Southern Tier Brewing Co. – Pumking (2014)

Posted on

beermebartender:

13 down…

Originally posted on ratemypumpkins:

AlexAA: sunny, warm honey hue w/ quickly vanishing head, a buttery crust of an aroma filled with pumpkin, caramel, and vanilla 10/10

AlexTM: slight hops upfront, and too heavy handed on the cloves, coriander and vanilla throwing the balance off with the caramel malt and pumpkin – like a good, not great, pie where you eye-balled all the ingredients 7/10

AlexP: The pumpkin is the one ingredient in correct balance, not sickeningly sweet, but not invisible – sadly, there are just so many other flavors going on, that the pumpkin is the wallflower in this ale. 4P

AlexO: Taste doesn’t live up to the aroma. The King is Dead. Long Live the King. 83/100

NicAA: Deep straw colored, light haze with frothy head. Crunchy biscuit aroma with a hint of something stale this year…hard to describe, like candy spiced packing peanuts. 6/10

NicTM: Bitter and slightly fishy upfront, then hollow…

View original 98 more words

Queso Royale VIII hosted by Formaggio Kitchen

Posted on Updated on

Monger Tyler's dishes for Queso Royale VIII blended traditional flavors with inventive presentation.
Monger Tyler’s dishes for Queso Royale VIII blended traditional flavors with inventive presentation.

For our August birthday presents to each other, Erica and I purchased tickets to Formaggio Kitchen‘s “Queso Royale VIII.” We are both huge fans of the store, and we’ve been to a few of their events in the past including “Queso Royale VII” and “New York vs. Vermont: Beer & Cheese” (where we were introduced to Backacre Sour Golden Ale for the first time; we’ve subsequently had good luck finding it at Montpelier’s Three Penny Taproom).

The format of “Queso Royale” is a Monger vs. Monger throwdown (5-6 courses) where the beverage (usually wine, but sometimes cider or beer) and the type of cheese (cow, goat, etc.) for each round is pre-selected. Each monger composes a dish centered around a cheese of that type, and then audience votes for their favorite (judges are allow to use whatever criteria they like). The monger that wins the most rounds is named the champion. The particular draw of this event was Monger Tyler Tripp’s selection of Formaggio Founder Ihsan Gurdal as his opponent, as you’d be hard pressed to find to greater “cheese minds” for a head-to-head battle.

Visiting Tyler at Formaggio in the weeks leading up to the event, I was impressed with his confidence. Ihsan has an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s finest cheese, wine, crackers, jams, fruits, sausages… you get the point, and Tyler’s supposition that Ihsan would present a very traditional set of courses proved to be true. Now: #cheeseporn:

Round 1

Looks like a bacon-wrapped scallop, right? This. Was. MARVELOUS! Not only because I was starving and it was a really 'hefty' serving size, but also because of the story (bacon-wrapped scallops are the flagship of a restaurant Tyler used to work at) and, of course, the shear deliciousness.
Looks like a bacon-wrapped scallop, right? This. Was. MARVELOUS! Not only because I was starving and it was a really ‘hefty’ serving size, but also because of the story (bacon-wrapped scallops are the flagship of a restaurant Tyler used to work at) and, of course, the sheer deliciousness. Also, there was succotash. 
To pair with the Dom Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre 2013, Ihsan chose a wonderfully rich slice of goat's milk cheese with some kind of preserve(?). This dish won the round, which is nuts, because Tyler's thing was riDONKulous
To pair with the Dom Hippolyte Reverdy Sancerre 2013, Ihsan chose a wonderfully rich slice of goat’s milk cheese with some kind of preserve(?). This dish won the round, which is nuts, because Tyler’s thing was riDONKulous

Quick note: Ihsan’s stories really made the night. He has such a deep personal connection with ALL of his friendors (friend-vendors), you really can travel through space and time just listening to him. To you, Ihsan, a very personal thanks for all you’ve done in promoting great food culture locally and throughout the country/world!

Round 2

Wine: 2013 Terrebrune Bandol. A very refreshing Rosé.

Cheese type: Sheep

Ask me about the peppers. Fun story (of course) about crossing back and forth from France to Basque Spain. Ihsan's dish won here for me.
Ask me about the peppers. Fun story (of course) about crossing back and forth from France to Basque Spain. Ihsan’s dish won here for me.

Note: I think I forgot to get a picture of Tyler’s flatbreads. They were really fun: Dates and Brebis du Haut Bearn with a black cherry and Piment d’esplette (the peppers mentioned in the caption above) dipping sauce. But in this round, Ihsan’s less ‘tinkered’ approach allowed the flavors to play more harmoniously. Still, I believe Tyler ended up winning the round.

Round 3

Tyler’s “Swiss” Onion Soup (pictured above) was another fun play on a classic, and I especially liked the crisped “Petit Lutin” cheese both as a cracker and cooked on the puff pastry.

If I remember correctly, Erica really dug the wine this round: 2010 Cave Saint Cyr Chenas, a Beaujolais with rich cherry notes.

Ihsan's dish: Comte, Ardeche Prune, Housemade Summer Sausage.
Ihsan’s dish: Comte Marcel Petite Gran Cru, Ardeche Prune, Housemade Summer Sausage. We’ve been ordering Comte a lot recently, and this one is right up there. #Allofthecrystals

Round 3 also featured a traditional serving of absinthe (diluted a little heavier than normal, but delicious nonetheless)!

When I drank Absinthe in Italy, there was fire involved. I'm pretty sure we were doing it wrong...
When I drank Absinthe in Italy, there was fire involved. I’m pretty sure we were doing it wrong…

I honestly can’t remember who I voted for in this round. Both plates were really well composed. Can’t remember who won, either (blame the absinthe).

Round 4

This was a “wild card” round for drinks. Both picked a sparkling red: Vajra N.S. Della Neve Rosé for Ihsan and 2013 Vigneto Saetti Lambrusco for Tyler. Snark alert: I was surprised at how many fancy people at this event didn’t know sparking red wine existed…

Anywho:

The strawberry white sage syrup from Ms. June Taylor was Erica's favorite thing of the entire evening. I think the same thing happened last time as well. We should probably try to go meet this lady in California, apparently she curses like a sailor. Corsu Vecchiu sheep's milk cheese, berry reduction, fennel pollen
The strawberry white sage syrup from Ms. June Taylor was Erica’s favorite thing of the entire evening. I think the same thing happened last time as well. We should probably try to go meet this lady in California, apparently she curses like a sailor. Corsu Vecchiu sheep’s milk cheese, berry reduction, fennel pollen.
Robiola di Roccaverano Enrico Rosello. This cheese is the SHIT. Bring this to your next get together with friends. There was some other stuff on the plate (toasted hazelnuts and bread FK gets flown in from France...), but that cheese. Damn. Tyler didn't have a chance this round.
Robiola di Roccaverano Enrico Rosello. This cheese is the SHIT. Bring this to your next get together with friends. There was some other stuff on the plate (toasted hazelnuts and bread FK gets flown in from France…), but that cheese. Damn. Tyler didn’t have a chance this round.

Round 5

Being already stuffed at this point, I should have just asked for the dessert round to go. Two amazing final courses. And though we didn’t know it at the time, Tyler and Ihsan were tied 2-2 at this point. I’ll post both of the descriptions below, without telling you which belonged to whom, and you let me know who you think won. Ill post the answer in white font below:

Gorgonzola Gran Riserva Piccante (Cow's Milk, Lombardy, Italy), California Fresh Figs, roasted walnuts, Miele di Tarassaco del Roero (dandelion honey)
Gorgonzola Gran Riserva Piccante (Cow’s Milk, Lombardy, Italy), California Fresh Figs, roasted walnuts, Miele di Tarassaco del Roero (dandelion honey)
Stilton (Cow's Milk, Somerset, England) dusted with granulated Aynouse Xocolate 75% cocoa, almond butter, cookie crumble and bourbon goat's milk caramel
Stilton (Cow’s Milk, Somerset, England) dusted with granulated Aynouse Xocolate 75% cocoa, almond butter, cookie crumble and bourbon goat’s milk caramel

AND THE WINNER IS…      TYLER (Stilton) ! (HIGHLIGHT TO REVEAL)

Congratulations to both Tyler and Ihsan on a hard-fought battle. What a tremendous evening filled with amazing food.

Bonus: it was nice to see the Formaggio crew kicking back some Cambridge Brewing Company “Remain in Light” Hoppy Pilsner as they were prepping the courses. Big thanks as well to FK’s Keira and Rory for their help throughout the evening.

Double Bonus: Who else would love to see a Craft Beer Cellar/FK throwdown?

Blogging by Example

Posted on Updated on

One of my dear friends (and current roommate) is moving to Scotland for a year to complete her master’s degree. I recommended that she keep a blog for a variety of reasons both personal and professional. But lo, my own blog has been neglected since March, so there’s no time like the present to fire off a new post.

Blogging Lesson 1: It’s never too late to restart

I have, generally, followed a beer-y thread in this blog. There’s a lot fermenting in my head right now: Stone’s plans for a European brewery, beer/gender things, am I missing the “fun” part of beer too often? On occasion I digress to happenings outside of the beer-o-sphere, and in that vein I focus my deepest love and support for people around the world suffering/fallen to unfathomable (to me) violence, terror, uncertainty, and loss. For all of us, I hope for peace.

Blogging Lesson 2: Digress whenever you want

Quick shift back to the point of this particular post, which is meant to serve as a small piece of guidance(?) to a reluctant/nascent blogger friend. This is a plate of nachos from Sunset Grill & Tap. They were delicious, and I’m glad I got to share them with a great group of friends.

Nachos rule.
Nachos rule.

 

Blogging Lesson 3: Blogging is what you want it to be. A photo and a sentence. More. Less. Whatever.

Blogging Lesson 4: It’s always surprising (in the best way) how ending a post on a positive note can improve your attitude. Highly advise, whenever possible.

Blogging Lesson 5: Nachos rule.

Fin

Best of luck in Scotland, Lindsay!

Why So Serious Eats?

Posted on

For the last 7 months or so, I’ve written regularly for Serious Eats. I had been an avid reader of the column since being introduced to the site by my friend, Jon, and jumped at the opportunity to contribute. At the time, I was unemployed and living within spitting distance of no less than 8 Fast Food restaurants. (I actually listed both of these things on my cover letter.)

Writing a regular column was tough. I missed deadlines, took poor quality photos, got a full-time job, and moved to an area where Fast Food (at least stuff from the national chains) is surprisingly hard to come by. This week, Serious Eats and I parted ways amicably. I look forward to reading the reviews from subsequent contributors, and I will always value my time as a member of the Serious Eats family. Thank you to my editor, Niki, and to family, friends, and Internet commenters for the feedback and encouragement.

So without further ado, here is my last, un-published column for Serious Eats. I imagine that it would have likely carried a title like “Reality Check: We Try 5 New Items From McDonald’s Value Menu” and a tagline like “which new item takes the gold?”, and in a perfect world it would have been published during the Olympics. Given the current conflict in Russia/Crimea/Ukraine, I’ll forgo any easy puns. My most sincere wishes to the people of that region for a safe and swift end to the violence.

Reality Check: We Try 5 New Items From McDonald’s Value Menu

Which new item takes the gold?

20140219_McDonaldsValue_Header

I didn’t think of it until I had housed all five of McDonald’s New Value Menu Sandwiches, so you’ll have to settle for a mental image:

5 sandwiches laid out like the 5 Olympic rings.

Dang, that would have been a good one…

But ç’est la vie de l’Fast Food Writer. I’ll try again in Summer 2016.

If there’s a positive flip-side to missing that assuredly award-winning shot, it’s that I’m not bound to the Olympic metaphor for the reviews of the sandwiches themselves. I’m sure that I could have handled it, but why bother? 5 rehashes of tired chicken/burger/sauce/bacon combinations don’t merit Olympic comparison. But maybe I’ll do a number thing just to stay in the spirit. Oh hell:

U

S

A

U

S

A!

20140219_McDonaldsValueMenu_BuffaloChicken

Buffalo Ranch McChicken

Since I was in the mood for something spicy, I went for this one first. The classic spicy/cool combination delivered as expected, personal preference for blue cheese aside. It’s a safe, approachable sandwich with mass appeal.

Comparative Olympian: Shaun White (tough break this year, boss).

Judges say: 7/10

Bacon Cheddar McChicken

“Cheddar Cheese” always sets off my alarm bells when listed on fast food menus/product descriptions. This was no exception, as the cheese was appropriately Cheddar-ish: white and funkier than American, but could have easily been mistaken/replaced by fast food “Swiss” or whatever else they use that isn’t quite Cheddar but isn’t American either. The sweet mayonnaise drowned out most of the bacon salt and fat; sorry bacon fans, you’ll be disappointed.

Comparative Olympian: The Ice Dancers (You think they’re American, right? Maybe? They train in America? Or something? Whatever, when is hockey on?)

Judges say: 5.8/10

20140219_McDonaldsValueMenu_BBQburger

Barbeque Ranch Burger

THIS BURGER HAS CHIPS ON IT!!!… so naturally it was going to break my heart. Impressively, the mini-corn chips retained their crunch, but the pink-ish barbeque sauce was too reminiscent of smoke taco seasoning for my taste. Also, I would have loved to see McDonald’s use full-size corn chips, allowing diners the satisfaction of loudly crunching them in their sandwiches if so inclined, and/or providing the opportunity to eat them separately.

Comparative Olympian: US Soccer (Brazil 2014 is toooootally our year…)

Judges say: 4/10

Bacon Buffalo Ranch McChicken

I ordered this sandwich, but was given an additional Buffalo Ranch McChicken instead.

Comparative Olympian: You know who. *Author’s note. This was supposed to be a veiled Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding reference, but I just watched the ESPN 30 for 30 piece so I probably need a better comparative olympian. 
Judges say: DQ
20140219_McDonaldsValueMenu_BaconMcDonalds

Bacon McDouble

It’s a double cheeseburger with bacon, and it’s fantastic. Not because it’s a true culinary marvel, but because that combination of chopped onions, pickles, and more ketchup than you know what to do with is a McDonald’s hallmark. You know it’s better without bacon, it’s been that way for 20 years, but the rest is so comfortable and familiar that you don’t even care. We tried to figure it out once: (The Search function on SE isn’t working right now, but I’ll add in the link to the piece later).

Comparative Olympian: Your uncle that swears he was supposed to be on the “Miracle on Ice” team, and you love him for that, but c’mon Uncle Larry…

Judges say: 8.5/10 A Gold-medal Winner

Have you tried them all? Which one takes home the gold for you?

Giving Thanks

Posted on

It’s been about three months since my last blog entry. Three crazy, busy, exciting months, but still that’s too long. What better day than today to take a moment for some reflection and words of gratitude.

Family:

I love my mother. She is the woman who taught me [insert everything here]. She is hanging out in Cleveland, OH today alone, having recently returned from a solo trip to visit family in North Carolina. Here are her cats, Fred and Ethel:

Fred and Ethel
It would be nice to be home for Thanksgiving, but mom told me she is having a “grinder” from Alesci’s, so I think she’ll be fine on her own.

My aunt sent me this e-mail this morning. She is 70(?), and has a newer iPhone than I do.

Luv Aunt Amy
I luv you too, Aunt Amy.

To all my cousins (Mike, Ray, Amanda, Eddie, & many more) and all of their our loved ones: I love you, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Friends:

SimcoeI’m on solo dog duty today while my girlfriend is out of town, but I am appreciative of the generous offers extended by friends to spend the day with their loved ones.

I have met so many amazing people in my life. To all of my friends: Thank you for the inspiration, motivation, and support you provide me. You will never know how much I care for you and depend on you. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving, and please know that even if you cannot be with your loved ones, we are thinking of you.

Life, Health, and Happiness:

My life is pretty rocking right now. I work with extraordinarily dedicated, thoughtful, service-oriented people as a member of the Craft Beer Cellar family. I am living with a lovely and loving young woman that I love. I ran 3 half-marathons this year. I’ve got it pretty, pretty, pretty good.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!

Massachusetts Brewers Guild #MABrewFest

Posted on Updated on

Once again, my friend Heather wrote the piece I wanted to write about tonight’s #MABrewFest (Yes, I’m hashtagging in WP for a reason). You can read her piece here: http://digboston.com/boston-beer-brewing/2013/08/honest-pint-mass-brewers-fest/

Image

But because I will actually be attending this one (unlike Beer Advocate ACBF), I decided to chime in with my DOs and DON’Ts for tonight. Short list, so all are pretty accomplishable.

DO

Use Social Media vigorously. We’re going with #MABrewFest across all platforms (though I’m still not sure what good it is on Facebook). You can add in #craftbeer, #MABeer, and #LaborDayBeertography (There is actually a contest on right now for that one: http://www.beertography.com/) if you’d like. Careful with Untappd. Though technically a social platform, I’ve seen it have the opposite effect at beer festivals more often than not. AND TAG THE BREWERS: Like them on Facebook, Sign-up for e-mail lists. They need and deserve our support, and you can always unsubscribe later.

Try old stuff. Yes the collaboration beer(s) will be interesting, but when was the last time you had a Boston Lager? I’m not being preachy, but let’s give beers that have survived prospered this long some credit.

Eat and hydrate. Can’t believe people still don’t do this one. If you haven’t had time for dinner before the fest, make some and arrive a little later. And yes, this is specifically directed at some of my dear friends!

DON’T

Ask brewers what ‘their favorite beer’ is. Stop it.

Rag on anybody’s beer. Because: Coming Home Safe

Spill your damn drink on me/blow smoke in my face/say some ignorant racist/sexist/elitist garbage around me. Just no.

And last but not least:

[DON'T] FORGET TO BUY TICKETS. 6pm – 9pm TONIGHT at the Seaport World Trade Center.

8 Stories from Maine: Roger

Posted on

Sunday afternoon on Maine’s Higgins Beach, while I nursed both a hangover and my second Heady Topper of the day, a friend said, “I’m not exactly sure because I’ve never had one, but this might have been the perfect weekend.”

It was, friends. It was.

And in order to commemorate our time in Portland, ME, I asked my friends Jon, Jessica, Roger, Heather, Lindsay, Erica, and Brett to each write a little piece about their experience. 8 people. 8 posts. 1 amazing weekend. Enjoy.

Roger writes:

There are times when a series of events, by design or by chance, fall into place in a way that can only be described as ‘perfect’.  When, looking back, you wouldn’t change a single link in the chain, or wish a different course had been taken.  For me, last weekend up in Portland was one of those times.

The crux of the weekend was a simple combination of friends with a common goal of enjoying ourselves, regardless of the circumstances, and an open-mindedness for new experiences in a town that begs to be explored.  Nothing was forced this weekend, and the only set plans I was held to was a 6 hour block of pouring beer two ounces at a time.  People drifted in and out of my weekend as I did theirs with no friction, no complaints.

The time I spent in Portland was so rich with food, drink, friends, and discovery that to try detail each piece would be fool hardy and require 2,000 words to do any justice to my experience there.  So I say ‘Cheers’ and thank you to my friends, Maine, and a perfect weekend.

RPM

Thanks for the post, Roger!