Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where Has The Femme Gone?

It's been far too long. And I don't really have any excuse. I was back in Philly for a full month. And yet, the best thing I ate was in Chattanooga, TN at Sticky Fingers. BBQ ribs done Memphis-style blew my mind. Percy St. Texas-style BBQ eat your heart out. The meat was tender as can be and falling apart in the best way possible.

So, what's up Philly? I certainly went out to dinner while back home. But I found myself gravitating to the bars/restaurants where I know what I'm getting, and I know that it's good. And I was even slightly disappointed by a longtime favorite that I've blogged about too many times. Maybe the Iron Chef needs to check back in with his bread and butter. Just sayin'...

Philly has so many restaurants, and so many new restaurants, but how many are really, really great? After seriously eating in Philly for five years, who's going to show me something new, mind-blowing, perfectly prepared, and creative. (Bibou, I know I need to visit you) I'm tired of trying new places and being let down.

Last year I ate some fantastic meals. Alinea in Chicago was the absolute highpoint, and will likely remain the culinary highpoint of my life until I make it to FL or Per Se. (Sorry Vetri, you were great on my birthday, but sub-par in August) Also, I had two meals at Talula's Table that were fantastic, incredibly creative and memorable. And, I'd do suckling pig at Amada again in a heartbeat.

But everything else is a blur. I can't even count the number of restaurants I ate at last year that to have blogged about would have been simply rude. I'm not great at avoiding biting critiques, and so, I often don't even go there.

Where to now? Living in the middle of nowhere 7.5 months of the year makes that pretty easy: travel to Boston or cook. The latter option being much more likely and feasible.

But what to do in Philly? I think I have to start going off the grid. This may be an amateurish realization; more seasoned foodies have been doing it for years. I need to eat food in parts of the city I've never been to, and at places I haven't heard of.

Sure I'll still occasionally try "the" new place, but for the most part, I need to get off the grid.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Happy 1 Year Anniversary to Me

Last Friday, December 4th, was the one year anniversary of the Femme Fermental.

An unexpected trip back to Pennsylvania, to watch my father's football team (he's the head coach at Villanova) take on the University of New Hampshire in the I-AA playoffs, sidetracked me from posting. I was welcomed back to PA with snow, and a big Villanova win.

So yes, it's been one year of the Femme. I've been to many restaurants and bars, had many beverages, changed jobs, gone back to school, and moved to Massachusetts. Not to get all "Dear Diary" on you, but, a year ago I never though I'd be where I am today.

I started the blog to keep track of all my food/beer/wine experiences. While I may not have the time to go out as much anymore, the blog remains a catalogue of my gastronomical experiences and a reminder of how much I love the Philly food scene.

Here's to keeping it going...


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Percy Street...Barbecue?

This past Saturday night I had a chance to get to the newly opened Percy Street Barbecue. I don't like to blog about restaurants within their first month of opening (just doesn't seem fair to the restaurant), but hey, I'm only in town about once a month. If you'd like another fluffier, and ever-so-well-written account, check out Rick Nichols' recent piece in the Inquirer.

The restaurant, a collaboration between Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov from Zahav, etc, and Erin O'Shea, formerly of Marigold Kitchen, certainly has received enough pre-opening press. Needless to say, hopes are high.

I'll add this caveat now. I am not an expert on BBQ. I'm certainly not a expert on Texas BBQ.

My brother and I decided upon a 1/2 lb. of Moist Brisket and 1/2 lb. of Spare Ribs with two sides, German Potato Salad and Green Beans. They recommend two sides per person, but I assure you, you'll do just fine with two.

A few interesting details about Percy Street: you get a carafe of water on your table (I'm a big fan of this), after you order a busser attaches a paper towel holder to your table (good to have these at hand, however, if you use too many it becomes a mess, and a poor server has to remove your dirty paper towels from your table; a trash can might be necessary too), beer is served in mason jars, all of the meat is served in a plastic basket with butcher paper and the BBQ sauce is on the side for all you "my food can't touch other food" type people.

Now, about the food. Well, first of all, it arrived about 2 minutes after ordering. I was a little put off by this; at this rate turn time will be 45 min. per table. Second, the meat itself was cold. So were the sides (yes, cold potato salad is fine, but I thought the green beans could have been warm). I've been told that this is not how Texas BBQ should be. Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong about this.

The brisket had a fantastically simple smokey flavor. The spare ribs were also deliciously smokey, but not memorable. I'd probably stick to the brisket and try the pork belly next time. And the BBQ sauce was just fine for me, sweet and a little bit spicy.

For dessert, we decided on the Apple Crisp. It was nicely crisp on the top, and the filling was addictingly good. However, again, temperature was an issue. The center of the crisp was still cold (yes, maybe from the ice cream on top, but it was cold at the bottom too), while the rest of it was luke warm. I'm not going to say it, but we all know what kind of device produces this issue.

All in all, while everything was flavored very nicely, the meal suffered from temperature issues. I don't want to eat cold BBQ, and I don't want to eat a luke warm dessert. This all said, I'm hoping that these are opening issues that will be worked out eventually.

I figure if the flavor is there, the rest is just proper execution.

Percy Street Barbecue
Between 9th and 10th on South St.
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The 25 Best American Breweries of the Decade (2000-2009)

Okay, so it's been exactly a month since my last post. For shame! I know!

It pains me that I can count the number of alcoholic beverages I've consumed, in the last month, on one hand. But, alas, in less than a week I'll be home for Thanksgiving. Hopefully I'll have time for a beverage or two, at a restaurant or two.

In order to stop the Femme Fermental drought, I've decided to post on Paste's "25 Best American Breweries of the Decade (2000-2009)"
Uncle Jack may have already said it best: "I never heard of Paste Magazine before this and know little more than what you can find at the publication’s website."

Yeah, we've never heard of Paste Magazine, but we'll read about what they have to say about beer. Here's the list

25. Great Divide Brewing Company
24. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
23. Brooklyn Brewing Company
22. Brewery Ommegang
21. North Coast Brewing Co.
20. Stone Brewing Co.
19. Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales
18. New Belgium Brewing Company
17. New Glarus Brewing Company
16. Oskar Blues Brewery
15. Samuel Adams
14. Rogue Ales
13. Decshutes
12. Lagunitas Brewing Company
11. Bell's Brewery
10. The Lost Abbey
9. Weyerbacher
8. Three Floyds
7. Russian River Brewing
6. AleSmith Brewing Company
5. Founder's Brewing Co.
4. Victory Brewing Company
3. Avery Brewing Co.
2. Allagash Brewing
1. Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Paste Magazine doesn't know much about beer. They seem to put up a "list" of some sort everyday. After their beer entry, the next list was "Top 10 Best Fashion Designers of the Decade." I don't know if they are really an authority on anything. It's quite possible they searched the New York Times, found an article revealing the Times' love for Sam Calagione, and decided to put them first on the list. Who knows.

At the very least, they got some things right.

The order? That seems to be a more personal matter.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Beer Advocate's Belgian Beer Fest - Night of the Funk

This past weekend, my best beer geek friend and I went to Beer Advocate's "Return of the Belgian Beer Fest!" Night of the Funk in Boston. My friend and I planned this trip back in July. It was only a 2 hour drive for me, but for her, it was a flight from DC. Yes, this how serious we are about beer.

We started out at 21st Amendment. We had limited time before the event started, so we were stuck with something in the neighborhood of our hotel. I wanted to get to Deep Ellum or Publick House, but they just weren't close enough.

This bar was pretty amusing. It really can't be classified as a beer bar. The only craft beer on draft was Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale. So of course, we had that instead of 5 pony bottles of Coors Light for 5 dollars. We were there (fortunately, and unfortunately) during happy hour. The post-work business suit and Burberry clad crowd, crappy beers in hand, was all too entertaining. We were doing alright until they turned on the music and Michelle Branch's "Game of Love" came on.

Luckily, we were on our way out. The clam chowder was, by the way, spectacular.

Soon we arrived in beer geek heaven. It was very much like all the beer events I've been to in this format: two ounce taster glass, and lines for beer. However, I have to give BA credit, it wasn't too crowded. We were able to get to all of the best beers.

Perhaps the best and most geekiest part of the night (besides when we out beer geeked two guys while in line for the most delicious sugar coated waffles ever), was the "Night of the Funk Panel" with Tomme Arthur (The Lost Abbey), Mike McManus (Brewery Ommegang), Will Meyers (Cambridge Brewing Co.), David Yarrington (Smuttynose Brewing Co.) and my all-time favorite, I'm so in love with you, plaid-wearing Harry Potter look-a-like, Rob Tod (Allagash Brewing Co.).

For about an hour, the panelist took questions on brewing, marketing, and tasting funkified beers. The level of geekiness was fabulous. I enjoyed the home brewer question: "How can I barrel age when most wine barrels hold 50 gallons or more?" And the two part question that every brewer forgot the second part of: "When did you start brewing? And why did you start brewing?"

Quote of the night goes to Rob Tod, the man knows how to work a crowd: "It depends how you want to funk it up." However, Tomme Arthur came a close second: "I'm waiting for Bud to make Bud Lite Lime with Brett. So I can say I had Brett in a can last night."

And yes, the beers were awesome. Sour beers are by far my favorite style of beer. Yes, I love my double IPAs, but there is something so complex and titillating about sour beers. Almost four years ago, when I had my first sour, Allagash Interlude, I was hooked.

At the event we tasted the following: Allagash Vagabond, Allagash My Brother Daryl, Russian River Temptation, Russian River Consecration, Lost Abbey Cable Car, Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme, Lost Abbey Sangria, Brooklyn Wild 1, Ithaca Brute, Cambridge Om, De Proef Les Deux Brasseurs, Petrus Pale, and Lindemans Cuvee Renee.

The winner of the night, and not just because I love Rob Tod, was Allagash Vagabond. They are actually releasing it at their brewery on Monday. They made just 500 bottles. It's a beer aged for four years in the only barrels that moved with them into their new brewery. The nose was reminiscent of Allagash Curieux, with bourbon and port notes. The palate was winey with subtle red fruit flavors, a touch of tartness, and a smooth finish. It was classic Allagash. And, a new beer to add to my top 5.

All in all, an awesome night of beer. After this experience, I'd highly recommend any similar event done by BA in Boston. And I certainly know I'll be there again next year.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Newick's Lobster House, NH

Fall here in Massachusetts is lovely. I have to say, the foliage has been one of the best parts of moving here (yeah, certainly not the food).

Last weekend I had the chance to go out to dinner with my family up in New Hampshire. Somewhat of a tradition, whenever in Portsmouth, we end up at Newick's Lobster House.

It's a rather crazy place. It probably seats about 200 people. There service is really non-existent. They take orders, never clear plates (which by the way are all plastic and paper, this place is an environmental nightmare), and that's about it.

But, on a Friday night, it was packed with people of all ages.

I started out with classic New England clam chowder. It was very thin and unexciting. There was no depth of flavor. But, the pieces of clam were plentiful.

Next, I went with steamers. I just can't seem to get them in Philly. They aren't the same unless you're in New England. They were pretty good, but then again, you can't so much mess them up.

And then, the reason we had all come to Newick's. A 1 and 1/4 lb. boiled lobster. The lobster, was, well, lobster. But, it seemed a bit dirty, as if they don't change the water enough. The lobster was of course enjoyable, but it wasn't the perfection I had hoped for that night. It actually taught me an important lesson: you can't just put lobster on a plate and have it be wonderful. There's a bit more to it.

On the whole, Newick's is what it is. It's a New England lobster house that draws a crowd. It's unpretentious. It's simple. It'll give you what you're looking for, as far as seafood goes. But, it seems to lack the love required to make simple food good.

Newick's Lobster House
431 Dover Point Rd
, NH

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"I Am a Home Brewer"

Back in April, I and many other people, fell in love with the "I Am a Craft Brewer" video that debuted at the 2009 Craft Brewers Conference.

This response video, that speaks just as seriously about home brewing, has just come to my attention. It seems to have come out in July.

And I'm not going to lie, I also get chills when watching this video. I have my brother to thank for my first adventures in home brewing. Since his first extract brew a few months ago, he has since moved onto all-grain brewing, and has even built his own system at this point.

He has certainly made me a better beer geek; there are just things you can't know unless you brew your own beer. Thanks dude! This one is for you.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sunday Oct 4th at TND

Another mysterious poem has appeared on Teresa's Next Door's event page. As far as I can tell, no one on the interwebs has attempted to decipher this beerpoem yet. (Feel free to correct me) This is likely because the historic Troegs event taking place on Thursday October 1st has drawn attention. Not to mention, several lucky bloggers have been out in Denver, enjoying the GABF.

Given this beerpoem, it seems as though TND has a Double IPA day planned just a few days later.

Since I've been bogged down in minutia of microhistory all day, I need a beer break. And since enjoying an actual beer is far from possible at this point, I can at least think and write about beer. So here goes:

On Sunday October 4th our beloved Elder will preside over a torrent sea of fifteen hoppy clones:
Russian River Pliny the Elder, Port Brewing Hop-15, Heavy Seas Big DIPA (torrent sea, heavy seas?)

Hercules slew a dinosaur with a sickle to celebrate 15 years,:
Great Divide Hercules Double IPA, Moylan's Hopsickle Double IPA, Great Divide Wood Aged 15th Anniversary Double IPA

Two Left Coast Brothers are both bringing bitter juice,:
Two Brothers Hop Juice Double IPA, Left Coast Hop Juice Double IPA

Burton shall bring a dolphin fish and two dogs,:
Dogfish Head Burton Baton Double IPA, Ballast Point Dorado Double IPA

one sinister,:
Dogfish Head 120 Minute Double IPA ?

and one twice the size.:
Flying Dog Double Dog Double IPA

And who let the conductor drive the stoopid beer engine?:
Steamworks Brewing Conductor Double IPA, Lagunitas Brewing Hop Stoopid

Alright enough daydreaming for me, back to school work. Feel free to comment and correct.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Village Whiskey: Dear Jose

Dear Jose,

We need to talk. I never thought it would come to this, but it has. I wish I could say "it's not you it's me." But this time, it really is you.

Friday night I went to your new restaurant, Village Whiskey, and for the first time, something was missing. It just didn't feel the same. I think you've changed, or maybe we've grown apart. I know long distance is hard, but, really, I promised I'd visit.

I don't know what happened. I supported you from the beginning, I told everyone how much I love you, I congratulated you on your successes, and you gave me the best going away dinner a girl could ask for. So I just don't know how this could happen so suddenly. I feel like I don't know you anymore.

After waiting an hour and 15 minutes, a half an hour over my quoted wait time, I finally got a chance to sit down at your new "classic American bar." I was so excited to see you, I'd been eagerly awaiting this place for months.

I'd heard about this crazy "Whiskey King" burger you have: 10 oz, maple bourbon glazed cippolini, Rogue bleu cheese, applewood smoked bacon and, my favorite, foie gras. Yes, $24 for a burger is a little on the insane side, but hey, maybe so am I.

Well, this is where things get tough for me. I wanted to love this burger with all of my heart. But, alas, I could not. After three bites, the burger meat itself fell apart in my hands and the bottom bun was so incredibly soaked through with fat that it basically disintegrated. I was left with a mess of ingredients and small pieces of ground beef all over my plate. In anger I picked up my knife and fork and tried to tough it out. Beyond the fact that all of the components meld together, with the nicely seared foie especially getting lost, there just wasn't much left to love. It was a mess.

Maybe it's my own fault. Maybe I have no business ordering a $24 burger. But, I did it because I trusted you.

Unfortunately, I wasn't in love with your duck fat fries either. They were over-seasoned to the point of masking the glorious duck-fatness. And this wasn't the only problem I had with seasoning. The Kentucky Fried Quail was also over-seasoned (yes I like Old Bay, but I only like it to be the dominant flavor on Maryland crabs), and under-salted. And then, to further confuse me, your soft pretzel app, was overwhelmed by large grains of salt, and actually fell more into the "bread" category, than the "soft pretzel" category.

There were a few good points. The service, from the hostess to the two servers, was incredibly friendly and attentive. The cocktails were also very good. My "Ginger Rogers," gin, ginger, lemon, Fees rhubarb and sparking rose satisfied every girly drink desire within me. And your deviled eggs were the most perfect deviled eggs I've ever had.

But still, I left dissatisfied. Maybe we've both changed too much. But I can't just walk away from this relationship. We've been together too long. I'm willing to give you another chance; just promise me, Jose, that you'll never let me down like this again.

Femme Fermental

Village Whiskey
118 S. 20th St.
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Monday, September 14, 2009

Grocery Shopping is Dangerous

All of my life, er, well, all of my alcohol purchasing life, I've been eagerly awaiting the day when I could finally escape the iron fist of the PLCB. Life would be so much better, I thought!

I had fond memories of visiting the grocery store in South Carolina on vacation; booze and food in close proximity just seemed more natural. Not to mention, the lack of PA case law, was liberating.

Since others, Lew Bryson, for example, have more articulately expounded on the subject of the PLCB's ridiculousness, I will make my point very succinctly: Pennsylvania's liquor laws make no sense, while Massachusetts' privately owned "package stores" make more sense. While I will quibble over the state's recent tax increase on alcohol to 6.25%, I'm more than happy with my alcohol purchasing options.

Take for example, my visit to the Whole Foods just 5 minutes from my house. This is what their beer selection looks like:

This is seriously no joke. The selection includes a wide variety of American craft brews and a solid selection of imports.

Now, I am forced to consider the monetary repercussions of being able to throw a bottle of Allagash Curieux or Rochefort 8 into my cart, alongside my cereal and noodles. It's an option I've never had, save at the Foodery.

Basically, grocery shopping just became significantly more dangerous. But seriously, I'll take the temptation of booze in the grocery store any day over dealing with the PLCB.

Whole Foods Market
327 Russell St
Hadley, MA 01035-3535
(413) 586-9932

Thursday, September 3, 2009

"My" New Beer Bar

It took all of about 48 hours in Amherst, MA for me to crave a beer bar. We all have our favorite spots; what you might think of as "your" beer bar. In the Philly area, mine has certainly changed a few times over the past few years. But after just two days in Amherst, I already know where "my" beer bar is going to be: The Moan and Dove.

Located just south of downtown Amherst, it's a little bit out of the way of the college crowd. I had read about it on Beer Advocate, and had heard about it from Tom Peters.

Last night, it called to me. I just needed a good beer, in a good place. The music was right, the lighting was right (think a more manly Tria), it was clean/dirty enough, the bartender was friendly and the crowd was mellow.

Beer-wise, it has almost everything you need. The 20 taps and about 170 bottles are nicely dispersed between American craft brews and international selections. I say almost everything, because, well, Russian River doesn't find it's way to Massachusetts.

Perhaps the thing I'm most excited about is their "mug club." This isn't your traditional mug club. Basically, if you try every bottle they have available, you get a mug engraved with your name and the luxury of drinking every draft beer out of this 25oz mug.

They keep track of all of the beers you've tried in a folder behind the bar. While not the most up to date system, it gives you something to read over. And just to keep it interesting, there are also fill-in-the-blank spaces for the bartender to add on things like, "warm and crappy beer of our choice."

Naturally, I had to sign up. After a few of my sour choices were out of stock, the bartender was kind enough to pull out a 2005 Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuze from the back. Not a bad way to start. In fact, a gueuze was exactly what I needed to remind me of home.

I figured out that only 29 of the 170 bottles will be new to me. But that won't stop me (although having to drink 4 different Lindeman's might). I will be here for at least the next three years. So that's only about 55 beers a year. Everyone has to have goals.

The Moan and Dove
460 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002

Monday, August 31, 2009

Goodbye Philly

As of today, I've officially left my hometown. And, in very Philly style, I was given a parting gift from the PPA. Although it's surely not my last ticket from them, it's a nice reminder of at least one thing I won't miss about Philly.

During my last month in Philly I tried to eat out as much as I could. I managed to visit it to Talula's Table, Amada, Distrito, Vetri, Zahav and Savona. As much as I love upscale dining, that's not all that Philly has to offer.

Saturday I made it to my favorite hoagie place in South Philly: Lombardi's. I just have a feeling that Western Massachusetts is going to disappoint me in the hoagie department - big time. Who knows what they even call them up there?

While I usually get the VIP, a more traditional Italian, I decided to get my Dad's favorite: the Italian Inferno. The usual Italian, but with shooters (provolone stuffed hot peppers). As I devoured this gloriousness in my car outside the hoagie shop, I was reminded that the Philly food scene really has it all.

So worry not, between the people and the food, I know I'll be making quite a few trips back to Philly.

Lombardi's Specialty Hoagies
1226 W. Ritner St.
Philadelphia, PA

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Suckling Pig at Amada

We all know that I'm a huge fan of Jose Garces. I've blogged about every restaurant he has in Philly, besides Chifa. However, I've never officially written about Amada: the one that started it all.

I've been to Amada countless times since I became a foodie during my last year of college at Penn. It was one of my first mind-blowing food experiences. With Tinto close behind, it's still my favorite Garces place. Everything is impeccable, time after time.

Every time I go to Amada, I look at the menu and see "Whole Roasted Suckling Pig - For 4 or more" $32/Person. I've always wanted to do it, but never had the motivation or foresight to pull it off. As it turns out, Suckling Pig is the perfect event for a going away dinner. My friends Scott and Vicki managed to organize the whole thing, and with the addition of Dr. Joel, the date was set.

Upon arrival, the big question was, "How much more food do we order?" The pig itself comes with four vegetarian sides. After deciding that we were very comfortable having leftovers, we ordered four additional tapas to start.

So now I'll let the pictures begin...

Bread Service: Tuna and Black Olives

Serrano Ham and Fig Salad, Cabrales & Spiced Almonds

Aragones, Garrotxa, Torta del Casar

Grilled Chorizo

Heirloom Tomato, Mezze Sorrel & Mahon Flatbread

Grilled Green Onions, Rosemary White Beans, Garbanzos con Espinacas, Herb Roasted Fingerlings

The Pig!

Table side

Left overs!

Dessert Tasting

The pig itself was so mouth-watering good. It was salty, moist and tender. I want to eat it for days and days. And thanks to the leftovers, I'm going to be able to. The side dishes were also very good. The white beans were a particular hit.

Throughout the meal we all shared a bottle of Brooklyn Local 1 and two bottles of Ommegang Bier de Mars. Both were great food beers; not too much flavor, and certainly not too little flavor.

All in all, I completely recommend the Suckling Pig dinner. It's an incredible deal, a ton of exquisite food, and a really fun dining experience. It was the perfect going away meal...

Thanks to Scott and Vicki, and Dr. Joel. I'm up for a repeat anytime!

Amada Restaurant
217-219 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Temptation at McMenamin's

Last night, a fellow Russian River follower, and Tria friend indulging in my obsession, kindly let me know that Temptation was on tap at McMenamin's Tavern in Mount Airy. Seeing as I don't have a job for the next two weeks, I drove right over.

While you wouldn't necessarily expect it, this local Mount Airy bar has an excellent beer list. Both European and American craft beer classic styles are well represented. And, their prices are more reasonable than most beer bars in Philly. This chalice was only 7 dollars.

And yes, they have Temptation on before many others in the area. I have to say, it was drinking very, very well. Nice winey nose, good tart sourness up front, and a citrus/tropical fruit palate that lingers. Believe me, it's worth the drive to Mount Airy.

McMenamin's Tavern
7170 Germantown Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19119

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Talula's Table: Food & Beer Geekery

Last week I had the privilege of eating at Talula's Table in Kennett Square, PA. While I've never eaten at the actual "Farm Table," I have eaten at the "Kitchen Table" three times. With reservations booked a year out to the day at "The Toughest Table in America" to get a reservation at, I do consider myself pretty lucky.

Talula's Table seats 8-12 people at the Farm Table, and sometimes, a few guests are able to dine in the kitchen. Having worked in restaurants for the past 5 years, I'd much rather be in the kitchen at a place like this.

Owned by Aimee Olexy and Brian Sikora, this restaurant will always have a special place in my heart. I actually dined at their restaurant in Philly, Django, for my 19th birthday. This was way before I was a foodie, and I remember something about an organic game hen and local vegetables. The meal was delicious, but I didn't even know what I was partaking in. Looking back, I view it as my first foodie experience.

Anyway, enough reminiscing. Last week's dinner at Talula's was perhaps the best experience I've had to date. Interestingly, I have been one of the few quests to bring beer to dinner. I happen to know the other two groups; one of them being Tom Peters of Monk's, and the other, my friends Vicki and Scott.

I've always used Talula's as an excuse to break out good, rare beer, and attempt to pair it with delicious food. After the food pictures, I'll go over the beers.

Carpaccio of Zucchini and Button Mushrooms, Parmesan Lace, and Truffled White Bean Puree

Porcelet Ravioli, Sweet Corn Broth with Hand Stretched Mozzarella

Shrimp and Scallop Sausage with Garden Cucumber Relish and Roasted Bell Pepper Foam

House Smoked Mid-Atlantic Bluefish, Carmelized Potato Hash, Braised Chard, and Mussel Bisque

Creamy Risotto of Glennrose Farm Heritage Chicken with Fava Bean and Chicken Liver Mousse (forgot I was taking pictures, so this isn't the original plating...)

Summer Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Chester County Lamb with Tomato Lamb Jus and Crispy Eggplant Frites

"Grassroots" A collection of local cheeses

Sugar Plum and Bing Cherry Soup with Cardamom Ice Cream

Eclat Chocolates

And...the beer line up:
- Les Deux Brasseurs - Allagash
- Russian River Temptation Batch 4
- Russian River Consecration Batch 1
- New Belgium La Folie 2008
- Jolly Pumpkin Noel 2008
- Westmalle Tripel 2007
- Hanssens Artisanal Cassis
- Avery The Reverend 2008

I have to thank my friend Ryan for contributing to our beer line up. Only someone with a few connections can bring Russian River Temptation to dinner.

Best Dish: Carpaccio of Zucchini and Button Mushrooms, Parmesan Lace, and Truffled White Bean Puree. Say what you will of truffle oil, and I'm certainly one to avoid it's overuse on every menu these days, but this dish was a cornucopia of flavor. The truffle oil enhanced every other ingredient on the plate perfectly.

Best Texture: Shrimp and Scallop Sausage with Garden Cucumber Relish and Roasted Bell Pepper Foam. The shrimp and scallop sausage was pretty unbelievable. This isn't the first time I've seen Bryan take items and make them into entirely different forms.

Best Beer: New Belgium La Folie 2008. This beer is special: a sour brown ale, aged in French oak for one to three years before bottling. Without a doubt, it's one of my top 5 favorite beers. This one had mellowed nicely, but still retained the perfect amount of tartness and great acidity.

Best Pairing: Porcelet Ravioli, Sweet Corn Broth with Hand Stretched Mozzarella and Russian River Consecration. This one happened by accident. Basically, we drank the Russian River Temptation way too fast. I had meant to enjoy Temptation for two courses, but that didn't work out. I thought the Consecration, a strong dark ale aged for 6 months in Silver Oak Cabernet barrels with currants and brettanomyces, would be too much for the sweet corn broth and mozzarella. However, the delicious baby pork inside the ravioli was perfect with the dark beer. Additionally, the beer was actually light enough, and had enough acidity to not overtake the more delicate flavors of the dish.

Most Sour Beer: Hanssens Artisinal Cassis. I've been holding onto this beer since last October. I received it by chance, at Tria, after a Fermentation School class with Matthias Neidhart of B. United imports. I remember it being sour, but the additional 10 months aging in the bottle made it even more sour. It was perhaps the most sour beer I've ever had. It was out of control with wet horse blanket and musty basement flavors.

I have to thank Aimee and Bryan for allowing me to dine at their incredible restaurant. They are responsible for 3 of my top 10 dining experiences, lifetime.

Each time is different, and each time is special. And I'm especially thankful that I was able to get there one more time before my move. Not that I won't be back trying to make a reservation in December...