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Beer Review: Magic Hat #9

14 Dec

This review is a few weeks overdue, but I have a logical explanation for why that is the case.  You see, I went over to Anthony’s house about 4 weeks ago to watch the NY Football Giants take on the lowly scoundrel Dallas Cowgirls (were we supposed to remain unbiased on this website, because I didn’t get that memo).  While watching the game, I indulged in two beverages, both of which happened to be the beer we’re reviewing today.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy the beers because the Giants took a beating at the hands of the wimps from Texas.

It wasn’t until today that I was able to brush off the bitterness from the game and adequately enjoy Magic Hat #9.  And enjoy I did, folks.

A little bit about the brewery itself, now.  Magic Hat Brewery has been producing delicious beers since 1994 and is located in Burlington, Vermont — right next to the coat factory(!!).  It is a microbrewery that has grown substantially since its inception – from only a few employees at the time of the brewery’s birth to over 150 today.  They produce 4 year-round beers (#9 being one of them) and typically have 4 seasonal beers in the rotation at any given time.

Variety: Not Quite Pale Ale

Color: Burnt orange & gold

Nose: Apricot

Palate: Subtle peach and wheat notes; apricot

ABV: 5.1%

Hops: Cascade (originally developed in Oregon and named for the Cascade Mountains, this hop is typically used in pale ales and IPAs); Apollo (less commonly-known, developed in 2000 in California)

Malts: Pale (basis of pale ales, very cheap and mass-produced); Crystal (also used in pale ales and produce strong, sweet, toffee-like flavors)

Finish: Smooth malt middle with a tinge of tangy, sweet hops in the finish

Now, what the heck do I mean by ‘Not Quite Pale Ale’???  Actually, that is the term that the company uses to describe this beer, and it is pretty spot on.  Pale ales are typically defined by their hops, and this beer is not particularly hoppy.

To tell you the truth, I really enjoyed this beer (when I wasn’t pairing it with a Giants loss).  There’s an almost light richness to it, and in that I mean that the flavors are certainly complex, but they shine through in an easy, clean beer.  One of the things that hit me most was the color of this beer – the orange hue that it had was inviting and warm and almost telling of a caramel sweetness – which is present then in the fruity nose.

Another thing I really liked about drinking this beer was the story behind the brewery itself.  I’m a huge fan of microbreweries that tell a story with their beer.  I can totally imagine the workers at Magic Hat being really friendly, down-to-earth, rocker-types.

Fun Fact: They name a lot of their beers after music, and it is suspected (though never has been admitted) that the #9 beer is a tribute to The Beatles song, ‘Revolution #9.’

Keys To Tasting: Drink this beer in a frosty mug, and no other way.  It is good out of the bottle.  But put this bad boy in a frosty mug and enjoy the heavenly delights of ice cold brewed ‘magic’.

Food Pairings: I think the ideal food pairing for this beer would be something with a little bit of spice but not too overwhelming.  For instance, a mild Indian or Thai dish, or even some good old fashioned American BBQ with a tinge of spiciness.

A very good beer, certainly worth drinking.  Sippable and pleasant, shrouded in a bit of mysterious fruity and hoppy flavor.

 

 

Menu Item #2: Baked French Breast Chicken with Potato Pancakes and a Cipolinni Onion, Tomato, Sherry Wine Sauce and Crispy Parsnip Chips

15 Nov

Welcome back for our second cooking demonstration!  Our second menu item is absolutely delicious, and is very accessible.  By that, I mean that not many people would shy away from it.  There is nothing in this dish (like raw fish or some crazy veggies) that would deter people from eating it.  It is straightforward, but the flavors are explosive, layered, and rich.


This dish was especially delicious.  The chicken was cooked to perfection – it had a crispy, baked outer layer (almost a baked crust) and a moist, tender, juicy body.  Potato pancakes are one of my favorite dishes – the consistency complimented the chicken very well (the fried, golden outside played nicely with the softer center).  The absolute best part of this dish – no doubt in my mind – was the sauce.  It started with the aromas racing through the kitchen when Anthony sauteed the already-baked cipollini onions.  They are semi-sweet onions and a fairly new found gem of modern cooking.  They’ve been around forever, but have found a place in mainstream cooking somewhat recently.  I’m glad they have – they are delicious.  When Anthony hit the mix with the sherry wine, the entire pan went on fire as it burned the alcohol out of the sauce.  What a site to see – and you can see it just below!

A really fantastic dish – and something that you can probably bring yourself to cooking at your house!  As I said, this is an accessible dish.  It takes the artistry and creative mind of a chef to develop and imagine the dish, but any ordinary cook can recreate it and bring it to life in their own kitchen.  So do it!  And take a picture, make a video, or leave a comment about how it tastes!

Without further ado…

Recipe

Chicken Preparation

2 French Breast of Chicken

Season with salt and pepper

Saute skin side down in two tablespoons of olive oil

Roast in oven 20 minutes at 350 degrees

Sauce Preparation

8oz cippolini onions (peeled)

1/2 pint grape tomatoes (halved)

1/2 cup julienne carrots

1/8 cup toasted pine nuts

1/2 cup sherry wine

4oz brown chicken stock

2 tbsp butter (cold diced)

Roast cippolini onions in oven for 10 minutes

Add julienne carrots, cherry tomato – saute 3 minutes

Add sherry wine and allow one minute for alcohol to burn off

Add dark chicken stock

Add toasted pine nuts and butter

Potato Pancake Preparation

2 Idaho potatoes (peeled)

10 leaves of basil (chiffonade)

2 eggs

1/2 cup flour

1 tbsp salt and pepper mix

Shred potato with cheese grader and squeeze out all water

Add eggs, flower, basil, salt, and pepper and mix thoroughly

Strain out excess liquid

Hand-form and pan fry until golden brown; flip and cook through

Parsnip Garnish Preparation

3 parsnips (peeled)

1 tsp salt

With peeler, cut strips lengthwise

Deep fry until golden brown

Season with salt immediately

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We sincerely hope that you enjoy these demonstrations – and we want you to bring them to life in your own kitchens!

Until next time, fellow eaters…

Menu Item # 1: Grilled Skirt Steak with Potato-Squash Hash and Fire-Roasted Red Peppers

10 Nov

Welcome back to The Vaulted Door.  Actually, we can finally say welcoming INTO The Vaulted Door.  Every week we’re going to bring you one or two of our menu items so you can salivate a little before we actually open our doors.

A few disclaimers:

1. I stink at filming, and add to that that I’m using an iPhone.  Quality isn’t Emmy-deserving, but look beyond that into the ingredients and the food, you’ll be happy.

2. Volume is a little iffy at some points.

3. I tend to think I am a lot funnier than I actually am, so please ignore my corny jokes and interjections.

Now we bring you our first dish: Grilled Skirt Steak with Potato-Squash Hash and Fire-Roasted Red Peppers.  It is very seasonal, very Thanksgiving/Halloweeny, and can I tell you that it was absolutely delicious??

We want you to take this recipe and make it your own – internalize it and see what you can make of it!  Film videos, take pictures, even just leave a comment that you tried this type of dish – you will be very happy that you did!

Enjoy!

Recipe!

Pre-Cooking:

5 pieces of skirt steak (peeled and trimmed of excess fat)

1 Spanish onion sliced

1 bunch scallions

1 cup Teriyaki sauce

1 cup soy sauce

1 cup sweet mirin sauce

1 cup blended canola oil

Combine all ingredients and marinate for 8-24 hours in refrigerator

When ready to cook:

1 small onion diced fine

8 pieces of garlic sliced thin

1 cup diced butternut squash

1 cup diced Idaho potato

4 slices of cooked bacon (diced)

1 large Portobello mushroom (grilled and diced)

3 tbsp olive oil

4 stalks chopped scallions

2 red peppers

1 lemon

Demi Glace: Red wine reduction, chicken stock, salt, pepper (Anthony’s demi glace is a secret recipe, but these are the main components; try to create your own – the key is the reduction of the wine — good luck!)

Instructions:

Roast red peppers over open flame, rotate occasionally to blacken all sides equally

When peppers are completely blackened, remove from flame, place in metal bowl and cover, steaming for 10 minutes

After steaming peppers, add water to bowl to soften peppers; remove black outer layer as well as seeds

Dice potatoes and squash into equal size cubes

Saute squash over medium heat and butter until golden brown

Fry potato cubes in oil until slightly crispy and then place in oven at 350 for 10 minutes

Saute onion and garlic until translucent in olive oil

Add bacon, potatoes, and remaining ingredients – sauté together 5 minutes until softened

Squeeze one half a lemon’s worth of juice into hash and demi glace

Grill skirt steak 5-8 minutes per side until desired temperature (5 minutes for medium rare; 8 minutes for medium)

After grilling, let rest 8 minutes and slice on a bias against the grain for best texture

Plate hash in center of plate and flank the side with fire-roasted red peppers

Fan grilled steak around the hash and drizzle with demi glace

Garnish with cut scallions

Enjoy!

We love taking you into our world of food.  This is the first item on our menu that we wanted to share with you.  It was an absolutely delicious creation.  The aromas raced through the kitchen as soon as Anthony started cooking, and I was in heaven until the very last bite.  We challenge you to make this dish – and make sure you do it well!  Please comment, email, send pictures, videos, anything!

We appreciate the love, and can’t wait to have you into the restaurant to try our delicious menu.

Next up: Friday and Saturday we’ll have a few new dishes for you to see!

Special thanks to my good friend Joe Mongeluzzi for not only supplying the iPhone but also hanging around to help in the filming (and tasting) of the dish.

Beer Review: Kronenbourg 1664

22 Oct

If you’ve taken a look at my ‘biography page’ on the top of this site, you surely have seen that my favorite beer listed is Kronenbourg 1664.  That’s the beer that I’ll be reviewing tonight.  Actually, I only tasted it for the first time about ten days ago, but it is so good that it immediately became my favorite beer.  I was at Anthony Bourdain’s restaurant, Brasserie Les Halles, when I tried it for the first time based of a recommendation from my friend Doug.  That was a Wednesday.  Friday I went and bought a 6-pack to try at home.  My goodness is that a great beer!

The Kronenbourg Brewery is located in Cronenbourg, a town in Alsace, France, which is the fourth-smallest of the 26 regions of France.  It wasn’t started there, however.  From its inception in 1664 through to 1850, the brewery was located in Place de Corbeau, a town just miles away from Cronenbourg.  They moved because of the desire to be on higher terrain and are now owned by the conglomerate Carlsberg.

Kronenbourg 1664 is the most popular and best-selling beer in France.  It has a 40% market share!  I guess I’m not the only one who loves it.

Variety: Pale Lager (similar to Heineken, Budweiser, Coors, etc.)

Color: Rich amber; deep gold

Nose: Grapefruit!

Palette: A tinge of bitter; not very sweet; citrus; grapefruit

ABV: 5.5%

Hops: Strisselspalt, which are hops native to Alsace and known as a ‘Noble Hop’ – one of the four hop varieties that are low in bitterness and high in aromas

Finish: Slow and smooth

When I read about the Strisselspalt hops I knew immediately that that was the reason I loved the beer so much.  I’m not a fan of overly-bitter beers, and so the fact that Kronenbourg 1664 has a beautiful bouquet (aroma) and a citrus taste without having that bitterness is what sealed it for me.

Here is the other thing that has sold this beer for me and makes it my favorite: the finish is slow and smooth.  Actually, the Kronenbourg 1664 brand has been recently built around the concept of slow: “Slow Beer, Slow Taste,” and it couldn’t be closer to the truth.  While they market it by saying that it is brewed in the best town in France, etc. etc., they’re absolutely right that the malt is done slowly so as to not give the beer a crisp taste, but actually gives it a slow, drawn out flavor.  When I sip the beer, the flavor lasts on my lips for minutes after I am done.  I don’t want to call it creamy, because it is not, but imagine that feeling as opposed to a quick, crisp finish.  Delightful!

Fun Fact: Marie Tussaud was born and raised in the town where Kronenbourg was originally brewed.  She must have at least once sipped a Kronenbourg 1664 at the actual brewery, which is pretty cool because she now has 9 hugely popular museums named after her throughout the world.

Keys To Tasting: First, drink this beer in a wine glass.  Yes, a wine glass.  If you can, make it a Bordeaux wine glass.  This beer is so beautifully aromatic that a Bordeaux wine glass is one of the only ways to drink it to capture its full scent.

Food Pairings: Anything light with a touch of creaminess would be great; perfect would be a thin-crust pizza

Kronenbourg Brewery, Alsace, France

My Favorite Beer, Kronenbourg 1664

Wine Review: 2008 Terredora di Paolo Falanghina

21 Oct

Taking you into my world of wine with this one.  Similar to my experience with sushi, my enjoyment of wine has only thus far been a 3 or 4 year infatuation, but in that time I’ve not only likened my palette  to the taste, but also become fascinated with the sub-culture surrounding – as simple as it seems – squeezed grapes.  Working in restaurants definitely enhances your knowledge of wine because you’ve got to understand what you’re selling to your guests.  If you can’t explain how a wine tastes or what it tastes best with, then how are you supposed to sell it?

That brings me to the wine I tried tonight, a 2008 Falanghina from Terredora di Paolo.

Tonight’s Wine

Stats

Winery: Terredora di Paolo

Varietal: Falanghina

Vintage: 2008

Region: Irpinia, Campania, South Italy

Tasting Notes

Color: Medium Gold

Nose: Fleshy fruits like apples and pears, stone fruit, a hint of banana (when you saute or fry a banana and you get that crisp, sweet, banana smell)

Palette: Medium-bodied; very fruity, though not very sweet; apples, pears, pineapples; a hint of lemon zest; rich minerality

Finish: Cool, crisp, and short finish; Very refreshing

Food Pairing: Light seafood; sushi and sashimi; chicken dishes dressed in garlic and olive oil, light vinaigrettes, lemon dressings

I would give this wine a B-.  This is only the third falanghina that I have ever drank and it was quite delightful; I liked it more than the first two that I had experienced.  I think the best part of this wine was its accessibility.  For those of you who don’t know about the falanghina varietal, it is very similar to pinot grigio, but a little more fuller-bodied and richer in terms of both acidity and fruitiness.  I’m not a huge pinot grigio fan, so I don’t drink it very often, but if I do, I usually drink it with food.  I don’t like to sip pinot grigio on its own.  This falanghina was different from most pinot grigios and the other falanghinas that I have tried before in that it was more accessible, or easy to sip.  I had a glass with my dinner and am still sipping the wine after the dinner is finished.  It is very rare that I enjoy sipping white wine.  Riesling is the exception, usually, for me – I could drink bottles of that; it is, without a doubt, my favorite white wine.

I think the best part of the Terredora di Paolo is its balance.  The fruity nose is accentuated with the first taste of the wine – more layers of rich fruit hit you right off the bat.  The middle has just a tinge of zing, which is from the acidity of the wine.  That only lasts a second, though, before a cool, crisp finish sets in and you just want to say ‘ahhh.’  It is well balanced – the acidity and fruit play off each other in a deliciously complimentary manner.

I gave this wine a B- grade because I’m not a huge fan of the falanghina varietal.  I like it, that is for sure.  But I don’t love it.  I don’t know if the best falanghina in the world could be an A or A- for me – I don’t think it would even be possible.  When I drink white wine I prefer sweeter wines, and that is why riesling is my favorite.  The acidity of this wine was certainly refreshing, but did not make for my ideal tasting wine.

A Quick Note About The Varietal

The falanghina varietal is grown, as noted, in southern Italy in the region of Campania.  Campania is home to the famous Italian city of Naples.  While falanghina is native to Campania, there are variations in taste and structure depending on where the grapes were grown and harvested within the region.  This grapes harvested for this particular wine were grown in a town called Irpinia, which is located in the Apennine Mountains roughly 25 miles from Naples.  The soil in Irpinia is mostly limestone-based, which is a key contributor to the acidity of grapes and the ensuing wines.  The most interesting tidbit about both the falanghina varietal and the region of Campania is that is has been made for thousands of years.  It is noted that during the Roman Empire falanghina wines were often enjoyed.

Price: $17

Recommendation

This was, as stated, the best falanghina that I have tried.  I’m not a huge pinot grigio drinker, but if you like that varietal, you should certainly try the falanghina, and this is a perfect one to try.  The price point is reasonable and doesn’t provide a barrier to entry in terms of trying.  The worst that happens is that you spend $17 on a fairly good, fruity, acidic wine that will go well with your next homemade seafood dish.

The Winery at Terredora di Paolo

The Rolling Hills and Vineyards in Irpinia

Ryan’s Sushi Journey; Hatsune’s Moto-Roll-Ah Roll; Sneak Peak at Sushi Competition

21 Oct

It was sometime around 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I was eating a chicken roll from The Gallery Four.  As the sauce dripped from the side of my mouth onto the paper plate, I got to thinking about how it has been exactly one month since I got back from China.  The past month has really flown, and I haven’t had much time to reminisce on my time there, and so on my drive over to Anthony’s house (10 minutes after I finished the chicken roll), I attempted to somewhat relive my two-week journey that saw nothing but the best that China had to offer in terms of food, champagne, wine, traveling, hospitality, and most of all: friends.  That’s a lot to relive and replay in a twenty-four minute drive, and there was one piece of the journey that stood out to me along the way: the Moto-Roll-Ah Roll at Hatsune.

I consider myself pretty well-versed in the world of sushi despite the fact that I only allowed myself to start eating it about five years ago.  Like many non-sushi-eaters, I was stuck on the fact that I didn’t want to eat ‘raw fish.’  Needless to say, I got over that as soon as I tried my first piece.  In those past five years of my sushi indulgence, I have eaten the freshest sashimi and sushi in Tokyo, worked in the top-rated Japanese restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, eaten my fair-though-not-Jeremy-Piven-level share of sushi in New York and North Carolina, hosted sushi parties featuring my homemade, handcrafted rolls, and been GM of a Japanese restaurant.  I would definitely say that I have been immersed in the world of sushi more than most for the past 5 years.

That being said, one would think it would be tough to pick a most memorable sushi experience or a favorite dish.  It is not.  At all.  There is one roll that stands far above anything I have ever tasted.  But before we get to that, I want to discuss the three types of sushi eaters.

Sushi eaters can be divided up into three categories.  We’ll call them: the Japanese, the Californians, and the Hybrids.

  • The Japanese diet is known for being very healthy.  Most of their cuisine is consumed fresh or steamed.  So you can imagine, even if you’ve never been there, what a typical meal would be like.  If you were to go to a sushi restaurant in Tokyo – or anywhere in the country, for that matter – the emphasis would be on the freshness of the fish, the flavor profile of the fish and rice, and the texture of the rice.  That being said, a lot of Japanese don’t even eat rice with their fish.  Side note for everyone to get straight: the definition of the word ‘sushi’ is cooked vinegared rice. They often prefer to eat sashimi, which is delicate slices of raw fish.  But when they do eat sushi, it is in the form of nigiri, which is a hand-pressed ball of sushi rice with a dab of wasabi and a piece of raw fish.  Nobody eats what we as Americans have come to know as sushi, which are those delicious rolls.
  • The Californians are really all of us westerners who love sushi rolls.  A sushi roll consists, typically, of a few main ingredients: sushi rice, nori (dried seaweed), and some type of raw fish/vegetables.  There are a lot of variables, sauces, garnishes, and ways to play around here to really dress a roll up, but those three ingredients are usually the main substance of the roll.  California style sushi gave birth to the – yes, you guessed it – California Roll,’ which is simply imitation crab stick, avocado, and cucumber wrapped inside-out (rice on the outside) with nori and sushi rice.  That is usually the non-sushi-eater’s first step into trying their first bite of heaven here in America.  The Californians cover their rolls in artistically-drizzled sauces, sesame seeds, and layers upon layers of mouthwatering fish and vegetables.  They won’t mess with sashimi or nigiri – usually people are strictly California style sushi eaters when they believe that what they don’t know can’t hurt them, seeing as most of the raw fish is inside the sauce-laden roll.
  • The Hybrids are the people who like both.  They’ll go fresh with sashimi and nigiri, but they’ll also stray away from traditionalism with a deliciously-drizzled roll of pure ecstasy.

What am I?  You probably guessed it, but I am a Hybrid sushi eater. I could sit on a fishing boat, watch a blue fin tuna or red snapper get caught and filleted and eat a piece of sashimi right off the cutting board.  I could also sit down at a restaurant and indulge in the most fantastically-presented, beautifully-arranged, wildly unique-tasting sushi roll and love every second of it.

Now to the main event: my favorite sushi ever.  I certainly have eaten meritorious sushi that I remember clear as day – the homemade, freshly cut sashimi and nigiri on New Year’s morning at Aya’s house in Tokyo is the experience that comes close to dethroning my favorite, but nothing I have ever tasted has been as good as the Moto-Roll-Ah Roll.

The setting is Hatsune, Alan’s Japanese restaurant in Beijing that, for the past 9 years, has been rated as the top Japanese restaurant in the city.  It is the first California-style sushi restaurant of its kind in all of Beijing, and as upheld the highest standards of excellence and delicious food since its opening in 2001.  The setting certainly helps the cause for me, because Hatsune is my favorite restaurant that I have ever been to.  It is not necessarily the best, but it is my favorite because I feel the best when I am there compared to any restaurant I have ever been to.  Simple as that.

A brief history: the Moto-Roll-Ah was created a short time after Alan opened Hatsune.  It wasn’t on the original menu, but when Alan saw how many guests he had coming daily from Motorola’s corporate office down the road, he decided to dedicate a roll to them.  Little did he know that nine years later it would be the best-selling menu item in Hatsune’s storied history.  It literally melts in your mouth as you begin to chew, and the combination of flavors is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before in sushi.

Now, if you’ve read this far, you definitely want to know what this roll is all about.  Without further ado, here it goes:

The Moto-Roll-Ah Roll

Deep-Fried Spicy Tuna and Snow Crab Covered in Blue Fin Maguro Tuna,

Layers of Rich Avocado, Scallions, Tobiko, and a

Special Sauce with a Hint of Wasabi and Tinges of Sweetness

 

The Meritorious 2nd Place

New Year’s Morning at Ayako’s House in Tokyo, Japan

 

I know Nemo told us that ‘Fish are friends, not food,’ but it is truly inexplicable what non-sushi eaters are missing out on.  Sushi is a world of exploration.  There are so many flavors, so many categories, so many creations to be made.  Imagine a world of sushi where roll-holding chopsticks dangled from trees and you had your choice any time and every time you wanted some?

At The Vaulted Door we’re going to bring a modern flare to our sushi – we’re planning on introducing a menu of 11 rolls that are unparalleled not only in freshness and flavor, but also in creativity.  However, we only have 10 set rolls.  Sharpen your knife, roll your bamboo and get to work.  Whoever creates the most unique, special, funky, delicious, creative roll in the next month *by November 20* will get a spot on our opening menu.  This is the first mention of this competition.  Full details to be disclosed tomorrow.  This your chance to get your creativity working a day in advance before the rules are announced!  Good luck!

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