Friday, December 4, 2009

Iron City Hot Dog Tour

Something that's been in the works for a few weeks now finally came about on my most recent trip to Pittsburgh. And while I'm on the subject here's my deal with Pittsburgh: I didn't like it at first, like not at all - but now I'm a huge fan. I didn't really know that you had to 'get the hang' of a city, but each time I've gone to Pittsburgh for work in the last year and a half or so (maybe 7 or 8 trips now) I like it more and more. It's all neighborhoods (sound familiar?), there's such cool stuff to do and there's some darn good food. They have a lot of traditions and unique touches which are definitely signs of a good city.

So one thing that people I talk to are surprised to hear is that Pittsburgh is a big Hot Dog town. My initial thought was that the six pack shops choose hot dogs to get past Pennsylvania laws regarding the sales of beer as singles and six packs. Easy to make, throw some tables in the joint and away we go. This is supported by hot dogs being found in some places with amazing beer selections - D's Sixpacks & Dogs in Swissvale and Three Sons in Wexford. But alas, the dogs and no beers joints popped up in conversation too. This is seriously a great town to eat hot dogs in.

Its tough, I mean I've been making major strides this year in eating better, yet my fondness for street food and simple food in general hasn't ebbed or waned or whathaveyinz. And really, who passes up an invitation to a hot dog tour?

So my tour guide & esteemed cohort prepared the proper document (and a batch of homemade bacon ice cream to commemorate the occasion) and before I knew it I was in Oakdale getting ready to take to the streets on a rainy afternoon into evening into the night. Mentally I was ready for this. Coming off of an 8 day vacation that revolved largely around eating, then Thanksgiving this seemed easy. And if you're sitting there wondering if we could handle it I will just spoil it for you right now: We made with ease.

When discussions began about this epic trip through the weinered underbelly began we weren't sure if we needed contraints to really make this a scientific look at these dogs or if we ordered the house specialty when available. Parts of us wanted to, sure, but really I think we approached it correctly using the 'just order what you want' mentality. This would hold true throughout the tour with the exception of our first stop.

The Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe has several locations in the Pittsburgh area. We hit the Green Tree location because it made the most sense for our route. Keep in mind there were some breaks in here, but the first two stops were something like 4 miles apart so it was a good and smart circuitous route, but the pace is what made all of this possible. So this stoppe (get that?) went against the grain in that I was told what to order. Certain places just have that thing that you've got to get and if you can't take a recommendation from your tour guide, who can you take one from?

We started off the tour with not only a chili cheese dog for each of us, but an order of chili cheese fries too. Because at Brighton, that's just what you're supposed to get.

A handbook was produced by the ever talented tour guide and we used it at each shop to rate and take notes on our dogs. There was a rating scale of 1 to 5 dogs across several categories. You'll notice the categories below as I show you my personal rating at each place.

Brighton Hot Dog Shoppe

Type of Dog Ordered: Chilli Cheese Dog

Dog Presentation: 3 Dogs
Dog Quality: 3.5 Dogs
Bun Quality: 4 Dogs
Toppings: 4 Dogs
Overall Dog Taste: 4.5 Dogs


Presentation wise, I believe that with dogs sloppy can be good. But you've got to go all the way if you're going that route. Could have been more onions and they could've been bigger. Chili & Cheese combo was divine. I've definitely had much less flavorful chili than this on a dog.

Overall Score = 18 dogs (out of a possible 25)

On to the second stop we went. As I said, just about 4 miles or so from stop to stop. This one was not only new to me, of course, but also new to my tour guide. I knew looking at the menu one trip wasn't going to do the trick, but man did it leave an impression.

The website-less Dormont Dogs was a cute little joint in the middle of a neighborhood setup with just four tables or so. I got the impression that it's mostly a takeout joint for locals. This was our first taste of the "gourmet-style" dog for the day.

I threw a dangerous curveball in the Dormont ordering line. After my guide ordered up her dog I audibled from my original plan and placed an order for two dogs. This sent a look of shock across both of our faces. Ask me about an impulse buy and I’ll tell the story of the Arkansas Ave. Dog, the daily special on the day of our visit. Only the second stop of the trip and I already can’t resist ordering us into the danger zone of stomach busting oblivion by piling the Arkansas on top of my Illinois Ave and her Memphis Ave Dog.

Hers was a combo of cheese, those fried onions (think green bean casserole), and bbq sauce (pictured solo, above) and mine were as follows (pictured in a pair, above):

Illinois Ave Dog - a pretty classic Chicago dog (as you can see) although instead of sport peppers the used ringed banana peppers. We would find an authentic Chicago style dog later on in the tour.

Arkansas Ave Dog - A really surprising dog. Sounded on good on a chalkboard, appearance made me feel as though I may encounter 'the buyer's remorse', but it completely won me over by being absolutely delicious. It was a dog with melted cheddar, bacon, horseradish sauce, and green onions. Visually I was made nervous by the melted cheese slice (if you're gonna do a hot dog tour you're signing up for heart attack cheese and when you don't get it it's kind of a let down) and minor amount of creamy horseradish sauce, but I've gotta say this was a near perfect dog. Each bite was better and better. The combo (and proportions) of ingredients were just perfect for this dog.

Dormont Dogs - 2911 Glenmore Avenue, Pittsburgh

Type of Dog Ordered: Illinois Ave

Dog Presentation: 5 Dogs
Dog Quality: 4.5 Dogs
Bun Quality: 3.5 Dogs
Toppings: 4.5 Dogs
Overall Dog Taste: 4.75 Dogs


Pretty darn close to a Chicago dog. Mustard was on point - peppers were yellow banana peppers though. My fear confirmed: fancy dog = fancy bun. Bun was good, there was just too much of it. Took away from the great things going on with the dog itself.

Overall Score: 22.25 Dogs

Type of Dog Ordered: Arkansas Ave

Dog Presentation: 4.5 Dogs
Dog Quality: 4.25 Dogs
Bun Quality: 4 Dogs
Toppings: 4.75 Dogs
Overall Dog Taste: 4.75 Dogs


Wow! Sleeper. Had a lot working against it on the plate, but everything worked together perfectly. Bun vs. Ingredients battle was better here, got to taste more dog and toppings than bread.

Overall Score: 22.25 Dogs

From Dormont we had to make a sort of a mad dash. Our next stop was closing soon and was in the heart of downtown. They've got plenty of seating, but finding parking and getting served might not both be able to happen. It was crucial that we got our dogs, so we prioritized. We hit the loading zone and threw on some 4 Ways, I ran in and had the task of ordering.

The Franktuary has a pretty awesome menu. Full of highlights, full of local and organic ingredients, and for those not clicking on the link I'll just tell you:

"The Colossus

A flaming volcano of franks! Served on a bed of spinach, stuffed with kettle chips, and topped with every condiment!

Small - four franks - $15 or Large - eight franks - $28"

The Colossus did not lend itself to a hot dog tour with two more stops after this one nor did it seem like a fitting choice to be eaten in the car. So I went two dogs that my guide and I would share:

The Pittsburgh (for obvious reasons) and the Polumalanesian (which I think is a Steelers thing). The latter was the daily special.

The Pittsburgh (above) is a dog with "smushed" pierogies and coleslaw. It was a fun dog, that met mixed reviews and would be the catalyst for Hot Dog Tour controversy. The scoring of this dog can be a bit perplexing, but in my mind it all makes perfect sense. This work of the Franktuary had a lot going for it: Presentation was stellar, they had my favorite buns of the day, everything was top rate. The problem I ran into was this dog was quite un-harmonious. The slaw was good, the pierogies were good, the dog itself was good, the bun was good...but the sum of all the parts did not make for a good dog. It wasn't the meshing of pork two ways, cheddar, horseradish, and scallions that I'd experienced with the Arkansas Ave Dog. Still though, when all the parts are top notch the tale of the tape tells the story:


Type of Dog Ordered: The Pittsburgh

Dog Presentation: 5 Dogs
Dog Quality: 4.5 Dogs
Bun Quality: 4.75 Dogs
Toppings: 4.75 Dogs
Overall Dog Taste: 3.75 Dogs


All toppings were great, dog and bun were great, everything together was not in harmony. Fun texture though.

Overall Score: 22.75 Dogs

So as you can see (below) we've got a bit of a problem with topping distribution on the Polumalanesian. We were very excited by the combination of ingredients here: onions, mango salsa...again, a dog with a lot going for it.

Unfortunately, this one fell flat on two counts. Not enough toppings and it really needed another element to it. Possibly some heat to go with that sweet? Something was missing from this one.

Type of Dog Ordered: The P.......

Dog Presentation: 2 Dogs
Dog Quality: 4.75 Dogs
Bun Quality: 4.75 Dogs
Toppings: 3.5 Dogs
Overall Dog Taste: 3.5 Dogs


Needed a lot more mango salsa...needed another element, it was just 1 + 2, nothing more.

Overall Score: 18.5 Dogs

It seemed as though we didn't experience Franktuary at their best. Their menu is too impressive to let this stand as our sole impression of the place. We have vowed to go back when we've got time to sit down and try a few things and get the full on Franktuary experience.

So now it was finally time to get down and dirty. And I'm talking about The "O".

The Original Hot Dog Shop in Oakland has quite a bit of fan fare and legend surrounding it. I'm not going to pretend to know any of it, because I don't. But Timothy McNulty does.

The O reminds me of Jim's Steaks a bit. It was pretty slow when we were there, but at peak time it's the kind of joint where it seems like walking in and being in line are one motion. The hot dog operation is seperate from burgers, fries, etc. So that tells me these guys crank out some serious dogs. We both went pretty classic here at the O: I with a dog, spicy mustard, raw onions, and sauerkraut. She with a straight up cheese dog.

You can't see me, but I just shook my head. This trip had all the makings of a classic, mouthwatering, greasy, warm, perfect hot dog experience. But alas, not hitting an peak time did not see the O in its finest hour. Our dogs seemed to have been done and were just warming on the flat top for a while. Her cheese was said to have been a delight. My mustard was the highlight.

Type of Dog Ordered: Dog w/ kraut, spicy mustard, raw onions

Dog Presentation: 4 Dogs
Dog Quality: 3.5 Dogs
Bun Quality: 4 Dogs
Toppings: 2.5 Dogs
Overall Dog Taste: 3.5 Dogs


Finally someone did sloppy right. The dog was piled high with kraut and a liberal spread of mustard. Two things held this dog back from the greatness that I expect could be found at the O: the kraut was cold and kind of dry. There's nothing better than piping hot kraut on a dog and the bun getting just a little soggy from the juice (I realize that's going to sound like the opposite of awesome to lots of people) and the aforementioned issue of the dog being done and just kept warm. This could have been a highlight of the tour.

Overall Score: 17.5 Dogs

With one stop to go we were both feeling pretty darn good about finishing out the tour with no major problems of combustion or any CPR needs. The finish line was another Pittsburgh dog joint with some acclaim to its name. I was very excited to get to D's Six Pax & Dogz while they were serving food. I'd missed food service by like 10 minutes earlier this fall after the Steel City Big Pour. This was a night that led to quite a few beers at their bar, an 80's dance party, and the most miserable hailing of a taxi cab of my entire life. Note to all travellers...Pittsburgh's cab situation is not like the situation you have at home.

So D's has got a pretty good name for itself in the hot dog game and their menu is a testament to their reputation. A lot of creative dog options greet you at D's as does their enormous selection of great beers.

I went with the Big Ben (above, left) while Ms. Tour Guide went with the Chicago Dog. The Chicago (above, right) was pretty darn authentic: A Vienna dog, sport peppers, celery salt, pickle spear, mustard, relish = the realness. It looked delicious. I think I may have taken a bite? I know that I was at least offered one.

The Big Ben was a fun creation that followed the theme of Pittsburgh's stuffed-full-o-stuff food items that are popular around town. Big Ben had good 'ol fashion heart attack cheese, cole slaw, and french fries jammed on top of the dog. Underneath all those toppings was a nice, big juicy hot dog that bursting with a ton of flavor on its own.

D's Six Pax & Dogz

Type of Dog Ordered: The Big Ben

Dog Presentation: 4.75 Dogs
Dog Quality: 4.75 Dogs
Bun Quality: 4 Dogs
Toppings: 4.5 Dogs
Overall Dog Taste: 4.5 Dogs


Piled high in a small tray that gives a sense of urgency to keep the sloppiness contained. First bite was all toppings, I didnt even hit the dog (BIG POINTS). Harmony of the toppings was spectacular, best actual hot dog of the day too.

Overall Score: 22.50

My first hot dog tour of the Iron City was a huge success. It's great to know that there will be a part 2 with other locations and most likely a return to Franktuary, possibly to tackle the Colossus.

Before I finally let you away from the tale of this adventure it's only fitting that I share the results in all categories.


Best Bun:

Best Dog Quality:

Best Toppings:
(tie) Dormont & D's

Best Presentation:
Dormont (Illinois Ave Dog)

Best Overall Dog Taste: (tie) D's for Big Ben & Dormont for Illinois Ave Dog

The Underdog Award:
The Arkansas Ave Dog (Dormont Dogs)

Best In Show: Big Ben (D's Six Pax & Dogz)

Expect more food tour coverage in the year of 20 & 10.

Read more!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Pacific Drift - Tales of the Coast

Just throwing this up for Friday folks winding down to the weekend. I'll post up a track list and a cover when I have time.

Pacific Drift - Fall 2009 - A mix for three guys wandering through Portland, OR and Seattle, WA for the first time.

Read more!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Northern Liberties Beer Buffet

I've got some stuff on my mind. I have literally had a post in my head since April and was waiting on one piece of ammo to come in the mail. It still hasn't so as soon as I get a sec to do what I need to for that post it'll happen. Until then, come drink beer with me. Tomorrow Sept 30th from 7pm to 9pm......

...and if you didn't have dinner plans, now you do.

Weds - Sept 30th
7pm - 9pm @ The Abbaye
637 North 3rd St.
No. Libs.

Pint Night w/ New Holland Brewing Company
$10 gets you a pint glass to take home and all the beer you can drink.

What? Yep. I know.

We are pouring the following beers:

Ichabod Pumpkin Ale
The Poet Oatmeal Stout
Charkoota Rye (dopplebock with cherry wood smoked malt)

It's gonna be la bomba. One of the first chances to taste Charkoota in the city. If you've never eaten at the Abbaye I'd suggest thinking about it for din din too. I'm a big fan of their foodstuffs.

Any questions let me know. Hope to see some folks out and hoist a beer in a temperate fall fashion.

Illustration used with permission of the artist, Michele Melcher. Check out her illustrations here.

Read more!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Right Things.

I had planned to come on here awhile ago and go on and on and on about how cool Construction Junction in Pittsburgh is. But then I got busy and neglected all things Grain Bill for a while. Well, it kind of worked out better that way because now I can speak about the Junction not only from what I'd gleaned from conversation, but because I was there. For a beer festival. And it was awesome.

a glimpse inside of the junction

Construction Junction salvages building materials to keep them from landfills and to offer people out there an opportunity to save on building costs while conserving materials and reducing waste. Everything from display cases, windows, and shutters to lighting, plumbing, and tools is available. Open 7 days a week, the place should be seen to be believed. It's enormous.

And those folks love good beer.

The Steel City Big Pour is a zero waste beer festival that combines great art and craft beer with awareness, information, and a glimpse into a fully functioning recycling mecca. Held on site at Construction Junction patrons (and brewers alike) get to see the enormity of the operation. With local co-ops and local-centric restaurants offering food, local artists creating on the spot, and a hard working crew sorting and carting away every last piece of trash, there was plenty of opportunity for patrons to get the idea that it's crucial to think about who we're buying from, how they're making it, and what to do with it when we're done.

the longshot

the setup, featuring the patented Bocktown/New Holland twister board

I was hanging with some of my favorite folks from the western side of the keystone, Bocktown Beer & Grill. I was set up in the Bocktown Beer Garden and had a blast. I poured beer (with Woody Chandler doing his part to chip for a bit), watched some cool chainsaw scultping, and made a futuristic goat toy out of recycled doo-dads. It was a lot of fun to hang with Bocktown, they are all so into what they're doing and they're doing it so good.

Inside the big show they were raffling off salvaged fridges that were converted to kegorators and decorated by local artists. They were all very cool, this one was my favorite.

So whether we need more reminders or not, here's some important links. Do a little something this week, pull your weight. Do the same thing next week, then every day. Keep it going.


PA Food Co-ops
Great Article about The Hunger Farm in Edible Allegheny Magazine
Listing of Available CSA programs
Article on Philly's Solar Trash Compactors

Feel free to drop more good links in the comments section. Read more!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


Aye carumba.

I was supposed to blog so many times. Those of you who haven't talked with me recently might not know this, but maybe the lack of posts would imply, i have been travelling a lot and i have been waaaay busy. It's a bit late for a full recap, so i am just going to mention the really good stuff, maybe point you towards some things.

West Asheville, NC: The Admiral

This exhumed dive bar is one of the highlights of my recent travels. I didn't get to spend nearly the time i'd have liked to there, but i will be back. Bought in the past few years and turned into a hangout with good beer and great food, The Admiral is the kind of place you'd be blessed to have around the corner. An exciting and ever-changing food menu with a combination of local and exotic ingredients, there's more to choose from than you'll do in one sitting.

Here's the kicker: Best jukebox i've ever seen in my life. Here's what i typed in the notepad on my phone as i was being driven away:

Os Mutantes
Jorge y Gil (great album, people. Check it out)
Captain Beefheart (Safe as Milk)
T Rex
Ram by Paul McCartney
John Coltrane
Elvin Jones
Silver Jews (American Water)

I think there was Bonnie Koloc too. There were a lot more, had we been there in the beginning of the work day i'd probably have remembered a lot more when it came time to type them in my phone.

Another helpful fact for West Asheville Travelers: there's a music venue across the street with good beer on tap and Harvest Records whose roster is just sick is also across the street.

Harvest Records Artists:
Budos Band
Brightblack Morning Light
Bonnie Prince Billy
Kurt Vile
The Books
and more....

Washington, DC: Little Miss Whiskey's

It's a wood grain door with either a hood ornament or an old tap marker for a door handle. That's it. No sign, no nothin'. And it's awesome. Mark Thorpe's follow up to Jimmy Valentine's is a knock out. You can get lost in the decor alone. With Dragon's Milk a proud member of the great beer selections, this is a place i need to spend a long night in. Thorpe's collection of concert posters pulls together the antique store explosion of mind warp knick-knackery that adorns most of the rest of the place. You can lose your mind here.

Little Miss Whiskey's Back Patio

Little Miss Whiskey's Interior
Arlington, VA: Galaxy Hut

Not my first trip to Galaxy Hut, but my first session there. We ended up sitting in the silo outback and i managed to meet a gal who's family moved to Pottstown (where i was born and grown), she'd just come back from a trip out there and hung out at Craft Ale House. Small world.

The Galaxy Hut is a bustling boom of conversation. Folks pack into the tables and it gets loud, raucous and ridiculously fun. Great beers on tap and a tiny kitchen make this place the perfect spot to go with a group of folks who can sink in and chat the night away (even if you're halfway to a yell).

Galaxy Hut is also right around the corner from a great, great kebab place that stays open late. I also found a 24 hour kebab hut in Arlington on the same trip.
Asheville, NC: Bruisin' Ales

Bruisin' Ales is up there with the likes of the great take out spots that are always mentioned in beer talk. When they support a brewery they hit you with a good chunk of the lineup, which to breweries is crucial, but their enthusiasm towards the beers that they like is what makes Bruisin' Ales what it is. One of those rare places (although the numbers are growing) where you can sample from draft or get a growler (correct me on growler fills if i'm wrong - if not now, soon). This isn't the biggest shop out there, but the attention to detail and the selection of what to have on hand is top notch.


That's it for now. Bedtime, more from the road to come, because i'm still on it. Read more!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It happened.

I tried to embed the clip but it was off center, so click the link and enjoy the video of the Publican/New Holland Beer Dinner. The two things I am most jealous to have not done in 2009 both involve the cast of characters you see here. Read more!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

in the land of the fresh and the whole

Well. I know people still read my blog because several of you have asked or called to find out how things are going with (in the words of Tobias Funke) 'the great experiment'. They're going darn good man. Like i said last time, it wasn't a huge stretch, but the past month definitely required a lot more planning ahead in the food department. Also simple necessities, like paper towels, needed just a touch more planning because my sources aren't open late night like the chain folks are.

My persepctive on keeping it local to the point of depending on the people in your community didn't change necessarily, but it definitely became clearer. As you follow the link from one producer to the next, from one event or market organizer to the next you see this big connection, a community of like minds whose desire or need to serve their community is made possible by the community supporting them back.

I discovered a great mid-week market at Anselma (in between Exton and Phoenixville) and watched my friend's new baking operation grow in leaps and bounds. I'll point you towards her in just a bit. Fresh herbs from down the street inspired a future beer event (i hope), fresh produce, fruit, meats, and cheese inspired a great market dinner on the porch with my friends, a great cookbook inspired me to start rebuilding my pantry.

To my suprise the cookbook in mention is a big help to my baker friend too, so away we go...

Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson is a good read and a good cookbook at the same time. There is a huge breakdown of ingredient types, their traits, what to look for, what to avoid, etc. It's awesome. From simple to decadent foods, its all possible, but what I like most is the direction towarss some of the take away information that you can incorporate into your everyday cooking. The book is a great source of information, knowledge and help, which is exactly what i needed. Thanks to Chrissy Mart for an awesome bday gift.

Swanson also has a great blog/recipe journal. It's here.

The link comes to me from Janet. She runs the Wildflower Cafe and makes the best darned baked goods i've had in a long time. I am polishing off my last Cafe Mokka Cookie from last week's order as i type. She does everything from biscotti and granola to cookies and muffins to spice rubs and beer bread. It's way awesome. We were having a Heidi Swanson conversation last week and she told me she set up a blog from Wildflower check it out here why don't you? She takes orders via email weekly (get on her list for the weekly offerings) and sets up at the Anselma Farmer's market.

I said this thing would be a three post series and it will be. Next time i'll tie beer into this whole thing and if all works out properly have an event to tell you about.

OH. Before i go...I got my juicer! Juiceman Jr. is treating me really well. If you're a reader of fine local beer blogs than you'll be pleased to know that the object of my bromance got one the same weekend. It's awesome and for a guy like me who loves ginger but didn't have many practical ways of getting it inside of me beyond sushi and the crystalized jawns, i know have ginger root to finish my juicings. Apples, carrots, ginger. So so good. Read more!

Friday, July 3, 2009

The Declaration of Independents

a.k.a. Chainless.

So i think this will probably be a three part series thing. It should culminate with something that's been on my mind for a while, but i need to build on the idea a bit so here we are at the beginning. For the entire month of July i'm encouraging you out there to go chainless. Goodbye Acme, goodbye Giant, goodbye Whole Foods*. Go the whole month supporting only local independent retailers. I think a lot of us do our fair share to support the little guy, but i think a month away from chains will do us all good. It's something i've wanted to do for a while, but being on the road makes it tough to find the little guy when there's often a small window of time or an opportunity at the end of a very long road to grab a bite or some necessities.

(*i think Whole Foods is awesome, i think they hire great beer buyers who are allowed to make independent decisions and cater to their neighborhoods and i'm sure that carries over to their other departments as well. So while i am probably saying goodbye to Acme and Giant forever to Whole Foods Market i am just saying, 'See ya in August'.)

My hope through this all is to get a clearer understanding of a sustainable life dependent only upon my neighbors, local producers, and folks who made up their minds long ago to step away from the faceless production of our daily goods. There's two reasons i am choosing to make a change towards whom i spend my dollars with: for one i believe that we need to grow our communities and have a strong investment in where we choose to live. For two i believe in whole foods, i believe in foods that are produced with me and my health in mind. The shortcuts taken to simply sell processed foods are both wasteful and unhealthy and i want far, far fewer of them in my diet and in my life.

For me i don't see this being a challenge, i see it more like taking a step closer to a more responsible and thought out approach to my little slice of Earth. I don't have to look (or travel too far) to find plenty of folks to stock my kitchen and my pantry: the Spanish and Brazillian bodegas in Phoenixville have everything from herbs to queso fresco to fresh and dried meats, the farmer's market here is one of the best in the area: Charlestown and Jack's Farms have me more than covered for produce, Fork Farms and Backyard Bison have me covered for meat. Pat from Pottstown has me covered for soap and shampoo bars.

Then there's Kimberton Whole Foods. Not that Whole Foods, Kimberton is a neighborhood whole and natural foods grocery store, cafe, and apothocary. It's awesome. I've been going there since I was in like 10th grade or something. When i first started going the Kimberton location was the one and only, now with outposts in Douglassville and Downingtown KWF's reach to our nearby neighbors is stretching from county to county.

When i'd first gone, it was just for the cafe'...homemade soups, sandwiches, wraps. But as i got a little older, learned a little more, i started finding new gems in the grocery aisles and began putting pieces together on what seemed like a completely different way of life that i'd never known before.

Maybe that's a bit dramatic, i don't know, but to connect this to beer (this is a beer blog still, right?) what's different between all of this beer i drink that's made from honest, true, and WHOLE, ingredients and taking the same approach to the food i put inside of myself. I mean are a bottle of Bud and a Big Mac all that different when you look at where they come from, how they're produced, and who is selling them to me?

Again, i'm not making some cold turkey change from golden arches to golden acres, i said bye-bye to chain dining a while back, but it's time to take another step with this whole thing. On my last trip to New Holland i learned that $.70 from every dollar spent with a local independent retailer stays in the community, while that same $.70 leaves when spent with a large chain.

Now i'm making to exceptions or concessions here...i think i can do gas without hitting a Sunoco or Lukoil or Hess or Wawa, but my list of little gas-ups owned by ma and pa is quite small. So i am gonna try hard in that department, but if i am nearing E i may have to surrender my bucks. The second is a juicer. I want a juicer, bad. All of my suggestions on where to get one have gone against my plan. I am not done searching yet, but i want to juice some fruits and veggies ASAP, so if you've got a lead please drop me a line.

So why all of a sudden? Why am i so fired up?

Well, i'm home for a month. I can actually concentrate on this for a bit. It's been on my mind for a while and i've been trying to hard to help out the locals in each of these towns i land in, but like i said, sometimes options are few and far between. Also, it falls in line with some of my recent reading and learning, plus i think it's the right thing to do. Plus i watched The Future of Food in a few installments in my hotel rooms recently. You can watch it for free on Hulu and i think you should.

So that's it. If you want to join me i'd love to hear from you. If we have enough people hopping in we can get an email chain going with suggestions or a list of people's favorite places.

I'll be popping back in with part 2 soon enough. I'll be digging a bit deeper into what Whole Foods and Natural Foods actually are, some great books on the topic, the relation between craft beer and a lot of the true, whole, and slow foods movements in the country and in our area. Until then, enjoy some of these links:

links should all work now...thank you Bob! Read more!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Turn Three at the P.O.P.E.

The past few weeks have seen several Philly Beer Joints celebrate anniversaries. I am back in town and will be celebrating with the gang at the Pub On Passyunk East tonight. Good food, good/rare/special/cool beer, and friends. Come on out people. Read more!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

On the move...

...updates to come.

Till then:

Read more!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Chicagoist, Pt 3

Fred said, 'We should've had you out on Wednesday for the dinner.'
Jeff said, 'We ate so much, i went back for thirds. You'd have loved it.'

Sigh. I missed this dinner by a day, not even a full day, I arrived in Holland for Hatter Days while people were still sleeping off their Knickerbocker. Ah well, the chronicle continues...


Off to Boston for American Craft Beer Fest tomorrow.

One jockey box will flow with Golden Cap and 2009 Dragon's Milk all weekend long.
One jockey box will feature such fabulous side by sides as:

*Brother Jacob's Dubbel & Black Tulip Tripel
*Imperial Hatter DIPA and Oak Aged Mad Hatter (Woodford barrels)
*Dragon's Milk 08, 07

Plus 2006 Dragon's Milk at each session which means at some point during the fest there will be a 4 year vertical of the Milk. It's a beautiful thing. Read more!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Chicagoist, Part II

The next piece of the Publican/New Holland Chronicle. Biere De Garde brewday...


More links as they come. Read more!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer Reading...a brush with The Mystery.

So i've finished two books since summer officially started. I'm on an old kick and a new one. I literally just finished B Is for Beer by my main man Tom Robbins. Now if it's possible to place someone on your list of favorite authors after reading just one of his books than Tom Robbins is that man on that list (oh, Jonathan Safran Foer is there too). To be fair, as of today i've now read two books by Robbins. A friend hipped me to Jitterbug Perfume a few years back and i ate it up with a spoon. I used to listen to Book of Silk while reading it in my parents living room and used to sit and eat at the Sunflower Cafe while getting ready to finish it.

Ok, so i'm straying already. B is For Beer was a good time. There's some reading between the lines of this simply put "Children's Book for Grown-ups" that poke certain fun at certain folks (or organizations) and there are certain lessons to be heeded and not forgotten by those of us with a tasting schedule that's, well, frequent. At the heart of things though, there's talk of the beauty, of the fun, of the excitement, of The Mystery that make this a good beer book. It's funny, when you sit back with this book and think about the style it's written in (children's tale, simplified explanations) you can actually see how important it is for the uneducated to be taught.

I'm also completely jazzed up on Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, which has been mentioned here a few times already. It was a fun and interesting read that has made me seriously reasses my eating and spending habits and was the camel's back breaker for me in some ways. Check it out.

From there I'm moving on to Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, you can see the theme growing and building. The time is right.

I also found a great cookbook that i am very excited about. Perla Meyers' The Seasonal Kitchen breaks down a seasonal approach to the year, cooking what's fresh and available and makes planning out meals based on what your local farmers can give you a very do-able task. In the Fall section there are soups, root veggies, etc while there is a whole section discussing summer vegetables.

I grabbed most of the books mentioned here at Wolfgang Books in Phoenixville. Mr. Jason really knows his stuff and is an all around great dude. Stopping in to Wolfgang isn't something i do nearly enough, but i always leave impressed. Climb the stairs people.

I have Randy Mosher's Tasting Beer on the list for this summer as well. In addition to Homocide by David Simon. Anyhow, i should put a closing thought of some sort here to wrap this all up neatly, but i am too tired and just wanna hit the way. Read more!

Further chronicles...

The Chicagoist follows the Publican / New Holland collabo....tune in to Chicagoist all week as Chuck Sudo recaps the two day throwdown in Holland.


And also, just because this is Chicago related (thanks to Phil Kool for the heads up).

Read more!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paul Kahan & The Publican Crew @ New Holland

Chicago loves New Holland and New Holland loves Chicago. Easy as pie.

Storied and accoladed chef Paul Kahan and his crew from Chi-town's Publican, a beer focused restaurant that soucres much of their menu from local and organic farms, came to our brewery to make a menu, have some fun and brew a beer. They hail from other notable Chicago spots like Blackbird and avec, they have James Beard (and other) awards & nominations left and right, and they are passionate about good beer. The seasonal and essentials-only aspect of their menu mimics and compliments craft beer in a very interesting way, those in town should certainly make a point to stop in.

More about Paul here.

More about Publican here.

From Recurve Media, I present episode one from their recent trip...


Stay tuned for further adventures and updates on this project. Read more!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Heirloom - A Mix To Spring By

It's that time again, another mix from the desk of Dr. Joel. Usually for me spring brings on a deluge of reggae and other feel good stuff and i've definitely been listening to my fair share (Bus Rider's Sweltering Fever, Rerog's 6 Dollar Mix, Early Wailers sides from 1970 - 72), my mind was elsewhere as Spring began to emerge this year. I am almost done reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (and family) and i couldn't have been given this book at a better time (Thank You Fred). I hit the Phoenixville Farmer's Market hard last year, i saw a total switch in my grocery buying habits and needs. Talula's Table and their charcuterie blew me away, the work of Rod from Backyard Bison spoils me since i am able to see him on a weekly basis.

I've long been a big supporter of the little guy, but over the last year i went in even deeper. As i drove around and around from fall to spring i'd gotten a chance to take part in a lot of different towns' local activities. Beer dinners with local ingredients, i happened upon a nice little farmer's market on Wednesdays in Purcelville, VA right before walking in to one of my events, lots of local meats, cheeses, and produce all over the Eastern side of the country. I was blown away by the Holland farmer's market when i was there in September, i was blown even further away by the work of Matt Millar who i was introduced to on the same trip.

So this mix has a very apparent theme, in some ways it sort of tells a story - there is a concept and dramatic happenings that follow from start to end, at least i think there are anyway. So enjoy, astute listeners will notice one track repeated from my fall mix. As with last time, i'd encourage listening before viewing the track list below, but i know that's not everyone's cup of tea. Enjoy locavores, enjoy.

Heirloom - Spring/Summer 2009

And beyond ado....the track list:

Read more!

28 years old...really?

Those tuned into Suz's blog noticed her putting entertainment before ego recently and sad as i am to say it, i am gonna go ahead and do just the same here today. Ya know it'd be great to blame the fine print or something like that on today's little disaster, but really i only have myself to point the finger at here.

I have been travelling quite a bit lately as some of you know and in the back of my mind for the past two weeks or so has been a repeating reminder to grab a new bottle of dishwashing detergent. It hasn't been a major issue since i've spent more of the last two weeks in hotel rooms than my apartment, but after a bit of cooking post-Savor it was high time to clear the sink and start over. I've been a bit more green over the past few months than ever before and when i thought i'd picked up a dandy little product from Seventh Generation things seemed to all be falling into place. The product is great, it's plant based rather than petroleum based, so i am doing my part to cut into the world's oil woes right there.

The main problem i ran into with this product? It wasn't actually meant for dishwashers. In my haste i failed to fully read the label:

'Tough on Grease' - This is good
'Gentle on Hands' - This, yes this, is where it does not apply in my case. You see, it needn't be gentle on hands if you are using a D I S H W A S H E R .

Do green guys even use dishwashers? Sigh, i don't know. My pittance for this ridiculous act of carelessness? All dishes washed by hand until i am done the bottle.

Read more!

Monday, June 1, 2009


People, if you get a chance to hit Savor next year don't pass up the opportunity. It was a lot of fun and a crop above the mayhem of normal beer fests. Brewery folks behind the tables all night and really, really good beer being poured. Delicious pairings and less of a crush at each breweries table. Plus DC is a fun town. It was my first time running through town and hitting a lot of the must-see beer joints.

I won't make much with the ado here, sleep is a priority. Here a few pics.

Read more!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

S A V O R .

Early morning drop off at Savor, the room looks awesome.

Golden Cap Saison and Dragon's Milk pouring on the main floor, Fred and Gail's Salon will feature some amazing pairings:

#1) Fig infused truffle & Sundog Amber Ale
#2) Shitake truffle & Dragon’s Milk – Barrel Aged Stout
#4) Lemongrass & ginger truffle & Black Tulip Trippel
#5) Seasalted Caramel and Pilgrim’s Dole Wheatwine
#5a)Raspberry truffle with cacao nibs
b)Cinnamon & cayenne truffle with Night Tripper Imperial Stout

SAVOR. Read more!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Well worth all those $ .50 tolls

NoVa, where it all goes down. I have been to Northern VA several times in the last year. There's a bunch of good beer going on and as i learn more and more each trip, there is some amazing food. Best part of it all of course is that in most cases the two can be found in the same place at the same time.

After reading and hearing about the triumvirat of Magnolia at the Mill, Tuscarora Mill, and Fire Works, i finally got a chance to hit all three in a couple of hours last week and holy smokes, talk about a best foot forward. Now, in eye catching 'list' format is a quick word on each for those in the area who may only have time for one.

Fire Works - Leesburg, VA

We popped our heads in just for a beer and a hello and the hunger that was majorly present prior ballooned when the smell of the wood grill hit me. The pizza special of the day featured shrimps, ramps, and fiddleheads. Oh how i love seasonality. Everything looked and smelled delicious and after a pint of Lagunitas Undercover Shutdown it was time to see about some lunch of our own.

Tuscarora Mill - Leesburg, VA

Tuskies had a strong lunch crowd. A good weekday lunch crowd tips the odds towards the probability of a nice plate of food. The taps are set low, just under the bar so you have to look down at the markers to see what's on (aside from the up to date beer list of course) and after turning down an Aventinus draft (i'll have to make a run to Quotations) we set about ordering and just grabbed a little bit of everything. My lunch mates and i settled on a small mid-day feast and darn near cleared every inch of every plate. We had house charcuterie with a really nice country pate, pork rillette, soppresatta, chorizo, and pepperoni before diving into a plate of sweet breads, a nice seared ahi with soba noodles, Cippino with lobster butter, little necks, mussels, corvina, and scallops, broiled trout with fresh asparagus (tis the season, ya know) and one of the day's specials: Tempura oysters on spinach salad with lava salt. Wow, that's lunch mind you. Stone Brewing just did a beer dinner at Tuskies and i would go to any of their events in a heartbeat. The staff knows their beer and their food and it's mighty good. Those in the area can rush in to see if our Golden Cap Saison is still on tap.

Magnolia's at the Mill - Purcellville, VA

Mile long tap towers in a beautiful old building greet you at Magnolia's and chef Mark Morrocco's food is just plain out of site. We were in for the New Holland beer dinner and i found myself keeping my beer intro's on the short side because i couldn't let myself stray from any of the courses for very long. A nice, fun crowd came out for the event and the pairings were spot on. A'la a little cut and paste i present you the menu:

Greeting Beer
Full Circle Kolsch-Style Ale

1st Course
Chilled Sweet Corn & Crab Soup
With Avocado & Chili Oil
Golden Cap Saison Ale

2nd Course
Hickory Grilled Lamb Slider
With Harissa & Mint Aioli
Served with Spring Herb Tabouli
Mad Hatter IPA

3rd Course
Soft Shell Crab
With Pickled Green Tomatoes
Black Tulip Trippel

4th Course
Hickory Grilled Veal Medallion
With Dijon Rosemary Potatoes Au Gratin
Dragons Milk Aged Oak Barrel Ale

5th Course
Espresso Panna Cotta
With Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans
Poet Stout

Existential Ale
That’s it

I loved the pairings here. Dragon's Milk and Black Tulip both, because of their strength and construction, often end up as dessert beers and i was very excited to see these earlier in the meal. Every single course was more amazing than the one prior. I still have the taste of the panna cotta on my tongue.

So there you have it. All three are sure fire can't misses if you are in the area. Also some great finds on this trip were products from the Haskins Family Farm, the wonderful selection & delectable BBQ @ Paeonian Grocery, as well as James his hard work at Red, White, & Bleu in Fall's Church.

The latterest of the above in addition to great beer, wine, cheese, and meats had some exciting news (and samples to share) this was my first time hearing and tasting anything (a smoked duck sausage that was just amazing) from Jamie Stachowski. Stories of an outlandish looking man who smells like a smokehouse had me, the list of different charcuterie he offers was the nail in the coffin. Other than restaurants, it seems Red, White, and Bleu is the only place you can buy Stachowski's offerings for home use.

In all, a great pre-Savor trip with fun food surprises. Read more!

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Guys in Robes, My Favorite Beer Style, Promises of a Spring Mix Grain Bill Post Explosion!!

5/17/08 - The KBS Brunch, Round Two. More dudes, more robes.

As always, Sunday's themed Beer Brunch at Teresa's Next Door brought a hearty crowd. Great food, good beer, and a bunch of familiar faces is always a great start to a Sunday. To go all statistical on you: the number of attendees in robes doubled from last year. Those are staggering numbers right there.

If you click around this site enough you'll notice a certain badge of bravery awarded to a certain Big someone after a certain bar opened to the public in the final moments of 2008. Well the beer involved in that whole ordeal has lead to another fine beer drinking spring for this quill tipped keyboard tappist. I've had quite a few Keller Bier(s)come my way recently and am loving every last one of them. Off the top of my head...Sly Fox Keller Pils (of course), Liberty Steakhouse Keller Bier, Monschoff Keller, Voodoo Pilzilla.

Local dudes and their mentions of the style:

Joe Sixpack

Lew Bryson I swear he mentions it in there if you keep reading. Fun one from the archives.

Also, another dude named Keller.

Fianlly, last and foremost: I am hashing out a Spring Mix slowly but surely. I hope to have it done by summer, as is usually the pace. The name i love, the cover (if i can pull it off) will be my finest photoshop work to now all i need are the songs. Anyhow, it'll have a farmer theme and will be a great addition to any drive or bike ride to bars with great outdoor seating like Union Jacks, Bocktown in Pittsburgh, Pazzo's in Lexington, Iron Hills and Sly Foxes, The Tiki Bar, The Sidecar, The Northside, The P.O.P.E., and on and on and on.

Now, if anyone can hook me up with an mp3 of the song below it'd be most appreciated. A studio version would be proper, but i will be a begger not a choser here so if anyone can make that happen it'd help tremendously.

*Top photo courtesy of The Holland Mobile Imaging Service LLC Read more!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Call it a party...

This Sunday...7pm. Meet me at The P.O.P.E.

4 New Holland Beers on tap, plus Dr. Joel on the wheels of steel! It's going to be a fun night of good beers and good tunes and if that's not enough of an excuse to come out and hang in South Philly than i don't know what to tell you champ.

funk soul rock latin breaks raer willy wonka?

Sorry for the late notice on this one, i am still getting my sea legs beneath me after the long journey.

Read more!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

This Beer Wagon Kills Flies

*Boredom alert: there are pictures of food below*

My windshield is covered in the gritty dreams of flies and bugs from hives and hideouts all over the East Coast. I haven't been in my apartment since 4/2. I'm not going to be there until 4/19. What's the occassion? Golden Cap Saison, our new spring and summer seasonal. A delicious farmhouse ale made with spelt from our farmer friends in Washington State.

The swing into Virginia was unfortunately delayed by a bit of sickness, most of you reading this probably got it. I think everybody got it. I may have caught it just by reading about it on the internets. Anyhow, i missed what looked like an amazing New Holland Beer Dinner at Can Can in Richmond, VA. Mr. George held things down at the dinner while i wondered how cold you can feel and how much of a fever you can have at the same time.

So on then to NoVa. Northern Virginia is full of great beer spots, from bars with mile long walls of taps to classy brewpubs to a flagship Whole Foods in Fairfax where you can sit down mid-shopping and have some crab cakes or ribs and have a craft beer on tap. The day we stopped by New Holland, Stone, and Weyerbacher had three of the four taps. That's umm...well guys, that's next level. Whether this type of thing makes it to PA i'll have to ask Mr. Bryson about (i am way behind on my PA grocery, six pack, etc sales reading), but i can tell you for sure that my trips to both Whole Foods and Wegman's on this trip found stores very focused on serving up craft beer.

Another hotspot for me was Carpool's Reston location, a fun bar with many great craft beers on tap. Let my extensive quality control efforts assure you all: The Poet is pouring just fine in there. Whatever you do, don't challenge Rama to a game of shuffleboard, the man is a hustler.

On to The Triangle. The Raleigh/Durham area is packed with great places to grab a bite to eat and a good beer. They've got big places like Tyler's who are known for their many great beers and savy staff. Flying Saucer has their anchor dropped in town as well. Then there's a slew of up and coming bars doing great things for the area. Places like Sitti, Busy Bee, and The Borough, and The Raleigh Times Bar are all pulling the weight of resurgence and doing a mighty fine job of it. The Raleigh Times is serious. They have a beer list that could stop a truck full of BA's dead in their tracks. Marraige Parfait, JW Lee's, the list goes on. I spent the night (all but the sleeping part) at Raleigh Times for a Dragon's Milk and Poet promo and had a blast. They have some amazing ideas and an amazing attitude towards their business and the potential of craft beer throughout the entire Raleigh area. A bunch of thumbs up from this guy. Oh, the looks delicious.

Still going (I'm on the road here, remember?) on down to Charleston, SC. Have you been here? Holy smokes, this place is amazing. I hit town with just a hot second to get settled in before a Growl and Greet at the new beer outpost, Charleston Beer Exchange. Should you find yourself in Charleston, stop in and say hi to Rich and Scott, these are great guys who are very serious about beer. They've already gathered a loyal following and its due largely in part to their great service, great selection, and exciting specialty beers. So this is where i get jealous about the retail beer situation in other states. This is one little shop and it works simply like this: Walk in, buy single bottles, buy six packs, get a growler filled and be on your way. I mean what these guys are able to serve with their limited space is pretty incredible. Think Capone's with no bar, but growlers still available. It is le' bomba.

A new beer friend recently told me about a Philly tansport down to this area. Stefan Visilis stepped out of the Triumph Old City brewpub and came down the coast to open Farringdon Bistropub with his wife and their friends Dan & Amy. The whole mess of them are Charleston restaurant vets and are bringing craft beer and well thought out food to Summerville, SC. They're already a hit among the beer contingent. I had some fine beers and a great chicken salad sandwich (with apples, raisins, and yellow curry) over lunch and a great beer chat with owner Dan and bartender Michelle. They are committed to supporting local products both on their taps and in their kitchen. Look up Low Country Local First and the Sustainable Food Initiative for more info.

And that brings me to the finest meal of my trip so far....take thee to Chai's on King Street. Chai's is a great combination of comfortable surroundings, classy decor, and a great list of tapas that's pulled off just incredibly. The beer list is well put together and there were some goodies left over from a recent Allagash dinner that made our stop even more exciting. I am going to borrow Gina's hat here for a hot second and take you through.

We started with a pint of Hop Art from Coast, we'd been on the hunt for this beer since Friday evening. The Coast guys do a great job with their beers. A quick relay of the night's specials revealed our first course...

Bread Salad with Heirloom Tomato, Arugula, Feta, Balsamic, and a fried Pancetta wheel

We got a taste of some special things that were hanging in the kitchen as well. Deep fried ginger? Tasty, interesting. Then a great ice cream made with Allagash black. Wow, amazing flavors, amazing idea.

A little Micros slip led to our next plate...

Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi on an oil dipped ciabatta crostini with daikon sprouts and a sriracha aoili.

More raw stuff coming at you...

Tartare Trio - Tuna, Salmon, and Beef with Wonton Chips.

The return of the belly:

Pork belly over spaghetti squash with a reduction of its own braising liquid. My butter knife practically fell through the belly.

The meat wagon did not stop its wheels yet either, next up:

Lefthand Juju Ginger braised short ribs and rice. The meat and the bone hardly even knew each other anymore. Amazing flavors, nice soft texture, really really delicious.

Finishing up now...Duck confit lettuce wraps. As with everything before...delicious.

Read more!