A Santa-Worthy Stout to Savor the Season

Milk and cookies are for kids. This holiday season, leave St. Nick an adult beverage to make him truly jolly. You think he maintains that corpulent physique with kale smoothies? Of course not. The big man sports a wicked beer belly, and he needs a suitable brew to get him through the busiest work night of his year. Santa, sip on a stout to guide your sleigh tonight.

Although it sounds naughty, Evil Twin Brewing ferments a bevy of craft flavors that would surely rank high on Santa’s list of beloved libations. But of all those offerings, what could possibly be more appropriate than their Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room? This Imperial Stout isn’t just a mouthful in name, it’s also impossibly heavy on the tongue — somewhere between espresso and motor oil.

As we know too well, our city is one of the world’s most popular holiday tourist destinations, so we ought to dedicate this transiently themed offering to every economic-boosting visitor of the Big Apple, Santa included.

Appropriately, both the beer and the man who created it were onetime tourists who decided to stick around. Famed gypsy brewmaster Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, now a proud Brooklynite, brought his midnight-black stout in from nearby Stratford, Connecticut. The robust notes you’d expect from such a style? It’s got them in spades. This thing drinks like a dessert and is ideal to take the edge off after a long day of holiday travel. So whether you’re flying in via reindeer or jet plane, at least you know there’s a bottle of beer waiting here, just for you. It sure beats milk.

Serve Santa sparingly. A single 12-ounce bottle clocks in at 10 percent alcohol. It’s difficult to pilot a sled on much more than that. Look for it at high-end beer shops throughout the five boroughs or enjoy it with a Michelin-starred meal at Luksus in Greenpoint. Season’s greetings!


Beer of the Week: A Jurassic Drink for Spielberg

Earlier this week, cinephiles were all aflutter about the surprise teaser trailer for the newest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise. But the preview for the future summer blockbuster of 2015 revealed a very predictable premise promising to rehash the same tired formula: two kids in a seemingly dino-tastic safari ultimately getting chased by angry, unleashed CGI monsters. You’d think the parents would have learned to steer their children away from live dinosaur zoos by now, but plot pitfalls be damned! Executive Producer Steven Spielberg would have it no other way. Play it safe, all the way to the bank. So let us congratulate the once-revolutionary Hollywood Icon on another solid corporate investment. We offer him the gift of grog, although he’ll have to phone home to the East Coast to catch this one, if he can.

Spielberg’s perfect pint is a no-brainer. In a happy coincidence, Kings County’s finest, Brooklyn Brewery–an icon in their own right–just released Quadraceratops into the wild. Their new addition is of prehistoric magnitude, roaring to life with a 9.9% A.B.V. And beyond the obvious reptilian references, the style of the beer itself is enough to entice the Bearded One to invest in a pour. Tried and true; a reliable Belgian Quad, offering the familiar notes of dark, stone fruit, and toasted caramel that’s made the genre a success since practically paleolithic times.

For the rest of us, the dark, medium-bodied brew is timely in that it’s distinct character is friendly to the holiday season, when we’re prone to stuffing our faces. As Brooklyn Brewmaster Garrett Oliver points out, “Belgium’s Trappist ales and their secular offspring are some of the most rewarding beers in the world to pair with food. Their complex flavor gives you many reference points to work with in seeking harmony with a wide range of dishes.” And he would know: Oliver was a part of the craft brew seen all the way back when people actually looked forward to the next Indiana Jones movie.

Exclusively on draft throughout the city, Brooklyn’s latest release is part of their ongoing Brewmaster’s Reserve series. Meaning it’s destined to go extinct, barring some unforeseen cloning situation. But don’t get too alarmed. If Spielberg gets even a small taste, he’s sure to force a sequel–though it’s doubtful to have as much taste as the original.



Big Reds with Barbecue and More Simple Wine Pairing Advice

Last week, I opened a bottle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape to drink with takeout from Fletcher’s BBQ. I wasn’t really thinking about the pairing, although perhaps “big red and big food” subliminally guided me to pair the Southern Rhône with charred hunks of meat. I’ll leave the review of Fletcher’s to our food experts, but I can say authoritatively that a bite into a burnt end after sipping that wine resulted in a heavenly smoke-and-spice combo reminiscent of a campfire crackling with fat drippings.

This got me thinking about food pairings, which don’t have to be complicated and shouldn’t evoke sitting for the New York Bar Exam. Ignore all those articles offering recipes with esoteric ingredients and overly precise pairings with wines you can’t find. Instead, arm yourself with a few easy concepts to elevate your daily dining from mundane to divine — because eating BBQ should always be a transcendent experience.

Here are the basics:

Match Weight and Body
Heavy foods like a lamb stew or rib roast call for a full-bodied wine, so reds are the usual choice. But the key here is body, so a big white like an oaked California Chardonnay, might be a better match than a daintier red such as Zweigelt from Austria. The same rule applies to lighter foods. Generally, fish is complemented by more delicate wines, so many whites fit the profile, but so can light-bodied, low-tannin reds, thereby debunking the myth “white with fish, red with meat.” Also consider your sauce: fish smothered in lobster and cream is no longer delicate (nor low-fat.) Example: Dolcetto and Cioppino (fish stew with tomatoes)

Marry Flavor to Flavor
Flavor intensity is not the same as weight. A potato is heavy but low on flavor, whereas asparagus is pungent but not hefty. Chardonnay can be full-bodied but low in flavor; Riesling is a lightweight wine with intense flavor. Intensity in both the wine and food should be equivalent, or else one will overpower the other. The cooking method also plays a role in flavor intensity; for instance, steaming versus roasting versus smoking. Example: Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Burnt Ends/BBQ

Pair Acid with Acid
Try a tannic red wine followed with a salad dressed in vinaigrette to experience the ultimate food-and-wine clash. Sadly, this combo often leads people to think they don’t like the wine, when in fact the pairing was the problem. Sour flavors in food dull the wine, so you need a lot of acid in your vino to keep things refreshing. When dining, be mindful of acidic ingredients like tomatoes, lemons, limes, apples and vinegar. Example: Sauvignon Blanc and Ceviche

Try Sweet with Sweet
Dry wines can become mouth-puckering and tart when paired with food that possesses even a smidgen of sweetness. Sweet food is best with wines of similar sweetness, whether it be a honey-baked ham with sweet-potato mash or pears poached in red wine. Example: Moscato d’Asti and French Toast with Fruit

Fat and Protein Like Tannin
Most of us non-vegetarians are familiar with the mouthful of magic that occurs when combining a meaty, marbled steak and a powerful, highly tannic red wine. The tannic effect is softened when it reacts with the protein and cuts the fat. However, leaner cuts with high protein content, like a tri-tip, don’t need as aggressive a wine; try a Malbec instead. Example: California Cabernet Sauvignon and Grilled Ribeye

Oily and Salty Dislike Tannin
Tannic red wine and an oily fish like mackerel can result in a metallic taste, while tannins turn bitter with really salty foods. Acid cuts through oil (think of an oil and vinegar salad dressing), and salt benefits from the refreshing zip of acidic wines. Salty foods also work well with sweet wines; consider how well pretzels dipped in chocolate or prosciutto and melon go together. Example: Champagne and Potato Chips or Truffle Salt Popcorn

Heat and Sweet
Spicy food is a category ripe for disaster when paired with a high-alcohol or dry, tannic red wine. You’ll start a five-alarm fire in your mouth as alcohol fuels the effect of spice. Instead, lower-alcohol wines with a touch of sweetness keep the heat in check. Example: Off-Dry German Riesling and Sichuan Cuisine

Regional Wine with Regional Food
Try pairing wine and food from the same countries/regions. The locals probably spent centuries perfecting their cuisine, so follow their lead. Example: Manzanilla Sherry and Spanish Tapas



Takeout Your Valentine’s Meal Part Deux: Pairings

You have a plan for Tuesday and now you’re ready to stick with it. Ready for your next assignment? Beverage pairings!

No romantic meal is complete without a little (or a lot) of booze, and picking the right hooch is a nice touch. We’ve co-opted a handful of professionals who’ve thought long and hard to coordinate just the right alcohols to make your dinner a little more special. Choose one to take you through the meal, or pick up all of the accompaniments. Just don’t get sloshed. As our consultant Lawrence Skrivanek says, “The dinner is ending, but the night IS NOT!!!!!!!!!!”

Little Italy Amore: For this one we looked to Dell’anima and L’artusi beverage director Joe Campanale for a little wine advice. He says to dive right into something “lightly sparkling and bubbly” like Domaine Renardat-Fâche Cerdon du Bugey 2010, which is great with all sorts of charcuterie but especially the spicy di Paolo’s sopressata!” A medium-bodied red like Turley Cinsault will take you into entrees, and then a more unorthodox pear cider could accompany your desserts. “Poire Granit is an off-dry sparkling pear cider from Normandy. Its high acid will cut right through the richness of the cream, and the stone-fruit flavors pair so well with the ricotta and fried shell.”

Chinatown Chow Down: We looked to Davis Anderson III, a certified sommelier and Eleven Madison Park employee, to break down the drinks for our Chinatown Chow Down. He says he will “almost always choose to begin with something bubbly, be it beer or wine,” and this time he’s chosen beer, a Flemish beer. Rodenbach Grand Cru should get you started in the right direction, and a Cotes-du-Rhone should keep it going. The “huckleberry, thyme, olive, and smoke” in renowned producer Eric Texier’s 2009 Brézème should balance out the spicy cumin lamb. Reach for madeira to pair with the ice cream (Charleston Sercial Madeira from the Rare Wine Co). The best part? “You can have a glass tonight and leave it open for the following year without having another and not worry about how it will change over time — it won’t.”

Brooklyn BBQ Bounty: Red Hook Winery’s winemaker in residence, Christopher Nicolson, went all in, choosing four wine picks for your barbecue. I guess in Red Hook they say “go big, or go home.” As an aperitif he suggests a “ludicrous splurge,” the Jacques Selosse Brut Initiale NV, as a sipper. Then an “aromatic, tightly wound wine” like 2010 Scholium Project “La Severita di Bruto,” followed by a dolcetto d’alba (2007 or 2009 G.D. Vajra), and finally a riesling like the 2009 Donnhoff Riesling Niederhauser Hermannshohle Auslese, because “chocolate and peanut butter are rascals; riesling is the clever girl who can bring them together.

Midtown Japanese Meal: Lawrence Skrivanek, the owner of the FiDi’s beloved wine shop La Petite Cave, believes that “for a Valentine’s meal, if you don’t have anything rose or sparkling, you haven’t made it special.” In that vein, he’s chosen a sparkling rose (Laurent Perrier Brut Rose NV, Gruet Rose) to start off your night. For the pork katsu, he wants you to “think texture,” and the Carneros region. After all of that wine, a sake or liqueur might be the thing to pair with the green-tea mille-feuille. Either a Murai Family nigori sake or a snifter of Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur.

Greek Platters on the UWS: Noble Group Media’s Jonathan Cristaldi is not a big fan of Greek food, stating “it’s all Greek to me” (ha, ha), but he took the challenge of pairing it fairly nobly. He’d start with a dry riesling like 2007 Ludwig Neumayer Riesling Rothenbart to go with the hummus and then pinot blanc (2009 Robert Foley Vineyards Pinot Blanc) to lead you into the Souvlaki Party. Last, but not least, if milk isn’t good enough for your cookies, opt for a late-harvest dessert wine. 2007 Macari Vineyards “Block E” Late Harvest Chardonnay should end the night on the right footing.