Posts Tagged ‘american’

Call me crazy, but I think it’s rather strange for a brewery in Denmark to use hops from Washington to make a single hop IPA. Aren’t there plenty of quality hops to be found in Europe (many of which US breweries import) that they didn’t need to import the warrior hop? I checked out the Mikkeller website and discovered that several years ago, this brewery created more than 76 new beers, all of which were bottled and sold across the world. I find this incredibly impressive.

The warrior hop is typically used for its buttering qualities and used here to create that classic American IPA flavor. But as the name implies, the only hop used in this offering from Mikkeller is the warrior hop making this a true representation of the flavor inherited from this hop.

The pour is beautiful and reveals an orange colored beer leaning towards the brown side of the color wheel. After the pour, a thick, sticky white foam on top. The head dissipates quickly, but form the outside in, leaving a glacier of head that slowly melts until it eventually disappears. This left quite a bit of lacing all over the glass. The nose wafts clean, fresh IPA, hoppy flavor with elements of pine in the background to support the hops. What I appreciate most in this moment is the balance. Nothing is overpowering and there is not any other flavors trying to make their way to the top. There is just a nice balance.

The bottle is pinkish which is why I post this during breast cancer awareness month. My Aunt Elaine passed away from breast cancer after nearly a ten year battle a couple years ago – a life cut far too short. After her diagnosis, she wrote a bucket list of everything she wanted to experience and completed everything except for one thing – to swim with sharks. For all my readers and for everyone you love and care about, we have to continue to raise awareness for this disease and keep the world informed of preventative measures as we continue to strive towards a cure. Only together can we overcome this.

You can find a 12 oz bottle of Mikkeller Single Hop Warrior IPA for between $4 – $6 at fine microbreweries. Warrior has a 6.9% ABV which makes this a bit heavier than it’s cousins across the pond, but the alcohol does not stand out or cause any kind of burn. This is quite a sticker shock, but something I am glad I experienced. This is a well balanced beer and one I would happily purchase if I ever find myself in Denmark. As for now, I’ll let American breweries make my American IPA beers and leave the europeans to other beer they do best.

Grade: B

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Half off all draught microbrews at redFlame Pizzeria in beautiful Lincoln Park, IL gave me an opportunity to try Lagunitas A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’. There was a host of other breweries on the menu ranging from the well known (Dogfish Head) to the local (Goose Island), but I wanted to give Sumpin’ a try mostly because it gave me an opportunity to be completely lame and mention to the waitress “Can I get a little sumpin sumpin.” White men around the world are all slowly shaking their heads in shame.

Sumpin’ is a beautiful reddish orange color and is described as an American wheat ale. I know those of you who have tried Sumpin’ are thinking that this is an IPA and I did at first as well due to the weight, feel, and taste. But Lagunitas has a trick up their sleeve which makes this an incredibly unique and tasty beer. There was a nice frothy head on my draft and it was bursting with grapefruit aromas. The taste maintains the flavors of the aroma with subtle hints of grapefruit and the bitterness of the peel. It finishes clean and makes for a very easy drinking beer.

Sumpin’ is a beer that I would gladly throw into my summertime and fall rotation regardless of the $11 per six pack price tag. The 7.3% ABV packs a nice punch as well, making this is a better value, similar to other beers at this price point. According to the Lagunitas website, you can now find this year round, so ensure that you’re favorite distributor has this on its shelves or can get it for you. I couldn’t imagine drinking this beer out of a bottle and I would highly recommend it be poured into a proper pilsner  glass with a narrow mouth to capture the aromas. Do yourself a favor and go get yourself a little sumpin’ sumpin’. You’ll be glad you did.

Grade: A-

Are pork chops as American as apple pie? I seem to think so. I grew up putting chops in large plastic bags and pouring Shake and Bake over them.

“It’s shake and bake. And I helped!”

My mom usually paired pork chops with mashed potatoes and applesauce. Each meal using pork chops I eat as an adult brings back those happy memories.

The United States consumes around 9 million metric tons of pork every year, not even close to China which consumes more than 50 million metric tons. In other parts of the world, pork is strictly forbidden. Religion, being the dominant international cultural force that it is, has played a large role in pork consumption. It is mentioned in the book of Deuteronomy (14:8):

“And the pig, because it possesses split hooves and does not bring up its cud — from its flesh you may not eat.”

It is also is forbidden according to Islamic dietary laws:

He has forbidden you only the Maitah (dead animals), and blood, and the flesh of swine, and that which is slaughtered as a sacrifice for others than God (or has been slaughtered for idols)” 

Chapter (Sura) 2 – Verse (Ayat) 173 Al-Baqara (The Cow)

So for my Islamic and Kosher readers, this one may not apply to you, but you could easily substitute chicken or turkey.

I’m going to attempt to reconcile my French roots in this recipe by smothering my American cut pork chops with a French sauce. Sauce Robert (pronounced row-bear) is as ancient as it comes to French cuisine dating back to the 17th century. The earliest documented recipe is found in the journals of the cook for Henry IV. If it’s good enough for royalty, I think it’s worth a try.

Ingredients (Serves 2)

  • 2 thick cut pork chops
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1c thickened beef stock
  • 1/4c white wine
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • parsley, for garnish

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Allow pork to come to room temperature. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an oven safe skillet over high heat. Season pork chops with salt and pepper. Place in pan for 2 minutes or until chops are seared and pleasantly browned. Turn chops over and place in oven for 15 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees.

2. With an oven mitt (the pan is super hot now), take the pan out of the oven and place back on the stove. Remove the pork chops and allow to rest on a cutting board. Cover with aluminum foil to keep warm.

3. Turn the heat up to high. Pour in white wine and scrape up any brown bits left on pan. Allow liquid to reduce by half. Place shallots in the pan and cook for 30 seconds. Place thickened beef stock, dijon mustard, and sugar in the pan. Whisk together. Turn the heat down to simmer for at least 5 minutes. This will allow the flavors to blend together.

4. Before serving, turn off the heat. Place the butter in the pan and swirl until melted. Serve pork chops over a bed of rice. Generously pour Robert sauce over and garnish with parsley.

My wife took me out for a wonderful meal for my 30th birthday. For her birthday, I had to reciprocate.

I want to apologize for the lack of pictures on this one. My camera was screwy that day and the lighting was much too low to get anything worth publishing.

Home Bistro is located well north of downtown Chicago right across the street from The Chicago Diner – a vegan staple since the mid 90s. I had purchased tickets to a show for after dinner and was looking for something in the neighborhood. Home Bistro was conveniently a 10 minute drive to the theater and Yelp recommendations were extremely high.

I knew nothing of their menu, their chef, or their ambiance when I called for a reservation. I didn’t really bother to check the website because I would inevitably find something that I didn’t like about it. I called around 2pm and received a voicemail strictly for reservations. This made me feel pretty nervous not speaking with a live person considering my wife’s birthday happiness was on the line, so I hung up and called later in the night when I knew they would be at the end of dinner service. The hostess was very polite, took my name, phone number, and asked if this was a special occasion. “Actually it is,” I said. “It’s my wife’s birthday.”

“That’s our fourth birthday of the night,” she exclaimed with glee. Meanwhile, I felt like a shit on the other side for not being original in my birthday meal. “I also want to let you know that we are a BYOB restaurant. You are welcome to bring your own bottles, soda, or juice with no corkage fee.”

“Really?” I started to feel a little better. Sure, I wasn’t original, but at least I could supply my own libations.

I went to the store and purchased a bottle of Hard Cider (my wife’s favorite) and skipped anything for myself. I was driving and I knew she probably wouldn’t finish the whole bottle. I could drink water and still enjoy my meal all the same.

Our reservation was for six, giving us plenty of time to eat three courses, sit around for a bit talking, and still have time to drive to the theater. I was 5 minutes late. Blood pressure = 160/110. I’m a stickler for arriving early and Chicago traffic was against me at every turn. We were seated promptly in the back of the restaurant and was just starting to get comfortable when the manager asked if we would like to sit in the window. My wife immediately said yes. I was not so eager.

Home Bistro is lovely. It’s quaint. It’s a little quirky. It has a small amount of tables to provide intimacy. The window tables, however, are situated as a live display of how good the restaurant is. The tables (two tables of four) are elevated up about a foot and sit virtually on top of the sidewalk. Everyone that walked by could take a gander at who was eating there and quickly establish the type of people that ate there and the quality of the food based on their facial expressions. This skeaved me out at first, but I quickly got over it. It was, after all, my wife’s birthday, and I focused on her and less on who was walking by. Except for the guy in the black chevy.

Outside the restaurant was an idling black Chevy with a heavy set gentleman in a suit jacket and tie. Just sitting there. Doing absolutely nothing.

My wife ordered first the Cooper’s Pate. It came as two large triangles that resembled uncured charcuterie. It was served alongside pita chips, whole grain mustard, onion jam, and homemade pickles. This in itself is worth going back for. If you’ve eaten pate before, you know it as a smooth spread bursting with flavor and gets an extra kick of flavor from loads of butter. This, however, relied on pork fat for an extra kick which melted on buy tongue beautifully. This was perfection.

I ordered the Fried Oysters served a cloud of grits and garnished with a chili vinegar. I quite like oysters, but found that much of the rich flavor is lost – like most things – when fried and I couldn’t really tell the difference between this and fried quahog clams. Obviously these were bigger, but I missed the briny goodness. The chef was wise enough to serve some of the liquor underneath the grits. However, I am still a big fan of this dish and found the chili vinegar to be a wonderful accompaniment and bring much needed acidity to the fried flavor. The grits served as a dipping sauce tying everything together.

For her entree, my wife ordered the Amsterdam Style Mussels steamed with a beer broth and served with Truffle Fries. The mussels came in an enormous bowl (at least 2 pounds), but the taste was pretty basic. Although tasty, plump, and masterfully seasoned with just a hint of anise, we did not feel that the mussels rendered much flavor from their beer bath, but the Truffle Fries were to die for. Not only were these fries perfectly cooked, but they were served with a truffle aioli that should be mass produced, bottled, and be a requirement that everyone try at least once. This is the kind of condiment that freaky people go to Vegas and pay somebody a lot of money to bath in while being fanned with palm leaves by scantily clad individuals. This aioli made a meal just that much more memorable and something we still think about when planning our meals at home.

I wanted to go a little more adventurous and ordered the Braised Oxtail with Ricotta Gnocchi. If they allowed me to the back of the kitchen, I’d kiss the cook for this one. Oxtail is literally the tail of cattle and therefore extremely tough. When braised for a long time, the bone releases its marrow and the meat breaks down and becomes rich. I wasn’t too sure there was enough food on my plate when it arrived, but these big, bold ingredients quickly filled my stomach. The gnocchi were not traditionally rolled, and I have to say that I rather prefer these to any Italian version I’ve had in the past. I will say that I think the chef over seasoned this dish a little bit, I still finished the whole bowl and wiped the sides with bread. True comfort food at it’s best.

I bet you’re wondering by now: Where does Rahm Emanuel come in? Remember the guy in the Chevy. He’s about to do his job.

Our desserts arrived (not even worth mentioning – skip this course) and the guy jumps out of the chevy. He stands in front of the restaurant and begins to talk into his sleeve. I’ve seen enough political movies to know whats about to happen. Somebody really important is about to show up. Within two minutes, two black Lincoln Navigators pull up in a No Parking zone. Out jump four guys with earpieces. One proceeds to cover the front entrance, two go to the sidewalks, and the fourth opens the door for Rahm Emanuel. He waits for his wife to come around before proceeding into the restaurant. Rahm (may I call you that?) gets maybe two steps in before somebody recognizes him.

“Hi Mr. Mayor,” someone from the back calls out. Rahm gives scans the room, gives a quick wave and then in true political fashion, flashes a smile and nods in my direction. He is quickly whisked away to a back table where he is joined by another couple. Just another night out with friends for Chicago’s fearless leader.

Sitting in the window table, I got to see all of this. The guy in the Chevy checking out the place, the speeding Lincoln, the assassin thwarted, the illegal choke hold…okay not that last part. But it was pretty cool nevertheless. On our way out, the security detail opened the doors for us (they were just standing there anyway) and we walked out into the night air.

So perhaps I didn’t really get to have dinner with Rahm Emanuel. But he did show up at the restaurant that I picked for my wife’s birthday, waved to me (and everyone else in the room), and sat in the back of restaurant right next to where we were originally supposed to sit. That’s good enough for me.

Home Bistro is a win and I will certainly go back there for more meals in the future. I love the idea of BYOB because I think you get better food at a better price because there is so much less overhead. You can bing whatever you want and not feel bad about it. BYOB means no judgement and you get exactly what you want so the restaurant can focus on the food. This is a great idea. Home Bistro does sell a $30 Prix Fixe menu on Wednesday that is booked about a week ahead of time. I do recommend calling ahead and if you’re feeling up for it, ask to be seated at the front window table. While definitely too exposed for Rahm (may I still call you that), there is a delightful elegance to sitting there.

A very good friend of mine gave me a bottle of this and asked me to take a night to review the quality of the beer. When I first looked at this bottle, I wasn’t entirely sure about it. This certainly would be one I would walk right on by if I didn’t know to look for it with it’s unassuming packaging that could have been designed by a second grader and claim to be “good fresh beer.” But my kindergarten teacher (and later town librarian) told me to never judge a book by its cover, so I took the next night to sit down with this local brewer’s pale ale to see what was going on.

Whale’s Tale pours a beautiful caramel orange color. After pouring, an emulsion of caramel, toffee, and sweet malt notes emerged from the glass indicating that this is a classic English ale and should not be confused with a pale ale. I was anticipating some kind of APA or hoppy type aroma to waft its way to me senses, but this never came. However, on my first taste, hops started to rise up, but by no means were heavily prevalent. This made me correct my original thinking and abandon the English ale feeling. After several more gulps, I realized what Cisco had done. They had created a pale ale with heavy English ale flavors in order to marry the sweet and the bitter together in harmony. I had never actually had an English Pale Ale before and I must say that I quite enjoy the marriage. The flavor reminds me a little of Bass Ale or perhaps something from the Brooklyn Brewery line, but Cisco has created a wonderful unique flavor.

For you hop heads out there, Whale’s Tale may turn you off in that the hops are chained down by the toffee flavors and never fully emerge. I love me some pale ale, but being open minded, I quite like this too. I don’t feel that there is anything extraordinary about this beer, but it’s yet another example of a fine quality from a small local brewery. At about 5.6% ABV, this is a departure from my typical high ABV beers, but I didn’t miss it in this one. A 22oz bottle will run you around $6 or you find this in 12 packs for somewhere in the $16 – $20 region. You can only find Cisco beers down the East coast as far as Maryland as well as New York State. For the rest of you, if you’re ever in these areas, vacationing in Cape Cod or near Nantucket, do yourself a favor and check out this local offering. I’m sure Cisco has a lot more to offer in addition to this fine English Pale Ale.

Grade: B+

I think most anyone who enjoys beer has heard of an IPA (India Pale Ale) and can easily distinguish it from most beers by its ever present hoppy flavor. I recently stumbled across Three Floyd’s Alpha King, which is labeled as American Pale Ale (APA). The difference between IPA and APA is summed up well by this post from Thoughts on Beer.

I had my first bottle of Alpha King on a complete whim while eating at Fat Willy’s Rib Shack in northern Chicago (a must for BBQ fans). I hadn’t planned to order a drink, but my dining partners all ordered a spiked drink so I succumbed to peer pressure (Kids: don’t succumb to peer pressure, you’re better than that). While there were other microbrews available, I was pulled in by the Alpha King artwork and careful attention to detail. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a sucker for good packaging.

From the photo above, you can see that Alpha King pours a medium amber color and produces a lovely frothy head. The flavor profile contains the classic Pale Ale bitterness, but is not overwhelming like some IPAs I’ve had in the past. Quite a bit of citrus aroma emerges when poured into a glass (lemon and orange mostly), but much of the aroma never reaches your senses when consumed out of the bottle.

Three Floyd’s is a regional brewery located in Munster, Indiana, not too far from the Illinois border and is pretty difficult to find outside of the northern Midwest. It sells for around $11 per six pack and can be found on draft at establishments that appreciate good beer. While I myself would happily pick up this beer again, I don’t think it stands out as an exceptional Pale Ale in comparison to other microbrews.

Grade: B

For me, there is nothing more American than potato salad. Sure apple pie gets the glory, but potato salad brings back childhood memories of fireworks, summer cookouts, family, block parties, and everything else quintessentially suburban.

I wanted to reinvent the classic by adding additional flavor while cutting the amount of mayonnaise that usually masks the potato flavor. Here, the potatoes are enhanced by the addition of fresh dill and whole grain mustard delivered in a mayonnaise and sour cream base. By adding apple cider vinegar, this potato salad will keep your guests guessing what your secret is.

Ingredients (serves 6)

  • 1 1/2 lbs red bliss potatoes (about 6 – 7 small/medium potatoes)
  • 3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 c mayonnaise
  • 1/4 c sour cream
  • 1/4 c Vidalia onion, minced
  • 3 tbsp fresh dill
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
  • 1 tsp cider vinegar
1. Scrub the potatoes and place in a pot of salted water. Boil for 15 – 20 minutes until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. Be careful not to overcook. Drain and let cool.

     
2. While the potatoes are boiling, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill, and cider vinegar in a large bowl. Salt and pepper to taste. Place in the refrigerator.

     
3. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, cut into bite size cubes. Place the potatoes in a bowl with the onion and egg. Pour the sauce over the potato mixture and combine. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight. The flavor will only get better the longer it sits.

     
4. Serve cold with some fresh dill on top for garnish.