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 http://www.starchat.net/. 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 Philly.com)

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 ...er...holiday.

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.