Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Costco's Kirkland House Brand Gets some Bon Appetit Love

One of my wife's co-workers was telling us that it was worth the 45-minute drive to one of the MD area Costco stores that sells alcohol because the Kirkland brand booze was as good and way cheaper than any big name brand. I've always been a fan of their house brand foods and I try to buy as much of my fresh meat there as possible because unlike a grocery store they turn it over so frequently.

Turns out we're not the only ones who love us some Kirkland brands... no less an authority on good grub that Bon Appetit recently heaped praise on, yes, Costco's house brand spirits, snacks, salmon and more.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Just Call Me Captain Beefheart or A Quick Review of Parts & Labor

Just Call Me Captain Beefheart
I don't usually go out to eat on back to back nights, but when it's dinner at Parts & Labor in Baltimore I can't resist.

This was our second visit to the restaurant and I have to say that of all the meals I've eaten out during my 15 years in Charm City, both dinners at P&L rank at or near the top. Plus, with the restaurant's ever changing menu I was excited to see what was new – and to see if any old favorites were still being offered.

Started off the evening with a delicious and refreshing Hop Knife IPA from Tröegs Independent Brewing to go with the Raw Cheeseburger (a favorite from our last visit that we were glad to see still on the menu and yes, it's basically exactly what it sounds like), Eggplant Hummus and thinly sliced Beef Heart served with thinly sliced cucumbers and the same sauce that accompanies the steaks. My dinner companions all passed (I think the words "beef heart" are off putting) but had I simply told them it was steak nobody would have known the difference. The rare slices simply melted on the tongue, much like the 14 oz. steak that my wife and I split.

Crazy Corn with Braided Husk
The crazy corn – topped with mayo and cheese – was also too good to pass up and I could have eaten a dozen ears. Naturally, my wife requested that when I grill corn at home I start braiding the husks like Parts & Labor.

Our friends ordered the steak, too, and finished off every bite while their chorizo was spicy without being overly so.

We also enjoyed being seated in a booth rather than out in the middle of the dining room like during our last visit. Conversation was easy and you never felt like you were listening in on your neighbors' conversation or vice versa. By the end of the dinner it almost seemed like we were the only ones there but when we got up to leave that definitely wasn't the case.

If meat's your thing I can't recommend this place highly enough.

Parts & Labor is located at 2600 N. Howard Street in Baltimore, just down the street from the iconic Ottobar (where I once bumped into John Waters after seeing Italian soundtrack legends Goblin).

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Fried Chicken Sandwich at Spruce Street Harbor Park

First visit to Philly's Spruce Street Harbor Park​ last night and I have to say I was smitten.

A fun, relaxing waterfront food and drink court complete with ping pong, bocce and an arcade. Perfect spot to meet old friends (and I do mean old... my buddy Chris and I have known each other since 1st Grade), hang out and chit chat before seeing the one and only Butch Walker​ at the TLA.

Excellent chicken sandwich from Port Fednuts (the park location for local hotspot Federal Donuts), too.

When I told Ryan what was on it – fried chicken, spicy mayo, melted cheese and pickles on a Martin's potato roll – she said they should just "call it The Dan".

Thanks for a great night, Philly!

Flying Fish to Unleash Pork Roll Porter in September

First there was scrapple beer, a concoction whipped up by Dogfish Head that not only featured my favorite breakfast meat but also was named after a song by The Replacements.

Not to outdone, another regional brewer – New Jersey's own Flying Fish, located a hop, skip and a jump from where I spent the first 30 years of my life – has announced a Pork Roll Porter as part of its trio of specialty brews rolling out next month. (And, for the record, let it be noted that it's called "Pork Roll" Porter, not "Taylor Ham" Porter.)

Other flavors include a Exit 5 Sour Forage Beer made with pine needles (a nod to the Pine Barrens?) and an Exit 14 Imperial Pilsner whose impressive 8.5% alcohol content must be a nod to, uh, getting loaded in the Garden State?

Hoping one of these days they come up with an Exit 63 LBI Stout made with local clam shells a la 21st Century's awesome Hog Island Stout (which I finally found the other day after a long absence on local shelves).

Read the complete Philly Voice article for more details on the release and check out Flying Fish's page on the brew.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Never Miss Another Food Holiday!

Happy National Peach Pie Day!

Did you, like me, miss National Pinot Noir Day (August 18th) because you didn't have all the food/drink/dessert holidays in one handy location? Fret no more! Nathan Yu at Flowing Data has put them all together in one place so you'll never miss National Grilled Cheese Day (April 12th) ever again.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Quick Review: Jack's Beach Grille on LBI

Stopped by Jack's Beach Grille in Bay Village on Long Beash Island (NJ) last night to grab dinner to go for my daughter and me. Wanted to try the roast pork and compare it to my favorite (Dinic's) but it was out (next time!) so I went with the cheesesteak. 

As a longtime DelVal resident and cheesesteak fan I'm always skeptical about cheesesteaks that aren't made in Philly or just over the bridge in Jersey but I have to admit I loved and devoured the cheesesteak with fried onions and sauce from Jack's. Wish the roll had been a little denser and chewier but that's a minor quibble. (You know I liked the cheesesteak... I didn't even take time out from wolfing it down to take a photo!)

Kid's Menu grilled chicken breast was juicy and tender. My daughter chowed down the whole order and we split (and couldn't even finish) the huge order of fries that came with her order. Here's to success for Jack's and I'm looking forward to going back and trying that Roast Pork Sandwich.

Jack's offers inside and outside seating and is BYOB friendly. Their ad in the local paper even makes pairing suggestions so you can walk across the street to the newly opened Ship Bottom Brewery and grab a growler to go.

Jack's Beach Grille is located in Bay Village in Beach Haven on Long Beach Island, NJ. Call 609-492-2328 or visit jacksbeachgrille.com for more info.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

Quick LBI Report and Ship Bottom Brewery Coming Soon to Bay Village (LBI)

This has been our first extended trip to Long Beach Island, NJ (LBI) this summer and despite chilly ocean temps (60 degrees yesterday and 67 today) and a breezy day which chased us from the beach after a few hours today the visit has been great.

After spending yesterday on the beach and grilling out for dinner we awoke this morning to Ryan inquiring exactly what time we'd be leaving to get our first taste of Crust & Crumb cream donuts of the summer. Regular readers might be aware that I'm not much of a "sweets guy", though I do like the occasional tiarmisu and homemade bread pudding.

But for me it's not really summer until I have a cup of Lobster Bisque at Howard's Restaurant (check!) and a cream donut (or several) from Crust & Crumb. With everybody still lounging about after a long and well-deserved sleep and the first breakfast of Fruit Loops keeping nine-year-old Ryan at bay (I know, nine years... I've failed as a parent), we waited until our nephew was headed out, borrowed my father-in-law's car and headed down to Bay Village.

Surprisingly, while the back roads were packed with bike riders/runners and the main drag was clogged with cars we quickly found a parking spot at Bay Village and hustled our way into Crust & Crumb. Expecting a line out the door we were pleasantly surprised we were able to squeeze into the small establishment and had a few minutes before ordering so I could snap a picture of the Naragansett "Crush It Like Quint" retro can poster and send it to my similarly obsessed buds.

After securing a dozen donuts (hey, we're here for a few days) and an elephant ear we made a quick pit stop at the closest beer store to see what I could find in the way of craft brew. Unfortunately, on the island you're sort of at the mercy of the few stores that carry beer so you have to be willing to pry open that wallet and fork it over. But even I'm not willing to pay $19 for a six pack of Green Flash West Coast IPA although I was somewhat shocked that Ballast Point Big Eye (my favorite beer of the moment) was a mere $2.50 more than I'm used to paying at home.

Luckily, I spied a slightly familiar looking can at a more palatable $12.99 and decided to grab the Spellbound Brewing IPA. I haven't had this since my wife's uncle brought some down for our annual Xmas Eve Party and Unofficial Craft Brew Fest, but I recalled the can nonetheless. Crisp and hoppy with pine and citrus notes it's a nice example of the craft brewing that's at work all over the country, even in such surprising locations as South Jersey.

And speaking of brewing, after a quick stop to fish off the dock and walk around Bay Village we were happy to discover that Ship Bottom Brewery is opening a tap room right next to and above Spice It Up. While they're only selling merchandise at the moment we had a chance to pop in, take a look at the still under construction brewing tanks and chat with Rick the tap room manager. He says that they're waiting for licensing and that they plan to open later this month. Brews are currently available at a few local spots such as Tuckers and The Plantation but their lineup includes Beach Patrol Hefeweizen, a blueberry wheat ale (Blueberry Bikini Bottom), The Shack IPA (which pays homage to an LBI landmark), an IPA collaboration that shares its name with local eatery The Chicken or The Egg, and an awesome sounding west coast style double IPA that promises to pack a 10.4% ABV punch (Double Overhead).

The south end of Long Beach Island has long been in need of a place where you can pop in while shopping or after a day at the beach and have a quick, delicious local beer or three. I'll be dropping in to Ship Bottom Brewery as soon as humanly possible and will be shore, er, sure to report back then. – Dan Taylor

Thursday, June 09, 2016

I Haven't Posted Since When?

THG enjoys some hockey and a local beer
instead of working on the blog.
It's more than a little hard to believe that I haven't popped in to post since, gulp, the last days of 2015.

Regular readers of the blog know that I have a handful of annual freelance projects that keep me pretty occupied for the first few months of the year (leading to posts apologizing for my protracted absences like this one), and while this year's slate seemed to drag on longer than usual, I still don't have a great reason for going five months and change without writing anything. (And I do mean anything. Even THG's sister blog Exploitation Retrospect has pretty much been collecting dust aside from some guest posts.)

I could certainly pinpoint all the usual culprits: ennui, writer's block, packed schedule, my life, too much time spent watching NHL and college hoops, my daughter's school/athletics/social life, etc. and they'd all be justifiable and accurate.

Plus, as I've noted in the past, it's much easier – and lazier – to bang out a quickie Facebook, Twitter or Instagram post than to sit down and actually put some thought into what I'm doing. But don't let that stop you from visiting and bookmarking all of our little social media outposts!

And it's not like I haven't been drinking and eating and cooking and traveling and drinking and reading and did I mention drinking...? The beer fridge has seen steady turnover as we've settled on a regular rotation of Ballast Point Big Eye (though we'll have to watch the quality now that they've been bought out by a mega beverage conglomerate) and favorites both old and new like Dale's Pale Ale and Sam Adams Nitro IPA (a creamy, citrusy, piney glass of delicious that is screaming for its own writeup), Unita Brewing Hop Nosh, Green Flash West Coast IPA and, well, I see a definite trend developing here. Yes, we like IPA and as Beavis once said, "Ow, my liver".

But summer's upon us and that means grilling and day trips and enjoying a beer by the pool or the patio – or just standing in the garage during a rain storm – so we'll be cooking and sampling and posting.

I promise.

As for the coming weeks and months, look for write-ups on some new (and not so new) additions to the Baltimore County restaurant scene, reports from sunny, sandy Long Beach Island, Ryan's reviews of calamari and carousels (I'm encouraging her to start her own blog focused on her dual passions) and more.

School's out, summer's here and THG's back. – Dan Taylor

Dan Taylor is the editor and publisher of The Hungover Gourmet and Exploitation Retrospect and is entirely responsible for the dearth of material at both outlets over the last five months. For shame!