Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend Forecast - June 18 - 20

Sunny with a high of 84 degrees and a 100% chance of afternoon beer showers at Governer’s Island in NYC.

That’s right, it’s a brew fest, and we’re going to be there! Tickets were $55, but they are all sold out. If you're desperate you may have some luck on Craigslist (in more ways than one).

Fairfield University will be host to the Fairfield County Irish Festival from Friday June 18 to Sunday June 20. Expect Gaelic Football, Irish dancing, taps pouring Guinness and more.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Harpoon Belgian Pale Ale

We all appreciate the fine people of Belgium for giving us the Belgian Waffle (sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar FTW), and French Fries (invented in Belgium…stolen by the smelly French). But just as much as the two aforementioned foodstuffs, the Belgians are known for making beer. One such beer is the Belgian Pale Ale.

Belgian Pale Ales are typically less bitter than the American and English style pale ales and India pale ales that you may be familiar with. They generally use more subtle hop types and quantities so that the character of the beer is focused on sweet toasty malts. Being Belgian, they are brewed with Belgian yeast varieties that leave a white yeast sediment on the bottom of the bottle of this unfiltered beer. The beer should be poured into a glass slowly so that the yeast stays in the bottle (about the bottom half inch of bottle). Despite this recommendation, there’s no harm in drinking the sediment. In fact, it's actually good for you because it is high in vitamin B (which helps in hangover prevention!), but it would leave your glass very cloudy and alter the taste slightly.

Harpoon Brewing Company out of Massachusetts has recently released a new seasonal variety, "Belgian Pale Ale". This beer is brewed and conditioned using the same recipe as their standard Harpoon IPA, except it is fermented with Belgian Golden Ale yeast. That sounds like a minor difference, but actually, different yeast varieties define the character of a beer more than anything else. It's like changing the singer of a band (think Rage Against The Machine vs Audioslave). Blue Moon is one example of a beer that is fermented with a Belgian yeast. The Belgian yeast variety used by Harpoon gives this brew a slight natural spiciness and fruitiness that reminds me of bananas.

I thought this beer was pretty good, but as expected, it tastes very different from the Harpoon IPA you're familiar with. It maintains some of its floral hop aroma but this is integrated with a sweeter, fruitier smell. In general it seems more mellow than their IPA and a good deal sweeter, with more of an emphasis on the malts. Unfortunately there's nothing that makes this beer pop. It seems to be an attempt to please all, rather than make a truly superb beer. That’s not to say it’s a bad beer – I found it enjoyable and I do recommend you try it. And if you're really curious as to what a different yeast can do to a beer, try it side-by-side with a Harpoon IPA.

In short, Harpoon's Belgian Pale Ale is good enough, but doesn't knock your socks off. The waffles, however, were outstanding.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Vortex of Stupidity: Beer Advertising Gimmickry

If you’re like me and you watch excessive amounts of ESPN, you’ve undoubtedly seen a new marketing campaign for Miller Lite, advertising the new “Vortex Bottle.” Whoa! Sounds technical! Scientific even! What is it?

Well, the vortex bottle is a bottle with a grooved neck, so when you pour the beer, it sort of spirals around in circles before entering either A. your mouth or B. your pint glass. You know, all the better to unlock that classic triple hops brewed Pilsner taste.

The flavor is spiraling out of control!!!!!

In the commercial, an appraisal expert working at a generic Antiques Roadshow ripoff show notices a man drinking from a Vortex bottle. He inquires about said bottle, and is so enthralled by its majesty, that he drops the priceless family heirloom he is holding in order to go grab a Miller Lite from the lobby. Had I been there, I may have been inspired to grab a Civil War-era musket and stage an impromptu re-enactment of the Battle of Little Bighorn. Especially the part where George A. Custer and Crazy Horse team up to murder a douchey appraisal expert, reconcile their differences while laughing over his bloodied corpse, and open the first Waffle House. But I digress.

The point is, I’m a little irritated that Miller Lite thinks I’m a complete and total moron.
First of all, selling Miller Lite on taste with “Taste Greatness” is a mistake. No one who hasn’t scalded off all their taste buds with a hot curling iron believes that Miller Lite is the best-tasting beer on the market.

What’s the justification? It’s “Triple Hops Brewed.” Since the majority of the U.S. populace knows nothing or next to nothing about beer, “Triple Hops Brewed” sounds impressive. That must mean they use 3 times the hops that their competitors do, right? That’s the sneaky thing about advertising - They’re not saying that Bud Light, Coors Light, Sam Adams, Heineken, etc. aren’t THBed (just invented an acronym), just that Miller Lite IS. But you’re left with that perception. Well, if you’re an idiot. Because whatever effect this THBing process has, you sure can’t taste it. Just because you add an infintesimal amount of hops three separate times, that doesn’t make your beer hoppy. Or good. But that’s the magic of gimmickry.

Look, Miller Lite serves a purpose in the beer world. It’s cheap. Its blandness makes it impossible to hate, but just as impossible to love. I don’t have a real problem with it, and I even drink it sometimes. But via its advertising, Miller Lite is a piece of bologna trying to masquerade itself as a T-Bone steak. Just be yourself, Miller Lite. Be funny. Talk about having a good time. But don’t try to convince me you’re Stone or Dogfish Head, k?

And that brings me right back to the beginning, the Vortex bottle. Am I supposed to believe that swirling watered-down pee beer around in a circle is going to bring out a hitherto undiscovered plethora of flavor? Or that the Coors vented wide mouth can is going to take me on a magical journey to the Rocky Mountains? What’s next? The Bud Light Flavor Rhombus? The Milwaukee’s Best bottle with a corked top? I’ve got a better idea; take all that money that you’re throwing into R&D, and make a better beer. Because good beer doesn’t need to course itself through a Krazy straw to taste great. (See: Nevada, Sierra).

Until next time,
Ryan aka “The Vortex.”

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Balashi Pilsener Beer - Aruba

Bon Bini (that’s “Welcome” in the Aruban language Papiamento) to Food Plus Beer international addition! I’m blogging here from the island paradise of Aruba! What would a vacation be without beer?

Balashi is Aruba’s only brewery. They only make one type of beer, a pilsener that comes in both regular and light varieties. It’s yellow, light, crisp and refreshing and it tastes nearly identical to Heineken. After all, Aruba was founded by the Dutch. I decided to try a Balashi and a Heineken side by side, and did notice some slight discrepancies. Balashi was more carbonated, a bit crisper, and had a mild skunky taste that you might expect from similar green-bottle lager beers (especially Grolsch). Heineken went down just a little smoother.

Balashi also comes in 11oz cans – don’t ask me why, I haven’t been able to figure it out. But every beer here comes in a different sized container, even those that you’re familiar with in the US. The can also reads “brewed with Aruba’s pristine water…” across the top. You may be screaming “Don’t drink the water!” but don’t worry, Aruba’s water is actually great. It’s great because they don’t have any. All of the (drinking) water on the island comes from a massive desalination plant that purifies it right from the ocean.

The bottom line is that Balashi is good for what it is. It’s one ounce short of regular beer, and wouldn’t make the cut anywhere but here, but it’s exactly what you need to combat the scorching sun. It’s an island beer that’s good enough “as is” without a fruit topping. Just fill a cooler with ice and toss in Balashi until you can barely zipper it shut. Sit back, relax, soak in the sun, the steel drums, and 2 or 3 or 10 Balashis – no shirt, no shoes, and no citrus wedge required.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Brickskeller

Washington, DC

Beers on Tap: None in the cellar. There's a separate restaurant upstairs with taps.

Hello, folks. Well, after the arugula salad, I was feeling pretty sick for a few days, so I went to the doctor. He informed me that I have a severe vegetable allergy and injected me with bacon grease to suppress the reaction. He said I’ll be just fine; as long as I take my 400 CC’s of Pale Ale twice a day with food.

Sometime after that, I headed down to Washington, DC for a long weekend of city-slicking fun. There are a number of topics I could do a write-up on, but for the purposes of this blog, one place stands apart from the rest: The Brickskeller.

Deep inside the beer Mecca.

If you’re a beer lover living in the D.C. area, either you already know about Brickskeller or you don’t know how to use Google. The Brickskeller has more than 1,000 bottled beers and has held the Guinness World Record for largest beer list. (You've also got to love a place that owns the domain name "" Big props for that.)

If you want to try a beer from Trinidad, Guatemala, Ethiopia or Lebanon, this is your place. If you don’t want to try a beer from one of those places, they’ve got approximately infinity American beers, too. So don’t be a downer.

I went with my sister and girlfriend at the end of a night of bar-hopping, at something like midnight or 12:30 a.m. To get into the bar, we had to walk up the stairs of what looks like a hotel, then immediately turn right and walk down into a brick cellar. I can only assume “Brickskeller” is what comes out when you try to say “brick cellar” after a few heavy-hitting brews. The bar was dark, but cozy, and the walls had plexiglass cases filled with funny-looking old beer cans – interior decorating at its finest.

I had a Stone Ruination IPA, Brittney had an Allagash White, and I have no idea what my sister had. I have no idea what she had because earlier, we had attended a happy hour that offered half-priced bottles of wine. Party!

The Ruination was strong, super-hoppy, and delicious. We also shared a cheese plate – a hot loaf of bread accompanied by cheddar, pepper jack, brie, and two other cheeses that I’ve forgotten (again, happy hour). Unfortunately, we only stayed for one round, because it was getting pretty late at that point. It’s probably a blessing in disguise, because it would be easy to spend a fortune in that place.

So, if you’re a beer lover visiting DC, Brickskeller is a necessary stop. I mean, just look at that beer list. It’s like the Library of Congress, but of beer. So it’s only fitting that it’s located in our nation’s capital. God bless America.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Garden Fresh Arugula Salad and a Wine Spritzer

Hey all!

We here at FPB have had it up to here with winter. (You can’t see what I’m doing, but rest assured; I’m holding my hand right in front of my forehead).

So, now that the sun has begun to shine and warm weather is heading our way again, Kyle and I thought we’d celebrate the birth of spring the way we do every year; with an elegant garden-fresh arugula salad and a wine spritzer.

I know this seems like a departure from our usual fare, but let’s be honest; bathing suit weather is right around the corner, and we’ve got to get started if we plan on shedding the hibernation weight brought on by a winter full of pizza, burgers, stouts and ales.

With that in mind, Kyle and I tied each other’s aprons, and it was off to the vegetable garden for some organic treats! We collected the dew-kissed arugula leaves, the ripe little cherry tomatoes, and the plump avocado needed to create the foundation of our dish. Our pine nut tree hasn’t matured yet, so we reluctantly had to use the ones we bought at the farmer’s market. Similarly, we were forced to use store-bought goat cheese, as we accidentally over-milked our doe making Sunday night’s stuffed fig leaves with prosciutto.

We didn't photograph our arugula salad, but here's one on a pizza crust. Extra carbs? No thanks!

I’m not going to bore you with the nitty-gritty of making an arugula salad; the farm-fresh ingredients do all the work for you. So let’s move onto our homemade spirits.

Kyle and I love to split a bottle of white wine and watch Entertainment Tonight, but that’s when we’re being bad. For our spring celebration meal, we felt that a glass of Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc would surely overpower the fragile palate notes brought on by the arugula salad, so we decided to go with white wine spritzers instead.

Springtime calls for a clean, simple spread. A nice votive candle doesn't hurt!

It’s easy to make a white wine spritzer; just mix white wine and club soda. This crisp drink has its share of benefits. For one, as stated before, it complements the delicate flavors of a spring salad without bombarding your taste buds. Secondly, it’s lower in calories. (That wine can be hell on your figure!) And perhaps most importantly, it lowers the alcohol content. White wine goes right to my head and causes me to behave in a manner not befitting a gentleman.

And we simply couldn’t have me hooting and hollering during such a nice meal.

So, Kyle and I sat on the veranda, with a cool breeze blowing through our hair, and we welcomed spring, the only way we knew how: Porcelain plates, cloth napkins, fresh ingredients…just two best buddies clinking wine glasses over an arugula salad.

Until next time!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sam Adams Noble Pils

Tasters at Beer Lover Choice, an event hosted by Samuel Adams, voted for the Noble Pils brew in such overwhelming numbers that the brewers at Sam Adams decided to make it their new Spring Seasonal beer. You’ve heard from the commercial, or could maybe assume from its name that this new spring offering is hopped with a blend of all 5 Noble Hop varieties.

It’s golden in color and is an average 5.2% ABV. My first thoughts were simple, I really liked it. It has a light body with no overwhelming flavors. The hops lend a nice herbal, earthy character (which I guess translates to, "It kind of tastes a little grassy" but not in a bad way). Also, although not sweet, it does have some honey flavors.

In general, it is a pretty subdued and refreshing brew that would best be enjoyed while lounging in the beautiful spring sun. I enjoyed it much more than the old White Ale Spring Seasonal, but it still is released too early and is already being replaced by Summer Ale even though we’re less than a week into the spring season. No matter how much I think about it, I cannot understand why Sam Adams has us drinking Winter Ale in October, a Spring Seasonal in January, and Summer Ale in March. Is it a Miss Cleo predicting the future? A play on consumer impatience? Or is it a rogue groundhog deciding when seasons begin and end?

Either way, drink up while you still can!


Friday, March 19, 2010

Guinness vs. Murphy's

Full of St. Patrick's Day spirit we decided to compare Guinness Draught to Murphy's Irish Stout. Both beers are in the Dry Stout variety pouring a beautiful chocolate milk color that's mesmerizing to watch as it settles to a near black with a rich creamy head. That's because both of these beers contain nitrogen as well as a low level of carbonation. The characteristic smooth taste is also a result of the nitrogen.

Guinness, as we all know, tastes of sweet roasted malt, toffee, coffee, cocoa and iron followed by a briefly bitter finish. I think it's delicious and many consider it the Irish Stout by which to judge all others. We put Murphy's to the test. It's very similar to Guinness but both of us found it to improve on everything we liked about Guinness. It was richer, creamier, smoother and tastier. Unfortunately we're sad to say it's owned by Heineken.

Guinness vs. Murphy's?

Murphy's Wins.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Taco Bell Five Buck Box.

The five buck box,
It rocks, it rocks.
It rocks for a jock,
It rocks for a fox.
It rocks for a meal that’ll give you the trots.

You’ve seen the commercial. You’ve seen a red-velvet-bathrobe-wearing Charles Barkley enter a phone booth, and come out the other side in a bizarre Taco Bell-themed universe (not to mention no longer wearing a red velvet bathrobe). You’ve debated whether he’s talking or rapping as he’s greeted by “a guy with dreadlocks,” the Nets mascot, cheerleaders, paparazzi, a decrepit red carpet reporter, and Lamar Odom for some reason. You’re left puzzled. You don’t know what to think. This commercial is “Green Eggs and Ham” meets “The Round Mound of Rebound.” As you can tell, I’ve seen this commercial roughly 100,000 times; and I always watch it in its entirety. I just can’t look away. It’s absolutely baffling, beautifully absurd, and I’m still trying to figure out if Barkley wrote it himself. It’s just mesmerizing.

In fact, Taco Bell in general has always had a special place in my heart. It just makes me laugh for some reason. Next time you see me, mention Taco Bell, and see if I don’t start grinning like an idiot. It could be the restaurant’s silly name, or the fact that it just invents Mexican foods by throwing extra layers of cheese and tortillas on things. It could be the fact that people just seem to be intimidated by it. But the fact remains: no other fast food restaurant combines LDLs and comedy in such equal measure. That’s why I was particularly giddy for Food Plus Beer’s next mission: Barkley’s own 5-Buck Box.

I was already in full giggle mode as we pulled into the Taco Bell drive-thru. This is where we learned that there are actually 2 versions of the 5-Buck Box: The Cheesy Gordita Crunch version, and the Volcano Taco version. Despite the fact that we both love spicy food, we chose the former, because that’s the one Barkley rapped about (plus, we planned on using copious amounts of Hot Sauce packets anyway). The total came to 10.60, making the 5-Buck Box really the 5.30-Box, but now we’re talking semantics. We were handed our food – in a bag.

What!? A bag? Points marked off! Points marked way off!

I'm looking...but I don't see no box.

The five buck bag.
It’s sad, it’s sad.
It’s sad for a dad,
It’s sad for a lad.
It’s sad for a promotion that really doesn’t follow through on its namesake taco-delivery vessel.

It was a bummer, but not enough to throw me off my giddiness altogether. Not only was our food in a bag, but it wasn’t branded with NBA stuff as I’d also hoped. I wanted to see which players were roped into appearing on a 16-ounce Taco Bell soda cup. LeBron? Kobe? Ron Artest? Gilbert Arenas? Darko Milicic?

An inside view of the Cheesy Gordita Crunch.

We brought the 5-Buck Bag to my house and dug in. What can you say? It’s Taco Bell – we all know what to expect. It’s cheesy, it’s meaty, it’s delicious. It’s fantastic soaked in hot sauce. The Cheesy Gordita Crunch is the clear standout item of the box, but everything was satisfying and actually fairly filling, even for a fat person such as myself. And I giggled the whole time I ate, which probably burns a few calories.

It was a successful Food Plus Beer mission, and I’d certainly do it again – but next time, they better have my (*#*(&@*#*@^ing box.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Stamford Restaurant Week Winter 2010

Better late than never - you still have time to enjoy it this weekend!

Stamford Restaurant Week Winter 2010 is from 2/21/2010 – 3/7/2010. Restaurant Week gives you the opportunity to get a full 3 course meal (most restaurants offer an appetizer, entrée, and dessert) for a fixed price with choices from a special prix-fixe menu. Although you may be able to find some deals, beware, not everything is worth it.

Here's the chart of participating restaurants (click for menus):

Monday, March 1, 2010

Donovan's & Mackenzie

Norwalk, CT


Beers on Tap: Bass Ale, Bud Lite, Captain Lawrence Pale Ale, Dogfish 60-Minute IPA, Guinness, Magic Hat #9, Newcastle, Shocktop, Samual Adam's Seasonal, Stella Artois.

Happy Hour: M-F 3-7, $1 off all drinks, free hors d'oeuvres

Though there are plenty of delicious and deserving restaurants in our hometown of Stamford, sometimes you just need a change of scenery. So on a snowy night this past Friday, we took Food Plus Beer on down to South Norwalk for beer and burgers.

After parking near the Maritime Center and thinking about how cool the shark tank is, we made our way to Donovan’s & Mackenzie restaurant a few blocks away. During this walk, approximately 43 snowballs were formed and thrown at road signs, telephone poles, and girlfriends.

With cold snowball hands, we entered Donovan’s & Mackenzie to find that it had set a new record for “most TVs simultaneously tuned to Olympic Curling.” They had at least five or six TVs set to the broom-heavy sport, shattering the previous record of one. Furthermore, the patrons were loudly cheering for the Canadian team. I still haven’t figured out whether their excitement was genuine or sarcastic.

I ordered a Dogfish 60-Minute IPA from the decent-sized beer menu, and started to look over the menu. This, of course, was a formality. It was destined to be a burger night and that’s just all there was to it. I ordered a Bacon Mushroom Cheeseburger, Kyle had the same minus the fungus.

The beef was high quality and flavorful, and the bacon was big and thick…exactly the kind of bacon one hopes for when one orders bacon on a burger. I found the burger to be one of the messiest I’ve had in recent memory. That’s not necessarily a gripe…what the hell do I care if I’m licking ketchup off my fingers? No one’s looking at me anyway – Curling’s on.

The fries were “crispy, yet soft” as one friend of the blog implored me to write. I tend to agree, but I must also note the subtle, delicate notes of potato throughout.

‘Twas a nice little night in ol’ SoNo; I daresay we will be back before long. As we made our way back towards the car and thought about the sharks at the Maritime Center once more, we finished our trip just as we had started it: With a 4-seam snowball falling about 2 feet short of a nearby “No Parking” sign.

I’ll stick to watching winter sports.


Donovan's on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 22, 2010

IHOP Free Pancake Day 2010

Who doesn't love pancakes? Even better, who doesn't love FREE pancakes? Get your free short stack tomorrow (2/23/1010) at IHOP! It's National Pancake Day!
All that IHOP asks is that you make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day Beers

I'm sure all of you will agree that Valentine’s Day is not your favorite holiday. You might be disgusted by how much of a commercialized, lame, hallmark holiday it truly is. If you have a special someone, you're expected to provide flowers, chocolates, gifts and dinner. You're supposed to be romantic. You're supposed to fight for a table at the fancy restaurant on its busiest night of the year. You're supposed to buy dozens of roses at outrageously inflated prices and mediocre chocolates in a heart-shaped box. All of this just to say, “I love you”. Wouldn't any of this be significantly more meaningful on any other day? Wouldn't that increase your message tenfold?

Anyway, I can't change the world in a paragraph. You still have to go through the motions (sorry). But, think outside the box of chocolates, try something new and exciting instead of the same old boring holiday traditions. I bet beer isn't the first thing on your list as a romantic drink to share with your significant other. You're probably thinking champagne or wine. But why not beer? Check out these beers that may be good for your date.

Lindemans Framboise (2.5% ABV)
This Belgian Lambic doesn’t even taste like beer. It’s light, fruity, and incredibly sweet. It’s highly carbonated and might remind you of champagne without the dry taste or even soda! I’ve had both the peach and raspberry varieties, and both were delicious. This low alcohol beer goes down real easy. Serve in a Flute.

Magic Hat Feast of Fools (7.5% ABV)Chocolate Raspberry Stout

The raspberry aroma hits you immediately - it smells amazing! But then the taste is slightly disappointing because it can’t live up to that great smell. The sweet raspberry taste is most noticeable, followed by roasted malts and a touch of dark chocolate. It’s very light for a stout with a somewhat thin feel, unlike that thick taste you might be accustomed to with a stout.

Southern Tier Crème Brulee Stout (10%)

This is dessert in a glass! The aroma is wonderful, and it tastes almost equally as good. It truly does taste like Crème Brulee with sweet vanilla and burnt sugar flavors. This beer is great for a dessert but you wouldn’t want to drink it all night. Serve in a snifter.

All of the above beers are sold in large bottles perfect for sharing.

Happy Valentine's Day!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Rant About Nachos

In 1937 in Guadalajara, Mexico, a steel mill worker named Carlos Nunez was enjoying his favorite afternoon snack: sliced Jack cheese. Meanwhile, his co-worker on the job, one Miguel Santos, was snacking on the baked tortilla crisps his wife had made for him that morning. As they carried on in conversation with their respective snacks behind them on their work station, the heat emanating off of the nearby smelting equipment caused the cheese to melt into a gooey pile, inspiring the two men to dip the tortillas into the cheese, creating the world’s first nacho.

Just kidding. Actually, I have no idea how nachos were invented. But I’m sure it’s way less interesting than that.

Nachos are one of the staples of the appetizer world, and of course, I love them dearly. But there’s a problem in the nacho world these days: Lazy, cost-cutting nacho manufacturing.

If you’ve ever made nachos at home, (and really, who hasn’t?) you know the key: layering the cheese. You lay down a layer of chips, you lay down a layer of cheese, olives, sour cream, salsa, whatever. Repeat as necessary. Not layering your nachos is a rookie mistake, and yet restaurants continue to do it all the time. This is a farce and needs to be dealt with via vigilante justice, or blogging.

As a result of this dastardly nacho manuever, you wind up with about a dozen nachos and 30 or so plain tortilla chips. Now, who needs that? That’s certainly not what you’re after when you place the order. But alas, it’s commonplace. In fact, I hesitate to order nachos in restaurants because of the near-inevitability of disappointment.

But, my friends, it’s not all bad. Here are some phenomenal nachos you can make at home:


1lb Thick Bacon
1lb Chicken (your choice of cut)
Mexican Seasoning
1 Bag Tortilla Chips
8oz Montery Jack Cheese (it'll taste better if you buy a block and shred it yourself)
8oz Sharp Chedder Cheese (above)

Choice of Toppings:

Pickled Jalepenos
Chopped Cilantro
Ranch Dressing
Sour Cream
(anything under the sun - be creative)

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Fry the bacon in a pan, drain the greese, lay on paper towls to dry. Crumble when cool.
Chop the chicken into small pieces and fry in the same pan you used to cook the bacon. Add Mexican Seasoning (to taste). Cook until done.

Layer chips down in a large casserole dish. Cover with a layer of shredded cheese. Sprikle on some crumbled bacon and chicken. Continue until all of the base ingredients are used or until you have no room left in your dish.

Place in the oven and cook until all of the cheese has melted (about 15 minutes).

Cover with the rest of your chosen toppings. I definitely recommend a generous drizzle of ranch dressing and some fresh chopped cilantro.

As you might expect, this dish is best served with a cold beer. Just try to avoid the Corona.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

3 IPAs reviewed

India Pale Ales are my favorite style of beer. In the 1700's Britain had many soldiers and colonists living in India. These poor souls were left without any of their good homeland ale! Malts and other raw ingredients spoiled during their journey sailing around Africa and up to the spice land. As a result India Pale Ale was born. It was a slightly higher alcohol beer brewed with lots of hops to help it survive its voyage in oak barrels on rocky seas.

Modern American IPAs are generally copper in color and well hopped, in the medium-high alcohol range.

Sierra Nevada Estate Brewers Harvest Ale (6.7% ABV)
All of the ingredients used to brew this beer were grown in Sierra Nevada's private estate. I really enjoyed this beer. It was well balanced and smooth. An easy drinking IPA without any overwhelming flavors and a faint aroma. It's one of the better Sierra IPA varieties but for over $10 a 24oz bottle it's a bit pricey for what it offers.

Ithaca Flower Power IPA (8% ABV)
You might remember me mentioning this in my favorite beers list - each sip just reaffirms that idea. You probably imagine someone with bare feet and hemp pants drinking this because of the name, but once you catch that hop smell you'll understand. Flower power is super dry-hopped with a very floral smelling hop variety. The hop blast is very present with a lingering bitterness and notes of citrusy grapefruit. All in all I find it to be it to be a very flavorful IPA.

Southern Tier Unearthly IPA (11%)
Bang! Pow! WHOMP! If a comic character were drinking this that would be the little bubbles popping out of his mouth. This delicious imperial IPA is loaded with hops from front to back. It has a wonderful citrus hop aroma, strong bitterness and a hint of sweet caramel. It's hard to tell that it is 11% ABV from the taste.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Brickhouse Bar and Grill

Brickhouse Bar and Grill
Stamford, CT

Taps: Anchor Steam, Bass Ale, Blue Moon, Bud Lite, Miller Lite, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Palm, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Samuel Adams Seasonal, Stella Artois, Stone IPA.

Have you ever taken a step back and looked at Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s acting career? What a crap sandwich pu-pu platter of movies; “Gridiron Gang.” “The Scorpion King.” “The Tooth Fairy.” “Race to Witch Mountain.” you get the drift.

I mean, this guy is THE ROCK! The creator and sole proprietor of the People’s Elbow. The man who encourages you to shove it up your roodie-poo candy ass. He obviously wanted to be the next Stallone or Schwarzenegger; but with all the corny kids movie’s he’s done, he may as well join the Wiggles. So why would the People’s Champ keep signing up for these abominations?

Money. The same thing that keeps us going back to Brickhouse.

What can you say about Brickhouse? It’s always overcrowded. The music is about 50% higher than it ever should be. You’re ALWAYS in somebody’s way. Cigarette smoke whips through the corridors like a wind tunnel. They serve shots in those little plastic lids that you use to drink your Robitussin. But who the hell are we to pass up $5 Miller Lite pitchers and 25 cent wings on Wednesdays? Much like The Rock, we’ll all take a bit of crap if the money’s right. And on Brickhouse Wednesdays, the money is right.

This past Wednesday marked the latest chapter in our storied relationship with Brickhouse. I hadn’t been since October, and I was ready to step back in the ring. I got to the bar before anybody else, so I grabbed the biggest table available…a table for four.

Now, Brickhouse features a bizarre barrier between the bar and the tables, meaning that on either side of the barrier [EDIT: This barrier is required by law for bars], you have approximately 2 feet of room to walk. There are only so many seats at the bar, and no table can accommodate more than 4 people, so what you get is a ton of spillover into the aforementioned 2-foot walkway. You can’t possibly not be in the way. The wait staff hates you, and you can tell. If you want to go to the bathroom, you have to ask a dozen or so people to move, which means screaming in their ear due to “Tik Tok” blaring at an unnecessary volume from the speakers above.

The wings are nice and flavorful, with a bunch of different sauce options (not that I ever get anything other than Buffalo), and you find yourself ordering round after round of pitchers because they’re so beautifully affordable. But once you’ve reached your fill, you just want to go. Nothing more to see here. On this night, we stayed a while.

After I lost my voice an hour into our stay at Brickhouse, I just stopped talking to people. I literally ignored my friends and watched some lopsided college hoops game. Having a conversation takes too much effort in Brickhouse. You know when you tell a joke, and someone says “what?” so you repeat it, they say “what?” again, and you say nevermind, because now the joke has been overanticipated and is destined to fail? That’s Brickhouse.

But again. $5 Miller Lite pitchers. 25 cent wings. It’s just too good to pass up.

If anyone from Brickhouse ever reads this, please: Turn down the music. Take down the barrier. It will improve the bar ten-fold. Until then, you simply can’t justify going unless it’s a Wednesday.

But even then, you don’t feel great about yourself. You feel like you’re better than this. You’re only in it for the money. But really: who could pass up such a good deal?

Suddenly, it dawns on you. You can smell what the Rock is cookin’.


Go to to get a $10 dollar gift certificate for 80 cents using coupon code INDULGE (expired - but search google for one).

Brick House Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 11, 2010

Amore Restaurant

Stamford, CT

We as Americans are slaves to hyperbole. Nothing gets us quite so riled up as arguments like “who’s the best quarterback,” “what’s the greatest movie of all time,” or “what’s the worst song ever written?” We love “bests” and “worsts.” They give us the opportunity to be bold. For instance, if I say Shawshank Redemption is a good movie, you probably don’t care. If I say Shawshank Redemption is the best movie of all time, you definitely care. You have an opinion. You’re going to tell me I’m an asshole and that “Gladiator” is the best movie of all time. Or “Pulp Fiction.” Or “Showgirls.” Okay, probably not that. Even Kyle will disagree with my anointment of Shawshank as GOAT (Greatest of All Time, acronym n00b), but that’s the beauty of hyperbole. It stimulates conversation, and even prompts convoluted analogies about movies on a blog that deals with the subject of food and beer.

…Which finally brings us to our point. Our friends over at Stamford Pizza Tour, upon running the gauntlet of every pizza establishment Stamford has to offer, crowned Amore Pizza as Stamford’s finest pie. Hyperbole. They came right out and said it. “The best.” And that got Kyle and I fired up. When someone says something’s “the best,” you’ve got to try it. The curiosity is enormous. And so on Saturday night, we did.

Kyle and I walk into Amore with our girlfriends, and immediately find it far more of an “Italian Restaurant” than a “pizza joint.” It was quiet and sparsely populated, and I found myself with the sudden urge to check the bathroom for a revolver stashed in a wooden flush-box. The bathroom had no flush-box. I’m marking off points for that. There were also little certificates and newspaper clippings in various spots celebrating SPT’s “Best Pizza” proclamation. Clearly, Food Plus Beer has work to do in terms of notoriety.

The service was warm and friendly, with the waitress playfully poking fun at my pained attempts to pronounce Italian words like Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds, but without the Southern Drawl. We ordered the Scarpariello pizza, (topped with chicken, sausage, garlic, hot and sweet peppers, and tomato) and the Mare & Monte pizza, (topped with shrimp, scallops, calamari and mushrooms). They were both very flavorful, with deliciously tangy tomato sauce, good balance with the toppings, and enough of an ass-kicking with the hot peppers (important).

The delicious Mare & Monte pizza.

But here is what happens in these situations. You see, Kyle and I are members of what you’d call Stamford’s “Colony Army.” Colony Grill has been our favorite pizza for approximately 40 years. It is insanely difficult to judge new pizzas objectively; because the first place we go in our minds every single time is “is this pizza better than Colony?” And Colony pizza is so unique, it’s almost apples and oranges to make the comparison.

So here we are in Michael Corleone land, enjoying an incredibly tasty pizza, but both of us are deciding in our minds that it’s not enough to dethrone Colony. I can see it in Kyle’s eyes. And then he says it, which made me feel weird for having gazed into his eyes for interpretation. It’s also worth noting that it wasn’t quite as filling as we would have hoped…it made a late night McDonald’s run necessary and my arteries take issue with that.

So for all its hyperbole (which sounds suspiciously like what you’d call the Superbowl of a competing football league), where does Amore stand? The pizza was extremely good, but I can’t in good conscience allow it to knock off the mighty Colony. It was also a little pricey, a little undersized, and a little bit out of the way. Those caveats keep it from ranking higher in the Pantheon of Stamford’s pizzas. I’d rather walk around the corner from my house to Emilia’s, and have the most inexplicably affordable pizza in town, or go downtown to Remo’s, which features a pie similarly delicious to Amore but with larger portions for the price.

Plus, we didn’t even see a beer list. Scary stuff.

They call the place Amore, and indeed, it was love at first bite. One of the best pizzas in Stamford for sure – but not the best.

Hyperbole debunked.


Amore Restaurant on Urbanspoon