Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Real Ale, Real Feast @HighballAustin & Join the "Last Call"

@Hopsafari and I were very fortunate to be invited to a mouth-watering beer pairing dinner at the Highball.  Tim Schwartz from Real Ale and the wonderful chefs at the Highball put on a tasty meal that craft beer lovers would appreciate.  If you want to join in on another really awesome beer event at the Highball, word on the street is that the "Last Call" event should not be missed.  That's right. If you miss it, you will be sad. You might cry.  The even includes some favorite beers, some extremely rate beers, and tasty food pairings by Highball Chef Matt Richter.  Abridged menu follows:
  • (512) Brewing - Whiskey Barrel Aged Double Pecan Porter - Cask,  ONE Brandy Barrel Aged,  TWO Double IPA
  • Real Ale - 2009 Sisyphus - Cask, Coffee Porter, Devil's Backbone, Mysterium Verum (a secret whiskey barreled aged beauty)
  • Live Oak - Old Tree Hugger - Cask,  Liberation Ale - Cask
  • Independence Brewing Company - Stash IPA - Cask,  Convict Hill Stout - Cask,  6th Anniversary Braggot,  Groovin' Leuven - Head Brewer Justin Rizza's Red IPA!
  • Saint Arnold Brewing Company - Christmas Ale
  • Cheese Plate - Featuring Chimay, Guinness Cheddar, Bleu, Wisconsin-Aged Cheddar, Fireman's 4 Beer Bread, Hops-Pickled Vegetables, Nuts, Fruit, Crackers
  • Sweet Potato Gaufrettes - Herbed Creme Fraiche
  • Beef Roulade - Smoked, Beer Braised Kale, Apple Mostarda
  • Pretzel Sliders - Pretzel Bread, Beer Braised Sausage, Slaw
  • Chocolate Stout Cake - Framboise Raspberry filling, Ganache coating
Tickets to the "Last Call" are only $35, and you will get $10 off you membership to the Texas Craft Brewer's Guild.  Membership levels are at $40 and $75, not including the $10 off.  There will be two "Last Call" sessions on Saturday night.  Membership to non-breweries only opened this week, so hop on it to join.  Now let's get back to food porn business.  Photos by John M. P. Knox.

First course of the Real Ale dinner was beer nuts and Fireman's 4.  This is was a great, snack-y way to start off the meal. 

Next up was the Peach Soup with Devil's Backbone Foam paired with Devil's Backbone.  This mildly sweet and light soup was a great foundation for the Devil's Backbone Foam.  The foam had quite a bit of a body as did the soup, so that both were balanced, and neither was lost in the other. 

Brewer Tim Schwartz introduces the next course. 

Hans Pilsner Braised Pork Belly on grilled beer bread, mustard, and pickled onions served with salad and bacon vinaigrette paired with Han's Pilsner.

These pork belly sliders were done right *in a twangy Texan accent.*  Fatty (read tasty) cuts of meat on malty sweet bread, dressed with spicy mustard, and tart, pungent onions.  I'm drooling again, and I just had dinner. 

Pairing the pork belly sliders with Han's Pilsner is oh-so-delicious because the clean, crispy beer cuts the fat of the pork belly.  Cuts the fat meaning holds up to the richness by counterbalancing it.  Yum.

The crowd awaits the next course. 

IPA rubbed tenderloin, cheddar mash, and haricot verts paired with Lost Gold IPA.  This hearty dish was fanastic with the Lost Gold IPA.  Also, I have thing for haricot verts (French beans).  I love them. 

Brewhouse beer caramels paired with Barrel-aged Lost Gold IPA.  The last course was a real treat as barrel-aged beers can be incredibly complex and intense in flavors.  Paired with a malty beer caramel and chocolate pretzel, this was a tasty dinner and beer to remember. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Food Porn @UchikoAustin

I'm annoyed.  I've been to Uchiko Austin on six separate occasions, and still I'm not mayor of Uchiko.  However, I do have most of the menu memorized, and I'm happy to report that the Shag Roll is now available at Uchiko.  I'm also happy to take you on a food porn journey.  Photos and video by John M. P. Knox.

Video by @HopSafari

Designed by Michael Hsu. I hate to say it, but I love the decor of Uchiko better than Uchi. 

The outside is just gorgeous. 

The interior space is equally as stunning as the outside.  Pay special attention to the wood tiles on that far back wall and the decor on shelves above the sushi bar.

The chefs at Uchiko know how to use a grill.  I'm hungry just looking at this Yakitori photo.  I must say that the grilled meat dishes, specifcally the ika yaka are fanastic!

Chef Paul Qui slicing up some beautiful tuna for the Akami te. 

Chef Paul Qui and Chef Phillip Speer preparing the Akami te - tuna, compressed watermelon, cilantro, and chiles.

Those are some tiny chopsticks.  Sashimi over compressed watermelon.  @Hopsafari has a video of Chef Tyson Cole working his magic chopsticks.  The video (above) also includes Chef Tyson putting my cell phone into the compressor. 

Tuna, compressed watermelon sashimi fresh cilantro, lime, coriander, maldon.  The textures and flavors of the tuna and watermelon were refreshing and cool.  Unfortunately, Akami te is no longer on the official menu, but they'll make it by request. 

Chef Phillip Speer preparing delicious tobacco cream dessert tastings.  This is one of my favorite Chef Phillip creations, and I'm not a fan of tobacco. Remember to taste all the components together.

Tobacco cream chocolate sorbet, maple budino, huckleberry, scotch.  I. Love. This. Dessert.

I really loved the homemade corn flakes, but the corn sorbet dessert didn't blow me away like the tobacco cream does.  @Hopsafari really loves this one, and I really love the corn flake.  I mean really love corn flakes. I can eat an entire box of corn flakes in a single sitting. 

Gyutan Nigiri - grilled beef tongue, fish caramel, maldon. I've had beef tongue many times throughout my life.  It is usually boiled, sliced, and rubbed with raw garlic.  It is also usually very rubbery and meaty.  This grilled beef tongue was smoky, tender, delicate, and fantastic. 

Live Atlantic Clam topped with uni and roe garnished with herbs.  Chef Paul Qui served this bad boy up while it was still moving.  Check it out in the video (above).  I think the key to this dish was that all the components were amazingly fresh, subtle in flavor, and balanced in texture. 

Uni - sea urchin, basil, meyer lemon. I realize that some people don't like uni.  I really like uni.  This uni was exceptionally fresh, full of umani flavor, and brightened with the flavor of the basil and lemon.

I don't see this particular roll on the regular menu.  However, order anything with garlic mousse on the menu.  It is pretty darn fantastic. 

I always order the take nabe - japanese mushroom, koshi hikari, farm fresh egg, bushi.  The heat from the dish causes the bushi to dance making this hearty dish a beautiful display of art.  Along with the ika yaki and the tempura nasu, this dish also has a very comforting component to it.  This tastes like something I grew up eating.  I do feel that way about many of the Uchiko dishes.  I'll also add that though I love this dish, it is a tad salty.  I always ask for it without salt. 

Yokai berry, atlantic salmon, dinosaur kale, asian pear, and yuzu.  This dish is another offering that places with color, texture, and flavors.  The delicately crispy kale, paired with the juicy crunch of the asian pear, sweet berries, firm yet fatty salmon, and tart yuzu play well together.  It is both refreshing and interesting.

Koviche - fresh diver scallop, tomatillo, kalamata, black lime. This one is certainly an interesting play on flavors and textures.  Tomatillo isn't commonly served with scallops, and I think that it one of the strengths of this dish = the pairing of unlikely ingredients. 

Crunchy Tuna Roll - white tuna, avocado, jalapeƱo, English cucumber, aioli.  You can't go wrong with this delicious roll. 

Chevre fondant, tomato sorbet, sicilian pistachio croquant.  This amazing dessert was almost like eating a sweet margarita pizza. The flavors were pretty unexpected, yet oddly familiar at the same time.  This one is for the adventurous eater. 

This dessert is no longer on the menu, and I remember it being sorbet with fennel chips.  I found this to be one of the most interesting offerings at Uchiko, period.  I really enjoyed it, and perhaps it'll be back soon. 

There you have it.  The Uchiko Food Porn, where you can shag all night long.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shared interests + behavior = Community: The 99% rule in the Craft Beer Community.

What makes up a community?  According to dictionary definitions, it is a social group.  Many of the factors that tie this social group together are location or common heritage.  It can also be a group of people or nations sharing a common interest.  And online interest community is typically comprised of people with a shared interest (knitting, reading, eating, cooking, gardening, etc...).  These communities not only have a shared interest, but they usually have shared behaviors (engaging in behaviors as well as how they interact).   Being an active member of over 20 different clubs and communities over the last few years, each community has it's own culture and social rules.

I've been in the craft beer community for almost two years now, and I have to say that it is a pretty awesome group.  While there are different types of beer drinkers, I'm referring to the passionate group of beer evangelists who know and love craft beer (denoted in the blue and purple circles).  These people might write blogs, organize local beer events, work in a craft brewery or craft beer organization, or participate heavily in homebrew activities.  The shared interest is the promotion of craft beer, and how they interact is extremely friendly.

This core group of craft beer enthusiasts are extremely dedicated to producing quality beer (commercially or at home), share the same philosophy, and are really nice.  No, really.  They are really cool, chill, friendly, and awesome.  You might think that it is just a front, but it is not.  Even in a heavily drunken state, craft beer enthusiasts are really, really nice. At the Great American Beer Festival Media lunch in 2010, Paul Philippon of Duck Rabbit (and I quote) said "the national brewing community is a$$hole-free."  The general rule for this group (denoted by the purple and blue circles) is the 99% rule.  99% of craft beer enthusiasts are really awesome, and only 1% is a total !#%%#$!er.  It wasn't until recently that I met someone in that 1% that I got to thinking more about defining community. 

It started about two weeks ago when I was looking for a graphic designer to do some work for my new project, Thirsty Bird Threads.  Graphic designer, we'll call him Mr. 1% for now, contacted me with the slant that he was heavily involved in the beer community.  He claimed to be friends with brewers at a Texas brewery, a home brewer, had beer brands as past clients, and 18 years of experience. He also offered me a very low rate of $125 per logo as he was hungry for some referrals and work.  I took Mr. 1% up on that offer because of his past work experience and to support another fellow craft beer lover.  Turned out Mr. 1% probably deserves an ejection from the craft beer community.  Among many of the offenses he committed, these are just a few.
  • He said "women were too stupid to know what tulip glasses [are], and the only people who would know are 50 year old male beer drinkers."  He didn't know what a tulip glass was either.  This comment was beyond offensive.  Women are gaining ground in this male dominated industry.  Here's @lyonsgal's article citing women in the industry, and @snax, Beer Queen of Austin, has won medals for her homebrews.  Here's a very short list of some other women in beer: @beerfox, @thebeerwench, @girlslovebeer, @theartofbeer, @girlspintout, @miriyum, @hereforthebeer, and @carolfarrar.
  • Mr. 1% was stealing clip art off the internet and trying to pass them off to me as his own work.  He didn't even bother to change the stolen art besides changing the colors.  It isn't too difficult to catch someone stealing when he steals the first item in the Google Image Search.  He also mentioned that he applied for a job at Gowalla.  They might want kick that one to the curb. 
  • I indicated to him many times that I wanted something very distinctive yet simple, like Johnny Cupcake's logo.  He proceeded to use derogatory language regarding that brand.  Making rude remarks about a successful brand is truly telling of one's character.  
  • When I decided that Mr. 1% just isn't capable of producing anything original and his attitude just wasn't going to cut it, he practically threatened me.  He wrote to me in an email that he frequented craft beer watering holes like the Elephant Room and the Gingerman, and that I might run into him.  I wrote back that even if I did, I'd still be friendly. :o) That made him go off the deep end.  Also, craft beer drinkers don't go to the Elephant Room for beer.
Well, he surely stuck out as a 1%.  He wasn't just un-cool, he was a total #$#@%er.  This leaves several questions concerning community.

Women on the Great American Beer Festival Media Bus Tour. Ginger Johnson of Women Enjoying Beer on the left and Chelly Vitry on the right. Photo by John M. P. Knox.

Can you be a member of a community while only engaging in some activities? 

I do consider myself a member of the craft beer community, but I don't engage in all of the activities surrounding the craft beer community.  One of the more common activities is homebrewing.  @Windaddict does that already, so there's really no need for multiple batches of homebrew at the same time.  Mr.1% claims that he engages the activity of homebrewing, but whether or not he shares the same craft beer attitudes and philosophy is questionable.  I would tend to say that just engaging in activities isn't enough.  One must also have the shared attitude or philosophy.

Another example of my point of view would be in the dog fancier community.  If you don't already know, I show, train, and handle dogs.  The people who put forth hours and hours of work and thousands and thousands of dollars showing and sometimes breeding dogs are called fanciers in my book.  Other terms for them are breed enthusiasts or, generically, dog show people.  These are a very special breed, pun intended, of dog lovers as they are highly invested into improving their beloved breed in structure, health, type, and temperament.  These people make up about .01% of all dog owners.  One of the activities that they engage in is breeding to improve the breed.  Nope, there's no money in breeding a litter to improve a specific breed.  Dog fanciers are losing thousands of dollars. 

On the other hand, many people engage in the activity of purposely breeding dogs for other reasons.  Those other reasons might be due the desire to make money, to show kids what birth looks like, or because they don't see a reason for pet population control.  These people are NOT in the dog fancier community because they don't have the same philosophy of improving a breed's type, temperament, structure, and health. 

I could write a novel about the dog community, so I'll sum it up in a phrase commonly said in the dog fancier community.  If you make money breeding dogs, you're not doing it right.  If you're not interested in spending a large fortune improving a breed, you're better off getting a dog from rescue or the shelter. 

If someone's interactive behavior is completely out of line with the norm for the community, is that person even considered in the community? 

Can someone be such a !#%$^@$#@ that regardless of all his other behavior, he's a pariah? I suppose the answer is sometimes yes, and sometimes no.  Kayne West was a real jerk to Taylor Swift.  But I think he's still out there doing whatever, wait.... I'm going to let you finish writing, but...  Kayne West committed a fatal mistake in my opinion.  It isn't clear whether or not he is still in the inner circles of the music community, but he appears to be doing okay with his fans despite his stunt.  I'm not in the community so I can't say for sure. 

The sometimes yes part comes in when someone is so rude, abrasive, and hateful that no one wants to interact with that particular person.  While the person might still engaging in activities and share the common philosophy, being a jerk can get you ejected from a community.  If you show up to a party, and no one wants you there, you're probably not a member of the community. 

These were mostly theoretical questions, and as a commercial brand, Mr.1% might be considered part of the target audience.  But I'm not sure that Mr.1% should really be considered part of the community, at least from a community perspective.  His behavior wasn't just a little unusual for the community.  His behavior was so out of line of the community norm that I can't see him lasting long where the community is extremely friendly and cohesive. 

This article doesn't get into the the ins and outs of organization governed communities, industry managed communities, or self-selected participatory communities.  However,  if I managed the community, my ninjas would have taken him out a long time ago.

Some sexy Ladies of Craft Beer. By John M. P. Knox. 

And because women in beer are totally awesome, I teamed up with @Snax to bring you the "MisoHungry and Austin Women’s Beer League Host Beer & Dessert Pairings."  On Sunday, Oct. 24th, 2-4 pm, at the Gingerman Downtown Austin, join us for beer flights and tasty treats.  Sponsored by Austin Cake Ball and Sugar Mama's Bakeshop

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

GABF 2010 #9 - New Find: Redstone Meadery

A new find for me at the Great American Beer Fest was RedStone Meadery.  Okay, so it isn't traditional beer nor was it an official event, but I like it nonetheless. Prior to this event, I didn't know there were many other meads available besides Chauncer's, nor did I know that they came in other flavors.  With flavors like Black Raspberry, Boysenberry nectar, Shine Nectar, Mountain Honey Wine, Juniper Honey Wine, Plum Honey Wine, and Nectar of Hops, you can really run with the flavors. 
There's even a list of cocktails and food recipes using RedStone Meads.  Needless to say, I'm happy to have found this.  I'm also told that it is available at Spec's and Twin Liquors.  A not-widely know issue, but the owners David and Makado Myers lost their home to the fires in Boulder, CO just before the Great American Beer Festival.  While they appeared to be doing fine, I know they need the support of consumers.  I'm going to pick up a few bottles next time I'm in the store, maybe you can too.  If you like meads, you won't be disappointed. 

Here's David holding some The Lost Abbey Veritas 007 Ale and a bottle of their Black Raspberry Nectar.

Here's David pouring that luscious Veritas 007.

And a sampling of the Redstone Meads. 

GABF 2010 #8 - Food Porn: The Return to Snooze

We went back to Snooze.  And we were very happy.  Again, these are the best pancakes I have ever had.  I found out that they were a buttermilk recipe that has both baking powder and baking soda.  I will recreate these fluffy pillows of heaven at home.  I'll make a wild flavors like the ginger peach, banana nutella, sweet potato, and your famous cappuccino cheesecake with creme angliase.  Also, a little birdie told me that Snooze may  be coming to Austin.  Can I get a !#%$^@($# YES?

Enjoy the food porn.  Use a towel or two. 


GABF 2010 #7 - Food sessions with @HomebrewChef, @dogfishbeer, @alaskabrewing, @averybrewing, @mauibrewingco

Here's some snapshots of the food sessions I attended.   First up are photos from the Exotic Wood Aged Beers and the Foods that Love them session.  Presenters for this session were Sam Calagione (@dogfishbeer) and Sean Paxton (@homebrewchef).  I have to say, Sam and Sean certainly had chemistry and rhythm on that stage.  Sam was whipping out the naughty language ("I had wood when I saw you"), and Sean was whipping out with the tasty food.  Needless to say, this was a very entertaining session. 

The theme of the session was cooking with wood-aged beers.  Sean went over some cooking with beer basics such as making a brine, grilling, and selecting the beer.  Smoked duck breast with a Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron sauce over roasted yam puree and Dogfish Head Burton Baton Brined chicken breasts cooked on a wood plank were served to the hungry attendees. Both dishes were extremely flavorful and tender.  

Sean on the left, Wood in the Center, and Sam on the right. 

Here's the absolutely delicious duck breast.  Photo by John Knox.

A photo with Sean (@homebrewchef).

Photo with Sam.

Here's a photo of Hosea Rosenberg the Season 5 Top Top Chef winner and Adam Avery of Avery Brewing.  Hosea's latest venture is a food truck called StrEAT.

And here's a photo of Alaskan Brewing's Curtis Holms and Maui Brewing's Garrett Marrero at their Fire and Ice Session.  Though both of these breweries are on the far opposite corners (Juneau, Alaska and Maui) , they both faced the same issues.  Shared issues for both breweries are lack of easy transport and physical distance to other breweries.  I'm disappointed that I didn't get to try either breweries' special beers: Alaskan Brewing barrel aged smoked porter and Maui Brewing coconut porter.  I'm told that the coconut porter tasted like an Mound Almond Joy.  I'll be sure to jump into their lines earlier next year. 

GABF 2010 #6 - Sam Adam's Longshot and Barrel Aged Goodness

Samuel Adams Boston Lager started in the kitchen of Jim Koch some 26 years ago.  Today it is the largest American owned brewery, and though their reach spans far and wide, not all of their products are available everywhere.  At the Sam Adam's media brunch, I had the opportunity to taste three oak barrel aged beers that aren't available yet in Texas.  My favorite was the American Kriek.  The American Kriek was tart, smelled sweet, and wonderfully bright.  Hope this one comes to Texas soon. All photos by John Knox.

In addition to a brunch of foods cooked with beer, we also participated in the Samuel Adams LongShot American Homebrew Contest voting.  The beers were brewed by Samuel Adams employees, all of which were women.  This beer (along with two other homebrew winning entries) will be brewed, bottled, and distributed nationally in the 2011 Long Shot Category 23 Variety 6-pack.  The category 23 is a group of beers that don't fit into the other 22 different categories of beer. 

It's pretty cool to one of the top three beers out of hundreds of entries, but it is even more cool to  have your face plastered on a tap handle.  Honey Bee's Lavender Wheat brewed by Caitlin DeClerq was the winner this year, and I did vote for her.  I like lavender so it was pretty obvious who I was going to choose.

And some winner's presentation photos. 

In addition to Caitlin's beer, two other homebrew entries (non-employees) were previously selected as winners.  The two winners Richard Roper - Friar Hop Ale and Rodney Kibzey (below) - Blackened Hops beer will also be in the 2011 Longshot Category 23 Variety 6-pack. 

Congrats to all the homebrewers.  I might want my face on a tap someday.  That's pretty awesome.