Friday, March 2, 2012

Beer, Bacon and Butter

That is my new mantra. (My friend Valencia kindly identified it for me)

Beer in this case can be further elaborated to include bourbon, and Brewvival (and cocktails and spirits of every type known to man).

Bacon is a more specific term for the broader category of pork, and by association all food.

Butter is the the silent backbone. It's presence an indication of a later appearance of breads and pancakes and other complex carbohydrates... which is never a bad thing.

Chris and I just returned from a Beer-grimage (?) to the south. We know that the jovial eater can only be rewarded by a trip down south because it is the homeland of the three b-s. Our vacation started with plans to attend the Brewvival, a festival of beers held in Charleston, South Carolina. It quickly morphed into a stomach distending, belly bulging gourgefest through Asheville, Greenville and finally Charleston. 

We decided to take our time on the way down, being sure to stretch our stomachs and give our livers time to adapt. After av and gv(see post here) we took the southern byways straight to the Isle of Palms and Charleston.

If you follow this blog, you know how utterly in love I am with Charleston. Somehow after this last trip, the city figured a way to enamor me more.  

I have to credit Brandon, Scott, and Rich at cbX for taking some time to invest in the Chas. dining scene. They gave me a list of their favorite places in town and my palate is forever in their debt. My waistline however is less pleased. 

I will start with our meal at Husk

If you've waded throught the annuls of the internet far enough to find my little blog wonder, I'm quite sure you have heard of Husk and Chef Sean Brock. If you haven't then you need to eat more. 

I'm on the bandwagon here. No surprise, Husk is phenomenal. The front of house also deserves an award for service. There is a team of people running this place and each of them is utterly professional, in the most Southern and welcoming kind of way that makes my heart swell (or maybe that was all the pork fat). 

A great restaurant experience starts before you walk in the door. In the case of Husk it actually starts next door at the bar, with Weaver. A little hint for judging a bar: if there is a leg of ham on the counter your'e in the right bar. 

Husk Bar is known to have a great selection of top notch bourbons. A good example is the Pappy Van Winkle barrels given to Chef Brock by Julian Van Winkle (PvW's master distiller). Chris made sure to try the 20yr version. In addition to the straight booze, Weaver takes bourbons and whiskeys and all those other beautiful spirits and creates some tasty freakin' cocktails that are perfect ways to start off your meal. 

On Tuesday night Weaver was concocting some new treats which he let us taste in exchange for some creative names. Weaver even let us name a few cocktails, though I can't be sure the names made it to the menu, if you see Purplexing, The Dark Passenger, or Stockholm Blues take a photo! Weaver makes his own ginger beer, salts kumquats, and finds uses for indigenous little bitter oranges. The cocktails are cool and inventive, and the service is perfect. 

That's the Fire in the Orchard on the left (a seasonal riff on the Old Fashioned with cointreau, applejack brandy, smoked apple juice, bitters, pickled jalapenos a sugar cube, and ice), with the 'ham on a plate' sliced fresh off the leg!
photo: Chris Rausch
I got a classic cocktail introduces in the 1934 Official Mixers Manual by Patrick Gavin Duffy. Its a beautiful and refreshing blend of St. Germaine, Wild Turkey Rye, Lemon, and Grapefruit juice.

Weaver mixing up some Housemade Ginger Beer Mules
I almost forgot to mention how excruciatingly delicious our meals were. We shared pork ear lettuce wraps, clams, and chicken skins. I had the chicken fried lamb which was so good I had no problem only tasting, rather then engulfing Chris' equally delicious cornbread stuffed quail.  For dessert I had a salted brownie which was a little dry for my liking and not really salty. Chris got the chocolate chess pie which I liked much better, but still wasn't impressed by. Good, but not amazing. I guess the cocktails and wine made up for the dessert lacking a little. Their wine menu is organized by region and soil type which is super cool for me because it means something.

The most fantastic thing about Husk and their food, and their service, is the reality that they are just the tip of the ice cube floating above the delicious cocktail of restaurants in Charleston.

My other favorite meal was unquestionably the last in town, our brunch at The Macintosh on upper King Street. One bite into this meal I had decided it was the best brunch I had ever had. Chris got Rabbit and Sweet Potato hash with two poached eggs, and a side of buckwheat pancakes. I did as ordered by Rich at cbx, opting for the pork belly with bone marrow bread pudding and a poached egg. Seriously, need I say more? The only thing wrong with the meal was the butter hitting the table without any bread or spoons in sight. That's just plain mean. 

I also had a delightful cocktail called (most appropriately) the 'Stay-cation' (you don't have to ask me to stay on this vacation). It was a pretty cool combo of Stoli-Vanilla Vodka, the Italian liquer Averna, line, pineapple juice and my new favorite liquer St. Germaine (elederflower flavored). 

I was so ridiculously full I could hardly think but the meal was fantastic and so I couldn't squelch my curious palate. Chris and I had to try dessert because I judge a restaurants true worthiness based upon their desserts' ability to wow me. In the case of The Macintosh, I'll just say WOW and leave it at that.

The Pork Belly of Love 
Our Meal, drinks included here

An orange panna cotta with toasted meringue a short bread crust, and candied orange slices. Holy CRAP!
I can't believe I still haven't gotten to Brewvival yet! ugh.

I tried over 30 beers at this event. Seriously, Brewvival is fantastic. I love it because the guys at cBx make sure it's a fun event. There are beers here that you can't try anywhere else besides their source, there are brew masters, there are storytellers, you can taste the beer and learn something cool about it's origin and I love that. 

This year my favorites were totally off my radar. 

The all time best was the Ich Bein Lime (Key Lime) Berliner Weisse style from the Funky Buddha Brewery and Lounge in Boca Raton, FL. This is worth a trip to Florida. It was slightly sour and sweet and citrusy and made me crave another slice of Chris' Moms absolutely awesome Key Lime Pie. I could drink this for days. Their Coconut Chocolate Porter, Last Snow, was the beer that caught my attention to begin with. 

A blurry photo of me and their brewmaster Ryan Sentz at Funky Buddha
photo: chris rausch

Cigar City is also from Florida, and also awesome.
I also loved the Trogdor the Burninator Dopplebock from Avery, though the name didn't really make sense for a Dopplebock, I do love the usage. In case you don't understand why that is so cool, click this link to travel back in time to when I was in high school, and you will understand (also, check this one out, don't forget to click the light switch at the end of the video to see the best part).

Fullsteam is a cool new brewery out of Durham, North Carolina. We have met one of the owners and sales guy Sean a few times now and he is pretty excited to hock their stuff. As he should be cause it's yummy. He poured me a tasty Summer Basil Sour, another sour with just the right balance of flavors. I think this would be amazing with a bowl of Pho or some Thai food.

They didn't have it at Brewvival, but I had a glass of Holy City's Pluff Mud Porter at Closed for Business on Friday and really enjoyed it. 

Holy City is another local brewery. Maybe it's just cause I got cool water guns but I recall really enjoying their Laser Pants Belgian Strong Pale Ale 

The tap handles and attire at Palmetto were pretty sweet. As was the Beer. 
A Scotch Egg at Closed for Business made me a happy camper.
Baltimore's famous Gypsy Brewer, my buddy Brian 'Stillwater' Strumke and I discussing the Hall and Oats Hotline over a glass of Holland Oats

My favorite of the Stillwater offerings at Brewvival. The Saison Darkly was pretty yummy too. 

That seems like a sufficient amount of info for now. I'll probably share more about the trip and our favorite new places sometime in the future.

Go check out Chris' post on BEERsimple for a more accurate description of all the booze.

We can't wait to see you all again next year for round four!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wading Through the Stream of My Consciousness

Being a blogger as I am, I have this fatal flaw that I can't seem to find my way around. I am a terrible writer, and a worse storyteller. Letting this cat out of the bag may seem like a scratch in the face to you, my tens of avid readers, who enjoy my blog. 

To everyone out there reading this blog, or doing whatever it is you do on this site, I thank you for laboring over my run-on sentences, ignoring my bad grammar, and wading through the stream of my consciousness. How you have not been dragged into the undercurrent is a mystery to me. 

I assure you that I am trying to learn to write. I just don't know how. They say admitting to a problem is the first step towards a solution. I love to read, and it's always helpful to inform my writing with someone else's better judgement. So I'm gonna go check out some good blogs. If you have any tips, please share. 

I have so many stories to tell you but right now they are all jumbled in my head. Hopefully soon they will make it out of my mind and onto your computer screen. 

Most recently I have been inspired by the writings of Molly Wizenberg at Orangette.