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, May 31, 2011

Beer Review - Canebrake Wheat

Parish Brewing Company Canebrake - ??? ABV

I have a love/hate relationship with Louisiana.  I love the food, I hate the beer.  While visiting the Festival International in Lafayette this month we were surrounded by multitudes of drunken revelers staggering hither and yon, enjoying the festival as only folks from Louisiana can.  But Louisiana is, for the most part, a state that prefers booze.  Sweet, potent, icy drinks served in fishbowls and plastic half yards, and few decent beers to be found. 

We visited several watering holes attempting to find a decent brew and were thwarted in every attempt.  Whenever we asked for something other than fizzy yellow piss water we were met with confused gazes and invariable offered Abita.  Errrrrrkkkkk.  Not many breweries in the US produce more shitty beers than Abita.  "no, no", I tell the bartender, "I am looking for an import, something with flavor".  "Well, we have Shiner Bock", offered one misguided soul.  Errrrrkkkkk.  "Surely there is a local brewery.  Someone just has to be producing something with flavor around here".  The light of recognition slowly dawned in his eyes.  "Local"?  "Yes".  "Well there is the Parish Brewery in Broussard".  "Do you have any of their beers"?  "Yep, you want one"?  "That would be nice, and preferrably something with flavor".  The oaf nodded and plodded down to the other end of the bar, pulled me a tall glass and practically danced back to me with his treasure.  "This is made with locally sourced sugar cane syrup, and it's really strong".  Hallelujah.

The beer is a medium bodied wheat beer.  Kind of sweet.  Lots of carbonation.  It tasted almost exactly like Dundee Honey Brown Lager and is only available on tap in the area surrounding Lafayette. I cannot find anywhere what the ABV is but am quite sure that it is quite low, maybe 4.0% - 4.5.%. 
It was explained to me later by a friend raised in the area that his people are not interested in a flavorful, strong beer.  They are interested in having beer that they can start drinking at 9:00 am and drink it until 2:00 am the next day.  *sigh*  Looks like a fruity drink in a fishbowl next time.

Parish Brewing Company
613 E 2nd St. Ste B
Broussard, LA 70518

Monday, May 30, 2011

Road Trip Dining - Festival International de Louisiane

Louisiana International Festival - Lafayette

Yep, another binge eating road trip to Louisiana.  I didn't want to go .... really.  But on our last road trip through Acadiana our server at Prejeans in Lafayette assured us that if we really liked to eat (and we do) that we absolutely had to go to the International Festival in May.  So you see, the intense pressure by our server forced us to attend.

Festival Internation de Louisiana, one of the great unknown music festivals in the nation, celebrated its 25th year and is completely overshadowed by the New Orleans Jazz Festival which occures at exactly the same time.  While the New Orleans music festival embraces all types of music, including a little Jazz, the Lafayette festival embraces the music of its French heritage and the music of many of the former French colonies.  It also showcases the food heritage of Acadiana from the local restaurants located in booths in food court areas scattered around the downtown  (yes, there is a downtown, who knew?) area where the festival is located.  The festival is free to attend.

I have never really taken the time to visit Lafayette.  It was seen as a place to stop and eat, or as a convenient bathroom stop on the roadtrips to New Orleans and I didn't really know what to expect.  In my visions I saw a whole bunch of potbellied, toothless, rednecks wearing camo and asking me "you want another heapin' helpin' of possum?".  Being from a rural area you would think that I would think that I would not be so judgemental, but I must admit to being an unmitigated ass at times.  What?  Ok, all of the time, sheesh.  But surprise Lafayette is clean, progressive and swimming with oil money.  Having a university in the middle of town (UL Lafayette) goes a long way to de-bubba-ing (new word, feel free to use it) a city.

The Six Stages in downtown Lafayette, which is surprisingly clean and pleasant, all have continuous schedules of music throughout the 3 days of the festival so it is quite difficult to choose which acts to see.  It is impossible to see every act so choose carefully.  Music acts from Africa, Europe, Canada, India, South America, from the U.S. and local bands present every style of music imaginable.  One of the stages featured the music of the cajun country and we particularly enjoyed watching the locals dancing to and singing along with songs that would be unfamiliar to anyone not raised Cajun. 

Some of the notable acts that we enjoyed the most were:
Mousta Largo ( ), a Belgian/Moroccan with infectious, multi-cultural pop tunes.  I was a bit surprised to find something that I enjoyed besides beer and chocolate from Belgium.

Red Baraat ( ) which is an Indian brass band that plays a most bizarre blend of Indian, jazz, funk and was supremely enjoyable to watch and hear.  Download their new single for free on their website.
The Soul Rebels Brass Band ( ) is a New Orleans based brass band that plays music of the style of the soulful jazz that you see brass bands play on the streets of the French Quarter.  Solid.

Master Drummers of Burundi ( ) were by far the biggest surprise of the festival for us.  Playing on drums made from tree trunks and cow hides we were blown away by their enthusiasm, their energy and their obvious joy of performing for us.  This is music at its most basic level and was the precursor to Stomp.  They should not be missed.

Food.  Crap, I almost forgot to mention the food.  How can you go to Louisiana and not be overwhelmed by the food?  With dozens of local restaurants participating it would be impossible to try everything, right?  But I may as well try! 
From Poupart's Bakery ( ) we tried crawfish and spinach prepared in a spicy cream sauce served inside a sourdough bread bowl.  Delightful, but not light.
From Norbert's Restaurant in Broussard we tried the pork Jambalaya.  Excellent.
Bon Creole Seafood from New Iberia supplied us with perfect Red Beans & Rice w/ andouille.
Alligator Shakes supplied us with superb Boudin balls (poor little Boudins) and our chicken and sausage gumbo.
Zeus Cafe ( ) provided us with the lighter side of life with creamy, delicious hummus and pita.
Meat pies, alligator poboys, Andouille sausage sandwiches, shrimp and crawfish in every form, Hooters wings, snowcones, daiquiris, oysters, hamburgers ... I am become the god of gluttony!  The selection, quality and quantity defies belief. 

I cannot believe that I have not heard of this festival before or how pleasant the city and people of Lafayette are.  My bias and bigotry almost led me astry and I am so, so very happy that I was wrong in my preconceptions.  We will absolutely attend this festival again and hope that you will join us next year at the:
Festival International de Louisiane

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Restaurant Review - Hype vs Right

Cuquita's Mexican Restaurant vs. Luna Mexican Restaurant

It is kind of interesting how restaurant tourists will sing the praises of a particular restaurant just because they have heard someone talk about or read someone's review about how great a particular restaurant is.  Take for instance Avila's Mexican Restaurant on Maple.  We were eating there a few weeks ago and sat next to a clueless twit who raved continuously about how wonderful the food was.  On and on went their drivel, driving me to fury .... so much so that I had a brain aneurysm and I died right their on the spot.  I am better now, thanks for asking.  There was a time, long ago, before the family schism that Avila was spectacular, but now I would rate it no better than pretty good.

I read the reviews in the Texas Monthly about Cuquita's.  One of the 5 best Tex /  Mex restaurants IN THE STATE OF TEXAS!  So I mosied on in to partake of the culinary excellence described in the article.  I don't know where in the hell these people ate, but the Cuquita's that I tried, which oddly enough had exactly the same address, prepared the most disgusting slop that I have had in a long time.  Queso Fundito made with microwaved cheese, and a sprinkling of chorizo, served in an attractive plastic bowl.  Yum.  Huevos rancheros?  Flavorless egg with flavorless red stuff on it.  Yum.  Refried beans ... you can't screw up refried beans, right?  50/50 beans and rancid lard mix.  Yum.  Carnita's that were obviously pre-cooked and had been sitting so long that they resembled beef jerky, in a red sauce that tasted like the same rancid lard.  I have no idea how you could make that flavorless, except for the rotten lard, but they did.  Yum.  At least the tortillas were hand made.  How do I know?  Because there were hunks of corn husk mixed in with the maza that had to be picked out with every bite.  Yum.  Mother Goose people, do your taste buds even work?  The food sucks.  The service sucks. This place sucks. 

Luna's Tortilla has been selling tortillas and tamales since 1924, and for some reason now, after 85 years, they have decided to open a restaurant next door.  We stumbled across them on the first week that they opened and could not have been more surprised.  The food is what I pray that I am going to be eating every time I visit a new Tex/Mex, or as they call it, Mex/Tex, restaurant.  Queso, in the form that every Texan expects when they order queso.  Yellow (hell no it's not cheese, but ain't it good?), salty, gooey goodness.  Guiso de Puerco con Calabacitas (a green chile pork stew w/ squash) was so frigging good that I had a big 'O'.  Brisket Taco ... O ... O ... O...Oooo's, damn, there I go again.  And yes, even the frigging salad was terrific.  Look at the carnitas in that photo, damnit now that is the stuff.  The hiccups in the service should be gone by now so you should be there right now.

Cuquita's Restaurant
13260 Josey Ln,
Farmers Branch, Texas

Luna Restaurant
8524 Harry Hines Boulevard
Dallas, Texas

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beer Review - CoCoNut Porter

Maui Brewing Company Coconut Porter - 6.0% ABV

When the beertender offered me Coconut Porter from Hawaii, I must admit that I paused, undecided on whether or not a beer that tasted of coconuts would be worth my hard earned dollars.  But as that Brandon knows that I am not a fan of fruity beers I decided to give it a chance.  This was my first foray into the offerings of the Maui Brewing Company and am happy to be able to report that I was not dissappointed.

The color is dark, almost black, as you would expect a porter to be, with a substantial head that persists leaving some decent lacing.  You will also smell the typical malts, coffee and nuts, but none of the coconut that you expect.  And even though the porter is made using toasted coconut, I was completely unable to taste any.  Malts?  Check.  Chocolate?  Check.  Coffee?  Check.  Nuts?  Check.  Coconut? ...... Coconut?  Sorry, but coconut seems to be AWOL.  The beer drinks like a chocolaty, nutty, sweetened iced coffee. Really nice.

Maui Brewing Company
910 Honoapiilani Highway #55
Lahaina, Maui, HI 96761

Beer Review - Karma

Avery Brewing Company Karma Ale - 5.2% ABV

Avery is one of my favorite brewers.  Why?  Because they take a lot of risks and produce some interesting beers.  Some great, some sucky and some just interesting.  This beer is one of the latter.

They call it a Belgian style pale ale, I call it ... I call it ... well, odd.  The color is nondescript golden brown with only a little head.  What smell there is, and there is very little, smells a bit of fruit and yeast.  Now here is where it is 'interesting'.  You've had Perrier water, right?  You know how the natural carbonation coats your tongue so that you can still feel the acidic bite well after you have swallowed your sip?  This beer is like that.  The carbonation coats your tongue so well that it is difficult to taste the subtleties that Avery claims the beer possesses.

I would not go out of my way to purchase another, but to turn one down if offered would be bad for my Karma.

Avery Brewing Company
5763 Arapahoe Ave. Unit E
Boulder, CO 80303

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Beer Review - Hennepin

Ommegang Hennepin - 7.7% ABV

There are many styles of beer that you may say are springtime beers.  You may say that a German bock is a spring beer because the beer is lighter than the winter beers but still with full flavor, it is easy to drink and not too filling so that you can put away a few and still feel like you can go out and play in the rain.  You may say that the chocolate stouts and porters are spring beers because they are full of chocolatey goodness like all of those Easter candies that you pig out on when you get them for half price the week after the holiday (hey, you don't have to celebrate Easter to take advantage of cheap ass candy). 
These are pretty good examples of spring beers, but let me describe for you the perfect spring beer. 

The perfect spring beer would remind you of  the golden glow created by the sun shining through the morning mist.   It would pour easily with a minimal head and be only lightly carbonated so that it is easy to drink.  The flavor?  Oh my, the flavor would be that of a freshly planted garden.  The flavor reminiscent of new growing things ,... and freshly turned earth.  The taste should remind you of the scents of springtime flowers, scents like the refreshing lemonly smell of the magnolia.  All of these tastes are the tastes that you get in the Belgian farmhouse ales...the saisons.

My favorite ales, the saisons.  So many flavors, so much interest, so very, very good.  One of the finest of the saisons is made right here in the USA by the Ommegang Brewery and is called Hennepin.  Superb from beginning to end.

Brewery Ommegang
656 County Highway 33
Cooperstown NY 13326-9248

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Event Review: Il Cane Rosso Beer Dinner

Beer and Food Pairing at Cane Rosso, Dallas.

Let me begin by thanking all of those who attended our evening of debauchery last Thursday.  It is always a joy to share good food and good beer with friends, old and new.  I also cannot say enough about how much I appreciate the efforts of Stephanie Meyer for putting this all together.  I would also be remiss if I did not praise the chef Matt Reddick for his skills at not only preparing a wonderful dinner, but matching the food to our rather odd beer choices so very well.  The dishes were all served family style which was genius in that it encouraged interraction between the attendees.

My inclination is to pat everyone involved in this dinner on the back and say "well done, very well done indeed" in reviewing this event, which was partially sponsored by the Dallas Beer Snobs, and let it be enough.  However I must be true to my nature and give you a truthful and fair review.

The theme of the evening was spring beers and lighter fare.  The beers chosen are those typically brewed for spring release or 'springy' in nature like our welcoming beer, Allagash White, a Belgian style Wit beer (5.5% ABV), which is light, slightly citrus and mildly sweet and was intended to stimulate the palate for the delights to come.  We were also intent on using as many locally brewed beers in the pairing as possible.

Our first course featured the Rahr Bucking Bock (7.5% ABV) which is styled after traditional german spring bocks.  It is dark golden in color and has a moderate head that dissapates rather quickly.  While the traditional german bock is more like a cask aged, slightly sweet lager, Rahr chose to produce theirs with a bit more hops and lots of carbonation which should appeal to those who prefer to drink mass market fuzzy yellow water.  The appetizer featured a house made ricotta cheese, canneloni beans (which were cooked in the Bucking Bock), house marinated olives and bruschetta.  At first taste I was a bit dissappointed with the ricotta finding it rather bland, however one of my table mates corrected me by showing that the ricotto was served best spread on a piece of bruschetta and topped with the olives and beans.  Oops, my mistake and consumed as intended it was really, really good.  The bruschetta served with all of the ingredients piled upon it was quite nice and with the beer accompanyment would have made a fine meal by itself.  But that was just the beginning.

The second couse in Italian dining is always the pasta course, and what a pasta course it was.  If I had the opportunity to chose my final meal it would be fettucini alfredo and Chef Reddick's version may well be the one I choose ..... assuming, of course .... you know .... that I get to choose.  House made fettucini with Robiola cheese, pea tendrils and proscuitto.  Robiola cheese is made from a blend of cow, goat and sheep milk and has a high fat content which allows it to melt wonderfully.  The very full, slightly sour, tangy nature of the cheese was perfectly offset by the sweet threads of green pea tendrils hidden throughout and with the addition of proscuitto (not bacon, no stinking bacon here, proscuitto) it was divine.  The beer chosen to accompany the pasta was a saison.  Saisons are Belgian farmhouse ales that are typically served in the summer, but chosen because the tastes remind you of spring, of gardens, and of growing things and are usually of lighter flavor which will not overpower the delicate flavors found in pastas.

Let's take a pause here and give kudos to our third partner in this endevour.  If you have not heard there is a new brewery opening in Deep Ellum and goes by the name of *tada* The Deep Ellum Brewing Company.  They generously offered to produce a special saison for our dinner which we were happy to accept.  Alas this was probably the biggest hickup of the night and was simply caused by the lack of time needed to produce the beer.  Brewed with triticale grain, pilsner and honey malts, grapefruit peel, toasted coriander, candied ginger, chamomile flowers, and American hops, then fermented using their own in house Belgian yeast culture you could taste hints of what we surmise will be a fantastic saison/wit hybrid, but the time was short and we all jumped the gun a bit forcing something which cannot be forced and it ended up tasting a bit like ...... armpits.  We will anxiously await the finished product before passing final judgement.

The third couse in Italian dining is the heart of the meal ... the course that fills you up and sticks to your ribs ... the meat course.  Il Cane Rosso serves meats sourced locally at Jimmy's Food Store on Bryan Street.  What?  You've never heard of it?  Are you kidding me?  It's famous for goodness sakes, at least go and try the sandwiches.  Ok, sorry about the rant.  Their handmade spicy Italian sausage is spicy.  How spicy?  Hot enough to suit Texas tastebuds that have been permanently damaged from continuous jalepeno ingesting.  Place a big old hunk of that fire on a creamy bed of marscapone and parmesian polenta and top it with green onions and that my friends is what you call sublime.  I literally went from table to table looking for scraps left by snobs who were still trying to digest the fettucine.  What kind of beer do you serve with such power and heat?  The beer needs to either be overpowering to stand on it's own or you may choose a beer to enhance the meal.  Ego wants the former, but this dinner was not about the beer, it was about the food so Belhaven Scottish Ale was chosen as the accompanyment.  Slightly sweet, malty, grainy, earthy background flavors found in Belhaven allows it to compliment meat like very few ales can.  The sausage was also braised with the ale to marry the flavors throughout the course.  In addition, Belhaven uses nitrogen to create a smooth, creamy brew that soothes the fire on your tongue unlike beers with carbonation, which enhance the pain.

The biggest surprise of the evening arrived during the dessert courses.  That's right, courses ... two desserts.  The chef whipped out a wonderful carmelized apple dessert pizza on us.  SCORE!  But to top it off Drew Huerter, the new brewmaster from Deep Ellum Brewing Company whips out a Stock Ale that has been aging for 3 years.  The caramel, dark fruit and malts from the ale matched perfectly with the pizza.  Good show indeed.  This delightful ale more than made up for the hiccup we had earlier in the evening.  If this is what we can expect from DEBC then we should all start queuing at their door now.

The second dessert course a light, strawberry-apple crumble with a drizzle over the top made from caramel and a reduction from Sisyphus Barley Wine.  Sisyphus (11% ABV) was chosen due to it's dryness.  We often use a Quadruppel or a Chocolate Stout to accompany desserts because of their sweetness, which enhances the sweetness of the desserts.  However, if you are making a dessert with fruit you want a beer that is dry and bubbly.  Think of strawberries and champagne.  Sisyphus is highly carbonated and sweet, but it is also dry and hoppy and makes for an intense experience on it's own.  Paired with the strawberries and apples it was superb, as was the dessert itself.  The desserts were probably the best pairings of the evening. 

The high alcohol content of the Barleywine was the straw that broke the camel's back for most of us and with bleary eyes, stuffed guts and satisfyed smiles we all staggered to the door, hoping like hell that we can do this again.  Thanks to Il Cane Rosso and The Deep Ellum Brewing Company for your time and effort.

Il Cane Rosso
2612 Commerce St
Dallas, TX 75226-1402