Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Apple Pie Saga Ends

So, I didn't win the apple pie contest. And I really didn't deserve to. You should have seen all the magnificent pies, those beautiful crusts, and the proud bakers! It was amazing! I was so amazed on seeing all the competition that I didn't even remember to take a picture of my sad little pie among true champions. At any rate, entering the contest has been a really fun journey, and I think I learned a few things about baking a great pie that is really tasty, and that my family seemed to really enjoy. The overall feedback from the judges was that the apples were a little too firm and the crust was overworked. But they did say that the overall flavor was really nice. I guess it's a bit subjective. I like my apples to be firmer and not so mushy, and I put a lot of emphasis on keeping the bottom crust very crisp, which wasn't quite as important to the experts. Oh well. Will I be back? Only time will tell. But I do encourage everyone to give the Topsfield Fair contest a go, and enjoy the process!
For now, I'm happy to be getting back to cooking my savory treats, and we'll hear much more of those as the fall has set in big time, and colder weather means more butter and a little more hearty fare. Stay tuned...

Friday, October 5, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Miles and Miles of Pies: Final Trial

This weekend I went through my final practice battle... a drill, if you will, in the quest to bake a legitimate contender in that most honorable of contests: The Topsfield Fair Apple Pie contest. 
I think we've got it. Slicing the apples thinner and a touch more sugar seems to have improved the filling. The crust has been slightly improved by adding pork lard to the fat mixture... though in the showtime pie we're going with a touch less lard and a touch more vegetable shortening. 
Here was today's attempt:
Successful crust
Crust and filling
Next entry, we'll be bringing you a little play by play of action at the Topsfield Fair this Friday. Wish us luck!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Miles and Miles of Pies: Update

Today we've had another opportunity for a practice pie in preparation for the apple pie competition at the Topsfield Fair. Assuming that the apples hold up (dangerous assumption alert), I think we've found our ideal filling combination. Mutsus and Honecrisps make for a delicious tart and sweet flavor with a texture that still has wonderful integrity and retains that beautiful chunky apple pie shape. Stay tuned...only a few weeks to go...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Martha's Vineyard: Back Door Donuts

End of summer on Martha's Vineyard
God damn it. Summer's almost over! In fact, since it's post Labor Day, the grind has already kicked back up to overdrive and I'm kind of winded. But let's really revisit this summer. It's been beautiful. The weather in New England has been practically flawless, and considering some of the hardships that places elsewhere in the country have suffered, I am very thankful. During summers here, no matter who you are, what you make, and where you might live, I think you owe it to yourself to spend at least one weekend either down the Cape or on one of our awesome islands. Since we personally are not made of money, I'll share our stellar tip: Go after Labor Day. The week or weekend after is almost always just as nice weatherwise, and frankly, it's a fraction of the price. If you can get a reservation for the ferry, and find parking, when you get out to Block Island, Nantucket, or Martha's Vineyard, you can almost always stroll off the boat toward town and the nearest tourist information booth, and ask them if any of the inns have a cheap room available for a night or two. I've had success each and every time. Just a tip.
Outside of the Capricorn House
So, as I mentioned, you really owe it to yourself to soak in some cool breezes, warm sunshine and fun waves each summer. Otherwise, I don't know how I personally would get through months like January, February and March. This year, we spent a lovely long weekend on Martha's Vineyard, staying at a cute little inn called the Capricorn House in Oak Bluffs. We had time to bike like fiends down the winding roads and beachside straights, check out some serious surf produced by the remenants of dying tropical storms safely yawning off the coast, and drink a beer or three at any one of the formidable little restaurants.
Back Door Donuts!
But there is something you do need to do as an eater if you visit the Vineyard. And that something is Back Door Donuts. Literally the back door to Martha's Vineyard Gourmet Cafe & Bakery, around about 7:30 pm, just after early leisurely dinners are getting out, you'll start to see flip flop clad vacationers line up for warm, out of the fryer fluffy treats. It's worth waiting in the line without question as the payoff is a sweet, unpretentious delight of a tradition that one might not expect on an island that serves as a getaway for some of New England's wealthiest.
Apple Fritter
So what do you order? If you've never been here and are only going to get one thing, I think I have to steer you toward the apple fritter. This apple fritter is a goliath of fluffy, yeasty donut dough, honey coating, and succulent caramelized apple chunks. It's sticky fingers and sharing to be sure. It may be my favorite donut of all time, as you tear apart each chunk of dough, with just enough juicy, cooked down apple pieces, and all that honey glaze. I love it.
Honey Glazed
If you're not quite up for the huge apple fritter, go with the classic honey glazed donut. It will leave you satisfied with that same sticky honey coating flaking off as you enjoy the airy light dough of the donut. It's not quite the discintegrating decadence of an out of the fryer, still hot Krispy Kreme, but who cares. This is just different. It's a New England, slightly larger, still warm wonderful dessert for late at night.
The last recommendation I might give if you're in the mood for something more decadent, but not the apple fritter, is the Boston Cream (no photo, sorry). Ours arrived gently oozing that sweet, smooth custardy pudding filling, and lovingly dipped top of hot, chocolatey, rich ganache. You've also got that same fluffy actual donut to serve as a vehicle for all of the delicious filling and wonderful chocolate on top.
The menu
How much can you really wax poetic about a donut? I don't know. There's got to be a limit. It's a donut for heaven's sake. Once you go too far, as many fancy restaurants in my opinion have done, it ceases to be a charming, easy going treat. But the tradition of Back Door Donuts keeps it real by staying simple, delicious, and truly a stop that must be made each evening spent on Martha's Vineyard.

Martha's Vineyard Gourmet Cafe & Bakery's Back Door

5 Post Office Sq
Oak Bluffs, MA 02557

Monday, September 3, 2012

Miles and Miles of Pies

As you may have noticed, we are on a brief hiatus from cooking lately. Why? Because I've been baking pie...after pie...after pie. I even burned the hell out of my finger today. (Indeed this war is not without battle scars.) But there is a point and I am getting to it. This year, we'll be documenting the journey to the Topsfield Fair with lots of pie practice for their annual apple pie competition. Like a fool, I entered, and hope to avoid embarrassing myself (high probability of serious what were you thinking moment). But we'll have some pie pictures in the next few weeks, and documentation regarding what varieties of apples we're using. 
The recipe for the crust is exactly as we've posted in a previous entry titled "Doing Battle: Apple Pie."The filling recipe is also the same, but today we're using some different kinds of apples to see if we can find a more ideal varietal for baking a pie. So, for this trial:
  •  Gravenstein apples - known as the national apple of Denmark and very good for cider and apple sauce (hopefully doesn't turn to mush). This apple is also used in the production of apple brandy in areas of Austria. We purchased our apples from Russell Orchards in Ipswich.
  • Starkey apples - A variety from Maine that you don't see very often, and the interweb says that they're usually an early winter apple... so it was bizarre when they showed up at the Dewey Square Farmers Market at the Kimball Fruit Farm stand in late August. But what the hell, they looked pretty and bright red, and it's another opportunity to try a different apple. When eaten raw, the Starkeys were sweet and mildly reminiscent of Red Delicious (again hopefully doesn't turn to mush).
  • Honeycrisp - We know lots and lots about these apples. I love them. Purchased again from the Kimball Fruit Farm Stand at Dewey Square.
Here's the finished pie for today:

And a slice photo (complete with angels singing and beams of light from heaven):

Judgement: I think that this combination of apples was a winner. So long as the cooking time is around 45 minutes, you're good to go, there was no mush to be found. Also, the sweetness is just right. Each apple had a little bit of a nutty and firm texture, still with a touch of earlier season tartness. I think that we might still try other varietals before go time in October, but if there are any Gravensteins or Starkeys still to be fine, they'll come in handy. Also, that crust recipe is still good as gold. One change is that I did let the bottom crust cool a little bit before assembling the top half... because I am sick and tired of burning my damn fingers. But it didn't seem to make any difference in the crispness or wonderful flaky texture of that buttery crust.
Stay tuned... more pies to come (unless I crack - highly likely).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Boston's Sweet Cheeks Q

Good barbecue comes to Boston
The North East has a real lack of good barbecue. It's no secret that mediocrity reigns supreme in these parts. Sure, we have various restaurants that say they serve barbecue. Every chain restaurant seems to list a barbecue item on the menu. But basically the barbecue that we have here is some kind of slow cooked crap, or dried out rubbish that is covered with a KC Masterpiece-style sauce. A few years back, the Bigger Half, well acquainted with good barbecue having lived in Texas, Virginia and Mississippi in his formative years, told me I had no idea what I was talking about when I made an off cuff remark about how barbecue just can't be that great. Horrified, I did the proper research (reading Calvin Trillin's The Tummy Trilogy), and went on a 48 hour binge eating research mission to Kansas City, Missouri, and a year or so later repeated the research style in a trip to Hill Country in Texas. A barbecue contest judging class, and many books later, I feel that I have a proper grasp of what good barbecue is. And it is heavenly. 
So this leaves us with a serious problem. Those slow smoked miracles are just not available in New England. We've found a good spot out in Western Massachusetts called B.T.'s Smokehouse, but honestly it's a hike. And until very recently, Boston's been completely devoid of decent barbecue. (That's right, I don't think Blue Ribbon is that great. I'll just lay it out, send hate mail to: Thankfully, we've got a reasonable facsimile of good barbecue, having semi-newly arrived in the Fenway, and headed up by Tiffani Faison, that Top Chef contestant who has really tried to improve the availability of legitimate slow smoked delicacies in this fine city of ours. I don't think it's on the level of LC's or Arthur Bryant's or Smitty's. I would never ever make such a claim. But I will say it's pretty good, and the smoke flavor is right, and it's worth a trip to the Fenway if you find yourself an expat of barbecue country and are all twitchy and jonesing for that little taste of slow-cooked, painstakingly low temperature prepared, spice-rubbed piece of meat. 
The dining room
So onto the restaurant. As is the case with many restaurants in and around Boston, unless you're really special, you're not going to survive, and whatever your store front was, it's going to be something else within a year or two. I think that the space where Sweet Cheeks is located used to be a pizza place. But whatever it was, it has been transformed into a barbecue appropriate atmosphere. There are along communal tables, and an area to sit outside, which is very popular. Servers are attentive and eager to offer opinions on what sauce goes with what, and what are the most popular side dishes. The kitchen is located at the back and is constantly bustling, producing great smoked meats for all to enjoy.
What to order:
Fried green tomatoes
Well, we went with the fried green tomatoes, not a typical menu item available in these parts. And they were delicious. The thick cut, lime green tomatoes are slightly acidic and coated with a crunchy, deep fried outer layer. They are tangy and savory, salty, and combined with a peppery sour cream based sauce, they're simply delicious.
Angels on high: Bucket o' biscuits
The biscuits: You have to order the biscuits. I'd come here just to order the biscuits. I've tried my hand at baking biscuits, and in ever bit of criticism I received from the Bigger Half, in consuming a huge, crunchy, deceivingly heavy, but light and fluffy on the inside, warm, flaky, tender biscuit, I know why he shelled out the comments. The biscuits at Sweet Cheeks arrive in a tin pail, and each biscuit is man fist size, and steaming with love from the oven. The honey butter that you smother on a split biscuit is heavenly, producing a melted, sweet, and creamy topping to the perfect bready treat. They're amazing biscuits... and although they're $10 bucks for four biscuits, trust me, they're a steal at twice the price, and not to be found elsewhere in the city.
Onto the Q.
1/2 Chicken
1/2 Chicken: My opinion, the slow roasted half chicken is unbelievable. It doesn't need sauce. It's juicy and tender, and can pull apart with little effort. The skin, while a victim of a low temperature, is a little rubbery, but fatty like the best part of bacon, and rubbed with an irresistible sweet, salty, and teeny bit spicy mixture. 
Pork belly
Pork Belly: I'm a sucker for pork belly. This version is slow cooked and tender, nice and salty and unctuous with a nice layer of fat at the top, which amazingly even has a bit of crisp to it. The meat is perfect and tender, deeply savory.
Pulled pork
Pulled Pork: The tips of each strand of lovingly pulled apart pork shows the tell tale signs of pink and a slightly charred end. They're juicy and again, very savory, with a mineral sweetness you get with pork, and all that wonderful smokiness throughout every piece of meat. This dish went very well with the vinegar sauce that they have on the table... which is sweet and a little spicy, tart and dotted with spices and pepper. It kind of tastes like spicier sweet and sour sauce.
Pork ribs
Pork ribs: I thought the pork ribs are very good. They were so juicy that I wouldn't be surprised if they were brined prior to cooking. The smoke ring is present and that fun of pulling the meat from the bone with your teeth is all part of the beauty of barbecue ribs. These ribs go best with the sweet, slightly peppery classic deep burgundy barbecue sauce that's also available on the table for each diner. Sweet and porky meat, with a tougher on the outside sort of skin from the slow smoking, growing more tender as you work your way in toward the bone.
Potato salad
Blackeyed peas
Baked beans
For sides, I think you should definitely go for the potato salad, which has a nice sprinkling of some kind of bacon bits or something on top. Then there's also the black eyed peas, cooked until just over al dente, nice and tender, and producing their own nice buttery, nutty sauce. I'm also a fan of the beans, which are sweet with molasses and smoky, like Boston baked beans with a little Southern attitude.
All in all, this was a delicious meal at a really casual restaurant that has made every effort to do justice to barbecue in a city that in past just hasn't understood what they were missing. I think the sauces they provide are good, but it's the sincerity of the smoke flavor that makes the restaurant legit. While the classic barbecue is good, you may want to forgo those items and head straight for the pork belly and the half chicken to see how the restaurant shines. Oh, and order those biscuits. They're divine.

Sweet Cheeks Q
1381 Boylston St.
Boston, MA
(617) 266-1300

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dining in the White Mountains: Cider Co.

Cider Co.: Main restaurant building
I pledge my never ending love for Ebenezer's Pub… just so you know. But there are reasons why during a brief getaway to the White Mountains you may make the decision not to head over the border to Maine.  Perhaps it's the little extra distance, or you're on the wagon, or you hate having a good time... I'm not judging. Anyway, whatever the reason, let's say you want another option for White Mountain dining. If you're looking for something a bit more romantic with upscale, elegant and locally sourced ingredients, there's really only one place that you should make a reservation: The Cider Company in Glen, NH. 
Store behind the restaurant
Cider press building
In addition to being located in one of the most beautiful areas of New Hampshire, the farmhouse buildings of the restaurant, country store, and the cider press for which the establishment is named, are so rustic and welcoming. I'm a sucker for any setting comprised of antique buildings that have been making lovely things like apple cider and sweet donuts for longer than I've been living. The main building that houses the restaurant is a restored farmhouse, and on walking through the entrance, you are lead past an inviting looking long bar, and into one of the adjoining rooms. Our table was located in one of the more secluded rooms off to the left of the building, but still allowed us a view of the bustling atmosphere of the restaurant. 
Our gracious server, Josh, was quick to crack jokes and make some very good suggestions. To start off, he touted the restaurant's reputation for being a cocktail-oriented establishment, dissuading us from our usual maneuver of heading straight to the beer list… or god forbid I might want a glass of wine every so often. Whatever. The cocktails did not disappoint. I went with what looked like a sangria that somebody actually gave a damn about when constructing the flavors. Yeah, I like crappy cheap sangria too, but it just seems like this is a cocktail that has a lot of potential, and somebody certainly produced a thoughtful beverage here at the Cider Company. There were hints of clove and vanilla, tropical fruits, and just enough pleasant tannin flavors from a strong red wine. Delicious and refreshing, while also complex enough to keep the imbiber's curiosity peaked. I would order this again. The bigger half went with a drink called the algorithm, which was dry and a bit more alcohol forward (bourbon, absinthe, bitters) than my sippy cup drink. Still, citrus flavors abound made the algorithm a food appropriate drink and a great way to kick start the evening. 
For food, we stared out with two appetizers.
Olives and Marcona
The olives and Macrona almonds: I see this dish on every restaurant menu where the patrons seem to be overwhelmingly either World Cup sailors or elbow patch clad professors. I guess smart/rich/wind-propelled folks really love fancy, flat looking almonds and briny olives. And so do I. Marcona almonds are just so meaty and perfect when paired with a fruity olive oil, just as these morsels were seated in. The appetizer is a large serving, with a special log dish filled to the brim with green olives, pitted for you by the good people of the restaurant, and dressed with lots of the previously mentioned fruity olive oil and a touch of vinegar. It's the perfect snack to share.
Beef carpaccio
Beef carpaccio: Thin sliced, fairly lean beef arrived at the table, topped with generous shavings of parmesan, pieces of raw onion, and a nice tangy, tart tapenade of green olives. The beef had been lightly seared, perhaps torched, on the outside, but still revealed a deep ruby red raw center that was both savory and unctuous. It played perfectly with a piece of zesty onion, that same fruity olive oil, the salty nutty cheese, and that delicious tapenade of the same tangy, briny green olives that we had seen in the previous appetizer. I might order this one again... and not share. 
Now, onto our main dishes.
Duck breast with corn crepe
Roasted duck breast: I find duck breast an irresistible menu item. Once a restaurant puts it on the menu, you know that they mean business. The duck breast isn't all that hard to cook, no harder than say a good steak, but for whatever reason I've never had a duck breast overcooked or undercooked, which I think is a pretty good indication that chefs really want to get this protein right. At any rate, I love seeing it on menus, and even more than that, I love it when a perfectly cooked breast arrives on a plate, sliced thinly and fanned out elegantly to show a vibrant pink, tender center right in front of yours truly. This duck breast was on point to say the least. It was presented on top of a very creative corn crepe, sweet and still with bits of crisp corn, the texture of a soft, silky pudding on the inside with a nice firm outside skin. The protein and the crepe were draped with a lovely, tart and fruity plum gastrique, given a dash of fried crunchy bits on top and a side of freshly blanched green beans. The entire dish was elegant, and had a harmony of flavor from the sweetness of the crepe to the savory, meaty duck to that tart sauce. I couldn't have asked for more.
Coriander rubbed pork chop
Coriander rubbed pork chop: For the Bigger Half, all signs point to this little piggy. He selected the pork and was delighted when a generous portion of slightly pastel pink in the center meat arrived in front of him. Juicy and succulent, the savory meat was a touch minerally, and very sweet, like great pork should be. It was rested on a bed of mashed potatoes and topped with a sort of bacon chutney that was fruity and salty, complimenting the double-down on the protein nature of this dish quite nicely. Those same great crispy green beans that we had also seen served with my duck rounded out the manly man dish. 
So for dessert? We did the donuts. Because when we do donuts, we ain't talking about skidding circles in a snowy parking lot. My Bigger Half, he does DONUTS. Unfortunately, the call of sweet apple treats was so uncontrollable that when they arrived there was no photo time to be had. But I can tell you that the warm, fluffy, cakey donuts were amazing, especially with a slightly boozy caramel sauce and that smooth, silky, sweet ice cream. So, no photos, but I'll leave you to take a gander at their website... lots of donut porn.
Like I said, this is a more upscale restaurant option if you're in the White Mountains. The food is delicious and the setting bucolic. I think if you've got one night for a romantic evening with elegant cuisine, clean mountain air, and delightful cocktails, then you've got a date with the Cider Co. 

Cider Co.
207 Rt. 302  
Bartlett, NH 03838
(603) 383-9061 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ebenezer's Pub in Lovell, Maine

Time for a cool dip at Echo Lake
State Park
When the mercury starts to rise in New England, there are a few places you can choose to escape to: 1) your local beach 2) Cape Cod 3) All any and all points north. In our case, after rationing out how much we could spend on a little long weekend, we searched all options and came up with the most economical, being to head for the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The bigger half and I found an incredible deal at the Spruce Moose Lodge, run by a most gracious couple (Leon and Nellie Filip), and snuggled down for some cool mountain air and nice conversation... not to mention hearty, delicious breakfasts each morning (oh my god the potato pancakes... hot damn).
View from the top of
Mt. Washington
Our visit was action packed and filled with adventures consisting of that must do ride up the Mt. Washington Auto Road, my favorite Wolfman and intelligent bears at Clark's Trading Post, a dip in Echo Lake, and another in the Lower Falls swimming hole on the Kancamangus. Everything was refreshing and wonderful, just the right amount of relaxing and fresh air to take away those aches and pains of the work week.
Best swimming hole ever:
Lower Falls on the Kanc
But sometimes, my friends, touristy places are a little lack luster for culinary delights beyond the local fudge shop or a non-memorable Irish bar or two. North Conway, I think, has its hits and misses. However, if you're willing to take a 25 minute drive over the Maine border to a little town called Lovell, man, are you in for a spectacular boozy treat. Lovell, Maine is world famous among beer aficionados due to a little place called Ebenezer's Pub, and seriously, if you're staying in Conway, Jackson, or anywhere on that side of the Kanc, you are doing yourself an injustice if you don't put in that extra energy and make the trip to a restaurant with one of the greatest on tap beer lists I've ever experienced.
Welcome to Ebenezer's
Fun semi-outdoor seating
The restaurant itself is lovely, located down a quiet road and with no other businesses on that street. There's a large outside area, complete with toys for families with little kids, so the children can roll around on the grass, and the parents can get a little medicine, if you catch my meaning. There's further seating inside a little porch area, with nice long tables, and then the indoor bar area with a few other little tables and TVs if you can't be drawn away or you prefer having premium beer while watching the game. Clientele ranges from rich vacationers to college kids to families to beer nerds to a good batch of hearty locals. Service is excellent. Our young server was quick to check on us, and also had a knowledge of every beer on the list, ready to talk up whatever favorite sours she had, and also pointing out a good beer to end with due to it's combination of amazing complexity, and simultaneous harmony of flavors.
So once seated, it's on like Donkey Kong. After reading through every beer available on draft, ones head goes into a strategic battle of what to order while also strategizing on how much you can order, because let's face it, you have a drive home, and one of you is a designated driver, so the other is going to have to take one for the safe driving team and drink most of the other's beers. Lucky me, I'm always the utility drinker on this team. Seriously, be safe, kids, this one is all too tempting. Now that the mommy state has said her piece, it's on to the imbibing.
Gaverhopke Extra
1) The Gaverhopke Extra: It's rare when the first beer of the evening ends up the one that I liked the best. But this beer was phenomenal. It's a Belgian quad with a fruity aroma, slightly sweet flavor, a large kick of the sours, and this distinct caramel taste throughout. The beer is frothy with a nice head, and so dry at the back end that you'd think you're drinking a beer with a far lighter touch of alcohol. Be not fooled, this is a hardcore beer. It's plum and dark cherry notes are also easily detected. It's a quad with a bit of lambic, malty attitude, and I really liked it.
La Rulles Grande
2) La Rulles Grande: The bigger half drew first on the La Rulles. It's a very light colored beer, first smelling of fruit like apple and pears, but on first sip, these fruit notes slowly give way to the flavor of spicy, bitter hops and a touch of honey. This was another winner.
Karkade "Z"
3) Karkade "Z" Gin/Noire Barrels: I had been tempted by the menu on this beer. Just the mention of a beer that was aged in gin barrels, and therefore has distinct zesty juniper notes was too much to keep me from ordering it. The smell of the beverage is that of hibiscus, which is amazing and so lovely from smell to sip to swallow. The beer is very floral, grassy, and just overall nice and herbal.
Brettanomyces Lambicus
4) Brettanomyces Lambicus: Obviously, Belgium beers are known for the stinky barnyard funk. Ebenezer's embraced this characteristic by offering up the Brettanomyces Lambicus on draft. This beer was so sour, so barnyardy, grassy, scents of hay and the sours reminiscent of a rice wine vinegar. This may sound like a horrible and disgusting description, now that I read it, but I am reluctant to change anything. That's how this beer tasted, and it was a sour that was meant to satisfy great fans of this style of beer, and I found it "Robert Palmer" simply irresistible.
Hofstetten Aurora
5) Hofstetten Aurora: Being the wuss that he is (just kidding, he's awesome), the Bigger Half ordered one of his new obsession beers, a Keller beer, which is a great session beer as it's low in alcohol. This refreshing beer was light and malty with hints of strawberry and a flavor of Heffeweizen wheat. If I were to choose one beer to drink all summer, this one might be it. 
Sour Nora
6) Sour Nora: Since you already know that I'm a fan of sour beers, you know I had to order up another one. The Sour Nora did not disappoint. It had a very puckery sour citrus flavor with a lot of grassy and grainy notes afterwards. This beer tasted very similar to my favorite beer of all time, which you may or may not know is the Duchess de Bourgogne. The major difference was that this beer lacked some of the funk that is present in the Duchess, and therefore, the Sour Nora was a bit more smooth. Loved it.
Wild Pannepot
7) Wild Pannepot: The Wild Pannepot was the beer that our server recommended to end the session with, and it was fabulous. So many flavors rock around ones mouth with this beer, from a smooth flavor of alcohol to dark liquorish hints, bitter coffee notes, and then the fruity sweet and malty nature of what one experiences when biting into a sugary date. In a way, I kind of wished we had started with this beer instead of finishing with it, because it had so much that was worthy of discussion, but by the end of the tasting of beer after beer, it just tasted like a very interesting beer. I'll definitely be back for more of the Wild Pannepot.
In addition to having the most wonderful draft beer list, Ebenezer's also had that extra special something that I often find diverse beer bars completely lack: good food. The menu is extensive, but if you choose no fail beer items, you won't be disappointed. We ordered three things:
Thai wings
1) The Thai Wings: Who doesn't love wings with beer? But what about fresh from the fryer, crunchy, spicy, salty, sweet wings? These were delicious. The right amount of heat on those tiny little drum sticks and the characteristic "suck the meat between the two bones" wings were perfect. The meat was juicy and cooked to a great temperature where everything was still tender contrasting the crunchy coating. The wings also came with blue cheese dressing and the right amount of celery and carrots to dip so you can tell your mom that you ate your vegetables.
Caesar salad
2) Caesar Salad: I happen to really like Caesar salads. Perhaps because they're kind of hard to screw up. But, just a tip, if you have a large heaping of romaine lettuce with a nice tangy, salty dressing, this helps to make you feel a bit more sober throughout your tasting. Plus, Ebenezer's actually does make a legitimately well balanced Caesar.
... and frites
3) Moules Frites: I can never resist mussels or fries... period. It's a simple dish, should be hard to screw up, and generally comes in generous portions. Our fries were crispy and not oily, stacked high in a cone, and nice and starchy to soak up all the alcohol, thereby prolonging our dinner. Plus, who doesn't love good thick fries? (If you don't like them, you're not my friend.) The mussels arrive in a little cooking pot, heaped to the top. They're really another great sharing and snacking dish, great for discussion and exercising those little fingers. The seafood itself was plump and perfectly cooked, giving way to all those briny, livery, and sweet flavors as you chew through. The broth, as the mussels are steamed in a combination of Belgian beer (I think Stella Artois) and their own juices, was equally as tasty, and great for slurping with the mussels, or as a dunking element for the fries.
That concludes our virgin visit to Ebenezer's. I hope that I've encouraged you to take a little visit to the White Mountains and plan on at least one dinner at what has been voted many times over as one of the greatest beer bars in America. I was skeptical that a place that is located a bit in the middle of nowhere could have such a great beer list with clean taps, tasty food, and an ample supply of clientele ready to imbibe very special beers. I was happily proven that such a heaven does exist. It is real. And you should go there. Now.

44 Allen Road
Lovell, ME 04051

Friday, August 3, 2012

Os Gêmeos

Wow! Looks like the artists have finished the beautiful mural in Dewey Square!