Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label restaurants. Show all posts

Friday, June 29, 2012

Want Local, Don't Want Just IPA

Something that bothers me at times is how difficult it can be to find local beer on tap here in Charlottesville. I could almost understand it if I lived in a town with an obscure nano-brewery making a few kegs a week and nothing else, but there are 5 breweries within a 30 mile radius of town and at least 2 in the planning that I know of, and yet I can't remember ever seeing my favourite Starr Hill beer on tap in town.

Before continuing this post let me make something clear, I am not talking here about going to places like Beer Run where the modus operandi is to have an every changing selection of beer. I am talking about your every day restaurants, the kind of places you go for food rather than the beer selection (believe it or not I don't make my eating out decisions based on how many taps a place has).

On Sunday for example, having spent a few hours out at the house painting, Mrs V and I headed out to our local Mexican restaurant for food. Usually when we go to a Mexican restaurant I'll have a Michelob because it is often the best beer available, minor side note, I actually quite like Michelob on occasion, clean, crisp, very easy to drink and best of all the bottles are re-useable for homebrew. Imagine then my surprise that our local Mexican had decided to start serving New Belgium Fat Tire as one of their 4 draft beers! I can say that Fat Tire goes quite nicely with Pollo con Chorizo and at $5 for a 22oz pour no complaints on the money front either.

But why have New Belgium beer when there is plenty of local beer which is as good? This is especially galling when you live in a town topped to the brim with "Buy Local" enthusiasts.

When you do see a Starr Hill tap, and I am not singling out Starr Hill, it's just that they are biggest and oldest brewery in the area, it is usually for Northern Lights IPA. Now, I like Northern Lights from time to time, unlike many an IPA over here it isn't so weighed down with hops as to be like sucking a lemon sized grapefruit, but I don't think it is the best beer that Starr Hill makes. I think it is third behind Dark Starr Stout and Festie, an amber lager which is wonderfully clean and delicious, and criminally not seen on draft at all in my experience, outside the tasting room that is.

When a bar is so laden with American Pale Ales, IPAs and Double IPAs, it would be wonderful to see more beers like Dark Starr and Festie breaking the banks of pale hoppy monotony. So come come restaurants, mix up your beer list, and support your local breweries.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Drink Local?

I like to support local business. I like local beer, local wine, local cheeses, local cider, locally made bread, local meat. Supporting local food producers is a good thing in my book. Living in Central Virginia means there are lots of local food producers to support.

Friday was the 6th anniversary since that fateful night at Pivovarsky klub when I met Mrs V for the very first time, and so we decided to go out for a nice meal. The meal was nice, if a touch on the skimpy side portion wise, you don't get to be velky by eating maly portions. The wine was pricey, the beer was not unduly. I left the restaurant with mixed feelings, basically if the portions had been about 35% bigger it would have been better, as would a warning about the presence of nuts in a starter. My overwhelming sense though was one of wondering what beer has to do to be taken seriously in the restaurant world?

The restaurant in question, trumpets its support for local farmers on its menu, has a couple of local wines on their list, and precisely zero local beer. Apparently the Octoberfest lager being made and sold by Blue Mountain isn't good enough for this place, but the Erdinger Oktoberfest is. While the Erdinger was decent enough, I'd happily paid the same amount of money for a bottle of something that hadn't come all the way from Germany. One of the reasons I was quite happy to go to this particular restaurant was that they had listed a couple of Blue Mountain beers on their website menu, including the 151 K?lsch which I very much enjoy, but the real menu didn't have anything local.

While I like my beers from around the world, I would like to see more support for our local beers in Charlottesville restaurants. Sure, places like Outback and Applebee's have stuff from Starr Hill, but you have ask what local brews they have. Thankfully, unlike a certain place in Florida, their staff also happen to know that Miller Lite is not a local beer. I can think of places here that have an, admittedly delicious, IPA from Eastern Virginia on tap, but nothing local other than in bottles.

It seems as though every year I have lived in Charlottesville multiple bits of bling have made their way from the Great American Beer Festival to this area. Yet getting a pint of draft local beer in many of the pubs here is a serious pain in the arse, unless of course you go to one of the brewpubs themselves. Perhaps too many places are trying to be sexy and trendy rather than supporting their excellent local brewers?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Gratuitous Liveliness

I think I mentioned this before at some point, but yesterday was the perform of Carmina Burana by the Virginia Consort Festival Chorus, featuring in the alto section one Mrs Velkyal, though obviously under her legal name. The concert was really very good, and after the singy bit, the participants had reservations at a local Italian restaurant called Vivace, which we duly attended. The evening was very pleasant, intelligent conversation, traveled table companions and decent wine and beer - I had Clipper City's Loose Cannon IPA, which was a typical American expression of the style, and perfectly acceptable. No I didn't take a photo or notes as I am perfectly capable of functioning as a regular human being. Mrs Velkyal's wine was also apparently rather nice.

However, last night also brought into sharp relief again one of the failings we have come across in many a restaurant in the US, or at least in those parts we go to regularly, namely that the cost is so distinctly unrepresentative of what you actually get. Basically we had a meal consisting of a pair of appetisers per table, one of which was fried calamari and the other was a "bruschetta" with melted mozzarella and a tomata salsa, and then ordering from a set menu. I had tomato and basil soup, followed by chicken parmigiani, which came with spaghetti marinara, and a New York style cheesecake for dessert; Mrs Velkyal had the same, other than a Caesar salad in the place of soup. The cost for this, plus 3 beers and 2 glasses of wine? $100 plus gratuity, more of which later.

I don't want to appear cheap, but the cost to value ratio in this case was piss poor. It's not that the food was bad, it was just uninspiring and something Mrs Velkyal could rustle up in our tiny kitchen for a fraction of the cost and to a far higher standard - for a start she would make the pasta herself and that alone would make a huge difference. To be fair, the cheesecake was nice, though I suspect it had been bought in before being liberally doused in a raspberry syrup, oh sorry, coulis. The soup was nothing special, my first reaction was that it came from a can and was just dressed with a touch of basil for effect. There was one truly excellent thing though and that was the service, polite, discreet (I hate having a waitress come by every thirty seconds or so and asking if everything was ok) and efficient. I would have happily given her a generous tip, had it not been for the gratuitous 20% unilaterally attached to my bill, or there even being a warning that in certain circumstances such a penalty would be plonked on top of my bill.

While on the subject of tipping and the gratuitous abuse of the customer, I have no objection to being generous in that department, when the service has warranted such generosity, but expecting me to pay an extra 20% for service is just down right wrong. 10% I don't mind paying, but expecting 20% is taking the piss. I guess the thing that really got my goat last night was being presented with the bill, having the 20% gratuity added to it, and there being a line on the credit card slip for an "additional tip" - I recently learned the meaning of being "nickel and dimed", and that's just how it felt, "to drain or destroy bit by bit, especially financially" according to the American Heritage Dictionary.

We still had a thoroughly good evening, but the cost did dampen things a bit, especially given the mediocrity that is apparently Charlottesville's "premier authentic Italian" restaurant. Things though this morning are much better as I sit in my favourite diner in town having a good breakfast, as much coffee as I can drink, free wifi and knowing that my bill for a far more satisfying feed will be a good 90% less than last night, and that is with the generous tip I always leave here, just because it is that good.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...