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Peter LaFrance

Saturday, September 18, 2010



The title of this piece may seem unusual but I assure you I have a great deal of confidence that there is a disconnect going on in the beer world in the United States in particular.

There is a disconnect when it comes to the person who looks forward to a “suitcase” of iced cans of refreshing brew and the person who looks forward to a special snifter of twelve-year-old Russian Imperial Stout from a jeroboam sized bottle. (Now how you can pour a four ounce snifter of beer from a bottle that would serve a platoon is beyond me… but that is the point of this piece.) These two poles are emphasized in media and myth. Both sides enjoy their reputations and encourage membership. However… as in politics and the real world…

The rather comfortable place between these two poles is inhabited by folks that like simple good food and beverages. These folks have no time for pretense. These folks have no intention of being intimidated by either cuisine, chef, bar manager or hostess. These are folks who want a comfortable place to celebrate life. They want to be able to enjoy friends, food and beverages that build friendships and eases introductions. Whether banter, political “conversations,” sensual side-glances, trade-talk, show-offs or keeping-in-touch… all of this is part of a shared experience that is essential. This is what has been defined in a number of sources as a “Local”…

When I first heard of this term in literature I was brought to mind of Victorian England and the romantic image of the “Pub”.

Since then I have learned that the “Local” is a special place and means different things to different people. What it means in the end is a place where you can feel special and enjoy life a little more than when you first walked in the door. This has nothing to do with the “Belgian Lace” on the Leffe glass. That would be a good thing if it was there of course. This has nothing to do with the traditional “two fingers” of foam that should crown most brews but never does because the customer will feel cheated. In essence it has to do with the best brew served in the best way and enjoyed with a good heart with good friends.

The “craft” kids and the “farmer brew boys” would better enjoy life and each other if the connection of good food brought them together understanding that they were talking about beer and well… there is no disconnect there.


Peter LaFrance

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Jenlain and Zucchini Soup a la Jules

Yesterday was a beautiful, cool but not crisp, early autumn day. I indulged myself and set off walking from my abode in Brooklyn, across the Manhattan Bridge into Chinatown, strolled up Elizabeth Street to First Street, and sauntered across to First Avenue savoring the walk uptown (literally, there were at least a dozen restaurants and food shops that I noted deserved investigation) until I reached St. Marks Place. There I turned left and, halfway down the block, on the uptown side of the street, at number 65, stepped down onto the patio in front of Jules.

Jules and I have a history that deserves telling but that’s for another blog… this time I will limit myself to relating my experience involving a heated bowl of zucchini soup and half a liter of Jenlain Ambree Biere de Garde.

I will forgive the owner/chef/friend for icing the half liter stein with a rinse of ice cubes and cold water. I will forgive almost anything for a half liter of Jenlain Ambree Biere de Garde and an hour to enjoy it.

As there were no other customers at that hour and the staff was enjoying house lunch I had all afternoon to enjoy the brew once it warmed up a little. Until then it was educational to sip it slowly and experience the development of flavors as the biere reached cellar temperature. The nutty notes were kept from being cloying by the effects of the effective but non aggressive influence of the hops. These hops were the touch-point for the flavors of the soup.

The soup was a vegetarian, vegetable-stock based, rather thick, potage. Chips of zucchini, well past el dente but not puree, added a hearty texture to a fresh tasting stew, topped with slivers of Parmesan cheese and sliced fresh basil leaves. The latter two ingredients joined in a flavorful dance with the sweet of the malt but even more energetically with the hops of the Jenlain.

The real key was the kinship in flavors that happened between the fresh Basel and the hops of the beer.

When I get the recipe I’ll post it… until then…

Peter LaFrance