the veal post and the foie gras post got a few angry comments. They also got a few comments from readers who seemed to appreciate the information. And that's all I was hoping for. As for the person who wants to force feed me, well, he/she can kiss my ass.
As part of the foie gras post, I worked with a local chef to prepare a few dishes. More specifically, I worked with a French chef. We went back and forth talking about what dishes we'd prepare. Of course, the chef wanted to focus exclusively on French preparations. Of course, I wanted to fire up the grill. This did not sit well with the chef. Grilling foie gras is not done in France, where foie gras is treated with the greatest reverence. But as I explained, I write a grilling column. It'll look more than a little odd if my grilling column doesn't include any grilling recipes. So the chef relented and agreed to try grilling ("The flavor from the grill will overwhelm the foie gras."). You know what? That piece of foie gras turned out pretty damn good. So did the cru au sel, and the seared slab of foie gras, but it was nice to win a culinary argument with a professional chef who has many, many years in the business.
To go with the grilled foie gras, we made a gastrique (sauce) with honey, balsamic and Flying Dog's Road Dog porter. It's a kick ass beer that worked perfectly in the sauce and against the foie gras. The Flying Dog folks are also good people. They're cutting me a big break on a couple cases of beer I need for a beer class I'm teaching next month.
Speaking of beer, a hairy brewer kissed me. Gotta say, I wasn't expecting it. I've been setting up beer dinners at CulinAerie, which makes me the middle man between the local brewers and the Susans. The first beer dinner I set up was with Starr Hill out of Crozet, Va., near Charlottesville. Master Brewer Mark Thompson is a great guy, if a bit eccentric (there were a lot of jokes about acid). Mark brought up three of his biggest sellers, The Love wheat beer, Jomo Lager, and Northern Lights IPA. All quality beers, which helped make for a quality night. And apparently Mark was so happy (and maybe a little drunk) with how the evening went that he felt compelled to give the guy who set it up a big hug and kiss on the cheek. It was flattering ... and a little off putting. Still, I'm looking forward to doing it again next year. Up next, we have Rich Fleicher, the founder and head brewer of Hook & Ladder, coming in for a dinner on Wednesday. Let's hope he can keep his hands to himself.
I finally got a chance to tour Cigar City Brewing in Tampa. More importantly, I finally got a chance to try the beer. Thank God it tastes good. I am happier than hell that Tampa has a budding craft brewery, but I was afraid the beer was going to suck (what can I say, I've been a Bucs fan too long). Fortunately, the beer is fantastic and the man behind Cigar City, Joey Redner, is a good guy who knew enough to bring in brewer Wayne Wambles from North Carolina's stellar brewery, Foothills. Redner was also nice enough to give me a behind-the-scenes tour while I was down. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, I plan to do a profile for DC Foodies, so I'll leave the descriptions of the beer and how well one of them played in a D.C. bar.
Finally, the Top Chef pot luck dinners continue to be a great time. The missus and I really should have started this tradition a few seasons earlier.
Oh, and I'm down to my final case of home brew. Man, I am tired of that damn beer.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Here's a helpful tip: beer doesn't age well. At least not Japanese beer.
Years ago, a friend brought me back a can of Orion beer from
Well, I hung on to that can of beer for the past 11 years until the missus gave me an ultimatum: drink it or dump it. Mind you, I didn't store this beer in any refrigerators or cool, dark closets. The beer lived on shelves and tables. It got packed and unpacked during several moves, and generally spent its life at room temperature.
Of course I would drink it.
So a couple weeks ago I took the beer off the shelf and stuck it into the fridge. Every time I opened the fridge, it was sitting there, staring at me. Every time I shoved it aside to grab a drink, it reminded me of my decision. But I was scared. I mean, what was this thing going to taste like?
At best, it would be flat and sour. At worst, the aluminum would have deteriorated and mixed with the skunked alcohol, sending me to the porcelain oval of misfortune for the night. Was it worth it? Was the consternation even worth it?
As it turns out, not really. I finally cracked the beer the other night. To my great surprise, I was greeted with a resounding "keesshhh." The beer had maintained its carbonation. When I poured it into a glass, it even produced a respectable head. As for the taste, that wasn't too surprising. It wasn't skunked, but the beer was clearly past its prime. Instead of that crisp, dry, faintly sweet flavor Japanese lagers tend to have, the aged Orion was all sweet and funk. But it was drinkable. Well, drinkable in a "trapped on a desert island and I have no other options" kind of way, but there would be no harried trips to the thunder bucket.
After a few sips, I decided my curiosity was satiated and so the rest went down the drain.
My latest grilling post on DC Foodies is up. In fact, a few postings have gone up since I last updated the blog, including my second beer bar profile and my review of a two-day cooking class at CulinAerie. Obviously, it's been a while since I updated the old Gastronomy blog, but I have been super slammed with house guests and projects.
I also blame Facebook, which has allowed me to get the word out about new DC Foodies posts toute suite. That's great, but it gives me an all-too-convenient excuse to blow off posting any updates here.
Speaking of the DC Foodies posts, I've started adding a link to my new Flickr account. I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but the account will allow me to post all the photos that I don't have room for on my blogs. And given all the photos I shoot, that's a lot of photos that go unseen, which feels like a waste (especially when I'm still paying to develop some of them). The first Flickr link went with my write up of the Beyond Basics cooking class at CulinAerie, but I'll pop in a slide show link whenever I have additional photos to share.
Finally, the new season of Top Chef began this week. This year, the missus and I started holding a Top Chef pot luck with a few other folks. It was a great time. We ate a bunch of food (duck sliders, sweet potato cakes, homemade cookies, a few cocktails), and watched the vegetarian get kicked off the first episode. I don't know why we didn't think of this sooner.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
This week, it's all about the barbecue. Nine and a half pounds of slow cooked, smoked pork butt to be exact. I've been waiting months for the time and opportunity to break in the new smoker, a Chargrill barrel grill and smoker. For the most part, things went well, but there's definitely work to be done.
For one thing, the smoker ran a little too hot, which was my fault. I've smoked with wood before, but never for this long of a time. With my old Weber bullet, I used a combination of wood chips and charcoal. I'm more comfortable with this mixture and may use more charcoal next time. It burns longer and is a little easier to control. The wood worked out OK, but it burns hotter and faster than I expected.
All this is to say, my pork was a little drier than I like. It got 23 hours in the smoker, but could have come out after 20. That said, the meat was still delicious and the sauce helped tremendously. But when I opened that smoker at 9 a.m. the morning of the barbecue gathering I was throwing for my visiting brother and niece I was scared. The bark was much more charred than I expected. Then I pealed the butt off the grill. The heat had seared some of the meat to the grate, which tore off when I pulled. What was left behind was the most beautiful of sights: succulent pork, glistening with rendered fat in the morning sun. I picked and pulled a few pieces off and popped them in my mouth to check the doneness. Immediately I realized that the outside of the pork was too done, but inside all was right. Crisis averted.
For the beer pairing this time, I went with Great Divide's incredibly good Titan IPA. I'm a big fan of a lot of IPAs, but I was forced to pick one recently for the profile Washingtonian magazine did of the DC Foodies. The more I thought about all the great IPAs out there, the more I kept coming back to Titan. Pound for pound, it really is one of the best out there. Besides, I've had a chance to talk to Bryan Baltzell, Great Divide's head brewer, a few times, and he's a great guy who knows how to brew.
As I mentioned in my last post, we just started running my new best beer bars series on the DC Foodies site. For the inaugural post, I profiled Birreria Paradiso and declared it to be the best in the city, which it is. However, it's a little weird now. I went there a few days ago with my brother, niece and the missues, and now I'm not just the beer geek customer, but the local blogger who said the place is the best in town. Everyone, including Greg the bar manager, was super nice, but it's always odd being recognized. To top it off, the Birreria is framing and mounting my review in the bar. Of course, none of this will keep me away from the place. In fact, I plan to bring Greg a bottle of Cigar City (Tampa's first microbrewery!) after I get back from Tampa in September. That will be a trip of beer and football, as the missus and I get to check out our new field level seats in the Bucs' stadium and Cigar City's beers. Can't wait.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
As I've mentioned before, I've been itching to do this series for some time. Ever since I came across The Beer Mapping Project's beer bar listings, I figured D.C. needed someone to break down the city's great beer drinking destinations. I'll do these profiles once a month, though these places may require more than once-a-month research.
I mean, how else will I make sure my profiles and ratings are accurate?
I will say that once football season gets started (oh, football, I miss you so), I'll bust out the grilled pizzas again. I just won't go all Julia Childs on them.
Fortunately, I know how to pick beer. In this case, I grabbed a four-pack of Oscar Blues' Gordon, the Colorado brewery's double IPA in a can (God love those people). My mom and niece were with me when I bought the four-pack, which led my mother to note that I'd get more beer with a six-pack. As I told her, this was more about quality than quantity, which is all well and good. However, would it kill the breweries to just do away with the four-pack? It is kind of a bummer to either suffice with a four-pack or shell out for two of them. Is this a law? Is someone looking into this?
Speaking of beer, I'm excited about a new series coming to D.C. Foodies. I'll be profiling the D.C. area's best beer bars. I've been itching to do this series for a long time and finally got around to pitching it. I've already got one profile in the can and shot the second. I've never been big into doing restaurant reviews, but this is right in my wheelhouse. Think about it, I'm running around to some of my favorite bars and bartenders, and talking to them about beer. What a hobby.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My inaugural beer also made its debut a couple weeks ago. I took a case down to my buddy Chris' bachelor party in Savannah ... and brought half a case back to D.C. Fair enough. I was clearly dealing with a Bud Light crowd. Even the few occasions I bought Chris a Mama's Little Yella Pils or a Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale weren't met with much enthusiasm. Don't get me wrong, Chris was always appreciative of my efforts, it's just that the craft beers were always followed by more Bud Light. Much more Bud Light.
To their credit, the guys at the bachelor party were honest about their selection in beer. We were hanging out the first day and the only thing cold to drink was Bud and Miller Lite. I cracked a couple and rediscovered why I'm not a fan (but I tried, people, I really tried). So I couldn't help but to ask everyone else what it was that kept them such loyal drinkers of Bud Light and Miller Lite.
Thank god they didn't say taste. Nah, they agreed the taste was mediocre at best. However, they could drink these low alcohol beers all day long and not get too drunk. They were choosing quantity over quality. I can respect that. It's not my position. I'd rather drink fewer, high quality (and higher alcohol) beers, but I could understand their reasoning.
And despite their preference for Bud, most of them gave my hoppy brown ale a shot and said nice things. Did they mean it? Maybe. But knowing where their tastes lay, I didn't worry too much about having a few leftover beers at the end of the weekend.
Oh, and I joined Facebook. It turns out everyone one else already has.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Fried, grilled, blackened and roasted, you just can't go wrong with that ugly fish (Seriously, try to go wrong with it. You can't do it). In this case, I tossed it on the grill whole for fish tacos, easily in my top 20 of great dishes. (Ok, don't try to screw it up. It's good fish. Don't mess it up.)
I wasn't planning on featuring a beer with this post (the missus put a temporary moratorium on beer purchases given that the fridge was full of it and I have four cases of home brew in the basement). However, I came across Rogue Brewery's new Captain Sig's Deadliest Ale, a beer inspired by the crabbers on Discovery Channel's Deadliest Catch (must-see TV for the missus and me). Add in the fact that Sig Hansen's grizzled mug is embossed on the bottle and I couldn't pass it up.
I describe the beer in the D.C. Foodies post, but one thing that particularly made me chuckle was Rogue calling it an India red ale. This is a rarely used bastardization of the term India pale ale, a term with some historical basis. However, India red ale works as a descriptive term. "India" in India pale ale describes a beer that is hoppier and generally higher in alcohol than a pale ale (pale describes the malt, ale describes the fermentation). So if Rogue adds more hops to a red ale with a higher-than-normal alcohol content, why not call label it an India red ale and call it a day? Rogue isn't the first to do this, but they're one of few.
You've stopped reading, haven't you. Sorry, I'm a beer geek.
Speaking of beer, the home (sort of) brew will be ready this weekend. I'm tossing a case in the trunk and heading down to Savannah, Ga., for my buddy Chris' bachelor party. I'll try to remember to take some photos (of the beer, not much else).
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
I also got a chance to develop the last roll of film I had at the event. Yes, I shot with film. Yes, it's antiquated. Yes, digital is superior in many, many ways. Unfortunately, my digital camera takes horrible pictures in low light, so I had to fall back on my manual, film camera, which is actually a better -- if more inconvenient -- camera than my digital.
Anyway, the top photo gives a pretty good idea how nice the venue was. Savor was held at the National Building Museum in downtown D.C. It was a great location. If the Brewers Association is smart, they'll hold the event there every year.
Enjoy the photos. (For the record, I have no idea who the guy in the last photo is. He saw my camera and insisted I take his picture. I did. However, the guy in the first photo is Bryan Baltzell from Great Divide. Nice guy. Great beer.)
Friday, June 5, 2009
Anyway, I did most of my venting in the D.C. Foodies post I co-wrote with Rob Rutledge. With all that off my chest, I'll just provide you with a few photos, including one of me chatting up Greg Koch from Stone. (OK, a quick sum up: The beer was great, but I'd like to see a few new breweries next year. The food still sucks.)
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
But at least it's done now and ready to drink ... in two weeks. (Parenthetical comment on the ellipses; I'll stop now.) I washed, filled and capped five cases of beer, which works out to 120 12 ounce beers. Thankfully, my buddy Tim pitched in, which allowed me to reward him with a case of beer ... whether he wanted it or not. (Second parenthetical comment; I lied about the ellipses.)
(Third parenthetical comment; I'm a big fan of Norm Chad, the Couch Slouch. Honestly, he's the main reason I read the sports page -- the one made out of real paper -- between football seasons.)
The other four cases reside in a basement closet under the stairs of my new house. Once the carbonation settles down, they'll be ready to drink. However, a preliminary taste at the brewery and the next day during a lunch the missus and I had with Mr. and Mrs. Peter Falk, revealed that the beer ain't half bad. In fact, it's pretty damn solid. And considering that I have 95 bottles of the stuff waiting for me, that's quite a relief.
After I got all 120 beers bottled last weekend, I had to hustle home because it was only my first beer event of the day. Last Saturday was also Savor ...