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.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beer Review - Little Sumpin' Wild

Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Wild Ale - 8.85% ABV

I think that the issue that I have with many west coast beers is hops.  Now don't get me wrong, I love hops, but not beers that blast you with hops for hops sake.  Most are so bitter and astringent that they immediately dry your mouth and pucker your face, making it difficult to drink more than one, or two at the most.  Lagunitas is one of the breweries that I have always kind of liked their products, but really though of as kind of a one trick pony "What kind of beer do you want to make next?"  "I don't care just as we dump a shit load of hops in it". 

Little Sumpin' Wild goes a long way toward making me want to give them a second look.  This clear golden ale pours with a head that persists for a bit and leaves nice lacing on the glass.  The smell has the piney, floral notes that you expect with a hoppy beer, but you can also smell the bananas from the Westmalle yeasts and the malts.  Of course the first thing you taste is the hops, bitter and strong, but with a nice follow of sweetness and maltiness, the hops become prevalent again on the finish.  The flavor of the beer completely hides the high alcohol content, so be careful. 

I would say that this is more like a Belgian IPA than the typical west coast double IPA, with much more balance than you usually find in a west coaster, but true balance is still not there, it is still too hoppy to be a great beer.  A decent beer all in all and probably more enjoyable on a hot summer day.

Lagunitas Brewing Company
1280 North McDowell Boulevard
Petaluma, CA 94954

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Road Trip Dining - The Search for the Perfect Gumbo, Part 3

Arnaud's Restaurant - New Orleans

Our next stop on the tour d' Gumbo took us to one of the most famous restaurants in America; Arnauds's on Bourbon Street.  Ah, Arnaud's, creole cuisine, dixieland jazz, waiters in monkey suits, surely this must be the place, right?  Not really.

The gumbo arrived in quickly enough, but upon first glance I thought that I had been served the wrong dish as that the roux was very light, almost translucent.  Large hunks of chicken and andouille sausage confirmed to me that this must gumbo, and it was.  Now to this point, the gumbo's that I had tried were from casual (i.e. not well known) restaurants, maybe, just maybe, the roux was supposed to be this color.  Honestly, I could not tell the difference in taste so color must not make a difference.  Delicious, but cold. 

And that seemed to be the theme of the night at the world famous Arnaud's Restaurant, cold food, that should have been served hot, and I mean everything was cold.  The Snapper Mitchell with fresh tomatoes, basil, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic and Calamata olives...delicious, cold.  The asparagus with hollandaise, wonderful, cold.  The Chicken Pontalba which is sautéed chicken breast with Marchand de Vin and Béarnaise Sauces served with Brabant potatoes, magnificent, cold.  Send it all back damnit.

The highlight of the evening was served hot, damned hot, but really, anything served while in flames is usually hot. Cafe Brulot (ever heard of it?  Me neither) is a tableside preparation where a mixture of coffee, cinnamon, sugar, brandy and orange liquor is lit aflame and ladeled several times down an orange peel studded with cloves.  Mother Goose is it fantastic and I mean fan-frigging-tastic.

While the food at Arnaud's was darned good (the warm replacements that is) it really is not worth the cost, which was considerable.  And that my friends, is why this Gumbo is rated #3.

Arnauld's Restaurant
813 Rue Bienville
New Orleans, La 70112
Tel. (504) 523-5433

Beer Review - Black Ops

Brooklyn Brewery Black Ops Russian Imperial Stout - 11.7% ABV

Black Ops, eh?  You may think that is an odd name for a beer, that is until you try this beast.  You pour the stout from it's black, corked bottle and see....motor oil, in your glass.  Dark, thick with little or no light passing through.  The head is not normal either, mocha brown and large but luckily it dissapates quickly and leaves no trace that it ever existed.  You smell it *sniff-sniff* and are rather surprised that there is little or no smell.  But you see, that is how Black Ops work, they are sneakly bastards that creep up behind you and blow you head off, and that is what this beer does, but with a much more satisfying ending.

The first sip smacks you upside the head with a multitude of flavors, each battling your taste buds for dominance.  Bourbon...the beer aged in bourbon barrels for 4 months. a big old bar of Hershey's Dark.  Coffee...from the roasted malts.  Slap, slap slap.  With you head still ringing you cautiously take another sip and more flavors make themselves known.  Vanilla, from the oak barrels, molasses, dark fruits and all with the underlying burn from the significant alcohol content.  Smooth, warming, 

I admit to not being a fan of much of the beers produced by the Brookly Brewery, but when they do a special brew they do it very well, and this is very special.  My only reservation about this beer is the cost.  Is it worth the $35.00 per bottle price, unfortunatly I have to say no, but if you have a chance to mooch some from one of your buddies do so with abandon.

Brookly Brewery
#1 Brewers Row
79 N 11th St
Brooklyn NY, 11211
Tel. (718) 486-7422

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Beer Review - Brasserie D'Achouffe

Brasserie D'Achouffe

Who are your heroes?  Politicians?  Perhaps.  Movie idols? Not Really.  Musicians?  I admire a few.  Hmmm, who would be a hero to a beer snob?  Could it be...... a brewmaster?  Hells yeah!  Christian Bauweraerts is one of the founders of the famous Brasserie D'Achouffe in Achouffe, Belgium.  The snobs were lucky enough to have been invited by the Meddlesome Moth last week to dinner pairing the magnificent beers from the Brasserie with the tasty creations of Executive Chef Chad Kelley. 

Regardless of what the typical Texas beer drinker believes, beer and food match up quite well, and no, I don't mean Shiner and nachos, I am talking about fine dining here.  Even the most novice wine aficionado can tell you the basics of wine and food pairing; white wine with white meat, red wine with red meat (though those rules are complete b.s. and created as a marketing ploy by the french, but that is a story for a wine blogger somewhere other than here).  But even experienced beer drinkers would have difficulty telling you what goes with whatever meal they are enjoying.  That may be why the American lager is so often found in your friendly neighborhood digs.  Lagers are very lightly flavored and will not overpower your meal, but neither will they enhance your dining experience.

The minds at the Meddlesome Moth are going to great trouble and great expense to educate Dallasites to realize that beer can have flavor and that beer can pair amazingly with food.  Special kudos to Chef Kelly for doing it up right.

La Chouffe - 8% ABV

La Chouffe is the flagship beer of the Brasserie d'Achouffe and is classified as a Belgian strong ale.  It is also one of my personal favorite beers.  The hazy, golden brew pours with a significant head that persist and leaves nice, delicate lacing.  You will smell bananas, citrus and herbs.... what is that herb... it smells so familiar.  Coriander is the secret ingredient that gives La Chouffe it's unique character.  The ale tastes much like it smells, with the suspended yeast giving the beer a smooth, chalky texture, but not in a bad way.  There is enough carbonation to keep you from chugging it down but not so much that it burns.  Really, really nice.

The Dunguness crabcake with the creole remoulade was perfection and very likely the best crabcake that I have ever had.  And yes, I eaten many a crabcake all along the east coast from Boston to Florida.  The spicy kick of the remoulade and the subtle flavors of the crabcake were balanced by the smooth texture and cooling effect of the ale, which in no way overpowered the delicacy of the dish.  I could have eaten many but then again, I would not have been able to go on to the next course.

McChouffe - 8% ABV

McChouffe is an unfiltered strong, dark Belgian ale that was inspired by the smooth ales brewed in Scotland.  The ale undergoes it's second fermentation in the bottle so you will find the suspended yeasts and a bit of sediment in the bottom of the bottle.  You will also find that this ale is a bit more bitter than the La Chouffe and is a product of the scottish ingredients and additional hops.  The significant carbonation makes quite a bit of head upon pouring and leaves plenty of lacing on the side of the glass.  Surprisingly silky and smooth with flavors of caramel, malts and the coriander used in the brewing.

The stronger flavored ale required a dish with a bit more substance.  The tender, roasted pork shoulder with ras el hanout (a north african spice blend) and pomegranates was served over freshly made pasta (the only hickup of the evening, the pasta was a bit tough) which had more than enough flavor to stand up against the ale and was voted the favorite of the evening by the snobs.

Houblon Chouffe - 9% ABV

Monsieur Bauweraerts favorite beer style is reported to be the Belgian tripel, which makes it odd that it was not introduced until 2006, the same year he sold the brewery to Duvel.  The Belgian tripel is triple firmented, which gives it more alcohol, which requires it to be quite a bit hoppier than the typical Belgian ale to cover up the additional alcohol.  Houblon (french for hop) Chouffe is even hoppier than a normal tripel using the more aggresive American hops to make it less of a British style IPA and more like an American double IPA.  As with the other products by Brasserie D'Achouffe there is quite a lot of carbonation and you will find the unfiltered, bottle conditioned ale to have floaties.  The delicate nose is fruity, citrusy and quite subtle and gives not hint whatsoever of the blast that is to come.  The flavor is of hops, fruit, hops,citrus and hops (did I mention that it had hops?) and is surprisingly dry, probably due to the magic water they use in the brewing process.  Belgian beer lovers may find this one a bit strong whereas American hop heads will find it subdued.  Houblon walks a fine line between the Belgians and the Americans and does it very well.

As the beers presented in the tasting became stronger and more aggressive the flavors in the dishes paired with the beer became more pronounced so as to not be eclipsed.  The citrus in the orange peel glazed beef nicely matched the citrus and fruit flavors found it the ale.  Instead of trying to compete with the strength of the flavors of the beer, Chef Kelly blended the flavors of his dish with those of the ale, intertwining with instead of bracing against the strong flavors... inspired.

The desert course had no beer to offer, just a lovely french press with coffee supplied by the Oak Cliff Coffee Roasters paired three offerings; an interesting corn meal pudding with Indian spices, a peanut/butter brownie bite and cake balls w/ fudge and cream cheese interior and a white chocolate coating.  Ymmmmm.

We did not have a coffee liquor that is produced exclusively for M. Bauweraetz, but if we had I am sure it would have been magnificent ;}.

It was an honor to get to meet Christian Bauweraerts and hear him speak about his brewing experiences, that is from what I could hear above the din of the Moth's enthusiastic patrons and we look forward to visiting the Brasserie in Achouffe next year.  We also greatly appreciate the efforts of Keith Schlabs and the fine folks at the Moth in their attempts to break the hold that the mass market brewers have on the TABC and to try to help modernize our archaic, not quite ethical beer laws.  Good luck with that guys.

We would also like to thank Prescott Carter with Duvel Moortgat USA for the fine, fine brews and for arranging the visit by a beer knurd rock star.

The Meddlesome Moth
1621 Oak Lawn
Dallas, TX 75207

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Road Trip Dining - The Search for the Perfect Gumbo, Part 2

Magazine Po-Boy and Sandwich Shop - New Orleans.

The next stop on our gumbo search takes us to a neighborhood eatery located on Magazine Street in the Lower Garden District, recommended to us by a local business owner.  Our original plans were to try the infamous Domilise’s Po-Boy's and Bar, but our new best friend assured us that the quality of their offerings decreases as their popularity increases.  "Trust me, Magazine Po-boy is locals only, you'll love it".  The leap of faith in trusting her was paid off by the best po-boys we tried New Orleans, but then again this was the only Po-boys we had on this trip.  What about the Gumbo?  I am glad you asked. because it really was the only disappointment of the meal. 

Strangely, it looked like the perfect gumbo at first, dark broth, lots of floaties (chicken, andouille and shrimp), can't wait to try it.  I was confused with the first taste..was this gumbo?...had I ordered the wrong item?...had they given me the wrong item?  Nope, this is gumbo all right.  Upon second taste I was even more confused, the creole seasonings seemed to be there, the chicken was tender and delicious, the andouille was good, but that damn roux had no flavor at all, or at least very muted flavors.  My opinion is that perhaps they forgot to add the salt?

Luckily, the cafe is not called the Magazine Gumbo Shop, it is the Magazine Po-Boy and Sandwich Shop, and dandy Po-boy's they are.  We sat for several minutes and watched to see what the locals ordered before making up our minds and then ordered the 2 most popular sandwiches as judged by the crowd favorites.  The Roast Beef Po-Boy was really good with tender, sliced roast beef, dressed (all the fixin's) and with a rich, beefy gravy all on crispy, fresh french bread.  Hey, I have a good idea, get the person that made the gravy to make the gumbo!  Fine sandwich.  The other sandwich was a veal parmesan with decent veal, dressed and a fine marinara, also a pretty darned good sandwich. 

Not a bad meal, not a great meal either, but at least it was cheap.

Magazine Po-Boy and Sandwich Shop
2368 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 522-3107

Friday, January 7, 2011

Road Trip Dining - The Search for the Perfect Gumbo, Part 1

Market Cafe - New Orleans

It is hard to get a bad meal in New Orleans.  The odds of you gettng a crappy meal is directly related to whether or not you go to a chain or family restaurant.  Restaurants, specifically the family owned joints, that you brush off as mediocre here would be near the top of your list in your home town.  You want to choose the best restaurants while visiting, but there are only so many days to visit and only so many meals in a day.  So how do you choose?  It was a bit easier for me because I am a Gumbo whore. 
That's right, I will sell myself out for a steaming bowl of thick, rich roux with whatever meat they happen to add.  Chicken?  Yes sire.  Andouille?  But of course.  Shrimp?  Toss it in and you can put rice in it or not, I care not.  But man does not live by Gumbo alone, even though I tried, so you just must add the other traditional sides, jamalaya, red beans and rice, dirty rice, a po' boy here, a muffaletta there. Yummy. 
So I will endevour to rate several restaurants, from least favorite to favorite, for you based soley on the quality of their Gumbo.  There will be slight variations in the ingredients because darn it, they don't all make it the same.  And please don't think that any of these experiences were bad, because they were all fantastic in their own way.  An amazing array of dining choices I must say.

The Market Cafe is a family owned (you are going to see the trend here) and operated dining establishment since 1982 and occupies the second oldest building in the French Market dating back to 1823.  Think of the tourist base restaurants that you have tried in Dallas (or wherever you are) and you don't usually remember it as a fine dining experience.  Think Spagetti Warehouse, erk, or Dick's Last Resort, gaaaak, then compare these with the Market Cafe on Decatur Street and there is no comparison, it was terrific.  We chose this restaurant purely because of the inviting feeling of it's rather large patio and light, bright interior spaces and even though they were inundated with the sweat pants wearing masses piling out of the Carnival Cruise Line's seaborn trailer house in port, we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of their offerings.

The Gumbo had the thick rich sauce that you demand of a good Gumbo.  The chicken was a bit scarce but there was plenty of andouille sausage to make up for it.  Unfortunately the sausage was a bit tough and had a bit more gristle and scraps that I usually care for.  This version also contained shrimp as an added bonus, but the poor little buggers were tiny, about the size of my pinky fingernail.  It was also a bit dissappointing that there was more rice than roux.  Very good though and quite hearty.

To round out the 'New Orleans' experience, we decided to add the cliche' list of traditional Cajun dishes, Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya (another rice dish) and french bread.  Can't get too much rice, eh?  The Jambalaya was pretty good, but frankly you can get almost as good from a box of Zatarain's mix.  There is really nothing all that special about Red Beans and Rice, but done correctly it is an especially satisfying dish that can leave you with the warm fuzzies.  This version was terrific and we left with full bellies and silly smiles.

Don't worry that the cafe is located in the second most touristy area of a touristy area, sit on the patio and enjoy some nice jazz and some really, really decent food and make fun of the day trippers rolling off the cruise ships.

Market Cafe
1000 Decatur Street
New Orleans, LA
Phone: (504) 527-5000

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Heart Attack of the Month - Southwest Chicken Salad

Southwestern Chicken Salad at Chips's Old Fashioned Hamburgers

"A salad as Heart Attack of the Month?"  you exclaim "Are you mad?  Salads are good for you!"  Yes indeed they are, or rather it is true that salads, by and large, are good for you...but salads can also be very, very bad.  But why pick out a salad made by a Dallas institution that is famous for it's greasy burgers and fries?  Purely because of the deception of healthy created by simply using the word 'salad'.  Oh don't get me wrong, I am not saying that is isn't good, it is quite tasty in fact, I am saying that it is not good for you.

Since 1981 Chip's has been cranking out it's award winnning burgers, onion rings and shakes.  No one really remembers when the salads were added to the menu with it's "sometime you just feel like a fresh salad" claim.  I do remember trying one and thinking 'wow, this is rather unhealthy'.  Let me describe this beast for you....Grilled chicken (which in and of itself is quite healthy) drenched in BBQ sauce, "maters" (bubbanese for tomatoes, also healthy), black beans (so your friends can enjoy the experience with you later), avocados (again, healthy, so where is the issue?), corn (no nutritional value whatsoever), cheddar cheese (calcium?), bacon (not so healthy, but tasty), a big pile of greasy, fried onions (absolutley artery clogging) and then drenched with the full fat version of Ranch dressing mixed with the aformentioned BBQ sauce all on top of a smattering of greens.  Call it a salad, but I call it a pile of stuff on lettuce.

Go and try the Southwest Chicken Salad at Chip's, but don't delude yourself into believing that you are getting a healthy meal, just enjoy it for what it is...delicious.

Chip's Old Fashioned Hamburger
4530 W Lovers Lane
Dallas, Texas 75209

Monday, January 3, 2011

Beer Review - Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale

Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale - 5.5% ABV

This find was an unanticipated pleasant surprise.  Ah, Mississippi, capitol of the dirty south, known for .....a ......Elvis(?) and not much more, and certainly not know for it's breweries.  Frankly, beer crafting in the southern U.S. is not up to par with the advances in quality that most of the country is enjoying and I have yet to find a beer made in the south that I would care to keep in the fridge. 

Hopefully the Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company is the beginning of new things in Southern brewing. 
Located in Kiln, Mississppi in a nondescript metal building, in an industrial park next to an airport you will find Mark and Leslie Henderson cranking out some dandy beers.  You don't need to waste time trying to find it, there is no pub and you can't buy beer directly from them thanks to retarded Mississippi state laws that mirror the brainless Texas beer laws.  But you do need to take the time, if you are passing through their relatively small distribution area, to find and buy this beer and bring it home, bring lots home.
The Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is the first beer (to the best of their knowledge) to use whole roasted pecans in the brewing process.  It is a clear brown with a white head that doesn't persist and leaves nice lacing.  The smell is of nuts (duh) and sweet malts.  The beer pours like a lager which leads you to believe that it will be weak and flavorless like most of the other beers produced in the area (think Abita).  BUT, then you taste and are blown away by the complexity of flavors.  It is much like an English brown ale but with huge depth added with the use of the pecans.  It is a really easy to drink beer, kind of sweet, kind of malty, maybe a hint of caramel.
You can bet that my next road trip through the dirty south I will be planning how to get several of cases of this lovely home with me.

Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company
7030 Roscoe Turner Road Kiln, MS 39556
Phone: (228) 467-2727