Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Beekman Birthday

 A few weeks ago, J and I went on an impromptu brew tour to Ommegang Brewery and Council Rock Brewery. On our way to Cooperstown, we stopped by the village of Sharon Springs to visit the Beekman 1802 Mercantile and ever since that pitstop, I couldn't imagine not having a Beekman birthday. So this past Saturday, I spent my 28th birthday enjoying the simple things in life. No boots of beer or giant margaritas this year.

If you watch Cooking Channel, you might recognize The Fabulous Beekman Boys aka Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge from their reality show as city guys who left their Manhattan ways, bought a farm and decided to become full time farmers and raise goats. You might also recognize the Beekman Boys as the most recent winners of The Amazing Race. The Beekmans now make artisanal products from vegetables and goat milk from their farm. They are well-known for their goat milk soap, a product beloved by Martha Stewart. Now they have expanded their lifestyle brand to include edible products like goat cheese and goat milk ice cream. 

Of course I was good on my birthday and had lunch before dessert. My Beekman birthday wouldn't be complete without some Beekman Blaak mac 'n cheese, courtesy of the Black Cat Cafe conveniently located a couple doors down from the mercantile. At $48 a wheel for the Beekman Blaak cheese that is on a giant waitlist, it's a bit steep for my pocket but at $7 for a bowl of mac 'n cheese made with the same cheese at the cafe, it's worth a try. The blaak cheese is a hard cheese that melts beautifully in this mac 'n cheese. My only gripe is that the dish desperately needed salt and pepper but otherwise, an afternoon lunch spent outside on the porch was a perfect way to spend my birthday afternoon. The mac is a small portion so I was glad I ordered a side of Lebanese potato salad, which was mayo-less and a nice tangy alternative to the heavy classic. J of course went with a reuben and gave it a thumbs up. 

The goat milk ice cream is worth the trip alone, and well it was the only thing I really wanted for my birthday. It's that good. We actually stopped by the Mercantile during the day and on our way back to Albany stopped by again in the evening for the Ice Cream Jam. The Beekman 1802 Mercantile was hoppin' on a Saturday night with 80s music and glow sticks, which Brent insisted on giving us to wear. Brent even let me skip the request line and put Safety Dance on top of the DJ list as a birthday present. But the real treat of the night was a half pint of Beekman goat's milk ice cream. If you love the tanginess of goat cheese, you'll love this ice cream. The Beekman's version (part goat milk and cow's cream) is smooth, creamy and rich but that goat's milk gives the ice cream such a unique tangy flavor that you'll want a whole pint rather than the half pint that it comes in. No artificial flavors here so you'll feel that much better eating it. I've tried 3 out of the four flavors and I'd rank the Cateja Caramel Swirl (of course it's a goat's milk caramel) at the top followed by the Tart Cherry Almond Swirl (with sour cherries from the farm) and the classic vanilla flavor. The last of the flavors, fig balsamic, has eluded me but I'm determined to try on the next trip. Also, if you're thinking of brining some goat milk ice cream back to Albany, it travels pretty well in a cooler bag :) The Beekmans will even
offer you ice if you need it.

For more edible Beekman 1802 products, be sure to sample the creamed honeys (from Beekman Farm bees of course); we've picked up jars of lemon creamed honey and rosemary creamed honey. Another favorite of ours is the hickory smoked sea salt. This has been our crack of the summer. We sprinkle it on everything from steaks (the Meathouse kind of course) and simply on fresh cucumber slices for a healthy snack with a smokey flavor. We can't wait to try the Mortgage Lifter Bourbon BBQ sauce, which 25% of the profits are donated to directly help struggling small American farmers. Obviously that million dollar prize from the Amazing Race has gone a long way, yet Josh and Brent remain as community oriented as they were when they first started the business. Not to mention they are as friendly and personable as they are on tv. Josh and Brent are truly the most humble and nice celebrities I've met and to see them behind the scenes at the shop shows how much they care about their business, even after moments of fame. You can't help but smile and want to be their best friends when you meet them. P.S. Read Josh's book, The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoirabout their Beekman journey. It's a great summer read. -R

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cooper's Cave Ale Company

We've been on a brew pub kick lately especially after the HopChef dinner and stops by Ommegang Brewery and Council Rock Brewery in Cooperstown. J and I decided to stop by Cooper's Cave Ale Company on our way to to Montreal this past weekend. Our first encounter with CCAC was actually at Council Rock Brewery where they carry CCAC's line of handcrafted sodas. My inner Harry Potter geek was intrigued by the Butterbeer (a butterscotch cream soda) complete with that trademark lightning bolt. After finding out that it was made in Glens Falls, a road trip was in order. 

It's the best of all worlds at the Cooper's Cave Ale Company flagship: handcrafted soda, homemade ice cream, great food, and craft beers. The menu is great mix of bar food with a gourmet twist, all homemade said the owner as she greeted us. Of course J started with a flight of beer but to be honest, the only memorable ones were the blueberry ale and abbey ale . Maybe the ones we had just lacked body and flavor, but we thought the beer was better utilized incorporated into the food. 

The pub menu has a number of typical comfort bar foods but with unique twists. Who doesn't love crack dip aka buffalo chicken dip? CCAC's version comes stuffed in fried wontons. This appetizer was one of the best munchies we've come across in awhile. Spicy, crispy, and paired with homemade blue cheese dip, it's something we could easily have had seconds of. We'd come back to Glens Falls just for these buffalo chicken wontons.  

J's go to dish at new places besides reubens are nachos, despite traumatizing experiences in the past that have involved Doritos chips instead of tortilla chips and rubbery ground beef at unnamed locations. CCAC's version comes with beer-b-que pulled pork. J likes to make homemade bbq sauce and he was happy enough with this beer version. I on the other hand went with the duck sliders. These sliders were infused with CCAC's ginger beer (which I had on the side and has a spicy kick!) and topped with goat cheese and apricot mustard. All of my favorite flavors on a tiny bun. I was afraid all these flavors would clash since duck and goat cheese tend to be heavy and strong, but it worked very well together here. The duck was  a very flavorful and well-seasoned sausage patty and the creaminess and the tanginess of goat cheese paired well with the gaminess of duck. 

After a full meal, how could we pass up on homemade ice cream too? For a full summer ice cream experience, order an ice cream cone at the window outside and enjoy the beautiful summer weather at the picnic tables. Armed with a cone each of vanilla honey and chocolate peanut cups, J and I were happy stuffed campers ready to tackle the rest of our trip up North. If you find yourself up in Glens Falls, make a point to stop here for food, beer, soda, or ice cream or all of the above like we did. -R

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Brewery Ommegang HopChef

A giant shout out and thank you to M.H.A. Innovations for picking us as the winners of the HopChef Competition Giveaway. We had a blast at this unique food and beer pairing dinner. Seven Capital Region chefs prepared a dish incorporating and paired with a beer from Brewery Ommegang and the winner gets to compete against the other winning Hop Chefs from Chicago, Philly, and Boston in a finale during Ommegang’s Belgium Comes to Cooperstown event in August. Max London's Mark Graham won the judge's pick and Mazzone Hospitality's Will Brown won People's Choice. More from the judge's perspectives at Table Hopping and Notes on Napkins

J is more of the beer expert than I am but we enjoyed sampling and critiquing each dish. We channeled all we learned from watching Chopped marathons on Food Network and were impressed by the Chefs' creative and sophisticated dishes. Here's our take on the HopChef creations, starting with our favorite: 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Brunswick BBQ & Brew

I want my baby back, baby back, baby back, ribs. Don't go to Chili's for authentic BBQ. Seriously. J and I have been making fun of BBQ sauce ever since watching an episode of Restaurant Impossible where a Southern BBQ joint was using bottled BBQ sauce with a dash of allspice and squeeze of bottled lemon juice for tang. We've been on the hunt for good BBQ ever since and have found bliss at Brunswick BBQ & Brew in Brunswick, NY. It's our go to place when the meat cravings set in and we're happy to make the trek from Albany.

Tucked in what seems to be the middle of nowhere, this place is hands down one of the best authentic BBQ joints in the Capital Region. Step out of the car and you are greeted by the sweet smell of smoked meat in the air. Ahhh, makes you salivate. It's hard to pick one menu item but a good starter is the BBQ Appetizer Sampler. You get a bit of everything: bbq wings, ribs, and piggly wigglys aka pulled pork sliders. All the meats are smoked to perfection and the depth of flavor can only be achieved by properly smoking low and slow and not just quick grilling meat. You can see that classic pink ring on the meat that they always talk about on the BBQ tv specials.  

J's go to platter is the tender and juicy beef brisket. You get an array of sides with the plates. Our favorites are the baked beans and sweet potato fries. But J's favorite staple is the corn bread with honey butter. The butter is like crack. Fluffy cornbread is the perfect vehicle for this sweet and salty buttah. He would eat a tub of honey butter if he could, but I'd like my fiance not to die of a heart attack. 

Brunswick BBQ isn't just about the meat but the pizza as well! They have a brick oven pizza that makes for the most perfect charred crust. The dough is crispy yet has a good chew to it and one of the best slices is the Brunswick BBQ Signature pizza with homemade, sweet Kansas City Sauce, cheddar cheese, and that yummy smoky pulled pork. The Margherita Pizza is just as good too, especially with prosciutto.  

Make a point to stop on by Brunswick BBQ, it's also a great pit stop to or from Grafton State Park or The Peace Pagoda. You will find blissful peace in this BBQ joint as soon as you taste it! -R

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cheesecake Machismo

I love me a good cheesecake. Some out of town friends came for a visit and wanted Cheesecake Factory for dessert. As much as I love CF's dense, creamy cheesecake, my friends needed to have a true Albany dessert experience at Cheesecake Machismo

Small, quaint, and definitely quirky (hello pop art and all things comic books), it's the ultimate unique sweets spot. You all know I'm a sucker for different flavors, and Cheesecake Machismo lives up to uncommon flavors that you won't find at chains like Cheesecake Factory. My odd flavor of choice was a green tea cheesecake with chocolate ganache topping while J was sold when he heard chocolate chip cookie dough crust and went with a slice of chocolate chip fasciana. I must admit the green tea flavor didn't really come through but the chocolate part made up for it, and I love the light texture of the cheesecakes here. Sometimes the CF ones are too dense and rich, and at CM I leave satisfied and not over the top stuffed after a slice. 

The friends went with slices of bananas foster and pineapple upside down (aka
Spongebob's Eviction) and were not disappointed. Cheesecake Factory who? Plus, at $5 a slice with your choice of a hot or cold beverage, it's a mighty good deal. When in doubt, always take out of town guests to the best local spots like Cheesecake Machismo.