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Entries in Craft Beer (18)

Wednesday
Dec122012

The Tripel is a Home Run in Playa Del Rey

*Post by Angela.

Separately, chef couple Nick Roberts and Brooke Williamson are pretty darned impressive. Roberts has worked in the kitchens of famed Union Pacific, Ducasse, and Café Boulud, while Williamson holds the honor of being the youngest chef to ever cook at the James Beard House and is currently cooking up a storm on this season of Top Chef: Seattle. It's like the two were made to be together, like...well, like great beer and fine food, which Roberts and Williamson are pairing at Redondo Beach's Hudson House and Playa Del Rey's The Tripel.

We've yet to visit Hudson House, but after a really fun trip to the Tripel a couple of weeks ago, we're putting it high up on our list. First of all, The Tripel is perfectly suited to its location - it's tiny, cozy, and laid back, just like the old beach town Playa Del Rey.

 

 

LUBRICATION the board screams at you when you walk into the Tripel. In this case, it's referring to the 'Social Lubrication' that flows out of its 12 taps - a stellar mix of Belgians and local craft brews (below, left). Along with the excellent tap list, the Tripel also offers beer cocktails like the Sour Grapes (below, right) which deftly blends sour beer with Luxardo maraschino liqueur.

 

 

And what to pair with all these lovely concoctions? How about a parade of creative small plates?

To start, a hint of coconut and red curry bring unexpected warmth to dense, crumbly biscuits (below), which are made even tastier with dollops of luscious clotted cream and orange blossom honey.

 

 

The chicken sausage stuffed dates (below) balance the sugary dried fruit perfectly against the savory elements: the well-seasoned meat stuffing, piquillo pepper, and cilantro. A really nice alternative to the ubiquitous bacon-wrapped version.

 

 

Baby octopus (below), a favorite of mine, gets a nice char, retaining a bit of bite, which is a good textural contrast to the creamy, inky coconut rice and saffron-tinged sauce.

 

 

The duck egg Florentine (below) is an interesting combination of creamed spinach, perfectly poached egg and crunchy triangles of smoked trout toast. While we might like the individual elements more than the dish as a whole, the composed dish is a good example of Roberts and Williamson's willingness to think outside the box.

 

 

Yeah, I know you don't know what chicken waterzooi (below) is. Neither did we. Order it anyway. It's a Belgian dish, and it's fantastic: a bright, hearty stew of heirloom carrots, leeks, kale, fenugreek, and gremolata, with big chunks of succulent, tender chicken, and an insanely crispy potato latka for texture.

 

 

Even the more traditional dishes get a fancy fun spin. The Tripel burger is a disco party of flavors: duck confit, pork, and aged beef, truffle pecorino, arugula, and housemade apricot jam on an onion brioche bun. It's definitely not for the faint of heart, but it's not overwhelming, either - the richness plays really well with the sweetness of the jam. It's been a long time since we've had a burger this good in LA. 

 

 

For dessert, we enjoyed a fresh baked chocolate-cherry cookie (below, right) with black tea ice cream alongside our espresso. An nice, warm, ooey-gooey finish to a fine meal.

 

 

Good food and good drink really are the perfect combination. There's no doubt you'll find us getting lubricated in Playa Del Rey again very soon. In the meantime, we'll be cheering on Chef Brooke every Wednesday on Top Chef: Seattle

 

 

*Disclosure: This was a hosted meal.

The Tripel - Playa Del Rey
333 Culver Boulevard
Playa Del Rey, CA 90293
(310) 821-0333

Twitter: @TheTripelLA
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheTripel
HoursMon-Thurs: 5:00p - close, Fri: 12:00p - close, Sat-Sun: 10:30a - close

The Tripel on Urbanspoon

Monday
Dec032012

New Market Menu comes to UMAMIcatessen

*Post by Mark.

It wasn't long ago that Adam Fleischman's UMAMIcatessen opened in downtown, expanding the popular burger empire into a multi-headed beast of a delicatessen/burger-stand/bar/donut/coffee shop. When the 170-seat, table-service dining hall first opened, we scarfed down delicious shrimp burgers, brainaise-covered fries, donuts stuffed with foie gras (not anymore, thanks foie gras ban!) along with pigs ears and cured Spanish meats thanks to San Francisco Chef Chris Cosentino's involvement. 

It's been nearly a year, and UMAMIcatessen continues to evolve. Recently, we were invited in to try a number of new dishes to counter the otherwise rich, meat-heavy menu. The pork, burgers and donuts haven't gone anywhere, but now there seems to be a nice happy balance.

First, it'd be negligent of us not to mention that The Back Bar at UMAMIcatessen is worth checking out in and of itself. The bar boasts a really solid beer list, a fun cocktail list - including the Bourbon Pig with bacon-washed bourbon, sugar, bitters and crispy pig ear (below, center) and the Black Jack with Jack Daniels honey, apricot liqueur, orgeat, lemon and blackberries (below, right) - and a substantial wine list. In other words, they've got your alcohol needs covered.

 

 

But the real news is the addition of the newly launched Market Menu, featuring seasonal small plates that provide meat-eaters a little ruffage to go with their protein, and give vegetarians/pescatarians a much wider selection from which to choose.

Smoked sturgeon potato salad with fingerling potatoes, celery, and truffled creme fraiche ($5, below, left) features chunks of fish so smoky and meaty, you could almost believe it was bacon, as well as a luscious dressing. The macaroni salad ($5, below, right) is the lightest version of the dish you could hope for, with carrot, cabbage, and slivers of scallions providing heft and crunch, pickled shiitakes adding a litte tartness, and a creamy but not-at-all heavy Japanese dressing pulling it all together.

 

 

Both the colorful salad of black quinoa, chickpeas, bell pepper, tomato, and cucumber with a citrus vinaigrette ($5, below, top left) and the cilantro ginger slaw ($3, below, top right) with green and red cabbage, Asian pear, mint, and pickled chiles tossed in a traditional gingery Japanese dressing, are bright, light and refreshingly crunchy. Most interesting of the new plates is a dish of crispy Brussels sprouts leaves tossed with a generous helping of honey mustard dressing and parmesan ($4, below, bottom center) - basically sprouts with a fast-food style makeover, and I mean that in a good way.

 

 

Slightly more basic, but no less tasty are the earthy, sweet multi-colored roasted beets, served with dollops of light-as-air dill creme fraiche ($4, below).

 

 

The caramelized squash ($5, below) is also really simple, but truly outstanding: cumin yogurt, lime and smoked paprika work beautifully against the slight sweetness of the squash.

 

 

The last of the small plates, the roasted baby carrots ($4, below, top center) get an elegant dressing up with a subtle honey glaze, torn mint leaves and a smear of dark, spicy harissa.

UMAMIcatessen is also keeping its core list of salads, which are pretty straightforward, but well-executed and more substantial than the small plates: the Greek salad ($12, below, bottom left) is a combo of marinated sous vide chicken, pickled peppers, cucumbers, olives, cherry tomatoes and feta vinaigrette; the chopped salad ($12, below, bottom right) is a mélange of albacore, radicchio, endive, butter lettuce, chickpeas, red onions, and gribiche (coarse vinaigrette, with chopped cornichons and capers and hard-boiled eggs) dressing.

 

 

You may feel the need to scarf something more indulgent after all those greens, and obviously, UMAMIcatessen has got you covered. A rich clam chowder (not currently on the menu, but likely to make an appearance in the future) with thick, gilstening slices of pork belly wipes out all the good points earned from the salads, but it's delicious enough to be worth it. 

 

 

Even more intensely meaty is the P!GG Breakfast sandwich ($11, below, left), a housemade English muffin jam-packed with sausage, pig-ear bacon, cheddar cheese, hot sauce, and a maple-poached egg. You can almost feel the heart attack coming over you as the perfectly runny yolk dribbles down your chin, but the sandwich is just too good to stop. And if you want to sate your meat cravings with beef instead, the pastrami from The Cure (below, right) has got you covered.

 

 

With all the good stuff going on at Umami Burger, The Cure, P!GG, and the bar, it would be easy to forget to save room for dessert. That would be a mistake, as UMAMIcatessen's very own donut shop in the corner makes a mean whisky bread pudding donut ($5, below) topped withdried fruit and zested orange cream cheese.

 

 

So yeah, carnivores and lovers of the decadent, UMAMIcatessen is still your jam. But now you don't have to leave your vegetarian family member/friend/significant other at home when you visit. Bring 'em along - you can all get stuffed at UMAMIcatessen together. 

UMAMIcatessen - Downtown LA
852 S. Broadway,
Los Angeles, CA 90014
213-413-UMAMI (8626)
Web: http://www.umami.com/umamicatessen/
Twitter: @umamiburger

Hours: Sunday-Thursday,11:30a-11:00p, Friday-Saturday, 11:30a-12:00a

UMAMIcatessen on Urbanspoon

Monday
Oct082012

Grain & Gristle - Portland, OR

*Post by Mark.

What do you do when you only have about 12 hours in a city that is rapidly making itself known as one of the preeminent food destinations in the country? In our case, start eating as soon as you get off the plane. A few weeks ago, Angela and I went on my very first trip to her home state of Oregon for a weekend of hanging out with her family, relaxing, and of course eating our way from Portland to the coast. 

We arrive in Portland late on a Thursday night and waste no time in making our way to Grain & Gristle, a gastropub featuring cocktails, beers and food indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, and most importantly in our case, a kitchen that doesn't close until midnight.

 

 

Grain & Gristle's decor, with its all-wood furnishings and flooring (including a beautiful U-shaped maple bar) and exposed beams, effortlessly creates the feel of a rustic tavern - it's easy to imagine loggers resting here after a long day in the woods, instead of the hipsters that actually populate the place.

 

 

Poke fun at these crazy Portlandians all you want. But when I order a cocktail and it's only $8? These people just might be onto something. In LA, a craft cocktail will likely run $11 minimum and sometimes more like $12, $14 and up. Welcome to Portland, people. I challenge you to find someone mixing cocktails in excess of ten... or even nine bucks. I start with the Kentucky Iced Coffee (below), essentially a toddy made with Portland's own Extracto coffee and a healthy pour of whiskey. It's followed up with a Descender IPA from GoodLife Brewery in Bend. A complex and hoppy IPA I find to be close to on par with great California IPAs like Sculpin and Pliny. Only two in and I'm already really enjoying drinking in Oregon.

 

 

And eating in Oregon, as well. We dig in for a pork-centric dinner, starting with light and airy rinds ($4), served with a creamy, tangy “mustardy dipper.”

 

 

Next up? “Porky” croquettes ($6): succulent cubes of head cheese (if you don't know what it is, don't google it - all you need to know is that it's not cheese, it's meat and it's delicious), breaded, fried and served with the same mustardy dipper as the rinds.

 

 

Our third fried food item of the evening is a huge plate of onion rings ($4), ultra thin, crispy, and greasy, which in this case is a term of endearment. They are addictive, ideal pub food, and even though we know we have more food coming, we can't stop eating them.

 

 

We take the very tiniest of breaks from the fry fest to dig into a salad of dandelion greens, radicchio, and hazelnuts ($8), lightly dressed with an herb pistou and topped with grated cheese. It's a pretty straightforward plate, but the crunchy, slightly bitter greens are exactly what we need to justify the rest of our meal.

 

 

We revert back to our protein-focus with an impressive board of house-cured meats and pickled veggies (onion & carrots), a steal at $10.

 

 

And we haven't even gotten to the entrees yet! In our defense, we don't quite realize the entrees are entrees when ordering - with prices ranging from $10-$14, our LA-state of mind has us envisioning a sort of parade of small plates. We are shocked at how wrong we are. Angela's Lambwich ($10) with pickled peppers, onions, 'chovy aioli, and fries is subtantial enough to sate the hungriest of lumberjacks. Yet it also satisfies our foodie sensibilities: the shredded meat is full of flavor, and the fries are flat-out phenomenal.

 

 

The fried trout with fennel, lemon, and sweet onion on a bed of tartar sauce ($12) is similarly hearty, but would be equally at home in a more formal setting. Fish doesn't get fresher than this, or better cooked - the crispy skin gives way to firm, flaky meat without even a hint of fishiness.

 

 

For $11, we get a surprisingly hefty portion of tender, braised pork shoulder resting in a pool of jus along with gold potatoes and green beans. Simple and satisfying.

 


After all this, we are stuffed and ready to leave. But something tells us to stick around for dessert, and we are really glad we listened. The Tutti-Frutti Fresh Claffoutti is outstanding - rich and buttery, with the sugar balanced nicely by the tartness of the cherries. One of the best desserts we've had in a while.

 

 

At this point, we only have a few more hours left in Portland, but Grain & Gristle certainly makes a great first impression. We head back to our hotel for some quick shut eye in preparation of more eating in the morning...
Grain & Gristle
1473 NE Prescott, Portland, OR
(503) 298-5007

Hours: Monday-Friday, 12:00p-12:00a, Saturday-Sunday, brunch from 9:00a-3:00p, dinner 5:00p-12:00a

Grain & Gristle on Urbanspoon

Thursday
Aug162012

Bruery Provisions and Bruxie Waffles: Orange You Glad You Took a Daytrip?

*Post by Mark.

One of the things I love about Los Angeles is that the possibilities of daytrip escapes are virtually endless. This summer, a daytrip brought us to the heart of Orange County. Specifically, Old Towne Orange, a quaint, frozen-in-time oasis replete with preserved century-old buildings. At the town's center, a round-about encircles a fountain from 1886. It's like a real life movie set. But, of course we didn't come here to peep landmarks... we came to eat and drink! 

 

 

And what better place to eat AND drink... and drink some more, then at The Bruery Provisions. Any beer geek already knows that The Bruery is making some of the best, boldest and most experimental brews in California, just a few miles away in Placentia. Since our visit, The Bruery has also opened a 40-tap Tasting Room at the brewery in Placentia, but the Provisions location isn't still without its own allure. Take, for instance, the back patio, where flights of beers can be enjoyed alongside a variety of charcuterie plates. 

 

 

Make sure to check out their daily tap list and menu on their facebook page before heading over. On the menu for us that day were two flights, so we got them both. First, the Classic Flight (below, from right to left): 

  1. Nottenroth - A batch of the Hottenroth that failed to ferment, this happy accident was an almost absurdly light, 2% ABV. While you won't find the intended sourness, there's something really interesting about the light, floral, crisp taste. 
  2. Loakal Red  - Perhaps my favorite that we sampled. The hoppiness of this 6.9% ABV red ale perfectly balances out the sweet caramel malt to make for a very well-rounded beer.  
  3. Gremlin - Some fruit and spice really sharpen up the drinkable Belgian ale. A rather nice beer for summer sipping on the patio. 
  4. Trade Winds Tripel - The official summer seasonal of The Bruery may have been the biggest hit at our table. The 8% ABV, Belgian-style Golden Ale uses rice in its mash instead of candi sugar (A Belgian sugar commonly used in brewing), and spices things up with an aromatic dash of Thai Basil. 
  5. Fruet - Not for the casual beer drinker, the Fruet is an Old Ale aged in bourbon barrels that comes in at a whopping 15.5%. The thick, molassasy drink pours more like a syrup, and drinkers should expect something more along the lines of port wine.

 

 

And on we moved to a Specialty Flight (below, moving from right to left):

  1. Sans Pagaie - A spritzy 5.8% ABV American Wild Ale proves a very a solid sour with a tart sour cherry flavor to match its bright red color.
  2. Otiose - Packing a little more punch at 8.2% ABV than its brother-in-arms the Sans Pagaie, this wild sour pours a dark nutty brown hue, and matches it with notes of oak and juicy guava. 
  3. White Oak - a strong white made by combining The Mischief with bourbon barrel-aged wheatwine. It's deceptively drinkable, which can spell trouble at 11.5%.
  4. Cuir - The Bruery's Third Anniversary brew is rather similar to the Fruet, though slightly less polarizing at only 14.5%. 
  5. Smoking Wood - This imperial smoked porter is designed to highlight the finiest qualities of wood in beer. Smoked beachwood and cherrywood malts age in rye whiskey barrels for a black-as-night beer that makes getting lost in the woods not such a bad thing. 

 

 

What better compliment to flights of beer than cheese plates? Tour cheeses from all over the world with offerings like The International (below), or stick closer to home with the gourmet offerings of the Born in the U.S.A. 

 

 

And why limit yourselves to just cheese when you can have meat and cheese. The Farm (below) combines a few cheese varieties with a heaping portion of sopresatta molinari salami and Spanish nuts. 

 

 

After eating and drinking to our stomachs' content on the patio, it was time to pick up a little something for later. In addition to the selection of wonderful Bruery bottles available for purchase, Provisions is also host to one of the most impressively curated bottle lists you'll find in the greater Los Angeles area. 

 

The Bruery Provisions on Urbanspoon

 

All that time spent eating and drinking really worked up our appetites. Luckily, just a hop, skip and jump down the road is Bruxie, where an array of sweet and savory gourmet waffles are served at a walk-up window. With a snaking line that could be seen spilling onto the sidewalk from a block away, this was clearly the place to be on an early summer night. 

 

 

One of the more basic options on the extensive savory menu might be the Cheesy Bruxie (below), which is essentially a grilled cheese (gruyere and Tillamook cheddar) sandwich, with a crisp Belgian waffle folded in a half moon subbing in for the bread. A fun enough option, but hard to justify when there's Buttermilk Fried Chicken & Waffles (not pictured) on the menu! 

 

 

More exciting is the Hot Pastrami Bruxie (below), a surprisingly delightful rendition of the Jewish deli classic, made with Boar's Head pastrami, gruyere, cider slaw, half sour pickles and spicy brown mustard. It's so good, you might not even miss the rye bread at all. 

 

 

The salmon & dill bruxie (below) sandwiches thin slices of smoked fish inside the folded waffle with herbed cream cheese, cucumbers and chives. And did I mention the waffle fries? They're fried in peanut oil and only $2.50 with the sandwich.

 

 

The savory waffles are great, but as far as I'm concerned, just a prelude to the sweet portion of the menu. You'll find shakes, custards, and floats (below, left) there to accompany your dessert waffles, like the PB & J (below, right), made with all natural peanut butter and blackberry preserves oozing from the middle.

 

 

But it's all about the S'mores Waffle (below), arriving with a light dusting of powdered sugar and stuffed with Belgian chocolate, Graham cracker, and toasted marshmallow. 

 

 

These Bruxie people are some sort of mad geniuses. If Old Towne Orange is too out of the way, you can still track them down at one of their other locations in Rancho Santa Margarita or Brea. As for us, we're pretty content with our little one-two punch here in Old Towne Orange. 

 

Bruxie on Urbanspoon

Friday
Jun012012

Stout Burger - Hollywood

*Post by Angela.

One definition of “stout” (n): a strong, very dark beer or ale. Another definition (adj.): thickset or corpulent (as in food bloggers). Both definitions find their uses at the aptly named Stout Burgers & Beers, which focuses on pairing great beers with hearty, well-executed pub food. Friends have bandied it about as a contender for the crown of the city’s best burger, and we’ve been a few times.

Beer-wise, Stout finds itself in very good company tucked away in a Hollywood plaza with Big Wang’s and District 13, both of which we visited on a beer crawl earlier this year. Stout is a bit more refined, décor-wise, than its neighbors, though – with its clean lines and dark wood, it nails the upscale pub vibe. A highlight? The massive bar, where you can sit comfortably and sip one of the 30+ craft beefs on tap.

 

 

The first thing you should do when you sit down (after getting a beer or two, of course)? Order a plate of the sweet potato fries. The fries are really top-notch, one of the best items at Stout. In fact, Stout’s sides are across the board really solid, and very dangerous – even when stuffed, it’s hard to stop shoveling sweet potato fries into your mouth (see definition #2 above).

 

 

The pretzels (not on the menu, but you can ask for them) here are very good, if you can get to them right when they hit the table: hot, doughy, and nicely seasoned, they serve as a great medium for conveying your choice of Stout’s special sauces (lemon basil aioli, Thousand Island, chipotle, tzatziki, horseradish,  and chipotle ketchup). The pretzels lose their appeal with each cooling second, so the best bet is to wolf them down immediately.

 

 

The onion rings are probably my favorite things here. Huge, with an awesomely crunchy and flavorful batter, I could eat a basket or two myself (again, see definition #2).

 

 

But it’s not called Stout Sides – no, Stout’s main selling point is its burgers (and beers), which hold up pretty decently in L.A.’s cutthroat arena of gourmet burgers and craft beers. Showing its commitment to beer pairing, each burger on the menu is listed with a suggested beer type, as well as an explanation for why that particular quaff goes well with that burger.

On a recent trip, we sampled three of Stout’s 6 beef offerings (Stout also has two chicken burgers and two veggie burgers available). First up, of course, is the Stout burger (below), a messy explosion of flavor which loads up its medium rare house-ground beef patty with blue cheese, Emmi gruyere, rosemary bacon, caramelized onion, horseradish cream, and roasted tomatoes. With this burger, it’s a little hard to comment on the quality of the meat itself, since the rest of the elements (each very good on its own) sort of overwhelm the beef. With this many things packed in, Stout’s sturdy, yet tasty brioche is a great bun choice, and in good proportion to the rest of the ingredients.

 

 

In contrast, the Six-Weeker combines brie, fig jam, argula and caramelized onions for a more restrained, and in my opinion, more tasty option. Here, you could actually taste and appreciate the nice juicy beef blend. While the meat was a little underseasoned on its own, it worked well with the sweetness of the fig jam and onions, and the richness of the brie.

 

 

The Imperialist, with its aged cheddar, ketchup, mustard relish and roasted tomatoes is even more strictly edited. The ingredients serve to highlight and enhance the beef, rather than to ride rough-shod over it – and at an establishment that puts as much focus on its meat as Stout does, that’s a smart way to go.

 

 

While maybe not at the very top of our list as far as gourmet burgers go, Stout serves up some damned solid fare, and affordable at that (each beef burger is $10, which is pretty reasonable in this town). And we applaud any place that expresses a passion for pairing craft beer with food. The times we’ve visited Stout, we’ve left with our bellies stretched to the busting point, well on our way to being listed in the dictionary under “stout” definition #2.

Stout on Urbanspoon