Friday, September 25, 2009

A brewer kissed me and I ate foie gras

It's been a month since I updated this old blog, here. It's been a strange month.
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.