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Philadelphia International Great Beer Expo 2011

Posted in Food and Drinks on June 6th, 2011

On Saturday I went with some friends to the afternoon session of the annual Philadelphia International Great Beer Expo as a part of Philadelphia Beer Week. I had a good time, although I think that the selection was better at the craft beer festival. I don’t want to get too hipster about it – obscurity does not make a thing inherently better. But there were a lot of mainstream beers there, although they were ones I do enjoy – Carlsberg for example. The crowd was spirited but not too big. It was really easy to walk around and try whatever you liked. The only thing there wasn’t enough of was cinnamon roasted nuts from the Nutty Bavarian. There was the same issue with no map of the festival, but since there were fewer people and I believe fewer breweries, we were able to find everything we wanted to try.

There were so many beers that I loved at this festival, it’s hard to decide which to write about!

There were a large selection of Cider’s including Original Sin, Magners (Advertised as Ireland’s favorite, but when I was in Ireland everyone drank Bulmer’s…), and my favorite – Doc’s. The apple, pear and raspberry are all crisp, refreshing and delicious.

Always interested in beers made in NYC, I tried Sugar Hill Golden Ale from the Harlem Brewing Company. It was smooth and light, perfect for summertime.

Eager to recapture a bit of my recent trip to Spain, I tried the Alhambra Negra, which was dark and rich, almost chocolaty.

My favorite beer of the day was the John Henry 3 Lick Spiker Ale. It’s a stout aged in a bourbon cask. If you are a fan of Innis & Gunn you will LOVE this beer. I am looking forward to trying to decide which one I like better.

After the expo, we stopped at Frankford Hall, a German Beer Garden to continue the merriment. It was a really fun place with plenty of room for large groups and ping pong tables. The beer selection was excellent, and I had the best potato pancakes I have ever had. (Sorry Aunt Lorraine.) This place should be on your to do list the next time you are in Philly.

Ramstein Brewery Tour

Posted in Food and Drinks on May 23rd, 2011

Back in March, I tried Ramstein Hefeweizen at the Philadelphia Craft Beer Festival. Since then, a visit to their brewery in Butler, NJ has been on my list of things to do. I had a chance to go on Saturday, for one of the monthly tours.

On tap were the Double Platinum Blonde, Northern Hills Amber Lager, Golden Lager and Imperial Pilsner. It’s hard for me to pick a favorite, although the Platinum was amazing. I’m starting to like the hoppier beers; I think the trick for me is that it can’t be the first one I try for the afternoon/evening.

Founder Greg Zaccardi was there to give a tour, and gave a really informative short talk about the history of the brewery and how the beer is made. This was my fourth brewery tour (Guinness, Budweiser, Brooklyn) so I’d seen it before but I wasn’t bored for a second. I learned something about filtered vs unfiltered beer, and I think that is a quality I’ve been able to detect in beer but unable to describe accurately (the buttery beer mishap of 2011). Mr. Zaccardi also went out of his way to ask if there were any home brewers in the crowd (nudge nudge Ceetar) and said that he would be happy to answer any questions about his craft. I thought that was extremely generous of him and gave me another reason to love his beer.

There was a large crowd on hand, especially by the time we were ready to leave. There was a long line to purchase merchandise, growlers and six-packs but well worth the wait to take some of the beer home. I really hope that this success grows enough for Ramstein to open up its doors more than one day a month, because I would love to become a regular!

Loui’s (Greek) BBQ

Posted in Food and Drinks on April 5th, 2011

Note: This restaurant has closed.

Last week, I went to Loui’s BBQ Greek Restaurant in Bayside Queens. I had noticed the new venue while driving by, and from across the street the logo and signs in the window only appear to say “LOUI’S BBQ” and so I had assumed it was a new barbecue restaurant. I had asked my husband and another couple along with this in mind. Our expectations of pulled pork, cornbread and brisket were quickly dashed when we entered the almost empty restaurant to find a menu of standard Greek cuisine.

It didn’t help that they did not yet have their liquor license. Wine and beer were on the menu and the waiter told us they were in the process of getting it.

We ordered salads – greek and house, both were good. I ordered the grilled chicken with wild rice. I received a very generous portion. The chicken was fine, and I loved the rice – there were small pieces of dried fruit in it, and it was delicious. I had excellent left overs. My friends ordered the pork chops, ribs and souvlaki. They said it was decent food, but nothing extra special.

After dinner we ordered cappuccino and baklava. It was a very good dessert, and another large portion. However, I had to wait a few minutes after my baklava was served for my cappuccino – apparently they were still learning how to operate the new machine.

The staff was friendly but the service was very slow – especially considering we were the only people in the restaurant. Perhaps they wanted to keep us sitting in the window – an empty restaurant on Bell Boulevard at dinner time is normally an impossibility, and probably not a good omen.

Bottom line: Decent food, but with a misleading name.

Beer For Beasts

Posted in Food and Drinks on March 28th, 2011

On Saturday, I attended the afternoon session of Beer for Beasts – a fundraiser for the Humane Society. It was at The Bell House in Park Slope and featured a large variety of Sixpoint beers and food from around Brooklyn.

There was a large crowd of people who were enjoying the festival, but it was not so packed that it was difficult to move around. The program provided listed the beers on tap and where they could be located. Staff members were very helpful and could answer questions and help you find what you were looking for. Although some of the beers ran out early I think it was a generally well organized and successful event.

My favorite beers were Nessie’s Revenge and Das Doppellsticke. Nessie’s Revenge is a Scottish Ale infused with distilled scotch. This was delicious and I really hope to be able to find it again. Das Doppellsticke is a wood aged double altbier. It was very rich with a nice finish.

The food was amazing and I especially enjoyed the Weisswurst & Sauerkraut on Homemade Pretzel Roll from Prime Meats and the pizza from Pizza Moto.

There was a performance by Jersey Fresh Burlesque. I’d never seen a burlesque performance before, so I was curious about what to expect. It was a lot of fun, and I had no idea anyone combined geekery and erotica outside of fan fiction.

I had a great time and I was very impressed that I got such great food and beer and entertainment for the price of my ticket – a portion of which went to charity! I will definitley be on the lookout for Sixpoint beers from now on and a trip to Pizza Moto is probably in my future as well.

2011 Philadelphia Craft Beer Festival

Posted in Food and Drinks on March 7th, 2011

I’ve been interested in micro-brews for a few years, and I like trying new ones. I think it started because a restaurant I liked to go to had a really easy guide to the different types of beers and what they tasted like. This made it very easy for me to ask questions and find something that I enjoyed. A basic knowledge of wine eventually followed (this book helped) but at the time I felt intimidated asking a server or bartender about the different varietals of wine.

On Saturday I went with a group of friends to the Philadelphia Craft Beer Festival. I had only been to one before, The New York Brewfest this past summer. I do love New York, but the Philadelphia festival was much more enjoyable. The event was crowded but not oversold. It was indoors, but I felt safe – the New York event was on Governor’s Island there were times between waiting on endless lines that I felt as if I would be trampled – especially waiting to get in or for a ferry to leave.

There were many beers to sample, including some of my favorites like Franziskaner, Ithaca and Blue Point. One of the things I like about these events is that you can discover a beer that you enjoy that’s brewed close to home. It’s a good way to support local businesses and reduce your number of food miles.

I tried a few that I have never had before and these were the ones that stood out:

Innis & Gunn

Innis & Gunn makes beers that are aged in oak barrels that previously contained navy rum. The taste is rich and delicious. It’s not something you would drink at the beach but I am going to be asking my local beer distributor if he has any very soon.

High Point Brewing Company

I’m a fan of wheat beers, no matter their country of origin, and was interested to try the Ramstein Hefeweizen. It was very smooth with the almost hint of butter that a lot of premium wheat beers have a satisfyingly medium bodied finish. It compares favorably with Franziskaner and I like it better than Stella or Blue Moon. Their brewery in New Jersey is open for tours once a month, so I think that might be my next beer related excursion.

Stone Brewing Company

This one was a surprise. I thought I was on line to try the Stone Smoked Porter. But what I got was a pour of the infamous Arrogant Bastard IPA. I don’t really like IPA’s in general but this one was excellent and I am happy that I tried it. I did eventually get to the Smoked Porter which I enjoyed as I expected to.

The one complaint I had about this event was that a map of the tables would have been extremely helpful, but was not given to the attendees. My friends and I were there the entire time and could not find Allagash or Original Sin. Ithaca and Troegs were almost impossible to find. I know that the point of these events isn’t to go and only drink beers you already know that you like, but if you really have a hankering for something that’s difficult to buy when you feel like it, it’s disappointing to know that the beer you want is somewhere very close to you but just out of your grasp.

I would recommend the Philadelphia Craft Beer Festival as a great activity for people who like beer or who are interested in learning more about what kinds they enjoy. Don’t forget your pretzel necklace!

The Meatball Shop: Wait Until the Crowds Die Down

Posted in Food and Drinks on January 5th, 2011

Sliders from The Meatball Shop

My first restaurant review!  I love trying out the new “insert specialty food” place.  Whether it’s “that taco place,” “that bao place” or “that falafel place” I get super excited when a new restaurant opens up that has one particular specialty dish.  So, when The Meatball Shop opened up in the Lower East Side, I was dying to try it out.  Of course, I had to wait a few weeks until the crowd died down a bit, and it didn’t help that Yahoo!  had an article on their front page about the place.
But finally, a couple weeks ago, on a Sunday night, a fellow foodie friend and I decided to check out the place.  Even then, the place was still pretty crowded.  At about 5PM a wait for 2 was 45 minutes.  If you don’t want to wait, there are a couple options.  The bar seating is first come first serve, and they serve the full menu.  Or, if you’re lucky enough to have a place nearby, you can walk right up to the take-out counter and get your food to go.

The space itself is a bit cramped, especially when there are a lot of  people waiting.  There is a large bar that runs the length of the dining area, and the dining tables are one very large communal table (where my friend and I ended up sitting) and a handful of two-tops around the edge.  I’m not the biggest fan of communal tables.  It’s kinda like getting the middle seat on a airplane where you have to share the space; also it seems like everyone is eavesdropping on your conversation.

When you sit down, you get a laminated menu and a dry-erase marker to mark up the choices of what you want.  There are a lot of choices to make:  You pick the type of meat, the type of sauce, whether you want them “naked” (served plain), in a hero, over pasta, in a slider, in a salad, or in a brioche.  There are also several sides you can order.  Every day there are specials – for the types of meatballs and sauce as well as the sides.

We wanted to get a good sampling of the meatballs.  We ordered the “Special” meatball which that night was lamb – served “naked” style.  We also ordered 1 slider each of chicken, pork, beef, and vegetable.  We tried to sample all the sauces as well:   Tomato, Spicy Meat Sauce, Mushroom Gravy, Parmesan and Pesto.  If that weren’t enough we also ordered the Daily Green – which was Kale, and the Daily Roast Veggie – which was Squash.

The meal was pretty good.  My favorite meatball by far was the beef.  Sometimes you can’t change a classic.  A close second was the lamb – which was great!  The one disappointment was the veggie meatball.  Although the owners claim that this is one of their most popular orders for health nuts.  But, for me, I just don’t think you can have a meatball without meat!  The consistency just didn’t do it, it was falling apart on the plate, and it had a very plain taste.  Maybe we picked the wrong type of sauce to go with it – but I probably wouldn’t order that again.

If you do go: do NOT skip out on desserts.  The Ice cream sandwiches were excellent! You get to pick the cookie as well as the ice cream flavor (and yes, you can pick 2 different flavors of cookie) Hehe.  Again, we went with the special flavor – Oatmeal Ice cream.  With an oatmeal cookie and a ginger snap cookie.  My only complaint was that the cookies were not soft, so it was a little hard to eat with a spoon.  We also ordered an ice cream float – which were good, but not noteworthy.

Overall, I think it’s a fun place to visit.  While the beef and lamb meatball was excellent, a meatball is just something that I don’t usually crave, and it’s just not special enough food that I can’t easily get somewhere, or a food that can really be made so uniquely that a restaurant would be known for it.  If you do go, try to go at an off-time and make sure you go with a smaller group.  But I would wait until the hype dies down.

The Meatball Shop

84 Stanton Street
(between Allen & Orchard)
New York, NY 10002
Phone (212) 982-8895
Fax (212) 982-8859

Thursday-Saturday: Noon-4AM

Sunday-Wednesday: Noon-2AM

No Reservations