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SALT | Sour Beer Dinner

October 2nd, 2011 2 comments

We’ve been visiting Wes Johnson’s SALT since he opened it late last spring.  We live within walking distance to this converted old mansion formerly the location of Savor restaurant.  Given its close proximity to our home, focus on local ingredients, and fresh seasonal menu, we’ve had several dinners and brunch at Salt. Wes has been racking up the awards recently:  RTF’s best new restaurant and winner of the Chef battle at Taste STL. We have generally enjoyed dining at Salt, and we’ve watched Wes grow and enhance the restaurant over the last 6 months.  Robin found out via twitter (@enjoysalt) that Wes and co. were planning a beer and wild game dinner, featuring her favorite, sour beer, so we couldn’t pass it up.

On prior trips to Salt we’ve enjoyed several dishes, that are now basically permanent members of the menu.  The “seared scallop” with mustard, cedar smoke, and herbs is one of our favorite dishes, comes served in a tiny mason jar, and traps the cedar smoky goodness inside…for us, one of the better seafood dishes we’ve had in St. Louis.  Wes also prepares a fantastic lamb dish, well seasoned and cooked perfectly on the rare side with herbs and jelly. In addition, they make a now somewhat famous sorghum lacquered duck, and duck-fat fried chicken.  The trend here is that Wes likes to use more non-traditional meat varieties…he takes a more creative, risky approach to his cooking than many of the other chefs in St. Louis.  (This isn’t to say we don’t have adventurous chefs, just not as many as we should).

The beer portion of the sour beer dinner was largely organized and put together in a team fashion.  Chris Shea (Morgan Street Brewery, Assistant Brew Master) and bar manager Matt Obermark worked with Wes Johnson to pair some rare sour beers with wild game dishes influenced by seasonal autumn flavors.  The dinner took place deep in the old mansion’s wine cellar at a large communal table and was presented family style with generous platters for all of us to share.

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Categories: Beer, Restaurants, St. Louis Tags: ,

Chicago 2011

September 18th, 2011 4 comments

One of our favorite things about being back in the Midwest is our close proximity to one of America’s greatest cities.  Arguably, it’s the second most urban, vibrant, and food centric-although I’m sure some West Coasters would disagree and I’d probably just simply say it is in the top 5.  In any case, we have been to Chicago twice in 2011, once in the frigid temperatures of January, and just recently over the long labor day weekend.  This post will by no means cover all the places we visited, nor all the discoveries we’ve made on these two visits.  To set our Chicago agenda, we compiled huge lists from friends and websites like Eater and Serious Eats that report recent happenings in the food world. 

I’ll begin with two places which are probably on the top of the list for any serious, adventurous, intellectual “foodie” traveling to the windy city.  Grant Achatz’s highly acclaimed Alinea and his new cocktail lounge, The Aviary.  (We didn’t get into NEXT, so if you were hoping to read about that, you can stop here.)  We were actually lucky to get into Alinea (getting called on the drive up after being on the wait list) on our January trip. After learning about his new cocktail lounge, it was a major priority on our recent visit.

Alinea

Walking into the restaurant, for someone who appreciates style, is in itself rewarding: subtle, crisp lighting, steely colors, and crisp accents.  Contemporary, and in every sense-beautiful.  We didn’t have our Canon EOS Rebel T3i camera at the time, so I’ll apologize for the somewhat uninteresting photos.  There is really too much to say, and write about in such a large post.  It almost deserves its own complete blog post, although in some ways reading too much about this experience would in my view partially spoil the fun for someone planning to go…so, I will be brief.  It is probably one of my top 3 meals of all time.  The combination of artistic presentation and complex flavors is essentially unmatched to anything we’ve had in a US restaurant to date.  I think one of our favorite things about Alinea was the interactive nature of the service and the playfulness of each dish.  They challenge you, yet, your mouth is always happy at the end.

A few of the highlights below:  On the left the second level of an “Orb” that contained Rabbit parfait, rillette (in picture), and consomme.  On the right, the final dish, when Grant himself came to a table prepped with cups and bowls, and painted this wonderful mixture of liquid nitrogen frozen chocolate, nougats, and chewy morsels of caramel and malted balls.

Short Rib

 Chocolate on silicon mat

Wine pairings are a challenge for a Sommelier at a restaurant like this.  In some cases too many complex flavors and unique textures can make pairings difficult.  We had some really outstanding glasses of wine with our meal.  The highlight being the Sherry we had with the dessert: Toto Albala Don PX Convento, Montilla-Morilles-Spain-1959.  It is always humbling to drink something made well before your birth.  This glass of sherry was fascinating in itself, surprisingly smoky and tart, and really needed no accompaniment.  We are both excited about Grant Achatz’s new restaurant called NEXT, where one needs tickets and each meal is themed on a different time period or culture.

Alinea

1723 North Halsted

Chicago, Illinois 60614

312-867-0110

Alinea on Urbanspoon

 

The Aviary

The Aviary is one of the most remarkable cocktail lounges we’ve ever been in, and probably now is considered Chicago’s and perhaps even America’s best.  [Although we also loved Violet Hour which we attended on our first trip, and I’ll mention more about that below].  The way Aviary works is that you either need a reservation, which you obtain by emailing prior to the day and randomly get selected into time slots, or you show up at opening and hope you get in, on a first come first serve basis.  We showed up at 5:45 pm on a Sat night, eager and ready, and we were in by 6:30.  Again, Grant knows design, and it is no different at The Aviary.  Excellent lighting, minimalist lines, and no distractions.  The Aviary has no bar, so to speak, just a caged in kitchen that you can peer into and watch the drinks parade by as they are each carefully constructed.

Robin ordered the Prix Fix menu which comes with 3 drinks from a large selection of choices, I ordered al a carte.  I started with a Hurricane:  which came non-traditionally in a carafe beautiful layered into 7 distinct colors.  Robin began with the Margarita:  agave, fesno chili, tequila.  The chili was frozen into the ice cubes.

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Top:  Aviary’s kitchen.  Bottom Left: Small bites available as trios. 

Bottom Right:  Peach: maple syrup, angostura, white port, wheat whiskey

Our next cocktails were the Peach (above) and the In the Rocks.  The “In the Rocks” includes demerara, angostura, and bourbon, but trapped into an ice sphere that you break- tableside in the glass to release the cocktail.  While this was certainly fun, the cocktail itself wasn’t much more interesting on the palette than a many other whiskey drinks I’ve had in other places.  The final round consisted of myself having a ”Truffle”: compari, sweet vermouth, gin, infused w/ truffle, (Below right) and Robin drinking a Cold Chocolate: ecuadorian chocolate, fernet, and wheat bourbon. The Cold Chocolate was kept chilled with solid, yet creamy ice cream cubes. We spent a total of 3.5 hours in The Aviary,  enjoying each sip, people watching, chatting with our servers.  We didn’t even touch the menu…there are vast selections of cocktails to chose from, and part of the fun was watching to see what your neighbor is opening or interacting with. The small bites are just as delectable and carefully planned as the food at Alinea.  Any trips to Chicago in our near future will certainly include The Aviary.

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The Aviary

953-955 W Fulton St
Chicago, IL 60607

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Pucker Up: Sour Beer

September 12th, 2011 2 comments

Most of the time I hate it when things are too unpredictable, except lately when tasting sour beers, I have found a totally different mindset. Sour beers, which include (Lambics, Gueuzes, and Flanders red ales) probably involve the most risk, and most uncertainty of any brew process. While in the barrel, sour beer undergoes some of the most exquisite changes and complexities. Since my first taste of them a couple of years ago, I have became hooked, and prefer them to any other beer type.

When living in Seattle last year we attended the “Sour Beer Fest” and we began to see a larger selection of sours in the stores. I grabbed every bottle I could prior to leaving for St. Louis and I have continued to build and grow our collection on trips to Europe (Belgium and Italy). Fortunately, The Wine and Cheese Place and Lukas Liquor here in St. Louis have provided some worldwide favorites and I have greatly increased our inventory. I recently decided that it was time to start drinking some of these sours from our cellar. This will begin a full blog series on a selection of sour beers. There will be the Beer Advocate rating system consisting of:

Appearance, Taste, Mouthfeel, and Drinkability. Food pairings will be also described when appropriate.

Tasted on 9/11/2011

Sour 1

Italian Panil Barriguee Oak-Aged Sour Red Ale, Batch #12, 2010, Bottle 1947

(4.5) Appearance: Rusty deep red, minimal head, some lace

(4) Smell: Campari cherry, sharp acidic grapefruit, some barnyard and pipe tobacco leaves

(4) Taste: Sharp sour notes of lemon, cherries up front, fades midway through

(4) Mouthfeel: Tart and carbonation in mouth, medium weight

(4) Drinkability: Smooth start, sour notes hit throughout the mouth, worth trying since Red Ale’s are difficult to come by, could cellar for couple more years to develop further complexity

Serve type: 750 ml bottle poured into a tulip glass

Purchase Place Price: Chicago, IL Binnys $18.99

Categories: Beer, Breweries, St. Louis Tags:

A New Chapter

January 23rd, 2011 57 comments

St._Louis As the football playoffs roll on and we peer outside at a cold, snow-covered St. Louis, we finally update the blog after a long absence and a difficult move from Seattle.  As many of you already know, this past October we moved from the beautiful Pacific Northwest to the Mississippi Valley.  It was tough to say goodbye to so many wonderful friends, colleagues, food, farmers, the Opera, breweries and wineries, the mountains and sea…but we now start a new chapter in our adventures and careers.

We have spent the last 2 1/2 months settling into our first home (A townhouse in St. Louis Central West End, GasLight Square), and we have only just started to explore the city of St. Louis.  This post is a compilation, a short list of some of the highlights of those past 2 1/2 months..and some of the things we’ve discovered:

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Travel : Portland [PDX]

August 15th, 2010 1 comment

Portland, OR is a gem of the United States.  Located 2 hrs from the Oregon coast line and about an hour or more from mountains, the city is a young and vibrant place…especially for food, wine, and beer lovers like ourselves.  Earlier this summer, we took a trip down to Portland knowing that our typical “bi-annual” trip from Seattle is likely to cease once we move to St. Louis this fall (more on that in a future post).  Our trips to Portland would be overwhelming to some [see our last “PDX Food Rampage”, at our friend’s Dawn and Eric’s blog: WrightAngle], but they are simply fantastic adventures for the palette.  We drink and eat so much variety, experience such creativity, that we can’t stop going back.  And what’s more, PDX is much cheaper than its West Coast counterpart heavy weights like Seattle, San Fran, and LA.  Here we will attempt to summarize the highlights from our 3 day trip this past July, but it by no means will include all of our adventures.

Olympic Provisions | Our first stop in PDX was Olympic Provisions, which came recommended by our friends Eric and Kye.  Located in an industrial part of southeast PDX, Olympic Provisions is housed in a restored cereal mill.   The spot was created with intent to highlight European and North African styled charcuterie and to showcase local ingredients from farms and producers in the area.  We went for lunch and selected 2 dishes.

Chef w/ cured meats in the background

Signage

Tea Sammy

The first was the “tea sandwich”, made with a well seasoned paste of summer English peas, sprouts, red onions, and ricotta salata on fluffy white bread with no crust.  This was the perfect summer sandwich.  It reminded me of the deliciously light cucumber tea sandwiches my mother and our neighbors would often make for me when I lived in England.  We also ordered the charcuterie plate, which really highlights the masterful qualities of Olympic Provisions.  It came with a house made chorizo that was very true to the art of this sausage variety….robust spices, chewy texture, and beautiful color.  The charcuterie plate also came with house made sopresetta and pork pâté which were also well made and authentic.  We each had a Double Mountain Brewery, Kolsch alongside our lunch.  Olympic Provisions has a large selection, and one could really fill up on lunch or dinner here, but even for an afternoon snack, it is worth a short visit. Olympic Provision’s charcuturie is now becoming more widely available throughout PDX and can be purchased at select stores.

Olympic Provisions

107 Southeast Washington Street
Portland, OR 97214-2103
(503) 954-3663

Olympic Provisions on Urbanspoon

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