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Entries in The Big Lebowski (7)

Thursday
Sep062012

The ABC's of Beer with Alphabet City Beer Co.

Home page & logo I designed for ABC Beer Co.
Sometimes I get really lucky. That penny on the ground is heads up, my hair dryer decides NOT to blow a fuse for once, I remember I have just a titch of ice cream left in the freezer...
 
But sometimes I get lucky with clients. Recently, I've had this experience with David and Zach of ABC Beer Co. I was introduced to the duo through a friend. Did I want a food/drink design client, she asked me? She may well have inquired if I wanted stracciatella cheese on my Margherita pizza. Duh. Of course I do.
 
And lo! I was hired on to design the logo and website for ABC Beer Co., a newly opened gem of a beer bar in Alphabet City. ABC Beer Co. is not just a beer bar. They also have eatables—good ones (I'll get to that), including an official cheese counter, and they hock other tasty wares such as Grady's Cold Brewed Coffee, freshly made breads and beer to-go!
 
I took a stroll to see their place one evening and was suitably impressed. So impressed was I, that I wanted to post a more informative review in the form of an interview. Below, Zach answers my sometimes silly questions on opening their own business in beer.
 
1. What inspired you to open ABC Beer Co?
The idea kind of came to us gradually. One day I got a phone call from David about wanting to open a beer store and bar in the East Village. I wasn't particularly happy in the 9-to-5 world and I'd worked with David at his other business before, so I instantly knew this was a good idea. Soon after that phone call, we were diving into beers and tasting new things, looking for a storefront and funding, and getting things in order. Before I knew it, we were days from opening and its been pretty amazing since.
 
2. Who handles which parts of the business - and how do you keep it all balanced with life?
I tend to handle the more day-to-day side of the business, such as ordering, marketing/social media, and staffing, while David tends to handle finances and more overseeing. But that's only true part of the time: Neither of us have job titles, and neither of us is above getting our hands dirty when it comes to keeping the place running. Being in business with a partner like David is a lucky situation. We can count on one another to get things done if one of us has to leave town or gets bogged down with work from other businesses. Balancing it all with life just seems to fall into place: There are slow weeks and there are crunch times, but having a well-trained staff makes a lot of the day-to-day upkeep much easier to stay on top of.
 
3. This may be like picking a favorite child, but what are your beer favs for the summer....
I absolutely love Carton Brewing Company's Boat Beer. It's an IPA with very low alcohol, light body, and super easy drinkability. I'm also pretty big on saisons, particularly Jack D'or from Pretty Things Brewery up in Massachusetts. Saisons are literally made for summertime, and this one has depth in its acidity, body and long finish.

 

4. And while you're at it, can you give us a few recommendations going into fall?
I hate to jump on the pumpkin beer train too early (although the taste of it while watching football is the fall-iest thing in the world to me). The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and the Firestone Walker Reserve Porter are two beers that people might normally shy away from in warm weather but feel perfect for autumn. Southern Tier PumpKing is another one we enjoy.
 
5. I noticed you have other non-beer products in the "shop" section of your place: Grady's Cold Brew Coffee, bread, even and entire cheese counter! How do you select the products that you sell?
The cheese counter was carefully curated by Martin Johnson, the founder of the Joy of Cheese. He's a fantastic cheese monger and is as passionate about educating customers as he is about getting them what they want. Things like Grady's and the bread all came from careful research and our own personal preferences!
 
6. When I visited, I enjoyed a vanilla porter that was on tap. What was that (it was a lovely combo with the fig and turkey sandwich....)
The Breckenridge Vanilla Porter that I just recommended! Ha...Yes, that's a great combo. Smokey turkey with the dark, malty porter.

 

7. The design of your place is one part rustic, one part market, and also one part industrial-cool. Who did you get to help you with the interior design and layout?
David and I worked with his cousin Roxy and an architect to draw up the initial layout of the space, but actually decorating was probably my favorite part of setting up shop. We drove to Philadelphia to meet with furniture makers, light makers, and antique glass suppliers. We pilfered antique shops throughout New Jersey. We went to auctions. I think part of what makes our design unique is that it was all hand picked from very different places. The table in itself is a huge statement that immediately catches everyone's eye. But like everything else in the shop, it's never over the top or "trying to hard." That understated approach is I think what makes the place so comfortable and inviting.

  
8. You don't have a TV (thank goodness), but you do fire up the projector from time to time, which I like. Any plans to do a Big Lebowski screening? I know the Dude would abide.
Are you kidding? That's like, the best movie ever. I'd totally watch that on the projector.

 

9. What are your plans for the future? Home brews? Taking over the world via beer?
We're still so young, so who knows! It's good to feel like we have so many possibilities in front of us.
 
10. Anything else we should know about ABC Beer Co. that we don't?
Our Twitter account is hilarious. Also, we have a very talented staff who all come from a diverse background. Chat them up! They'll talk to you about pretty much anything.
 
11. Can you teach me how to pour the perfect beer?
It's all in the wrist! Come by and we will pour plenty.
And finally, yes...I DID get a peek in the bathrooms. They're dimly lit in a comforting sort of way, not in a clubby-unnerving kind of way. There's modern art canvases on the walls and some exposed light fixtures that continue that industrial decoration flair from the main room.
So take a walk to Alphabet City and pull up a stool at the ABC Beer Co. bar. Go for the beer, stay for the food, stay longer for more beer (request the vanilla porter)...and potentially more snacks. Then get some goodies to go. And come back for the Big Lebowski viewing...once they put that one on the calendar, that is.
Alphabet City Beer Co.
96 Avenue C
New York City 
Thursday
Apr212011

You Dirty Bird!



It was a warm(ish) spring twilight. The smell of fried chicken was in the air. Or at least in my head - sometimes I get the two confused. But what better way to spend a spring evening than chowing down on expertly fried chicken? And you can even feel good about this chicken that is fried to a delicate and deliciously salty, crunchy crisp because they birds are all-natural, local and organic.

Where is this fried chicken haven of which I speak? Dirty Bird to-go on 14th Street near 7th Avenue. I ventured there last week to get the smell of fried chicken out of my head and into my hands (and stomach).

First a few words about the bird: Chicken is an every-man's meat (for people that eat meat, that is). It's a staple. It shows up on the dinner table all the time. Perhaps too much? That depends on what kind of chicken you're eating, I guess.



People often get frustrated with chicken. I know the Box does. He grimmaces like a child when it's placed in front of him at the dinner table, recoiling visibly from his plate. His sentiments are echoed in this hilarious scene from Little Miss Sunshine:

Warning: There's some not-so-nice language in the video. So if dropping the f-bomb ain't you're thang, you might want to skip it.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYnjwU3Kzp0]

But at Dirty Bird, there's no reason to curse the chicken. Let me illustrate with photos:

The Scene:
A teeny tiny storefront, the main feature is the walk-up counter, complete with extra friendly servers. Really, these people were just so nice. I feel like I should know their names.



The Food:
I ordered a three-piece dark meat sampler with garlic kale. The chicken itself was juicy and flavorful – a perfect amount of salt. The outer fry crust had me pulling all the fried bits off the bone that I could find. Plus scraping any wayward ones up that had fallen to my very cool, camping-style blue plate. It's amazing what a little buttermilk can do. The kale mingled with some large chunks of garlic and was wading in a bath of tangy, slightly vinegar-y liquid. I scooped up every last leaf in the bowl. The kale was not overcooked and soggy, but vegetable al-dente, preserving some snap.



Also noteworthy are the Chicken Fingers: tender and juicy white meat coated in the same light buttermilk fry. If chickens had fingers, they would want these. I recommend the BBQ sauce – you can taste molasses, which adds depth to the flavor. The Mac and Cheese was off the charts. It was like hot, cheesy ice cream with pasta in it. I wanted to put it in a cone. This is a good thing.

The Bathrooms:
None that I could find.

Afterward, if you need a powder room and a glass of wine, head to the bar just up the street – The Crooked Knife. Flop onto their couches and order some Cotes-du-Rhone. That's what I did, anyway.

Overall Experience: The Big Lebowski – The Cult Classic
Friday
Apr082011

Meals on Reels Friday Round-Up

We have reached another Friday! Gonna see a movie this weekend? We have some recommendations that pair well with food (of course)!



Our first film: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Chow down on some garlic bread with these recipes while you watch.



Our second film: My Cousin Vinny. Streak your hair, get out your leather and go to Brooklyn for grits at Egg!



Our third film: If you fry it, they will come: Hot dogs and Field of Dreams. Magic in the Moonlight.

In other news, I'll be traveling to South Beach today for my first Triathlon of the season. You can also get the recipe for my home made energy bars at that link. Tweeting will be light as I don't want to take out my pre-race panic attacks on you lovely people.

Come Monday or Tuesday we might have some more BIG NEWS. So stay tuned. And we will also be continuing our Meals on Reels program. Don't forget to send us your favorite movie/food scenes! Post 'em in the comments!

Have a great weekend!
Thursday
Apr072011

Go the Distance. For Hot Dogs. (Field of Dreams and Rutt's Hut Hot Dogs)



Girls have a collection of chick flicks.  Guys have Field of Dreams.  Perhaps the only movie in which a fella can unashamedly admit to shedding a tear or two.  And when Ray Kinsella's brother in law shows up to foreclose on the farm towards the end of the movie, things get a little intense.

At this point, the film has undoubtedly reached its climax.  All the known characters, dead and alive, good and evil, have essentially convened on or around the ballfield to await Ray's decision on the farm.  Stay or Sell? "People will come" advises Ray's daughter Karin, which then prompts Terry's articulate speech about baseball and its historic qualities which, if marketed correctly, would easily make Ray a first ballot Hall of Famer in the unique but lucrative niche business of harnessing the dead's talents for one's own personal gain (like in the cases of Elvis, the Beatles, etc).  It would also provide Ray a way out from his more pressing financial woes.

But Ray's at-the-time evil brother in-law isn't having it.  Evil bro-in-law shoves Karin off of the bleachers, who falls to the ground and lies motionless.  What to do?  Call an ambulance is Annie Kinsella's first reaction.

"Annie wait," says Ray, the tension building with each precious second passing.  Ray's appearance of nonchalance in the situation is anything but.  Rather, it is faith.  Faith that Dr. Archibald Wright "Moonlight" Graham (a real person, by the way) will forgo the remainder of his lifelong dream of playing in the big leagues and instead cross over that magical stone line, turn into an old geezer doctor and save Karin's life. And Ray's faith pays off.

And the scene that follows is absolute goosebump city. (<---- Click to watch)

Graham, played brilliantly by the late Burt Lancaster (the younger version of Graham is quite capably acted by Frank Whaley as well), saves Karin's life by forcing out the hot dog which is lodged in her throat.  And the hot dog, boys and girls, is what this post will be about.



The other day, my boss Andrew and I were out on the road coming back from a client meeting when he suggested that we make a quick detour through Rutt's Hut on 417 River Road in Clifton, NJ.  Andrew, a self proclaimed hot dog aficionado, insisted that my visit to Rutt's Hutt would be time well spent.  He was right.



While no aficionado of hot dogs myself, I'm no stranger to a good ol' dog.  When I was growing up, Dad quite regularly resorted to the practice of cooking up some juicily boiled dogs for dinner when Mom was out for the evening.  To this day, The Box maintains a rigid adherence to Thuman's Pork and Beef frankfurters, which he claims have the best "snap" of all supermarket available dogs.  And I'm not scared to dive into a Grey's Papaya after a late night in the City.  Long story short, I know a good dog when I see one.  And it's not you, Toby!  (Elana's dog...We have our differences).



But Rutt's was a totally unique experience.  The scene inside is quite dated and bare.  A take-out counter with some standing tables and extended window ledges to chow down at.  My colleague Andrew shakes hands with who appears to be the owner (a friendly, blinged-out crucifix donning fellow named John) and orders me three particular kinds of dogs, all of which are more scorched than the next.  "We gawt a rookie here?" John says, nodding his head in my direction.



First up is what Rutt's calls "The Ripper." The least scorched (by veggie oil) of the three that I had, it's still more charred than any dog I've had in recent memory.  Each chomp just about dislodges the skin entirely from the meat, so you are essentially eating two different foods with two totally different consistencies, simultaneously.  But it's ultimately a successful exploration in wiener cooking science.



Second is what is termed "The Weller" which is a more aggressively charred frank.  In fact, it is so torched that the outer portions of the meat immediately beneath the skin have essentially been disintegrated into a thick crust of bacon-like flavor and texture.  The nucleus is still meaty, however.



And then there is the "Creamator" (above) which, in addition to being fried in oil, appears like it has been shoved into electrical sockets, struck by lightning, and screamed at by six hundred fire breathing dragons.  The entire diameter of the sausage has been completely, well, "creamated" into a semi-delicate shell of fat, salt and burn.  And it's pretty "dog"garn tasty, to be honest.  It's airy and crispy, like someone had rolled a few strips of bacon together and strategically placed them at the equator for a couple of months.

And as I successfully housed all the dogs in impressive time, and exited the establishment, I could have sworn John called out to me..."Hey Rookie...You were good."  Like baseball and, indeed, the masterpiece that is Field of Dreams, Rutt's Hut Hot Dogs is an American classic that should be enjoyed by men everywhere.  Ladies, on the other hand, just may not understand its message.

Overall Experience: The Big Lebowski

Wednesday
Apr062011

My Cousin Vinny's Magic Grits



Breakfast? Good choice.

My Cousin Vinny is a special movie to me. It's one of the movies I actually own on DVD. I only purchase DVD's of a movie when I know I will watch the film again and again and again...Some day I will give you the full list (which includes 7 seasons of the X-Files).

Also, I kinda love the white streaks in Marissa Tomei's hair. A lot.



At one point, I got really good at imitating her character, Mona Lisa Vito: Oh you smooooth tawker. You ahhh....

But I digress.

Vinny and Mona Lisa's discovery of grits in a sleepy Alabama cafe is one of the best-played scenes in this movie and always has me laughing, especially when Vinny literally puts one single grit on his fork and Mona Lisa pulls out her 1980's pink camera to document the novelty of it all. But you should watch it for yourself, via this very shady video I found on youtube:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYoYPJ5uwFg&w=480&h=390]

So I know you've heard of grits. But have you ever SEEN a grit before? And would you know where to get some good ones if you wanted them?

Of course I have a suggestion, a Vinny and Mona Lisa approved suggestion: Egg in Brooklyn. These days Vinny and Mona Lisa would stand out in Williamsburg quite as much as they did in Alabama, but I think they would make the trip for the food.

I did this past Sunday and feasted on their Eggs and Grits platter (with sweeeeeet, sweet bacon):



As the short order cook from the video suggested, these are hominy grits, made from corn. A simple concoction made no less tasty because of its simplicity. I think the secret ingredient is butter. And love. But sometimes I get those two words confused. Like when I tell people, "I butter you." Everyone gets confused.

But these grits were just the right amount of buttered. Not greasy as all, but whipped up into an impressively light and airy pile of lightly salted creaminess. However, there was no cream added. That is the magic of grits – they have a creamy texture, but all that is added is water and seasonings. It's like the Southern corn version of risotto.

Along with my corn risotto, I ordered eggs (over medium style) and sweet bacon. I made some sweet bacon a while back on the blog, but Egg's is truly something special: thickly cut strips of locally sourced pork bacon made just slightly gooey with sweetness. A must order.

In addition to the down home goodness of their food, the tables come accessorized with these:



Do you have any idea what happens when I spot crayons at the table? Here's a glimpse:





* Pirate scene not created by me.

Also, I try to steal other crayon colors from adjacent tables.

So streak your hair, dress up in leather and get yourself to Egg for their grits and sweet bacon. You'll butter it. And take a picture, it'll last longer.



Overall Grit Eating Experience: The Big Lebowski - The Cult Classic

Egg
135 North 5th Street, Brooklyn New York 11211
phone: (718) 302 5151