Enjoy By 12.21.12 At Plan B Burger Bar Springfield

Enjoy By 12.21.12 at Plan B Burger Bar

When I saw Jeff was tapping the latest of Stone’s series of devastatingly fresh double IPA‘s, I rounded up the Jay and Richard and made our way out there before I missed my chance. Why head all the way to Springfield for a Stone beer you ask? Well let’s face it, the Capital Region isn’t even a blip on the radar for Stone Brewing Company. We get screwed out of just about every single special release, collaboration, and well anything that doesn’t get nationwide distribution. Even something like the Vertical Epic 12.12.12 won’t see our shelves until some time in January, or about a month too late for anyone trying to do a VE tasting. All this while I can find Lukcy Basartd sitting on shelves in gas station in Waterbury. It’s frustrating to say the least. Thankfully, Springfield isn’t really that far away, and the beer was still flowing by the time we got there.

Plan B Burger Bar

Devastatingly fresh was an understatement. Not just the taste of the beer, but also for the way Stone approached this IPA. Too often their D/IPAs are the equivalent of a pine cone raping the back of your throat. Not gently, either. I’m talking about you, Ruination 10th Anniversary. Stone is not known for “balance” in their beer, and this was probably the most balanced of their beers I’ve had in a long time (well, other than those that have sat in someone’s cellar for 5+ years that is). The hops are right there, front and center, with a little orange peel and citrus but they played nicely with the caramel malt notes. This is the first beer from Stone I’ve enjoyed in a while. I still have a bottle of this left (thanks Jon) that I plan on opening up with Fourteen Stone wherever we end up with the End of the World.

Enjoy By 12.21.12 at Plan B Burger Bar

I could have done without the pimp chalice Plan B served our beers in.

Of course there was no way we were going to drive an hour and a half away just for a single beer. I mean, we were at a “burger bar” for god’s sake. Of course we were going to get some chow and explore the rest of the tap list while we were there, too.  Given that I was driving, I only had one other beer during the night. The Sierra Nevada Narwhal had just kicked, so the waitress brought over some Pro-Am Porter from Wormtown Brewery instead. This was a little on the sweet side for me but I thought it was absolutely fantastic. A great surprise for sure.

Blue Chips at Plan B Burger Bar

Blue Chips at Plan B Burger Bar

We followed up our second round of beers with a couple of appetizers before hitting the main course: wings (way too mild for my tastes) and some really killer bleu-cheese covered potato chips. The bleu cheese was very rich but when stacked up with the house made chips, tomatoes, bacon, red onion and jalaps it was amazing. Definitely get this with a few friends to share. I followed up the Blue Chips with a Blue Cheese Burger, which, in retrospect was probably too much blue cheese for one meal. Two things: as I said with the Blue Chips, the blue cheese was no joke and (unfortunately) really dominated the burger. You didn’t get much from the caramelized onion and BBQ sauce, nor the bacon I had added. It was all blue cheese. The other problem that I have, and I think this is a chain restaurant thing, which I did not realize Plan B was going into it, is that they really, really don’t like cooking burgers below medium. When the server took our order our options were “some pink” and “no pink”. Me? I like to chase my burger around my plate a bit before killing it, so even with “some pink” it was barely pink, let alone red and juicy the way I like it. Just something to think about before heading that way.

Blue Cheese Burger at Plan B Burger Bar

Blue Cheese Burger at Plan B Burger Bar

Just another little thing to add about Plan B: they have some pretty cool lighting through the whole place which really sets up the ambiance nicely. From the retro lights above the bar:

The Bar at Plan B Burger Bar

To the “EAT MEAT” neon sign I NEED to have in my kitchen:
Eat Meat Neon Sign at Plan B Burger Bar

Eat Meat Neon Sign at Plan B Burger Bar

And then there’s the cool lights with exposed wiring you can see below the sign which separate the bar area and the dining area.

Overall I liked Plan B. I don’t see it as a destination place, but for those of you who live by it’s definitely worth the trip, especially on a night when they have a special beer release. I don’t see myself going out of my way to head to Plan B unless there’s something going on like this 12.21.12 release as there’s still a lot I haven’t covered in MA yet (hello Moan and Dove??) but the tap list, extensive bourbon list, and menu should still be enough to keep an out of towner entertained.

White Balance Testing

After being (slightly) disappointed with the pictures I took at the Ommegang Hop Chef Competition I had a quick back and forth on Twitter with Sean M. Buchan today. I’m an avid reader of Sean M. Buchan’s posts on Beertographer and Serious Eats and I’m extremely impressed with how bright and clear his photos are, so after our discussion I decided to go home and do a little homework on how to better take advantage of my cameras white-balance functions.

Most of my pictures are taken at home are at night, with the 3-4 (crappy) light sources I have in my kitchen. The above photo of the beginnings of tonight’s Carne en su Jugo was taken with white balance set to Auto. As you can see, the white of the spine of the jalapenos are very warm in color, more tan than white.

This is (almost) the same picture with the white balance preset. As you can see, the whites are actually white! A huge improvement in my opinion. Now on to something I take pictures of much more frequently: beer!

These are bottles from last night’s comparo between Iniquity and Self-Righteous. (Self-Righteous was the clear winner, a little disappointing considering how much of a Southern Tier fan I am.) Notice again, there are no real whites in this picture, all off-whites. Here’s the preset white balance (slightly out of focus) version:

It’s like someone OxiCleaned my photo! Huge difference. One last one of this weekend’s Lawson’s haul. Auto, yellowy:

And Preset:

Only a slight difference but enough that the second pic is much clearer and crisper.

So, that was my homework for the evening, and it was very enlightening. Har har. Now I need to snag a gray card or one of those White Balance caps or something so I can do this on the road. This’ll be a learning process but well worth the effort.

Albany, NY: Ommegang Hop Chef Competition

Friday I was lucky enough to attend another one of Ommegang’s Great Food Deserves Great Beer events: the Albany Hop Chef Competition.  This is the second of these of these events (the next is in Philly) where the winner of each of the three events will compete at Belgium Comes to Cooperstown to be crowned this year’s Hop Chef. Each of the chefs paired Ommegang’s beer with two dishes using one of Chef Teddy Folkman’s 5 beer pairing techniques. Here were the Chefs’ pairings for the night:

Brian Bowden – Executive Chef | Creo’ Restaurant

  • ABBEY ALE Paired with Oxrail & Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine with pickled locally foraged ramps.
  • HENNEPIN Paired with Columbia River Wild Salmon, Pea Pancake, Egg and Cracklin’s.
Elliot Cuniff – Executive Chef | Colonie Golf & Country Club
  • HENNEPIN Paired wich Foie Gras Sashimi, Crispy Wonton, Pickled Ginger, Wasabi Foam, Coriander.
  • BPA Paired with Lemongrass & Ginger-Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly with Abbey Ale Cider Braising Jus, Parsnip Puree, Pineapple Hoisin Glaze, Pickled Cabbage, Tobacco Onion.
Marcus Gulliano – Executive Chef & Owner | Aroma Thyme Bistro
  • HENNEPIN Paired with Organic Jewel Yam & White Mountain Farms Quinoa Cake, with Hennepin-Sauteed Chanterelles & Hennepin-­Pickled Fennel.
  • THREE PHILOSOPHERS Paired with Fig-Macerated Three Philosophers Ice Cream, Goji Berry & Chocolate Crisp, Three Philosophers & Palm Sugar Syrup.
AJ Jayapal – Corporate Food & Beverage Director | The Mallozzi Family, Miss Sydney’s
  • WITTE Paired with Handcrafted Turkey Shami Kebab, Toasted Coconut and Chick Pea Salad, Indu’s Chutney.
  • RARE VOS Rare Vos­-Infused Miss Sydney’s Marinated Pork Tenderloin, Malted Savory Waffle, Rare Vos-­Braised Fresh Sauerkraut of Apples, Bacon and Cabbage, Earthquake Mayo.
Rachel Mabb – Bitches Kitchen
  • WITTE Paired with Chili Shrimp & Sausage Wonton in Hennepin Broth.
  • RARE VOS Paired with Pork Tostada with Seduction Mole & Cherry Salsa.

Ric Orlando – Chef & Owner | New World Home Cooking, New World Bistro Bar

  • WITTE Paired with Snow Crab and Scallop Sausage, “Dirty Blonde” Mousse, Wheatberry Blondie.
  • THREE  “Three Phils, Three Pigs”: Jerk Pork Rib Salad with Smothered Cabbage; Pork Belly-Cherry-Black Garlic Caramel; Pigs Ears, shaved  Lacinata Kale, Chipotle-­Cherry Vinaigrette.
Jaime Ortiz – Corporate Executive Chef | Mazzone Hospitality
  • RARE VOS “Rare ofthe Dog,” Rare Vos and Faux Egg Shooter with a Honey Thyme Bacon Chaser – sure to cure what “ales” you.
  • HENNEPIN paired with Rustic Braised Veal Cheeks with Hennepin Wheat Berry Risotto.

Paul J. Ozimek – Executive Chef | Taste

  • ABBEY ALE Paired with Venison-Filled Veal Roulade/ Zucchini Creme Fraiche/  Fennel Chip.
  • THREE PHILOSOPHERS Paired with smoked Salmon Pastrami & Asparagus Terrine/ Cherry Sweet and Sour.

My two favorite dishes of the night were Chef Marcus’ Fig-Macerated Three Philosophers Ice Cream and Chef Ric’s Three Phils, Three Pigs. Homemade ice cream is one of my specialties and I’ve been trying to incorporate beer into ice cream for a while now. I’m trying to figure out how to do so without losing the alcohol in the beer, and while Marcus boiled down Three Phils to make this ice cream, it was still my favorite dish of the night. Ric’s Pigs go without saying, pork is the best way to a man’s (my) heart. Especially pork belly. Phenom.

Anyways, enough about me. Here’s how the chefs fared in the competition:

The Results

  • People’s choice winner: A.J. Jayapal
  • Second runner-up: Ric Orlando
  • First runner-up: Paul Ozimek

…And the Albany Hop Chef Competition winner: Jaime Ortiz!

It was an great time and, as usual, Ommegang puts on an amazing event. I can’t wait to see how our local Chef Jaime Ortiz does against the winners from from DC and Philly in August. Good luck!

A few more pics can be found here.

Voorheesville, NY: Thacher Park Picnic with Firestone Walker Wookey and Double Jack

When the guys at Hoosick Street Beverage posted they had some Wookey Jack I beelined it there to pick some up. I’m a huge fan of pretty much every beer I’ve had from FW so for them to come out with a new Black IPA you know I had to snag it. I grabbed a Double Jack while I was there since I hadn’t had that yet, either.

Got home, grabbed the cooler, glasses, blankets, the pooch and we were on our way. Stopped at Nino’s for some of their goddamn delicious subs and as we headed to Thacher Park.

We cracked open the Wookey Jack first. I’m trying to get Elise into IPAs and a black IPA is a good start since it has a lot of that maltiness that she’s used to with the stouts and porters. This beer was no different. I’ve had hoppier Black IPAs but this was pretty laid back. Slightly sweet, the malts were more present with hops taking a back seat. Some bitter in the finish but nothing crazy. Some intense lacing on the glass. A very good and extremely well balanced Black IPA.

We kicked the Wookey while eating and playing with Kuma and introducing him to passers-by and eventually broke out the Double Jack. My first time with this beer, but my expectations were set a little low as Jay had told me previously that, while it was good, it wasn’t as good as the Union Jack. I couldn’t disagree more.

The first thing I want to point out on this beer is the color; it’s incredible looking. And that’s huge for me because I could really give two shits about what a beer looks like. I don’t care if it’s cloudy or has floaters or any of that bullshit because honestly, that doesn’t affect how good the beer is for me. So for me to look at this beer and have the color really stand out I was impressed. It looked like liquid gold with a tiny bit of amber. Incredible.

The beer was very reminiscent of Dreadnaught for me. Similar citrus fruit on the nose and taste but without the mango and other tropical flavors. You can tell there’s some alcohol here but it’s not extremely obvious. Much more bitter on the tongue than the nose, with some very slight maltiness/sweetness on the backend. Overall this was a world-class DIPA for me, coming in a just a notch or two below Dreadnaught.

Albany, NY: St. Sophia Greek Festival [Food Porn]

Made our yearly trip to the Greek Fest at St. Sophia’s a couple of weekends ago. This is an absolute must for anyone in the capital district. We go for the gyros, but stay for the loukoumathes and take home some baklava. Also snagged some dip mixes from The Peanut Principle.

Looks like it’s Anton’s for gyros until next year.

Few more pics can be found here.