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Peter LaFrance

Monday, February 28, 2011

Why Half Baked Camembert and Jenlain Ambrée?

Last Wednesday Chef Laurent had a special on the menu that gave both the famous French cheese and popular French beer a chance to show off at their best.

The salad, posted on the menu as a “Half baked Camembert on Frisée” was to be my first course, as I like to do things backwards. (It would have made a fine desert as well.)

The baked Camembert was placed on the Frisée and dressed with diced apples and candied walnuts. It was as simple as that.

The traditional choice of a Cote du Rhone red wine was thought of but the flavors of the Jenlain Ambrée were even more tempting.

The rich creamy cheese had a slightly nutty flavor. Enhanced by the candied walnuts, the pallet-cleansing crisp apples and slightly peppery Frisée, the malty beverage (with hints of pear, prune and hop tang) complemented rather than overpowered the salad.

Not a half-baked concept at all eh?

N.B. -

After a minimal amount of research to insure my spelling was correct and the accents properly placed, the following two items remain in my files for further research…

“No doubt the full truth about the invention of Camembert will never be known. The most important invention was that of the cylindrical box by Monsieur Ridel in 1890. Before this, Camembert was sold in a wrapping of straw and spoiled if shipped further than Paris. The box made possible shipment over long distances. Thanks to Monsieur Ridel, Marseilles and Bayonne discovered Camembert and so did New York, Buenos Aires and Saigon.”

The Complete Encyclopedia of French Cheese by Pierre Androuet

I found the following information on the Jenlain web-site… also needing further research…

"Created in 1922… With 7.5% alcohol by volume, this unpasteurized beer is made with 3 different types of malt produced from French barley, and 3 varieties of hops grown in Alsace. It is roasted malt that gives the beer its attractive amber glow and great aroma.”

“Finally, … it was the first beer to be bottled in 75 cl. champagne-style bottles with a wire-fastened cork."



Friday, February 25, 2011

Meeting up with Abner at the Blind Tiger

Once again we will revisit the tasting notes from the blind Tiger this last Wednesday.

The first beer I sampled that afternoon was from the Hill Farmstead brewery of Greensboro Bend Vermont.

You can find the following information on their website:


"Abner (1867-1953) is our great grandfather; Hill Farmstead Brewery rests upon the land that was once home to him and his fourteen children. In his honor, this Double IPA is dutifully crafted from American malted barley, a plethora of American hops, our ale yeast and water from Abner’s well. It is unfiltered, naturally carbonated, and double dry hopped. Aromatic and flowery, bursting with notes of citrus and pine, this is the ale that I dream to have shared with Abner. 8.2%, 18.5º P, 170 Theoretical ibus. Ingredients: Pale and Caramel Malt; Dextrose; Centennial, Chinook, Columbus, Nugget, Simcoe, and Warrior hops; Ale Yeast, and our Well Water."

Vital Beer Geek statistics are as follows:

18.5º P
170 Theoretical IBUs
8.2% abv.

The following are my tasting notes:

The first aromatic sensation is a brief hop flower. A second visit to the aromatics revealed a sharper floral flavor more a lemon zest. Just before the first sip, I could identify the aromatics as definitely having a particular hop aroma profile.
The first sip revealed much more of this hop profile with an obvious green floral and citric rind flavor. The second sip was a full palate cleansing experience ending with a slightly grassy flavor. A third sip introduced a more intensive citric orange flavor.
My overall impression of this beer can be described into words "very hoppy"... even after finishing the entire glass of beer I was still unaware of any malt flavor. It is possible, at 8.2% alcohol by volume, and being a very full-bodied beer, the malt performed the role of an unappreciated second fiddle to the much more aggressive hops.

I'm looking forward to reporting to you next Wednesday on their latest specialty beers!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Taste of...the Farmers Daughter at The Blind Tiger

Yesterday afternoon the folks at a beer bar called The Blind Tiger featured a selection of beers and ales brewed and kegged in Vermont. Almost half of their over twenty tap lines featured a guest beer.

On the advise of the owner, Dave Brodrick, and based on fond memories of a visit to the alchemist, I ordered a Farmers Daughter.

The following is a rendering of the tasting notes for that brew:

This is a Saison-style brew with a first aromatic impression that is faint with only a little head to promote the aromatics. The second impression brought out a hint of apple and lemon. The third aromatic impression, accompanied by the first sip, revealed a citric tang of orange and lemon. There was also a slight bubble-gum flavor that quickly dissipated. The second sip brought out a hint of banana and a full body. The third swallow left a clean and almost crisp aftertaste with a dry finish.

And that my friends is how the Farmers Daughter tasted at The Blind Tiger at 1616 hours on Wednesday the twenty third day of the month of February in the year 2011.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Put a Lid on It...

Put a lid on it!

The above picture is the mustard as it is now served at McSorley's Old Ale House. For those who are over a certain age this is only the latest instance of accommodating the least of us at the inconvenience of the majority.

This beer bar, for that is all it serves, a copper colored brew and a dark but not opaque brew. They are known as Light and Dark respectively. The brew is served in glass mugs that I will guess have the capacity of half a bottle of beer poured with gusto. Those in the know will respond, when asked what they want by the bartender, "Two and two..." That will get you two mugs of Light and two mugs of "Dark" the equivalent of about sixteen ounces of beverage. This ritual has been in place there for as long as I can remember… For over thirty years the mugs of brew have always been tendered in such a way. Ah yes... the mugs.

Again, as far back as I can remember and I can remember when there was only one toilet for all customers back in the 1960's... but I digress.

The glass mugs were also used to dispense the fiery mustard served with most food listed on the menu, but particularly with the basic "cheese platter". This specialty has been described in a previous blog so I will not return to prior revelations. The mention of mugs and mustard returns our attention to the above picture.

In order that the pristine mustard be served to me and I be protected from any pathogen that can survive that mustard, the NYC Board of Health has proscribed the pictured covered mustard server must be used at McSorley's on penalty of serious fines.

I appreciate their efforts but I miss the old mugs of mustard... and the look on the face of a date when she returned from the old uni-sex toilet with the urinals big enough to get lost in.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Light or Dark and a Plate of Cheese

For over 150 years the patrons of McSorley's (Home away From Home until the sign fell down) have been served a light or dark ale and a plate of cheddar cheese, sliced onions and salten crackers.

The origins of this culinary combination of flavors and textures can be found in the needs of Old John's customers. In the beginning most of them worked as teamsters and packers for the printing businesses that surrounded McSorley's. The men needed a quick and nourishing bite, and a few pints of brew to ease their way through their busy day. The cheese and crackers were the least that Old John could offer. The foaming malt beverage was a necessity... The Onions? Well... you wouldn't want the teamsters of New York to be thought of as a bunch of drunks now would you? Just a touch of onions and that is a non-event.

Old John and his customers might have enjoyed their brew but they weren't stupid. And onions were vegetables that were good for you too!

To this day the office drones of the area are offered the same refreshment and prophylactic as those first hard working (weren't they all?) men. Tradition is a wonderful thing to follow, especially for those of us who enjoy a beer or two with lunch... bring on the onions!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Pigs Foot and a Bottle of Beer

Chef Martin Picard is the chef/owner of Au Pied De Cochon (The Pigs Foot), in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Pictured above is the signature dish and, barely visible and un-branded, a mug of the house pale ale. Considering it was the last week of May and the temperature was in the 80’sF this was a daunting serving of food.

Nevertheless I persevered and attacked both the meal and the beer with equal gusto. It was a good plan to enjoy the meal slowly with much conversation and plenty refreshing ale. The latter deserves special mention. If my memory, and a little research, serves me well, McAuslan is the brewery commissioned by Chef Picard to provide refreshing ale that could be suggested as a beverage of choice with almost all the dishes on the menu. If not steamed or sautéed, most of the dishes are cooked in the huge brick oven that is the centerpiece of the open kitchen. This calls for a brew that is tasty, and yet refreshing at the same time to complement the range of dishes, from fish to fois gras.

This dish involved simmering the pig’s feet in pork stock until the bones slip from the meat. The little, well not so little, fellows are stuffed and, after a visit to the hot oven they are served plated with a serving of the house mashed potatoes and a “croustillant” of more pig foot.

The house ale is served chilled and is both refreshing and blends with the rich flavors of this dish due to a malty flavor that is not shy, and an extra touch of pallet-cleansing hops.

Together the ale and the meal provided a memorable experience that I have placed on my “Bucket List”… Amen.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why Wheat with Beef Steak?

Pictured above is a dish comprised of beef skirt steak, rare, with herb butter, roasted asparagus, and roasted potatoes with onions.

Tradition tells us at the beverage of choice served with this dish should be slightly sweet and full flavored to accompany the flavors of the meat. A hint of hops would be helpful in accenting the roasted asparagus. A full-bodied beer would make the potatoes happy. That is what tradition tells us...

On a hot summer Sunday afternoon the idea of a heavy full-bodied beer to accompany this dish was seriously questioned. The House red wine was considered but the alfresco dining demanded a beer. And plus, the choice was made. Actually, the choice was limited to one beer, Hoegaarden, served almost ice-cold. As it turned out it was a good choice for a number of reasons.

First of all it was refreshing. Next, the slightly acidic flavor helped to reduce the richness of the butter and beefsteak. The slightly spicy flavor of the beer was a refreshing counterpoint to the particular flavor of the asparagus and the roasted, slightly caramelized, flavor of the potatoes.

Did I mention it was refreshing?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Iceberg some Blue and a Pilsner-style Lager Beer

Essential flavors and textures are necessary to understand when suggesting a Pilsner style lager beer as a beverage of choice with the basic iceberg lettuce salad. It must be noted that the wedge of iceberg lettuce has been dressed with a combination of blue cheese, bacon and diced tomatoes in a vinaigrette dressing.

Why would a Pilsner style lager beer be a good choice for this salad? What is the beverage being asked to do? The crisp iceberg lettuce is slightly sweet, the dressing ads a touch of acid, and the cheese and bacon rich notes as well as toothsome textures to contrast with the lettuce.

This means the beverage must be refreshing, not too sweet, with carbonation to brighten the acid of the vinaigrette, and a slightly rich malty flavor to encourage the flavors of the bacon in the cheese. Dark beer carries too much flavor. Bitter or sour beer would be affected by the flavors of the cheese and bacon.

What is most important is the beverage must be refreshing.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Why braised Lamb Shanks go with Guinness Stout...

Braised Lamb Shanks, served with sautéed bitter greens, and mashed potatoes is a seasonal dish especially enjoyed in the wintertime.

In this case, the Lamb Shanks were braised in a tomato-based sauce, the bitter greens were sautéed lightly oiled kale, and the potatoes were smashed red skin new potatoes.

The falling-off-the bone meat was naturally slightly sweet to the taste. The tomato-based sauce was not acidic. The sautéed bitter greens were refreshing in contrast to the slightly sweet flavors mentioned before. There was more than just a touch of butter in the potatoes.

The enjoyment of all of these flavors was enhanced by the beverage of choice, a pint of Guinness export Stout.

The deep roasted barley flavor gave a richness to the sweet flavor of the meat. The slightly dry finish of the Guinness gave a rich complement to the potatoes. The very slight hop touch in that same finish found a friend in the flavors of the bitter greens.

It can only be imagined the influence on the final flavors of this dish if Guinness had been used in the braising sauce.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Beer for the Super Bowl

The American football spectacular known as the “Super Bowl” is a marketing paradise. In the beginning, when there was an American Football League and the National Football League and the Super Bowl actually meant something, brewing companies were the major advertisers.

Television commercial advertising was as much a part of the spectacle as the actual sporting event. I seem to remember Miller “Lite” and Budweiser both featuring advertisements for their respective beers.

Watching one of the first few Super Bowl games inspired me to explore the tasty treat known as Super Bowl dip. It consisted of melting a bar of Velveeta cheese in a bowl, adding a jar of tomato salsa and mixing the two until it was of putty-like consistency. The use of toasted corn chips conveyed this mixture from the bowl to the mouth. This was immediately followed by the consumption of at least three six ounce gulps of ice cold malt flavored fizzy straw-colored beverage. (Or Coca-Cola or Dr. Pepper if you are from the South.) The entire concept was “beer mandatory”.

The upstart A.F.L. versus the tradition bound N.F.L. would soon merge and later become a financial megalopolis. However, during that first decade the “Super Bowl” was quite simply a good excuse to party.

As the preponderance of viewers were male, beer consumption was considered mandatory, and hot spiced foods, fatty salty creations from every ethnic culinary source, found a day to be celebrated. Buffalo wings, pizza, every kind of chilly in existence, and peppers of every kind prepared in every way were always the fodder fed to the football fanatics from the very first.

What kind of beer goes with this feed?

Popular priced mass-produced American beer!

This multi-hour extravaganza has gone from the honest enthusiasm of Frank Gifford, Howard Cosell and “Dandy” Don Meredith served up at a time when the country was engaged in an unpopular armed conflict in Southeast Asia, to an orchestrated multimedia cotillion of corporate overindulgence and marketing extravaganza, served up with a side of financial slippage.

What kind of beer is called for?

This is not a beer tasting event. This is the time for mass consumption for effect not flavor. Purely for sentimental reasons my nomination goes to Pabst Blue Ribbon beer from the can. That’s the beer I’m going to have with my buffalo wings… enjoy the game!