Monday, February 23, 2009

Double IPA Day at Teresa's Next Door

Sunday afternoon I stopped by Teresa's Next Door for their Double IPA Day Brunch. With 12 double IPAs on tap, it wasn't to be missed. And it seems as though dozens of others had the same idea as me; old friends and fellow beer blogger friends alike.

I arrived around 1:30, and got a seat at the bar pretty quickly.
The tasting format was amenable: $10 for 4 tasting portions, 5oz each. Seeing as I was doing research, I ordered all 12 beers at the same time. If you have the ability to have 12 double IPAs side-by-side, why not do it and compare flavor profiles. Okay, maybe that's just the beer geek inside me talking. Either way, the beer geek in me won out.

Here's a list of what was on tap:

1. Riverhorse Hop-a-lot-amus (Lambertville, NJ)
2. Legacy Hoptimus Prime (Reading, PA)
3. Left Hand Twin Sisters (Longmont, CO)

4. Russian River Pliny The Elder (Santa Rosa, CA)

5. Founders Double Trouble (Grand Rapids, MI)

6. Boulder Beer Mojo Risin' (Boulder, CO)

7. Dogfish Head Burton Baton (Rehoboth, DE)

8. Sly Fox Ody
ssey (Royersfod, PA)
9. Bells HopSlam (Comstock, MI)

10. Oscar Blues Gordon (Lyons, CO)

11. Anderson Valley 20th Anniversary (Boonville, CA)

12. Stoudt's DIPA (Adamstown, PA)

Just a disclaimer: I did not drink all of these beers. I wouldn't be sitting here writing this blog if that were the case. I tasted all of them, finished just one, and gave the rest to my neighbors.

With only 3 of these beers new to me, there were some old favorites and some new surprises. Bells HopSlam was very nice, as always. Dogfish Burton Baton had some depth from the oak aging; there was definite vanilla and oak on the nose and palate. Anderson Valley 20th Anniversary also had some length, as it was brewed with 20 separate additions of Pacific Northwest hops.

The surprise of the afternoon was Riverhorse Hop-a-lot-amus; it is by far the best Riverhorse I've tasted to date. Founders Double Trouble, also new to me, was deliciously piney and resinous. It was the closest to my all-time favorite, Russian River Pliny the Elder. Yes, Russian River wins again. I promise I approached it with an open mind. I probably should have blind tasted, but I didn't think of that until now.

With all of these beers in front of me, I had to have some food. I ordered the "Morning Madame:" an open face croque monsieur, on sliced sourdough bread.

This pairing, plus sriracha, is my dream come true. I'm absolutely addicted to enjoying double IPAs with really, really spicy food. As the two strong flavors battle it out, they both become less strong; the hops calm down the spice.

All in all, it was a deliciously hoppy brunch.

Go Play in the Yards

This past Thursday night I attended the "Go Play in the Yards" class at Tria Fermentation School with Tom Kehoe of Yards Brewing.

The general idea of the class was to compare classic British Ale styles with contemporary creations. Tom also led us through the, now more complicated, history of Yards.

Here's a list of what was poured:

1. Yards Brawler
2. Batemans XXXB
3. Yards ESA

4. Fuller's ESB
5. Yards General Washington's Tavern Porter
6. Young's Double
Chocolate Stout
7. Yards IPA

8. Morland "Old Speckled Hen" Fine English Ale

9. Yards Philly Pale Ale

The most interesting part of the class was "brewing" a beer, based upon the classes' voting, to be tapped at Tria Washington Square during Philly Beer Week.

The class selected the base beer, two hop varietals, and the potential addition of homemade mason jar bourbon chips. Yards Brawler won out with whole leaf Nugget hops and East Kent Golding hops. A tie-breaking vote nixed the addition of bourbon chips.

It'll be interesting to see how the beer turns out. The class seemed to be enthralled with the process. And let's just say, I've had enough "bung hole" jokes to last me through beer week.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's Good to be Jose Garces

With Jose Garces' latest venture, Chifa, opening on Tuesday, I thought a quick homage to one of his earlier successes might be in order.

Don't we all remember when Amada was his only restaurant? Way back before his second hit, Tinto, before his Chicago debut, Mercat a la Planxa, before the cookbook, Latin Evolution, before his third Philly success, DISTRITO, and definitely before his appearance on Iron Chef. Maybe some of you even remember him from his Stephen Starr days at Alma de Cuba.

But how our Philly star chef's career has blossomed. His restaurants have always seemed to me like Stephen Starr "concept" restaurants with really excellent food. His food informs his concept, rather than the reverse.

Tuesday night I stopped at Tinto for a quick bite. Their food was spot on, as always. I don't know how they manage to do it, but their food is spectacular. I have to give their chef de cuisine credit. As Garces continues to open new restaurants, I keep waiting for the quality of his older restaurants to decline. However, this has not been the case. As such, he must do an excellent job selecting his kitchen staff.

Having been to Tinto many times, I always try to pick new things. This evening I enjoyed the Arugula salad with Serrano ham, persimmons, goat cheese croquettes, pine nuts and a sevilla orange vinaigrette. It's amazing how he can turn a boring salad into something memorable. Presentation matters.

I also tried the Kobe Beef Montaditos with pisto bilbaina and romesco sauce. The meat was cooked perfectly, the bread toasted just right, and the sauce nicely piquant.

It seems as though Philly hasn't yet had their fill of Garces. And I certainly can't wait to get to Chifa...

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Zahav: "I've Got a Good Feeling About This..."

Okay, even though I've replaced bad with good, someone out there must get the reference.

Last Saturday night I had the pleasure of grabbing a late dinner at Zahav; the brainchild of Michael "Solo" Solomonov. Get the dorky reference now?

Zahav opened late April of 2008, with much local success and national attention. Solo, former sous chef at the original Striped Bass and Vetri, and chef at Marigold Kitchen, has quickly become one of Philadelphia's favorite star chefs. I have to give him credit; he found a gap in the area's restaurant scene. Philly foodies were prime for the entrance of a modern Isreali restaurant.

This was my second visit to Zahav. I fell in love the first time (not in a Vetri way), and couldn't wait to return. Finally, I got the chance.

While I went during Restaurant Week II, my lovely dining companion and I failed to order off the restaurant week menu. I just really wanted an entrée for two, and that wasn't part of restaurant week.

We ordered from the "Mesibah," party time, menu. At $48 a person, it's still an excellent deal. Here are the selections we enjoyed:

- Hummus-Tehina & Laffa - Their hummus is incredible. It's perhaps the best hummus I've ever had. Buying some at whole foods just won't cut it anymore. Not to mention that their made to order laffa more than satisfies all of my gluten cravings.

- Salatim - This daily selection of eight different salads is the ADD foodies' dream come true: eight different tastes all in one dish. Genius.

- Crispy Haloumi - Fried sheep's milk cheese. The last time I had this, it was great. However, this time, it came out a little too close to lukewarm. It seemed as though the food had been sitting for a while.

- Fried Cauliflower - While this dish was voted one of the 10 Best Restaurant Dishes of 2008 by Food & Wine Magazine, I was rather disappointed. Much like the Haloumi, it came out under temperature. However, lebaneh, a tangy dill yogurt sauce served with the cauliflower is a great accompaniment.

- Stuffed Baby Peppers - With Egyptian rice, walnuts and feta, these were also pretty unmemorable. They were a little bland, and served with the same lebeneh dipping sauce.

- Whole Roasted Lamb Shoulder - Served with a pomegranate-lamb jus and chickpeas, this was the reason I had returned to Zahav. As one of the three, two-person entrée choices under the Mesibah, it did not disappoint. Beautiful and moist, it's far too much to eat. I did manage to take one picture during dinner. It incited a hilarious comment from the two women next to me. They whispered their loudest: "She takes picture of the food before she eats it!?" It's okay, you can talk to the strange girl photographing her dinner.

- Cashew "Baklava" - With white chocolate and Argan ice cream. I've learned that Argan is a species of tree indigenous to Morocco. Through a rather difficult process, Argan oil can be produced from the tree's fruit, and exported at a high cost. I loved this Baklava, it was perfectly moist and satisfying.

- Lemon-Poppy Upside-Down Cake - Sumac caramel, lemon curd and cucumber sorbet. Being familiar with poison Sumac, it's a little odd to eat Sumac. But it turns out that the fruit can be ground down into a powder, and is used frequently in Middle Eastern cuisine. This dessert was certainly creative, but not all that exciting. The cucumber sorbet was the best part.

- "New School" - Konafi chocolate, pistachio and labenah ice cream. I was intrigued by the idea of shaved phyllo dough. It ends up looking, and tasting, very much like shredded wheat. The labenah ice cream, produced from an Arabic thick creamy cheese, was well paired to help the dry phyllo dough texture along.

All in all, Zahav is worth multiple trips. I'm willing to attribute the kitchen's lack of execution to restaurant week malaise. It can't be that much fun turning out $35 meals for two weeks.

And so, Zahav fills a niche in the Philly dining scene. A niche that I can't imagine will have too much competition in the near future.

237 Saint James Place
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-625-8800