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I have a small collection of beers in my cellar. Every once and awhile I’ll pull one out for a special occasion. This past Friday night we went out to our local BYOB, Las Cazuelas, with some friends, and I brought along a bottle of 2006 Allagash Musette.
Lois and I have had a rocky relationship with the restaurant. Its only 2 blocks from our house, but the last time we went, we had a less than perfect experience. So we haven’t been back there in awhile. But we decided to give it another chance. This was a much better experience, not mind blowing, but not a disaster. We had the cactus salad and the shrimp ceviche to start. Lois loves the cactus salad and it didn’t disappoint, and the ceviche was lemony and fresh. I ordered the special, a shrimp and calamari with rice dish cooked in beer. For all the server’s interest in my bottle of Musette, he didn’t say much about the beer in the dish. And I couldn’t pick out much beeriness in the dish. Oh well, it was tasty nonetheless. Since I’ve started eating seafood, after 10 years of strict vegetarianism, I must say, I’m a sucker for shrimp.
Now for the beer, the real reason for the post. The label had a bottling date of August 2006, so it was 4 months shy of 2 years old. We had similar vintage bottle of Curieux a couple months ago, and it had aged amazingly, so I was really looking forward to trying the Musette. The bottle opened (by me, I think the server was afraid to open it, ha ha) with a distinct pop, which surprised me. There was clearly plenty of carbonation still in there. This was confirmed by the healthy headed pour. As for the taste, I was not only surprised by the level of carbonation, but also by the bitterness of the hops; they were still very up-front at almost 2 years old. The sherry-like qualities of a well aged beer only peeked through a bit as it warmed up. Overall the beer tasted rather fresh, and was incredibly drinkable, particularly paired with the subtly smoky cactus salad.
My only regret is that I don’t have another one of these. I’d love to age it for another 2 years and see how it progresses. Oh well, time to stock up the cellar again.
The much anticipated Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby was on Sat, along with the Trenton Ave Arts fest. I had to miss last years event, so I was eagerly looking forward to this. We got there almost an hour early, and spent some time in Circle Thrift and the Rocket Cat.
A number of our friends were riding in the derby, and had built some wild sculptures. Fred, Matt and Tyson, had built what amounted to a pedal powered dune buggy (which broke down in smoke and won the best breakdown prize). A whole crew of friends built a chariot and rode it dressed as animals and roman soldiers, shooting marshmallows out of blow guns (they won the best costume prize). It was a wild spectacle and the girls loved it. Particularly the giant octopus and its entourage, who gave out little bottles of bubbles. I won’t try to list and describe all the entries here, but you can see Carina’s photos here.
There were plenty of vendors at the Trenton Ave Arts Fest, including many local restaurants. Unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to eat of the goods. We were, however, able to grab some PBC beer. They were serving Kenzinger and Rowhouse Red, both great choices for a sunny Saturday.
This event ran right through naptime, so we came early, went home for naps (the kids, not us), then actually came back to catch the tail end. It was still going strong at 4pm, along with Lois’ brother Zach’s punk rock bar-b-q.
Pretty much the perfect day.
In contrast to last weeks flurry of activity, this week has been a quiet mess. Even my weekly cell night at Skinner’s was skipped. On Tuesday night, our main server at work lost 2 hard drives. We basically lost all our data from the past 7 years, including every appraisal report I’ve done. I’ll spare the details, but its been a mess.
I didn’t even make time to get on my bike. Sad. Though I did receive a case of Victory Whirlwind Wit as a late birthday present from my in-laws. Summer’s here, drink wheat beer.
And this Saturday is the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby and the Trenton Ave Arts Fest. I’m really looking forward to taking the kids there for the festivities. I think Phila Brewing Co will be there, hopefully bringing some Walt Wit. Bikes, beer, sounds perfect.
Friday night, Lois and I had the unexpected pleasure of a kid free date night. We decided to eat at the South Phila Taproom. I’ve had a thing for this bar for awhile, but the recent expansion and kitchen turnover had made us particularly anxious to check it out again. Most importantly because Lois’ brother is part of the kitchen staff that moved over from Bridgewater’s in 30th St station (which I was only moderately fond of the one time we ate there).
So after dropping the girls off at Grammy’s, we raced straight to south Philly. We did drive, contrary to my normal and desired method of transportation. Parking was a breeze, and I must say, there was a bounce to our steps as we made our way around the corner to the bar. We were met on the street by our old friend and partner in crime Adam, who works as a bar back there, and quickly made our way to a 2 seater next to the kitchen.
Had I read the review in PW closer, I would have realized that Lois’ brother Zach is the Sous Chef there, and is “kinda a big deal.” He introduced us to the chef who was more than friendly and excited to meet us. It was the night after the Bell’s event there, so there was still ample Bell’s on draft. I had a Lager of the Lake, while Lois had a Two Hearted IPA. I was in the mood for some lighter session beers, and the Bell’s did the trick.
The first thing that was brought out to us, courtesy of Zach, and without even asking, was the Mr Mancuso’s cheese plate. Zach is well aware of my cheese fetish, so this was much appreciated. It was a lovely plate of 4 kinds of cheese, and various accoutrements, including figs, dried apricots, balsamic syrup, and strawberries. The cheeses were “plain old,” as I suggested to the chef, in a regrettable faux pax, however they were spectacular. I have a tendency to treat cheese like extreme beer, and seek out the wildest, funkiest, bluest there is. But the simple sharp provolone Mr Mancuso provided was perhaps one of the best cheeses I’ve ever had. Perfectly balanced between sweet and sharp, I would even go as far to say that the texture was sexual in its chewiness. Lois preferred the Gorgonzola with balsamic and strawberries. This single plate would have made a completely perfect meal on its own. But there was more to come.
Rapid fire, we were brought a bowl of Poutine and a Frito Lay chili bowl. I’m a sucker for cheese fries, so I dug right into the Poutine, a Canadian version of cheese fries with mushroom gravy and cheese curd. Both Zach and the chef scorned this dish, but dang. Dang! The Frito Lay chili dish, Zach informed us, is a southern meal that construction workers eat for lunch: a bag of Fritos filled with chili. I don’t know how much truth there is to the origin, but our vegetarian version was hearty and delicious. Of all the uneaten food (keep reading, there was lots), this is the only thing that Lois insisting on boxing up to take home.
At this point, we are throughly filled. I had a Bells Amber, which I’ve not had on draft before, and Lois jumped right into a Third Coast Old Ale, one of my favorite beers. We nibbled at the mounds of unfinished appetizers as we discussed how we were going to manage the main courses that we probably shouldn’t have ordered. Lois ordered the fish and chips, and I got the scallop sliders. The scallops were delicious, coated with bourbon bar-b-q sauce, and served on buttery biscuits so light that they almost fought against the scallops in a battle of softness. As Lois could barely manage more than a bite of her fish and chips, I was charged with the difficult task of helping her eat them. They were a bit greasy, but forgivably so, as the IPA batter was beyond amazing. The three fried shrimps that accompanied the cod were perhaps the best seafood I’ve eating since I’ve started eating fish. And the cod was so tender, wonderfully balanced by the crisp coating of batter. I continued to enjoy long after my stomach begged me to stop.
As I sipped a newly tapped and cloudy glass of Bells Sparkling Ale, Zach insisted we try his own dessert creation: a strawberry mint trifle. He explained the triple layered parfait like dessert in detail, which we blatantly ignored, worried more about the possibility of actually being able to eat it. (It consisted of strawberry compote, chantilly cream, and pound cake coated with Rumple Minz). It was delicious. And it was sadistic of Zach to serve this, as we were both incapable of having more than a couple spoonfuls of it.
In the end, I believe that this meal was one of my favorite meals ever. I’m proud and excited to see more of what Zach comes up with working there, and looking forward to tasting more of it.
Acting on a secret tip found on BeerAdvocate.com (and sent out to the bar’s entire mailing list), Lois and I finally made the time to check out the newly opened Memphis Taproom. They had just tapped a keg of Deranger, an Imperial Red ale from the Laurelwood Public House in Portland, OR.
The bar itself is lovely, classy and set up well, if perhaps a bit small (intimate, rather). I’d been following their progress for the past several months, and I was glad to hear of their opening. I had been meaning to check it out, but hadn’t been able to make the time to get over there. It really lives up to the hype, in my mind. A little neighborhood beer bar, just far enough away for a bike ride (about a mile from me), a good menu (that we didn’t get to dive into), and great prices! Pints of the Deranger were only $4! I think that all drafts are $4 actually. I’ll definitely be back there.
I didn’t know about Deranger before yesterday; its hard to keep up with all the obscure and delicious beers out there. Talk on the internet suggested that this beer was worth seeking out for its scarcity and deliciousness. I found it to be true. I’m not nuts about hop bombs, but this beer was wonderfully balanced, as hoppy as it was. The front and after taste are mega bitter, but in the middle there was a delicious creamy malt body. And a whipped cream head that kept frosting my mustache. In the end, I decided on having a second one, rather than try something else.
The neighborhood is a funny one. We lived there several years ago, and I’m well acquainted with some of the interesting nuances. Such as the dude chanting, loudly, “this is going to become yuppy central!” as we rode by. I hope he wasn’t referring to the bar, though I suspect there will be some conflict between the “locals” and the “patrons.” Beer is supposed to be a social lubricant, I certainly hope that the neighborhood sees this bar as an asset, not a gateway to yuppification.