Sour Beer Studies: Gueuze Cuvée René, Lindemans, Belgium

lcr1I had great concerns about this beer given my whole Cantillon thing and my expectation of mouth puckering sourness. How wrong I was. While it is dry and even assertive in its acidity, this is no lemon.

On the nose there is fright fruit with some pear and berry. The beer pours a slightly cloudy deep straw with some lighter highlights. The head is a rich fine white with sheeting lace. In the mouth there is a creamy soft water aspect that frames the biscuity champagne blended with dry apple cider. Grassy notes with pear and even hints of strawberry. The acid is subtle, quite unlike Cantillon: gentle instead of strident. The Lindeman house style is definitely there – a minerally cream of wheat thing.


What did I learn? Sour beer can work with food. This would make a good strong counter point to a summer grill, fennel and prosciutto salad, herbed chicken or a lemony haddock bake. Strong but not universal approval from the BAers.

Eating In Portland

In case you are wondering we are doing OK but you would be if you had Beal’s Ice Cream (hard ice cream specialists), Red’s Dairy Freeze (soft serve specialists), Maine Diner on the way here (lobster roll and chowder), Gritty McDuff’s (lamb burder and cask ale), 3 Dollar Dewey’s (fish sandwich but shockingly no smoked fish chowder), baseball game hot dogs (plain please), Beale Street BBQ (bulk ribs…say that again…bulk ribs), Scratch Baking Co. (blondies and peabean coffee) and a trip to Hannaford for a side of salmon and enough scallops to stuff seven for under thirty-eight bucks.  Scratch Baking was a bit of a surprise.  Even though it is a few blocks away, I had it in my head it was pricey.  Not so.  Blondies for $1.75.  And fine beer and wine, too.  Achoffe IPA and a half Cantillon for $6.99.  Nutty.  But seeing as owner Bob co-founded Magic Hat Brewing of Burlington, VT it makes sense.  Portland is the new Burlington, you know.

Transfat Surprise

Reading the NYT this morning, I came across this odd passage in a story about a chef who was given some basic cooking tasks but had to use other oils:

Mr. Schwartz, a chef who has worked in some of the city’s most celebrated restaurants, including Le Cirque and Osteria del Circo, agreed to conduct a cooking experiment on Thursday at the Institute of Culinary Education, where he is an instructor. Could he make dishes that are as good, or better, using only the trace amount of trans fats allowed under the city’s new rules? It was a question many of the city’s more than 20,000 restaurants would be wrestling with. “Personally, I don’t want the government telling me what I can eat,” Mr. Schwartz said, making it clear that he considered the city’s new rule a blow to his civil liberties. Nevertheless, he said, his cooking skills were up to the task.

I am quite shocked that someone who had worked in New York’s most celebrated restaurants was using transfat in what would be an expensive and one would assume carefully sourced meal. To review, transfat is the Ford Pinto of the food world – a design error. It is not a matter of “the food police” stopping you from eating fat. It is a matter of public health that this artificial fat be removed from the market. Craig remembers that there was a big kurfuffle over this on his blog two years ago. I cited this New Yorker article the reading of which was enough to drive transfats out of our house five years ago.

Presuming the NY chef knew of the article, why would he still use the stuff?

Sansone’s Restaurant, Malone, New York

Sometimes a place is a good place not because it is surprising, rare or new but because it represents a sort of joint well. For my money, the Lucky Inn in Pembroke was a classic Canadian-Chinese buffet. Similarly, Pizza Rodini of the Truro of my youth was the best greasy circle of za.

This is how Sansones struck me. The food was mild “New York diner Italian with attached bar”, the service was good and the price was fair. The scalloped edged plates and saucers were classic. The inside of the place is a little dark but busy like a antique store filled in large part of Sansone related stuff – but also Adirondacks outdoorsy stuff – which kept the kids occupied as did a number of large fish tanks.

Should you go? Will you be in Malone, NY sometime?





Tobin’s First Prize Hots

I lived a little dream. One stage in my investigation of the NY hot. This may seem odd to those that do not know me but I like this sort of stuff. I find it very interesting to have a very basic food item which in Canada would not be the focus of a restaurant and would really be considered a kids food here but in the states is more like getting a pizza slice. It’s a hold over perhaps.

The street Tobin’s sits on is a poorer street in a poorer part of town. Down the way there are a few very small bars each probably sustained by a side street or two. I mentioned this street to portland once and he, too, had noted it as being an American classic of a sort: run-down sure but also a neighbourhood which had likely seen far better days yet which still acted like a neighbourhood, if a hard one. In Tobin’s itself there were five or six people plus two pleasant staff sharing five or six counter stools and maybe three table. There was still wainscotting walls, narrow tongue and groove lathe ceiling with one small grill at the back with the burgers (each a “Whimpy”) and hots. It likely looked like that in 1949 and 1974.

C’est What, Toronto, Ontario

cest5I was in Toronto for a few days this week and was able to stop by a brewpub called C’est What. I have some notes to add later after I dig through my stuff but wanted to get these pictures up.

cest7The Next Day: I appear to have sprayed my things with notes-be-gone so I’ll do this from memory. I tried two of their own ales with my Porter Beef Ribs and like both a lot. The first was the redundantly named Brown Mild Ale. While it is true there is a style of that is a light coloured mild, it is rare enough that it is an exception to the general principle that mild is brown. At 3.3%, it is the right strength for a session of supping. The beer menu said it was nitro dispensed meaning instead of being pushed by the normal CO2 there is a measure of nitrogen added. This is the same idea behind cask flow ale in a can that leaves a tiny fine head. With this real ale, it works very well giving a creamy head that incorporates many of the flavours of the yeast. The beer was creamy with chocolate and walnut flavours. The hops were subdued giving a bit of structure to the finish. Very nice.








At the heart of the ale there is fresh clean water, exactly right for the style. This beer alone would bring me back to this pub. It is a beer that every brew pub should offer, that and/or ordinary bitter, a low alcohol version of a hopped light ale. My only complaint is that it costs the same as the other stronger ales. As 60% of the ingredients go in, ther should be some accomodation in the final cost I pay. That being said, $5.18 CND for a quality real ale pint is a good price.








The second ale I tried was their hemp ale. This is a favorite of mine whenever I have had it, the hemp replacing or adding to the hop effect. Depending on the amount and selection of hooping, the tastes can be quite different. In this version, it is basically a basic best bitter of 4.5% to 5.0% in terms of mouthfeel which has a layer of sweet green vegetableness added to it. And the green tastes like…fresh broad beans. Should gross but it is not. Quite good with the ribs. cest3The ribs themselves were worth attending again, though the were a smidge underdone for my liking. Meat should fall off ribs and the inner tissue should have essentially melted away. There was a bit too much of a gnaw to the meal but in terms of flavour and texture it was spot on. Served with a spring salad overly drenched in dressing and tastey fine cut herbed french fries. You can order extra ribs and I did, hence the Freddie Flinstone pile on the plate.

This is the second time I have been to C’est What and each time I think there is something less manic about brewing that I would think normal. Less brewiana-esque than most and a little cool or, better, laid back. But I suppose that is the market they are playing to. Odd to see errors like the menu saying Black Sheep Ale is from Scotland when it is from Yorkshire. Nerds usually do not get that wrong. That being said, the quality of the beers – especially in terms of the yeast selection – is as good as I have every tried.

Red’s Dairy Freeze, South Portland, Maine

Illustrated is the “Chocolate Boston”, which is a chocolate milkshake with chocolate soft serve ice cream topped with chocolate sauce. The “Boston” can be had with other flavours but it is always milkshake plus soft serve plus sauce. Eaten with a spoon and a straw, it is apparently known only to Red’s of South Portland and their customers but we stand to be corrected.

I do not love chocolate but this actually inched me a little towards that affliction. I ate it so fast I got an ice cream chest ache.

Garbage Plate Law

Linda has the details over the treats of law suits over these two meals. Can you tell which is the authentic garbage plate and which is the tony phony?

Lew Bryson has a great description of the garbage plate in his seminal text New York Breweries at page 156:

Hot dogs are one of the “meat” possibilities for a classic Rochester “garbage plate (or “rubbish plate,” to use the upstate cant). The garbage plate is a late-night apres-bar favorite in Rocehster and originated at Nick Tahou Hots (320 West Main, 315-436-0184). The original Nick’s is no longer open late, but there’s another Nick’s that is, at 2260 Lyell Avenue (315-429-6388). To build a garbage plate, first take a paper plate. Layer home fries, macaroni sald, and a meat (chicken, burger, or hot dogs) on it and then cover everything with Greek sauce and chopped onions: you can add baked beans to it as well. Most people then slather the whole mess with about half a bottle of ketchup and plenty of hot sauce. You can see how it got its name.

My only quibble with my guide to all things US north-eastern and snacky (and ale-ish) is that the idea of one meat appears to have be thrown out from the above photos.