Friday, July 29, 2016

Updates to the Blog

After getting back into writing a couple of months ago, and realizing how much I missed talking about beer, food, and booze I've been looking for a 'what's next'.  A way to expand my interests, while still writing here, but allowing myself to do some other things.  Part of that expansion was really getting into instagram, taking more photos of the breweries I visited, the food I ate, the books I read (and if you follow me there, you'll see the music I listen too).  But I wanted more, and recently, I found a new outlet that will affect what I do on the blog.
1) First, I have started a podcast with a friend of mine up in Dallas.  We will be publishing our podcast twice a week, usually on Monday and Thursday evenings.  The podcast is called The Hangout and the topics covered will be beer, bourbon, sports, movies.  We'll be talking a lot about the local Dallas and Houston beer scene, as well as cocktails, sports both in Houston and Dallas, and finally another passion of mine movies.  We'll mostly be talking about comic or Star Wars movies, but we'll mix in some other things as well.  If that sounds like something you'd be interested in hearing about, please check out the podcast on iTunes, or Soundcloud.  Also, please follow The Hangout on twitter where we'll be interacting talking about the things we'll be discussing on the podcasts.
2) Due to my involvement in The Hangout podcast I have realized that I am not going to be able to write as much here as I'd like to, so I want to revamp the purpose of this blog.  Therefore, I am inviting my friend Will, co-host of The Hangout to start writing here, but his focus will cover the Dallas scene, while my focus will remain as always on my home Houston and the Clear Lake area. You'll start seeing some changes to the blog, but I hope that folks will enjoy the expansion of coverage.
3) My goal is to continue to write a post a week to this blog, sometimes that may just be some quick hits, but I am going to really try to do more than just that, whether its beer tastings, or restaurant/brewery/book reviews.  The google calendar will remain as up to date as I can make it, and may start including some more Dallas events if folks would like that.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Whats on Tap

This week is another busy week in the Clear Lake area with a lot of different things going on.  
  • We'll start off with an event TOMORROW! At Beers Looking at You there is a special Southern Star Pint night, where they will be tapping a unique cask of their stout with hazelnuts and cocoa.  Their regular line up will be available as well as a snifter glass while supplies last.
  • On Saturday at the new HEB on Clear Lake City Boulevard there will be a Festival of Beers starting at noon and running until 4 pm.  There will be beer pairings, tastings, and much more to check out.
  • Saturday evening the amazing Hamilton Loomis will be playing at Haak Winery out in Santa Fe.  The concert starts at 7 pm,  Sounds like an amazing opportunity to drink some good wine and listen to an awesome blues artist.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

First Look: Duo Winery & Cider Co.

As I've written a number of times recently, the Clear Lake area is really booming when it comes to breweries.  From Galveston to Webster, there have been a number of new breweries popping up.  However, there hasn't been anyone making cider, not in this area at least.  That's not really surprising really, cider has been around for hundreds of years, and although its popular in other countries, its never had a huge market here.  That is slowly changing as peoples tastes change and develop, cider producers around the country are producing some really interesting things, with brett, or bacteria, or utilizing barrels to change and enhance the flavors.  There are a few cider producers in Texas like Argus out of Austin or Bishop out of Dallas, but this area really hasn't seen anything like that.  That has now changed.
A couple of weeks ago Duo Winery & Cider Co, opened its doors down in Dickinson near Texas Beer Refinery, and this past weekend, myself along with a few friends were able to stop by to check things out.
Duo has an interesting background and is starting with an interesting concept.  Duo is owned by a husband and wife team and they are partnered with a winery from Michigan (which is owned by the wife's step father). So the wine and cider they are serving right now are all produced in Michigan which was a little disappointing as I had hoped that there would be things produced in house.   However in talking to the owners, while they are currently bringing in cider from Michigan, the long term plan sounds a bit more up my alley.  They will eventually move to importing only the apple and cherry juice from Michigan, then fermenting those to make all the cider in house.  On top of that they will then look to Texas and the surrounding area to produce more local ciders, and seasonal rotations.  So their current set up is more of a transitional plan and not the long term plan. It sounds
like though, the wines will continue to be Michigan state wines, that are rebranded under the Duo label.  The day we were there, the only cider they had on tap was the apple as they were still waiting for the cherry to arrive.  The apple cider is well made.  It's very effervescent, crisp, and clean, some nice sweet and tart flavors, but finishes relatively dry.  Good solid effort that makes me excited to try the cherry.
Duo is a beautiful space inside which was surprising when you pull up to it and see the warehouse exterior.  It will a fun space to hangout enjoy wine and cider.  it will definitely be an event space for sure.  While I'm honestly not overly excited for what Duo is doing right now, I am excited to see where they go especially when they start producing ciders in house.  For now its a fun place to hang out as their current line up of wines and cider are good solid efforts and different from anything that is being produced in the area.

Monday, July 11, 2016

First Look: Brasserie 1895

Clear Lake city and the surrounding area, including Friendswood, and League City have grown immensely when it has come to beer bars, breweries and as I've written recently, cocktail bars. One area that has a lot of room to grow is destination restaurants, a place that people will travel to, from inside the loop or Galveston just to eat at.  Maybe, just maybe that is starting to change with the recent opening of Brasserie 1895 in Friendswood.  The chef and owner is Kris Jacobs.  Chef Jacobs has a distinguished history, taking grand prize at last years Woodlands Food and Wine festival (beating out 50 other chefs), as well as having a place on the Houston Chronicle's Food Critique's top 100 restaurants the last 3 years for the work that he did at Kris Bistro.  When news first came out, last year that he was opening a restaurant, I was curious to see what he was doing.  After I found out that the focus would be on European cuisine as well as focus on craft beers, I knew this was a place I would be visiting as soon as it opened.  That time is now.  Brasserie 1895 opened its doors a couple of weeks ago to start a month long soft opening period, and last Friday I
was finally able to stop by to check it out.  One thing I'll make very clear, is that this was a soft opening so I didn't expect things to be perfect, instead I wanted to get a sense for where things will be going in the future. With that in mind, let's talk about my impressions.  1895 is in an old shopping center right across the street from the old Perry's meat market.  Its an assuming outside, so the inside can shock you a bit.  There is a lot of purple.  I mean a lot.  There is a really quaint bar area on the left when you walk through, white marble top, white shelves, lots of glass ware, and old antique objects scattered about.  The rest of the space is taken over by a scattered array of tables, booths, and along the opposite wall from the bar a large banquet
booth set up with tables and chairs facing the wall, and an open kitchen in the back. My date and I were early for our reservations so stopped at the bar for a beverage and to peruse the drink menu.  There is a small wine list that seems at first glance to be well priced with a smattering of offers by the glass. The beer menu has a list of 13 taps, almost all very reasonably priced (The Duvel seemed a bit expensive).  I settled for the Victory Golden Monkey, a Belgian style Tripel as we waited for our tables and I was able to take a look around.  We were sat promptly at our 7pm reservation time and quickly scanned the menu to find a few dishes we wanted to check out.  For an appetizer we shared a dish of fried oysters on top of baked strips of yuca, topped with green chile sauce and fish roe.  For the main course my date had one of the many wood fired pizza offerings, this one topped with pesto, speck, arugula and a fried egg.   I had the fried chicken with
foie gras gravy (yes you read that correctly) mashed potatoes, pickled carrots and green beans.  Dessert was an apple tarte tatin with home made ice cream.
Our waiter was very good, walking us through the menus as we ordered the food and our appetizer quickly came.  This dish of oysters and yuca was simply amazing.  Textually crunchy, with spicy, sweet, and salty flavors all playing with and against each other quite nicely.   Once we finished the dish, a waiter brought us another serving of the appetizer. We told them we had already received it, however after checking in the back they realized they had made a mistake, so we were able to score a second helping of this dish.  The entrees then came and they were both incredible.  Beautiful to look at as well as eat.  The texture of the dough on the wood fired pizza was crispy and simultaneously chewy.  The chicken fried steak reminded me more of schnitzel playing off of Chef Jacobs experience cooking European style foods, but again was well flavored.  The foie gras gravy I want to bottle up and
take with me wherever I go.  I truly loved how the flavors of that dish with the pickled carrots all played so harmoniously with each other.
Even after all this we saved room for dessert, especially after I heard that the apple tarte tatin was on the menu.  I haven't had one since a trip to Europe a few years back so was eager to try it. Simply put it was exquisite.  Piled high with apples and a dollop of rich vanilla ice cream it was part purely American apple pie, and something else.  It reminded me of my grandmother's cooking, as well as my European travels.  There was a little bump in the service here as it took quite some time to get our dessert due to some miscommunication between the front of the house and the kitchen, but it was definitely worth the wait.
Overall my date and I had a wonderful experience at Brasserie 1895, the food was outstanding, and yes, there were a few bumps in service, but some of that is excused during the soft opening period.  At least for me it is.  The grand opening is this Friday, so I plan to go back in a few weeks to see if all the kinks have been worked out, and do a full review.