Travel

Five Great Places to Eat and Drink in Denver

The Denver Beer Co. I ate a burrito here and drank a dizzying barely wine. Before 11 a.m.

For decades, Denver was a staunch steak-and-potatoes town. Plates were stacked with beef as high as the Rocky Mountains looming in the distance. But in recent years, the Mile High City has rewritten its culinary script. First came the craft breweries, filling tap lines with tasty, locally made ales and lagers.

Now, the dining scene is evolving too, with marvelous Mexican restaurants mixing with madcap eateries that think nothing of substituting pad Thai noodles with pig ears. Curious about my top five picks? Check out my full story at Food Republic!

Great American Beer Festival Recap

Not since that misguided night in college when I decided to double-fist 40-ouncers of Phat Boy, a thankfully discontinued malt liquor made with ginseng, has my liver felt so swollen and abused.

I’ve just returned from four days at Denver’s 30th annual Great American Beer Festival, a massive celebration of fermentation that attracts brew fans as fervid as religious devotees flocking to Mecca. And for good reason. Each year, hundreds of breweries from all corners of the country descend upon the Mile High City en masse, toting thousands of different beers. Some are good. Some are bad. But with each brew served by the one-ounce pour, you have ample opportunity to try any and every beer.

Consider it drunkenness by a thousand tiny cups.

Of course, sampling every beer is foolhardy, especially this year. Scattered across the floor of the sprawling Colorado Convention Center were more than 460 breweries, which doled out some 2,400 dark stouts, sour ales, bitter IPAs and carbonated oddities so curious, so strange, I wasn’t sure whether to dump them out or greedily ask for another glass. Freetail Brewing, I’m looking at you and your green and cloudy Spirulina Wit.

As far as trends to spot, brewers are still riding high on IPAs, with a swell of black-tinted takes on the style — I particularly liked the Blacktop IPA, from New Glarus Brewing, as well as Bear Republic’s Black Racer. Barrel aging continues to sweep the industry (I swooned over Foothills Brewing’s Bourbon Barrel Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout and the wood-flavored treats from Florida’s Cigar City), but what’s got me most excited is the surge of sour ales.

Increasing ranks of brewers are deploying wild yeasts and bacteria with a dedication that would impress a microbiologist. Breweries to keep an eye on include Captain Lawrence, Cambridge Brewing, Upland, Brugge Brasserie and Illinois’ Desthil brewpub, which wowed the crowd with its wild creations.

Though it’s impossible to highlight all my favorite ales and lagers—and my many, many skull-blasting hangovers—a few ales and lagers stood out from the sudsy, crowded field.

Which ones did I like best? Check out my full story at Food Republic.

The Father of Haute-Alaskan Cuisine

Some people are born into their career. Take Joshua Slaughter: With that name, could he have become anything but a butcher or a chef? Embracing his moniker, Slaughter has carved out a profession as one of America’s most innovative chefs, having made a name for himself at Bouchon Bakery and wd~50. But to sample Slaughter’s forward-thinking, locally rooted cookery — Alaskan salmon funnel cake with apricot chutney; pork raised by a neighbor, partnered with candied fennel — you’ll either have to catch him at NYC’s James Beard House or book a flight to the Great White North. From late spring to early fall, he’s hunkered down near the glacier-strewn Wrangell–St. Elias National Park in McCarthy, Alaska, a minuscule city where the population can be counted in the dozens. Despite the town’s small size, Slaughter crafts outsize tasting menus at the McCarthy Lodge, giving tourists a taste of Alaskan cuisine — elk and all. Want to read my full interview? Head over to Food Republic. Eat it up!

Rise Up Brewing

As a child growing up in southwestern Ohio, I spent many a day in Chicago. It was my family's favorite spring break destination (strange, I know), where we'd scarf down dim sum and deep-dish pizza with equal fervor. But after I graduated from college and moved to New York, Chicago receded into the rear-view mirror. A decade passed before I ventured back to town in May to do a feature on the city's burgeoning brewing scene.

While Goose Island may be synonymous with the city, there's a swell of upstarts such as Revolution Brewing, Haymarket and Half Acre — and a half dozen other breweries and counting — that are filling local tap lines and making the city's craft beer scene a winner. Even if the Cubs are not. Curious? You can check out the article (complete with pretty pictures!) in Imbibe, or you can check out the article online. Curious? Drink it up!

It's All About the Beer

The Daily: Michaela Rehle/Reuters

I recently signed on to pen travel stories for The Daily, the iPad newspaper. Last Saturday marked my first published tale, which looked to answer a simple question: If I can't make it to Munich for Oktoberfest, how can I still eat my fill of sausage and drink suds from a stein? The answer, dear readers, is found over at The Daily (you don't need an iPad to peep the story). Drink it up!

A Trip to the Lobster Pound

It did not rain during my recent wedding in Portland, Maine. But two days later the skies turned grey and menacing, and rain dumped down in fat, ferocious drops. “What are we going to do?” I asked my wife. Post-nuptials, we were decompressing at a lake house 20 minutes north of Portland. It was a beautiful, tree-shaded spot, but there was one snafu: Her family was staying there too. On sunny days, we could canoe around the lake. On rainy days, well, we were confined to a small cabin with a rapidly diminishing supply of Stowaway IPA and Allagash White.

“Let’s go to Red’s Eats,” she said, snatching a set of car keys. “I want to eat Maine’s biggest lobster roll.”

Did Red's live up to the hype? Check out my full story over at Food Republic. Eat it up!

Five Great Places to Get Pie-Eyed in PDX

For craft beer consumers, Portland, Oregon, might just be mecca. Dozens of breweries and brewpubs dot the city, serving up suds as inventive as they're flavorful. Picking a favorite place to drink is as tough as my parents picking their favorite kid. (Hey, Mom and Dad, it's me, right?) But for Food Republic, I penned a piece highlighting my five favorite spots from a recent trip to the Rose City. I loved the sour beers at Cascade Barrel House, the hoppy ales from Hopworks, the farmhouse-style brews from Upright and the, uh, offerings at Mary's Club. Curious? Check out the full article at Food Republic. Drink it up!

Meet China's Muslim Lamb Chop

Not too long ago in Morocco, I had the extreme displeasure of devouring a sheep’s rich, flan-like breast. It’s a memory seared into my synapses like grill marks on a burger. So imagine my fear when my friends suggested we travel to Flushing, Queens (home to New York City’s largest Chinatown), to feast on a breast of lamb.

“It’s not the same thing; it’ll change your life — in a good way,” my intrepid friend assured me as we drove to Fu Run. The lively, frill-free restaurant focuses on the cookery of northeastern China’s Dongbei region, which extends from Siberia to Beijing and abuts Mongolia and the Korean peninsula. With Dongbei food, expect plenty of pickled veggies, lamb dumplings dunked in black vinegar, chunks of taro, or sweet potatoes encased in caramelized sugar, hearty meaty soups and crispy, cumin-covered lamb.

My crew of diners took a seat at a table topped by a lazy Susan and ordered a plate of tiger vegetables, country-style cucumbers and what the menu described as a “Muslim lamb chop.” “That’s the breast of lamb,” my friend told me. I shuddered, reliving memories of that spongy mammary from northern Africa. The veggies came first. Rough-cut cuke cubes were coated in enough garlic to stop the True Blood cast at 50 paces. The tiger vegetables were a tangle of sesame oil–slicked cilantro and scallions. These dishes were a summery pleasure, worthy of any picnic. Once I’d chopsticked up the last green sliver, the waitress slid the monstrous lamb platter on our table.

“Holy sweet heavens,” I muttered, gazing upon the glistening flesh encrusted with cumin seeds, crushed chilies, and black and white sesame seeds. This was unlike any mint jelly–topped lamb chop or breast I’d ingested. It was actually a slab of ribs, akin to beef short ribs. Marinated, slowly braised, and fried crisp, Fu Run’s breast of lamb was transcendent enough to turn a vegetarian into a carnivore. Speckled with luscious fat, the lamb slid from the bone like the finest Memphis ’cue. The crunchy, aromatic cumin balanced the gently gamey, red-hued meat, creating a combination as addictive as any street drug.

One bite, and you’ll be a lamb-breast man too.

Penthouse: Rum for Your Money

A few months back, I traveled to Panama to explore the pleasures of Panamanian rum—and, well, step on the foot of the vice president of Panama (not one of the prouder moments in my long, lubricated history of drinking). Finally, the fruits of my liquor labor have been published in Penthouse. I can only hope that my words do justice to the pictures in the magazine. Curious? Drink it up! It's totally safe for work, I swear.

Chinese Bai Jiu Can Make a Man Cry

Over on Food Republic today, I pen tale of my time spent drunkenly in China. At a diplomatic dinner, the host heard that I was a spirits and beer journalist. Thus, he demanded I knock back shot after shot of potent, rotgut bai jiu all under the guise of gan bei—a phrase that roughly translates to "bottoms up," and requires that the drinkers drain their cups. It's a ritual repeated, over and over, till intoxication is achieved. And then more booze is consumed. Curious? Drink it up!