Posts Tagged ‘review’

Was Eliot Ness an alcoholic? For those of you unaware of the exploits of Eliot Ness (and have never seen The Untouchables starring Kevin Costner), he was a prohibition agent set out to enforce the law and headed up a highly successful unit. In the movie, a reporter asks Eliot Ness what he would do if the prohibition laws were lifted. Ness responds, “I think I’ll have a drink.”

When I was pouring the glass in the picture above, my wife mentioned that it looked exactly like Coca-Cola. I too was quite surprised by the amount of carbonation lifting from the bottom of the glass. The pour is a beautiful red-brown color with loads of bubbles rushing to the surface. The head is thin and dissipates quickly. At first, Eliot Ness tastes malty and sweet (like honey) and then this flavor is taken over by a moderate bitterness like orange or lemon rind. There are clearly different levels of hops used in this beer, but there isn’t any kind of overpowering hop flavor that steals the show. Eliot Ness is fresh tasting and finishes clean.

Elliot Ness is sophisticated beer without being fussy. I think this beer would pair nicely with any kind of barbecue, deli sandwiches, or with a crisp serving of fish and chips. At 6.2% ABV, this has a little more kick than other red ales I’ve tasted, but you would never know it. Elliot Ness (and most of the Great Lakes line) sells for around $9 per six pack and can be found on draft. I couldn’t see myself downing several of these in one sitting, but this is a beer that I certainly will keep in the rotation. I’m pretty sure that if Great Lakes Brewing Company had been around in Eliot’s time, this would have been a top choice for that first legal drink.

Grade: B

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I don’t know how I feel about a brewery named Chicago Beer Company – especially since it’s located in Elgin, IL. This brewery has only been open since 2010 and I came across a row of their offerings on the bottom shelf in Trader Joe’s. I don’t know if this was intentional, but this definitely sent a message indicating the lack of confidence in sales if a store is placing it on the bottom. They did try to compensate this by placing a sticker that said “New!” near the price tag, hoping to draw the eye. “Well why not,” I told myself, and here I sit with Lake Shore Lager.

The pour receive an extremely thin, pale yellow colored lager. I noticed immediately the near transparency reminding me of champagne more than beer. There was an immediate rush of carbonation forming a thick head, but this broke up quickly. After the initial pour, there was very little carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass. I found myself getting hypnotized by the slow moving bubbles – some moving slower than others. The nose was fairly clean hop aromas. My first taste was relatively unimpressive and my second was more of the same. This is a very thin beer with virtually no complexity or craft. I would compare this beer to a slightly thinner Rolling Rock. I’m pretty sure I could make this exact lager in my basement using a home kit. That said, I did still appreciate this as a lighter beer with more flavor than typically light beers commonly consumed.

I didn’t hate it, I certainly didn’t like it (and I lived on Rolling Rock for a year in college). I just rather nothing Lake Shore Lager – I “meh” it. And at $9 a six pack, I could never see myself investing any more money in this brewery to try their other offerings and couldn’t see myself purchasing Lake Shore Lager again. It was a fine experiment and I will certainly be open in the future to retry their brews after they’ve developed their recipes a bit.

Grade: D

Don’t hate me (because I rather hate myself for this), but I originally ordered the Sprecher Abbey Triple because there was a corporate suit sitting at the bar who butchered the name of the brewery (his rhymed with the word stretcher) and the bartender did not correct him. I was having a particularly nasty day and wanted to just take a minute and win one for the little guys, for whatever that’s worth. Although the suit did look up at me when I ordered my beer, he clearly still thought he was correct. Here’s to quiet victories.

Sprecher Abbey Triple comes in a globe glass as an orange fireball swirling with a cloudy haze. Bartenders really do have a gift for pouring beer and mine came perfectly with two fingers of head that spilled over the glass and settled on the coaster below. Visually, I found this to be a stunning display. Like other triples, the aroma is floral, fruity and contains a high concentration of yeast. I was intrigued after my first taste because I couldn’t quite place my finger of what I was tasting. There was the expected clove and orange taste supported by a solid framework of alcohol, but I swear I was tasting campfire. Not strong like an actual fire, but hidden deep in the recesses of this beer, there is a hint of smoke or perhaps darkened bread crust. The next few sips did not contain this flavor and I thought I was stark raving mad, but then it came back, never out in front, but always in the background. My one complaint about this beer is that it does not finish clean and contains a mild alcohol burn. While the pleasant taste lingers in the cheeks and gums, but my esophagus felt attacked.

Having had the Yard House Triple only a month ago, I thought picking this offering from Wisconsin based Sprecher would be a sure fire win. I’m still up in the air about this one. It showed such promise at the beginning, but failed to contain itself during the end game. The Abbey Triple contains 8.4% ABV which may account for the alcohol burn. I have seen 4 packs of Abbey Triple for around $8 in the Midwest, but have not found it anywhere else. This is not an exceptional beer and I would certainly purchase others over it. That said, this is a good offering from Sprecher and one I may try again in the future just to see if my initial impressions are correct.

Grade: C+

Yia Yia’s Euro Bistro is part of the pb&j restaurant group which also owns Coyote Grill and the Burnt End BBQ. I’ve eaten at a Coyote Grill while living in the West Coast, but I’m not entirely sure they are the same thing.

My wife ordered the Seared Scallops with a crab-saffron orzo. I was (and still am) incredibly weary off ordering scallops in the Midwest because 1) the serving size is usually nothing and 2) the quality is usually sketchy. I was actually impressed by this dish and found the scallops were perfectly cooked and seasoned. They covered this meal with a lemon butter and orange gastrique. I felt this was unnecessary given the sweetness of the scallops and crab, but my wife enjoyed it. I was unimpressed that they did not trim the ends of the green beans and placed large hunks of red pepper into the orzo.

We were visiting friends in Kansas City and one of them ordered the Short Rib Wellington with whipped potatoes and glazed carrots. I wasn’t entirely sure how short ribs would hold up inside a wellington, but it actually worked pretty well. The short rib inside was falling apart and expertly covered with a mushroom duxelle. Being in cattle country, it’s no surprise that the short ribs were delicious. You could make these potatoes at home if you wanted, but they were delicious and perfectly creamy. The carrots were a little undercooked for my preference.

Our other friend ordered the lamb chops. These came perfectly medium rare and served with a puree of locally sourced winter squash, green beans, and spiced with traditional moroccan spices. I detected some ginger and turmeric and boatloads of cinnamon and pepper. I thought this whole dish was fantastic and worked well together. The squash acted as a sauce of the lamb.

If however, you’re looking at the menu and can’t decide between their speciality entrees, Yia Yia’s has a unique option. I ordered a Duet in which I could pick any two entrees and they would give me a “half” portion of each on the same plate. I want to mention first that this is not a half portion. You’ll notice there are three lamb chops above, and only one below. Although I appreciate what they are doing here, I wish my server would have just been honest and told me my portion sizes would be a little less than half of each entree. That said, I would stay away from any Duet combination you have a hankering for. You’ll wind up spending more money and getting less food.

This was our last dinner in Kansas City, so we went all out any finished our dinner the American way – with large quantities of delicious sweetness. On the left is a Lemon Bomb topped with white chocolate and served with what I believe is a raspberry coulis. I love lemon curd and this dessert was absolutely delicious, but I did find the curd itself a little tart. On the right is a chocolate brownie wrapped in phyllo dough and served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. When crunched into, we discovered that the brownie had melted into gooey chocolate goodness. This was a little difficult to eat, but still a good pick if you like really sweet dessert.

A meal can never be bad when you have good company, and this meal was eaten with the best. Even though this is a chain and the ambiance is devoid of any unique personality, I still enjoyed this meal and wouldn’t say no to an offer to return. If you have a Yia Yia’s Euro Bistro in your neighborhood, treat yourself to a good meal.

I purchased a 4 pack of Pranqster from Trader Joes and wasn’t convinced of its worthiness until I cracked open the third one a week after drinking the first two. I was originally drawn to Pranqster due to its packaging revealing a joyous scene of grotesquely obese men drinking in a tavern in what appears to be the 18th century. The bottle itself is short and fat which only adds to the humor.

Pranqster pours a straw yellow color and quickly forms an off white head.  There is a slight haze that clouds the glass. The aroma is sweet, almost fruit like, with plenty of yeast filling in the undertones. I can’t quite place my finger on which fruit, but I get hints of banana or perhaps star fruit. The taste is immediately sweet as the malt and yeast flavors form a tornado on your palate. The taste quickly fills your entire mouth before disappearing, leaving behind a haunting memory of the beer that was (I know that was deep. Thank you for your appreciation). There is almost a dirty feel to this beer without ever being unpleasant. I wouldn’t quite place this beer on the heavy end of things, but this is by no means a thin or light beer. Perhaps the best way to describe this beer is medium bodied with a lifetime membership to the gym.

I like this beer quite a bit. It’s fun and refreshing. I made multiple attempts to extract any specific flavors, but the beer kept changing its mind as to what it was. At first, it was a general blonde beer that anyone could enjoy, at other times, it was a guest speaker from a bakery, and other times, transformed to something else altogether. I appreciate a beer where different flavors emerge at different times. It’s makes it much more fun. You can find Pranqster in 4 packs for around $7 or in 750ml corked bottles. The 7.6% ABV should keep you plenty entertained. But be warned, it sneaks up on your quickly and all at once. In the fine art of the Belgian tradition, this is a well crafted ale that I would be happy to serve to my close friends.

Grade: B

While watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, I was entranced by Guy Fieri’s showcase of The Brick, a dive in downtown Kansas City, MO. I don’t normally like Guy Fieri’s cooking, but he has such a big personality that its hard not to get excited at places he raves about. Since I was in Kansas City anyways, we decided that The Brick would make an excellent stop for lunch the next day.

When I first pulled up, I wasn’t entirely sure The Brick was open. There was nothing else around the restaurant except for industrial style buildings. There were very few cars parked in the area, and a whole row of “back in only” parking spots were abandoned. The Brick isn’t campy enough to have a neon OPEN sign, but they did place a chalkboard outside their door indicating todays specials. Given the location, I got the impression that this place survives on its reputation, word of mouth, and nightly entertainment scene.

The inside of the brick is classic Dive – but really cute. Much of the accent lighting is accomplished by twinkling Christmas lights. The artwork on the walls is changed monthly to allow for local artists and photographers to showcase their stuff. Some of the ceiling tiles have been painted to celebrate the Boulevard brewing company (a Kansas City staple). I noticed a bunch of signatures and initials carved onto the walls from years of patrons.

And then there is the stage.

The stage is quite impressive and looks almost out of place. The sound equipment is top notch and I felt that at night, this place is really the place to be. The Brick hosts live entertainment at night from jazz to blues to rock. With its small-ish capacity, The Brick is a prime location for live entertainment in an intimate setting.

We couldn’t help but order the Fried Ravioli to begin our meal. I was pretty disappointed at the quantity of fried ravioli delivered to our table. I felt there was enough for one person, maybe enough for an amuse buche for two people, but for the price, there just simply wasn’t enough cheese filled ravioli.

Meet the Oklahoma. The Oklahoma is a hot dog, wrapped in bacon, and then deep fried in a beer batter. It is happily dressed with yellow mustard, scallions, and raw red onion for a little bite. I ordered mine with tater tots because let’s face it, in the world of fried potato products, we all have some kind of fond school cafeteria memories of tater tots. Even though I figured my stomach would react with mighty anger, this is the entire reason I came here and I couldn’t pass up this opportunity (my stomach was fine afterwards).

My wife ordered the Apple-Brie grilled cheese sandwich (also with tots). It came served on a beautiful marble rye grilled to perfection. The Brick has a trick up it’s sleeve to amplify the flavor by coating the inside of the sandwich with apple butter. The result is a creamy, buttery apple flavored sandwich – more like dessert than lunch food. But really, who hasn’t ever considered eating dessert for lunch?

Our eating companion ordered the Grilled Cheese with sweet potato fries. She did admit to us that the Apple Brie was better, but she was still happy with her choice of fried potato product. I think sweet potato fries are heavily under rated. they are more full of flavor, pair better with mild seasoning, and have a vivid orange color that is pleasing to the eye.

This place is a diet buster and then some. There is nothing redeeming on the menu except for a few salads, but why would you come to The Brick and order just a salad. I did order a Greek Salad just to get some kind of greens for my lunch, but this can best be described as a dive salad. I won’t fault The Brick for it because again, why would a place like this serve amazing salads? This place is definitely worth checking out. If you have a night free, I have a feeling this place is a blast. Reasonably priced and good, quality bar food make The Brick a win in my book.

This is the last bottle that my best friend bought me in hopes of redeeming Allagash a a brewery. I decided to save the Tripel Reserve (Batch 171) mostly because I have been experiencing a recent love affair with Belgian tripel style beers and was hoping this would be a crowning moment of glory. Before uncorking the bottle, I held it up to the sunshine to see what was going on inside the bottle and saw a beautiful swirl of sediment in the middle of a beautiful ballet. The shaped formed beautiful arcs and curves before making a nosedive towards the cork until finally it crashed into another swirl. That was entertainment enough for me.

Allagash Tripel Reserve pours a beautiful golden straw color and forms a beautiful head on top. I poured my first into a globe glass and the second in a traditional pilsner. There is a distinct difference in both the quality of the pour and the aroma the wafts from each glass. There was very little going on in the globe. The smell was fresh, clean, and a little lemony, but I could not detect any other fruit or spices. This being a high alcohol beer, I was expecting to detect this as well, but could not. My first taste was incredibly disappointing. I rechecked the bottle that I poured from looking for something indicating Miller Lite.

Yup, it tasted like Miller Lite.

Unlike Miller Lite, there was much more alcohol burn. The lemon flavor I detected in the aroma was gone and I could not extract any spices still. Something was wrong.

I remembered my experience with Allagash Curieux and went back to check the bottle for directions. It indicated that this should be served at “cellar temperatures” (60 degrees?) for optimal taste. I’m game for almost anything so I let the bottle sit on the counter and breath a bit hoping to entice the magic flavor that must be in there to develop. My second pour revealed a lot more of the same with some exceptions. In terms of taste, when served at cellar temperature in a wide mouth glass, there was a little more going on. I could taste the same faint lemon flavor and a hint of some spice I could not identify as well as a more intense bread yeast flavor. A sweet hop flavor also emerged in the second pour reminding me of mildly tangy tangerine flavored candy. The most noticable thing that changed was the mouthfeel. Warmer, Tripel Reserve felt thicker and increased its appeal as opposed to the watery, thin cold pour. However, at this thickness and emphasis on sweet malt notes, there is almost something medicinal about this beer and the warmer pour left me with a cottonmouth feel.

Allagash Tripel Reserve finishes clean and emits a memory of summertime with a faint lemon and coriander flavor, but I could not find anything I especially liked about this beer. Perhaps anything that reminds me of Miller Lite was set up to fail. You can buy a 22oz bottle of Allagash Tripel Reserve for around $8 or a 4 pack in the area of $10. The 9% ABV packs a punch, but for those of you like don’t like the blatent alcohol flavor, this one might turn you off. I myself am willing to give this beer (a different batch of course) another chance, but I can’t quite endorse this as an Adventures in Food recommendation.

Grade: C-