Thursday, December 27, 2007

Belated Christmas Cheers

Lot's of stuff going on for the Holidays, as I am sure is true for most of you. What with all of the preparations and parties and the family get-together it doesn't leave much time for bar-hopping. I did manage to stop into one though on my way to visit my sister-in-law. This one is just about a block away from the train station in New Brunswick, and it is a pretty decent brew-pub.

Harvest Moon

It is nice to see a real brew-pub these days. In New York City there were never very many and most of the ones that were once here have disappeared. Even Hearland Brewery, who kind of revitalized the concept now is what is known as a Contract Brew Pub. This means that their beer is brewed to their specifications at an off-site brewery and then shipped to their multiple locations.

Being suspicious by nature I did ask if Harvest Moon really brewed their own beer and was assured that they did. Now I saw the equipment, but some places that used to be brew pubs kept their equipment for display purposes only.

Harvest Moon's Brewing Tums

They had a nice selection but I only has time to try a couple of them.

Harvest Moon's Beer List

I decided to start off with the Elmes' Mild Manor. It was much darker than I expected but wasn't at all heavy. As advertised it did have a nice floral smell and was nice and malty. I pleasant change from the overly hopped IPAs that you find everywhere these days.

Bar Man Visting Elmes' Mild Manor

Now don't get me wrong. It isn't that I dislike IPAs, as I am sure most of you know by now. It is just that I like to be able to have something different if I want it. In fact my next choice from the menu was the Hops Double IPA. Although the hops did come through, it wasn't that over-powering. At least not to my somewhat jaded palate. It went well with my hamburger and French fries.

I would certainly stop in here again to try out a few more of their beers. I would imagine that it probably draws a real college crowd at night given its proximity to Rutgers. Not quite sure, but this looked like it might be part of the previous night's crowd. I think if you can't pay your tab they lock you in the dungeon.

Dungeoned Deadbeats

I had a wonderful Christmas with plenty of good eats: Duck, Goose, Chicken, and all sorts of side dishes. I brought my Hero's Glogg and, sadly, it didn't go over as well with this crowd as with the tailgate crew. Oh well, I made sure that there wasn't anything left over.

Although everyone was most generous, once again I didn't get my most hoped for gift, the always popular Ear and Nose Hair Trimmer. As you can see, I really do need one.

Badly In Need Of A Trim

Maybe next year.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Vegas, Baby

Well, not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. But then, with a group of geezers like us, not that much happens in Vegas.

Back when I wore a younger man's clothes I used to go to Vegas two or three times a year with buddies for a long week-end of carousing. Haven't been back all that often lately but a bunch of us decided to spend a few days last week. We decided to stay downtown not only because it is a lot cheaper but it is also much less hectic than the strip. Fitzgerald's was our choice, and it was a good choice.


It is a decent enough casino with inexpensive rooms, especially this time of year, and it is located just a block away from the central Four Corners which pretty much is the anchor of downtown. On each corner is one of the four major downtown casinos.



Golden Nugget


Ironically, back in the days when we used to do much more gambling, the El Cortez was one of the place where we seldom, if ever, won. I say ironically, because this was the view that greeted me from my room when I opened the drapes.

The Beautiful El Cortez

I hadn't realized that the El Cortez is the oldest, continually operated casino in Las Vegas. In fact, Bugsy Siegel owned a piece of it before building The Flamingo out on the strip. It was somewhat gratifying to see that even if I can't win there, someone can.

A Winner

I can't say I won anything, but I did keep a winning slip from the slot machines to give me an incentive to come back one day.

34-Cent Winner

Also not far from where we were staying was something that just seemed to call out to me.

I Feel Like A Cold One

Four out of the five of us stopped in here for a couple of cold ones. The fifth member of our merry group was locked up in his hotel room figuring out how we could lose money on four-bet parleys. Take it from the Bar Man, these are never good bets.

John, Jon, Bar Man, and Bruce

I don't remember the name of this bar, but you really can't miss it. Just look for the big Bass Ale. The bartender, Sarah, who was a Massachusetts transplant, was quite friendly and made a nice Half and Half.

Sarah Strutting Her Stuff

Neither John nor Jon had ever been to Las Vegas before so we took a few trips to The Strip to show them the sights. One nice thing about Las Vegas is that they have a bus called The Deuce. It costs $2 (hence the name) for a one-way trip or $5 for a 24 hour pass. The bus route starts downtown and runs to the end of the strip. You can get on and off at a number of casinos along the way so it is a really good deal. Nice double decker bus too, so you can see a lot. Should have taken a picture.

Here is the gang, minus me, in front of the Paris casino which has a 1/3 scale Eiffel Tower out front.

We Will Always Have Paris (Bruce, Jon, John, Albert)

When I first started going to Las Vegas in the late 60's you could actually walk across the Strip. Now you have to use pedestrian overpasses which have both stairs and escalators. I commented that it was amazing that in Las Vegas the escalators all seem to work but in New York the public ones, like in the subways, seem to be mostly out-of-service. Wouldn't you know, the first out-of-service elevator we ran into was in the New York, New York casino. I guess they were really going for authenticity.

Just Like Home

A bit of a hike off the strip was a place we couldn't help visiting.

Haufbrauhaus Las Vegas

Most of us had manly beers.

Hoisting Our Beers (and coffee)

You may notice Jon, in the back corner, hiding his beer. That is because he opted for the kiddie special.

Jon's Beer Is The Little One

Interestingly, Jon's nickname has always been "Little Guy." It isn't just because of the little beers he drinks though.

Showgirl and Little Guy

Well, we had a great time. I actually came out ahead due primarily to my betting against the Knicks the two games they played while we were there. I used to be a Knicks fan but started to fade away when they brought in Isaiah Thomas as president and gave up my season tickets when he brought in Stephon Marbury. I could see the team's future collapse from a mile away just based upon both Thomas's and Marbury's (call me Starbury, oh please, call me Starbury) track record.

I would have been even further ahead if it wasn't for Albert (The Cooler) talking us all into throwing in money to make those parley bets. To his credit though, we won the first three out of four bets on one of them and then lost the last when at game time they announced that Duncan wouldn't be playing due to a toe injury or something. There is a story behind that too involving last minute changes to the spread and someone not checking the board before placing the bet. But we shall leave that for another time.

We had a great time and I wish I had taken more pictures. But I did get one of a beautiful sunrise as seen from our hotel window.

Beautiful Sunrise

For those of you who have never been to Las Vegas, I strongly recommend that you visit. It is a relatively cheap vacation, especially if you don't gamble, and it is a city like no other.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Birthday Indulgence

December 4th was my birthday and the Mysterious Chinese Woman decided to indulge me by treating me to dinner and my favorite restaurant when it comes to being indulged. That restaurant is Chanterelle.

Chanterelle At Night

I apologize for the poor quality of the photo. I am still getting used to a new camera and without a tripod, which I wasn't about to lug around, it is hard to hold the camera steady enough to get a good quality shot. The facade doesn't really do the restaurant justice anyway, not when it is covered by scaffolding, at least.

We had half an hour to kill before our reservations so I decided to stop into Walker's for a quick beer.


This picture turned out a bit better but, sadly, my stay did not. I have been in here many times before and always had an enjoyable time. Tonight, however, it was very crowded and there was only one bartender. The bar was pretty full but I did find a spot to stand at the end nearest the windows. The bartender was at the other end of the bar making cocktails for one of the waitresses. No problem with that. However, when he finished he never looked around the bar but then started talking to customers at his end of the bar and made another round of drinks for them. Okay, maybe they had finished before I came in. But then someone walked into the place, headed to the far end of the bar and the bartender served him. All during this time he never seemed to glance at my end of the bar so I couldn't catch his eye. Given that I only had half an hour I decided to just leave. I can only assume that they were short-handed for some reason and this is, by no means, typical of the service that I have received in the past.

But there was no shortage of service at Chanterelle. It is located on a rather obscure corner in Tribeca at 2 Harrison Street, a short little street that can be difficult to find if you don't know where you are going. That doesn't stop this place from being popular though, you have to make reservations a month in advance and it was packed, as usual. I have never been there when it hasn't been.

Not having my beer at Walkers I decided to share a champagne toast with the Mysterious Chinese Woman before getting serious.

Here's Looking At You

They have a somewhat limited menu but it changes about once every four months. Because I was celebrating I opted for the six-course chef's selection with the wine pairing. The only choice you get is the dessert. They also have a three course menu where you have more to chose from. The wine pairing is impressive right off the bat when they set out all the glasses that you will be needing to get through the wine.


Now I am not going to be able to give you the names of all the wines I was served. The wait-staff was gracious enough to let me take pictures, but I didn't really want to hold them up by taking notes as well. If anyone recognizes the bottles where you can't make out the names, feel free to post a comment and let me know what they are.

The meal started off with a nice sake. It was quite light with definite hints of melon and paired well with the first course of sushi. All the wines paired well, of course.



There was a nice assortment with the air-dried tuna being the most unusual and, in my opinion, the bay-scallop cerviche being the best.

Next up was what I think was a Chardonnay. Can't be sure of this one because it was fairly sweet, almost like a desert wine, but not quite. It was served with a nicely crisp goose liver on a bed of risotto and potato. Again, the wine nicely complimented the sweetness of the liver, which was delicious. The potato risotto was a bit bland, but that wasn't bad because it offset the liver's richness.


Goose Liver with Risotto and Potato

We were just warming up at this point and the next pairing was a Chardonnay. This Chardonnay had the more traditional Chardonnay taste and was served with turbot, mild and firm bodied.



Our next serving featured a lovely red wine, rich and luscious, paired with perfectly done lamb. I wish I could remember what was served along side the lamb, but I don't. I can tell you that it was very good though and I ate it all.

Red Wine

Lamb And Mystery Side

The next course is always one of my favorites, the cheese plate. One year I went here for my birthday at lunch-time because it was impossible to get reservations for that evening. They offer a somewhat more abbreviated menu and the cheese course wasn't available. When I expressed my disappointment the owner said that their cheese man was in and maybe he would accommodate me. He was more than happy to do so and so I was able to indulge my self with a fine selection of cheeses and a nice port.

Tonight they didn't serve a port, which surprised me a bit, but a another very nice wine that did the trick. A large selection of cheeses is presented for you to choose from. The very knowledgeable young lady who did the presenting described each of the cheeses and helped you make your selection. You could have one of each, if you wanted, but by this time I was getting a bit full so I settled for four.


The Full Cheese Selection

My Selection

The last course did come with port and you had a selection of desserts. I chose something called, I think, Maple Delight and it featured several maple themed deserts. My favorite was the maple ice-cream with threads of candied ginger sprinkled on top.



Now by this time I really was stuffed, but it wasn't quite over. An after dinner coffee is always in order and, as you might imagine, it would not be served alone. I have to admit, the coffee was delicious but I simply could not eat any of the treats it came with.

The Coup De Gras

I wish I could have gone into a bit more detail with the wines and menu, but then this blog would have run on for pages. I should have asked if I could have kept a copy of the menu, but that would have seemed a bit to un-cool and touristy. Not like taking the pictures didn't. But I wasn't the only one taking pictures, just the only one taking them of the wine bottles and the food.

Chanterelle on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

A Visit From Jim

The Mysterious Chinese Woman invited a friend of hers to stop by for lunch after they had been to the Brooklyn Botanical Guardian making Christmas centerpieces. They both do volunteer work there, usually conducting tours for school-groups. Today was just a fun day. But I was on the hook for making lunch. I did a meatloaf using a recipe from Good Eats, fried potatoes tossed with lemon and rosemary, and boiled baby carrots (hey, everything can't be spectacular). My brother-in-law Jim must have sensed something because he showed up just as the meatloaf came out.

My Half-Eaten Meatloaf's Good Side

After lunch my wife and her friend wanted to watch some movie she got from Netflix that I had already seen so Jim and I decided to go out for a beer. He had never been to Downtown Bar & Grill so I took him there. They still had all of the beers from their beer tasting available so I had the Midas Touch again. Then we noticed a set of new glasses in wooden stands, kind of like a mini yard of ale. They were promotional glasses for Kwak.

Kwak Tap

The full name of this beer is Pauwel Kwak and it is brewed by Brouwerij Bosteels in Belgium. It is a Belgium Strong Ale and weighs in at 8% alcohol. The color is a nice golden orange with a good sized head. Has a spicy nose and the taste is spicy as well. Jim thought it was quite hoppy but I didn't really notice that taste coming through.

Kwak In Its Glass And Stand

Of course there is a story behind this glass and it is similar to the story behind the yards of ale. Pauwel Kwak was a brewery and the owner of an inn back when Napoleon was still kicking around. The name of the inn was De Hoorn and it was a stop for mail coaches. The coachmen were not allowed to leave their coach and horses unattended so Mr. Kwak had special glasses blown that could be hung on the side of the coach. Well, we didn't have to worry about our coach and horses as we hoisted our Kwaks.

Jim And Barman Hoisting Our Kwaks

Now the one bad thing about these glasses is that you can only put them back into their stands. The round bottom doesn't allow you to set them down on the bar. I can imagine that after tossing back a few that is a mistake that will be made and mishaps will occur. At least they don't make you put down a huge deposit to use these glasses. Last time I was in Jekyl and Hyde's they made you put down a $50 deposit for the privilege of ordering a quite expensive yard of ale. Really not worth it, in my opinion.

Oh, the story about the yards of ale was that they were designed so that the ale could be handed up to the coachman without him needing to leave his perch.

Bottom Of The Stand

All in all it was a nice afternoon. The beer wasn't bad and had a funny name and a cool glass. It doesn't take much to amuse me. We stopped at the nearby Cody's for a beer and then popped into Queen where I had a couple of excellent Manhattan's made with Wild Turkey and Jim, who was still hungry after eating half of my meatloaf had a beer and a couple of grilled octopus tentacles. I should have taken a picture but, for some reason, forgot. Next time.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Downtown Beer Tasting

The Downtown Bar & Grill, a neighborhood bar that I often visit and have posted about before, held a beer tasting featuring Dogfish Head brews. They had nine of them available and I had already tried four of them before. They are generally good and of the ones that I have had the Raison D'Etre was the strangest. I first had it at Crossroads, formerly the Raccoon Lodge and I described it as being a bit funky and tasting of raisins, not surprisingly.

Featuring Dogfish Head

I started off with a Midas Touch, a nice golden colored brew that had a firm white head. It was extremely smooth and almost tasted like a Chardonnay with a bit of mead mixed in. You could pick up a bit of honey in the nose and if you didn't know it was a beer you would think you were sniffing a glass of wine. It is quite viscous, also more like a wine than a beer. It had an alcohol content of 9% and went down very smooth. Not a bad beer at all and if it wasn't a tasting I would have had another.

The gimmick on this one is that the recipe is supposedly based on the residue in drinking vessels found in King Midas's tomb. The ingredients include white Muscat grapes, honey, and saffron. Despite the gimmick, it is a very pleasing beer and would pair well with anything you might drink a white wine with. I bet it would be great with a nice Brie.

Bar Man And The Midas Touch

Dogfish Head has no end of gimmicks and the next beer, Pangaea, was no exception. Pangaea, as some of you may know, was a super-continent that existed about 225 million years ago. In fact, all of the current continents were part of it. Pangaea is a Greek word meaning "all lands." So, what is the gimmick? This beer uses one ingredient from every continent including crystallized ginger from Australia, blue rice from Asia, Belgian yeast from Europe, etc.

It had a nose with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg and a bit of earthiness (no pun intended). The first hit on the tongue is sweet but you quickly get hit with a hoppy bitterness. It was a relatively mild 7% alcohol. Not bad, but not one I would go out of my way to order again.

I moved on to a Golden Era AKA Shower. I am not sure if that connotation sells much beer. Well, maybe in some bars. Of course with that in mind I couldn't help but notice that it did look a bit like urine. Not much of a nose, thankfully, but a big woof of hops with the first swallow, and the hops cling. a dry finish that makes you want to take the next swallow. Not bad, but nothing special. This one was back up to 9%.

A Glass Of Golden Era

I finished up with the 120 Minute. Now this is the one to finish up with. A rousing 21% alcohol, so it is not for the faint hearted. A couple of guys next to me were drinking the WW Stout a mere 18% alcohol. I passed on that one and sneeringly referred to them as girly-men.

This wasn't anything like I expected it to be. Often times the exceedingly strong beers contain so much alcohol that it overpowers everything else. Not this one though. A nice amber color with a decent head. It was sweet and very flavorful. You picked up a hint of raisins in the nose along with caramel. Coffee came through as well. This would be a good substitute for a port at the end of a meal and would pair well with a stinky cheese.

Bar Man And Dogfish Head 120 Minute

The place had quite a crowd and I will have to say that the bartender, Matt, seems to know almost everyone by name. And everyone seems to know him. I have mentioned him before, a good guy who knows his beers. I only had one complaint. The beers were served in wine glasses, far smaller than a pint and the prices ranged from $7.50 to $9.00. This seemed a bit high because at least some of these beers are routinely available at $5.00 to $6.00 a pint elsewhere. I did get a buyback though, so no real complaints.

I will definitely be on the lookout for the Midas Touch and 120 Minute so I can try them again, perhaps with cheese.