Dallas has few diversions other than eating, drinking and shopping.....and shopping does not interest us.
So we spend our time hopping from restaurant to restaurant and to every pub that we can find in search of the perfect meal and the perfect beer.

We randomly review restaurants and bars, dishes and beers at whim and give our brutally honest opinions of our findings. And while we concentrate on Dallas, we travel far and wide to sample cuisine from all regions of the country and beyond.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beer Review - Curieux

Allagash Curieux - 11% ABV

Do you know what an 'Oh my God' moment is?  The first time you try a freshly made fettucini alfredo...the first time you see your significant other naked (in which case 'oh my god' may be a cry of joy, or horror, it depends upon where you put the emphasis) or the first time you try Allagash Curieux.

Curieux (french for curious) was first created by the wizards at Allagash in 2004 and is a Belgian style trippel ale, then they place the ale in emptied Jim Beam bourbon barrels (I love bourbon, bourbon makes me happy) where it is allowed to age in their cellars for 8 weeks.  That is where the magic happens.

The head is huge and is quite persistent, you will have to wait a bit to let it settle.  While it settles, have a smell the yeast, and the boubon and that is about it.  The color is cloudy, golden.  The flavor is that of a great Belgian trippel...bread, toffee, banana and bourbon...lots of boubon...and a bit of oak.  This is a magnificent beer made even better with the bourbon.  It was such an 'Oh my God' moment for me that I abandoned my Christmas party and went to find a quiet place where I could have a private moment with my new friend.  Great beers are about sharing, but not this one...this one was for me and me alone.  I have had Allegash brews before and found them to be quite delightful, but this one brings them up to near the top the favorites list.

50 Industrial Way
Portland, Maine 04103
Tel: (207) 878-5385
Toll Free (800) 330-5385

Friday, December 17, 2010

Road Trip Dining - Ball Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que

Ball Hickory Pit Bar-B-Que - McAlester, OK

The Beer Snob loves roadtripping and several times a year I get to roadtrip through eastern Oklahoma.  Normally, road trips through Oklahoma are sheer bathrooms, crappy beer and fast food dining.  At least that is the way it was until I was told about Ball Bar-b-que in McAlester, Oklahoma.  There is nothing really special about McAlester, which is about 1/2 way through the state and a bit larger than most of the speed-trap happy villages you pass through on your way home.  Along US 75 you will see the normal fast food joints, WalMart, a stray auto dealership or 2, but if you are adventurous and are wanting the best barbeque you have ever had, go off the the main road and find Ball's.

When you finally find the restaurant which is truly off the beaten path (a local cop led me to it the first time I tried to find it), somewhere off Business 75 in a non-descript neighborhood, you will be treated to what may be the finest quality meat I have ever had.  Have you ever listened to someone bragging about their 87 ingredient rub that they use to hide the fact that their meat is gamey, tough and barely edible?  Not here my frends, just the highest quality meat, that's it, no seasonings, then a long session in the smoker using hickory wood to finish.  The brisket, you ask?  Tender, moist, delicious.  But don't stop there, it would be a crime to stop there...beef ribs, pork ribs, pulled pork, turkey, bologna, ham, chicken and hot, hot, hot links...and all the finest quality of meat you have had.  The sauce is so good that I have been known to have a gallon or so of it in my fridge so that I can pretend that the local Dallas barbeque is edible.  And damn it all, they even have great frigging hamburgers as if all that is not enough.  Oh my aching gut.  Potato salad, coleslaw, french fries, bbq beans....I guess I can stuff in a bit more.  "Pickle bar?  You make your own pickles?"  Groan, I think I can do it.  "Homemake blackberry cobbler?  Peach, too?"  Oh god make it stop!

I have become so enamored with the quality of the food and the friendliness of the staff that I make sure that my driving schedule takes me through McAlester at lunch time on one of the 4 days that they are open (Thursday through Sunday only) both coming and going.  Be forewarned, it is dangerous driving through all of the revenue challenged small towns loaded with Barney Fifes and their radar guns while battling a meat coma, but my oh my it is worth the battle.

Ball Bar-B-Que
319 West Shawnee Avenue
McAlester, OK 74501-6247
(918) 423-4430

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Beer Review - Samichlaus Bier

Samichlaus Bier - 14% ABV

Castle Eggenberg is the oldest family owned brewery in Austria and dates back at least to the year 999 A.D. Beginning in 1681 the Castle Brewery Eggenberg began brewing on a commercial basis. About 200 years ago the ancestors of the present owner bought the castle.  Bastards.

Samichlaus (Austrian for Santa Claus) is brewed once a year on December 6th, and only on December 6th, then allowed to age for 10 months and bottled.  What a confusing beer, described as 'the World's Strongest Lager', Dopplebock, Christmas Ale....bah...I know a malt liquor when I taste one.  The clear reddish-brown beer pours with almost no head, and what little you get rapidly dissapates.  The smell is of molasses and honey and there is enough alcohol included to give you a bit of nasal burn.  Sweet, with malts, caramel and hazel nut coming first and then the alcohol burn taking over the lead in the closing act.  This beer is a stand alone to be enjoyed after a good meal, perhaps instead of cognac, which is what it reminds me of.  Enjoy it now or allow it to age a few years in a protected location, and don't forget that you may use what you don't drink to fuel your jet.

Stohr GmbH & Co KG
Eggenberg 1
4655 Vorchdorf

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Heart Attack of the Month - Chili Cheeseburger

Chili Cheeseburger at Maple and Motor Burgers and Beer

Heartburn.....indegestion.....the it what you will, this month's delight was a tough one to stomach (nudge, nudge). 

Maple and Motor "A Grease-stained Tribute to Low Class Cool" is an increasingly popular burger joint located at....tah dah!....Maple and Motor (clever bastards).  If asked (though I would not recommend it) they will readily admit that this is not a place to find healthy food.  Their 1/3 pound beef patties are a wonderfully greasy blend of 70/30 beef.  Their chili is made in house and is also rich, greasy and delicious.  Their is really nothing super special about their burgers...just old fashioned, greasy, delicious burgers.  Then why add the chili?  Oh well, if you are going to be a bear, be a grizzly bear, right?

You are afraid that the burger may not sit well?  Afraid of perhaps spending the afternoon on the porcelain throne?  Well then you need to counterbalance it with the cheese covered tater tots.  Not grizzly bear enough?  My, you are an adventurer,  Well then you need to add the bacon and jalapeno to the top of the cheezy goo and ranch dressing for dipping.  If you are really lucky, the mass of cheese will counteract the effects of the chili and perhaps the worse side effect you will have is the dreaded acid reflux... but it is well worth the risk my friends.  Wash it all down with an ice cold PBR and you have reached bubba nirvana.  Enjoy.

Maple and Motor Burgers and More
4810 Maple Avenue
Dallas, TX 75219-1005
(214) 522-4400

Beer Review - Avery Reverend

The Reverend - 10% ABV

This Ale, in the style of a Belgium quadrupel, was created by Avery in tribute to the life of Sales Manager Tom Boogaard's grandfather, an ordained Episcopal Reverend.  They describe it as "strong willed, assertive, and pure of heart, a heart of candy sugar".  I describe it as frigging delicious.
The cloudy, orange-amber color and sweet candy smell gives no hint whatsoever of the powerfull taste to follow.  You will smell vanilla, banana and malts along with a full head that leaves nice lacing throughout.  The fine carbonation gives you a silky mouthfeel as you enjoy the flavor of fig, plums and raisins.  You will get undertones of banana, cloves and the caramel malts with the alcohol lightly coming through at the end, well disguised and ready to pounce.  This beer is a wonderful winter ale that would be perfect for a cold night sitting next to the fire. 

Avery has done their trappist brewing forefathers and Reverend Boogaard right.  Let me assure you that this one will end up on my regulars list for as long as it lasts.

Avery Brewing Company
5763 Arapaho Ave.
Boulder, Colorado 80303

Monday, December 6, 2010

Beer 101 - Belgian Ales

Belgian Ale Styles

While sitting in a pub the other day drinking a superb Belgian quadrupel (it is what I do, drink) a drinking buddy asked me, "Snob" (yes, that is my real name) "What is the difference between a dubbel and a tripel, and how does a tripel differ from a quadrupel?"  "Well" I stammered, "I think it has to do with the length of the brewing process....or is it the number of fermentations?".  Bloody hell, I hate being called out.  So here, my friends, is a breakdown in the different types of Belgian Ales so that you don't get caught looking like a noob when asked about something you should already know.

Belgian Ale - The every day beer of Belgium, similar to an American Pale Ale, or Amber Ale or an English Brown Ale.  Typified by a lower alcohol content (say around 6%) that far most Belgians it is meant for daily consumption.  (No children, Stella Artois is not an ale, it is a lager and a mediocre one at that.  The locals refer to it as 'wife beater' beer and would be compared to PBR or Milwaukees Best by a Belgian.)

Belgian Strong Ale - Add candy sugar to the ale brewing process and you get an ale that is stronger, sweeter, full flavored and insidious.  The sweetness and light mouthfeel hide the fact that the beer is stronger (7% +) and will slap you down.

Abbey Dubbel - The Dubbel, Tripel and Quadrupel distinctions were originally reserved for the Abbey brewed beers.  Many secular beers, even here in the U.S., are brewing these styles of ales.  The dubbel is an ale that is allowed to go through a second fermention, sometimes in the brewery, sometimes in the bottle.  They are usually richley malted and are brown to dark brown with a persistent head.  Candy sugar is used to strengthen the brew and the style overlaps with Belgian ales or strong ales.

Abbey Tripel - This style was created by the monks at Westmalle abbey, so if you want to try the original, the best, the superior tripel ale, try the Westmalle, which can be found in many parts of the U.S..  Tripels are ales that have gone through a third fermentation and are usually golden or light amber in color and usually have long lasting, lacy heads.  The use of candy sugar and high carbonation can easily hide that fact that you are consuming lots of alcohol.  The biggest difference between the tripels and the other Belgians is that the tripels are usually hopped and have the floral nose that you would expect with hops.

Abbey Quadrupel - Also created by monks and copied by many secular breweries these ales go through the fermentation process 4 times.  This creates the richest, strongest, most complex flavors and are dark brown to red brown in color with a creamy mouthfeel.  Typically very high in malts with a background taste of yeast, fruits and chocolate and lots of alcohol (10% or more) to ruin your drive home (was that a mailbox?).  Whenever you mention Belgian ales and see a beer snob start drooling like Pavlov's dogs they are probably thinking about this style of ale.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Beer Review - Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter

Tommyknocker Cocoa Porter - 5.7% ABV

I am continually amazed by the quality of beers coming out of Colorado these days.  The west coast in known for having a large selelction of mirco-breweries and craft brewers...but a great deal of them seem to be intent on trying to out hop the other trick ponies so to speak.  The Colorado breweries on the other hand, are putting out a stunning variety of craft beers of superior least most of the breweries...the swill being produced by Coors brings down the average somewhat.
As you drive west from Denver and start your seemingly unending climb up into the mountains, one of the first towns you come across is the historic mining town of Idaho Springs, the place where gold was first discovered in Colorado.  You can stop and see the quaint little shops, the cute little boutiques....or screw all of that and stop at the Tommyknocker Brewery and Pub and get tanked.  Yeah baby.
Tommyknocker Brewery has been producing above average beers since 1994 and continue that tradition with their Cocoa Porter Winter Warmer.  The smell of cocoa is quite evident along with the roasted malts and the brew is quite dark...chocolaty even.  The creamy tan head does not persist. 
The flavor is of lightly sweetened chocolate with just enough hops to make it slighly dry, reminiscent of Youngs Double Chocolate Stout.  The texture is a bit lighter that you would expect considering the sweetness and the finish gives you just a hint of bitterness from the unsweetened cocoa used in the brewing process.
A nice holiday treat but I don't think I could drink more than one at a sitting.

Tommyknocker Resturant, Pub & Brewery
1401 Miner St
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
(303) 567-2688

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Beer Review - Duvel/Ommegang Beer Tasting

Beer Snobbery

Living in Texas where most restaurants sell Shiner Bock (a forgettable Texas beer) as an import, you really have to give kudos to those who try to educate the Bud Light swilling masses to appreciate beers with flavor.  Hats off to Keith Schlabs and the friendly folks at the Meddlesome Moth for sponsoring a beer tasting featuring rare beers from the Duvel Moortgat Brewery which also owns the Maredsous line of abbey ales (the pinnacle of Belgian Ales), La Chouffe Ales (and it's weird elf fixation), and the Ommegang Brewery in New York (one of the, if not the, finest breweries in the U.S.). 

Duvel Triple Hop - 9.5% ABV

Duvel is typically classified as a Strong Pale Ale while the Triple Hop is called a Holiday Beer.  As is typical of a Holiday Beer the Duvel Triple Hop is quite similar to the Duvel Ale but with 3 "special hops" added; 2 from Europe and 1 American, and a bit more alcohol.  The additional hops added a bit of interest to the taste but does not over power.  The cloudy, golden ale had a earthy nose, slightly yeasty.  It tastes a bit sour, slightly citrus with a long bitter finish that you would expect with the additonal hops.  While the Duvel Triple Hop a fine, fine ale, it is not so dissimilar from the Pale Ale to justify the $30 per bottle price tag.  We would suggest sticking with the Duvel Pale Ale.

Ommegang Biere de Mars - 6.5% ABV

Oh no!  Dissention in the ranks!  This belgian style amber ale was the subject of much discussion at the snob table and was either loved or hated by those tasting with no one pleading indifference.  The Ommegang brewers are experimenting with secondary fermentation and this is one of the results.  The yeast used in the second fermentation is a wild strain which gives it a "a bit of zing and some farmhouse funkiness".  The ale is cloudy with a golden brown color and you can slightly smell the sourness imparted by the wild yeast.  The flavor was really different...woodsy, ferny, lightly sour, dry, malty, peppery....almost undefinable....oh my.  This is a very interesting beer, very balanced, and will surely create conversation at your next get together.

Ommegang Triple Perfection - 8.9% ABV

Ommegang's Triple Perfection is a Belgian style triple ale and is their limited edition Christmas Ale.  It's cloudy with a glowing gold color and a persistant head and has a wonderful yeasty, fruity nose that you would expect in a Christmas Ale but with a additional hint of alcohol.  The flavor is spicy and peppery with hints of locorice, coriander and alcohol.  Not truly a Belgian triple but worth exploring and alas, you can only find it in their holiday multipack.

Maredsous Triple - 10% ABV

Maredsous Triple is an abbey ale produced by the monks at the Benedictine Abbey in Denee, Belgium so it is truly an abbey ale.....well.....kind 1963 they were recruited by Duvel to produce an abbey ale for them.  So yes, it is and abbey ale, but....but....but I digress.
Also a seasonal ale, or a 'special occasion' ale as they call it, it has the the rich flavors, the maltiness, the alcohol that is typical of a Belgian triple.  The cloudy golden color and rich nose hints at what is to come...and that is magnificence.  Sweet and malty with a hint of citrus, balanced, creamy smooth...oh my goodness.  This one will warm your belly and dull your senses.  Relax, enjoy.

Ommegang Cave-Aged Abbey Ale '06 - 8% ABV

What annoying thing could a beer snob do to push the limits of snobbery?  To create the uber snob?  Hmmmm...I know!  I'll review a beer that you can't even get!
Ommegang Abbey Ale in and of itself is a magnificent classic Belgian style abbey ale.  Dark, rich, intensly flavored.  The smell is of molasses and malts and an insignificant head that rapidly dissipates from the cloudy, mahogany brew.  Taste the malts?  Yeah, and the spice along with the sweetness.  Coriander...maybe orange..and.....prunes?  Superb.  How could it be any better?  I'm glad you asked...well you put it in a cellar that averages 55 degrees for 4 years. Mother of god this is a good beer.....and you can't have any.

N'ice Chouffe - 10% ABV

Odd, or rather....different.  Everything about Brasserie d’ Achouffe’ and the Achouffe Brewery is different...odd.  The brewer is odd, crediting the success of their ales to the 'magic water' (magic water?  I shudder to think what he means by that) they use in the brewing process.  There is also the odd fixation with strange little elves (  Their beer is absolutley different, odd, but good.  N'ice is their winter ale...strong, dark and delicious.   It is spiced with thyme and curaƧao and lightly hopped....a well-balanced beer. Strangely, or rather oddly, there is little or no aroma, but why does that surprise me?  The beer is unfiltered and allowed a second fermentation in the bottle (and keg) so you will have a bit of sediment to deal with.  The best thing about this ale is that it is available on tap during the winter months, so go, now, and enjoy.

Special thanks to Prescott Carter and Duvel Moortgat USA, LTD.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Beer Review - Samual Smith's Winter Welcome

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome - 6% ABV

Fall is progessing toward winter.  It is long past the time of year where you want a lighter, refreshing beer like the lagers or the wiess beers, the ones you crave when it is hot.  The Octoberfest beers are all but drained except for the few brewers that over produced or supply Octoberfest beers year around (poor misguided bastards).  Now is the time for the winter ales, the Christmas ales and the spiced ales.  You are sitting in front of the fire, sipping and nice wintertime seasonal ale (because you know that chugging beers in winter is just sad), you want flavor, you want warmth, you want a buzz and these are the things that the winter ales provide.

The first entry of the season is the Winter Welcome produced by those talented lads at the Samuel Smith Brewery in Tadcaster, England.  There is a lot of tradition at Samuel Smith's, the oldest brewery in Yorkshire (1758) and one of the few independent breweries left in England.  They use a yeast strain developed in the early 1900's and get their water from a well dug 200 years ago.  Their brewing vessels are vats made from huge slabs of slate, which add character to their ales and stouts.

Those of you that know Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome will first examine the label, which is designed anew every year.  The beer is also subject to change year to year, and this years is a decent brew.  A nice golden, brown color will greet you as you pour with a creamy head with small bubbles that give a nice creamy texture.  As is typical with a winter ale, there is a bit more hops, a bit more spice and a bit more alcohol than their brown ale.  It seems very simple at first, but as you get farther into the pint you will notice it is more complex than you thought.  This is a very drinkable ale and is perfect for your Thanksgiving dinner (yeah, it will be just dandy with turkey) or for your company Christmas party. 

If you have not tried the other Samuel Smith products I would highly recommend that you do so.  I have tried nearly all that they produce and never had a stinker.  Enjoy.

Samuel Smith's Old Brewery
Tadcaster, North Yorkshire, England LS249SB
Located on High Street in Tadcaster

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Heart Attack of the Month - The Badwich

The Badwich at Fish's Bar-B-Que

Just thinking about this monstrosity makes me look around in panic for the nearest loo.  This is not your father's BBQ sandwich, this is one of the reasons Americans are FAT.

Take a fried hotlink sausage and place it on a sliced brisket (fatty brisket, of course) sandwich.  "Wow"  you say, "that is quite a mouthfull".  Yes indeed, but it is not close enough to a massive heart attack yet.  Now we add fried bologna.  "Wait, what?"  Yes my friends, fried bologna sandwiches are a staple in the dirty south.  You didn't know that?  Well then you were not trashy enough.  Hmmm, what could we add to finish the coronary?  Well cheese of course!  And not a good cheese, no, no no, we have to add chemical laden, not quite real American Cheese. 
"Surely that must be enough" you say through clenched teeth, as you feel the bile rising in the back of your thoat.  Yes, or rather no.  Hey, it's not a meal unless you serve the sandwich with greasy french fries and sweet tea, now is it?  Just for kicks, lets add a side of baked beans to help things move along.
Fish's Bar-B-Que sells lots o' Badwiches.  If you are feeling the need to get your cholesterol back up above 440 try one at:

Fish's Bar-B-Que
105 E Ballentine Rd
Tahlequah, OK 74464

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Beer Review - 60 Minute IPA

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA - 6.0% ABV

OK hopheads, this one is for you. 
The folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery are mighty proud of their hops.  With "more than 60 hop additions over a 60 minute boil" and "a slew of great NorthWest hops" they create a "powerful, but balanced East Coast I.P.A.".  Quite a lot of braggadocio concerning hops, don't you agree? 

Nice golden amber color with the floral nose that you would expect from a hoppy beer.  Average head that lasts and leaves a lacy pattern on your glass.

You will taste citrus, with earthy notes and just a bit of malt for balance.  Regardless of their claim, it is not as hoppy as many west coast beers and is really quite drinkable.  But as you notice above, it says an East Coast IPA, and compared with most east coast IPA's it is quite agressive.  Not a super ale, but not a dud either and I found it quite pleasant.  This would be a good one for a day to day beer in a hophead's cooler.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Inc.
#6 Cannery Village Center
Milton, DE 19968

And if you happen to find yourself in Deleware (yeah, right) you may want to stop at their:

Rehoboth Beach Brewpub
320 Rehoboth Ave.
Rehoboth Beach, DE 19971

Monday, October 25, 2010

Beer Review - Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest

Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest - 9.3% ABV

As you have seen in previous reviews I am quite fond of Octoberfest brews.  Their balanced malty nature make them a delight for a crisp autumn day.  Hmmm, an Octoberfest by Avery?  This should be interesting.  Potent Potables for $200.00 Alex.

 The Avery brewing company, founded in 1993 in Boulder, Colorado, with the simple creedo that they brew what they want and to hell with market demands.  John Q. Public would more than likley not enjoy a single beer produced by these lunatics, but the Beer Snobs certainly do.

The Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest is another in The Dictator Series lineup of Imperials and from the best of my recollection (though admittedly after many years of brain cell abuse does not recollect as well as it use to recollect) the Kaiser used to be an Imperial Lager. 

The color of the Kaiser is typical of the Octoberfests, but just a little darker than normal.  Light, floral nose, mildly spicy and typical white head give no hint whatsoever about what is to come.  My friends, this is Octoberfest on steroids.  Huge, huge malts and big hops for balance, spicy, yet sweet at the same time.  All of this massive flavor almost covers up the high alcohol content...almost.  This is not a beer for an all night drinking session.  More than one or two of these beauties and you'll be going home early with an ugly chick.

Do yourself a favor and try one, and only one, of this wonderful beer.  Also try the White Rascal and the Ellie's Brown Ale....oh hell, try them all, you won't be dissappointed.

Avery Brewing Company
5757 Arapahoe Ave.
Boulder, Colorado.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Beer Review - Octoberfest Beers

Octoberfest Beers - Texas vs. Germany

Octoberfest beers also known in Germany as Marzen are brewed in Bavaria during the Winter months from September to March (Marzen...get it?).  They are typically characterized by being malty, full bodied with an amber to dark brown color and a bit dry.  With Texas' affection to their distant German non-heritage, we thought it would be fun to compare the best Octoberfest brews being produced by theTexas breweries to the German counterparts along with Sam Adams Octoberfest, the best selling American produced Octoberfest beer.

With no basis other than  my personal taste these are ranked from least to most favorite.

6.  Sam Adams Octoberfest.  The largest American owned brewery left in the U.S., I cannot fathom why their beers are so popular.  I try them ever so often to see if it is me, perhaps I am missing something....nope, not me.  Marketed as a microbrew, their flavors make them slightly better than the mass produced swill that your father grew up drinking.  Their Octobefest is muted in color and flavor much like the rest of their specialty lines.  Let's call it the Stella Artois of the Octoberfest beers.

5.  Live Oak Oaktoberfest.  Richly malted and a bit hoppier than a typical Octoberfest beer, the dark color and flavor make it more like a brown ale than a typical Octoberfest.  Good though.

4. Warsteiner Oktoberfest.   Suprisingly fail for a German brewery.  With a very light color..almost orange, light nose, lightly carbonated and boring.  This is a very forgettable version of the marzen style.

3.  St. Arnold Oktoberfest.  Much like the Live Oak, the St. Arnold Octoberfest is also a tiny bit hoppier than the typical marzen.  The color is that of an Octoberfest beer, but the flavor is not so much like an Octoberfest beer.  They could also rename this as a brown ale and it would sell fine.

2. Franconia Oktoberfest. Wonderful ruby/amber color and great nose and great flavor, the darkest of the bunch. Fraconia beers tend to be a bit sweeter than I prefer, added to a beer that is slightly sweet by nature it was just too candy for me. Tone down the sugar a bit and this would be magnificent.

1. Paulaner Oktoberfest.  Nutty, malty, slightly sweet, balanced...ahhh, this is what an Octoberfest beer should be.  The rich flavors and light carbonnation makes this the perfect beer to sit on a patio, eating sausages and potatoes and drinking until you fall off of your chair.  Sounds good, off to Stan's to make that happen.

Synopsis - The Texas versions of the Octoberfest beers are worthy of a second glance, but they really need to do a bit of research about what a marzen beer is.  An Octoberfest beer should say 'autumn'...clear fall color, rich balanced flavor, lightly carbonnated, malty beer that would make you want to sit and drink all evening if you wished.    All in all the Texas versions that I tried are pretty good and to be fair to Germany, I did not include the best of the German brews, Ayinger, Spaten and Hoffbrau which are really fantastic Octoberfest beers and are not to be missed.  But they are still better than Sam Adams and with a bit more practice they could even match up with their German counterparts, but then again, this here ain't Germany, is it?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beer Review - Great American Beer Festival

The Great American Beer Festival 2010

For the Beer Snob, there is a no greater thrill than a beer festival.  The ability to bounce from beer to beer, smelling, tasting, enjoying all of the differences that water, yeast, hops and malt can give.  At the GABF, the biggest beer festival in the world,  there were over 2,200 different beers to sample.  Did you get that?  Over 2,200 different beers! 

The festival has 4 sessions spread over 3 days beginning on Thursday and ending on Saturday evening and because of a loaded work schedule, we were only able to attend the last session on the last evening.  That means we had 5 hours to find the perfect beer.  Beer snobs take our beer sampling seriously, observing color, clarity, smell, taste...these things take time.  So, you have to be selective, choosing a few of your favorite types, medal winners, interesting sounding or rare beers one ounce at a time. 

UNFORTUNATELY, by the last session, the Saturday evening session, many of those are gone...RATS!  We also found that Saturday evening is when the idiots appear.  Lots and lots of idiots, wearing matching 'drinking team' shirts, swilling everything that they can get their hands on with no regard whatsoever of quality or type.  Pushing, shoving, yelling, flatulent idiots, all between me and liquid joy. 

I hope that I have not made is sound as if there were no great beers left.  No, no my friends, there were plenty, just many of those that I was really looking forward to sampling were long gone.  So here is a synopsis of the suds that I tried before I tired of stupidity and bailed.

Sprecker Brewery - This Glendale, Wisconsin  brewery was the only booth where I loved every beer that I sampled.  The Abbey Triple, Black Bavarian and Smoked Ale were all world class brews and worthy of road trip.

Barrel Aged TempT - Red Eye Brewing, Wausau, Wisconsin.  A golden belgian style ale.... yummy.

Wee Heavy scottish style ale and the O'Fallon Smoke ale were two fine entries from the O'Fallon Brewery in O'Fallon, Missouri.  Where?  Yeah, me too.

Dirty Bastard Scottish Ale - Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  High Octane, peaty, smokey goodness.

The Capital Brewing Company in Washington D.C. had a Weizen Dopplebock that would make a German brewer proud.

The Black Lager from the Great Northern Brewing Company in Whitefish, Montana was more like a porter in flavor.  Call it what you will, I call it delicious.

The Grand Lake Brewing Company from Grand Lake, Colorado brews only small batches of artisan beers.  The Plaid Bastard strong scotch ale was full bodied, potent and magnificent.

Funkwerks may be the dumbest frigging name for a brewery I have ever heard.  Started by an award winning homebrewer in Fort Collins, Colorado, Funkwerks will be producing their Belgian style Saison for the general public in December.  It is as good a saison as I have ever tasted, and I have tasted a lot.

Horseheads Brewing in Horseheads, NY produced our biggest surprise of the evening.  Surprised by the ingredients and surprised that we liked it.  Hot-Jala-Heim uses Jalepeno and Anaheim peppers.  Smells like peppers, tastes like beer...with a kick.  Good wintertime treat.

Great Adirondack Brewing Company in Lake Placid, NY is part of the Great Adirondack Steak and Seafood Company.  If their food is as good as their Abbey Ale I will happily visit on our next trip to upstate.

I love bourbon...I love Stout....Bourbon Barrel Stout by the Green Flash Brewing Company in Vista California gave me wood.

By this time, we had samped beer from about 60% of the breweries on the floor in about 3 hours.  Perfect timing.  But the moron meter had reached 11 and we were forced to leave.  But much like the Pilgrams crawling on their hands and knees to the shrine at Lourdes in an attempt to be healed, we will come crawling back to Denver on September 29, 2011 to find our perfect beer.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Heart Attack of the Month - Huarache


I have been to many restaurants on the suggestion of friends who will rave about a dish or item that they tried that has them singing the praises of the restaurant.  I have found that in many cases, the dish tried by these friends was indeed worthy of a raised eyebrow, but that almost everything else on the menu is absolute crap.  Conversely, most of these dishes are artery and colon blockers that are sure to cause you gastrointestinal distress in the very near future.  So I have decided to reveal a few of these offerings to the god of flatulence so that you may decide if you would like to risk the wrath of your doctor when he sees how high your cholesterol count has gotten.

A Huarache (pronounced hwa-rah-cha) is the ubiquitous leather sandal that you see literally everywhere, worn by almost everyone, in Mexico.  It is also a common street food in Mexico City and shaped roughly like the sandal for which it is named.  Imagine if you will a half inch thick, shoe shaped, mass of masa (the corn based dough used to make tamales, tortillas, etc.) fried so that it has a crispy crust and a firm, spongy interior.  Add a smear of refried beans so that whatever you add next won't fall to the wayside (some versions will have red or green sauce).  My next chosen layer was Tinga Chicken (chicken slow cooked with tomatoes, onions, garlic and chipotle pepper) but you may have pork, beef, tongue or whatever floats your boat.  Next comes the greens; lettuce, cilantro, salsa, etc. then the queso blanco.  Add cream and avocados and there you have a coronary on a plate.  Expect the heartburn and your satisfaction to last late into the night. 

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Restaurant Review - Restaurant Week

Dallas Restaurant Week 2010

Those of us not blessed with trust fund money must be strategic in our dining options.  Our ultra high end dining choices are made cautiously, after dilegent research, because nothing is more crushing to a foodie as just having spent $200.00+ dollars on an average meal in a popular restaurant that has been hyped by the beautiful people.
Dallas Restaurant Week is the perfect chance for John Q. Public to sample several potential high enders and see if the quality is equal to the hype AND your karma gets a boost for the donation to the North Texas Food Bank made by the restaurants. 
There have been rumors of grumblings by many of the restauranteurs of the difficulties created by the unwashed masses decending upon their demenses like a plague of locusts.  The bumkins are hogging tables usually filled with patrons paying full price.  Then their is the tip issue.  Serves make smaller tips due to the fact that the cost of the Restaurant Week specials is typically much lower than the average meal served.  And of course, the barbarians from the 'burbs don't really tip well, do they?  So are the restauranteurs serving an inferior product to those partaking in the festivities?  Let's find out.....

Fearings at the Ritz Carlton, Dallas
Dean Fearing has become the darling of the Dallas press.  His innovative food preparations and masses of well trained servers make for a delightful evening.  The decor and casual easiness of the staff takes what could be an intimidating experience down a notch and makes the dining as comfortable as the seats. 
The dining options on the Restaurant Week menu were virtually identical to the options offered on the normal dinner menu with no perceived loss of quality.  In direct opposition to the rumors, the servers tended a bit toward over enthusiastic at times, hovering over us and refilling our water glasses seemingly after every sip.  All in all a very good experience with the realily equalling the hype.

Jean-Marie Cadot, a Paris native, another shining star in a family that has been in the restaurant business since the 1700's.  His extensive experience includes cooking and baking degrees from the Ferrandi Cooking School and the Grands Moulins de Paris Baking and Pastry school.  He apprenticed and worked in several Michelin starred restaurants in France and New York and finally, somehow, ended up in Dallas.  Man o' man am I happy that he did.  The decor and ambience are so relaxed that there is no intimidation factor (like you often feel while dining in a fine French restaurant) whatsoever.
As with Fearings, the items on the Restaurant Week menu are the same as those on the normal dinner menu.  It was surprising to find that the items on the regular dinner menu were so modestly priced that some of our group ordered from it instead of the Restaurant Week selections and paid virtually the same amount.  Our server was quite personable and friendly and knew when not to intrude on the conversation.  Mm. Cadot stopped by our table and chatted for a bit, which was well received by the gang.  He is thrilled to be a part of Restaurant Week and wanted to be sure that the meal met our expectations.  Hell yes.  I will return here often and highly recommend that you try it as well.

Pappas Brothers Steakhouse
Steak.  Wonderful, tender aged steak.  We Texans love steak.  It is our birthright, our passion, and no one does it better than Pappas Brothers.  Forget that the mediocre chain restaurants next door are owned by the same group, this is everything that a high end steak restaurant needs to be.  It seems to be a given that in Dallas steak houses ignore the time of your reservation and Pappas Bros is no different, expect to wait.  The ambience is casual, yet formal at the same time and the maze of tables, busting servers and connected rooms can be confusing when you are attemting to find the restroom after a few glasses of wine.
Typically, Pappas Brothers steaks are served ala carte.  Thus your sides and deserts would normally cost you quite a bit more than your already fairly expensive steaks.  The Restaurant Week menu allowed us to eat quite a bit more than you would normally get for a fraction of the price.  As with the 2 others reviewed, the steak you get on the Restaurant Menu is identical to the regular menu.  Service was attentive and efficient.  Of the 3, Pappas turned out to be the greatest value, with portions so large that we were forced to take some home.  Having eaten in most of the other high end steakeries in town, I believe that this is the finest steak restaurant in Dallas.

It may be true that some of the restauranteurs are having a problem with the Restaurant Week experience, but neither I nor anyone that I spoke to had evidence to back the claims.  So the decision is:
Rumors - 0, Fine Dining Experiences - 3

Fearing Restaurant
2121 McKinney Avenue
Dallas, TX 75201-1873
(214) 922-4848

Cadot Restaurant
18111 Preston Rd # 120
Dallas, Tx 75252
(972) 267-5700

Pappas Brothers Steakhouse
10477 Lombardy Ln
Dallas , TX 75220
(214) 366-2000