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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Calling All Breweries! Looking for beers for 2010 Best Of Awards...

Looking for beers to be judged in the following categories:
  • Best Local Beer
  • Local Brewery of the Year
  • Local *New* Beer of the Year
  • Best Non-Local Beer
  • Best *New* Non-Local  Beer
All beers submitted will be judged by myself, along with top local raters from Ratebeer, and Beer Advocate before the end of 2010.  Please contact me to arrange submittals.  Rare, hand bottled samples are encouraged!

See the post of 2009's winners with top awards going to:
Iron Hill's Oak Aged Tom for Best Local Beer,
McKenzie Brewhouse for Best Local Brewery,
Philadelphia Brewing's Shackamaximum for Best Local New Beer,
Rochefort 10 for Best Non-Local Beer in The Philly Market,
Founder's Hand of Doom tied with
Arcadia's Barrel Aged Old Ale for New Non-Local Beer in The Philly Market,
The Bruery took honors for New Non-Local Brewery in The Philly Market.

Entries are due by December 20th.  All Entries, despite placement will get mentioned on the site.

Good luck to all entrants!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Amuse Bar & Restaurant (Philadelphia) - Fine Dining

I had the privilege of being invited to check out the new Fall menu for Amuse in Philadelphia.  What I thought would be just a few highlights ended up being a feast that left everyone involved raving about the food and wondering how we would ever be able to have another meal sitting that could compare.  We started with a simple grape that had been soaked in champagne and drizzled with an aged Balsamic.  Amazing flavors of the fruity grape popped with fizzy champagne effervescence exploding along the palate.  The sweet Balsamic rounded out the crisp fruit, and bubbly champagne with a richness that made for a nice start.

We were then treated to the 2010 award winning With Love Cocktail made with vodka, passion fruit syrup, ginger liquor, lime juice, champagne, with a raspberry floating atop.  T'was a very different and enticing beverage to enjoy before the appetizers and entrees started rolling out.  We were brought servings of the Tomato Mozzarella Salad, along with Pork Shank Ravioli to start.  The Mozzarella is house made and as fresh as fresh can be.  It explodes with creamy flavors and mild peppery spice.  The Balsamic and Basil Oil compliment the cheese and fresh Heirloom tomatoes wonderfully. 
The Pork Shank Ravioli were delicious.  They were flanked with porcini, and shiitake mushrooms with a spiral of house made pancetta in the center and drizzled with a Port reduction.  Savory, succulent, and mouth watering.  If you get these, have a nice chewy, mineral laden, and spicy red wine to go along with the rich, earthy flavors.  Wine for this?  no-brainer...Zinfandel.  Proper beer to go with this?  Easily, a Belgian Dark, or Abbey Dubbel.
Next up?  The Taylor Bay Scallops accompanied with Pappardelle (egg noodles), chorizo, corn, peas, and Nage ( a sauce, or broth with a stock base, and white wine, or champagne addition).  Very good, indeed.  The egg noodle gives the palate a bit more to ponder with the tender scallops tantalizing the taste buds.  Try this with a Chardonnay.  A Belgian Blonde, or Abbey Tripel would be the perfect beer accompaniment for these.

The house specialty, the Steak Frites were an immediate hit at the table.  This hanger steak is marinated for at least 24 hours in a rich, meat tenderizing liquid that is superb for mopping up with the cut pieces of tender steak.  Of course, this wouldn't be complete without the pommes frites, which were nicely crisped on the exterior and served with a trio of dips consisting of shallot-tarrogon pesto, bearnaise aioli, and the standard ketchup.  The wine of choice for this?  A simple, smooth Merlot.  The beer pairing?  Go with either a Rauchbier, or a Porter.  Perhaps even a Doppelbock would be a fine choice.
The Bone In Veal Chop in a peppered demi glace served with the Fat Cat Croquette, which is basically mashed potatoes with some cheese rolled in bread crumbs and fried...decadent!  The veal chop had a small layer of fat on the outer edge, whch protected all of the tender, juicy meat on the inside.  Combined with the demi, this made for another match for a full bodied Cabernet, or Bourdauex.  I could even pair this with a Pinot Noir, or a Petite Syrah.  The beer of choice would be an aged Barleywine, or a chewy Imperial Stout
The Herb Honey Crusted Chicken served with a slow cooked thigh emblazoned with a Tangerine Cream.  Very mild citrus notes of the cream sauce penetrate the honey skin of the juicy chicken.  This is a mild dish all around and would go good with a Pinot Grigio, or for the beer lover...a nice Witbier, or Saison.
The Ratatouille Pave was served in an all-vegan prepared style, though one would need to ask for it to be specially prepared that way.  It was simple, and flavorful with the tomatoes being the standout amongst the variety of vegetal flavors.  Pick something that won't overwhelm this light dish.  Wine?  A Sauvignon Blanc would get the job done.  A Pilsner, or Maibock would be nice choices for the beer.
My personal favorite was the Bouillabaisse loaded with chunks of lobster, mussels, and shrimp.  This was one of the most memorable Bouillabaisses that I've had in the past several years.  I was searching for that warm French bread that was floating around the table to soak up all of the goodness contained in the broth.  Bravo, Chef Black!  Stick with a Sauv Blanc for the Bouillabaisse.  The beer can be switched up to a nice, balanced Pale Ale with a mild bite and a strong caramel, & biscuit base.

Last but not least, we cannot forget about the desserts that were the nice ending to the bountiful feast that we were bestowed upon.  Apple Tarte Tatin à la mode, Chocolate Pots du Creme, and Mille Feuille Classique were exceptional...even though eating these treats with the "spork" was mildly odd.  :)  Individually, these could be paired with a number of digestif beverages offered on the menu from coffees, Ports, Scotch, Brandy, and Cognac.  As your local beer guide though, it's my duty to assign a beer.  Too easy!  For the Apple Tarte Tatin à la mode, a Bourbon Scotch Ale like Founders Backwoods Bastard, or Bourbon Triple such as Allagash Curieux would be sure fire winners that will draw out the sweet cooked, caramelized apple flavors and meld with the vanillins of  bourbon barrel.  The Pots du Creme would go great with virtually any stout but probably best with either a Milk Stout, ala Lancaster Milk Stout (draft version, please), or a Belgian Chocolate infused Imperial Stout, Southern Tier Choklat.  The Mille Feuille Classiqueala could go well with Sierra Nevada Tumbler, or a Dark Mild like Yards Brawler.
Amuse's website

be sure to check out Amuse's Winter Cocktails available until the New Year.

The Snowball: For those who love all that sparkles, this cocktail is made with Finlandia Grapfruit, Cointreau, and Champagne. Served in a sugar rimmed martini glass, it is sure to tickle your senses.
The Monte Rosa: Named for the tallest peak in Switzerland, this aromatic hot toddie will warm you from the inside when winter winds start to bite. Brandy and Malbec wine mingle in a warm snifter, garnished with sliced apple.

The Mistletoe Martini: It may not guarantee a Christmas kiss, but it is perhaps the perfect substitute. Real cocktail lovers will enjoy the clean flavors of Tub gin, pomegranate juice, muddled cucumber and a splash of champagne almost more than kisses on New Year’s Eve.

If you are looking for a great selection of places to stay with discount prices, visit our partner website for Hotels in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Restaurants 
Amuse on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Philly Food and Beer is now on NBC's The Feast Page!

Please be sure to create an account and follow along.  They've got a ton of food bloggers uploaded on the site and the eateries are all ranked according to their own proprietary algorithms based off of the blogger's ratings and reviews.
I appreciate 'cha!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Khyber Pass Pub (Old City) - New Name, New Menu, New Taps

I watched with a tear in my eye as they removed the old Khyber sign from in front of the old standby establishment where I had seen many a punk rock, hardcore, and indie pop show over the years.  The instant thought of updated tap lines, food, and a dining room quickly made my long time memories escape so I could indulge in the highly anticipated metamorphosis of the legendary Old City beer spot.

To my delight, the new ownership and management team of the location decided to keep the name under the known name of Khyber/Khyber Pass for the sake of everyone already knowing the establishment as a "must-stop" beer bar while in Old City Philly.  The legendary, rotating beer taps?  Bigger and better.  The KPP is now boasting 20 quality taps, along with selections in bottles.  The new interior paint behind the bar looks great while maintaining that terrific looking mantle piece that always gave this spot a rustic feel.
I was graced with an unusual snack before the first part of my meal arrived...bacon fat popcorn!  I've never had anything like it but I must say, that this is oh, so wrong but so addictive at the same time.  I opted for the chicken wing trio of Buffalo, Chipotle-Bourbon Barbecue, and Honey-Habanero.  The standout for me was the H-H's, which were a nice blend of heat and sweetness.
For the entree, I ordered the Brisket with sweet potato fries and baked beans.  Very delicious dinner.  The brisket was tender and melted when cut with just enough smokey flavor to entice the taste buds.  For dessert, I went straight for  the Maple Bourbon Creme Brulee, which was fantastic.  I've had some real let downs in my day but this one was the real deal.  I wish I had saved room for the Bread Pudding dessert they had available but that will only keep me waiting for the next visit to attempt that finish.
The "new" dining room that used to be the spot for the music venues has undergone the biggest transformation.  Long gone is the cavernous space with the concrete floor, stage up against the window that was once covered in cardboard and newspaper.  A fresh paint job, with hardwood floors, and wall sconces adorn the space that had been used for cranking out deafening tunes.

The beers are plentiful and this new menu is really great.  This should not only attract the beer fans of old with greater enthusiasm; the foodies will be flocking, as well.    I got a chance to try Ballast Point Even Keel at the recommendation of Bella Vista rep, Paul, who also happens to be an alum of the old Khyber.
The Khyber Pass Pub's website

Gianfranco Pizza Rustica (Old City) - Pizza

Appears a large slice  with a dark brown crust and underside with a layer of cheese, chunky tomatoes, and dried herbs. - 4

The crust is crispy, crackly, and crunchy.  Imagine the texture of the outside of a marshmallow that's been roasted to a deep gold over a camp fire and there you have it.  A thin layer of this crispiness that shows a fine layer of soft bread hidden atop the ground layer of crust. - 4.5

The sauce is semi-sweet with some chunks of fresh tomato around the top of the pie.  Really tasty and delicious stuff! - 4.5

The cheese is of a fresh, creamy mozzarella that remains, creamy, chewy, and sweet with a little bit of fatty oil settling on the top. - 4

Overall, I wasn't sure what to expect, as I've heard mixed reviews about this spot in Old City Philadelphia.  I wasn't disappointed, as this was everything that I had hoped for as far as the crust, sauce, and cheese in concerned.  Well done...I can't wait to check them out again on my next time in Old City. - 4

Total Score: 4.2/5

Gianfranco's website

Gianfranco Pizza Rustica on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Capital Grille (King of Prussia) - Fine Dining

I had the privilege of being invited to a preview dinner at the new Capital Grille location in King of Prussia.  The opportunity to indulge in the legendary steaks, seafood, and wine selection was far too good to pass up.

After the warm, courteous greeting by the hostesses, I was ushered through the dining room, passing the large temperature controlled library of wines.  Glorious!  The atmosphere is warm, and inviting with dark wood, and an upscale "members only" vibe crossed with an exclusive lodge adorned by mounted game at various points in the restaurant.

On to the important point -- the food.  Appetizers included Lobster and Crab Cakes, which were delicious and packed with succulent seafood.  The other appetizer, which my waiter insisted I try, was the Pan-Fried Calamari with Hot Cherry Peppers.  Outstanding stuff.  The fresh, tender rings of fried squid had a nice crispy exterior, along with just enough heat from the cherry peppers to draw out the light, refreshing flavors of the crispy calamari.  If you happen to dine during dinner at the KOP location before Thanksgiving, you'll be treated to a complimentary calamari appetizer!

The main courses soon arrived, which tasted as good as they appeared.  Pictured above was the Porcini Rubbed Delmonico with 12-Year Aged Balsamic.  This steak was prepared medium-rare and was tender enough for the knife to quickly slice through like warmed butter.  The earthiness and wood like undertones of the porcini added a nice compliment to this steak.  The aged balsamic acted much like a port reduction would, adding a layer of sweetness and richness to the full flavors of the the Delmonico. 

The other main course was Sliced Fillet with Cipollini Onions and Wild Mushrooms.  Again, the steak was prepared perfectly and melted in the mouth.  The sauce was absolutely au jus with fig essence, which had a nice fruity, and toffee flavor that partnered this meat superbly.  The sides ordered were Mashed Potatoes and Vidalia Onion Rings, which had a crunchy, fried outer surface ala Panko crumbs.

All meals went well with the choice of wine, an '06 bottle of Ladera Cabernet which had nuances of ripe berries, jam, vanilla, raisins, caramel, and currants.

The dessert was comprised of a ricotta cheesecake with a cooked sugar top, and a cup of mixed berries with a Grand Marnier cream sauce.  A nice way to end the meal.

I decided to check out the spacious bar area before leaving.  Lots of top shelf liquors in sight with a menu of house made concoctions that sounded tempting.  I happened to check out the beer menu, while I was there...
The only thing that could've made this slightly better would be options for beer.  Guys, my services are openly being offered here!  How about a nice saison, or witbier for some of the seafood offerings, or perhaps a hearty Imperial Stout, an IPA with the chicken, or Aged Barleywine to go with some of the steaks?  I understand that this a huge wine destination - I get it.  Beer has caught up though, and in this day and age, it's always nice to have another option for another potential group of potential diners.

Other than that, continue to rock on!
The Capital Grill K.O.P. officially opens tomorrow, 11/8.
I'm looking forward to a few more repeat visits.

Capital Grille's website

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Station Taproom (Downingtown) - Great Menu. Great Beer.

Station Taproom is located across the street from the Downingtown train station.  It's a quaint little corner spot that is hiding a fine share of small, simple, yet well done grub and drink.

Pictured to the above is(was) the cheese plate which was a great segway into the Cuban Panini with Truffle Fries.  All outstanding items which I would repeat in an instant.

Kid friendly with an excellent Mac n' Cheese that will win over any adult.

How is the beer scene in this establishment?  11 taps, all winners including a beer engine pumping out a hoppy treat when available.  Shown here is a Belgian Dubbel by White Birch Brewing. 

This is the kind of place where you will be treated friendly by every member working in the place.  For the one time visit, the friendliness and customer service wowed me.  If that didn't do the trick, the food and beer selection certainly did.  S.T. reminds me of a tiny version of a cross between 2 Main Line establishments featuring craft beer and finely tuned menus, TJ's, and Teresa's Next Door.

Sure, Victory Brewing rules Downingtown but now there is another fine spot to grab some craft beers and some nice food.  I can't wait to enjoy this pub again with family and friends.  With Drafting Room alums, Sean McGettigan, and Mark Barthmaier at the helm, the continuous flow of craft beer and fine food are in good hands.

Station Taproom's website

Station Taproom on Urbanspoon