Here is an excerpt from Craig LaBan's online chat:
Craig LaBan: Congratulations to the Philly-area brewers who won prizes at the prestigious Great American Beer Fest last week - a number of the gold winners (Stoudts Heifer-in-Wheat; Troegs' Flying Mouflan; McKenzie Brew House); also took top notice in the Inquirer's Brew-vitational this summer. (See box for local winners.) Ah, to be thirsty in Philly is such a wondrous thing!
Reader: What is your favorite, go-to fall beer?
C.L.: Let's start with a good malty Oktoberfest . . . Ayinger is my all-time fave. Then we move on to porters (had a great Edmund Fitzgerald the other night from Great Lakes Brewing), then maybe a Scotch ale like Dirty Bastard from Founders. (Am I already drinking for winter?) OK, let's stick with a nice, slightly less-heavy brown ale, then. Maybe Earth Bread and Brewery in Mount Airy will consider brewing the brown ale that scored so well in our Brew-vitational once again for fall drinking.
C.L.: Alex Capasso's West Side Gravy was a topic on last week's chat, and a reader wrote me afterwards, somewhat peeved, that I discussed it without having eaten there. We were really discussing the space, the lack of crowds, etc., and I did not discuss the food. Well, I did visit recently and had a somewhat mixed experience. I'm still not a fan of the big, revamped Woolworth space that feels a bit empty. I did enjoy the fried chicken, with its crackly micro-crust and juicy, tender meat, but not the "tuna from hell" a signature sandwich from new chef Siobhan Allgood, who cooked it as a contestant on Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen. This was exactly the kind of overwrought creation on brioche I'd expect a reality show contestant to cook-seared tuna with prosciutto, St. Andre cheese, grilled pineapple, and griddled brioche-with about two too many ingredients (the cheese and prosciutto).
Reader: Restaurant Week has disappointed me several times with poor service and unreasonable prices. But Zahav made all the failed restaurant week trips worth it, with the creamy chilled corn soup and the tender grilled lamb tongue. Service: exquisite. . . .
C.L.: I must say, I've noticed a lot of places putting their best menus forward for RW this time - Tweed didn't skimp on its offerings, and neither did Amuse.
Reader: Why did City Tap House receive any bells? Seemed to be a no-bell review, yet you gave them one. Very few redeeming factors.
C.L.: Too much good beer in that place (like 60 craft taps) to get the No Bell prize. They have a lot of work to do, but the ingredients are there for progress, hopefully soon.
Reader: Restaurant Week dinner at Square 1682 - really nice corn soup with crab arancini, but one inexplicable serving glitch - they left the beets off the beet salad. Paella inauthentic but delicious, rib eye tough but flavorful, wild king salmon excellent. Small portions but sufficient.
C.L.: Sounds like a mixed experience, but leaning toward the positive. That said, a beet salad without beets is . . . well, that just ain't right - especially for a place that served me beet noodles with a roasted chicken that I still remember (fondly!).
Reader: How would you rate (in what order) Tiffin, Minar Palace, Ekta or other?
C.L: Tiffin, Ekta, Karma . . . . . . . . . Minar Palace. (did I put enough ellipses in there?)
Great American Beer Fest Local Winners
Last weekend in Denver
Stoudts Heifer-In-Wheat, Stoudt Brewing Co., Adamstown, Pa.; South German-style Hefeweizen (65 Entries)
Saison Vautour, McKenzie Brew House, Malvern; French- and Belgian-style Saison (52)
Pig Iron Porter, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Media; Robust Porter (53)
Russian Imperial Stout, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, Media; Imperial Stout (50)
Flying Mouflan, Troegs Brewery, Harrisburg; Barley Wine-Style Ale (57)
Hop Back Amber Ale, Troegs Brewery, Harrisburg; American-Style Amber/Red Ale (83 Entries)
Kellerbier, Triumph Brewing Co., Philadelphia; Kellerbier/Zwickelbier (24)
Dunkel Lager, Triumph Brewing Co., Philadelphia; European-Style Dunkel (19)
Troegenator, Troegs Brewery, Harrisburg; Bock (36)
Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Weyerbacher Brewing Co., Easton; Field Beer (28 Entries)
The Jaspers, Bullfrog Brewery, Williamsport, Pa.; Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer (54)