May 25, 2012

No Women, No about this BBQ!

The late Bob Marley really did have it right with one of his most famous hits and when you make a stop by Smalley's Caribbean Barbeque & Pirate Bar in Stillwater, MN, the only thing you'll be crying over is the moment when you've cleaned your plate spotless!

I've always wondered about places such as Smalley's who are serving up native culinary delights from other parts of the world. If someone has never been there, are you really just suppose to take the restaurants word? I've traveled to Jamaica twice in my life and yes my friends, this is one of those places where their word is definitely their bond. To get things rolling in the right direction owners, Tim M. & Josh T. are importing pimento wood straight from Jamaica which is key to the authenticity of their creations.

There isn't one thing on the menu that isn't worth trying, but if you really want the full Jamaican experience, be certain to order the grilled jerk chicken and rice. These boys are even creating their own sauces that reminded me as if I was back down in Montego Bay saying, "Ya Mon!" What else do you need to make your meal complete? A bunch of great side options that are mouthwatering down to the last bite, that's what. A side to keep in mind are their mashed sweet potatoes and come thanksgiving time I run from sweet potatoes like a lot of others do, but I wanted to, as our server also mentioned, is to take a bath in them. There THAT good!

IS that all? Not even close... How about we add in a great selection of beers, a dozen plus varieties of rum punch and finally, a rum menu that includes over 100 different varieties to choose from. I'll leave you with this my soon to be Jamaican food lovin' friends... Irie! (Look it up) :)

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Summertime Brews for Summertime Blues

Country singer Alan Jackson once said, "there ain't no cure for the summertime blues." Well he's somewhat right about that, but I may have a cure for you. In the last 5 or so years, we've seen a number of brewing companies fermenting beers and hitting store shelves that are all about summertime and quenching your thirst for a good brew. Okay fine... maybe Gatorade was the original thirst quencher, but we're talking about beer right now people!

I've decided to find 15 brews(but had to delete one after finding out it was to be a year-round brew) that are all about summertime and their only available during the summer season. What this means to a guy that enjoys a good summertime brew, is that I only have a short period of time to enjoy these hand crafted delights as do the rest of you. My point to all of this is to provide you, the reader, with enough info to make a decision on which brews you would like to try and come up with your favorites as well.

The top five beers will be stated first followed by the middle five brews I would suggest you take a stab at and finally the rest of the bunch. Every one's taste buds are completely different based on how non-hoppy or hoppy you like your beer, but the top five are really the ones that I feel you should approach first. Most of you will have probably had some of these and that's great, but for the rest of you, use this as a good guide to the summertime craft brew scene. If some of these are new to you, go ahead and attempt those brews first.... why not?

OKAY! Ready? Here we go... 

1. Leinenkugal Brewing Co., Summer Shandy - Easily one of the best beers produced by the Leinie's family, this summertime brew is by far one of my all time favorite beers in general. I even tend to buy this beer early and late in the season, it's THAT GOOD! It's the perfect refreshing brew for hot summer days, cool summer nights and always a good option when grilling. 

2. Bell's Brewing Co., Oberon - Like the brew from The House of Shandy, I was stopping by a pub to try a specific brew that was suppose to be on tap according to the companies website, but ended up tasting something else and was glad I had the chance to do so. Great aroma, great taste and the perfect wheaty-fruity-ale for the summer months and honestly for any month if you can find it past the season.

3. Blue Moon Brewing Co., Summer Honey Wheat - You're probably wondering why this honey brew made it and Leinie's Honey Weiss didn't, well that's because; 1. this is better and 2. This one is only available during summer. This brew has excellent aroma and great honey taste with a touch of citrus to top it all off.

4. 21st Century Amendment Brewery, Hell or High Watermelon - "Summer in a can!" Four words that describes this brew perfectly. This wheat beer is brewed with watermelon, yes watermelon. Did the watermelon catch you off guard? Yeah, me too! But this brew is a great option to have around for your summer grilling and tailgating gatherings.

5. Goose Island Brewery, Summertime -I think the folks at Goose Island said it best, "Color of sunshine,with fruity aroma and fruity acidity..." This Kolsch style summer brew is really a nice refreshing brew for the season.

6. Stevens Point Brewery, Nude Beach Summer Ale - Point Brewery is a newer brew for me, but they're making some excellent brews full of flavor. Nude Beach, besides it's cleaver name, is a great summer wheat brew with some nice zest, but also with a hint of berry. Nude Beach is definitely one to try. 

7. Sam Adams, Summer Ale - Like the typical ales being produced by the Sam Adams family, this brew has a hint of their traditional taste, but with some great lemon and wheat flavors as well. Although still refreshing, not one that I tend to order too many of.

8. New Belgium Brewing, Sunshine Wheat - Typically known for their ever so popular Fat Tire and other lines of pale ales, this wheat inspired beer has subtle flavors of coriander and orange peel, thus making it a pretty good refreshing brew for the summer. 

9. Deschutes Brewing Co., Twilight Summer Ale - Their website would suggest that this brew is perfect for the back porch for the long summer days, but one or two is all I need. It's lacking the citrus zing and aroma that I would expect for a summer brew, but is a lighter, full body brew with too many similarities to a pale ale.

10. Shocktop, Lemon Shandy - I'm sorry, but could you have been any less unoriginal? My wife seems to think that if she put this brew and Leinie's Summer Shandy in front of me and blind folded me, I wouldn't be able to tell the difference, however, I thought otherwise! Ever have a lemonade cookie from the Girl Scouts? The comparison for those who haven't, is that the sugary lemon frosting on the bottom tastes just like a Shocktop Lemon Shandy. Too sugary and to me, a failed attempt to try and copy Leinie's great brew.

11. Alaskan Brewing Co., Summer Ale - Unlike Sierra Nevada's attempt, this kolsch-style ale has a small hint of zest, but is still a hop filled ale that needs a little more refining. It's worth a try though...

12. Brooklyn Brewing Co., Summer Ale - If you would like a pale ale that tastes like the rest of the pale ales out there, then buy this one! A failed attempt at making a refreshing summer ale and not really worth buying a six pack, but I will give it a little credit... it does have a different taste compared to their other brews unlike the brews below...

13. Summit Brewery, Summer Ale - I had higher hopes for this one, but this one is another flop. I don't mind a pale ale on occasion and something Summit is known for, but this was no summer ale. To quote their site, "...The refreshing fruity and floral hop aroma is a pleasant reminder to savor the season while you can." Well... I wasn't reminded of that at all!

14. Sierra Nevada, Summerfest - Known to be more of a hoppier brew, this summertime pilsner-style lager really was just another pilsner-style lager. Nothing about the flavor screams summertime even when I added a lemon and lime.

Honorable mention:

The House of Shandy, Curious Traveler - Was looking to actually try a different brew that was to be on tap at The Happy Gnome, but instead had the privilege of trying this fantastic brew. A very nice aroma with a flavor that cannot be compared to any other shandy out there. With a hint of some Belgiumish/Hefeweizen flavors that I cannot get enough of by themselves, simply makes this my favorite summer brew and I can thank the founders of Magic Hat Brewing Co. for wanting to make top of the line shandy's and I can't wait for them to start bottling this amazing brew. Why? Because right now it's only available in keg form and ONLY found at The Happy Gnome AND... It's AWESOME! NOTE: This one should be in the #1 spot, but I received word that it will be a year-round brew later this season when they start bottling it up which is good news for me because it's easily one of the best brews ever made and SHOULD be enjoyed year-round!

Bud Lite Lime, Miller Chill, Breckenridge Brewery - Summer Bright Ale and the all new Bud Lite Lime-A-Rita

May 24, 2012

It's PITastic!

PITastic! Is that even a word? No, it's not, but that's okay, because making up words is just as fun as trying new and delicious tasting foods like this next place I'm about to tell you about!

My wife and I like to save money like every other person out there and sometimes on a whim we'll just buy a Groupon, LivingSocial or some other dining deal certificate/discount for some random place. This time around, we bought one for a place called The Lyndale Tap House that is serving up some of the finest pit grilled meats you can find right here in the Twin Cities. What makes this place so PITastic? Specializing in Baltimore style pit meat with preparation that involves rubbing a high-quality piece of meat with a special house made spice mixture and allowing it to marinate for three days is a good start.

This was our first time and we simply ordered items that caught our attention and that included; The wings(See my wing challenge - Flying Buffalo's? for more info), the Philly, the Latin Pig, the Haggerty Potatoes and the Shells & Cheese. Does any of this sound good to you? Your answer should be yes! :) This was the fist Philly I've had that was on a Kaiser roll and was your typical Philly with standard ingredients. Great flavor, but maybe just a hair more spices to really make it awesome. The Latin Pig was a sandwich with pit pork drenched in mandarin/habanero sauce, avocado, fresh cilantro and mayo. Wow!

On to the sides, which were probably the best part of the meal next to the wings. Haggerty Potatoes were made by sauteing golden taters with; bacon, garlic, onions and cheddar cheese. The shells & cheese may sound simple, but when tell me their simple after you've tried this dish. Made with large shells, Wisconsin cheddar, smoked Gouda, scallions, bacon and peas. Did he just say peas? I sure did! Than baked with buttery bread crumbs.

Two words describe my first meal at The Lyndale Tap House.... MOUTHWATERING & PITASTIC! Go for the food and while you're there, enjoy 1 of over 50 different beers in house and enjoy your meal.

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