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January 20, 2011

Hong Kong: Brew Dog Punk IPA

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After drinking all that yellow, fizzy beer all over Asia, I was craving something with hops. Every beer you find out there, be it local or import, is light, sweet and after a while, cloying. San Miguel was my favorite of the bunch in Hong Kong and The Philippines, but really, it was all mostly the same.

So, I was very happy to find Brew Dog at a pub in the expat nightlife area, Lan Kwai Fong. The ad, posted on every table spun its marketing campaign as being 'punk,' different, possibly 'too good for you.' The idea would be more clever if the folks that make Arrogant Bastard hadn't been doing it for something like 10 years, but I certainly didn't care. It had hops and was unapologetic about it and for that I appreciated it.

I had the blue label, which provided the over the top hoppy experience that was all the range in beer in the US five years ago. As happy as I was to have it, I could only enjoy a round or two at a time. By then though, my palate was more than happy to return to the lighter local brews.

December 23, 2010

Vietnam: Bier Garden

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Bier Garden ended up being our central spot while we were in Saigon. After a week or so of pretty much exclusively drinking those sweet, fizzy Asian beers like Tsingtao, Tiger and San Miguel, the option of having an international selection available was really appealing to me.

The more 'exotic' selections available mostly came from Western Europe from Belgian and German wheats along with English and Irish ales. They also had Cooper's, an Aussie beer I've been fond of for some time. Yet, interestingly, I found little relief in these western brews. Despite differences in styles and country of origin, I soon came to find that nearly all of the beers available had similar tasting points. All were lighter in body and sweeter in flavor without much in the way oh hops or sharpness to balance the experience.

The crowd, clearly, was made up entirely of tourists enjoying a pint or three of their home town brew. Sadly there was no such nostalgia for me. Remarkably there weren't any American beers available that I recall.

December 9, 2010

Hong Kong: San Miguel Beer

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Asia doesn't really have much in the way of great beer. Pretty much all of it is light, yellow and fizzy. It's a bit sweet and most often indistinguishable from one another. You may eventually notice differences between Tsingtao and Asahi and Sapporo, but mostly they're very similar. Given that, San Miguel, a Filipino beer became my beer of choice. Again, it's not significantly better, but you take what you can get.

June 22, 2010

Quick Drink: French 75

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You may have noticed by now that my drinking habits tend toward the beer and wine. I typically steer clear of cocktails, but when my waiter at Incanto recommended Heaven's Dog in San Francisco's SOMA Grand hotel as a great cocktail bar, I wasn't going to walk in and ask for their wine list.

Instead, I asked the bartender to come up with a concoction friendly to someone who liked the bubbles of beer or a sparkling and wasn't so into a strong liquor flavor.

He came up with the French 75, a classic drink he said was mentioned in Casablanca.

The drink mixes cognac, simple syrup and lemon juice in crushed ice, strains it in chilled champagne glass, then gets topped off with champagne. The citrus cut through the liquor flavor, although by the end the pucker was a little intense. Even so, I'd definitely order it again if I walked into a cocktail bar and wanted something refreshing that wasn't going to knock me down.

January 1, 2010

WinterMarket 09: Heartland's Winter Wassail

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It's easy to hate on Heartland Brewery. I've certainly done it. It's touristy and, Brooklyn-brewed or not, the beer isn't fantastic. But they do put an effort in and I give them credit for that.

They participated in the WinterMarket this year, just a block away from their Seaport location. To help battle the frigid temperatures, the folks here were pouring steaming hot mugs of a concoction blending beer, cider, rum, and a host of mulling spices. After nearly freezing my hand off taking photos and stuffing my face glove-less, this drink may have saved me a couple digits.

The heat, unfortunately, was really all it had going for it. The flavor was bitter, bringing out all the wrong parts of the ingredients. The orange peel and mulling spices and presumably the beer buried the innate sweetness of the cider instead of balancing it out. That said, the cold was hard enough that I kept on drinking it anyway.

A few minutes later, I came across a booth selling hot cider and I regretted not seeing it first.

July 28, 2009

Will Der Shwarze Kolner Ever Open?

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I first heard rumor of a beer garden opening in Fort Greene, way back in March. Obviously, I was very happy. Beer. Schnitzel. Outdoor space. What's not to love?

And being positioned a block away from Habana Outpost means it'll have an interesting crowd and hopefully will have a moderating effect on the drives that overwhelm the place on the weekends.

But, I was apprehensive. There was no word of when they would be opening. So, I sat tight and didn't think about it.

That is until Brownstoner reported that they would be open by the end of last month. With hopes of tippling over brats and shnitzel for 4th of July Weekend, I stopped by to find it shuttered.

Last week, I passed by again and the gates were half open. I stuck my head in and asked about an opening date, but didn't get anything more than "Soon come."

So, there you go: Soon come.

May 22, 2009

DC: Alhambra Negra

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I had this Alhambra at an outdoor bar called Rumba Cafe on 18th Street in Washington. It was a dark, malty beer which is unusual for Spanish beer. The body was lighter, according the the website, "adapted to Mediterranean tastes." It was a good find. I hope to find it again here in New York.

March 28, 2009

Markets: The Suburban Supermarket

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I could never live in the suburbs for any number of reasons beginning with the fact that I don't drive, an essential skill in any place outside a real city. Beyond that, the suburban aesthetic and the concept of the subdivision offend me to my quite citified core.

But, there is one thing that I find attractive about the world outside of The Big City: the supermarkets like this one we visited near Chapel Hill while visiting my aunt.

They are gigantic. And Clean. And full of so many wonderful things that I temporarily lose my sympathy for local small businesses and pine away at the many, many options on hand.

The airplane hanger-sized space is full of so much wonderful stuff that I find myself wandering through the aisles wistfully, raising my arms to full length and appreciating all the space. It's like a different world.

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Another wonderful feature of the supermarkets outside of New York is that they stock wine, something that is still unavailable at home. Racks and racks of bottles of medium to low-priced wines are on sale in the same place you get the rest of your groceries.

The selection does not include the highest end bottles, but it has more than enough wonderful everyday bottles.

Given space and legal concerns, I don't expect to see a place like this in NYC-proper for some time, but I can dream. . . .

March 26, 2009

Bar Olivino

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This wine bar on Fulton Street in Clinton Hill initially seems redundant so close to Stonehome, not 10 blocks away. But with all its success, Stonehome is much more of a restaurant these days than a bar and can be hard to get into sometimes. It also doesn't keep late night bar hours, frustrating the urge for that last glass or two before calling it a night.

Conversely, Bar Olivino, the small drinking outlet of the Olivino wine shop is all bar.

I love the concept, which is basically a Comptoir: A small space, a convivial atmosphere, a couple meat and cheese snacks and most importantly wine. It's certainly small, the place could just barely fit two dozen customers. The snacks are minimal and the atmosphere is fun, whether mellow and quiet on a Sunday evening or festive and hopping as it was on a recent visit with Tammi. When the party is going, the windows fog up and wine flows like water.

At one end of the bar or another, you'll usually find Katrine, the proprietress bending elbows with friends or just quietly enjoying the revelry.

My biggest difficulty at the bar is often with the wine selection. Having shopped at both Olivino branches for some time, I always expect to see more familiar wine available on the menu, but it's never there.

In particular, I'm often lured into the Cotes du Rhone, which is a remarkably cheap, at $5 a glass. It's not a great wine, but Rhones are the familiar region for me, so I'll often order it and be disappointed.

I talked to Katrine about it one night, finally asking her why she doesn't have more of the selection she stocks in the shop. Her response was pretty interesting. She purposely excluded what she calls 'the big 10' grapes, sticking with more obscure wines and a few blends. It told me a bit about myself. I always think of myself as a wanting to try new things, but my difficulties with the wine list at Bar Olivino resulted from a tendency to stick with the familiar varietals instead of exploring the breadth of the wines available.

It's an interesting challenge and one that I readily accept. On that same visit, I discovered that they stock a Pineau de Charentes, a dessert wine that I've been curious about for some time. Last year, our neighbor gave us a bottle of it that remained unopened until recently. It's quite rare in The States, so I was surprised to see it here. This is the benefit of having a wine list that explores new and interesting flavors. Thinking about it this way, I'm pretty excited to go back with a new perspective on their list.

Late Night: The Shwarma

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Showing a bare modicum of discretion, I'm going to call this feature 'Late Night.' This category could very reasonably be called 'Drunk Food,' given that while always good, most of the dishes I expect to discuss are 100 times better after an evening of revelry. I've already covered White Castle and the Taco Truck (as well as other tacos),

The Shwarma, also known as the Doner Kebab to the Turks and sharing more similarities than differences with the Greek Gyro is an internationally recognized celebrity in the world of late night fare. In Mexico, they righteously substitute pork for lamb in the al pastor taco. In Paris, we passed a dozen spits roasting layer upon layer of lamb around the corner from the music row where we stayed.

The massive structure of meat is constructed with horizontal columns of fat which melt down, basting all the meat below. But, I expect I'm not telling you anything new. You've either seen these 'meat logs' around town in one way or the other and either fled in disgust or ran gleefully towards it.

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This particular Shwarma was served up from my go to place on MacDougal near Bleeker in The Village, Yatagan. It's not nearly the only one in the neighborhood. And, while I love it, it's not the best I've ever had, it now has a long-standing sentimental value just for being associated with so many of the late nights I've had through the years.


Yatagan Kebab House
104 MacDougal Street
Greenwich Village

March 6, 2009

Murder Burgers

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Tammi and I share the guiltiest of guilty pleasures: White Castle burgers. These usually end up as our late night gorge after an evening of imbibing. Much like the Taco Truck I exalted recently, a sack of 10 cheeseburgers between the two of us profoundly hits the spot at 1am on a Friday night.

We usually end up at the White Castle on Atlantic Avenue, on the border of Prospect Heights and Clinton Hill as we're heading home from the night's festivities. Usually we walk, but at least once we've had a cab stop there on the way home.

February 9, 2009

Aspen: The Wine Spot

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My recent visit to Aspen was remarkable for being my least social excursion out there to date. The co-workers who usually accompany me there did not go this year and my suddenly sensitive stomach left me a little cranky and not in much of a mood for the crowds that end up in town for X Games.

The Wine Spot was my savior. If not for this place and Seth, its proprietor, I'd have found myself sitting in my room alone every night watching netflix instant or whatever crap was on TV.

Situated in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt Aspen, a 'residence,' which I think is just fancy-talk for 'time-share,' this place is just off the beaten path. It's right across from Rubey Park, the main bus stop for the whole town, right down the block from the bars, clubs and restaurants in the middle of town. Yet, it's not actually in the middle of anything, so most of the people who actually show up here are those who are staying there.

It was the perfect place to go to escape the crowds. I must have stopped in there 4 or 5 times and there were never more than 10 people in, even on Saturday night when packs of teens and twentysomethings roamed the streets looking for a party.

The first night I came in, Seth greeted me and reintroduced himself, remembering me from last year. It's an interesting thing because I've unintentionally become a regular in a place where people often only come in for a week or two a year. After being reacquainted, he went on to help me find some of the wine on the menu that I'd enjoy.

I also partook in the one food item they serve, a cheese and meat plate:

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Both the food and drink were great, but what kept me coming back was the warmth and familiarity of the hearth, the leather couches and the service.

January 21, 2009

Toasting President Obama

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Last night I celebrated the inauguration quietly with this small bottle of Champagne I had at The Wine Spot, a slightly out of the way little hotel bar that I visited last year. More on that to come. For now, cheers!

January 8, 2009

Paris Souvenirs: Jurançon


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"Don't let anyone see you walking down the street with that! They'll want to be your friend and you'll know they only like you for your Jurançon!"

That was the least colorful advice given to me by Juveniles Wine Bar owner Tim Johnston, an old scot who, for 10 years has run this Australian themed wine bar in the heart of Paris.

The wine, a sweet dessert wine, is by Uroulat a family vineyard in the southwest of France, near the Pyrenees. It has a light body for a dessert wine and tastes strongly of apricots.

When I tasted it after our meal, I had to have it. But they didn't have any regular sizes left, so I was 'stuck' with this magnum. Johnston said the wine is great to drink now but offered that it will be even better in 5 years, "If you can hold out that long."

I can't guarantee that it'll survive until 2013, but we'll see...

January 7, 2009

Paris Souvenirs: Wine for the Cellar

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Yes. I bought all that wine in Paris. More, to be honest. We came back with 15 bottles. Among other things, I've decided to really spend some time learning about wine in the next few years. And part of that is to take advantage of the cellar conditions we've got in our basement. It's consistently 10-15 degrees cooler than the rest of the house, typically in the mid to low 60s, and the humidity tends to be upwards of 50%.

Starting my 'collection' in France just made the most sense, since we were heading there for the honeymoon anyway and the French, more than anyone else, have put a lot of effort into aging wine. I took learning about French wine up as my distracting obsession, something I think everyone who is planning a wedding should have. If you don't have something like that, the wedding will consume you.

I learned a lot more than I knew before about French wine, but there's so much more to discover. In the meantime, I mostly stuck with regions I knew I liked when buying. Many of the bottles I bought to 'hold' are from the Rhone regions, whether Cote Rotie, Gigondas, or Chateauneuf du Pape. I tried to expand into Bourdeaux as well. It was Burgundy that gave me the most difficulty. Tammi and I both found it hard to tolerate the thinness in body and flavor of wine from Burgundy. I bought one bottle of a Grand Cru, to hold for 5 years, based on the recommendation from the clerk.

At the center of my newfound obsession is my deeply ingrained hoarding habit. I can't lie. But beyond that is the idea of holding onto these bottles for our anniversaries, 10, 20 and 30 years in the future. We may pop open one of these bottles to celebrate our kids' graduations or any number of events in our life together through the years. I can't plan any of those things nor do I want to. But I love the idea that no matter what, I'll have the right bottle for the occasion.

June 30, 2008

Photo of the Day: Beer Goggle


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Blondie's Bar & No Grill, The Mission, San Francisco. 2008.

June 29, 2008

Bars: Spuytin Duyvil


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Spuytin Duyvil sits in an unlikely storefront, away from the neighborhood's main strips. Behind the hole-in-the-wall façade lays a gourmet soul. Snacks include ever-changing offerings of meats, cheeses and pâtés. The beer selection is impressive, with representatives from Sri Lanka to Switzerland and a rather large delegation of Belgians, which are broken down into Flemish and Wallonian.

It's a small space and looks very much like it was decorated by ... me. There are maps and subway memorabilia everywhere. The furniture looks like it was all picked up from the Salvation Army shop on Bedford. It's all old and interesting and usually comfortable. I'm really a big fan of this place, but I have a few problems with it that have made it hard for me to ever end up there. It's been ages since I've been there.

My biggest issue with Spuytin Duyvil is the hours. They don't open until 4 or 5pm even on the weekends and they tend to fill up by 6 or 7pm. I end up in Williamsburg either in the afternoon or at night, so when I want to hang out there for an afternoon and try out some of the crazy obscure stuff they have, they're closed. When I stop in later, the place is packed.

To be honest, I haven't really tried to get in there since Fette Sau opened, so maybe things have cleared up a bit, but given how long the lines end up for barbecue, it may just end up collecting overflow crowds.

I tell you, success ruins everything.

359 Metropolitan Avenue, Brooklyn
718-963-4140

June 23, 2008

Bars: Rudy's


Rudy's, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Free hot dogs and cheap beer! There's nothing else to say. It's in Hell's Kitchen. Go!

Ok, there's a little more to say. Rudy's is this kick-ass little dive that is prolly not the best place for a first date or pre-theater dinner. When I worked in Times Square, I ended up here pretty regularly. It's definitely a good escape from the tourists and crowds, especially now that Bellevue and (I think) Siberia are gone. There's a small backyard that fills up pretty quickly.

June 10, 2008

Souvenirs: Bulldog Glass


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I got this pint glass for free as a happy hour special at The Bulldog, a great beer bar on Magazine Street in New Orleans. I stopped in there quite few times during my New Orleans trip in 2004.

On the back of the glass is a list of information for tourists visiting. Note the second one listed:

"If the levee breaks, everyone will die. No one seems worried about this problem either."


Photo of the Day: BYOB


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Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 2008.

June 4, 2008

Supermarket Finds: Beer Cans


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FoodTown, Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. 2007.

June 2, 2008

Photo of the Day: Yarn & Whiskey


Yarn & Whiskey, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

A girl's best friends.

The Red Lion, Greenwich Village, NYC. 2008.

May 7, 2008

Photo of the Day: Fill 'er Up


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Sheila kicks ass. She's studying photojournalism at ICP, but has already gotten her work published in The New Yorker and the New York Times.


The Dove, Greenwich Village, NYC. 2008.

February 5, 2008

Saturday at the Brewery


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Saturday I decided to celebrate my return to Brooklyn by heading out to Williamsburg and having some beer. Hardly an unusual event, but I just wanted to d something familiar and relaxing.

It has been years since I took the Brewery tour, so I headed over there to try out some new brews out. The place was packed, so I skipped the tour but I did try these two Brewmaster's Reserves:

The Bright Golding Ale was light in color and body, but with an unexpected kick of hops and effervescence. It would make a great session beer, I think. I could certainly drink it all day.

One taste of The Extra Brune reminded me that it's been a while since I've tasted an Abbey Ale. The powerful fruit flavor takes me back a few years to the time when I first started drinking this style of beer. The caramel shade belies a deeply fruity body.

::c::

February 4, 2008

Photo of the Day: Bourbon


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Cheers.

Spike Hill, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. 2008.
::c::

December 11, 2007

Mexico City: Noche Buena


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As with most great discoveries, I stumbled upon Noche Buena purely by accident.
I saw an unfamiliar bottle sitting on top of the ice in the beer cooler at the bar of Sanborn's Department Store in Coyoacan (seriously, a bar in a department store, why don't we have this?). When I asked the bartender, he said "Noche Buena," which I misheard as "esta buena" or "It's good."

Turns out it is good. "Noche Buena" is a term for Christmas Eve. The beer is a seasonal that pops up between November and January every year since the 1920's. It's produced by Cerveceria Cuautémoc Moctezuma, the brewers of half the Mexican beer I'd heard of. Most familiar in the US markets for Tecate and Dos Equis, and maybe Sol and Bohemia, depending on the market.

The beer itself is unlike nearly any other Mexican beer I've ever tasted. Over the trip, I managed to taste not just this year's 'vintage' but a couple bottles each of the 2006 and 2005 releases, which the lady at the hotel bar described to me as 'Reposada,' literally meaning 'rested.' Each year had some variations in flavor, but all of them were deep amber in color with heavy caramel flavors.

I found the 2006's caramel sweetness to be a bit severe, while the 2005 was balanced out more with a strong carbonation and hops. Given the differences, I made a point of getting a couple bottles of the 2007 to hold onto until next year to see what difference the 'resting' makes.


November 7, 2007

Philadelphia: The Foodery

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On North 2nd Street and Poplar in Northern Liberties, I stumbled across this Deli and Beer shop called The Foodery. It's got an fantastic selection, including many local area brews as well as special productions from further afield. They stock more than 750 beers, I saw more than a couple that I hadn't heard of before. I was tempted to pick some up, but schlepping them home is not in the plan.

They also have a branch in Center City that I may hit the next time I'm there.

::c::

The Foodery, Northern Liberties
837 N. 2nd Street at Poplar.
215.238.6077

The Foodery, Center City
324 S. 10th Street at Pine.
215.928.1111

October 28, 2007

Nasville: Yazoo ESB

Apparently the folks at Yazoo took the name Extra Special Bitter literally. This ESB is much more like a light bodied IPA than a british style bitter. I pity the Englishman who orders this in hopes of a taste of home. It's definitely not a session beer, but it's a good hopped out beer, when that's what you're looking for. It's got dark, golden coloring.

I never made it out to the Yazoo Brewery yesterday. It turned out to be further than I thought, after walking halfway there, I discovered it was still another mile away.

October 26, 2007

Nasville: Yazoo Pale Ale


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Yazoo Pale Ale is a locally brewed pale with fairly typical flavors for an American pale ale. It's not bad, but I'm having a hard time finding much distinctive about it.

Given that I'm drinking it at a place with 10 generic, mass-marketed brews, including 3 different Miller offerings, I'm pretty happy that a beer like this is available, but it's hardly memorable.

It does make me wonder what beer selections I'll have to look forward to elsewhere in this town...
::c::

[Update: It turns out that the Yazoo Brewery is not terribly far from here. I'll have to go check it out htis evening after we wrap up.

October 24, 2007

Eli Recommends: Brahma Black

Eli

I got the following email from my world-traveling friend Eli. He just got back from Brazil and had what he calls the best beer you'll ever drink. With a title like that, clearly I've got to let everyone else know about it...


"brahma black" - if you can get it on tap anywhere in nyc, i'm not sure, but ask for it. when they serve it (if they serve it the same way they serve it in brazil), the beer is essentially all head. it is creamy - it is delicious. sweet, with no aftertaste whatsoever. the brewing process uses aromatic hops, but not the other hops present in germanic beers. it is pretty amazing stuff - one of the highlights of the week in sao paulo, easily.

you had it before? let me know - i think the on tap version i had in sao paulo may have been cask conditioned....but not certain.

Thank you Eli!
::c::

October 23, 2007

Cask Ale on The Pour

The Pour, Eric Asimov's blog on nytimes.com has a post today about cask ales. He mentions Alex Hall, formerly of the Gotham Imbiber.

Check it out.

Also, don't forget the cask ale festival at The Brazen Head next weekend..

In other

October 18, 2007

Rosell Boher Champagne


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Last Friday was 4 years since Tammi and I started dating. To celebrate I made dinner and opened up a couple special bottles.
I bought this sparkling in Buenos Aires last fall. It's from a limited release of 9500 bottles. I have been saving it for a special occasion just like this.

This may very well be the best sparkling I've ever had. The taste was one you'd expect from a rosé. The flavor of black cherry was so strong, it reminded me of a kriek lambic beer. What was amazing was that it wasn't cloyingly sweet as a lot of fruity sparklings can be.

When it was done, I was irritated that I couldn't go out and get another. So, a hint to any friends who may be going down to Buenos Aires any time soon. This would make a fantastic gift to that special writer/photographer/geek.

October 8, 2007

Bars: The Stoned Crow


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The Stoned Crow is a narrow, low-ceilinged dive hidden on an otherwise anonymous block just off Sixth Avenue in The Village. I've been going there for years and I still only know the street as "Not the block where Babbo is, the other one."

Personally, I think it stays cool through sheer anonymity, but not in a pretentious, 'in the know' sort of way. There's nothing smug about The Stoned Crow, it's just a laidback spot with a few well priced good beers and great burgers. The crowd here is one of the better ones in the area. It's rarely packed and it has none of the belligerent college kids of Macdougal or the overdressed grad students at The Dove or the tourists everywhere else. It's just a relaxed after-work hangout spot for people who don't wear ties work.

The place has tons of personality, between the movie and music posters that cover every inch of the walls to the old redhead who owns the place. She holds court over the pool table in the back every night.

Lately they've gotten a fair amount of attention for their burgers, after they managed to get a cook from Corner Bistro. I took Tammi there a couple weeks ago and now it's one of her favorite places for burgers. Just like CB, the bacon is key here. It's smoky and crispy and wonderful. It stands out among the juicy beef and thick layer of cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.


The Stoned Crow
85 Washington Place
New York, NY

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October 2, 2007

Cask Ale Time at The Brazen Head


IMG_7036, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Just a quick note that while at the Antic, I found that the next cask ale festival at the Brazen Head will be the weekend of November 2-4th. Clearly, I'm planning on attending.

June 28, 2007

Photo of the Day: Through the Drinking Glass


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June 18, 2007

Kyoto: Ponto Cho

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Our hotel in Kyoto was just a block or two from Ponto Cho, an collection of interconnected alleys anchored by a pair of main strips, the main stretch, lit up at night with signs and the narrow parallel alley closer to the river sat in its shadow. The area is full of bars, restaurant and clubs stacked in anonymous buildings and packed into narrow pathways. We wandered through here blindly searching for food and drink, sometimes successful sometimes not. Occasionally, we found ourselves stalking geisha walking out of one of the private clubs on their way back to Gion, just across the river.

Continue reading "Kyoto: Ponto Cho" »

June 12, 2007

Japanese Baseball

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Tammi and I went to see the Tokyo's Yamuiri (sp?) Giants play last night (Monday).

The baseball ritual in Japan is fascinating. The stadium is split between the two sides and each side has songs and chants and rituals for each player.

The entire experience was fun and culturally very interesting, but the best part has to have been the beer girls. Unlike stadiums in the US where pisswater beer is poured and then carried around until when you finally get it, it's warm and flat, this beer is always fresh. That's because they pour it in front of you... from a keg... on their back! Yeah, really.

I love this place.

May 25, 2007

Bars: Dove Parlor


IMG_4378, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I sort of inherited The Dove. Frank, the owner of Black Star, along with Jen and Henrietta, two of my favorite bartenders there, opened this place up after Black Star closed. I think I may be the only former Black Star patron who goes with any regularity though. Dove is anything but a recreation of Black Star.

As the name suggests, Dove is a parlor more than a bar. It goes old fashioned with its antique looking decor and the doilies sitting under every glass. They recently started serving tea sandwiches and cheese plates.

Dove is also one of the more 'grown-up' bars near Washington Square Park, catering to the (slightly) more mature professional school crowd. These are the folks who have gotten past the frat party conditions of Macdougal, but still cram into a room a little more than they should. So watch out when stopping by on a Friday night. You might get flashbacks from your rush hour commute.

The drink menu focuses more on mixed drinks and wine much more than most other places in the area that I know. Tammi discovered the Sea Breeze here as she began migrating away from fru-fru cocktails. The wine selection is small, but has some good stuff. The beer selection is not extensive, it doesn't stock anything rare or obscure, but it has a very good basic set. When I'm there, I fall back on an old favorite, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Dove Parlor
228 Thompson St
New York, NY 10012
(212) 254-1435

May 24, 2007

Brooklyn Uncorked


IMG_8788.JPG, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last week I went to Brooklyn Uncorked, a wine tasting at the BAM Cafe. The event brought in more than 20 different wineries from Long Island to show off their products. It was sponsored by Edible Brooklyn, the free food magazine. I heard about it a month or so ago from my editor at the Brooklyn Record, they had given us press passes. I was pretty psyched to check it out.

I'm still getting a handle on the wine thing. I know a decent amount about what I like, but there are huge swaths of grapes and styles and regions that I'm entirely unfamiliar with. The idea of exploring a region so close to home really appealed to me.

When I got there and saw so many people pouring Merlot, I was also pleasantly surprised. I don't know much about Merlot either. It would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Or so I thought.

Unfortunately, it seems that Merlot is nearly the only thing they grow out in Long Island. Pretty much every table I visited had the same selection. I had the same conversation about a dozen times:

Me: What are you pouring?
Them: Well, we've got our Merlot, here. And this is our blend with X% Merlot, X% Cab Franc and X% Cabernet Sauvignon. We've also got this, which is Y% Merlot, Y% Cab Franc and Y% Cab Sauv.

I like variety and I didn't find any there. I'm probably somewhat biased because I'm just not fond of Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, with few exceptions, I can't stand it. So, most of the blends were ruined for me, because even with 30%, it overpowers the other grapes. A few of them mixed some other grapes into their blends, which was interesting. But 5% Syrah or 10% Malbec was barely noticeable to me.

In the end, I was just bored. When I asked about the fact that everyone brought essentially the same selection, I was told that they all made many more, but chose to bring the most popular. That sort of depresses me. I'd think that an event like this would have been a perfect opportunity to show off wine that's different from everyone else's. Instead they went with the same old same old.

May 18, 2007

Bars: Barcade


IMG_4830, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I can't think of much better to say about Barcade than what I wrote in my Brooklyn Record piece:

"Barcade has everything adulthood should have: great beer and video games. Knock back one of the two dozen beers on tap while playing Frogger or Zaxxon or Moon Patrol or any of the other '80s video games. A pool table is in the back for those seeking a more traditional bar game. Gothamist recently ran an interview with Paul Kermizian, filmmaker and owner of Barcade."

Going to Barcade for the first time was a revelation. All the games of my childhood were there and still only cost a quarter per game. Add to the that some of the best craft brews around and it's a wonder I ever leave.

Barcade
388 Union Ave. Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
L to Metropolitan, G to Lorimer St.

May 17, 2007

Beer: Coopers Sparkling Ale

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I've been coming across Coopers Sparkling a lot lately. It comes from Australia, having somehow broken through the Foster's monopoly.

The name Sparkling is appropriate: Immediately after pouring, a wall of bubbles hug the glass, almost obscuring the fog of sediment left over from its bottle conditioning. Its sharp effervescence pricks at the inside of your mouth as you drink it. The fizzy texture almost the overshadows flavor, but if you look past it, there's a sweet fruitiness to it.

::c::

May 16, 2007

Photo of the Day: 20 Year old Port


20 Year old Port, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

I first tasted port in Lisbon. After dragging my jet-lagged sister around town all day, I had one last stop. We stopped at the Solar do Vinho do Porto - Lisbon, a branch of the government organization dedicated to the promotion of port wine. The main room looked more like a living room than a bar. Apparently the word "solar" in traditional English is the "upper chamber of a medieval house," presumably similar to a parlor or sitting room. At least that's what my computer's dictionary says.

I hadn't had port before. At the time I didn't know much about wine in general. I wanted to try it because it was so specifically Portuguese. I've been a fan ever since. While in Lisbon, I picked up a bottle each of red port and white port. White port is great, but you can't find it here in the states. When done right, it has a nutty caramel flavor that's incredible. The closest thing I've gotten to a good white port is a Marsala I got from Italian Wine Merchants last year.

Outside of that, I'm 'stuck' going after 10 and 20 year old red port as I find it. I've been considering buying a 1977 for myself for my 30th birthday this year, but I haven't actually done it yet...

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May 13, 2007

A Full Day

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Wow, yesterday was great.

When I got out to Habana Outpost, they were still setting up, so I wandered over to The Brazen Head. Lo and behold, they were having another Cask Ale Festival! I had a few rounds there before it started to fill up.

When I got back to Fort Greene, Habana Outpost was packed. Their opening party spilled out on the street, filling the whole block of South Portland. Local artisans and vendors sold their wares, clowns and stilt-walkers wandered about, there was even a fire-eater. Tammi, Laura and Guy met up and we split a couple sandwiches and some corn while we watched bands perform on the stage set up in the middle of the outdoor space. After the crowd overtook us, we went to Stonehome and had a bottle of sparkling rosé.

Then, Tammi and I headed to Boerum Hill for a barbecue. Dale, who I haven't seen in close to 2 years was in town. It was great to see him.

After all that, a bunch of us headed out to Wonder-Full, the Stevie Wonder tribute party out in Williamsburg. I still don;t know enough Stevie Wonder music, so a litle of it was lost on me. I still enjoyed it. I took off a little early though.

I was wiped out.

May 11, 2007

Bars: Moe's

I don't go to Moe's anymore. It's not that it's changed at all - at least not that I know of. In part it's just that I lost my patience for crowded bars a couple years ago. And Moe's can get pretty crowded.

On the weekends they have DJs spinning some great tunes. Jon DJed there from time to time. I don't remember how many times I've sat there just getting amped over the music. Even the jukebox is great. It's got old school hip-hop, soul and funk with an eclectic mix of everything else swirled in.

Unfortunately, the vibe at Moe's changes on the weekends too. It almost becomes more of a club than a bar and it has all the hazards that includes: Way too many over-dressed people crammed into a tight place. Maybe I've just gotten old, but that doesn't appeal to me so much these days.

During the week it's more of a neighborhood bar. Relaxed regulars hang out with the bartender or lounge on the couches in the back. Writing about it, I'm starting to miss it. I'll have to swing by for a round soon. Maybe this weekend before it gets too crowded.

Moe's is definitely a cool place to relax, but you have to hit it at the right time.
::c::

80 Lafayette Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11217
(718) 797-9536

May 5, 2007

Photo of the Day: Behind the bar


IMG_2194, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Last Exit, Atlantic avenue, Brooklyn.

May 2, 2007

Bars: The Ginger Man

I can't stand The Ginger Man. It's always packed with the worst sorts corporate tools. The service is awful, largely because even the waitresses can't get from one end of the room to another without bumping into 100 people. But I keep going back there.

Here's the thing, It's not a bad place. The space is beautiful, it's got 20 foot ceilings, huge windows which light up the place and a beautiful dark wood bar that goes on for days. There are comfortable couches and lazy boys in the backroom lounge. The little food I've had there has been pretty good. I'm fond of the giant pretzel served warm with a honey mustard dip.

Most importantly, it's got a ridiculous beer selection. It's got 66 draughts, 2 hand drawn casks and 130 bottled beers.

That's why I keep going back. That and the fact that I work 2 blocks away. It's location is also key to the crowd it attracts: It's stationed right between Penn Station and Grand Central, which makes it perfect staggering distance for all the suburbanites who need to catch their trains home.

The crowd is absolutely awful.

One day, I hope to figure out when the perfect time is to go to Ginger Man when it's empty and I can enjoy the selection and a snack while actually being able to hear my companions. One day...

The Ginger Man
11 East 36th Street
btwn Fifth Ave. and Madison Ave.
New York City
212.532.3740

April 28, 2007

Bars: Black Star Bar

FKA Black Star

I miss Black Star.

For me and Eric, along with a bunch of our friends, it was 'our' bar back when. Our 'local' - except neither of us actually lived over there.

It's gone now. They closed up in January '04 after the landlord outpriced them. The people who took over turned into a crappy place called Kabin that has giant plasma screens and no soul. I walked in once and it all just seemed wrong.

Kim g put me on to that place for her birthday. Maybe in 2001?

On Friday nights, Garfield the DJ played some great music. I must have run up to his booth dozens of times to ask for the names of songs he was playing. Every now and then I'll come across a page in a notebook with a drunken scrawl, "take me to the mardi gras - bob james" or some other such classic sample that I first heard at Black Star.

They packed them in on Saturday nights. Even with the lounge in the back room open, it was jammed. But we knew the staff, so we could always get a good spot.

On weeknights, after work it wasn't nearly so busy. Usually there were no more than a dozen of us there sitting at the bar hanging out with the bartenders and bullshitting. Thinking back to that, I understand the appeal of social clubs and lodges for old men.

To this day, I've never found a bar I felt as at home in. Blind Tiger got pretty close, until they closed. I'm holding out hope for the new place, but so far it's just too crowded. Black Star is pretty much the standard to which I judge nearly every other bar.


::c::

The Bar List

Behind the Bar

There are hundreds if not thousands of bars in New York. Now, I do go to a lot of bars, but I've barely scratched the surface. I have, however, gone to enough that I sometimes lose track of spots that I enjoyed.

Every now and again, people ask for bar recommendations or I have to come up with a place for, say, my 30th birthday party - which I still haven't done. It would be incredibly useful to have a receptacle for my impressions of the bars I've been to.

Following mikeoliver.org's mission statement of 'holding on to things Mike Oliver will forget...' I've decided to use the blog for just such a thing.

So, begins a new feature. Keep an eye out for upcoming posts on bars and boozing.
Expect a few quotes from my brooklyn record posts too. These won't all be reviews as much as (semi-)organized notes.

I'll break down the categories for your searching enjoyment. For all bars click here.

Let me know what I missed in the comments.


::c::

April 19, 2007

Hartford: Bin 228

Bin 228 is an Italian inspired wine bar in Hartford. Last week I had dinner with Eli, a friend from college. I liked it enough to go back last night, when I returned to CT. I had heard about it a while back, but didn't know how extensive the food selection was, so I never bothered to go. I'm glad I finally made it.

The menu is made up of small plate antipasti and panini with a few larger dishes. Last week we had some panini and charcuterie along with some bruschetta. The flavors were all familiar. Prosciutto with fresh mozzarella and basil, spicy meats with hot peppers and cheese and so on. They even had a bruschetta made with parmesan, asparagus and truffle oil, reminiscent of the truffled egg toast at 'ino and 'inoteca back home. It wasn't nearly the transcendental experience, but then few things are.

That's sort of how I felt about the whole menu. It was all very good, but then it's not hard to put meat and/or cheese on bread. This week I went for something more complicated. One of the specials was Wild Boar on parpardelle. I had just been ogling some game meats online, so I couldn't turn it down. The server described it as almost like a beef stroganoff in composition. The meat was braised and served in shreds and chunks on the pasta. The sauce tasted of sweet gaminess. In the end, it was much heavier than what I had planned on eating, but it was well worth it.

Last week we drank a Tuscan Merlot we were recommended by the waiter. I ordered some more of that to start off. I don't know much about Merlot and I've never seen Sideways, so I have no preconceptions about it as a wine. I've never really gotten a hang of Italian wines. I've had good ones, but I can never really track which ones they are. I just need to pay more attention. I usually just ask for a rec. One day I'll just have to go to Italy myself and learn first hand. In any case, the wine was everything I wanted. It was a little more tannic than most wine I have, but it balanced out very well.

I think this place is going to have to move up on my list of places to grab lunch while waiting for the train from now on. The portions are very well suited to a snack as well as dinner.

Bin 228
228 Pearl Street
Hartford, Connecticut

April 11, 2007

Stonehome's Spring Wine Tasting Dinner

(Originally posted on The Brooklyn Record):

Seasonal temperatures are (finally) in the forecast, which may mean that Spring is finally here. To celebrate, Stonehome Wine Bar in Fort Greene is hosting a wine tasting dinner on Wednesday, April 18th. The four-course feast will run you $70 but is a relative bargain when you consider what you get: Built around a set of primarily french wines, the menu includes wild salmon, lamb chops and Maine crab ravioli. Each item is paired with a particular wine from Burgundy, Bourdeax or the Loire Valley. Bring it on!

If you can't make it next week, another tasting dinner with a different menu is scheduled for early May, or come by another night and sample in-house chef John Gibson's new spring repertoire. The new menu replaces heavier winter faves like venison and brisket with skate wings, hanger steaks and lamb shanks. Rezzies are required for the tasting dinner but walk-ins are welcomed any other time.

Stonehome Wine Bar is located at 87 Lafayette Avenue, 718-624-9443.

- clay williams

Stonehome's Autumn Wine Picks [Brooklyn Record]

April 9, 2007

Photo of the Day: dba New Orleans


IMG_7928, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

dba, Frenchman Street, New Orleans, 2004.

I've been going to dba in New York for years. When I found out they had a sister bar in New Orleans, I had to check it out the next time I went there.

The space is much bigger than the New York location, taking up two storefronts. The photo above is of on half of the space. To the right, there's a door to the other room which has a stage up for performances and the other side of the double bar.

The beer selection is exactly what I'd expect from dba: very extensive, and inclusive of many local beers. They get creative with the beer too. This is where I had my first "Dirty Ho," a beer cocktail mixing about 75% Hoegarden with a Framboise lambic. It's a pretty fantastic concoction, adding the fruit flavor of the lambic livens up the hoegarden, which in turn cuts the excess sweetness of the lambic.

The Frenchman Street strip of bars and restaurants sits just a few blocks outside the French Quarter, but is thankfully worlds away from the contrived excess of Bourbon Street. On my first trip to New Orleans, a friend who lived out there at the time took us to a couple of bars on Frenchman. It took me a couple trips before I could figure out how to get back there. It's a much more local scene so it totally bypasses the bead-throwing and nonsense found down the road. The strip runs about two or three blocks and it's full of music. Nearly every bar had some performance listed.

The last time I was at dba New Orleans, was two years ago. Tammi and I caught the Tony Dagradi Organ Trio performing with one of the Marsalis brothers on drums.

d.b.a.
618 Frenchman Street,
New Orleans, LA. 70116
504.942.3731

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[Updated 4.29.07. Added more info for The Bar List]

April 2, 2007

Photo of the Day: Sucre


IMG_7504, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.




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March 30, 2007

Photo of the Day: Paris Beer Bar


Paris, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.


Bar la Pinte 13 Carrefour de l'Odeon, 6th arrondissement Left Bank, Paris

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March 28, 2007

Bars: Mé Bar

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Spring is here. Yesterday New York had the warmest day of the year so far. It got up to 78, which beats the hell out of the frigid temperatures we had for most of the second half of winter.

After work Eric and I met up at Me Bar on the roof of the La Quinta in Koreatown. The bar is small and remarkably unglamorous, considering how fancied up so many roof bars can be. I got there just around 6pm, which is apparently the perfect time. When I got there, only two or three of the outdoor tables were taken, by the time Eric got there around 6:45, it was standing room only.

The beer selection was unexpected. It had some of the usual generic beer, but it also had some relatively obscure mid-shelf beers as well. I drank Red Hook ESB and Anchor Porter, Eric had Kirin. They also stocked Sol, a Mexican beer that you don't find in too many places.

Continue reading "Bars: Mé Bar" »

March 22, 2007

SF: Cafe Niebaum-Coppola


IMG_0650, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Peter, the bartender in the rose colored glasses has been there nearly every time I've stopped in over the last 5 years. He's pictured above, barely, as the blur between the waiter and his reflection.


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March 7, 2007

A new day for The Blind Tiger


IMG_5170, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Just the other day I was mourning the passing of Blind Tiger Ale House, but now I hear that I may have been premature.

Eric, the blurry subject of the photo in my previous Blind tiger post, sent me this via IM. Apparently the State Liquor Authority finally issued a license for BT.

No word yet on the new opening day. I'm sure I'll be there! ::c::

Continue reading "A new day for The Blind Tiger" »

March 1, 2007

Photo of the Day: Old Astor Wines


Neon, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Continue reading "Photo of the Day: Old Astor Wines" »

February 25, 2007

Solomon's Porch

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We went to Solomon's Porch for a snack while we were waiting to see the apartment in the previous post. It's a whole block from the house where I lived for 10 years. I don't remember what used to be there, but it's now it's a cafe called Solomon's Porch. We had an hour to kill and hadn't eaten at all that day.

The space is small but fits a lot in. The tables seat 40 customers and another few fit on the couch. At the far wall is a performance space. That night a Haitian folk singer named Emeline Michel was performing.

Our meal was minimal, so I don't have an extensive example of the food. I had buffalo wings, which have been my trademark meal in the last week or so. They were crisply fried and topped with a spicy, vinegary hot sauce. It left my mouth tingly and happy. My only complaint was that it only included 6 wings instead of the customary 10.

The beer selection was not so exciting, but it featured Duvel, a trappist ale along the lines of chimay.

The vibe was very casual, people hung out over cappuccinos and tapped away at their laptops and chatted with friends and spouses.

Tammi's not sold on the apartment, but already has plans to go back to Solomon's Porch. I enjoyed it and welcome the idea of having a place around the corner to relax on any given weekend.

Solomon's Porch
307 Stuyvesant Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11233
(718) 919-8001

::c::

Continue reading "Solomon's Porch" »

February 19, 2007

Philadelphia: Society Hill Hotel Bar

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Perhaps it's my inherently anti-social nature, but there's something I really appreciate about an empty bar. I mean, there's booze, but not people to get in the way. I love it. So the bar downstairs at the Society Hill Hotel in Old City appeals to me greatly. Don't get the wrong idea, I had no idea there was a hotel here until someone walked in with luggage and asked the waitress about her room. The hotel has a different entrance and there are no horny businessmen trying to hook up with conventioneers. It's a cool old looking saloon with huge windows that light up the place in the afternoon and display the Old City nightlife after hours.

We're here waiting for our dinner reservation and hanging out while Tammi knits and I scribble nonsense on the laptop. They're playing Kind of Blue and all is right with the world.

::c::

[Technorati Tags: Bars, Booze, Beer, Philadelphia, OldCity, UltraClay, saloons, SocietyHill.]

February 18, 2007

Philadelphia: Standard Tap

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We made it out to Northern Liberties in early afternoon and got brunch at Standard Tap. In fact we're still here, Tammi's knitting, I'm writing and drinking beer. Really I like the vibe here, the food was a bit of a miss this time.

Both things I ate were a bit over-fried. The fried oysters had too much breading and the chicken in the fried chicken sandwich was a little dry. The rest of the sandwich was like a really good BLT, so I may actually order one of those after first lunch settles.

Standard Tap is in this big old building with many rooms over 3 floors. The sun pours in from the windows and lights up the place. Wood dominates the space as soon as you walk in, from the bar up front to the wainscotting and wooden benches running along the walls in the back room on the ground floor.

We got in a little after 1pm and it was busy. We found a seat in the back and settled in. The only menus at Standard Tap are posted on the walls. As we were looking, three items were being wiped off the board.

(continued after the jump)

Continue reading "Philadelphia: Standard Tap" »

February 17, 2007

Philadelphia: Good Dog

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I was wandering around the center city/Rittenhouse Square area looking for a place to have a few rounds while Tammi hung out in the room watching tv.

I was heading for Monk's Cafe, a Belgian bar that's supposed to have a huge selection of obscure imports. When I got there it was prohibitively crowded, so I took off. I stumbled across Good Dog on 15th.

It wasn't empty, but I found a spot at the bar, which is all I needed. The music on was totally random, much of it hitting my obscure hip-hop niche. They played some old Grand Puba, A Tribe Called Quest and "can I get wit'cha" an early BIG appearance from back in the day.

The beer selection had some good stuff from dogfishhead, Troeg, Victory, and Stoudt's representing the local breweries.

I tried to avoid getting food, since I was going to dinner in a bit, but the sizzling mac n cheese looked amazing when served to the folks next to me. I had a snack of truffled cheese steak empanadas. The filling was not as cheesy as I'd have preferred, but I have yet to taste an empanada I didn't like.

Good Dog Bar
224 South 15th Street
Center City, Philadelphia
215.985.9600

::c::

Continue reading "Philadelphia: Good Dog" »

February 16, 2007

Photo of the Day: A Tip


A Tip, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

February 14, 2007

A Couple Rounds at Spuyten Duyvil

Last night I had a few rounds at Spuyten Duyvil in Williamsburg with some folks. It was great as usual. They've got such a great list of crazy obscure beer that you'll never find anywhere else. I always end up drinking well there. These two in particular stick out:

The Old Prize Ale on hand-drawn was really interesting. If that's not a resounding endorsement, it's because I still don't know if I liked it. The beer was remarkable in texture and flavor. It had this crazy sweetness to it that wasn't altogether pleasant. It had none of the bubbles one would expect from either a fizzy or a creamy beer, there was little or no effervescence at all. The color was dark molasses brown and the texture was thick, but not syrupy. It reminded me more of jagermeister than any beer I've ever had.

The other that stood out was the Kulmbacher Eisbock. One of my drinking companions ordered it and offered a taste. It had an powerful maltiness that immediately reminded me of Milo, a powdered chocolate mix from the West Indies that I grew up drinking. I ordered one for myself right away. Once you get past that intense malt flavor, there's a very richness to match.

Continue reading "A Couple Rounds at Spuyten Duyvil" »

February 8, 2007

Toronto: The Sunday Lime


iflute?, originally uploaded by ultraclay!.

Summer 2005: Tammi and I took a long weekend out to Toronto. The timing was perfect. The weather was gorgeous and there just happened to be a graffiti festival on Queen Street. We wandered about and I shot some of the fresh art up on the walls.
Sunday afternoon, we headed back to Queen to catch the last of the festival. We could hear music from a block away. It was coming from a bar called Big Papa's Bordello. In the fenced off garden space, we could see musicians playing as the DJ spun beats.

This was the bar's Sunday ritual, the Sunday Lime. Musicians from a group called The iDrum Collective played percussion over what Tammi called 'soulful house.' I don't know from House music, but this wasn't like any I'd heard before. It was a mix of funk and soul and the songs just flowed into each other. What drew me in the most was the musicians. There wasn't much structure to the group, The flowed in and out just like the music. They came and walked off periodically. They switched instruments from time to time, one guy drummed for a while, then took out a trumpet and played that.

A little before we left, an older man came in and hung out for a few minutes. He chat with the others for a bit, then he took out his flute. He hooked up his mic and caught the beat. As he played, he meandered through the garden passing us by, bending and moving with his lilting tune.

When he was ready for his solo, he waved his arm with a flair.
"Just like that." The band held the beat and the old man took over.

He finished, packed up his flute, said his goodbyes and left.

Continue reading "Toronto: The Sunday Lime" »

January 28, 2007

Zane's Tavern

Zane's Tavern is the closest thing to down to earth I've found in the Aspen area. I came here last year when I spent a lot more time in snowmass.

Zane's is divey in the best way. It's not hipstery, self-conscious divey or chichi $50 pink trucker hat divey. It's neighborhood bar divey. The bartender knows the regulars - and there are regulars, because the patrons aren't just vacationing visitors - the folks who come here are as likely to be wearing name tags as snow gear.

I'm hardly the slummer who glorifies the 'simple' blue collar life as so much more 'authentic.' I think that's condescending bullshit. Given the other options in the Aspen area though, it's the most refreshing beer you're likely to have.

Continue reading "Zane's Tavern" »

January 7, 2007

SF: Rogue Public House

This post is backdated to back when I was in San Francisco in early January.

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When I found out that Rogue had a pub, I knew I had to go check it out.

The pub is in a corner of North Beach a few blocks away from the bigger tourist attractions of Beat bookshops and Italian restaurants. The space is pretty big, with a smaller second room used for game nights and parties. The vibe was very laidback, I didn't run into any hardcore beer geeks eager to sneer at anyone's beer choice. Despite being owned by an out of town brewery, the place had a decided neighborhood feel. In fact, while I was there, I ran into a former co-worker who had just moved to San Francisco. He and his roommate had been getting settled in and decided to go to the local for a round or two.

I sat at the bar on a quiet Sunday afternoon, while everyone else watched the game, I delved into the tome that listed all the Rogue Ales available. They have 44 taps, pouring mostly Rogue ales, but also nearly a dozen guest brews. I stuck with the Rogues myself, but I appreciated the option.

The beer I tasted after the jump...

Continue reading "SF: Rogue Public House" »

November 3, 2006

"Real Ale" Arrives at the Brazen Head

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(Originally posted at The Brooklyn Record):

It's festival time yet again at the Brazen Head. The tri-annual Cask Ale Festival begins tonight. This time there will be more cask ales than ever. They will be offering 22 hand-drawn beers from foreign and domestic producers, including local brews from Heartland, Six Points and Brooklyn. Stop in and sample one or several ales hand-drawn to perfection and served in pint or half-pint glasses at a civilized temperature -- much more appropriate to the chilly fall weather. For those unfamiliar, cask conditioned ale or "Real Ale" as proponents call it, is described by Wikipedia as "the term given to unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned and served from a cask without additional pressure."

The experience of drinking a cask ale can be jarring at first. If you are used to cold, fizzy beer your first impression may be that the beer is warm and flat. If you take a moment to get past that, you will be rewarded with a depth of flavor you have never experienced before in beer. Strong, hoppy IPAs become more approachable, while the texture and malts take center stage in the stouts.

Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at the Brooklyn Brewery has written that his first taste of cask ale was the beginning of his life in beer. He describes his this experience in his book, The Brewmaster's Table:

The first sip was odd. This beer hardly had a head, just a loose lace of bubbles around the rim of the glass. As I started to drink it, I wondered, 'What is this stuff?' The bitterness ran across my tongue, assisted by only the faintest prickle of carbonation. Then it exploded in layers of flavor ­-- hay, earth, newly mowed grass, orange marmalade and baking bread. It wasn't even cold -- in fact, it was barely cool. Each sip seemed to reveal something new --­ a whiff of sea air, a different flower or fruit. Did I like it? I wasn't sure. But it was so interesting that I couldn't stop drinking it. Then my glass was empty. The beer was all gone and I missed it already.

Don't miss your chance to experience "real ale" as it was intended.
-- clay williams

The Brazen Head is located at 228 Atlantic Avenue between Court Street and Boerum Place.

October 13, 2006

Keep On Shucking

Tomorrow evening, Saturday, October 14, Brazen Head looks east to the shores of Long Island with a good old-fashioned clam shuck. There will be Little Neck Clams and Blue Point Oysters for your slurping pleasure and two varieties of savory clam chowder. Here's a tip: try them both. Set aside your soup convictions for a night — both are great. After trying them, you may find yourself questioning your belief in One True Chowder...

Wash all that briny goodness down with any of the four beers from the Bluepoint Brewery, including their Toasted Lager and the Oatmeal Stout. One of the beers will be offered as a cask ale, hand drawn through one of Brazen Head's two beer engines. — clay williams

Brooklyn Clam Shuck: Saturday, October 14th – 5pm to 10pm.
Brazen Head: 228 Atlantic Avenue between Court Street and Boerum Place

October 4, 2006

Stonehome's Autumn Wine Picks

(Originally posted on The Brooklyn Record):

Down the bar

No more standing in line to sit in a 'garden' smaller than your kitchen with 3 dozen of your closest neighbors. It's time to go in. Stonehome Winebar in Fort Greene has exactly the right vibe to recover from the bustle of summer festivities. Stonehome is relaxed but not sleepy, the perfect place for a laidback night out with friends or a romantic evening for two.

Proprietors Bill Stenehjem and Rose Hermann have lived in the neighborhood for 25 years. They opened Stonehome in 2003 and found a local following right away. Neighbors meet at the long curvy cherry wood bar and discuss the day, local issues and, of course, the wine. The staff knows regulars by name and wine preference. When new bottles come in, they’ll let you know which are up your alley...

Earlier this year Bill and Rose hired John Gibson to head up the kitchen. The menu was transformed. Stonehome offers new specials daily, using seasonal ingredients in some pretty exciting ways. This time of year, John is using walnuts, maple syrup, beets and acorn squash. The menu is full of comforting fall savories like Braised Beef Short Ribs and Glazed Pork.

Rose and Bill are matching these dishes with some new wine offerings by the glass. Here are a few of their favorite new additions:

Chateaunnuef du Pape '03, Domaine Des Senechaux — "Rich, supple, with notes of baked plums."

Coteaux du Languedoc, '00, Chateau Peuch-Haut, Saint Drezery — "Savory and spicy, with notes of black cherry and sandlewood."

Ribera del Duero, Spain, Guelbenzu, Evor '03 — "Ripe lingering flavors of black cherry, raspberry, chocolate and licorice."

Rioja, Spain, Marquez De Vargas Reserva, '00 — "Lush, smoky, rich dark fruits, blackberries with brown sugar."

Stonehome Wine Bar is located at 87 Lafayette Avenue at So. Portland. Open everyday from 5pm.

— photo and story by clay williams

September 12, 2006

Getting Amped for the Atlantic Antic

(Originally Posted on The Brooklyn Record):

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On Sunday, September 17th, car traffic will vanish on one of Brooklyn's busiest stretches of road. Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods will ring out the summer with a huge celebration — it's time for Atlantic Antic. The street festival, which will be celebrating its 33rd year, runs for a mile and a half along Atlantic Avenue between 4th Avenue and Hicks Street. This stretch of Atlantic is a nexus of Downtown Brooklyn neighborhoods. It brushes against Fort Greene, Park Slope, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Brooklyn Heights. A sea of Brooklynites pour out onto the streets to eat, drink, and revel at the party...

Unlike every other street festival in the city, this one is made up of actual neighbors. Local shops open out onto the street selling their wares, and churches draw in passers-by with song as they sell food made by the congregation. There are stages on every block and bands, drums circles, and soloists perform for their neighbors. At Clinton Street, the local Middle Eastern community hosts traditional music and belly dance performances sponsored by Sahadi's.

It wouldn't be a party without booze and the bars along Atlantic graciously oblige. The Brazen Head, Last Exit, and a few others set up cordoned-off "beer gardens" for party-goers to relax and sip a pint. New York's open container laws, tightened under Giuliani to include festivals, are technically still in effect, but enforcement is lax. Grab a Brooklyn Lager or a Six Points and celebrate the borough the right way.

Atlantic Avenue's diverse range of cuisines offers food from the world over. Have a po' boy or a shwarma or some fried chicken as you enjoy the Brooklynest crowd you're likely to find. Finish off with some zeppoles, deep fried and doused in powdered sugar, or sample some key lime pie straight out of Red Hook. At Hank's Saloon, you can throw a burger on the grill and cook it up on your own.

With so many Brooklynites in one place, politicians are never far behind. Past years have seen Freddy Ferrer, Chuck Schumer and of course "Mister Brooklyn," Marty Markowitz, kissing hands and shaking babies — or something like that. Grassroots groups also take the opportunity to recruit. So, if you've been hoping to sign petitions against the Ratner development, Ikea in Red Hook, or the re-opening of Brooklyn House of Detention but didn't know where to go, this is your chance.

For the kids, there are huge inflatable playgrounds on both ends and face painting stations every dozen feet. There are also plenty of vendors selling balloons, cotton candy, toys, and comic books, so come with child-size blinders if you want to hold on to your money. — clay williams

July 11, 2006

Wiliamsburg: Brooklyn's Beer Capital

(Originally Posted at The Brooklyn Record):
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The Better Borough Beer Guide, Volume 1

It's no surprise that Brooklyn's former brewing center is now home to some of the best beer drinking in town. For a proper beer tour, start out on a Friday evening or Saturday afternoon at the Brooklyn Brewery for its Friday night happy hour or Saturday tours.

Mugs Ale House is the place to go when you want to geek out with other beer connoisseurs. The Malted Barley Appreciation Society meets here monthly. The crowd is older than at many of the other bars in the area, and there is a strong contingent of regulars who may seem aloof to a first-time visitor, but they warm up pretty quickly to beer talk. The food is standard pub grub — no better, no worse. (125 Bedford Ave.; L to Bedford Ave.)

Spike Hill, Spuytin Duvil, and Barcade after the jump...

Spike Hill is not your typical beer bar. There are 12 taps and nearly 50 bottles, serving up beer of all styles and nationalities — yet it has none of the geekery you might expect. There's no need to impress anyone with your vast beer knowledge here. You can sit in the front window and watch Bedford Avenue pass by, chat with fellow patrons at the long dark wood bar, and/or pack into the deep booths in the back with friends or a laptop. The menu takes unassuming dishes like grilled cheese and makes them interesting as well as comforting by changing up the breads and cheeses. (184 Bedford Avenue, L to Bedford Ave.)

Spuytin Duyvil sits in an unlikely storefront, away from the neighborhood's main strips. Behind the hole-in-the-wall façade lays a gourmet soul. Snacks include ever-changing offerings of meats, cheeses and pâtés. The beer selection is impressive, with representatives from Sri Lanka to Switzerland and a rather large delegation of Belgians, which are broken down into Flemish and Wallonian. (359 Metropolitan Avenue, L to Metropolitan, G to Lorimer St.)

Barcade has everything adulthood should have: great beer and video games. Knock back one of the two dozen beers on tap while playing Frogger or Zaxxon or Moon Patrol or any of the other '80s video games. A pool table is in the back for those seeking a more traditional bar game. Gothamist recently ran an interview with Paul Kermizian, filmmaker and owner of Barcade. (388 Union Ave. L to Metropolitan, G to Lorimer St.)

—clay williams
Stay tuned for more installments of the Better Borough Beer Guide from Clay, our in-house beer expert.
[Photo by ultraclay!]


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