hit and miss at The Publick House

I really enjoy The Publick House in Brookline. It has awesome beer and very good french fries, and a congenial atmosphere. (I enjoy nerdy beer snobbery.) But it does seem there’s a spottiness to the quality or at least the execution.

The french fries are even better than last time, which would have been difficult, but now they are *crunchier*. I didn’t detect quite as much meaty flavor, which makes me wonder if they changed cooking fat. If so, I guess I am willing to trade crunch for porkiness. And the sauces, good lord, the sauces: truffle oil mixed into ketchup. garlic mayo. spicy mayo. mayo-mustard whatever it is. YUM.

But my arugula salad with duck cracklings really missed the mark. The cracklings tasted off, stale, as if the fat was old or they’d been sitting around. It made the otherwise acceptable baby arugula mostly unpalatable, and I would go further to say that the goat cheese didn’t do the duck flavor (even had it been at its best) any favors. Bummer.

The ribeye was delicious, with a bit of truffley butter and an unusual and surprisingly complementary diced salad of minted tomato and cucumber, but its shaved potato gratin wasn’t sufficiently cooked. Just because you cut a potato paper thin, y’all, doesn’t mean you get to skip out on cooking the damn thing. I dunked it into the truffley ketchup and ate it anyway, but it bummed out the tallasiandude.

All was forgiven, though, because the Rodenbach beer was so terrific. It’s a Flemish red ale, light in body and extremely easy to drink, especially on a hot day, with a strongly sour flavor, almost like a citrus drink but with more complexity and a bit of bubble and bitter. Absolutely delightful, and just the thing for me after a long couple of days at work getting to a release deadline. Hurray!

just like old times: FoodNerd and WineNerd loose in Chicago, part 1 – Humboldt Park

Last week I went to Chicago for work, and FINALLY, after years of waiting, my trip coincided with one of C’s trips. WAHOO!

The first night, we went out with Bar to Borinquen, to introduce C to the glories of the jibarito. We started with a tamale (meh) and some “fried meat” (a little dry, but crispy and good in general), then each of us ordered a jibarito.  Bar & I both went with the chicken, and we pointed C toward the pork, so we could compare and contrast. C admitted later that he’d been skeptical of the raptures we described, since a) how good could it really be and b) he doesn’t actually like plantain that much. His first bite changed his mind, and because C has a truly enviable capacity to consume, he ORDERED A SECOND ONE when he finished the first. This one turned out even better than the first, crispier and saltier, probably because it came straight from the griddle instead of waiting for two other sandwiches to be ready.

Then, because we were so close by, I took them to the California Clipper for a drink or two. But since C had failed to bring his ID with him, the big dope, they wouldn’t let us past the door — even though it was dead as a doornail in there. (The complete emptiness of various venues on this trip was odd and scary… i should post about that later.) They pointed us down the block but that place was jammed, so we bailed out and walked down Augusta to Western, where we figured if we couldn’t find a bar we could at least find a cab.

We decided we’d try the first Old Style sign we saw once we got to the corner. So we did — but the door was locked. Oh shit. But they came right over and let us in, which turned out to be completely awesome, because it was a textbook example of the old fashioned Chicago neighborhood bar. Old wooden bar, crappy linoleum tile, beer signs, and middle aged Polish folks clustered at the far end of the bar playing the jukebox. Perfect. We sat there for over an hour, drinking Old Style, running the Polish pop songs through the iPhone (it did remarkably well IDing them) and watching men’s figure skating on TV. At one point C ordered “whiskey” and was given Jack Daniels in a shotglass. Around 10:30 we remembered we are theoretically responsible grown-up people and attempted to go home, but we couldn’t hail a taxi, so rather than freeze to death we went to the OTHER Old Style sign across the street to try and call the guy who dropped us off at Borinquen.

This turned out to be the cheesy modern Polish neighborhood bar, also with a locked door, this time with a homemade wooden bar, Christmas lights, a friendly Polish girl about our age tending bar, and one weird dude sitting at the bar. Also men’s figure skating. They didn’t have even crappy whiskey, so we drank the Polish vodka, also from shotglasses. We got points from the barmaid for wanting just plain vodka, no mix. The cab dude didn’t answer his phone nor did he show up, so after a half hour or so, despite a very good time being had by all (including the weird dude), we went back out to try and hail a cab and this time we managed it. Everybody got home in one piece, and no one’s hangover was too wretched. And that is the sort of evening that Chicago does better than anyplace, as far as I can tell.

Tune in next post for part 2 – Moto.

chili, well under $3 a serving

It’s been cold, so we felt like having a batch of chili. Two pounds of ground turkey and a bag of small red beans and a bottle of Rogue Mocha Porter later, among other things, we had a big pot of tallasiandude’s special-recipe chili. Yum!

And because we are both nerds, and both thinking about how to save money on food, we tried to figure out how cost-effective this chili really is. So far we reckon it’s about 10-11 person-meals’ worth of food, and it cost us $21 to make.  That’s $2.10 per meal.  If you also count the accessories (plain yogurt, brown rice, cheddar cheese, toast, and corn chips), that’s an extra $5 to the total… leaving the per-meal cost still pretty damn low, at $2.60.

That’s not too shabby, considering we used expensive beer and kosher meat and organic vegetables (for the most part).  It’s a good meaty chili, flavorful and filling.

Saute 3 roughly-chopped onions and 1/2 a head chopped garlic in 2 tbs butter (or bacon fat if you have it).  Add the turkey and cook through.  Chop half a head of celery, and saute in 1 tbs butter in the soup pot.  Stem and seed 6 serranos and 3 anaheims (or whatever chiles suit you), chop and add to celery.  Dump the turkey and onions into the pot with the chiles.  Add 1 lb of small red beans, previously soaked (or quick-soaked), and 1 large can of whole tomatoes, plus half a can of water and a bottle of dark beer.  Add 3-5 mini Hershey bars and/or dark chocolate mini squares, whatever you have around — unsweetened chocolate does tend to make it too bitter though.  Add chili powder, cumin, black pepper and salt to your liking.  Stew the heck out of it for a few hours on low heat.  Serve hot with toast or rice, topped with cheddar cheese and/or plain yogurt and a tangy hot sauce if you want a little more than the mild oomph the fresh chiles give.  Tortilla chips are nice with it too.