We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs… Oh wait, this is something else entirely, although I’m fairly certain I listened to “Sympathy for the Devil” at one point, and I recall there being amyl nitrate somewhere.
The build up to this story held a great many undertones of personal danger, but mostly calling in favors, tracking down PR types and weaseling my way into whatever it is I could. My fervor was motivated less by testing my true grit against a weekend of a gluttonous bacchanalia, although I am always eager to do that, but to test my earlier prediction about the Hubert Keller/Sarah Johnson Beer Garden being the best real event (“real” referring to any that isn’t a Michelin starred chef cooking a dozen-by-a-dozen degustation-athons). Really, honestly, with the trend of overselling the food booth and TV chef selfie events AND making the grievous omission of any Le Cirque/Circo/Sirio things, I would say my prediction had sadly come to fruition. Grand Tasting: consider the ball dropped. It all kind of ran together…
Well I guess not sadly. It is just kind of a double whammy that the non-grand events were way better than “Grand” event. Dig on this beer garden, friends. All Alsatian stuff, which is basically German food, with so much pork it was practically a mini-Cochon 555. Cochon, for the fellow memory-impaired was an extremely amazing traveling pork-fest that had a leg here ONCE, until something happened. I think they wanted to slaughter pigs in the bathrooms or something, or a butcher got in a fist fight with some religious protester I DONT KNOW. All I know is that we are poorer for it, but hopefully this beer garden will be a permanent yearly fixture. For being somewhat noticeably their first time, don’t worry, I’ll be gentle.
The food, oh the food. Yes it was goddanged amazing. There was a table with enough various cheeses, charcuterie, pork rillettes, and mustards to make a German or a Frenchman cry. Although the little play-dough pigs were a cute touch, the head cheese was the item that really flipped my lid. There were sausages abound, weisswurst, brats, oldschool frankfurters, and even roast pig, de-boned and sliced whole, stuffed with apples and spices. In a bizarre science gone wrong (or terribly right) was this kind of half-Bouillabaisse, half-sauerkraut dish. It was a weird one, but turns out is very synonymous with Alsace and rather tasty. The ‘kraut was soft, the fish, scallops, and mussels were tasty, and it was just a nice simple, rustic dish. It was ‘displayed’ with some nice looking Riesling, but there was none to be had. Why’s that you imagine? Because this AIN’T NO WINE PARTY.
The beer of this beer garden? Phenomenal. They had a limited release keg of Maker’s Mark barrel aged Sled Dog Imperial Stout on nitrotap. That was about the creamiest, thickest beer I’ve had in a very long time, and had an extremely drinkable profile of wood, vanilla, chocolate, and roasted toffee. I would usually say a barrel aged imperial stout would have way too much character to drink a full pour of, but this one was just too danged tasty. There was some Innis and Gunn, a new Newcastle, and a few more selections from Big Dogs. Overall, this event was a real winner and although I didn’t get to go to everything (anyone who did the Rick Moonen/Abou-Ganim event, let me know how it was) this was the real main event of Uncork’d.
To transport to the other side of the weekend and the liquor isle, there was a Vodka and Caviar social hour at Red Square, a place known for those two things exactly. The Vodka: Pretty good! There was a tasty shandy cocktail, a spiked sorbet, and Russian Standard martinis. The Caviar: Non-existent!. The application was alright; build your own blinis as they came out of an automatic blini maker, on grilled oysters, topping little tiny seafood ice cream cones, deviled eggs (although a whole egg was a bit much), but the caviar itself wasn’t really anything to care about. Paddlefish, lumpfish, salmon, even the much derided smelt roe were all present, but nothing that legally meets the definition of “caviar” where there are such definitions to be had. Hey, I know it’s expensive stuff, but there could have been at LEAST some salt cured hackleback or smoked cod roe, something comparable. My suggestion: up the price, make it a dinner, and break out the good stuff.