Tag Archives: craft beer

Chef Bill takes over the Strong Place Kitchen: Cobble Hill, BK

23 Dec

Chef Bill Seleno is nothing if not an alchemist.  The moment he touches an everyday ingredient, it becomes gold.  His last opening was creating the menu for King’s Clam Bar, and now he has taken on a new huge, multi-pronged project that is sure to further enhance Brooklyn as a food lovers destination (more on that will be posting in the New Year).  He has started by working with the team at Strong Place, a Cobble Hill staple.


Strong Place is known in the neighborhood for their craft beer, live music, and great food.


And Chef Bill has come in to up the ante even further, adding some Chef Bill touches to the menu. Working with the bar manager, a Cicerone (a beer sommelier), they created a menu that perfectly pairs with the 24 craft beers on tap.


The restaurant looks solidly like Brooklyn, with a big metal barn door that slides open for the bathroom.DSCF3609

They have many great craft beers on tap.


With beers from all across the country and lots of Allagash (one of my favorite beers from Maine) and Firestone (a favorite brought to my attention by good friends in Atlanta).


Chef Bill had arranged to have us do a tasting of the menu with beer pairings from the knowledgeable and excited Cicerone (we hadn’t told Bill I was preggers yet… we told him when we arrived)

Between the beer and the extensive, check-off oyster list, I was very bummed to be limited by my pregnancy.


But the moment these voluptuous beauties came out, I knew I was going to cheat.  Much to my protective husband’s chagrin.  I had one. ONE!  I shouldn’t have done it. But I just couldn’t resist.


3 months of no alcohol, no soft cheeses, and no raw seafood was making me into a cranky pregnant lady. I also had a sip of each of the beer pairings throughout the meal. Just a sip.  Funny enough, my doctor was more upset about the oyster than the beer.  So… no more oysters.  But the moment that baby is out, somebody send over a few dozen, okay?

(PS- It was so good… no regrets)

These were paired with a Firestone Walker Pilsner and they went very well together.


Next out was an awesome bar snack: Fried chick peas.  These were warm and had a little crisp with great flavor. I ate nearly the whole bowl and had to slow myself down to have room for the rest of the meal, and I’m not even a big chick pea fan.  I would go here just for these and a beer in the middle of the day (after June, that is!)  Delish.


With this they also brought out tequila lime chicken wings (that I couldn’t eat due to a peppers allergy) but Mike very much enjoyed.


These were paired with Two Roads Octoberfest (from Connecticut) and that went very nicely with the chick peas (and Mike enjoyed with the wings).


Our next dish was a kale salad with cauliflower, tomato, carrots, brussels sprouts, chick peas, apples, walnuts, and burnt lemon caramelized vinaigrette. This was a FANTASTIC salad. I usually go for salads for all the goodies and view the lettuce/green as simply a conduit to get the other delicious things into my mouth.  This was a perfect salad with lots of goodies and great combinations.

The beer pairing with this was Two Roads Abby Blonde Style, and you wouldn’t normally think of beer with salad, but this totally worked.


Our next dish was duck confit with horse radish and celery root with bacon.  I LOVE duck confit and this did not disappoint.  Crispy, tasty skin with flavor rich tender meat in the middle.  I don’t typically like horseradish, but the tiny bit I added to my bite did compliment it nicely. And the celery root puree with bacon in it was a great compliment of rich flavors.


This was paired with Allagash Victor, which is a Belgian style golden strong ale. They extract sugar from barley (basically making oatmeal) and use a Cabernet Franc wine to ferment it.  It went perfectly to cut through the fattyness of the confit while toning down the horse radish a bit.


Next up was the “Boo-ya-base” which was a twist on a classic bouillabaisse dish.  I couldn’t have this (back to the allergy) but Mike really enjoyed it (sorry for the flash picture… only way to see those delicious mollusks). This dish had some of the craft beers actually IN the recipe to help bring together the flavors and the beer pairings.  The sauce was made with Piperdown Scotch Ale and the potatoes are boiled in Stout.

It was paired with the Allagash Confluence Belgian Strong Ale which goes through 2 fermentations.


Since I couldn’t have the boo-ya-base, I got to taste a freshly slow cooked pork butt which had all the delicious qualities of slow cooked pig.


For dessert, we tried the caramel pudding with white chocolate whipped cream and a soft chocolate biscotti. Even this was paired with beer (Left Hand Milk Stout) and they were a great match.


Our last dessert was an apple cobbler (with the apples slow cooked in, what else? beer).


The whipped cream was made with bourbon bacon (and BOY was it bourbony). The bourbon is macerated with the bacon  and it certainly had strong flavors of both.  Very original.

This was also paired with beer: Almanac Golden Gate Gose (from Northern California).  My sips throughout the night proved to me that the Cicerone knows what he’s doing, even with the desserts.


Our meal was fantastic from start to finish.  Every day, I miss being able to go around the corner to the old Albert Hall Tavern (where we first met Chef Bill) so I can have the food that Bill does oh so well… the food that makes you happy… reminds you of the food you grew up but with a modern, fun twist.  I wish I lived closer to Strong Place so I could be a regular, but if you happen to be one of the lucky ones in the area, you cannot miss with this menu at Strong Place and it’s worth the trip if you’re not local.  The beer pairings, attention to detail, and great, relaxed atmosphere just add to the draw.

They will be doing a pretty awesome sounding New Year’s Eve menu this year if you’re looking for a delicious way to spend the evening.

They also have live music and an outdoor patio (for when the weather is a bit nicer).

Highly recommended.

More on the journey of Chef Bill coming soon.

Honeymoon: Bend, Oregon – The Ale Trail

26 Jul

We decided to stop in Bend, Oregon for a night because we heard great things about the breweries there. Sure enough, they brag about how they have more breweries per person than most anywhere and even have an Ale Trail where you get a prize if you get your “passport” stamped by all 10 breweries.  We were going to make a go of it, but we decided that it was meant for a multiple-day stay and was probably not prudent to be attempted in our 8 hours in Bend.  But we did manage to hit quite a few.

We actually started in Sisters, OR (right outside Bend) at Three Creeks Brewery.  They had an incredible beer sampler where you could try all the craft beers on their menu.

Sampler!!! At the extra credit brewery in Sisters. #overachievers #theaxelbaums #nycnomnom #bendaletrail by @nycnomnom

We also grabbed a burger there to make sure we could keep the sampling going.  We split the Hawaiian burger which put pineapple and teriyaki sauce onto a hamburger.  And it was pretty magical.

We then went into Bend where we walked around a bit to buy some binoculars (too many cool creatures and birds out there that we wanted to see up close) and we stopped at a brand new Naked Winery tasting room. We really enjoyed their wines and their clever names were clever and funny.  From there, we walked up to find the breweries on the Ale Trail.  We wound up walking through what looked like an abandoned parking lot and storage building until we found what wound up being our favorite brewery, Crux Fermentation Project. There we tried 2 of their craft brews: Tough Love and On the Fence.

Brewery tasting. Tough Love and On The Fence at Crux Fermentation. by @nycnomnom

Tough Love was one of the best beers I’ve ever tried. Here was the description: “Banished Imperial Stout – 11.5 ABV, 70 IBU. Tough Love is bold but nuanced, an homage of sorts to the traditional Russian Imperial Stouts and the ruling style of Catherine the Great. We construct it with dark roasted malts, malted rye, and oak-smoked wheat, and then banish it for nine months in Kentucky bourbon barrels. The aging process smooths out the edges on an otherwise bold statement, and bitterness succumbs to tender strokes of vanilla beans, hints of dried cherries, and new layers revealing themselves with each sip.”


We were there on a Monday, which happens to be the only day that the kitchen isn’t open.  So instead they have food carts come to their patio where they have the coolest fire pit I’ve ever seen.

They had a Mexican cart, which meant my peppers allergy kept me away, but cool concept.

On they way out of Crux to the next brewery on the ale tour, we had trouble finding our way and wound up wandering through a neighborhood and saw a bit of the Bend underbelly.  The map wasn’t exactly clear and we wound up at Boneyard a few minutes after they closed. Darn.  And then we were a bit lost again trying to find the next place. (They should paint the sidewalks or add signage for this Ale Trail).

Extreme honeymooning. Here we see a tourist in his unnatural habitat. Notice the back pack, binoculars, map, and look of utter confusion. Let’s watch. #theaxelbaums by @nycnomnom

By this time it was a bit late and we were getting hungry again, so we went to 10 Barrel Brewing Company where we heard the food was good.  While waiting for a table, we sat by the fire outside and Mike took this picture which has a very eery scull in the flames.

Photo by skywolfx * Instagram by @skywolfx

We wound up waiting a long, long, long time for a table (and I noticed a few people that absolutely came after us were seated before us).  When we went up to ask, she was suddenly very concerned as she scanned up her list and then we were quickly informed “Oh! You’re next!” and sat immediately.  Whooops.

We ordered the lamb burger which was ground with sun dried cranberries and feta cheese and topped with chevre cheese, artichoke tapenade, arugula, roma tomato, pesto aioli, and balsamic reduction.  It took a long time to come out.

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Lots of ingredients I absolutely love.

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But when it came down to it, I didn’t really taste any of those lovely things. It tasted a bit lamby, but there were no other real distinct flavors.  A bit of a let down.

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And after a whole lot more waiting, our pizza came. We made our own by combining a garlic cream sauce white cheese base with prosciutto, mushrooms, pineapple, and artichoke hearts with provolone.

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Upskirt shot.

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The pizza was okay.  Just okay.  Again, lots of great flavors in concept but nothing too distinct about any one of them on the pizza.

So all-in-all, we were pretty disappointed by our 10 Barrel dining experience.  The beers we tried were also meh. I also didn’t feel so great in the belly region after this meal, and while I’m not sure if it was the food or not, I’m not entirely convinced it wasn’t.  So needless to say, we won’t be rushing back here next time we’re in Bend (and yes… there WILL be a next time… great city).

Next time we’ll just stay a Crux a little longer and maybe try their kitchen.

Honeymoon: Portland, OR – The Nines, Food Carts, and Deschutes Brewery

15 Jul

From Seattle, we took a leisurely drive to Portland, Oregon. We had booked The Nines hotel (thank you SPG/Starwood points!) and were told it was quite the sexy hotel.  It did not disappoint, with not just a sexy (if not small) room but a lovely gift of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries from the hotel.

F-in classy The Nines Hotel. Complimentary champagne and chocolate covered strawberries from the GM. #theaxelbaums #thenines #baller by @nycnomnom

We had heard that Portland was famous for their foot trucks, which congregate in specific squares around the city.  We set off to find one but were dismayed to find that they are not a dinner thing and most were closed.  We found one Korean/Hawaiian cart open and decided to try some the special of the day (and one of my favorite dishes of all time), Bibimbop.  We were ravenous and surrounded by weird homeless people (I guess that’s what we get for trying to do this for dinner… now we know) so we devoured it and forgot to take a picture of it.  Basically, it looked like cut up vegetables and beef over rice… pretty much like every other bibimbop you’ve seen. And it was good, but nothing too out of the ordinary, and sadly, even though it was flipped around in a wok, cold.  It did not satisfy.

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So off we went to a famous brewery (that is actually out of Bend, Oregon, where we were heading in a few days), Deschutes.  We were surprised to see that this was actually a very large place and was packed.  We had to wait about 45 minutes for a table to come up.  Waiting was fine… we had so-so bibimbop to hold us over and just got a beer at the bar.  I tried the Imperial Smoked Porter and absolutely loved it.

Deschutes Brewery Imperial Smoked Porter. Awesome. #nycnomnom #theaxelbaums by @nycnomnom

Our first snack was the pretzel, which came with a mustard and cheese sauce. Now I don’t like mustard, but I LOVED this.  I don’t know what the cheese and salty pretzel did to change my mind, but this mustard was fantastic.  And the pretzel itself tasted exactly how you want a fresh baked soft pretzel to taste.

Pretzel with cheese and grain mustard to dip. Yes. Yes. Yes. #nubulous #nycnomnom #theaxelbaums by @nycnomnom

We also decided to try the macaroni and cheese, which came with cavatappi pasta tossed in a rich stout cream sauce with grilled red onion, baby spinach and sharp white cheddar cheese topped with bread crumbs. And we added bacon, as if macaroni and cheese made with beer wasn’t already indulgent enough.

Killer stout Mac and Cheese. #nycnomnom by @nycnomnom

This was insanely good. So good, in fact, that I commented on Instagram/Facebook that even though we were beyond full, we couldn’t NOT finish it and the only thing that was left was the bacon.  And when I leave bacon over anything else, you know it was DAMN GOOD.

You know the mac and cheese was something special when I’m too full to eat the bacon but the mac is all gone. #nycnomnom #theaxelbaums by @nycnomnom

Deschutes was everything you want a craft brewery restaurant to be.  Great food, great beer, and lots of space for people to socialize.  We said how much we would love a place like this in the city (it would never have the same feel though) and I realized that this place is everything Heartland Brewery tries to be and fails absolutely miserably at.  Shame.

If I lived in Portland, I would spend many evenings here.

Total Nom Points: 7 out of 10

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