Beer, Glorious, Beer!

I am not much of a beer drinker is what I tell people when I go out drinking. This isn’t exactly true. I just really can’t find enjoyment in what most people drink when they say beer. They usually mean PBR, Heineken, Coors, Budweiser or Guinness. Sometimes I get lucky and it’s folks who actually mean a brilliant creation of flavor involving a hops. An independent brew developed by a master who gave a damn about what he was creating instead of just putting yeast piss mixed with barley or wheat in a can or bottle.

I know how beer is made. I have studied it intensely in reading, but I have never taken the time and energy involved to make my own brews. I’ve even come up with various ideas, percolated how certain flavors and mixes would bring both body, taste and a good buzz worthy to say “Dude, I’m drunk and happy about it!”.

When I was in New Jersey recently for an arts event I got to not only meet people who do home brewing, but sample many different flavors and tastes. There was a vast amount of deliciousness here and some truly passionate people.

The group is called the Jersey City Brew Club and they meet monthly to plan, discuss, arrange and organize beer brewing, events and whatnot. Their event at the 4th Street Arts and Music Festival was also a contest. While all the beers were absolutely amazing, they still decided to have purveyors to vote for their favorites.

The favorite that won was a Dark Chocolate Cherry Stout which I unfrotunately could not taste as I have an allergic reaction to cherries, but I got to try another beer he had made that was not in competition and it was quite amazing. Second place went to the Buffalo Porter, an aromatic beer suggested best with earthy cheese just like its flavor and third place went to Hopasaurus in the Dark, this was very dark and really jumpy as the name suggests. Other excellent beers that really caught my tastebuds were the Pumpkin Cider, the Apricot Wheat Ale and the simply called HurricanAle.

I am amazed at what these individuals achieved and I wouldn’t mind getting into it myself.

Unfortunately for me their next meeting in which they’ll not only discuss these beers but other brewmaking genius is this weekend during New York Comic Con. If you aren’t heading out to that and you live in a place where Jersey City is easy access for you, I totally recommend checking these guys and gals out… it seems like an awesome club to belong to.

Oh, my Pasta!

Whenever I’m out with a friend and decide its time to get a nice meal I have three types I’d gear for, Thai, Indian and Italian. The problem with Italian is that I feel weird paying for pasta dishes which I can easily make at home. I could probably make Thai and Indian dishes as well, but not as easily as Italian. Most places use pre-made pastas, so you’re just paying for labor, but not ingredients you don’t traditionally can pick up at the grocer for cheap. What I’m always looking for is a place that not only mentions that their pasta is made in house, but prides itself in this fact.

Luckily recently I finally found this place on Montague Street in the Brooklyn Heights section of New York City. While the restaurant might have a hokey name in “Oh, my Pasta!”, the cordial service and absolutely amazing food made up for it completely.

We started our meal with their rendition of eggplant parmigiana. This isn’t the way you would expect it in a regular Italian restaurant, very heavy with lots of breading and topped with more tomato sauce than eggplant almost. No, this was a succulent portion cooked to a perfect palate that just melted in the mouth and really triggered the start of the meal.

We decided to sample two of the pasta dishes.

Tagliolini al pesto Siciliano and Troccoli alla carbonara.

The silician pesto was made with basil, pine-nuts, shelled almonds, grated sheep’s milk Rodez cheese, tomatoes, and extra-virgin olive oil. It was served on Tagilolini which is a flat noodle, much like linguine for the lay-man, but more more delicate. This pesto was just the right balance of flavors and the tagiliononi absorbed it so perfectly, it melt in the mouth.

I serve carbonara at home on a regular basis, but never with Sheep’s Milk cheese the way they do here. Troccoli is a traditional spaghetti like pasta and the carbonara sauce didn’t take as well to Troccoli as the pesto and was lacking something, but was still delicious. It is possible that because I am working on various type of forms of carbonana sauce at home my mind and taste buds are more selective than with a pesto sauce which is much more intricate to make and why I don’t do it at home often.

For desert we had an absolutely amazing chocolate tort. This thing was perfect in every way. I tend to despise raspberry sauce in chocolate but here it worked and was a perfect ending to an amazing meal.

I must also bring up the amazing service here. While our waitress was brand new, actually having just started that day, the rest of the house from manager to owner and chef all made a point to be involved. While some criticisms on sites such as Yelp and other restaurant reviews sites have mentioned that when the place gets more full their front of the house to back of the house control can be lacking, I didn’t find it to be that bad and the food was definitely worth it.

While I do not find myself in Brooklyn Heights as often as I’d like, when I have a group of acquaintances, colleagues or a female friend to impress I will definitely make a point of returning here.

Chef Steven J. Lecchi makes pasta