Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tardi-Gras at Trap Rock

By The PubScout—Kurt Epps


Melissa Hudasko, Beer Event Coordinator at the Trap Rock Restaurant, admitted that last night's knockout dinner was originally supposed to coincide with Mardi Gras, but a misreading of the Gregorian calendar—perhaps initiated by an occasional Kestrel IPA during the planning-- slotted the event for last night.

In which case it earned the title "Tardi-Gras" or Late Fat. (The Tuesday part is understood.)

The name is appropriate also because of the sheer amount of food, none of it exactly on Jenny Craig's menu. Nearly everyone in attendance had to push themselves away from the table, unable to finish many of the culinary delights Chef Phillippe and his staff presented.

As guest brewer, Charlie Schroeder brought in Chris Walsh of River Horse, and together, they paired Trap Rock's always superb food with beers from both brewhouses.

The first course was atypical in terms of beer dinner "rules" regarding the light beer to dark beer mantra. A Sweet Potato and Andouille Sausage Soup was well-matched with TR's Theobroma Stout, as the Mexican chocolate and coffee flavors in the beer augmented nicely the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, while still allowing the zing of the sausage to make its presence known.

The next course was Hot Smoked Salmon and Fried Green Tomato Salad with Roasted Beets and Corn Cake. It was paired with River Horse's Hopalotamus. The name tells you all you need to know about this "cousin" of River Horse's previous Hop Hazard. Pam, sitting at my table, allowed that she can't stand hops (Simcoe, Chinook and Centennial in this case)—in fact is sometimes allergic to them. "But I love this beer," she admitted. So did everyone else.

J.P. Pilsner, one of a number of Trap Rock's beers named after a customer, complemented a Fluke en Papilotte dish. The fish was both delicate and sweet, kind of like J.P.'s wife Trudi who sat with J.P himself at the next table.

An Acadian Seafood Gumbo (it was Tardi Gras, remember?) came out next and it was a fabulous mix of huge tender shrimp, delectable crab and oysters. The dish was matched with River Horse's Triple Horse, a 10.3% Belgian Triple that Chris Walsh twice blamed for helping to produce at least three children that he knew of. (That must have been why the oysters were in the mix.)

A succulently tender and flavorful Smoked Beef Brisket was accompanied by not one, but two beers: Trap Rock's Brian's Big Ego Bock and River Horse's Special Ale. Both worked well with the brisket that would fall apart under fork pressure alone. It was accompanied by Braised Collard Greens and Bacon.

The dessert course was a Cinnamon Apple Beignet with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla ice cream (with real flecks of vanilla bean!). It was quite sinful, not unlike the partiers on Bourbon Street who toss beads to the gentlewomen on the balcony. The River Horse Milk Stout was not naughty, but superb. I sampled it repeatedly and came to the conclusion that I might not have to go to Lancaster, PA all the time for a good Milk Stout.

A special Birthday cake surprise presented to Brewer Charlie Schroeder added to the caloric overload, but, in the spirit of good will, one was, I suppose, obligated to partake.

A good number of the forty or so folks I spoke with admitted to being repeat customers and loving Trap Rock's beer dinners. It's easy to see why. Superb food superbly prepared, quality beers from two quality breweries to accompany it, a gracious, efficient and hospitable staff led by Kevin Lynn and the delightful, warm ambience of an English Country inn—especially inviting with a blazing fireplace and heavy February snow falling outside—that's a tough-to-beat combination.

As long as you understand that, late or not, Fat Tuesday comes with a caloric price.

Hence, I'm off to the gym.

New Direction at Uno’s


Last night's beer dinner at Uno's Grill and brewery may have stumbled at the start, but it blew across the finish line in a blaze of glory.

New management at Uno's under Brian Cardinale was at first hesitant to continue with a beer dinner that had been planned for some weeks. Understandable that, considering he may have needed some time to learn the "beer dinner ropes." But after an early postponement announcement—which was rescinded almost immediately—the dinner was set back in motion.

Brought in by Uno's especially for this dinner, Chef Brian Aloia and Cardinale, both with considerable culinary expertise, set forth a very unusual menu theme for Uno's—Asian Fusion—which can often be difficult to match with complementary beers. But the menu wasn't the only thing new about this beer dinner. Yours truly has incorporated a video component to allow readers a chance to feel what the atmosphere was actually like during the event. If you want to be able to view the videos, simply send me an e-mail at Identify yourself, as email addresses don't always comport with real names. You'll be sent a special invitation to view the videos. You can see and download pics of the event in the top right hand corner of the blog.

The introductory course of cheeses, fruits and other condiments was paired with Brewer Mike Sella's new Rye beer, a nicely balanced, clean and not-overbearing brew which could probably accompany many foods well. Judging by the commentary, the pairing was well received by the 30 guests in attendance.

Next up was Brian's Bruschetta- Garlic scented toasted demi roll with fresh tomatoes, basil and diced mozzarella served with balsamic vinaigrette. It was paired with Mike's transitional Bootlegger Blonde.

The next course, though delicious, was a most difficult challenge beerwise, as it was composed of two completely different tastes: Short Rib Egg Rolls with Shrimp and Crab Rangoons- Boneless short ribs cooked to perfection and shredded with a touch of chianti and a sweet and sour sauce all wrapped in an egg roll. Creamy shrimp and crab with a touch of oregano and green onion wrapped, fried and served with an Asian dipping sauce. I paired it with Sam Adams Noble Pils and the company heartily approved.

The fourth course was a delightful shrimp appy: Sweet and Spicy Shrimp- Shrimp in a sweet habanera lime marinade grilled and served with udon noodles. We matched it up with Mike's Red, which just happened to be peaking in flavor, and the combination worked exceptionally well.

The main course was Peach Ginger Grilled Chicken- Chicken breast marinated with a ginger and peaches served with a crispy rice cake, diced peaches, warmed greens, and topped with a light teriyaki and fried rice noodles. I opted for another Pils, this time from a can. Sly Fox's Pikeland Pils worked like magic with this dish.

As always, we try to introduce our guests to beers they may not have had, and that practice continued with the dessert course. Quintessential server Lenny trundled out bottles of Anchor Porter (Joe Skelly gave his grudging approval, but registered his official notice that he awaited Mike's Porter ) to accompany Brian's dessert—which had no official name that I could find. But it was delicious nonetheless. A concoction which looked and tasted a bit like Bananas Foster bracketed by two dollops of wonderful Green Tea Ice Cream (Hey, Asian Fusion was the theme), sprinkled with cranberries (I think) and drizzled with some delightful sauce.

The usual upbeat camaraderie prevailed (see pictures above right), and when ex-barman Moshe was introduced, he received a rousing ovation. Moshe, who had served as chef extraordinaire for a few previous Uno's beer dinners, was most complimentary about the night's food.

Mike Sella will be hosting a Cask Ale event on March 27, and it's clear now that Uno's will be continuing its well-received beer dinner program.

Now, I'm not ordinarily an Asian Fusion type of guy. I'm not even a Ford Fusion type of guy. Steamed Dumplings and Shrimp Fried Rice on the same plate are about as Asian Fusion as I get. But I have to say that last night's food was both outstanding and beautifully presented.

Though there were some early anxieties about what Uno's new management would bring, those concerns were put to rest last night, because it's clear that at least one of things new management brings is an outstanding culinary pedigree.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Two Beer dinners in Two Days

First, don't forget Uno's Beer dinner on 2/22...the menu is of an entirely new genre and the beer choices should complement it. Hopefully, the food will complement the beer as well. Contact the Metuchen restaurant to see if there are any spots left. Tsing-Tao!

Next, Trap Rock's beer dinner set for 2/23 is still accepting reservations. if you need a menu teaser, try this...

Sweet Potato & Andouille Soup
chili oil

Hot Smoked Salmon & Fried Green Tomato Salad
roasted beets & corn cake

Pompano en Papilotte
okra & mushrooms

Maque Choux & Shrimp
corn & green onions

Smoked Beef Brisket
braised collard greens & bacon

Dessert TBA

Can't tell you the beers yet, because that's a more highly-guarded secret than the combination to Jack Benny's safe. (If you don't get that, you're too young to be drinking anyway.)

See y'all tableside!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Trap Rock announces Beer Dinner

Melissa Hudasko over at Trap Rock Brewery and Restaurant in Berkeley Heights sent me this notice yesterday:

Hey, everyone!

In case you haven't heard, Trap Rock's next beer dinner will be held on Tuesday, February 23rd at 6:30. Our guest brewer will be Riverhorse, from Lambertville, NJ. This brewery has a relatively new brewer, and we've been hearing a lot of buzz about their new beers. Chef Phillipe will be creating a Mardi Gras-esque menu, as Charlie and I have decided to prolong the Fat Tuesday festivities for an extra week (actually, we just mixed up our days and thought Mardi Gras was a week later than it actually is... guess we should stop sampling beer so early in the morning... but we figured no one would mind an extended celebration!)

The price is $65 per person, including tax and gratuity (six courses, bottomless pints, drunken revelry, etc...), I just need a credit card number to hold your spot. Call me at Trap Rock (908) 665-1755, or come in to the bar so that I can add you to the list (during the day, preferably, so you can have a pint with ME!)

Sorry for the late notice! There is still plenty of room left, but I would advise you to hurry in and sign up soon... there's some yummy chocolate stout on tap, ifyou need an incentive...

Hope to see you soon!


As one who has often visited Trap Rock and has tasted its solid and liquid fare, I can predict that you will enjoy an outstanding evening in a most unique environment. The upscale "Country Inn" atmosphere of Trap Rock is one of its many draws. If you have the date available, I'd advise you to call Melissa and reserve a spot!

Cheers till next time!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fraunces Tavern in trouble? Heaven forfend!

One of my favorite taverns--and the oldest in the city-- may be undergoing some radical changes. Fraunces Tavern, where General George Washington bade goodbye to his troops, is looking for new operators, as the story link below will explain. Fraunces is among my yearly Tavern Stops (McSorley's--the second oldest-- being another).

Two totally different experiences in terms of ambience and fare, these two taverns are must-visits for anyone who appreciates taverns for their primal appeal. The urge to quaff where the greats of history once tipped their mugs, as well as the camaraderie spawned by modern-day elbow-bending with the hoi-polloi (like me) will always have an attraction to the lover of good pubs.

Here's hoping Fraunces stays afloat and strong. There's nothing like stopping in to down a pint or three of good beer, accompanied by solid, stomach-filling pub food. That you get to play pool in the back room is a bonus.

New operator sought for Revolutionary-era Fraunces Tavern restaurant -

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Join The PubScout on a visit to Hailey's Harp and Pub

I picked up one of those neat little Flip camcorders and decided to try it out on my recent visit to Hailey's Harp and Pub. Check out Video 1 here. Video 2 is here. Quaff a glass of Hailey's Ale with me here. And see my reaction here.

This little camcorder is pretty cool. Holds 2 hours of flash video in HD. I picked it up at Walmart for $179. Works on both PC's and Macs. You can upload to YouTube easy as pie.

If you get one, take it to Hailey's and say hello to Chris Flynn.

Do not take it into the loo.

Cheers till next time.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Belay that Postponement, Matey!

Just heard from Brewer Mike Sella that the previously postponed Feb 22 beer dinner has now been put back on the front burner and will go off as planned on that date after all. It appears that the new GM and other corporate employees are fluent in the culinary arts and, recognizing how popular the Uno's Beer Dinners have become, decided they would maintain the schedule accordingly. Of course, Moshe won't be working for the first time in many dinners, but you can bet we'll raise a glass to the erstwhile barman's contributions.

As soon as I touch base with the new chef, we'll prepare a menu and our usual coterie of outstanding complementary brews. (Note that the beers are NOT comPLIMentary...that's why correct spelling is important.)

Reservations are available by calling 732-548-7979.

Hope to see you there!

Uno's Beer Dinner Postponed...Not!

No sooner did the post beneath this one go live than the news came. There was a corporate temblor at Uno's of Metuchen which has necessitated the postponement of the February beer dinner. One of the after-shocks of the temblor was the news that longtime barman and beer dinner chef extraordinaire Moshe would be pulling up stakes and heading in a new direction.

I chatted with the venerable bartender recently, and I got the distinct feeling that this was not a decision joyfully made. "I love this place," said Moshe, and he said it with a conviction that allowed no room for doubt. In many ways, Moshe not only loved Uno's, he was Uno's, and for the thirsty or hungry beer lover, the site of Moshe and/or Lenny behind the bar was a sign that at Uno's, at least, all was right with the world. That world is coming to an end, however.

Where Moshe goes from here is anyone's guess, but with his considerable culinary skills, his knowledge of beer and how the former is affected by the latter, he would be a valuable addition to the staff of any brewpub or beer bar.

One of the Uno's regulars, a lover of good beer and a good friend of yours truly, Joe Skelly, penned quite a touching and apropos comment on his personal blog. Joe has given me permission to re-post his tribute to Moshe here. It's a measure of the impact a good barman can have on the psyche of pub-goers. Though Moshe is certainly not the only barman who has touched the lives and spirits of his customers, he is part of the proud fraternity of those who have done so since the first tavern's welcoming light beckoned to the wayward traveler. Thanks for the memories, Moshe, and good luck!

Our Inkeeper at Unos
by Joe Skelly

Sat at 9:16pm

Inns and taverns have waited for travelers along the roads of America for hundreds of years. Those who rode in wooden stages or on horseback or even a foot, would celebrate the sight ahead as they ended their day on the road. Thoughts of a good meal and a cup to drink and a bed would always bring a smile. The greeting of the innkeeper could brighten even the worst day of travel. Much has been written about the best innkeepers along the roads of revolutionary America by John Adams and Ben Franklin. Innkeepers were often the waiters and bartenders of the time and were held in reverence by wayfarers for their knowledge of the road ahead, their wit and conversation. They made you feel at home when you were not. So much has changed between then and now. The carriage houses that were usually about ten miles apart (which was a days travel back then) have been replaced by bars, restaurants and motels that seem to line our main roads every ten feet. We seldom need them for a place to sleep as our cars carry us over the miles to our homes. We do still rely on them for a bite to eat and a place to drink and a place to shake off the troubles of our day with our friends. Still at the center of this great institution is the faithful innkeeper. The best of them greet us with a welcome that still brings a smile to our face and helps us along in our travel down the bumpy road of life. Uno's will soon lose one of it's faithful innkeepers who has served many who read this. I still remember wandering into the bar in the late 1990's. I enjoyed the ale and the NTN trivia, but what kept me coming back for so long was the soul of Uno's. Part of that soul will depart after Moshe walks out from behind the bar for the last time. Join me on Thursday, February 4, 2010 at Unos Chicago Grill to celebrate the wonderful time that we have shared as we bid farewell to, Moshe, our faithful innkeeper.

Note: Moshe's last day at Uno's is set for Tuesday, February 9.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Feb-Brew-Ary Beer Dinner at Uno's

Tomorrow the USA will stand transfixed as we await the appearance of America's favorite rodent--Punxsutawney Phil. Although I must look askance at our friends from PETA who, it seems, want a robot groundhog to take Phil's place this year, no such ersatz product will be offered at Uno's upcoming Beer Dinner. Set for February 22 at the Rt. 1 South Metuchen location, Punxsutawney Moshe will be conjuring up deliciacies that will titillate your tastebuds and exercise your enzymes. As soon as he lets me know what the menu is, I'll coordinate the beers. Should be a fun night, as always, because great folks who love great beer always seem to pack the place. Call 732-548-7979 for reservations. We'll raise a glass to Founding Father George Washington--since it's his actual birthday and he was a homebrewer. We may even have a replica of his beer there for you to try. It's darned good, too.

Cheers until next time!
The PubScout