Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Beer & Bacon Day

Back when we attended our underground dinner this past June (see earlier posting), Mrs. Hackknife and I were clued in to a little foodie secret: there's a bar in town (Paddy Long's, 1028 W. Diversey) conducting a beer and bacon tasting. Yes, that's right.....you can actually pay someone to give you five different bacons paired with five different beers. What's more, we were able to get a discount on the tasting via a Living Social deal (only $20 per person versus $35 at full price). Having secured our discounted date w/pork and barley, we anxiously awaited the evening of our reservation, which finally arrived a week ago Saturday. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself as there were other noteworthy encounters with the two products of honor that day. Let me explain....

Those of you who are frequent readers may recall that I've got a side initiative going on this year where my brother-in-law Dan, cousin-in-law Bobby, and I have been trying to tour and sample the wares of as many local breweries as possible. Having already visited Three Floyds' in Munster and Two Brothers in Warrenville, we scheduled sort of an impromptu tour to Revolution Brewing (a relatively new microbrewery located at 2323 N. Milwaukee) the same afternoon as the tasting at Paddy Long's. With our tour starting at noon and the beer/bacon tasting at 7, I somehow managed to convince Mrs. Hackknife that it would make the most sense for me to simply stay in the city until our tasting and just meet up with her later. Seeing before me a long day of alcohol/bar food consumption, I felt the need to fortify myself with a good breakfast, including homemade pancakes and turkey bacon ("Are you insane? We're having bacon for dinner!" Mrs. Hackknife helpfully noted, but turkey bacon doesn't really count, right?). After meeting up with the boys and with a cold Cross of Gold golden ale in hand, we received the grand tour of Revolution Brewing's operations. The production area itself was pretty small and the tour pretty laid back, but what they lack in space/pretension, they make up for in beer quality. All 3 beers I sampled there that afternoon (the Scottish ale and a Belgian dubbel fermented w/unrefined Mexican sugar by the name of El Clavo y La Cruz were the other two) were mighty tasty, as was the pepper and egg pizza (poblano cream sauce, baby red potato, red pepper, jalapeno, mozzarella cheese, and scrambled egg, with bacon added for a buck, of course) they helped me wash down. The only black mark on the visit was having to watch my beloved Boilermakers cough up a 28-13 4th quarter lead in E. Lansing to No. 11 Michigan State, eventually succumbing 35-31, but I suppose I can't hold the brewery responsible for the football team's shortcomings this season (sigh).

Feeling the need for a venue change and a twinge of nostalgia, we headed into Bucktown towards Dan's old condo and a favorite nearby watering hole from days past: Piece (1927 W. North), a great microbrew joint and New Haven-style-thin-crust pizzeria where we have spent many good times (including Dan's bachelor party). The restaurant is part owned by the guys from Cheap Trick, which might help explain the emphasis on beer/pizza. I decided to stick with a strict liquid diet this time, choosing a rye ale called Worryin' Ale. It was good, but Bobby's Wingnut IPA was definitely better (and this from someone who doesn't generally like IPAs). Vowing to also get pizza on our next return visit and bidding Bobby adieu, Dan and I opted to refuel at a much lauded BBQ place just up the block called Lillie's Q (1856 W. North), part of the city's healthy (I mean size, not, um, medically beneficial) crop of new BBQ restaurants to open in 2010. Lillie Q's bills itself as "Southern-style", which can mean a few different things; regardless, the meat was outstanding no matter how you classify it. We both chose the tri-tip beef sandwich, served without sauce on a buttered brioche roll, with me adding cole slaw on the sandwich and a side of beans for my order (see Photo 1 above). The combo of smoked beef, crunchy slaw, and rich buttery bread was nothing short of sublime. The beans were a little sweet for my liking, but the main course clearly didn't disappoint and I can't wait for the opportunity to try the pulled pork there.

Fully sated, I waddled back to the car and did everything in my power to summon the intestinal fortitude to psyche myself up for the beer/bacon tasting yet to come. After picking up Mrs. Hackknife at the train station, we arrived at Paddy Long's early and were directed to spots at the bar. The tasting started about 20 minutes late and we had repeated issues with the bacon girl passing us over in favor of the tables behind us (inevitably, she would run out before getting to us, then forget that we never received any, causing a bartender to head frantically back to the kitchen to have the chef cook up some more - this happened to us no less than 3 times). Service issues aside, we sampled the following beer/bacon pairings: Metropolitan Krankshaft with Irish bacon, Trumer Pils with peppercorn bacon (see Photo #2 above), Lagunitas IPA with Danish bacon, Dogfish Head Indian Brown Ale with hickory smoked bacon, and Stone Smoked Porter with maple brown sugar bacon. Of these combos, we liked the 2nd and 5th the best, although most of the bacon seemed especially fatty (even for bacon). We received a few extra pours of beer as compensation for the extended waiting, but all in all, I'd have to say that it wasn't quite the great experience we'd hoped for (i.e., if you don't get a discounted deal like we did, don't bother).

After all of this excessive consumption, you might think that I'd suffer some consequences, and you'd be right as Beer & Bacon Day was followed by Soothe-Stomach-with-Oatmeal-and-Stay-Close-to-Restroom Day on Sunday (alas, I'm not as young as I used to be)....

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