Saturday, May 24, 2008

Popping In At Pete's

Well, I still call it Pete's Waterfront Ale House, but I think the Pete's part is slowly being eliminated from the name. Just as well, I guess, because I have no idea who the hell Pete might be.

After our visit to the Cask Ale Festival at Brazen Head we decided to head to the Waterfront Ale House. I had told Jim about the dynamite Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout and he wanted to try it. I certainly wasn't adverse to this ides. When we got there we were greeted by Mary, a friendly bartender (but aren't they all, even Gaid on a good day) who has been there a long time and seems to know everyone.

Friendly Mary

We decided that a Van Gogh Double Espresso Vodka would be a good chaser for the stout and Mary obliged by serving up most healthy portions and generously topped them off when they ran low. Whew, just what we needed.

The Gang Getting Our Coffee Fix

The staff here has been wearing some new shirts that aren't yet for sale to the general public. The Mysterious Chinese Woman, however, must be special because Sam, the manager went down to the basement and found one her size which he gave her.

Oh, And Just For Me!!!

And I have to admit that it did look quite nice on her.

Delighted With Her Gift

Thank you Sam, you are most generous.

Generous Sam

We probably should have ended the day here, but that would have made too much sense. Jim said he heard the food at the Atlantic ChipShop was supposed to be good so we toddled off down the street a bit and popped in there. I will post on that another day, I have to head out to a week-end of grilling and smoking at my sister-in-law's house out in New Jersey.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bass Brolly

At long last, the Bass Brolly post.

Now what, you might ask, is a Bass Brolly? It is a nifty looking little device that will help you pour a perfect Black & Tan. A Black & Tan is a layered beverage that has a lighter ale or lager on the bottom and a heavier stout on the top. Wait, how can that be? Shouldn't that be the other way around? Well, no, and that is because, contrary to most people's belief, stout is actually lighter than ales and lagers, much like cream is actually lighter than milk. If you don't believe me just ask yourself How come cream floats on top of milk? And how come a Guinness Stout floats on top of a Bass Ale?

But, back to the Bass Brolly.

And Here It Is, The Bass Brolly

As you can see, it is a rather simple device that sits on top of your pint glass. It is just a very triangular depression with holes along the sides and extensions to allow you to hook it on top of your glass. Simple, yet elegant.

All Of The Essentials

To make the Black & Tan you need a pint glass, or two along with a bottle of your choice of a lager or ale and a bottle of your favorite stout and, of course, your Bass Brolly. As you can see, I chose the traditional ingredients, a Bass Ale and a Guinness Stout.

Step One

The first step is to pour about a half pint of the Bass Ale into your glass. It is suggested that you pour it aggressively to get a good sized head.

Step Two

The second step is to carefully pour the Guinness into the center of the Bass Brolly, taking care not to cause an overflow and to let the Guinness seep through the holes.

The Finished Product

As you can see, you get a very nicely layered Black & Tan, just like the professionals pour.

Bar Man And Jim Enjoying Our Pour

Now, is the Bass Brolly the best thing since sliced bread? Sadly, it is not. There are a few design flaws that are problematic. First, you have to pour your Guinness at an excruciatingly slow rate to avoid over-flowing the Bass Brolly and ruining your Black & Tan. This is exacerbated by the fact that the foam from the Guinness seems to clog the holes which, I think, should be larger. Now if you have ever tried to pour a beer really slow you will see that it is hard to do without dribbling beer down the neck of the bottle. And, indeed, this is what happens.

As an experiment I made a smaller (running low on ingredients) Black & Tan just using a tablespoon up against the side of the glass when I poured the Guinness. The results weren't that much different. Why my friend Jerry (he of The Opener fame) can't seem to do this is beyond me, but his are always a mess.

The Tablespoon Version

Jim tried to pour one free-hand, but his just turned out to be a mess too.

A Failed Attempt

The world is still waiting for the solution to pouring the perfect Black & Tan. In the meantime I recommend doing what I do, go to your favorite watering hole and leave the pouring to a professional.

My sister, Paula, informed me that she was the one responsible for my getting the Bass Brolly. That cleared up a bit of a mystery. I once got a spoon for making these from Guinness, but I had entered a slogan contest so they had my mailing information. I couldn't figure out how Bass got it though.

Oh, by the way, the slogan contest was for a chance to win a pub in Ireland. My slogan, obviously, didn't make the cut. And what was my slogan?

Drinking a Guinness: Like falling face down into a puddle of mud.

Not sure why they didn't like it.

Now, slogan aside, I do like a nicely poured Guinness. Either draft or in the little bottles. Not a big fan of the draught cans though. And my favorite Black & Tan (cover your eyes Bass fans) is Guinness and Speckled Hen. Bass will certainly do, though, and Speckled Hen is devilishly hard to find.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Brazen Head's Cask Ale Festival

Well, it was finally here and I managed to pop in all three days. On the first day, Friday the 16th, it wasn't at all crowded when I showed up a bit after noon. Only about half a dozen people. I am sure it crowded up later on though.

I was met with a rather curious sign:

Well, more misleading than curious. I mean why would you spend $4.50 for a half pint when a whole pint is only $6.50? It took some questioning before I could figure it out. The half pint is half an imperial pint. An imperial pint is 20 ounces so you are getting 10 ounces for your $4.50. The pints, however, are standard 16 ounce pints. Confused yet? I am sure a lot of people were.

I started out with a couple of the half pints.

Bar Man And His Half Pints (good name for a band)

I figured I would start big so I had the Arcadia Hop Rocket Ale, a hefty 9% alcohol brewed in the double IPA style. It is from Arcadia Brewery which is located in Battle Creek, Michigan. As you might expect, this one packed a lot of hops and was a nice eye-opener.

My second one was Stoudt's Scarlet Lady from the Stoudt's Brewery in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. This one is a milder 4.8% alcohol and is an English Extra Special Bitter. I did indeed find it to be bitter with a burnt coffee flavor. I didn't particularly care for this one.

Having wet my whistle I decided to up the quantities a bit and my next two were full pints.

Bar Man And The Big Boys

I had the Magic Hat Lucky Kat, an American IPA from the venerable Magic Hat brewery in Burlington, Vermont. I am a big fan of the #9 they produce and this was a tasty one as well. It was a golden color and although it had a very hoppy nose, it had a nice malty taste to it. My kind of an IPA.

I finished this day with the Chelsea Sunset Red. The Chelsea Brewery is in Manhattan and I am generally a big fan of their beers. This one, not so much. It had a nice coppery color but had a thin head that looked a bit like soap suds that have sat for awhile.

Soap Suds

It is an American Amber Ale and comes in a 5.6% alcohol. Has a malty taste but was a bit sour. The Mysterious Chinese Woman said she detected notes of ammonia. Maybe they were soap suds.

Saturday was warm and sunny so I just popped in for a couple.

Garden Party

I opted for another Chelsea product, the Checker Blonde Ale. It is a light 5.5% alcohol and is a Kolsch style ale. This is a style of beer that is common in Cologne, Germany. A bright yellow with a decent white head. Very refreshing with a light, but not over-powering, hop flavor and nose. Quite refreshing and perfect for a sunny day.

I followed that up with the Smutty Nose IPA. This one comes in at 6.6% alcohol and pours a golden color. It has hints of citrus and pine and wasn't a bad brew at all.

You can see that the place was much more crowded today.

The following day, Sunday, Jim, The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I headed back again after our brunch at Jolie's.

Jim And Bar Man Having A Cool One

It was another nice day and we got here early enough so we beat the crowd. We shared three different ales today.

The Chelsea Flower and Showers Spring Wheat was a very drinkable number. A decent 6.4% alcohol that pours a bit hazy with an orangish amber color and a white head. It has a touch of a fruity spiciness to it, but nothing too serious. Most drinkable.

The Blue Point Double Blonde Ale, brewed by Blue Point in Patchoque, New York, is a bit stronger at 7.4% alcohol. This was a pleasant change from IPAs because it is quite malty. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The third one we had was Sixpoint Chocolate Brownstone Ale from near my neighborhood. The Sixpoint Brewery is in Red Hook and I have written about it before when I wrote about Rocky Sullivan's. This version was made especially for the festival and they infused it with chocolate from Taza, a small-batch chocolate company. It comes in at 5.7% alcohol so even though they call it a "session beer," I think it is a bit on the strong side for that designation. It was a good tasting beer, kind of like their normal Sixpoint Brownstone Ale with a bit of chocolate added. Go figure.

Even when they are not having an ale festival, Brazen Head has a good selection of beers and a fairly extensive selection of Scotches as well.

The Normal Offerings

Tomorrow I will definitely post about the Bass Brolly. Really, I promise.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Jolly At Jolie

Last Sunday my brother-in-law Jim stopped by and after trying out my new Bass Ale Bolly (more on that next time) we went out to have brunch at Jolie before going to the Cask Ale Festival at The Brazen Head (and more on that later too).

Okay, that was the longest sentence in this blog. Jolie is a French restaurant on Atlantic Avenue not far from the oh so chic Smith Street. Atlantic Avenue, at least this stretch, is starting to catch up. Right across the street from Jolie is a dynamite Vietnamese sandwich shop.


I have eaten here before on several occasions and have never been disappointed. It is a bit more upscale than Bar Tabac and the food is, perhaps, a bit fancier, but it still has that friendly bistro feel to it. Interestingly, Bar Tabac's signage features a motor scooter and Jolie has something similar in their window.

Riding In Style

When I was a kid they used to advertise something like this. Actually, what they advertised was a small gasoline engine that you attached to your bicycle. My mother, for some reason, never thought buying one of these was a very good idea.

The interior of the restaurant has an interesting decor, but I can't quite put my finger on the style. I do like the pictures on the wall though, and the lamp at the end of the bar is one I would like to have.

My Lamp

Motorcycles are a recurring theme along with movie icons from the 60's and 70's, often both in the same picture.

And, of course, I really like this blow-up of a mug shot of Frank Sinatra

Smile Frank

Frank Sinatra was arrested by the Bergen County sheriff (that's in New Jersey) in 1938 and charged with carrying on with a married woman. The charge was later changed to adultery and eventually dropped.

Whereas Bar Tabac has a bunch of small wooden tables packed in pretty tight, Jolie has fancier settings, white tablecloths and China, and the tables give you a lot more room. They are also larger. We opted to sit inside but they have a very nice outdoor area for when the weather finally gets better. This has been one of the grayest, wettest, and chilly Springs that I can remember. Well, except for when I used to live in Minnesota.

Peeks At The Garden

We had an excellent brunch, although I didn't order off the brunch menu. The Mysterious Chinese Woman had salmon tartare and it was excellently done. Nicely chopped salmon, not at all mushy, and very flavorful. I have had the steak tartare here in the past and it too is very good. In fact I can say it is some of the best I have ever had. Too many places grind the meat instead of chopping it and that just ruins the texture.

Jim had corned-beef hash and eggs and a side of French toast. Well, he is a growing boy. I prefer canned corned-beef hash (Mary's Kitchen is my favorite) so I only order this if I am at a diner where I know they serve it. That wouldn't be right in a place like Jolie though and, true to form, they made their own and it looked great. Although I didn't try it, the French toast was declared to be delicious as well.

I opted for a hanger-steak sandwich and it was fantastic. The steak itself was done just the way I asked, medium rare, and the lightly toasted bread that it was served on was delicious too.

This is a great place to go for anything from an informal brunch such as we had to a dress-up date. I am going to make a point of going some Sunday evening when they have a three-cheese fondue.

Jolie on Urbanspoon

As you can imagine, Jim shows up the day tends to be eventful. It will take at least another few postings to cover his whole visit. In addition to the Bass Ale Brolly testing and the stop at The Brazen Head we also hit Pete's Waterfront Ale House, the Atlantic ChipShop, and, finally, Montero's Bar & Grill.

I am getting too old for this...NOT!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bar Man of La Mancha

I haven't been in La Mancha for ages. In fact the last time I ate their food it was at an Atlantic Antic street fair where I had their grilled sardines.

La Mancha

Many years ago there was a La Mancha restaurant on the corner of the block, at Atlantic Avenue and Henry Street. I used to go there fairly often and one of my favorite dishes was the octopus stew. The Mysterious Chinese Woman preferred the clams in a green sauce. One of the owners retired and, I think, the other owner moved the location of the restaurant done the block a bit to 135 and renamed it Meson Flamenco. A couple of the waiters and one of the cooks moved with it so the food was pretty much the same. Then it closed and then re-opened with new owners who named it La Mancha again. The funny thing is that they didn't know the history of the place and naming it La Mancha was just a coincidence. In fact at first they couldn't figure out why everyone seemed so happy that they were re-opening.

Well, you could understand the confusion because many of the decorations are the same and they really didn't change much. The blood-stained bull-fighter's cape was gone though.

I decided to have a glass of wine at the bar while The Mysterious Chinese Woman and I looked at the menu.

Bar Man At The Bar

While we were looking at the menu (and they still had the clams in green sauce) we also noticed the chalk board with a list of the days tapas offerings and they looked interesting as well.

Today's Tapas

We decided to order from the tapas menu and then sit in the dining area and have dinner. I ordered the tripe, something I really like but something you don't see on a menu too often. The Mysterious Chinese Woman ordered the squid. The portions were quite generous and both dishes were, in my opinion, excellent. The Mysterious Chinese Woman isn't a big fan of tripe but even she thought it was okay.

Tasty Tapas

After eating our tapas though we found that we weren't really that hungry anymore so we skipped dinner and just finished our bottle of wine. I really enjoyed my stay and chatted with the owner/bartender and another customer at the bar. Then a woman came in who had a tee-shirt she bought for one of the waiters because she thought the picture on the front looked like him. All and all it struck me as a very friendly neighborhood place and I will certainly going back soon and order from the dinner menu. When I do I will be sure to write more.

Finishing Our Wine At The Bar

One thing that I was surprised by was the price of one of their wine offerings. It was Prensa Real, a nice Spanish red table wine that I am quite familiar with. In fact I just bought a bottle at my local liquor store a few days ago. They sell it for under $5 a bottle, a real steal. That was why the $22 price at La Mancha seemed to be a bit steep. But seeing as how the tapas were only $7 each it was still a fairly inexpensive dining experience. The dinner menu was reasonably priced as well.

La Mancha Restaurant on Urbanspoon

I think I don't get to La Mancha that often because Pete's Waterfront Ale House is between where I live and La Mancha. Usually I never make it past Pete's. Well, I didn't make it past there this time either because I stopped in on the way home for an after-dinner beer.

Bar Man Having His After Dinner Beer

I opted for the Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout and it was the perfect after dinner drink. It was kind of like having a glass of port and an espresso all rolled into one. There certainly wasn't any missing the espresso flavor either. They start out with a Russian stout base and add espresso beans during the boil. It was quite delicious, but you wouldn't be likely to drink it all night.

Hitachino Nest turns out a lot of interesting beers but they are kind of hard to find. If you ever do run across any I recommend that you buy a couple to try. There are about ten different kinds and they are brewed by the Kiuchi brewery in Japan. In addition to the Espresso Stout I have also had the White Ale and the Red Rice Ale.