Tuesday, September 06, 2011

NYC trippin' and name droppin', part 1

>> Pictures from New York City (they're mostly beer-related, but not all. That's either a good thing or a sad thing, you decide.)

I've traversed the northeast from a few different directions over the past few weeks and I've done very little to share much of any of it with you.

By far, the majority of the time was spent across two separate weekends in New York City. Weather for both Saturdays was nearly as perfect as one could ask for in order to traverse the city while the Sundays consisted of one complete and utter washout and the other was a marginal and muggy one.

I'll present this to you in an abbreviated note format and mostly chronological. There's probably too much here for one posting, so I'll break this up in to two parts to make it a bit more, dare we say, digestible.

Brooklyn Brewery - happy hour on Friday nights at Brooklyn Brewery runs from 6pm-11pm. From the brewery setting to the relaxed atmosphere of groups of friends to the $4 beers (or $20 for 6...sold by the token), there's no reason not to hang out at Brooklyn Brewery all night. No food is served, but local restaurants deliver and there's a food truck parked out front. Very cool and very happy to have finally made it to the brewery after all these years. Oh, and key takeaway: Beer always tastes best fresh from the source. We all knew that already, right? Pennant Ale reminded me of this golden rule of beer.

Chelsea Market - not so much a stop for beer, but, rather, a great place to stop to "set the base" for beer drinking. Had a great BELT (this sandwich brought to you by the letter 'E' for egg) on toasted sourdough with an herbed aioli spread at Friedman's as a late breakfast sandwich before beginning my Saturday trekking around the city. This is a landmark building and a highly-recommended stop on any NYC visitor's tour around Manhattan. Plus, The High Line (more later) runs directly behind the Market. The hours are great too (7am-9pm, except Sunday, 8am-7pm)

Blind Tiger - There's probably not much to say about the Blind Tiger that hasn't been said before. Still widely considered one of NYC's finest and so much so, in my book, that I was there 3 times in less than 24 hours. I could explain why and how that happened, but it won't really add anything to the story. Okay, it will, and you know I'll get around to talking about it more later.

Governor's Island/Ommegang - I struggled with this one because I knew that it would involve some unknown level of commitment to get to Governor's Island. Yet, everything I've heard about Governor's Island quickly ratcheted this idea up my to-do list. Add to the scenario a Brews, Blues, & BBQ taking place (featuring Ommegang beers) and I had the recipe for a fun excursion off the southern tip of Lower Manhattan. Trouble is, a few thousand other people also seemed to have the same idea on this perfect Saturday. The line and wait at the South Ferry terminal were interminable (well, at 75 minutes, not completely interminable), but the payoff on the other side was worth it. Governor's Island is a walking, biking, beaching, relaxing respite from the hustle and bustle just a 1/4 mile away. The Ommegang "basics" were on tap (albeit with a confusing price schedule that certainly seemed to benefit the customer), barbecued food items were available for separate sale, and live music played at the end of the beach venue. Another bennie? The ferry ride and admission to the festival were both free of charge. The ferry is always free on weekends and holidays (hence the crowd, I suppose) and the beer festival is a weekly gig going into summer, each Saturday featuring a different brewery...this coming Saturday, Breckenridge, and the final one on 9/17, Oskar Blues.

Jimmy's No. 43 - Upon return from Governor's Island, I was faced with napping or continuing my afternoon-long whirlwind tour of Manhattan. Nap, surely I jest! And, as I surely as I jested, I surely continued up to 7th Street, which puts the BBC in Beer Bar Central — McSorley's, Burp Castle, Standings, and Jimmy's No. 43 all on the same block. I'd met Jimmy Carbone, proprietor, for the first time just weeks earlier at Ommegang's BCTC in Cooperstown and promised a visit in the near future. Neither of us knew how soon this time would come. I was proud of myself for blowing off the whole old man napping thing, because after descending the ten or so steps into the subterranean beer bar, I knew that this would be the special kind of place at which I could spend all night. Did, in fact, run into Jimmy, whom I gave my regrets to for not being able to share dinner with. But, after an hour of hanging at the bar with a couple of other interesting characters and running down the local beer scene with the bartender and a couple of customers, I needed to get back for my meetup with Mrs. Brew Lounge. There has got to be a return to Jimmy's in the very near future and food, for certain, must be part of that visit.

O'Hara's - Prior to heading out in search of dinner, we gathered with some of Patty's co-workers at Ground Zero's unofficial headquarters, O'Hara's, for commisserating over the last ten years since 9/11/01. After ten years, I can't imagine working there day in and day out with the haunting memories of pre-9/11 and the events of 9/11 and beyond. It's affected me personally enough as the casual business and leisure traveler to NYC a handful of times a year. At O'Hara's, the memories are played out each day and night over (primarily) beer and whisky. The atmosphere is real, the conversations are vivid, and the scrapbook of pictures, letters, and mementos makes for one of the most emotional bar visits you could imagine.

Palma - Patty and I moved along to Parma, which had been recommended to me by a top chef from Las Vegas whom I sat next to at Blind Tiger earlier in the day. (See how this all ties together? No? Well, trust me, it does.) She raved about the quality of food being put out from a small space just around the corner from Blind Tiger as well as the quality in the front of the house experience. We followed her advice and after a nice gin and tonic at the cozy bar, we found ourselves into a couple of very decent pasta dishes and a bottle of Italian wine. Now, we too, can highly recommend Parma.

Blind Tiger - Late night stop at Blind Tiger simply due to having dinner just around the corner at Parma. The day had gone on long enough and I was battle-weary; I couldn't tell you what my last T.U.D. of the day was.

Wafel & Dinges Truck - I've been following these guys on Twitter for a couple of years and now I've finally caught up with them. They were parked on 7th avenue across from the 1-train's Christopher Street subway stop and I knew this because of their Tweet earlier in the day (love how that works out so nicely). This is a great way of how using Twitter for business purposes can work so well with a customer base. One with Nutella and Spekuloos and one with ice cream and whipped cream made for the perfect midnight snack before heading back to our hotel. Not that we were really all too hungry at this point, but Belgian Wafels?! And Dinges!! C'mon!

Blind Tiger - Okay, so much for not adding anything to the Blind Tiger story (see above). My third stop in 24 hours at the Blind Tiger coincided with Sunday morning brunch. It also marked the third time in 24 hours seeing bartender Luke Bryan (nah, just kidding, inside joke) and the second time seeing Jen Schwertman. This brunch encapsulated everything that is wonderful about the Blind Tiger: Knowledgeable and friendly service; talented and accomplished kitchen serving up creative and tasty food; and a stellar beer list. There was a special Sunday promotion taking place with Harpoon, so it made perfect sense to pair the Uncle Fester (which, by the way, just exactly what the hell is a Bourbon Barrel-Aged Octoberfest aged on Brettanomyces wild yeast and other funky cultures?! I'll leave it to you style people to figure that one out! But, who cares, because it was pretty friggin' tasty is what it was. Still, does it get judged in barrel-aged category or the experimental category? Ale or Lager? That deserves an LOL for sure) with the beer-battered pancakes served along with bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup. Add in the very, very good Saison Various (a blend of 5 different Saisons made by 5 different sets of Harpoon brewers with 5 different recipes. One had lemongrass, one was a rye beer, some were spiced, and some were hoppy. The blend was put into a Cabernet barrel and aged for 1 month) and the rainy Sunday was off to a perfect start. Plus a couple of people at our table were introduced to Allagash White for the first time and they fell in love (with the beer, not each other!). It's always fun to see people's reaction to a new beer.

Slaughtered Lamb - The only unfortunate thing about taking a walk break here to get out of the thunderstorm downpour was the $12.50 for a 330ml Duvel bottle. Yes, you read that correctly. Even by NYC standards, I can't see this as anything other than an egregious attempt to capitalize on the popularity of better beer. Unfortunately, we didn't ask before we ordered four of them and received a check for $50. Though, with it being a nice round number; kind of makes you wonder. Otherwise, it was a fun flashback to when I stumbled upon this bar (way before StumbleUpon existed) roughly 20 years ago.

Rattle 'n' Hum - It was only a matter of time before I got back to this highly-regarded beer destination just east of Penn Station. Losing track of time, we must have put in at least a couple of hours here tearing through one good beer after another. It's hard to ignore the well-conceived plates of cheese here as well. Good service, beer, and snacks. A+ all around, more satisfied customers. Plus, what else are we gonna do in the middle of a day-long torrential downpour?

Whole Foods Chelsea - How many Whole Foods beer sections can I visit in NYC within a week? Three, if I didn't lose count along the way. This location is not the best of the NYC-based Whole Foods, but it is the closest to Penn Station which makes for a convenient stop before taking the train out of the city. There's not a ton of beer to be found in NYC that can't be found in the beer-rich Philadelphia region. Captain Lawrence and Goose Island are just a couple that I'm always on the lookout for when hopping around NYC's better retail beer stores. Philly's a tough market guys, I understand; just stay in NY and I'll come and get you :-p

Il Bastardo - To close out this particular rainy Sunday, it was yet another stop at Il Bastardo. It began with a stop here in '06 the night prior to my running of the NYC Marathon. Since then, I've been back to this self-described Tuscan Grill, raw bar, and wine bar in the Chelsea neighborhood a handful of times, making it perhaps the restaurant I've been to the second most in Manhattan only behind Blind Tiger.

Coming tomorrow, Part 2 and much more from the city that keeps getting better beer and better with beer.

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