Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seven Fishes Redux: Maybe the Best Ever.

It remains my favorite meal of the year. The Seven Fishes Dinner at the home of Joe & Sandy Attanasi in Cranford, NJ, to which I've been fortunately invited for around 12 years now, and for which I've been contributing a dish to or two every year for the last half dozen. It is a marathon (and not a sprint), beginning just around 6:30pm and winding down after midnight, and it's always rollickingly good. And it's usually more than seven fishes. We mingled over crackers and salumi and cheese and drinks as people gathered, though some were arriving mid-dinner and later. Joe's son Mark, his wife Christine and daughter Brooklyn were in town from Oklahoma City, a terrific surprise, and I'm sure a joy for Joe and Sandy, as well as Mark's siblings Faith and Joe Jr. Mark and Chrsitine were talking up the restaurant that they are planning in Harrah, OK, and that made for lively conversation throughout the meal. Christine took photos of every course as it was brought to the table. The photos you see here are hers. There's food porn in Oklahoma, too, I guess. Joe Attanasi Sr. serving guests at his Feast of the Seven Fishes Dinner
The Best Damn Linguine With Clam Sauce Ever. Ever.

Eggplant Parmigiana....

Duet of tuna filets: orange glaze (top) and Cajun-dusted (bottom)

Saddle of wild salmon with maple glaze
Tilapia in soy and ginger.....

The incredible scallops wrapped in prosciutto!
Scungili salad

Scungili (top) and Octopus (bottom) salads

Bacala Salad
......and Venison!

wait! the desserts!
...and the cookies!

This year I think the food was raised a notch above Joe Sr.'s already high standards. We started as always with icy shrimp cocktail, big, sweet pink rascals with an especially zippy cocktail sauce (I know Joe Sr. doctored the sauce, I know it); it was followed by still the best version of linguine and clam sauce I've ever encountered. Joe Sr. coaxes ever drop of sweetness out of the chopped clams he uses, and simmers his sauce for a good while. This is the only course in which people ask for seconds. Ben and Sophie opted for red sauce on their linguine and a pot was at the ready for those who didn't care for clams. Joe Jr. provided a slection of craft beers for the dinner; he and I enjoyed a Victory Prima Pils or two with the first three courses.

A duet of tuna filets followed, a choice of an orange glazed version or a Cajun spiced-dusted one; both were toothsome yet flaky, the orange glaze worked very well on the tuna, while the Cajun was more flavor than heat, but both were just terrific. Also served up at this stage were tender, peeled, steamed spears of asparagus and a platter of rustic, individual eggplant parmigianas.

My menu contribution to the night was a spice-rubbed saddle of wild salmon in a maple glaze, and I was proud of how it came out, very moist with just enough nutty sweetness to cut the more strongly flavored wild salmon. Joe Jr. and I opened a Dogfish Head 60 Min. IPA at this point and it went very well with the salmon and the succeeding courses.

Next came tilapia filets done with soy sauce, ginger and scallions, simple, elegant and sweet-salty-sour-spicy altogether. Spectacular.

But the highlight for me, and many others at the dinner, was the next course, another example of Joe Sr.'s uncanny instinct for simple flavors that work well. Joe Sr., wrapped big sweet sea scallops in prosciutto, dusted them lightly with dill and broiled them. This take on "rumaki" blew the bacon-wrapped version away, the saltier, richer prosciutto was so much better a foil for the sweet scallops. Truly stunning, and maybe the best dish I've enjoyed at these dinners so far. Several of us couldn't get enough of these, as late into the dinner as it was. That's how utterly brilliant these scallops were.

The seafood orgy concluded with three cold seafood salads: chewy sliced octopus with garlic, lemon and parsley; scungili (conch) with mushrooms, soy and garlic; and my favorite, bacala (dried cod) with garlic, olive oil,parsley and hot peppers. The peppers and garlic in the latter salad were deliciously assertive and the cod was sweet, clean and bright, the best version Joe Jr. has made since I've been a part of these dinners. In fact, he did a great job with all three salads.

I don't know where this addition to the meal comes from, but Joe Sr. then brought out a platter of roasted venison, sweet-earthy and tender, and passed it around. Most of us were just too stuffed to take more than a tiny slice.

A bevy of cookies, desserts, coffees and cordials followed for the next couple of hours, and we "loosened our belts", put the kids in pajamas, and exchanged presents, giving Joe and Sandy a framed recent photo of Ben and Sophie; Ben and Sophie cleaned up with lots of LeapFrog books from their Aunt Faith, and even more terrific books from Joe Jr. and his wife, Cindy.

It was just past 12:30am when we carried the already sleeping kids into the pale moonlight and into the car, bundled in pajamas and parkas, hugs and kisses and well wishes in our wake, and made the 45 min. drive back to Lawrenceville. I still had a Christmas ham to roast and presents to wrap and place under the tree, but I drove off knowing I had just had the very best Seven Fishes Dinner of my life. So far.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Seven Fishes

As much as I love Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, as much as I like to savor a well-executed beer dinner, nothing even comes close to my enthusiasm for the Christmas Eve tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes. I have been cooking for and enjoying a big Seven Fishes dinner for years at the home of our good friends the Attanasis in Cranford, NJ, but I really get excited when I see restaurants planning one for their customers.

First out of the gate this year is Chef Ralph Pallarino, whose Stella Blue, Gypsy Saloon and Bella Luna Pizza Kitchen form an cozy culinary nexus in WestConshohocken, PA. His Feast of the Seven Fishes menu will be served at both Stella Blu (101 Ford St., 610-825-7060) AND Gypsy Saloon (128 Ford St., 610-828-8494) every Thursday in December, including New Year's Eve. At just $50 per person (minimum 4 persons, reservations required), Pallarino's menu is a tremendous value, simple and elegant, while celebrating traditional dishes from his family in Chicago:


Carafes of Italian red and white wine for the table

1st Course

Vegetarian Antipasto with Italian Tuna and Baked Oregano Clams

2nd Course

Baccala, Tomato Sauce, Creamy Polenta

3rd Course

Fried Smelts and Oysters

4th Course

Linguini with Mussels and Aioli Sauce

Shrimp Fra Diavolo over Fettucini
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Avalon restaurant in West Chester (312 S. High St., 610-436-4100) has also put forth its Seven Fishes dinner menu today; Chef/owner John Brandt-Lee will be reflecting on his own Italian heritage when he creates this dinner, served family-style, on Christmas Eve at his cozy, utterly romantic restaurant. This is also an amazing value at $45 per person, $15 children under 12 (child-friendly options available). Reservations required.
(served family style)

Fried Smelts, White Anchovies, Preserved Tuna & Fried Calamari


Black Linguini with Shrimp, Mussels & Crab in San Marzano Red Sauce

(choice of)

Skate Wing with Brown Butter Sauce and Crab Apple Mostarda

Tilapia Piccata with Capers, Lemon and White Wine

**Both served with Risotto Style Toasted Orzo

Insalta Digestivo

Organic Mixed Greens with Honey Broken Balsamic Vinaigrette


Fresh Fruit and Cheese served family style
(sweet dessert from regular dessert menu may be substituted)
Another Conshohocken restaurant, Trattoria Totaro (639 Spring Mill Ave.,610-828-7050 is also offering a Seven Fishes feast for a few days before Christmas. It can also be prepared for take-out. For $47 per person you'll get this family-style feast:

First Course
Seafood Sampler – A sampling of fried smelts, clams casino, garlic shrimp cocktail and bacala (codfish salad)

Second Course
Fruta di Mar (Cold Seafood Salad) Shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams and calamari tossed with celery and onion with a garlic, olive oil, vinegar and
herb dressing, served over greens

Crab and Seafood Bisque

Third Course
A sampling of the following

Pescatore – Sauteed shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams and calamari in marinara sauce over pasta. Also available in aiola sauce (garlic, olive oil, white wine sauce)
Flounder Porto – Flounder stuffed with lump crabmeat and spinach in a port wine cream sauce, then baked.
Calalmari Yolanda – Vince’s mothers traditional recipe: calamari tubes stuffed with sauté of vegetables, bread crumbs, herbs, pistachio nuts and raisins in marinara sauce or garlic, olive oil and white wine sauce

Dessert Sampler

Cranberry Bread Pudding
Chocolate Cake

I'll post Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner menus from other restaurants as I hear about them. I think this is going to be a big year for this kind of dinner. Stay tuned!

Friday, November 27, 2009

And We Gave Thanks....

And so it came to pass that Mom madeth the turkey and it was good. Oh hell, it was VERY good.

It came from the oven with a crisp, mahogany skin and was the stuff of a Gourmet magazine cover. And the sausage stuffing was good too, as was the gravy and mashed potatoes. We brought a huge bag of fresh-picked broccoli from the Honey Brook Organic Farm Pig-Out, and it was devoured so quickly we didn't even get a taste.

There was a kids' table, and the twins and my brother's three daughters all ate well, and were amazingly well-behaved, thanks in no small part to sister-in-law Claire's cool calm management style. She is amazing. There was some quiet discord: neice Laura definitely felt she had earned a graduation to the adult table, and ate in silence. In all there were 15 of us , with my godmother, Aunt Mary joining us for the first time. It was a bit cramped, but it was fun.

This year's Beaujolias Nouveau went really well with the feast, this year's dry finish to the wine brightened all the meal components; brother Bob poured a Hartwell Cab (from a decanter!) for himself, Claire and my sis Renee and brother-in-law John. It overpowered the meal to my taste, but they all seemed to enjoy it. Mom and Aunt Mary stuck with their white zin standby.

I brought up two sweet potato pies, my first-ever attempt at pie baking, and they went over ok, but everyone clammored to devour my mom's Chocolate Lush, a chilled graham cracker/custard concoction, pure Turkey Day crack.

The clean-up was daunting, but we got through it (mom is just a cleaning machine), and collapsed around the house before heading to cousin Sean's house for some family hanging and laughter. It was a perfect Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Today begins the second year of The Omnivore. Although I haven't been able to write and post at the pace and frequency I would have liked, it has been a tremendous experience so far, a great release from the challenges and stress in my life, and the kind of catharsis that keeps life in general as balanced and fresh as it has been.

I'm glad that I started this thing last year, at the persistent urging of one of my favorite writers and dear friends, Lew Bryson, whose blog, Seen Through a Glass, remains a true benchmark for me and my writing. I'm glad I also started it around Thanksgiving, because it reminds me to be most thankful for the folks that follow The Omnivore--not a lot of you---and keep me on my toes. And to be thankful for my kids, Ben and Sophie, who provide constant inspiration. And it also reminds me to be thankful for the family and friends whose warm embraces and positive energy keep me steady and humble and focused on the future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

No "E" for Effort! No "E" for Effort!

After our afternoon "Pig Out" at Honey Brook Organic Farm on Friday, Ben and Sophie informed me that they were hungry and wanted "hamburgers and ice cream". So, muddy and tired, we made the quick drive from Pennington to Rocky Hill, NJ and the Rocky Hill Inn, a place I'd been wanting to revisit ever since it came under new ownership a couple of years ago. This historic Victorian building dates back to 1745, and is one of the many places in NJ that have laid claim to a "George Washington Slept Here" provenence.

Evan and Maria Blomgren own the place now, with Evan in the kitchen and Maria running the front of the house. Under their ownership, the Rocky Hill Inn now features "17 Craft Beers on Tap" with many of the usual suspects, but 7 taps eaten up by mega-brews like Guinness, Coors Light, Stella Artois, Amstel Light, Heineken, Corona and Pilsner Urquell. OK, so 10 taps of craft brew, not bad for the Princeton area, a relative beer wasteland. On the beer blackboard when we visited were Cricket Hill, Harpoon IPA, Flying Fish, Brooklyn, Ommegang, Sierra Nevada and something from Sly Fox. And this long-worded prelude brings me to my Pet Peeve Of The Year. With the exception of the Harpoon, only the brand names of the beers were listed, with a price after the name. Not a good sign. The Inn also offers a sampler of 3, 3.5 oz beers for $10. But when our young waiter came to our table to take our order, he knew nothing about the beers on his menu, nor did his fellow fresh-faced colleagues. Our dialogue went something like this:

"What's the Sierra Nevada tap?"
"Um, it's Sierra Nevada."
"Pale Ale?"
"I guess."
"OK, what is the Brooklyn?"
"It's the regular Brooklyn...."
"Which is..."
"Just regular Brooklyn."
"Can you find out?"
"Sure, any others you want to know about?"
"Yes, what's the Sly Fox?"
"Oh that's the regular Sly Fox."
"And what is THAT?"
"Well, I think they just make one beer."
"Uh huh. Could you find out?"
"Any others?"
"Yes, ask about the Cricket Hill."
"Oh that one is a lager, ya know, like Yuengling."
"I see. Could you find out about those?"
"Absolutely, sir."

If the kids weren't hungry and it wasn't dinner time, I would have walked right out of the joint.

I ordered a sampler, by the way, made up of Brooklyn Lager (it wasn't a lager), Harpoon IPA and Sly Fox Pikeland Pils. I was so frustrated by the above exchange, I didn't even bother asking the feckless waiter what the Brooklyn really was. Thank God the food was as good as it had been reported in the local press. The clever Kids Menu featured two cheeseburger sliders with really good french fries and a ramekin of ketchup; the twins really enjoyed their meal. I had to find some veggies to round out their dinner, something that the Inn should have included for the price. PEI mussels in white wine and shallots were also very good, as was a dinner salad that I ordered with my "Rocky Hill Inn" burger, topped with cheese, bacon, smothered onions and a fried egg. They also served an unusual but tasty gluten-free polenta "pizza" topped with broccoli rabe, cippolini onions and fontina (you can guess who ordered that), which was really soft polenta in a puddle of red sauce and topped with the veggies and cheese. Tasty, but nothing you could hold in your hand like an actual pizza. Prices were relatively high (mussels, $11, "pizza" $8, burger, $13) but again, the food quality was quite good. But my beer experience brought forth a huge pet peeve with me, and when the bill arrived, I stared at it for a while, my long-held gut-feeling indicator that I did not enjoy my time there.

Memo to the Rocky Hill Inn: If you're going to offer and advertise "17 Taps of Craft Beer", then offer 17 taps of craft beer! And if you can't be bothered to update a CHALKBOARD with the current beers on tap, craft or otherwise, at least start the day by educating your staff about WHAT KIND OF BEERS ARE ON TAP THAT DAY!!!! The "regular Brooklyn"? The "regular Sly Fox"? "A lager, ya know, like Yuengling"? Are you kidding me?!?!

I know I'm late to the party with this rant, but really, is it too much to ask that the people serving the beer knowing something about it? I don't think so.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Gleaning

We went to Honey Brook Organic Farm on Friday for the annual "Pig Out", whereby farm share members get the chance to troll the fields, following a detailed map, to "glean" the remaining crops there. It's a bit of a daunting task, involves a lot of walking in mud and brush, but the rewards can be considerable. Having just barely recovered from a very painful upper groin strain, I was probably doing more harm than good when I climbed through row after row of broccoli at just a slight incline. Oof. But the kids were along, and they seemed to be having fun.

The clouds were streaky in the sky as the afternoon waned and we trampled first through the broccoli, then toward some dill, celery and parsley. Ben and I clipped a lot of deep green bunches of parsley. Very little in the way of dill and celery.

We brought several large plastic bags of broccoli and parsley back to the SUV, and that's when we noticed the largely unnoticed field of romaine, red leaf and butter lettuces. We quickly filled two large plastic bags with baby romaine heads, even some wild romaine, dense heads of red leaf and a few picture-perfect heads of butter lettuce, as we raced the sun and pink sky toward sunset.

Across the road from where we parked lay fields of raddichio, cauliflower, carrots and beets. When Sophie discovered the short purple and green rows of radicchio, she yelled at the top of her lungs, "Look! Radicchio!" Ben chimed in, hearing the echoes bouncing off the trees, "Radicchio!" They did that for about five minutes, and it scattered the other gleaners to fields farther away. We picked about 18 heads of radicchio (I don't know why), and then Sophie and I retired to the SUV, the nearby porta-john, and a quick nap, while Ben and his mom continued on to the beet fields.

At 4:30 the farm staff began to close the gates to the fields, but there was no sign of any gleaners returning to their cars. I sized up the situation, drove the SUV out of the muddy parking area and headed up Wargo Rd. to look for survivors. I found a bundle of hardy pickers, ruddy-faced and red-nosed, marching toward a still-unlocked gate, and in the bunch were Ben and his mom.

Behind them followed a large tractor, in whose shovel rested a huge bag of dirt-caked beets.

"Too heavy to carry," I was told, so I met the tractor at the far gate and retrieved a heavy sack loaded with red and striped beauties.

We returned to the farm stand to donate a share of our haul back to the farm for donation to area food banks, as is required by the rules of the Pig Out, and they got a big bag of broccoli, the only veggie they were accepting by that late hour.

What we're gonna do with this haul, I don't know. So far I've washed all the beets, discovered not only red beets, but striped and golden ones as well. All the lettuces and broccoli and radicchio have been trimmed and bagged,and it's just overwhelming. Sure, some broccoli and lettuces will be headed north to Moosic, and my mom's for Thanksgiving, but I'm definitely in need of some good recipes for beets, broccoli and radicchio. Thanks in advance for your help!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé! "

When I lived near DC in the mid-80s, Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the third Thursday in November, was a heavily hyped, all-day party across the District, flowing from French bistros and wine bars in Georgetown and Capitol Hill. It really opened my eyes (and my young palate) to how much fun wine could be.
For a little while it was also a popular wine day in Philly, but that seems to have died down. I can remember trolling around town with friends (including wine saveur extraordinaire Katie Loeb!) sampling different Nouveaus on one very cold third Thursday in November, not too long ago. It was one of the most enjoyable wine experiences I've ever had.
Well, today is the day. And I have read in several places that this year's Nouveau may be the best vintage in 50 years. Yeah, I know, hype on top of hype. But I readily admit that I really enjoy this wine, especially on Thanksgiving, when its light, fruity, slightly vegetal taste and lightly fizzy mouthfeel pairs very well with all the foods on Turkey Day. I think of it like this: Session Wine. Light, quaffable, flavorful, bouncy, and very food-friendly, no different than the growing crop of session beers out there. It's a fun drink, nothing more, nothing less.
Now there's a huge history b
ehind all this hype. I found this on a website called
At one past midnight on the third Thursday of each November, from little villages and towns like Romanèche-Thorins, over a million cases of Beaujolais Nouveau begin their journey through a sleeping France to Paris for immediate shipment to all parts of the world. Banners proclaim the good news: "Le Beaujolais Nouveau est arrivé!(The New Beaujolais has arrived!)" One of the most frivolous and animated rituals in the wine world has begun.

By the time it is over, over 65 million bottles, nearly half of the region's total annual production, will be distributed and drunk around the world. It has become a worldwide race to be the first to serve to this new wine of the harvest. In doing so, it has been carried by motorcycle, balloon, truck, helicopter, jet, elephant, runners and rickshaws to get it to its final destination. It is amazing to realize that just weeks before this wine was a cluster of grapes in a growers vineyard. But by an expeditious harvest, a rapid fermentation, and a speedy bottling, all is ready at the midnight hour.
Beaujolais Nouveau began as a local phenomenon in the local bars, cafes, and bistros of Beaujolais and Lyons. Each fall the new Beaujolais would arrive with much fanfare. In pitchers filled from the growers barrels, wine was drunk by an eager population. It was wine made fast to drink while the better Beaujolais was taking a more leisurely course. Eventually, the government stepped into regulate the sale of all this quickly transported, free-flowing wine. In 1938 regulations and restrictions were put in place to restrict the where, when, and how of all this carrying on. After the war years, in 1951, these regulations were revoked by the region's governing body, the Union Interprofessional des Vins de Beaujolais (UIVB), and the Beaujolais Nouveau was officially recognized. The official release date was set for November 15th. Beaujolais Nouveau was officially born. By this time, what was just a local tradition had gained so much popularity that the news of it reached Paris. The race was born. It wasn't long thereafter that the word spilled out of France and around the world. In 1985, the date was again changed, this time to the third Thursday of November tying it to a weekend and making the celebration complete. But wherever the new Beaujolais went, importers had to agree not to sell it before midnight on the third Thursday of November.
I hope you'll grab a bottle or two and post your thoughts on the wine here. I'll be doing that myself as soon as I get it home later today.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Farm Season Is Over. Almost.

Leeks. Broccoli. Beets. Carrots. Daikon radishes. Kohlrabi. Arugula. And that was it. The last pickup for the season at Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington, NJ, always a sad day for me.

Despite the soggy, rainy summer, it was a good season at the Farm, the largest CSA in the country, short on strawberries and spinach to start the season, but strong on lettuces, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, basils, parsley, eggplant, sweet potatoes and arugula. There was little to no pick-your-own tomatoes this summer, but the quality of what was harvested was exceptional. And the lettuce was better than ever, still the best I've ever tasted. The flowers bloomed seemingly endlessly. And the herbs were off the hook.

But now it's all done, and the harsh reality of supermarket lettuce and tomatoes, flavorless carrots and broccoli and scarce sightings of arugula will make for cold, cruel winter.

But not just yet.

At the end of the season, Honey Brook schedules what they call the "Pig Out", a final gleaning of the fields by anyone ambitious enough to canvass the farm for what remains to be harvested. That means one last dig for cauliflower, broccoli, beets, collards, lettuce and maybe more. It starts tomorrow and runs through Saturday. And I'll be there one last time, bright and early at noon tomorrow. It's gonna be fun playing farmer for a day.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Mickey Gets His Firkinteenth On

It's always something that makes a Friday The Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge Pub in Philly something special. Usually it's the beers. Sometimes it's the people who show up, friends I haven't seen in a particularly long time. Stuff like that. This time around, I was thinking about our friend Gary Bredbenner, a fixture at almost every previous FTF. He and I had a habit of slipping out of the festivities for some fresh air and a bite to eat, always good times, checking out nearby cheesesteak joints or heading to Tony's a block away for some tomato pie . Yesterday I caught myself thinking, "Lemme check when Gary's getting there..." and, well, I caught myself. A terrible twinge of sadness.

Yesterday I also woke up with laryngitis.

I had been on a seemingly endless series of meetings and interviews last week, and I think I just plain talked myself out. I did the salt water thing, the hot tea thing, but to no avail. Getting the kids ready for school yesterday, they were chuckling at the breakfast table, because "Daddy, you sound like Mickey." Terrific. Glad I could entertain them.

So when I headed down to the Grey Lodge in mid-afternoon for Friday The Firkinteenth, I was actually wondering how I'd order a beer amid all the noise and laughter that an FTF brings. Hand signals? Pointing? Flash cards?

It was packed at 3:30 and boisterously loud when I made my way to a gathering of friends I spotted in a convenient curve of the bar. Good friends Eric and Cary were the first to greet me and they couldn't understand a word I whispered. Beer bloggers Dan Berger and Kevin Romer (the Big Beer Guy) approached next, and weren't anymore successful. Finally good beer buddy Jim Noone grabs me by the arm and says, "whatcha havin?" and out of my mouth came a full Mickey Mouse: "Victory Yakima Twilight," I moused. and the gang all laughed. "WTF?" said Eric. "Laryngitis," said I. More laughter. "You're gonna go nuts not being able to talk!" he responded. Shaddup already. So Mickey and his friends enjoyed a bunch of very good beers this time around at FTF:

The Victory Yakima was teeth-rattling hoppy, but with a nice malt balance and a crisp finish, reminding me of one of my favorite beers on earth, Deschutes Twilight;
Next up, Sly Fox Rte 113 IPA, another hopmonster, with a really bitey tart end. Nice, but the Victory blew it away in comparison;
Arcadia London Porter was next, recommended by Cary, and it was a lovely porter, deep, round, roasty, chocolatey;
Kevin the Big Beer Guy raved about the Nodding Head Anomaly, but it was gone by my arrival, so I went with his other strong rec, the Manayunk Old Ebenezer Barleywine, a magnificent beer, deep and caramel and nutty and very rich. I wish I had a cigar to enjoy with that one;
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe was my next buy, a big citrusy double IPA, all Simcoe hops, and it has a spicy finish that I kinda liked; it would be a great beer with hot wings or some spicy Asian food, like a Thai green curry;
I took a break from all the hoppiness and tried a Sixpoint Vienna Lager, and it was light and refreshing and pleasantly nutty after all those ballsy bitter beers;
But my favorite beer of the day was the Dogfish Head 75 min. IPA, a blend of their 60 min. and 90 min. IPAs. It had perfect balance, sweet and tart, grassy and citrusy, spice and honey. A brilliant beer. Blew away everything I had previously;
My final beer of the day was a Yards ESA, dry-hopped with East Kent Goldings, in the true British fashion of cask ale, and it was a terrific farewell beer, big, round and full, the best beer with which I could toast the portrait of our friend Gary that hangs on the 2nd floor of the Grey Lodge, and toast all my friends as I bid them goodnight, in my best Mickey voice: "See ya real sooooon!"

And lest you think I was leaving the Grey Lodge in a state of absolute blotto, I drank only small 7-ounce cups of the beers I tried, seperated for the most part with equal cups of ice water, over the course of my almost 3 hours at FTF. Clean palate, barely a buzz, no hangover in the morning.
When I left, there were only 7 firkins left to be tapped. The crowd had emptied 18 firkins in just 6 hours. I learned later from Dan Berger that all the firking were kicked by 7:30PM.

Amazing. There won't be another Friday The Firkinteenth until August of 2010. I can't wait.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I'm willing to stick my neck out now and then with regard to various areas of contention and opinion (remember the World Series prediction of "Phillies in 6, maybe even 5"? Well, shaddup already, especially you obnoxious, finger-pointing Yankees fans), and in beer aficionado circles, the "best" beer festival is always fodder for serious suds talk. I rank the Oregon Brewers Festival in Portland and the Great American Beer Festival in Denver among the finest examples of beer festing in America and I'm still waiting to go to my first Toronado Barleywine Festival in San Francisco someday. But for 12 years I've been attending the best beer festival in America, and only in the past few years did I come to realize it.

I'm talking, of course, about Friday the Firkinteenth at the Grey Lodge Pub in Philly, the only beer celebration dictated by the calendar: it occurs only on Friday the 13th. 2009 has been a very good year for FTF; this Friday's FTF will be the THIRD one this year!

They start tapping the firkins at NOON this Friday. Here are the details, excerpted from the Grey Lodge's website:

Kitchen will open at 11am serving our full menu.
Number of firkins is still TBA. We expect 20+.
With 20+ firkins, we should have cask ale going until at least 9pm. Time permitting Scoats will be updating the
news page and tweeting throughout the day with cask status.
7 firkins will be pouring at any time (except when we get down to less than 7), tapping a new one as one kicks. The order of the casks will be random, but hey there should be no stinkers in the line-up.

Current Cask List (likely to change, it always does): more to come!

Arcadia London Porter, a robust London style porter 7.2% ABV
Clipper City Heavy Seas Loose Cannon, a triple hopped IPA 7.25% ABV.
Coronado Islander IPA, West coast IPA . 7% ABV
Cricket Hill Col. Blide's Bitter, 5.5% ABV
Dock Street Rye IPA, an aggressively hopped American Pale Ale 6.8% ABV
Dogfish Head 75 Minute IPA, a blend of its 60 and 90 Minute IPAs 7.5% ABV
Duck Rabbit double-dry-hopped Brown, 5.6% ABV.
Earth Tappist Pale Ale, ? ABV.
Flying Fish Grand Cru, strong golden ale. 6.8% ABV.
Iron Hill Totally Inappropriate. An Octoberfest primed with fermenting Quadruppel and dry hopped with American hops. 6% abv.
Iron Hill Hopzilla IPA. Classic rendition of an English IPA. 5.8% ABV
Lancaster Celtic Rose, traditional Irish Amber Ale. 5% ABV.
Manayunk Old Ebenezer Barley Wine, traditional English barley wine 9% ABV.
Nodding Head Anomaly, an unusual beer without any unusual ingredients… 5.25% ABV.
Philadelphia Brewing Co. Joe, brewed with locally-roasted, fair trade coffee, 5% ABV.
Sixpoint Otis, an accentuation of stout beer. 6% ABV.
Sixpoint Vienna Pale.
Sly Fox Chester County Bitter, dry -hopped, quaffable session ale. 4.5% ABV.
Sly Fox Rte 113 IPA, big, strong IPA for all the hopheads. 6.6% ABV.
Stoudts Winter Ale, a new version from Stoudts. 6.2% ABV.
Troegs Hopback Amber 5.6% ABV.
Victory Yakima Twilight, 8.7% ABV.
Weyerbacher Double Simcoe, a double IPA using exclusively Simcoe hops! 9% ABV.
Yards ESA dry hopped with East Kent Goldings True British cask conditioned flavor 6.3% ABV.

I expect to get there at the midway point. Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Back to Philly for a Three Game Sweep?

Now that we've gotten that Yankee win out of our system, and let those Bronx Bombers win one in front of the home crowd, the aging owner and all those glitterati, it's time for fun at the Bank where Utley, Werth and Howard rule. I've so far predicted the Phillies in 7, revised it to Phillies in 6, but now I'm seriously thinkin' Phillies in 5......

High hopes!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Our Annual "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!"

I am so glad to be back blogging.

And at such an opportune time, too. It's time for an annual event in our weekly beer chat, The No Bull Inn, on (every Friday night at approximately 11PM EST). This Friday on Halloween Eve (Mischief Night no less!), we'll be gathering up pumpkin beers and sampling them all night, from east coast to west. Pumpkin beers are a great diversion this time of year, and if you follow the advice of yours truly (ahem) and make a plate of cheesy, salsa-laden nachos to accompany them, you will experience one of the great beer-food pairings of all time. I promise.

So this week, head to your local beer store, or wherever you shop for GOOD beer, and grab up a few pumpkin ales: Buffalo Bill's, Brooklyn, Otter Creek, Weyerbacher, Dogfish Head, Saranac and Harpoon are just a few labels you might find. But grab a few (or more, for side-by-side comparison), and join us THIS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, for some great pumpkins!
Simply sign on to after 11PM on Friday night. Register a nickname for chat room use and then seach the "channels" for the "No Bull Inn", our virtual taproom. And prepare to a have a good time with beer and jokes and good chat. See you there!

A World Series Worth the Hype!


The teams are set and what may be the best World Series in 30 years starts on Wednesday, with the Phillies and the Yankees carnking up their bats and best pitchers for duels in two homer-friendly bandbox stadiums (or is it stadia? yeah, I know, who cares...). The early likely pitching matchups are definitely worth the hype: Cliff Lee vs. C.C. Sabathia in Game One, and the likely appearance of Pedro Martinez (in Yankee Stadium, no less! Who's Yer Daddy?) vs. A.J. Burnett in Game Two might even overshadow the feast of sluggers facing each other every night of the Series. And by the way, do you think we could get a couple of DAY GAMES????

Yeah, I know, wishful thinking.

Phils is 7, maybe even 6!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Nothing is Sacred Anymore

Today's New York Times reports that Conde Nast, the parent company of scores of magazines, is shutting down the venerable, 68-year old Gourmet magazine. A truly sad day for foodies and Gourmet fans everywhere.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I LOVE Me a Good Beer Dinner

As much as I try to avoid the hype I receive daily from restaurant publicists across the country, some press releases are impossible for me to ignore. Especially when they involve beer dinners, and especially when they involve Oktoberfest. I love festbiers, and feel belessed to have so many good local versions of these beers. This beer dinner from the folks at SAVONA restaurant in Gulph Mills, PA, proves the point by offering a 4-course dinner (at $55 a ridiculous bargain) with 8 beers. The dinner takes place on Wednesday, September 30, so if you like what you read below, you'll probably have to hurry to get a seat at the table of the gorgeous, romantic restaurant. For reservations, call 610.520.1200.

Each course of this dinner pairs a German beer and a local version of the beer style with the sensational food of Chef Andrew Masciangelo. The beer and food pairings are inspired and clever. Here's the menu; it speaks for itself:

First Course:

Duo of ScallopsCoriander Crusted Scallop, Micro Pepper Cress;

Day Boat Scallop Ceviché, Cucumber, Daikon

Helles LagerWeinstephaner, "Original" Münich, Germany

Stoudts, "Gold" Adamstown, Pennsylvania

Second Course:

Roasted Quail FarcisPearl Barley, Quail Jus

Oktoberfest-MärzenHacker-Pschorr, Münich, Germany

Victory, "Festbier" Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Third Course:

Braised Pork ShoulderFennel Sausage, Pickled Red Cabbage Cranberry Compote

Dünkel LagerHofbräu, Munich, Germany

Dunkel Lager, Sly Fox Brewery, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania

Fourth Course:

Chocolate SemifreddoManchego, Almond Macaroon, Tequila Reduction

DoppelbockAyinger, "Celebrator" Aying, Germany

Troegs, "Trogenator" Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

*Menu subject to change based on availability*

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Medals in Denver : GABF 2009

The 2009 Great American Beer Festival in Denver is now history, and in just a couple of hours, the last brews will be sampled and folks will be packing up and after-partying into the night. I've been to a few GABFs and they are great fun, both for the daytrips to nearby breweries and towns in Colorado, the excellent Mexican and Vietnamese food all over town, and the astonishingly friendly Colorado beer culture and overall cameraderie.

But I also love the voluminous list of winners (and seemingly tailor-made categories), especially the considerable success of Philly-area brewers, and the clever, even hilarious, beer names.

Wish I was there to celebrate with all of the Philly-area winners.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Ben & Sophie's Excellent Pre-School Adventure

I had been quite undecided about what to do regarding the twins' pre-school education. Here in Lawrenceville, the choices for the average family range broadly, from very limited public school classes for about 36 children to outrageous gouging by ultra-exclusive private schools (one actually sent an elaborate packet of information that proposed extensive interviews for the kids, psychological and aptitude testing, and an insane $22,000 price tag--per child! For PRE-school!

Every school around here has a waiting list or lottery for pre-school, including my church's elementary school. Ben and Sophie have been sitting on several waiting lists since February. As Spring and then Summer rushed by, there was no progresss or movement on any front. Then in June, Ben was lotteried into the Lawrence Township's public school pre-school program. But not Sophie.

For the rest of the summer, I wrestled with the prospect of having to separate the twins for the sake of some kind of relevant education. It was more than a bit nerve-wracking. No slots opening up through any means anywhere. And then on Spetember 2, the call came in that Sophie had jumped 13 slots up the waiting list for a remaining spot in the township's pre-school program. I guess prayers are answered.

Friday, September 4 was their first day of pre-school, and I've never seen two kids more excited about anything. And these kids get excited over popcorn.

I met their teacher, Ms. Poli (above, center) and her teacher's aide, Ms. Kaminski, and they seem energized and more than capable of matching Ben and Sophie's energy and enthusiasm for everything, as well as the energy of the 16 other kids in the class.
Waking up very early is new to the twins, but they seem to be adjusting. Sophie was ridiculoulsy excited and anxious to get to the school, but she looked like a little zombie that first day. Ben was all giggles and squeaks.
After just a few days, I've been told that Ben has an amazing memory, and Sophie is always eager to help in whatever work has to be done. Not a bad start, I'd say.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This Summer's Tomatoes

The abundance of tomatoes this summer from our share in the Honey Brook Organic Farm CSA has been of the hook; I'm bringing home upwards of 12-14 pounds a week! This Sunday I picked up 10 pounds of gorgeous, multi-hued heirloom tomatoes alone, and 2 pounds of fat, juicy cherry tomatoes. That's a lot of tomatoes, and there's only so much insalata caprese you can make. So with any of the red tomatoes, I try to make as much tomato sauce as possible. It's so far superior to any other red sauce I make during the rest of the year, and I freeze as much as I can. Fresh tomatoes make a much brighter, orangey-red sauce than canned tomatoes do, and being able to tear fresh, in-season basil from the farm into the sauce makes it even better. My recipe is pretty simple: tomatoes, garlic, basil and shallots from Honey Brook, olive oil, salt and and pepper.

It was printed in today's
Trenton Times Food section, after I wrote food editor Susan Sprague Yeske last week when she penned a column extolling the virtues and high quality of this year's Jersey tomato crop and then ran a recipe for tomato sauce using canned tomatoes!

This should be the easiest tomato sauce recipe you'll ever need for fresh summer tomatoes:

My Summer Tomato Sauce

8 lbs really ripe red tomatoes, cored and chopped
6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 cloves of garlic, crushed and minced
1 medium shallot, minced
40 fresh basil leaves, torn into small shreds
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large stew pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add olive oil, garlic and shallots. Cook until garlic just begins to turn golden, stirring often. Add tomatoes and stir to incorporate. Add some salt and pepper. Cook over medium to high heat, until mixture reduces by 1/3 to 1/2, stirring occasionally. Remove pot from heat. Using a potato masher or stick blender, mash the tomato mixture to desired smoothness for the sauce. Return pot to heat and bring sauce to a simmering boil. Add torn basil leaves and stir. Cook sauce for another 30 minutes at a simmer, or desired thickness.

Now THAT is a sauce that uses fresh local Jersey tomatoes!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Final Farewell

The early evening was swelteringly hot, but a crowd of us dutifully gathered for a Philly-area memorial to our departed friend and colleague Gary Bredbenner at the Grey Lodge on Tuesday night. Some of his IBM co-workers were in attendance, and a large number of Grey Lodge regulars, beer tour friends and Dangerous Dining Club eaters, all of whom knew Gary from just his comeraderie alone. We framed the picture above in a simple gold frame, sat it next to a big bouquet of zinnias and wildflowers that reminded me of Gary's often wild beard. We all grabbed pints of good beer and slices of rarely-seen Grey Lodge tomato pie, spinach and tomato pie and chicken quesadillas.

We started with a few moments of silence to remember our dear friend. Then I muddled and puddled through a kind of eulogy for Gary, read a surprise letter of condolence from Philly Mayor Michael Nutter, and before toasting him for the first of many times, let everyone know that the framed photo of Gary would be hung in the Grey Lodge, so that everyone could stop in and have a few good brews with him whenever they wanted. Class act that Scoats, keeping our friend's beaming, cherubic memory alive at his place for as long as possible.

Close friend Dan Cosper spoke next, telling a sweet and simple story of how he annointed Gary with the jokey monniker "Evil Fat Man." You could have heard a pin drop.

Beer writer Lew Bryson, read from his online report of Gary's funeral and wake in Danville and Berwick, PA, his voice cracking during the passages that brought tears to all of our eyes, unforgetable emotional moments.

And then we toasted him, toasted Gary for all we were worth, again and again, and ate the very good food of the Grey Lodge, the red curry mussels, red and white fries, cheesesteaks and hot wings, fish and chips and chicken fingers, burgers and fish sandwiches. My twins, Ben and Sophie ate and ran around and lightened the mood, sat on the bar, and even got a few pony rides on Scoats' and Katie Loeb's knees.

There were plenty of warm handshakes, hugs and kisses, and then we left, warmed by the very good food and drink, and especially by Gary's spirit in the Grey Lodge that night.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Correct Gift for a 13th Anniversary? BEER!

Well, there ain't no party like a Grey Lodge party, 'cause a Grey Lodge party never stops!

Scoats pulled out ALL the stops to celebrate the seminal anniversary of the place, its 13th. With 12 "events" in 13 straight hours. I made it for the tail end of the Victory-Phillies event, with perky Tracy from Victory calling out raffle winners. Then it was on to the Grey Lodge's Bar Mitzvah, with a "Pin The Yarmulke On The Boy's Head" game outside on the sidewalk, cake for everyone (and it was GOOD cake too!), and a decent reading from a fine young man.

Sixpoint beers from Brooklyn appeared at the 6PM hour, I enjoyed a quick pint of their pale ale and I was gone, back to Lawrenceville to rescue my kids from the swim club.

But I did get to catch up with so many folks I just don't get to see enough: the Smithsons, Eric Louden, John Denver Pat, Chaz, Doozer, Lew Bryson, Frank the Tank behind the bar, and so many more. All that was missing was Gary. We all said that.

Congrats Scoats, Pat, Maureen, your hard-working staff, and all your loyal followers (that includes me!). Nobody works harder to make a place more unpredictably fun than you do.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Gary's Philly Memorial

We're putting the finishing touches on the Memorial Service for our dear friend Gary Bredbenner at the Grey Lodge Public House on August 18 at 6:30. Several of us will speak; Lew Bryson will read from his touchingly brilliant telling of Gary's burial and wake, and we'll be enjoying some very good stories, food and drink in Gary's memory. I hope you can join us.

You can RSVP here, or just show up if you'd prefer. Sorta like Gary would.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Philly's City Paper's Meal Ticket had this item today, and I couldn't resist. One of the most romantic beer bar/restaurants on earth, Bridgid's, (24th & Meredith Sts.) has what they believe to be the last known keg of Brewery Ommegang's 2009 Inauguration Ale, otherwise popularly known as "Obamagang", and they'll be tapping the stuff tomorrow, August 4, on the occasion of the Prez's 48th birthday.

With hints of chocolate and kriek (cherries), this ale surely sounds delicious, and I've got to figure a way to wangle myself out of the house to grab a pint or two. Bridgid's will even be serving a slice of birthday cake to anyone who orders a pint. Woo-hoo!

Any clever ideas on how I can talk my way out of the house tomorrow night for a few hours at Bridgid's? Winner gets a pint or two on me!

Lucky 13

13 means a lot of different things to different people, but at my favorite beer bar, the Grey Lodge, in Philly, it's a lucky number. I don't know why, and I'm afraid to ask.

But I am excited to report that the Lodge is pulling out every conceivable stop to celebrate their 13th Anniversary, which falls on August 13. But because it's the Grey Lodge, they're gonna pull out all those stops on August 15.

Don't ask.

But again, because it's the Grey Lodge, the celebration is worth an extra two days' wait. Just take a look at THIS!
They always know how to throw a party at the Grey Lodge.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Our Goodbye to Gary

I was going to write something about Gary Bredbenner's funeral yesterday, his obituary in the Daily News, skillfully penned by John Morrison, and our small wake for him at One Guy Brewing after the burial, but Lew Bryson wrote a poignant piece on his blog, Seen Through a Glass, and quite frankly, I couldn't have said it better if I wrote for a month. This is why I admire Lew Bryson and his writing so much.

We're planning a Philly memorial service for Gary at the Grey Lodge Pub in August, so stayed tuned for the details.

Godspeed, Gary.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My friend Gary

My dear friend Gary passed away this week.

In Philadelphia, and on much of the East Coast, if you went to a beer event, beer festival, or food festival, you saw Gary Bredbenner. He was ubiquitous. And his passion for food and drink was contagious.

He was a regular prescence on eGullet. org, Facebook, Twitter and a lot of other beer and food websites. He chimed in almost every week on our weekly Friday night beer chat, The No Bull Inn on Beer writer Lew Bryson has this to say:"Gary always was the happy person in the room. I'll miss his smile and jolly eyes. Nice guy, loved beer, good to be with." Famed Philly bartendrix Katie Loeb wrote me too: "I always looked forward to having Gary come visit me at wherever I was working at the time. He would make my day with his sense of humor, great stories and incredible joie de vivre. He was a ray of sunshine. I will miss him."
Gary loved barbecue, and was a regular practitioner of the art himself. He was an avid homebrewer and made some pretty tasty beers. And he loved those Philadelphia Eagles and went to their training camp at Lehigh every summer and to as many home games as he could. He loved the Phillies, too, but he bled Eagles green.

He is the only person to have participated in every one of my annual Golden Age of Beer in Philadelphia Tours across 11 years. That's always amazed me. But he loved them, and was always one of the first folk to sign up every year.
But aside from all that, Gary was a good soul. He was sweet to my kids. Ben and Sophie loved when we would have dinner with him, or meet him at my favorite watering hole, the Grey Lodge.
That is where I last saw him a week ago, celebrating Xmas in July, just as you'd expect him.
Godspeed, Gary. You are a good man and good friend forever.

A Sign of the Apocalypse, But In A Good Way

(photo courtesy of

You had to chuckle and then realize a chef's true genius while reading Michael Klein's article in the Philadelphia Inquirer's Food section yesterday, chronicling Le Bec-Fin's owner/chef Georges Perrier's take on the venerable cheesesteak. Perrier agreed to create his interpretation for author Carolyn Wyman as she promoted her just-released book The Great Philly Cheesesteak Book.
At least we know now that despite his well-known Gallic bluster, Perrier doesn't take himself so seriously that he can't make a cheesesteak. Just a few days ago he was on the sidewalk outside of LBF flipping burgers for Bastille Day. Zoot alors! Maybe the old guy is mellowing.
And ya gotta love Wyman's taste in cheesesteaks. Klein describes her book as a "travelogue studded with sidebars describing minutiae such as the many variations of meat and condiments," but when he asks her who makes the best cheesesteak in Philly, she's quick to answer that "this book is not a contest" but goes on to name her faves: Johnny's Hots [an under-the-radar and very underrated steak], Donkey's [in Camden, NJ], Grey Lodge Pub [one of my personal Top 5 steaks anywhere,the most flavorful cheesesteak I've ever tasted, so take that and suck it, Craig Laban!], Philip's, Talk of the Town and Sonny's for "slab-style" beef, and Claymont Steaks [in Claymont,DE, very big sandwiches, but not a lot of flavor], Dalessandro's and Pagano's for chopped-up steaks (but they aren't true cheesesteaks, are they?)
The best part's of Klein's article though, was the walk-through Perrier gave him to make the LBF cheesesteak, Wyman's stunned reaction to how good it was, and the surprisingly simple and elegant recipe:
Georges Perrier's Cheesesteak
Makes 2 servings

Extra virgin olive oil
9 ounces of prime filet of beef, frozen, and then sliced very thin
1 teaspoon butter
French baguette
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 onions chopped and cooked until caramelized
1 tablespoon of pickled onion and carrots
2 teaspoons of beef jus
3 slices of Gruyère cheese

1. Heat a pan with extra virgin olive oil until very hot. Add the meat and the butter, and cook until medium.
2. Slice the baguette and place in an oven to warm.
3. When bread is heated, put mustard, onion, pickled vegetables, meat, a little beef juice, and cheese over the sandwich and melt in the broiler.
Now for some real fun: check out the VIDEO of Perrier making the sandwich for Klein and Wyman, courtesy of the Inquirer's website. Wacky, funny stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Double Whammy! Buck a Beer and then Pliny!

Ben Kessler (a rabidly inveterate foodie and tweeter on Twitter (is that redundant? find him there @kessler), reports as this beer geek summer fantasy as follows:

"Local 44 is pouring Oskar Blues Gordon for $1 today until the keg is kicked. Then they are tapping Pliny the Elder!"

Check out the Local 44 website for more enticements.

Yowza! That's a double beer whammy worth blogging about, no?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Under the Volcano

I'm a huge fan of Trader Joe's coffees. Pound for pound, they might be the greatest coffee bargains out there. Sealed in vacuum-packed cans, the whole bean coffees there are as good as any beans I've bought anywhere, including Philly's La Colombe and Portland, OR's Stumptown Roasters.

For a few years now, I've been buying Trader Joe's Bay Blend, an "ultra roasted" bean blend that replicates the generally darker roasts of Seattle and Portland; their Peaberry blend, an unusually tart/sweet roast; and the store's French Roast, which reminds me of La Colombe's Nizza blend.

But Trader Joe's has come out with new blend and it's pretty spectacular. VOLCANO is produced at a family-owned plantation on the slopes of Guatamala's Aqua Volcano. The roast is a bit smoky, strong, and yet sweet in the finish, thanks to some creamy Brazilian beans blended at the end of the roasting. The can claims that this is TJ's "darkest roast ever."

It's also their best. Well worth trying.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Christmas in July Redux

Holly jolly, it was a good time at the ol' Grey Lodge last night, with a raft of tasty Xmas beers, a menu of summer food specials and magical Xmas cupcakes for dessert. And old friends gathered to welcome the

Started off with a big pint of Sly Fox Xmas, malty, gently spiced and heart-warming. Followed up with a small glass of Manayunk Brewing Festivus, an thinner-in-body winter warmer, with just a bit too much nutmeg (unless you like that sort of thing). A little goblet of Corsendonk Christmas followed that, and it was utter holiday beer perfection; toasty, roasty, sweet and chest-thumping. Time to grab another glass of water and some tasty Grey Lodge grub.

From the Grey Lodge menu, I spied some summer specials: beer battered onion rings and a pulled pork sandwich. The sandwich was huge, overflowing with hunks of pull-apart pork shoulder and smokey sauce. But the accompanying cole slaw was dotted with dill, and it just didn't work with the tangy barbecued pork.

The onion rings were also ridiculously huge, a big basket of greaseless battered rings. Saw lots of folks chowing down on these last night, and with good reason. A great munch.
Chose a Rogue Santa's Reserve next, and it was a bit harsh and oddly bitter, and dint pair well with the food. Small glass of Sly Fox Xmas took care of that problem.

Folks sitting next to me at the bar ordered a pizza. But there is n o pizza on the menu at the Grey Lodge anymore. "Secret menu," they told me. "You can order any kind of pie, and they'll try to make it. But it's a kind of secret menu item." Hmmm. When their pie arrived it was a white pizza with spinach and fresh tomatoes. Lovely, and the aromas were tempting. Gotta get me a secret pizza on my next visit..

Xmas treats from Hesch's Bakery were offered for dessert after dinner. I got a sad, tearful (drunk? depressed?) snowman kind of cupcake thing, while my pizza-snarfing seatmates got the jolly St Nick you see pictured above. A cute touch. Pure Grey Lodge.

Merry Christmas in July to all, and to all, get back in the pool!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Christmas in July!

Today is the most wonderful day of the summer.

Because today Philly's Grey Lodge Public House celebrates Christmas in July, with a heart-warming array of holiday beers that will take the chill out of the cockles (what parts are they, BTW?) of your heart. Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas in July!

Barrels of Troegs Mad Elf, Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve, and Corsendonk Xmas Ale are waiting for the smiles of all the little beer geeks when they open the door to the Grey Lodge at 6PM today. There will be Harpoon Winter, Sly Fox Xmas, Weyerbacher Winter, and Manayunk Festivus, too! Jingle, Jingle everyone!

And another surprise from Santa Scoats and his little elf, Pat: Xmas treats from Hesh's Bakery for dessert, free with the purchase of any entree.

All you need to do is ask yourself one question:

Have you been a good beer geek?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A Philadelphia Classic

It's nice to return to blogging with a post about a seldom seen, but nonetheless priceless Philadelphia culinary creation. This dish sits proudly with other Philly classics such as the roast pork Italiano sandwich, the hot dog-fish cake combo sammie, hot apple with vanilla sauce, a proper Italian hoagie, a warm soft pretzel with mustard, a fish cake-mac n'cheese-stewed tomatoes platter, and, yes, a true cheesesteak. It is a classic Philadelphia oyster house lunch: fried oysters and chicken salad, and I found it fortunately at the new Oyster House, the new reinacarnation of the former Sansom Street Oyster House, under the welcome hands of original owner Sam Mink and his son.

Finally got to slip into the place yesterday (alas, no dear Katie Loeb, the great Philly bartendrix!), and was able to squeeze into the busy bar and grab a stool.
I happily ordered my fried oysters and chicken salad, with a glass of Yards Brawler.

And it was superb, the oysters juicy and judiciously breaded, the coating virtually crackled under the times of my fork. The chicken salad was nicely turned out, with really flavorful chicken. It was just a terrific combo. The Yards Brawler was the perfect beer with this dish, robust and malty with a wisp of hop character to remind you it was a Yards. And a low alcohol session beer, especially helpful for lunch, and with a 50 mile drive ahead of me.

And the place was even more handsome than pictures have previously shown; the oyster plates displayed on the whitewashed brick walls are just stunning, and the rest of the place is just open and inviting, a great re-do of the space. Lots of happy oyster eaters dined alongside me at the bar. All the oysters looked gorgeous.