A Visit to Austin, TX and a Very Hopp-y Easter!

It’s been a few months since my last post and to be honest I’ve been so busy at work that taking the time write an epistle was not a priority. Ironically, it took a work-related event in the form of a conference to cause me to stop… take a breath… and realize how much time has passed since I had flexed my blogging muscles.

I will not go into conference details as, unless you using SAP as your ERP system, then you are not likely to find any interest in that aspect of the story. But I will highlight some of my exposure to Austin’s food and craft beer cultures.

The décor in my hotel room in the Hyatt Regency speaks of Austin’s musical background in Texas Blues.

My arrival on Monday the 26th included an afternoon session, after which I met up with colleagues from other companies as well as a my coworkers who also attended including a former colleague who was working in a related but different industry and was there for the conference. The meet-n-greet included free alcoholic beverages so I took the opportunity to begin sampling some of Austin’s craft beer. My intro was a Pilsner from Austin Beerworks.

Austin Beerworks Pearl-Snap Pilsner

It had a good Pils flavor though it was slightly stronger in the hops arena. My only complaint was that they did not include a glass to serve it in. I would like to have seen how the beer clung to a clean glass and what kind of head it produced.

After the meet-n-greet my colleagues and I took a stroll across the Congress Avenue Bridge and headed north toward the Capitol, until we got to 6th Street, then we turned right and went another block and entered BD Riley’s Pub just on the left.

Observers waiting for the Bats on Congress Bridge.
Heading north on Congress Avenue you can see the Capitol building in the distance.

BD Riley’s is an Irish Pub to be clear but it’s an Irish Pub in Texas. So the Blues music cultural is definitely alive and well there (see link below).

While there I started with a really good Pecan Porter from (512) Brewing Company. It has a really great flavor and look to it. And it went well with the Appetizer Sampler platter we ordered. The wings had good heat the fried dill pickle slices were tasty and the chicken planks weren’t bad. I didn’t have any stuffed potato skins but I was told there were delicious.

(512) Brewing Company’s Pecan Porter

For my main course I ordered the Chicken Newton. Which contains pulled chicken breast, crisp bacon and tangy green apples chopped and topped with a four-cheese blend then skewered on Texas Toast quarters. I paired that with an Axis IPA from Real Ale Brewing. Both were very good and satisfying.

We headed back to our hotel after dinner and awaited the next day’s sessions of conference presentations.

After all of the speaking and mingling of the day, we met up with a mix of other utility companies at a social dinner sponsored by one of the Vendors at the conference. It was a good mix of discussions about our day to day activities as well as comparisons of how each company handles their own tasks. We also ventured off into other avenues of interest which included travel, foods and craft beers (for some of us). It was good to meet people from other areas who shared my interest in Craft. The dinner was held at Zax Restaurant & Bar, a short walking distance from the Hyatt Regency.

They had us segmented away in a corner of the restaurant and rightfully so as there were about 30 or more of us. I walked back toward the bar to view the display of beer taps and see what the fare was. I was surprised to find that most of the taps were local brands, and only a few were more well known (Lone Star, Shiner).

I started out with a Kolsch named All Call from Lakewood Brewing. Very nice Kolsch flavor and it re-enforced the reputation that a lot of breweries in Texas are specializing in Lagers, Pilsners and other German based brews.

As the evening went on and discussions carried forward we began placing our orders for dinner. When I did I also put in an order for what they called their “Austin Flight” which was an all Austin based sampling of beers.

This included a Pilsner, an IPA, a Vienna Lager and an Amber Ale. I wish I could tell you the breweries but I wasn’t fast enough to write them down, much less hear them correctly with the background chatter surrounding me. I can say they were all good examples of each style and very tasty. They also complemented the dinner of Tilapia served with capers on linguine and mixed veggies.

And I have to give a mention to the delicious Blackberry Ginger Cheesecake that was made on site. A very tasty dessert.

That evening drew to a close and we went into the last day of the conference with all of the associated sessions. By 5 PM the conference was ended and many folks had gone on their way to their respective destinations. My colleagues and I weren’t returning until the next day, so we spent Wednesday evening with one last journey into the Austin air. We decided to follow a recommendation (from several sources) for local BBQ, Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, located on Congress Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Being a short walking distance from the hotel didn’t hurt.

We arrived just before the customary line out the door started. In fact, it started forming behind us as there was a small line to get in to put your order inside. While waiting on the inside line I ordered another local beer, National Park Hefeweizen from Big Bend Brewing.

This was a very tasty Hefe and paired well with the BBQ Pork Ribs and Brisket I ordered for my meal. It also went well with the cole slaw, grilled corn on the cob, and the jalapeno-bacon-mac & cheese that I had for the sides.

That was some of the best BBQ I have had at a restaurant ever! I highly recommend this place if you find yourself in Austin. Not only is the BBQ very good but the beer selection is great as well. There are two levels of seating as well as outdoor seating and they were filling up by the time we left.

We decided to take a stroll and found ourselves heading north for the Capitol building. Unknown to me until informed by the Supershuttle driver who brought me from the Airport, the Capitol in Austin is the largest Capitol in the US. And after having seen it in person I believe her (see pics below).

After walking to the Capitol and making our way back to the hotel, I decided one final draft was in order, so I went to the hotel bar and ordered a perfect dessert beer to top off the evening, the Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout from Independence Brewing.

This smooth coffee/chocolate/oatmeal flavored stout was the perfect cap to an evening

In the morning, I arose and showered then began to pack and decided to get breakfast at the hotel. The view was cloudy but pretty and the breakfast was a tex/mex fave of mine, Huevos Rancheros.

The layer of beans covered with sausage and a couple over easy eggs, topped with avocado and a grilled jalapeno was a perfect “I’m going to be traveling all day and don’t know when I will eat.” type of breakfast. A good final meal to say goodbye to Texas with.

My only complaint about the trip would be how beer is served in Austin, and this may be true throughout Texas. I don’t like drinking from a can. No matter how good the packaging technology may be, psychologically I still taste metal. And I don’t like that they serve their beers in frosted glasses. In fact, when I asked for a non-frosted glass the bar person looked at me like I was crazy. They obviously haven’t been taught in Texas that frosting the beer glass masks the flavor of the beer. And while the beers I had tasted good, I really didn’t get their true flavor because they were all masked. That is a bit disappointing in a town that pride’s itself on craft beer.

I would like to add that I have been to Texas many times in the past, (San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and parts in between) and none of those visits has been as rewarding as this one. I would readily take a trip to Austin again, whether on business or as a vacation destination. I cannot say that of the other parts of Texas I have been to.

A no-show of a co-pilot delayed my connecting flight in Atlanta by about a hour and half so I didn’t get back into Gainesville until after 8 PM that Thursday. So I was unable to pick-up Tucker from the Doctor’s house until the next day. Luckily for me, the Doctor was able to keep Tucker entertained while I was away.

So much so that he slept well while he was there.

So now I am home and spending my Easter with my little beer hound. I hope all of you are getting to spend Easter with your loved ones and enjoying the day.

Maybe you’re hunting for eggs or for a new tradition that seems to catching on beers.

Most of all I hope you’re enjoying the holiday meals that have been prepared, both the traditional and non-traditional.

However you are spending the day, whether based in faith, or in spending time with family and/or friends, or both I hope you enjoy the colors and flavors of the day and match them up well with your favorite ale!

Papabear

Cypress & Grove Brewing and Indigo’s Homemade Ice Cream – New FLavors in Town!!!

So part of my July 4th weekend was spent doing the usual, grilling food and spending time with friends and family. Part of this involved visiting a couple of new places in Gainesville as well as some of our regular haunts.

On Friday, June 30th, the Maestro and I met up at First Magnitude to begin Supping back some Suds and begin some earnest Philosophying. I started off with their Dunkulla Weizenbock  which was a great example of a good roasty Weizenbock flavor. I also sampled their Kemp’s Ridley Radler and it tasted good but sweeter than I expected. But the highlight for me at First Mag that evening was their New England Style IPA Trop Hop, which had strong citrus and floral notes in the nose but a great IPA flavor with a clean finish, a very refreshing beer.

First Mag Dunkulla
Trop Hop – New England Style IPA

While there, the Maestro and I started up a conversation with two other gents, both Gator Alumni and one was visiting for the first time in many years. We discussed a lot of the changes that had happened around town since he had been here last. Then they eventually told us they had just left another brewery called Cypress & Grove Brewing that had just opened up.

Now I knew there was a new brewery opening, that was originally going to be called Rainstorm Brewing but they had to do a name change for some reason, but I never heard the new name. But when these gents told us where it was located I knew it was the same place. So the Maestro and I wrapped our conversation and decided to head over there and see what offerings they had available.

In the interim, Rowdy and the Cooler had texted us to see if we were still at First Mag so we told them where we were headed and said to meet us there.

Cypress & Grove has only had a soft opening so far and is still undergoing some construction. For instance the AC was not installed yet the night we went and they have a large game area where they will probably have Corn Hole games and other games set-up. But without the AC it was very hot in that section as well.

They had a small list of beers available, but they also had a wine and some of their own seltzer water with flavoring for any young ones. The beers listed included a Blonde, a Pale Ale, an IPA and a Stout. They haven’t come up with any catchy names yet so if you go to look the beers up on Untappd it’s just under the brewery name for now.

I started out with their IPA which had a pretty good flavor and finish. I would definitely order it again. The Maestro said they same about their Pale Ale. My second glass was their Stout which had a traditional Stout flavor and reminded me of a Guinness. I have to be careful when trying Stouts anymore as more and more folks are putting out Chocolate Stouts and Barrel-Aged Stouts and a normal Stout really doesn’t compare to those. But if you like Guinness you will probably like this one.

Cypress & Grove IPA
Cypress & Grove Stout

I asked some folks on the staff and the Grand Opening will be in August sometime. By then I suspect they will have the AC in place. But if you can take the heat I would recommend stopping by and trying some of their fare.

After our second beer there I was hungry and suggested we adjourn to Satchel’s for dinner, which the Maestro, Rowdy and the Cooler all agreed was a good idea.

Our wait at Satchel’s was short and we were shown to a table pretty quickly for a Friday evening. We decided to share a small house salad and do a Democratic large pizza. I call it Democratic because it includes 4 toppings and there were four of us present so we each got to pick a topping and each had a veto power over a topping. Democracy in action on a holiday weekend celebrating our liberty’s….

Sorry, I just felt a lump forming in my throat.

To accompany the pizza I ordered the Big John’s Apricot Wheat from Bold City Brewing. I gotta tell you I love Satchel’s, but that night the pizza, salad and beer combination really hit the spot. I left completely sated.

The second part of this blog story takes place the Monday after this visit on July 3rd. I worked that day and had a cold come back on me over the weekend so plans I had to visit a new Ice Cream shop over the weekend had been delayed. I was originally going to try and bring my sister, her husband and the kids with me, but since I didn’t go out on the weekend and this is kind of on my way home, I decided instead to see if they offered to-go quarts, which they do.

Indigo’s Homemade hasn’t been open a year yet and I actually discovered them through Twitter. But I have to say, when you first walk in the door it’s got a very nostalgic feel to it. The décor is definitely 50’s style with that old soda shop look to it. In the background you hear music from the 50’s/60’s and can see the accompanying videos on a couple of flat screen TVs.

Panoramic shot of Indigo’s Homemade

The ice cream is in large container’s under a glass display where you can easily see them. I don’t remember the exact number but I am guessing they had 24 different flavors of ice cream to choose from. They have a waffle iron on the back counter where they make their own waffle cones. And they have enough homemade syrups and toppings to make any dish served very personally tailored.

I talked with the lady behind the counter while she filled my quarts and found out that the ice cream is made locally by a company in Tampa, but it is fresh made and uses local ingredients, except for the Caramel which comes from Peru and the chocolate in the Dutch Chocolate, which is one of the quarts I ordered. The other two were Vanilla and Strawberry Cheescake. The service was great and the décor was very well done.

The real test though came later that night after dinner. I decided again to play Democracy and give every flavor a chance at impressing me. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible for me to try and have something like ice cream without Tucker catching wind of it, no matter how hard I try. So the entire time I was scooping and sampling he was right there watching.

Now some of you may ask with 24 flavors available why I would order Vanilla. I like Vanilla, particularly good Vanilla. And I have to tell you this is good Vanilla. Really good flavor and the texture is very smooth and that buttery-creamy texture that homemade ice cream should have. It was sweet without having that over-sweet flavor that a lot of store bought ice cream has.

The Strawberry Cheesecake doesn’t just taste like strawberry cheesecake, it has chucks of strawberries and cheesecake in it. And the Dutch Chocolate doesn’t taste like store-bought milk chocolate ice cream, but dark chocolate from the Black Forest Region of Germany. Rich flavor without being sickeningly sweet with a creamy texture. I gotta say I loved all three and am looking forward to another bowl this evening.

I definitely recommend stopping by Indigo’s Homemade. I certainly will again and the next time I want one of their homemade waffle cones.

Just an FYI I couldn’t resist letting Tucker lick the bowl. And he wants more too.

Papabear

 

Craft Beer Stroganoff!

I love using alcohol based marinades!! And no it’s not because I am a drunk, that’s a separate topic altogether.

It’s because the alcohol in the product helps to tenderize the meat. It also Imparts some of the flavors of the product into the meat. And I like to use different products for different dishes.

I love using a good red wine to make my homemade marinara. The wine helps break up some of the acidity of the tomatoes.

I love making my Cowboy Baked Beans with a good bourbon, or a brandy depending on the other ingredients. The bourbon helps the molasses and brown sugar mix well with the navy beans and the beef or sausage.

When I make chili or beer batter I like to use a lager, pilsner or pale ale. They all mix well with the spices I put in. It doesn’t matter whether it’s beef, pork or turkey. Some of these also go well with fish marinade but that depends on the fish. Some fish need a stronger flavor.

Now, with Stouts, Porters, Barleywines, Old Ales and Scotch Ales I like to make either a BBQ sauce or use it for marinating beef. Beef needs a stronger flavor for a marinade and depending on the dish the higher alcohol content can help break down fats.

I have not made beef stroganoff in a while and this was the first time using a beer marinade. Usually I do a combination of Worcestershire and Soy Sauce for a marinade and only let it set for 20 minutes in the fridge. For this marinade I decided to use Bell’s Kalamazoo Stout for a couple reasons:

  1. It was the oldest stout in my fridge and I wanted to use it before it went bad.
  2. I liked the mouthfeel of this stout and thought it would lend itself well to the beef stroganoff.
  3. I tend to try to line up my beers in single file on the shelf and using this one would open up room for a new six pack. I know… Kinda OCD of me… but hey.. it’s my fridge. You arrange yours the way you want it and don’t worry about mine.
Pairs well with Ice Cream too!

So if you’re interested, the recipe is below. It was delicious by the way. So much so that the sauce from the stroganoff tasted so good I had to use biscuits to sop up the remainder.

Stout Marinade Beef Stroganoff served with a biscuit and paired with a Weyerbacher Tiny Imperial Stout

Stout Marinade Beef Stroganoff

This recipe is for crockpot cooking, so cooking time will be much less if you cook on the stove top.

Prep Time: Marinade overnight; Prep time before crock pot turns on 20 minutes; prep time for thickening sauce 5 mins; crockpot cook time 10 – 11 hours.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs of cubed beef (chuck roast, steak or in my case kebab meat)
  • 1- 12 oz. bottle of your preferred Stout Beer
  • 2 large Vidalia onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 lb. of sliced mushrooms
  • 3 cups of beef broth
  • 2 carrots chopped into big sections
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp. Worcestershire Sauce
  • 2 tsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp Ground Thyme
  • 3 tbsp. Sour cream
  • 2 tbsp. Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped Parsley
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Place the beef in a stainless steel (or other equally suitable bowl) large enough to hold the beef and the bottle of beer. Make sure to cover the beef thoroughly in the beer and place a cover over the container and let in marinade in the refrigerator over night.

In the morning, chop onions into 1/4 to 1/2 inch squares and line bottom of crockpot. Place garlic on top. Take beef from marinade container and place into crock pot, keeping it from contacting sides. Place sliced mushrooms around beef between crock pot wall and beef. Place chopped carrot pieces and two bay leaves on top of beef. Pour any remaining marinade, Worcestershire, soy sauce and beef broth over beef. Cover crock pot and cook on low a minimum of 8 hours, maximum of 10 hours. Do not remove cover during cooking.

When the first stage is complete you can remove the carrots and bay leaves. You can set the carrots aside for something else but dispose of the bay leaves. Add the remaining ingredients as a thickener except mix the two cups of milk and the 2 tbsp of flour into a roué and stir into the mix. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Let cook on low another 30 to 45 minutes and it will be ready for serving.

I like to serve on a bed of buttered wide egg noodles with a dollop of sour cream and some parsley sprinkled on top, accompanied by a biscuit and paired with a good stout. For the picture above I used the Weyerbacher Tiny Imp Stout, which went very well with the meal. Try these stouts or your own favorite in the recipe.

Papabear

Celebrity’s Soul Food of Gainesville… a New Favorite in downtown!

Okay, I know I usually blog about Craft Beer related bars, breweries and other related activities, but I wanted to take the time to give a proper shout out to a new business in town that not only delivers good food but great service.

Some of my coworkers have told me about a new place in downtown Gainesville that they have frequented a couple of times for lunch. And their rave reviews and an invite to join them more than once had piqued my curiosity.

Friday that curiousity was sated with a visit to Celebrity’s Soul Food of Gainesville. It’s located downtown right next to Mark’s in Union Station and worth finding a parking spot or going to the garage across the street to pay for parking. Luckily I was working downtown today so parking was not an issue and I walked there with a couple of coworkers at lunch time.

We were immediately greeted by a friendly hostess and seated at a booth not far from the bar area. The décor is not what you would normally expect. As my friend the Blarneyman would say, “It’s very posh!” Very nice color scheme and comfortable seating and an upscale atmosphere. Check out the chandelier behind the hostess station when you walk in (below). All of the tables had replicas of the Hollywood sign in on them, and the menus were replicas of the envelopes from an awards show, with the “Nominees” listed inside. And the music playing in the background was some great classic soul music from the 70s & 80s, which is some of my favorite music to chill to.

A hint of the interior décor
The menu cover – Can you feel the anticipation?!
Menu has a wide variety of choices.

Our waiter was “Mr. Hollywood”, was very friendly and knowledgeable of the menu and took our drink orders quickly, then returned and answers a coupe of questions about the menu and took our lunch orders as well.

We sat and talked for a short time, then a woman named “Lady J” came out and greeted us. I think she recognized my coworkers from previous visits cause she greeted them like old friends. They pointed out it was my first visit and she gave me a nice warm welcome and asked what we had ordered. When I told he I had ordered the buffalo chicken she said she would be right back with something for me. Then she asked if I liked the white meat or the dark meat. I said it didn’t matter as long as I had some hot sauce. She laughed and said not to worry about that. Not long after she came back with a small plate with a piece of fried chicken breast on and a small side of hot sauce and told me to give that a try. Then she was off to greet some more folks.

Fried chicken with a side of hot sauce – Yummy!!!

I have to tell you the chicken was great. I loved the seasoning they used in the breading and the skin had a nice crunchy texture. It was so good I ate everything but the bone.

While I was working on that Mr. Hollywood brought out our orders. The sandwich I ordered was huge and filled most of the plate, but still left enough room for a large helping of the truffle fries. Both were delicious. The sandwich had slices fried chicken with hot sauce on it, with tomatoes, lettuce and pickles on it, which were a great combo. And the truffle fries were perfect, light and tasty. My only problem was that with the fried chicken piece Lady J brought out for me I could only eat half the sandwich and fries and had to get a to go box.

My Buffalo Chicken Sandwich with Truffle fries in the foreground and my co-workers Pork Chop smothered in gravy in the background.

My one coworker ordered the Pork Chop smothered in gravy served on a bed of rice and a couple of sides, all of which she enjoyed and, to me, looked delicious. My other coworker enjoyed her meal as well, but I can’t remember what it was because it was eclipsed by the order of Mac and Cheese Waffle she had gotten brought out to her (see below).

Mac and Cheese Waffle – The best way to eat Mac & Cheese!

She shared a taste of it with the other two of us and we all just loved it! It was nice and cheesy on the inside of the waffle with a lightly crunchy exterior on the outside. I will never eat Mac & Cheese any other way ever again after having this. It has ruined all other Mac & Cheeses for me for life!

I have to say this place hits all the right check marks on my lists.

  1. Good location
  2. Nice atmosphere
  3. Friendly and knowledgeable staff
  4. Great food

Check, Check, Check and Check!!!

I scoped the place out a little while we were there. It has a nice cozy bar area stocked with a variety of hard liquors and wines and beers on draft including some craft beers and at least one local brewery (Hah! tied it into craft beer after all!) I understand that on the weekends they will also feature some live bands. I can think of no reason not to go back to this place and am looking forward to the next visit.

You can find a little bit more about them on the website here.

Or just go and experience it yourself.

Papabear