Pumpkins and Oktoberfest Beers: Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale

November 2, 2012 at 2:35 AM (Beer) (, , , , )

Otter Creek Brewing, beerBeer: Pumpkin Ale
Brewery: Wolaver’s Organic Brewing
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.8%
Where I Got It: Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits, Brookline
What I Thought of It: Solid. I generally prefer the darker, heavier beers, especially when it comes to pumpkin, but this guy had a nice balance of pumpkin (all from Vermont) and “spices.” Rarely do I ever see the actual spices listed on the label, but I got some cinnamon and a touch of clove. I could also just be craving pie right now. While this isn’t a deciding factor for me, it’s also USDA certified organic. Not bad, but not the most exciting beer of the season.

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Pumpkins and Oktoberfest Beers: Samuel Adams Fat Jack

September 18, 2012 at 2:03 AM (Beer) (, , , , , )

By Boston Beer CompanyBeer: Fat Jack
Brewery: Samuel Adams
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 8.5%
Where I Got It: Coolidge Corner Wine & Spirits, Brookline
What I Thought of It: Sam Adams Fat Jack, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. When I talk about how much I enjoy pumpkin beers, this is what I’m talking about. As the folks at Boston Beer Co. share, 28+ pounds of pumpkin per barrel along with “classic pumpkin pie spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice” are brewed together (with the regular beer stuff) to bless us with pumpkin pie in a bottle. Flavorful and warming – the em-bottle-ment of my favorite time of year. Go buy some! Next time I’ll definitely have to try it with the cinnamon-sugar rim.

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Pumpkins and Oktoberfest Beers: Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat

September 3, 2012 at 5:41 PM (Beer) (, , , , )

beerBeer: Pumpkin Wheat
Brewery: Shock Top
Style: Pumpkin Ale
ABV: 5.2%
Where I Got It: Paddy O’s, Boston
What I Thought of It: Not all pumpkin beers have to fill you up after one serving. As a wheat beer, Pumpkin Wheat was a nice choice on a somewhat toasty day in late August. Light and refreshing, but still sated the pumpkin craving. Added bonus: it’s served with a dusting of cinnamon and sugar! Unfortunately as the head dissolved, the garnish sank to the bottom of the glass (stick to the edge of the glass, kids), but I’m still counting it as a win. Generally I prefer the darker brews, but for a wheat (and an Anheuser Busch at that), I’d consider ordering it again if it’s 90 degrees outside.

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Pumpkins and Oktoberfest Beers: Blue Hills Brewery Stingy Jack

August 28, 2012 at 2:07 AM (Beer) (, , , )

Beer: Stingy Jackbeer, pumpkin lager
Brewery:
Blue Hills Brewery
Style: Pumpkin Lager
ABV: 5.8%
Where I Got It: The Meat House Brookline
What I Thought of It: This year I’m running with the theme of “if I haven’t seen it before, I’m trying it.” There will be risks and rewards to this methodology. While Stingy Jack didn’t really fall into the “I’ve made a huge mistake” category, the flavor was a little… stingy. Not that I was seeing Bud Light fairies after the first sip, but it wasn’t exciting. It was like drinking strained pumpkin with some yeast and hops – pretty predictable. Would I buy another one? Nah, but at least I know what I’m missing now.

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Russell House Tavern and Brasserie JO on Social: “You’re Doing It Right!”

February 19, 2012 at 3:00 PM (Customer Service, Food) (, , , , , )

Newsflash: I love and live on food, and I love and live on social. I hope you were sitting down for that, because I know it’s shocking. So naturally when I find fantastic eateries who are using social media beyond just tweeting what the daily specials are on occasion, I try to make a point of going back… again, and again, and again.

You're doing it wrong failGiven my 160-character background, it’s a sad sight when I see one of my watering holes or favourite brands join Twitter or Facebook and not use it to interact with fans or followers, choosing instead to use social as another one-way push platform. Luckily, I know of two wonderful establishments who do no such thing. Ladies and gentlemen, give it up for Harvard Square’s Russell House Tavern and Back Bay’s Brasserie JO.

One of my first visits to Russell House Tavern (@RussellHouseTav) was a result of my having a little time to kill and having tweeted with their chef, Michael Scelfo, once or twice previously. As I’m wont to do, I checked in via Foursquare and probably tweeted something about the incredible breadth of the beer list to both RHT and Scelfo. After a brief back and forth on the Twitter Tubes, I had the privilege to meet the chef himself (and sample some delicious sea bass) in-person. I don’t know if it’s just me, but meeting the folks responsible for spoiling my palate has always been a thrill. I’ve only met a handful in Boston, and 1.) it makes me feel important and appreciated, and 2.) I just like knowing the personality that goes into a menu. I’m a people person. What do you expect?

Russell House Tavern downstairs bar Boston CambridgeScelfo is definitely the heart of RHT, but there’s much more that contributes to my love of the place: the layout, the atmosphere, the management, and the bar staff (I’m sure the waitstaff is also wonderful, but I’ve never dined away from the bar). On more recent visits, I’ve met the folks behind the Twitter handle (specifically Tyler Titherington – lovely meeting you!) and learned to trust the beer recommendations from bartenders Adam and Lou (you have to ask because the variety on the menu will, in fact, blow your mind).

I’ve also learned that you can’t lose with anything on the menu, having tried something new every visit and never being disappointed. Recent highlights: beef heart ravioli, burrata salad (the first time I ate my brussel sprouts!), bacon-wrapped paté, foie custard, and ox tongue meatballs. In short, Scelfo can do no wrong. This all said, I don’t think I ever would have visited unprompted if that online rapport wasn’t there, first. I’m not entirely a creature of habit, but I need a reason to try something new: a friend’s recommendation, an event, or even just an invitation to visit from a restaurant’s Twitter account – which leads me to my next social shout-out.

Brasserie JO (@brasseriejo) was actually the first restaurant I visited in Boston several years ago when I was still looking at colleges. Goodness, that was a while ago – so long ago that Twitter was still a lower-cased verb – but it was still a tasty experience (if you’re ever there for brunch, try the chocolate French toast). Fast-forward to when checking in on Foursquare is almost on par with breathing when it comes to my natural instincts. I had just done so at the Prudential Center (check in and, yes, continue breathing) when I received at at-reply from JO, suggesting that I stop in because it came @BostonTweet– and @eric_andersen-recommended – adding an #IWithThatWereTrue tag to signify the jest behind the latter end of the statement. I appreciated the chutzpah, and given that I didn’t have any concrete plans, I decided to oblige and swing in for a beer (and maybe some escargot).

After a few minutes at the bar and feeling a little cheeky, I tweeted back to them saying, “I’m here – where are you?” While whomever was responsible for the Twitter account wasn’t there, he or she did inform management that I was in the house, and I did get to meet some of the kitchen magic as well as one of the managers (sadly this was several months ago, so names have escaped me – this kudos is LONG overdue and I apologise). Oh, and I was also introduced to a divine charcuterie plate, but that relationship didn’t last long – relationships with fine cuisine rarely do.

Thanks to social, I’ve turned into one of those annoying consumers who gets cranky when brands on social don’t interact (see the beginning of this post). When a restaurant invites me in, and then rewards me for doing so, then yes, I’ll be more inclined to return. In fact, I’m pretty sure JO was the restaurant of choice during the following visit from the parentals – and again, one of the managers (I remember that time it was Annmarie Blythe) stopped by to say hello. “Getting a Twitter” just doesn’t cut it for B2C brands. Thankfully there are some great establishments in and around Boston who recognize that, and those of us who live online certainly aren’t going to ignore that when it comes time to make a purchasing decision.

Have you had an amazing experience with a local eatery, thanks to social? Let me know in the comments so I can check it out (let me know where the crappy experiences were so I can avoid those, too).

If You Go…

Russell House Tavern
14 JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 500-3055
http://www.russellhousecambridge.com/

Brasserie JO
120 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02116
(617) 425-3240
http://www.brasseriejo.com/

Today’s Tunes
“Delicate,” Damien Rice
“Amie,” Damien Rice
“9 Crimes,” Damien Rice
“Dressed to Kill,” Landon Pigg

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The Meat House: Disney World for Social Foodies

September 10, 2011 at 10:41 PM (Food) (, , , , , )

A quick glance at my Foursquare feed would probably reveal at least one recent check-in at The Meat House in Coolidge Corner accompanied by “omgomgomgomnomnomnom” or some variation thereof. It’s a specialty grocery store filled with all kinds of deliciousness (including a solid beer and wine selection) and super-helpful staff – oh, and a heckuva butcher. Even better, The Meat House embraces social media to almost no end. It’s a wonder the place isn’t called Brittany Falconer Land, but I’m sure marketing is working on that.

I’ll yap about their online presence first, but then I’ll sing the praises of their good ole’ fashioned customer service. The Meat House opened in Coolidge Corner maybe about a year ago, and since then I’ve become somewhat hooked. At first I went in just to see what was up – with a name like “The Meat House,” I was bound to find something I liked. Sure enough I did, made my purchase, which came with a free package of steak tips for my first-time visit, and went on my merry way. A short time later, I saw a familiar name in my daily Groupon Email: $20 for $40 worth of fare at The Meat House. I didn’t have to think long about that one. After that, the other online channels made themselves known to me: Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and SCVNGR.* Finding a place with a neighborhood feel that connects with me both online and offline and offers fantastic food and service is quite the boon, and as a result The Meat House has earned a spot on my top five favourite regular places in Boston.

The Meat House: Go ahead and tell me you're not salivating, liar.I did note that the store connects both online and off. Let me tell you about the Brookline staff (I’ll drop names where I can). For starters, you will not be ignored. Within 10 seconds of entering the store, someone is going to ask you how you’re doing and if you need help finding anything. If it’s your first time visiting, you’ll be offered a quick tour (did you know you can order alligator or whatever other exotic meat you want?) and a package of The Meat House’s delicious steak tips (grill them). Need a recommendation? Ask anyone there – the entire staff is incredibly knowledgeable and more than happy to share expertise on pairings, preparation tips and anything else you may be wondering about culinarily. While The Meat House is a chain, it certainly doesn’t feel like one. When I walked in today I think at least 50 percent of the staff knew my name, and the rest recognised me at the least. Granted, I go probably twice a week, but I’m sure everyone else is treated just as warmly. Speaking of not feeling like a chain, each store is unique in stocking as much local fare as possible. I think Brookline’s store carries at least 30 percent local goods. Translation: buy delicious, and be nice to the local economy.

In addition to being able to order alligator, or venison, or ostrich, or whatever unconventional animal you enjoy consuming, if you have a hankering for a specific beer or wine, go talk to Steve. He’s responsible for the store’s alcohol content and will work with you to get your beer or wine of choice (assuming the store is already working with the distributor). I had been looking for Atwater’s Vanilla Java Porter – it’s amazing and you should be looking for it right now – for months. As far as I know, it isn’t exactly mainstream in the Boston area (but it should be). Once I spoke with Seth about it, he introduced me to Steve who checked the database and, sure enough, was able to ship some in for me. I’ve received some great treatment at Boston restaurants, but never has a grocery store gone above and beyond for me to provide me with the best experience possible.

Finally, obligatory shout-out to Jamie, the marketing person in town who, as far as I know, is responsible for the Groupons and Facebook updates. Once again, her work expands beyond the online realm. I’ve seen her in the store as well as at countless events, spreading The Meat House Gospel (often with coupons in-tow). Her job is awesome, as is she. Say hi if you see her in the store. And then tell her to do an interview with me for beyond 140. 😉

If You Go
The Meat House
1285 Beacon Street
Coolidge Corner
Brookline, MA 02446
Open Daily – Summer: 9am – 9pm

*I don’t use SCVNGR, so I don’t actually know what having a presence on the site/app does, but I still wanted to include it.

Today’s Tunes
Black Sheep, Martin Sexton

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