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Archive for November, 2012

Beer of the Week: Brooklyn Brewery-Schneider Brewery, Hopfen-Weisse

The craft beer world loves its collaborations much like winemakers enjoy creating blends and mixologists take great pleasure in making a new view on a classic cocktail.

Collaboration beers are often the trophy beers for brewery, packing more punch, more hops, more herbs, more…something. They often aren’t collaborating together to make the finest Czech-style lager. You hear all the time about gypsy brewers traveling the world, crafting the epic likes of tequila barrel aged stouts and persimmon infused bitter ales.

Enter Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster and best known currently as the brewer of the White House’s Honey Ale, and his good friend from across the pond Hans-Peter Drexler, brewmaster at the 400 year old Schneider Brewery in Kelheim, Germany.

You have cultural exchanges all the time between the U.S. and Europe. But, to have an American brewer take over a legendary Germany brewery and vice versa? This can’t be.

And yet, it did happen, producing a majestic weissbock as the result. Both brewmasters brewed their version of a weissbock at the other’s brewery, using their own yeast to express their own brewery style, but local hops to demonstrate the terroir where the beer is being brewed. Both beers have the best of the Old World and the New World. (more…)

Wine of the Week: Domaine Matthias Roblin, 2010 Sancerre Origin, Loire Valley

Ah Sancerre. Just the name evokes plush, restrained harmony in the bottle where dominant herb notes mingle effortlessly with some spice and some fruit. These are elegant wines without being forceful. This is your best friend who you can just be yourself with and almost always rely on for a good laugh and a smile. With a salmon dish or an appetizer of chevre on crostini, why look anywhere else than Sancerre as the perfect companion?

The 2010 vintage called “Origin” from the young, exciting Loire Valley winemaker Matthias Roblin and his brother Emile, the fourth generation of Roblins making wine in Sancerre, exemplifies the grassy-kiwi balance Sancerre can be so good at achieving. There isn’t a drop of oak in sight. There’s none of that stinging acidity that can plague some Sauvignon Blanc. There’s also none of that pale, weak structure that has been a hallmark recently of underachieving Sancerre. (more…)

Thanksgiving Projects: Pumpkin Rosemary Bread

There is a reason we call these “projects.” They are experiments and not every time do you produce a resounding success like pumpkin caramel whoopie pies.

During my time living in and writing about the Los Angeles food scene, every Autumn I would be as excited for Thanksgiving as I would be for the annual trip I would take to the Monastery of the Angels in the Hollywood Hills for their beloved pumpkin bread.

The bread achieved that perfect balance of clove and cinnamon spices, where savory meets slightly sweet. It could be at home alone as dessert or alone in the bread basket during dinner.

Visions of this pumpkin bread in my head got me thinking about potential savory pumpkin bread candidates to join the usual olive bread on our Thanksgiving table this year. Unfortunately the project had its flaws, most likely keeping it away from the table next Thursday. (more…)

Restaurants: SPQR, San Francisco

You know a restaurant’s importance in the common vernacular of a city when the initials which make up the restaurant’s name are the medium for learning the abbreviation of one of history’s most important and powerful empires.

I remember visiting a friend from San Francisco studying in Rome  a few years ago. With no knowledge of what “SPQR” stood for in Caesar’s day, he noticed the “SPQR” written at the base of the Julius Caesar statue overlooking the Forum’s ruins, and mentioned how those are the same letters as that restaurant in San Francisco owned by A16 (we had dined at A16 right before he departed for Rome).

Prior to my most recent visit to SPQR, the Pacific Heights, San Francisco, modern Italian restaurant, a fellow diner thought that the “Q” was a “U”, and the restaurant is named “Spur.” No, Spur is a gastropub in Seattle.

SPQR is not only one of the most rollicking dining adventures you will have today in the city of many more than seven hills, but indeed, as what inspired the name of the restaurant, it also stands for “The Senate and People of Rome.”

Before shades of Russell Crowe in Gladiator gear and Kirk Douglas as Spartacus frame your opinion of this restaurant, understand that really the SPQR here could mean Sterling Pastas Quietly Re-Discovered.


Monday’s Neighborhood: Help Restore Red Hook, Brooklyn, New York

This week’s neighborhood of the week exemplifies the meaning of a neighborhood– where strangers come together to help one another in tines of trouble. Brooklyn is full of many impressive restaurant and bar-rich neighborhoods, many of which have been greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy, along with so many other neighborhoods of New York City and the East Coast.

From the café and bar Fort Defiance to the production kitchen for the acclaimed Montréal style deli and bakery Mile High Kitchen, nearly every restaurant, bar, store, and café has been affected by storm damage. In many cases, the businesses have been shut down altogether. The area still, two weeks later, is without power.

Right along the East River by the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, just west of Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, and south of the tip of Lower Manhattan, Red Hook was in a particularly vulnerable spot for the surging surf from the storm.

Red Hook isn’t backing down in the face of the storm damage. Grubstreet estimates that most businesses need at least $50,000 in recovery costs and almost none of the businesses are covered by insurance. The small business owners have come together to meet this challenge by creating the fundraising group, Restore Red Hook. (more…)

The 200th Article: Restaurants: Range, San Francisco

In the daunting world that is the restaurant industry, the few restaurants that succeed beyond their first half decade have clicked with some specific formula. The formula might be as a tourist trap where the attraction is an enormous aquarium wall, or it might be about the exciting nature of a completely changing menu daily à la Charlie Trotter. Teamwork and leadership are critical. Everybody needs to be all in. The vision needs to be clear.

The now seven-year-old Range is truly the consummate restaurant. If I were to be teaching a course about a restaurant with a clear vision and equally clear purpose, this would be it. Range is a professional restaurant. Every surface is sanded, no corner cut. O.K., the cold butter and unexciting bread aren’t worth filling up on. But, that’s it.

Back in the summer of 2005, husband and wife team Phil and Cameron West opened Range on Valencia Street in a rather challenging part of San Francisco’s Mission District, when the likes of Delfina and Foreign Cinema had put the neighborhood on the dining map, but long, long before the 2012 Ritual Coffee-Four Barrel Coffee-fueled Valencia Street corridor became San Francisco’s “it” street.

It’s extremely hard to spot Range from the street with its tinted windows and the only label being a small street lamp above the door that says in small print “Range.” I remember my first visit after it opened, doing a curious double-take, squinting my eyes, seriously thinking I must have completely had the wrong address.

Now Valencia Street seems to have at least a dozen restaurants per block. The once dicey block Range resides on now has only a slight bit of edge and a very welcome new playground and park right next to the restaurant.

Times change around Range. Time hasn’t changed Range too much. People come, people go. The menu has its constant stalwarts, but many dishes have evolved over the years and seasons. Through it all, after seven years, at least the equivalent of 70 years in human age, Range remains one of San Francisco’s stalwart modern day establishments– in its own way a 21st century Tadich Grill. If I were to open a restaurant, I would model it after Range. (more…)

Plat du Jour, Tuesday November 6, 2012: Your Romney and Obama Election Dinner

As the results come in on this Election Tuesday evening, let’s imagine a dinner put together by both candidates most beloved foods.

Start by with the finger foods, snacking on hummus and pita chips like Governor Romney would, and President Obama supports trail mix and chips with guacamole.

We start with Governor Romney and his favorite meatloaf cakes, with the recipe from his wife Ann. Governor Romney is also a leading advocate for peanut butter and honey sandwiches…does that count as savory or dessert? We’ll call it savory.

Then to the other candidate’s courses. The President loves chili, especially on cool Autumnal nights like this Election evening. He loves the half-smokes at D.C.’s famed Ben’s Chili Bowl, but you should follow the Obama family recipe for chili. Apparently, it’s President Obama’s favorite dish to make. (more…)