Friday, September 26, 2014

Black Bottle Brewery

I recently went on a business trip to Fort Collins, Colorado.  It was really nice to get out of Texas for a few days during the heat of the summer and see some mountains.  And some really good work got done as well.  I didn't have a lot of down time, but when I had a spare moment I visited one of the many breweries in the city.

Black Bottle Brewery (must be 21 to enter website) is actually a brew pub.  They have a small brewery and the tap room features their own beers, other craft beers, and some pretty good food (I recommend the Angry Hawaiian Pizza).   If I had more time I would have sampled more of their beers and visited other breweries in the area.

This is the beer list.  It includes what they have in bottles and on draft.
These are people who seriously love craft beer.  Their own (in the black bottles, natch) and others. 
They might be serious about beer, but they don't take themselves too seriously.  As evidenced by their squirrel tableaus.
Drinky the Squirrel. With some rather awesome growlers.
Mustaches. Because why not?
I had a few of their sample pours.  Altogether I believe it was the same volume as a 12 oz beer. The thing to be aware of with their beers is that some are so smooth and easy-drinking that it's easy to forget they're alcoholic.  Some pack quite an ABV punch at 9-11%. Not pictured: Liquid Metal was a standout as incredibly smooth and malty with a great balance. If I had more time I would have gone back for more.  
I was there on a slow night, however there are plenty of tables and service for some good eats. The aforementioned Angry Hawaiian Pizza was a delicious take on the classic Hawaiian pizza.  Ham, cheese, barbecue sauce, and fresh jalapenos on a thin and crispy crust. Half pizzas available for single diners. Full pizzas for large appetites or groups.
The Last Call Gong.  And, yes, they really use it to signal last call.  Which comes early during the week.  Most places, including Black Bottle, close at 10 pm on weekdays.
Located across the street from Colorado State University and within walking distance to hotels, I recommend Black Bottle Brewery for both food and drinks for beer geeks. I hope to visit again someday.

Fun fact: when you're sitting at the bar you are sitting on top of the brewery cooler.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Odd Duck in Austin

I recently celebrated a birthday, and on a wild hare decided to spend an extended weekend in Austin to celebrate it. So the Lovely Spouse and I made the trip.  So where in Austin will a foodie such as myself decide to celebrate?  At the much lauded Odd Duck, of course.  I didn't make the choice on the accolades, although those don't hurt, but because I've been waiting for this restaurant to open ever since visiting their food truck a number of years ago.

Image source.  Where it all began.
Odd Duck started out as a farm to table concept food truck along Lamar.  The food was sourced from local farms and served up in such a way to highlight the ingredients. The dishes were what you would expect to find at a modern food truck, but with a noticeable improvement on technique.  How many food trucks do you suppose sous vide ingredients for a slider?  Maybe all of them do where you live, but this was novel for someone living in College Station. Therefore I was thrilled to find out they would move on up to a restaurant.

Where they are now. If you go, the valet parking is complementary, but tips are welcome.
A few days before we went I made reservations from their website. It's a good thing I did. Each night was fully booked, however I managed to find a 5 pm reservation.  When we got there the restaurant was already bustling.

Much of the seating at this time was at the bar, however there were tables in the dining room and on the outdoor terrace.

Bar seating looks right into the kitchen.  You can talk with the kitchen staff while deciding which delicious item to order. 
We started with pre-dinner cocktails while perusing the menu.  I got a very nice Moscow Mule made with in-house-made ginger beer, lime, and vodka.  The Lovely Spouse got a melon margarita. True to the name it had a distinct melon flavor.

The menu is designed around small dishes, therefore it is recommended that people order 3-4 dishes each. When making my reservation I mentioned a food intolerance and requested only to be informed of which dishes would be heavy on a certain ingredient.  The service and kitchen staff were absolutely amazing at assisting me. Truly above and beyond what I expect any time I eat out.

The Lovely Spouse started with onion bread served with house-made butter. I didn't eat the bread, but the butter was sweet, creamy and delicious. 
I started with pretzels filled with ham and cheese. Whipped mustard bechamel on the side. 
My next course was the heirloom tomato salad.  I love tomatoes. This salad was light and highlighted the great heirloom tomato flavor. 
The Lovely Spouse got the smoked boudin served with arugala on a saltine. Nice smoky flavor. It tasted like a very refined boudin. Good spice mixture and clean finish. Not at all like the greasy (albeit also tastey) boudin you find at the state fair. 

Next The Lovely Spouse got, would you believe it, tater tots.  These are the most refined and out-of-the-box tater tots ever. Served with smoked chicken, cheese, and green chile sauce.  He didn't share even a bite, so it must have been awesome. 
This looks like another salad but is actually a pasta course. This is house-made ricotta cavatelli served with chanterelles, apples, walnuts, and hot sauce (on the side).  Unexpectedly bright and fresh. I decided on the spot that I now want chanterelles in All The Things.  There was a nice blend of sweet, creamy, and fresh, although none was too much so. 
This was a special occasion so we had to get dessert.  If you visit you will absolutely want to do the same.
The Lovely Spouse opted for the seasonal sorbet.  Shown here are basil sorbet on the bottom and lemon sorbet on the top. Both were perfect in every way.
I opted for the most refined birthday cake ever: the Kouign-amann croissant.  Kouign amann are pastries made by much of the same technique as croissants but typically baked in ring molds or cupcake pans, giving them a different shape and texture. This one was topped with St. Maure goat cheese, apples, honey, and micro greens. I love the combination of soft cheese and fruit - the creaminess balances out the sharpness and sometimes overly sweetness of the fruit, and the fruit balances the fattiness and funkiness of the cheese. 

Prices?  They were reasonable for fine dining in a major metropolitan area. Each dish averaged $6-12 each, times 3-4 per person. Drinks ranged in price from $4 for a draft beer (great selection) to $18 for a barrel aged Manhattan.

We didn't make it to their brunch, but I heard wonderful things about it from a variety of people.

Will we be back?  I hope so.

If you go: make reservations. Get there early and enjoy a cocktail. If you drive valet is complementary but limited.  Save room for dessert.  The menu changes regularly.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Nutella + cupcakes = Yum!

To borrow a phrase from The Bloggess, this isn't really a post.

I found something A-MAZE-ING in Houston: Nutella Cupcakes.  I just had to share.

Nutella cupcake (moist, but not too moist), with Nutella buttercream, and Nutella filling. Absolutely divine. 

Where to find said divine cupcake. Evidently they have a "cupcake palace" in the Heights as well. 
On top of all this awesomeness they were also really nice people.