Grillaz always enjoy Thanksgiving dinner, even though it does not involve any grilling. An afternoon feast of fresh turkey with stuffing made with fresh sage, Parker House rolls mopping up gravy that overflowed from garlic mashed potatoes, scalloped corn and broccoli “Bob” (rab), finished with pumpkin and apple pies leave Grillaz in the mood for something special. What sip could fit in with a menu such as that as an equal and a peer?
This Thanksgiving Grillaz enjoyed a Dalmore 15. This splendid single malt Scotch has a deep, rich taste with hints of chocolate and raisin amid the flavors of sherry casks, and dovetailed in quite nicely at the end of a hearty, earthy meal. Sitting by the fireside in a state of blissful relaxation, surrounded by family and friends, the Grillaz sipped this treat late into the evening. Five stars.
Grillaz, always inquisitive, learned from the Mayflower Brewing Company that the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower drank beer as a safe alternative to water on their long, famous voyage to the New World – “Men, women and children drank beer daily, and sailors aboard the Mayflower received a daily ration of a gallon.” Grillaz would willingly have been deck hands on the Mayflower.
Grillaz could simply have purchased a six pack, but we have been having fun exploring local breweries’ products at local pubs that serve good food. We sauntered over to the Wild Horse Cafe, where Mayflower IPA is kept on tap, and sidled up to the bar. Clay, one of our favorite bartenders, poured us a long cool draft of Mayflower IPA. It is a fine, well-balanced IPA, with light hops and none of that over-the-top sweetness sometimes found. This is an American IPA, using hops from the Pacific Northwest to give it a piney flavor and fruity aroma.
We ordered Thai Fry Poutine and another Mayflower IPA to wash it down. Ohhh, an excellent combination, leaving us full and satisfied. The Mayflower, with its balanced hoppiness (disregard any claims you may hear of it being powerfully hoppy) , stood up well with the ambitious flavorings of the poutine.
Grillaz is always searching for local gems, and we recently discovered Green Head IPA by Newburyport Brewing Company. We discovered it entirely by chance while browsing the web on a lazy Sunday morning, and we new instantly that our mission for the day was to sip that beer. The brewery provides tours, but not on Sundays, and we did not recall seeing their beer in stores. To our good fortune, their web site lists establishments that serve their beer on tap – brilliant!
Being a beautiful, early-autumn day, we worked up a healthy appetite and corresponding thirst with a hike at Old Town Hill, one of the Trustees of Reservations properties. Our hike ended with a view of an iconic New England salt marsh that borders woodlands; the tree leaves were just starting to change color.
We motored on over to Grog in down town Newburyport, spying the Green Head IPA tap as we took a seat at the bar. This beer is categorized as a West Coast IPA, which, in Grillaz’ view, means that it is very bitter, has some citrus flavor, and has minimal malt sweetness. The beer has a slightly unusual hazy, coppery color with a vibrant aroma of hops and citrus with perhaps something of a pine resin thrown in. The taste was hoppy with, thankfully, only a slight bit of citrus that cleansed the palate, leaving it ready for another sip. Ah, perfect.
As we dined on crab cakes and a second Green Head, we had a pleasant conversation with a young man who had moved from San Diego just the day before. He fit right in Grillaz style: he enjoys IPAs (he favors Stone Ruination from San Diego), tasty food (including creative uses of habanero peppers), and good conversation wherever it may be found. And also like Grillaz, he is on the never ending quest to find a little time to relax and enjoy these things. Grillaz next stop, by the way, will be at by Newburyport Brewing Company for that tour.
On a whim, Grillaz went to McKinnon’s and got some St. Louis Cut ribs. These pork ribs have the bone and cartilage removed, yielding some nice hunks o’ meat. Mmmm, hunks ‘o meat.
We dry-rubbed them with Ad Hoc Sweet and Spicy BBQ Rub and let them sit in the fridge overnight. Grillaz has found through experimentation that a dry rub overnight imparts more flavor to the ribs than a liquid BBQ sauce. It seems to penetrate and stain the meet more deeply. We then baked the ribs in the oven on a cookie sheet with a little water and covered loosely with foil at 222 F for eight hours until they were completely tender. Then we smoked them at low temp with apple wood chips for two hours.
Finally, we mopped ’em good with Two Fat Guys Smoky BBQ Sauce. Several times over the final half hour on the smoker, we coated with TFG and and let the mild heat barely caramelize the sauce. Flip, repeat. The ribs were unbelievable, especially when we doused them with extra TFG at the table. The sauce is a little sweet, little spicy, and a little smoky, all in perfect balance. We used up the jar the following day as a sauce on our lunch. By the way, Grillaz discovered Two Fat Guys completely by chance when buying amazing brats at Jones Country Meat when Grillaz was the Guest Griller for an Illinois Family Reunion.
Grillaz recently had an opportunity to be the Celebrity Grillers for a family reunion in rural Illinois. The family grew up decades ago as farmers in Southern Illinois – think Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn – and in adulthood most of them migrated to Northern Illinois following industrialized jobs. But the reunion was an unrepentant “get your hill billy on” event, complete with driving antique tractors, shooting at squirrels, and grilling meat.
We placed an order for fresh made bratwurst at the local favorite Jones Country Meats. Knowing our customers, half of or order was their trusty regular brats. For the more adventurous, we grabbed a few Bacon & Cheddar, Chipotle, and Philly brats.</>
The brats cooked up spectacularly. Jones is well known for making their brats a little on the lean side, and that held true here. The sausages cooked up flavorful and with out a lot of flare ups to cause burning. Along with a few burgers, side dishes, and an authentic bowl of Great Gramma’s home made, down on the farm banana pudding, everyone feasted country style.
For more than two decades, before we were Grillaz, we often hosted guests who would invariably ask us for a guided tour of historic Salem. Some of Salem and its history is interesting, much of what the city offers is tacky Halloween stuff, but invariably a day of site seeing would leave us all parched. One of our favorite solutions is Salem Beer Works.
We recently decided to stop for lunch at Salem Beer works just for the fun of it – we had no guests in tow. We pulled up to the steel-topped bar and engaged in a good craft beer discussion with the bartender. Understanding our likings and his offerings, he deftly steered us to the Custom House IPA and the Double Pale Ale. As some bluesy Stevie Ray Vaughan played in the background, we started in on the Custom House IPA. This is a good “starter” IPA, with a pleasant bitterness and good balance – nothing unexpected or overwhelming, but with a good dose of hops. At this point our charcuterie plate arrived, offering a fine selection of cured meats and cheeses to make a satisfying lunch and give these tasty beers something to wash down. We moved on to the Double Pale Ale, which is a hoppy concoction that veers in a citrus direction. This drought is a little more adventurous than the Custom House, providing a more complicated palate and a variety of subtly flavors to mull over.
These two beers are very fine, and Grillaz will be back to try them again. And keep in mind that Salem Beer works changes its beer lineup, so there is always something interesting to try.
Grillaz recently tried the Macallan 12 year old Sherry Oak scotch whisky, and it provided us with a mighty fine sippin’ experience. This scotch is aged in Spanish sherry casks for a dozen years. It is deep gold in color, with flavors of vanilla, dried fruit, spice, smoke, and the sherry oak casks. It paired nicely with our baby back ribs and steak tips that we had for our July 4 cookout.
The 12 year old Sherry Oak is what we would call an “accessible” scotch, meaning that it is likely to appeal to those new to scotch in addition to experienced scotch drinkers. Its flavor is not overly complex, and it has light fruit notes, making it appealing to a large audience. For more accomplished scotch drinkers, this remains a fine drink that we would always welcome. We hear that the Macallan 15 year Fine Oak scotch adds a degree of complexity and sophistication by virtue of its longer aging time and the different barrels. That is next on the Grillaz wish list.
Grillaz recently invested in a bottle of Rowan’s Creek Straight Kentucky Bourbon. This is a small batch whiskey from Willet. It tastes of spice, caramel, and the charred oak cask that it is aged in for 12 years. And even at 100 it has no bite. It is a dark amber whiskey that comes in a bottle that has a distinctive, hand written label. This is a 5 star bourbon, and Grillaz recommends it any time.
Maker’s Mark is the Grillaz staple bourbon – it is always stocked in the liquor cabinet, and we enjoy it neat or on the rocks.
Maker’s is a small batch whiskey made from corn and some wheat, but no rye at all. It is bottled at 90 proof in the distinctive squarish bottle with the iconic red wax seal. It is slightly sweet and has something of a caramel and vanilla flavor to it, which is accompanied by a smooth, easy finish.
Grillaz recently discovered Old Ipswich Greenhead Spiced Rum, a limited release byTurkey Shore Distilleries. This distillery open up just a couple years ago, and you can read about it here.
Greenhead has an interesting taste from a combination of lemon grass, green tea, and mint. We first tried it mixed in the outstanding summertime mixed drink known as the Crane, served at Salt Kitchen and Rum Bar. You can learn how to make it here.