Archive for February, 2012

Fun With Beer: Morimoto Soba Ale

Chef Morimoto signing bottles

It may not surprise you, but one of my favorite episodes of Iron Chef America is “Battle: Beer“. Not only is beer a great compliment to many cuisines, but it is also an excellent ingredient in many dishes. Needless to say, a show focusing on beer makes for an interesting episode. Around the time this episode first aired, Rogue Brewery released Morimoto Soba Ale, created in a partnership with the Iron Chef himself, Masaharu Morimoto. I was interested in what the Iron Chef of both Japanese and American television would bring to the craft beer world, so I had to try it out.

With a scant 4.8 percent alcohol by volume and a hazy golden color, I was expecting this to be a very Japanese-styled beer. It was as reasonably priced as most other Rogue beers, around $6. I had not noticed this variety in the lengthy lineup of Rogues at my local brew-shop, but it did come recommended. After a quick chill, I set to work.

The first thing I noticed was how little head it produced. Not for under-carbonation, but it just didn’t seem to produce any lasting bubbles. Despite this, a strong aroma of wheat came easily. The roasted soba used as a malt in this ale is a kind of Japanese buckwheat, used most often in noodles. The aroma was uniquely complex, giving notes of nutty, buttery malt and grassy hops.

I gave it a taste, and was pleasantly surprised by the relative hoppy flavor compared to most Japanese beers. There was a distinct taste of biscuit-like yeast and the cascade hops. After a few sips and a bit of a warm-up, I started to get the toasty hint of the roasted soba, almost like a “whole-grain” beer.

Rogue, ever thorough, recommends pairing this with light cuisine like chicken or fish. I couldn’t agree more, because all I could think about while drinking this was how terrifically some sashimi would have complimented my beverage.

What was overtly interesting about this particular brew was just how distinct the flavors were. There was nothing masquerading as vanilla, or chocolate, or coffee, just all of the ingredients as fresh and unique as Mother Nature made them. In a way, this was very indicative of the Iron Chef himself, using the natural, simple flavors of high-quality ingredients to create a unique experience. It may take a bit of tasting to come around, but this beer was really what a good, honest beer should be. Give this one a try the next time you are in the mood for a very Zen-like beer experience, compliments of an outstanding chief.

 

View this article at The NB Citizen

Fun With Beer: Weize Guy Hefeweizen

Joseph James Brewery - Weize Guy

 

When I’m thinking of a “go-to” light bodied beer, I usually think of a Hefeweizen. The yeasty, citrus tinged golden delight of a well-crafted German fefe is the perfect accompaniment to a warm day or spicy meal. These days, the proud Hefeweizens have been inching towards your regular macrobrew lagers and wheat beers in terms of taste. However, the Joseph James Brewery has been staying true to the complex, interesting makeup this variety embodies with their Weize Guy. They have an impressive list of beers, and out of their year round brews, the Hefeweizen is my favorite. Brewed with little tastes of clove and banana, it is best served cold, tall and often.

The Joseph James Brewery has recently revamped their entire line, tweaking a little “here and there” to generally improve all their selections. Joseph James originally started out brewing craft sodas while waiting for the proper licenses to brew anything alcoholic. While I am not a cola lover, their Joes Cola is an amazing mix of herbs and real sugar. In fact, they make it by the keg to be used in the Cuba Libre at Jaleo, the restaurant of the famous José Andrés, highly renowned Spanish Chef and restaurateur.

It comes in regular 12-ounce bottles, just enough for a good glass full of Hefeweizen with plenty of room for head. A common complaint of the previous iterations of this beer was that it didn’t produce enough of the foamy top, but I can assure you, that kink has been worked out. It pours a hazy golden yellow, with a nice light fluffy head that quickly subsides into a thin ring. The nose is mainly a bit of yeasty, almost baked bread freshness, with a hint of the funky fermentation character. Something about this immediately piqued my interest. It had a kind of permeating quality, without being overbearing. So, I took a taste.

The first thing I noticed was how spice forward it presented. There is a lively mix of clove and banana esters, with a nice malty background. After a sip or two, you start to get a sour lemony aftertaste with the yeast, and a bit of coriander. In fact, there is a very prominent sour taste to this, but in a very deliberate way. I would say, a Hefeweizen erring towards a sour, but never crossing over fully. In the overall view of this, there seems to be a kind of intention of breaking away from anything that could be considered bland or watery in a Hefeweizen. They took it, reduced it down, but kept its light body and refreshing taste.

Trying this was truly a pleasure, and prompted me to buy a six-pack for home consumption. It was an experience I just had to share, and I’m certain those I did share with are glad for it. Weize Guy hasn’t gotten a great “rep” in the past, but I am certain anyone who tries their new and improved version will place it on their short list of favorite Hefeweizens.

 

View this article on The NB Citizen

Chef Jet Tila/Tony Abou-Ganim Pop-Up Dinner at Origin India

Chef Jet Tila

Origin India’s ornate dining room played host to two culinary masterminds, Chef Jet Tila and Tony Abou-Ganim.  They were challenged with the task of marrying Jet’s unique take on Thai street food and THe Master Mixologist’s creativity in cocktails.

Papadums with Mint and Tamarind Chutney

The night began in haste, starting with the amuse bouche of crispy fried papadums, lightly seasoned with cardamom, with a tangy tamarind sauce and a sweet mint chutney.  This was paired with Tony’s Negroni, a twist on the classic using exotic citrus and Bombay Sapphire.  The Negroni was playing double duty by also being paired with the first course, a mango, shrimp, and coconut Yum salad.  I have to admit, I have never thought that your average Tom Yum soup could be improved by re-purposing and deconstructing it into a salad, but it worked.  It was lighter and more refreshing that the original, and the crunchy sweet coconut and spicy lime dressing paired well with the bitter and herbal Negroni.

Tony's Negroni - Bombay Sapphire, Campari, Cinzano Rosso Sweet Vermouth, and a burnt orange twist

The second course was something interesting and uncommon, braised crispy Pa-Lo pig tails with Thai herbs.  While not particularly what I would consider as crispy, the fatty braised meat fell off what little bones were there, becoming a very rich and complex bite, like an ultimately tender short rib.  The spices and herbs were how I would imagine a five-spice mole sauce would be if created by a Thai-inspired chef.  This course was served with at “Jet 75″, Tony’s Asian version of a French 75.  It used the newly released Bombay Sapphire East, which is infused with Thai Lemongrass and Szechuan Peppercorns, to great effect.  The bright, fruity carbonation of the champagne cut through the heavy and oily feel the pig tails leave behind, preparing the palate for another delicious bite.

Braised Pa-Lo Pig Tails

Jet 75 - Bombay Sapphire East, Champagne, and lemon

Next up was a Kao-Soi northern curry of stewed chicken with noodles, although ours was beef.  I’m not one to complain, especially when it is generally considered an upgrade.  A very friendly curry, full of bright spice and creamy coconut milk, and probably the most filling dish of the night.  The other that came at that time was the Esarn Lemongrass grilled yardbird.  The simplistic chicken dish was complimented, almost seasoned, by the Cable Car.  Tony’s version of a Side Car, it used Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, orange liquor, and a cinnamon spiced rim in a way I enjoyed greatly.

Esarn Lemongrass grilled Yardbird

Kao-Soi Northern Curry

Golden Dragon – Bacardi 8 Rum and Coconut Milk

The dessert course was a traditional Indian sweet paste made from nuts, dates, tamarind, and spices.  It was absolutely addictive.  Equally addictive was the Golden Dragon cocktail, made from Bacardi 8 year aged rum and coconutmilk, served over ice.  I appreciated that neither the dessert nor the cocktail were overly sweet or filling.  Just a nice, easy to enjoy ending note to the night.

Indian Dessert of Nuts, Tamarind, and Pulverized Date

 

The Modern Mixologist, Tony Abou-Ganim

Our fair city is lucky to have these two giants of food and drink working in tandem.  I hope when Chef Jet Tila’s wanderlust is satiated, he’ll bring his talents back to Vegas for good.  Rumour has it that there will be more Pop-Ups in the future from these two, so keep an ear to the ground for the next night of amazing pairings.

 

View this article on Unica World

Jaleo: Culinary Magic in 24 Pictures

 

There are few times I am at a loss for words when it comes to a dinner.  So this time, after looking back to my amazing meal in The Cosmopolitan, I think I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

We started off with cocktails, and we had to try their famous iteration of the Gin and Tonic.  Hendrick’s Gin (my personal favorite), Fever Tree Tonic (also favorite), juniper berries, and citrus round this out into easily the best gin and tonic you’ll ever have.

Olives stuffed with anchovy and piquillo, ‘Ferrán Adrià’ liquid olive - Imagine a little balloon filled with the essence of a kalamata olive

Fried dates wrapped in bacon - a crowd favorite, now fried

The first round of tapas was our “appetizer” course.  The olives above, the bacon wrapped fried dates, and Manchego cheese flauta.  The olives, while a good light beginning taste, were also very exiting.  The emulsion they were in complimented and leveled out the strong and complex flavors in both.  The dates were, for the most part, how I would have imagined them.  This is a popular item, showing up on many bar menus and appetizer lists, but usually baked and stuffed with something like a strong cheese or nut.  Frying them had the effect of almost liquefying the sometimes fibrous date, as well as cooking the bacon properly.  The flauta, tomato, and Manchego cheese was all very high quality, despite seeming very Italian for a Spanish tapas restaurant.

Flauta bread, brushed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh tomato, and Manchego cheese

Pork and foie gras canelones - a unique take on two classics

 

By this time, we had all chosen something that we really had our eye on.  I was drawn instantly to the pork and foie gras canelones with bechamel sauce.  I’ve never really had pork and foie gras together, nor foie gras and a creamy sauce.  I have to say, it was very interesting, and uniquely Spanish.

My dining companions were thinking similarly and ended up choosing the veal cheeks and morels with olive oil potato purée, the seasonal vegetable paella, and the marinated mussels with smoked paprika.  The veal cheeks, I would say, was my favorite of the night.  Just being so perfectly prepared and richly seasoned, they were a dream.  They had sprinkled a bit of cinnamon on top, giving it a very special sweetness and spice.

Jaleo is proud of their paellas.  Similar to how some restaurants will have special rules about their risotto or menudo, you have to order this when it’s ready.  Every thirty minutes they make a new batch, and you have to reserve your portion before it’s spoken for.  So, if you think you want to get a big plate of this, decide early.

 

Marinated mussels - The smoked paprika and interesting plating really made this dish a winner

 

Braised veal cheek, morels, olive oil potato purée - In my opinion, best dish of the night

As great dessert courses go, we ordered a great dessert drink.  A full carafe of Sangría de Vino Tinto for the table, and a selection of three desserts were brought out together; apple tart with saffron and apple sorbet, chocolate hazelnut cake with praline ice cream and salted caramel sauce, and a classic Spanish custard with ‘espuma’ of Catalan cream and oranges.

Sangría de Vino Tinto - Finally, a sangria that doesn't taste like alcoholic Snapple!

apple tart with saffron and apple sorbet - Apples at their most amazing

chocolate hazelnut cake with praline ice cream and salted caramel sauce - I know what you're thinking, but it's nothing like Nutella.

Classic Spanish custard with ‘espuma’ of Catalan cream and oranges - King of Flan

Of course I had to end the night with a cocktail!  As it turns out, their Cuba Libré is just as good as their Gin and Tonic.  Jaleo seems to have a penchant for revamping and perfecting classics, an honorable endeavor if there ever was one.  What usually is a fairly humble mixture of rum, cola, and bitters is assembled with an ice sphere, Cruzan Single Barrel aged rum, and mixed with a very high quality and locally produced cola.  Joe’s Cola is a craft soda made with herbs and real sugar by Joseph James Brewery, makers of some very interesting beers as well.  In fact, this week’s beer review will be of their hefeweizen, Weize Guy.  Keep an eye out for that one.

Cuba Libré - Unique, theatrical, and well balanced, you can craft this at your liking to make the best cuba libre you'll ever have

 

Now, I didn’t get to include every single thing we ate.  If I did list it out, this article would be as long as the day is… long.  So, I’ve included a gallery of every picture I took that wonderful night.  I hope that you can set a date and make it out to this absolute institution of tapas.  You’ll then see why Jaleos are popping up everywhere, and why Mr. Andrés is known for being one of the best in the business.

 

 

 

 

Fun With Beer: Cocoa Mole

New Belgium - Cocoa Mole

In recent days I’ve been hearing buzz about one of New Belgium’s brews from the Lips of Faith line. Apparently, everyone has been loving this Cocoa Mole ale, leaving me only to sample their words. Well, I put a stop to that and picked up a bottle for myself. One taste, and I knew I had to write about this unique brew. Don’t worry folks, I will practice restraint with this review and not lapse into any puns, clichés, or stereotypes. And I won’t say “Holy Mole”, except for one time, right now, or rather, just then.
Cocoa Mole is an ale brewed with spices and chilies, with just a touch of cocoa to bring it together. This is a bit of a limited release, so try to get some while you can, either on tap, or in a bottle. It only has 9 percent alcohol by volume, which I like to think makes for a good dinner beer, especially if it is a big meal of barbeque or some southwest-style cuisine. At around $9 for a 22-ounce-bottle, it’s good to buy a few and dole them out as the situation provides.

Uncapped and ready, I poured a hearty sized amount into my trusty goblet. You can tell just from the nose that the brewers wanted this to be a very full-flavored beer. There is a distinct spice and nutty aroma, with a sweet creamy chocolate note, almost like some kind of rich dessert, like tiramisu. This extremely inviting scent forged me ahead, and I gave it a taste. Now, that complex scent was still in the picture, but at the front of the stage was this great, exiting taste of chilies.

Cocoa Mole is brewed with ancho, guajillo and chipotle chili peppers, and it becomes very apparent when tasted. Their effect also gives off a bit of cracked black pepper and fruity banana esters. Tasting this, you can really tell why they called it a “mole”. It has all that powerful smokiness and a touch of heat, but without losing it’s complexity. I kind of wonder how it would be if the tables were turned, as in a mole out of a beer, instead of a beer out of a mole. I imagine it would be one heck of a good mole sauce.

With some beers, the proper pairings for them don’t exactly jump to mind immediately. Most take a bit of thought and care put into determining what would compliment them perfectly. This beer, however, is one that really calls for freshness and spice. Salsa, roast chicken and lime, beans, polenta, and marinated shrimp would be my first choices. I believe this is easily determined because of how much personality this beer exudes. It has such a unique flavor profile to it, similar and complimentary foods become obvious. In fact, ever since trying this beer, ideas for food or a dinner that would go well with the beer have been flowing to mind. I know I’ll be scouring my local beverage purveyors for this, stocking up for whenever I feel like making an ordinary meal mole-extraordinary.

 

View this article at The NB Citizen

Fun With Beer: Labyrinth Black Ale

Uinta Brewing Co. - Labyrinth Black Ale

When I started getting into this crazy writing gig, there were a few beers I was saving for a rainy day, or when I wanted to write on an exceptionally good beer.  The first brew that jumped into my mind was Labyrinth Black Ale by Uinta Brewing Company, out of Salt Lake City. I discovered this beer when I was still somewhat of a good beer “greenhorn”.  In fact, it is among the few experiences with good beer that I credit with truly sowing the seeds that turned me into the beer lover I am today.  I’ve enjoyed it quite a few times since then, and it has never become boring or commonplace.

Uinta Brewing Company has a very celebrated line of beers, the more popular of which are total hop-bombs.  Labyrinth is an Imperial Black Ale, so its flavor is riding on a big ol’ sea of malty goodness.  Priced at a lucky $13, and with a 13.2 percent alcohol per volume and a very bold flavor, splitting a bottle is recommended.

After the near-ceremonial task of shedding the foil, removing the bailing wire, and freeing the cork, I poured just a scant few fingers of Labyrinth into a tulip glass.  The first thing I was met with was its thickness.  Not quite as thick as maple syrup, but the pour is noticeably dense and very black.  Despite this, a good sized tan head rose to the top, leaving the lace behind.  Its scent is surprisingly permeating.  Anise and strong roasted malt radiated from the dissolving head.

Now, black licorice isn’t exactly the most popular candy outside the nursing home, and black licorice liquors are “bombed” into energy drinks for a reason.  Even I have a love/hate relationship with the bizarre sweet herbal characteristics, but somehow Labyrinth does it amazingly well.  Something about the black licorice used in the brewing process brings out this delightfully complex bouquet, playing right up there with the toasted oak and bittersweet chocolate notes.

There is a bit of a boozy characteristic, like a bourbon, but it doesn’t really affect the drinkability.  A very creamy mouth-feel, especially after the small bit of carbonation has died down.  Around that time is when you get the bittersweet chocolate and vanilla.

Labyrinth is almost like a dessert beer, and pairs well with creamy items like gelato or tiramisu.  High ABV beers like this are offset well by things with higher oil and fat contents, so anything sweet and creamy will compliment the ale splendidly.  Personally, I like enjoying this beer by itself, unfettered by other influences.  There’s nothing like getting lost in the labyrinthine catacombs of a good beer, and this is one worth getting familiar with.

View article on The NB Citizen

See more of their beers at www.uintabrewing.com

Public House: Bridging the Gap

Duck poutine, grilled octopus, assorted pickled vegetables

I figured that enough time had passed to get a critical view of this hot new restaurant in town called Public House.  Nestled in one of the lower floors of the Venetian, it fits right in with the rest of the reastaurant row crowd, almost to the point that makes it hard to find.  When found, however, you’ll not want to leave.

 

The Public House is another restaurant headed by the great Anthony Meidenbauer, the first two being Holstein’s in the Cosmopolitan and The Barrymore, which we raved over previously.  It seems you can’t throw a fork here in Vegas without hitting some of Anthony’s interesting cuisine.  It seems like Public House is the middle ground between the burger themed, almost sports-bar environment at Holstein’s and the cushy old-Vegas swank of The Barrymore.  While personally I have no upper limit on the ol’ swank factor, the relaxed atmosphere of Public House is perfect for sampling their extensive beer list, bar bites, curiously crafted cocktails, or enjoying their interesting lunch or dinner items.

 

My dining companions and I stopped in with the intent on a cocktail hour, light snacks, maybe a bite of dessert.  If I had known just how addictive their Poutine was, I would have gotten a proper table and sat down for it.  The duck confit and large, fresh cheese curds made for one supremely indulgent bowl.  Needless to say, of all the things we started with, this went the first.  We also had the grilled octopus salad, with Romesco sauce and white bean salad.  Very similar in construction to the grilled octopus a the Barrymore, except for it’s preparation.  This one was, although still done properly, didn’t quite measure up to the perfectly done version I had weeks prior. I’ll chalk this up to how monumentally finicky cooked octopus can be.

Grilled Octopus

The Bouchot Mussels, in a wit beer, shallots, bacon, and creme fraiche broth, was amazing.  Despite the bizarre concoction, there is a distinct kind of old-world freshness to it, almost reminding me of big Italian family reunions back east.  At about this time, I received my beer flight, the “Big and Dark”.  This included little half-pints of Rouge Hazelnut Brown, Arrogant Bastard, Lost Coast 8 Ball Stout, and Deschutes Brewery Black Butte Porter.  The more studious among us will remember a beer cocktail using the Black Butte not too long ago.  I believe they all paired fairly well with our heavier, richer foods.  The flights in general could benefit from some more interesting and lesser known brews, however.  A flight is a great way to sample new and interesting things, and with such a great selection of bottles and taps, I would have thought they could be just a little more risque.

 

One thing that I did not particularly enjoy was the selection of pickled vegetables.  I realize that this can be a tricky process, but it seems like the pickling process left some things untouched, and others nearly decomposed.  An interesting premise, and most definitely one that has some potential, fell somewhat flat.  As if vegetarians didn’t have enough trouble with on-strip dining!

 

Towards the end, we were still eyeing the entree menu with hunger, so we decided to split one of their burgers, and end with a cocktail.  My cocktail was the Funny Guy, another item sharing space at The Barrymore.  The Zaya Rum, Cointreau, fresh OJ, and old fashioned bitters make for a really tasty, almost tropical drink.  Now I’ll just have to go back to The Barrymore to compare!  Unfortunately, I doubt they do take out cups.

 

The PUB Burger has bacon marmalade, gruyere cheese, roasted tomato, and a Guinness aioli.  There are plenty of things going on in this burger, but they are all choreographed to say “CREAMY AND SMOKY”.  For once, bacon isn’t being shoved into every orifice in your head, but rather just tinges the flavor a bit, working with the guinness and gruyere to compliment this perfectly done burger.  Furthermore, after this burger, I’m going to have to try roasting tomato for my own burgers at home.  I feel it brings out that rich tang of a tomato so much better.

 

There is much more for me to try at the Public House, so I’ll have to go back soon.  I know, such a chore!  Next time, I’ll be preparing myself for a full meal, and not just teasing myself with appetizers.

 

View the menu at publichouselv.com