Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fare (not so well) Michael's Pub

I’m generally of the same mindset as HowChow, in that if you don’t have something nice to say about a place, don’t say anything at all. I’m changing my tune for a minute - especially since the place in question is already closed.

Michael’s Pub closed earlier this week and I say good riddance. I wish Michael’s would have been decent. It was walking/stroller distance to my house and could have been good for a casual dinner and a beer. A place we could take the kids.

It was not. It was a filthy dump surrounded by an ever expanding cloud of cigarette smoke and f-bombs. It could be counted on for requiring me cringe while the clientele smoked outside and cursed while I tried to enjoy pizza and/or Rita’s with my kids.

Michael’s may have been great once upon a time, but it was horrible by the time it closed. From what I can tell, they never cleaned their draft beer lines (let alone their restrooms). Every beer I ever had the misfortune of drinking there was stale and flat. I will not miss it. The fact that they considered smokers to be their niche says it all.

And I’m cracking up that there is now a wordpress site devoted to saving Michael’s. I think the phrase is something, something too little too late. How about instead, we focus on getting a decent restaurant into the King’s Contrivance Village Center.

So this is me hoping that the village center concept isn’t dead. It’s one of the most important pieces of Rouse’s vision. It can be what ties a neighborhood together. And King’s Contrivance has one of the better village centers.

Yes, I’m still annoyed that Harris Teeter opens to the parking lot and not to the courtyard like the rest of the stores. But at least we have the best grocery store. We also have Master Barber where Mr. Lu has been cutting my hair for close to 20 years. We have Rita’s and Greenberries. And we have a good slice of pizza and a great little beer and wine store.

Now please, give me a half-way decent restaurant. I’m not expecting Victoria, Facci, or Iron Bridge. I am expecting some place that is willing to at least put in an effort.   hocofood@@@

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fever Dream

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a whiskey tasting event I attended at Quarry Wine & Spirits. While there, we tasted a great gin from Montana. I was also reminded of the various "artisinal" tonic waters out now. We didn't buy the gin - it didn't blow my mind. However, we lucked out in that the grocery store next door carried Fever Tree Tonic Water. It's a good deal more expensive that Schweppes or Seagram's, but it's much better.

For G&T's, the P90 family enjoys Broker's, Tanqueray, and Dogfish gins.


What is this? Some kind of cross between a unicorn and a pig? A unipig? I don't know, but I can imagine that this sparkly meat would be delicious after 12+ hours on the smoker...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Out of Gas (station tacos)

Today, I finally had the R&R Deli "gas station" tacos that HowChow has been raving about! I’m sorry to say, but it took a taco-themed episode of Mexico: One Plate at a Time and a wrong turn leaving a birthday party to remind me to try them. I’m happy I finally did.

I tried the barbacoa (lamb), carnitas (pork) and al pastor (also pork). The barbacoa was just ok. It was a little tough and dry. Next, I tried the carnitas. They were good, but not great. I make some pretty mean carnitas (starting with my smoked pulled pork) based off carnitas I had from a street vendor in Playa del Carmen. These are a cubed pork with great flavor, but still a little dry. So far, not blowing my mind. Maybe they were having an off day?

Finally, I tried the tacos al pastor. They are outstanding! I’m a huge fan of tacos al pastor and they’ve been hard to re-create at home. Zapatas in Harper’s Choice has great ones (and not to get side-tracked, but they have amazing huevos rancheros). These are just as good. They are tender, a little sweet, a little spicy, just perfect really. In fact, the only thing that could make them better would be eating them on a nice beach with my feet in the sand. And of course, with a cold beer or Paloma.

I’ll be back at R&R very soon to try more of the menu. Next up – the lengua. Sure, I’ll happily make a stock out of animal joints and bones, but generally I stick to the more “suburban” cuts of beef, lamb, and pork. A little tongue taco should be just the ticket to get me out of my comfort zone. Who knows, I might be posting about the menudo before too long...  hocofood@@@


Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Fish Debacle

Why wouldn't a fish need a castle?
A few nights ago, my wife called right as I was leaving work. “We have a situation,” she says. “The girls really wanted to see sharks and turtles so we went to the pet store and bought fish and an aquarium. I did everything right, but the fish are dead in the bag!”

Aside from the fact that fish are neither turtles nor sharks, we decided that the best plan of action would be for me to swing by the pet store on the way home, buy some “replacement” fish, and smuggle them into the house.

Rolling with my best James Bond, I slipped into the house and carried the fish upstairs. After dinner, the girls were very excited as we netted the fish and placed them in their new home. Never afraid to overstate the obvious, my 2 y.o. proclaimed “Those are my fishies. He’s orange.” Meanwhile, our 4 y.o. pulled up a chair and proceeded to stare at the fish for about an hour.

Amidst the piscean excitement, I gently reminded them that they already have a (totally kick-ass) pet – Daisy the dog. My 4 y.o. responded by saying “I like Daisy, but I really wanted a pet for my room.” Whatever. That's a battle for another day.

After all of the naming was done, we ended up with Tiana and Prince Naveen. What a surprise… I was hoping for Belle & Sebastian or at least something ironic like Jaws and Flipper. Someday I will get to name someone/something. I’m not holding my breath.

Fast forward to last night. 1. We notice what looks like white mold growing on Tiana. This isn’t good. 2. Naveen is pulling a Nemo and seems to have only one functioning flipper. Also not good. Probably good we didn’t name him flipper.The cruelty of the irony would be too much.

As I was putting the girls to bed, I noticed that Tiana was no longer of this world and was now stuck to the filter. I informed my wife and we agreed that I would sneak in after the girls went to bed and “rescue” her. Hopefully she will meet her prince in the fish after-life…

Playing the role of James Bond for the second time in 36 hours, I slipped on my LED-fitted baseball cap (perfect for walking the dog after dark and dealing with under sink plumbing issues) and set about my mission. Setting about my work, I discovered that Nemo had set out upon his journey to the continental shelf that is fish heaven. No one caught me in the act. I’m clever like that.

My wife informed the girls that the fishies were sick and daddy took them back to the store so they could get better.

Now we set about treating the aquarium for ick and try again in a few days. Here’s hoping the third time is the charm.

The good news is that if it turns out that Snakeheads are a real threat, they can all be sent to our house. We'll kill them quickly...

And here’s School of Fish performing Three Strange Days!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beer for Breakfast for Dinner

Once upon a time I was the king of dark beers and winter beers. November would roll around and I would buy a six-pack of each and every winter beer I could get my hands on. When I was the king of winters beers, the Harpoon Winter Warmer was the pride of my court (refrigerator). For those not familiar, the Harpoon Winter Warmer is a mild ale spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Tastes change. This year, I didn’t drink a single Guinness and bought just one six pack of mixed winter beers.  Part of that six pack was a single bottle and it has sat un-opened in my fridge since November. But last night, as the girls celebrated Fat Tuesday and pancakes for dinner, the Harpoon seemed like the perfect accompaniment. And sure enough, Harpoon Winter Warmer is the perfect pairing to cinnamon pancakes and migas (scrambled eggs with crumbled tortilla chips). Finally - a beer for breakfast!

Marquee Moon

A perfect Saturday - a trip to a nature center with the kids, followed by a whiskey tasting, and a fancy grocery store.

On Saturday, we took the girls to the Irvine Nature Center. We've wanted to go for a long time, but truth be told, the impetus for the trip was that a nearby liquor store (Quarry Wine & Spirits) was doing a tasting of "American Still Life Spirits." The Nature Center was a great time. The girls had a blast and we saw a red-tailed hawk up close. The whiskey and gin wasn't bad either.

Ok, time to come clean. I'm from Kentucky. We moved to Maryland when I was 13 so I consider myself a Marylander. And while I never cared for the Dukes of Hazard I dream of moonshine. Needless to say, I was very excited to taste Wry Moon - Unaged pot-distilled 100% rye Kentucky Whiskey (aka moonshine).

The Wry Moon smells (quite surprisingly) a lot like a silver tequila. When I mentioned this, the guy doing the tasting said it could be used in many of the same cocktail recipes. As for taste, it's spicy like a good rye, but lacks the vanilla and other softer flavors that come from barrel aging. It's a natural for the Ginger Shine (which sounds amazing) or the White Manhattan. But come on, it's moonshine, for now I'm drinking it straight... hocofood@@@

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Hellhound on My Ale

A day late and a dollar short! Yesterday, I was looking at the website for Savor and I noticed that Dogfish Head would be serving a beer called Hellhound. I remembered reading that they were doing another collaboration with Sony and figured the beer must have something to do with Robert Johnson reissues.

Today, announced that Dogfish is indeed brewing a beer called Hellhound on My Ale. They note that it will contain lemons. This must be the pale ale with lemons that Sam was talking about a few months ago. And no doubt a reference to the "squeeze my lemon..." lyric from Traveling Riverside Blues.

Edit: I tried the Hellhound. Read my review here. 

Welcome Back Victoria

I just saw that Victoria Gastro Pub won "Best Bar Food" in Baltimore Magazine's Best Restaurants 2011 Readers' Poll. They certainly rank as my favorite bar food. Now if only started playing better music...

It looks like they are also started offering growlers of beer to go this week. I was very excited about the growlers. I'm a little less excited now that I see it's a only 32 oz. growler, costs $15 up front for the growler, and can only be filled after you've bought something else at the restaurant. I'll be interested to see what the fill prices are.

In other words, you can't just walk in and buy beer to go. I can understand the requirement to sit down and have a bite or at least a drink. However, I don't understand why they went with only 32 oz. Oh well, I doubt it will stop me from grabbing a limited-release beer to go the next time I'm there. I'll just be wishing I could have bought 64 oz instead of 32. hocofood@@@

And I think I have officially dated myself by using a Jesus Jones song for the title of this post.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Rice Rice Baby

I’m not sure if anyone has noticed, but I’m trying to use song titles for as many of my post titles as possible. On Sunday, we visited Evolution Craft Brewery in Delmar, DE and they made my job much easier by having a beer called Rice Rice Baby. And I apologize for getting a Vanilla Ice song in your head. Maybe just switch over to Queen and David Bowie now...

I was hoping to taste one of their barrel-aged beers or an IPA or Double IPA but luck was not on my side. Much like my Black Saturday trip to Dogfish, I arrived on a day when the taps were loaded with darker beers. Along with the Primal Pale Ale and Exile ESB, the taps were loaded with the Lucky 7 Porter, the Rise Up Stout, and the Rice Rice Baby. I’d had the Primal and Exile before and both are solid beers. Actually, while drinking the Exile, it occurred to me that it might be a good substitute for Fat Tire (which is finally coming to MD in September). Both are well balanced flavorful beers that go down easy. I’m expecting some Fat Tire in late March and I will do a blind test.

Back to the tasting, the Lucky 7 Porter is really good. I over-did it with dark beers back in my home-brewing days, so I rarely drink them now. The 1997 version of me would have been all over the Porter and especially the Stout. The Rise Up Stout is brewed with local Rise Up coffee (thus the name) and is well-balanced and delicious. The Rice Rice Baby is brewed with an addition of brown rice. The Mrs. hated it. I thought it was kind of neat - like a sweeter slightly stronger brown ale. It offers a lot more malt than hop flavor and a little sake sweetness. I picked up a growler to go and plan to take it to band practice this week. I'll follow up with a report of what my band mates think of it.

In closing - well balanced seems to be the theme for Evo. None of their beers blew me away or knocked me over the head with a hop explosion, but that’s not  a bad thing. In current landscape of extreme beers (double IPA’s, bret, belgo, historic recipes, etc) it’s refreshing to have an up and comer focusing on solid classic session beers. hocofood@@@