Too Much Is Not Enough at Yard House; Super Bowl at X2O; Look Out, Tanking Restaurants: Gordon Ramsay Is Looking at Westchester
Too Much is Not Enough at Yard House
I say this with love: Beer geeks are the baseball stats freaks of the beverage world. They’re those lonely guys who call sports radio stations at 1 am to share insane rants on Jorge Posada’s shots on goal or whatever. Okay, so I don’t know anything about baseball, but my point is that—for beer geeks, anyway—enjoying a tasty beverage involves rolling around in nerdy details of geography, contents, and classifications.
Knowing this, I was dismayed to see the beer list at the enormous Yard House in Yonkers, which is the first local outpost of a beer-centric chain that debuted in 1996 in Long Beach, California. Each Yard House offers between 130 and 250 beers on tap, which are slung in “shorties” (9.5- ounce tastes), pints, “goblets” (actually, tulip glasses) and a few predetermined “six-pack” flights. As you might expect, you’ll also see yard glasses—here, 32-ounce half-yards. These are the phallic, dare-you-to-drink-it vessels popularized by American tourists and frat boys. Currently, the Yard House has outposts in 12 states, including Hawaii, and is planning to open a new venture in Nyack’s Palisades Center in 2012.
For a chain restaurant, Yard House has a lot to recommend it. Its beer prices are low and its span is wildly inclusive, offering the exciting possibility of sampling many hard-to-find beers in one place. It’s family friendly and group friendly (and includes some super-deep, 10-person booths); plus, its menu offers everything from the standard steaks and burgers to seafood, Hawaiian poke, and Korean tacos. Admittedly, such eclecticism may not exactly espouse current gourmet values, but a welcoming sense of inclusiveness pervades this restaurant.
Beer-geek heaven. Or is it? In what I can only assume is a tactic to demystify beer (and declutter its menu), Yard House organizes its vast list by beer style (Bavarian Hefeweizen, American Strong Ale, etc.), offing tasting notes for each category, but omitting critical beer-geek stats. Here’s what you won’t learn from the Yard House’s beer list:
• How much does the shorty/pint/half-yard of beer cost?
• What is its ABV (Alcohol by Volume)?
• What state or country produced the beer (and, most critically, is the beer local)?
And just forget about learning the IBUs (International Bittering Units), used to classify the flavor of very hoppy beers. While Yard House’s “six-pack” flights are a welcome offering, the few flights listed are shackled to very basic beer classifications. Recently, we saw “Belgian Six-Pack” (which contained both American and Belgian beers) and a “Traditional Six Pack.” It seems like a waste that these flights ignore on-trend geek magnets: sour beers and local beers.
And there are two other worrisome things to consider while visiting the Yard House. Freshness is a critical aspect of tapped beer. One needs to seriously question how frequently the more esoteric (aka non-selling) kegs on that 130+ list are changed. I asked Joshua M. Bernstein, whose book, Brewed Awakening, tracks the modern craft beer movement, about this very thing. He responded, "While I appreciate the variety of craft beer, I always hesitate before buying a pint from a place with more than a hundred taps. It's tough to pour through that many kegs, which means that beers are often not super-fresh. This can be compounded by tap lines that are not cleaned or changed as often as they need to be."
The Yard House addresses this classic beer-geek concern with a highly publicized system of long, refrigerated tap lines that span the restaurant in a design feature that celebrates the pipes’ elegant curves. To preserve freshness, the chain maintains and serves all of its beers at the brain-freeze temperatures 34° to 36° F, which—as with red wine—effectively narrows (and distorts) the flavor profiles of full-flavored, hoppier beers. And, while the phalanx of young personnel may be effective at delivering the vast menu and beer selections, they are often not able to provide the basic information (ABV, state or country of origin, individual flavor profiles) missing from the menu.
Seriously icy beer at Tap House
But, on some level, so what? The Yard House is like a Disney World of Beer. It’s fun, loud, and family friendly, and there you can finally sample the beer icon made famous in John Steinbeck’s book, Cannery Row. At the Yard House, look for a beer float made with vanilla ice cream and Young’s Double Chocolate Stout. It’s actually delicious, so be sure to save room after all that poke.
February: Cold Month of Hot Events
February sucks. It’s got all the damp and cold of winter but with no gift-based holiday on the horizon. Summer is, like, a whole year away – good thing we have these great parties coming up.
Super Bowl Parties at Restaurant X and X2O
February 5, 5pm
$100 per guest, exclusive of tax and gratuity
Here’s what I like about Chef Peter Kelly’s two Super Bowl parties: Though there are wide-screen TVs visible from every seat, you can simply ignore them and busy yourself with food and drink. After a few cocktails, you could just watch the screaming sports fans for fun, so everyone wins. Here’s the menu (PS, you should probably arrive hungry).
Super Bowl XLVI Menu
Sushi Bar Nigiri, Sashimi, Maki Rolls & Sushi - at X2O in Yonkers
Raw Bar Oyster, Clams, Shrimp - at Restaurant X in Congers
Jumbo Chicken Wings Roquefort Dip
Parsley & Cheese Sausage in a Blanket
Prosciutto & Fontina Panini
BBQ Pork & Jalapeño Jack Quesadilla
Sabrett & Niman Ranch Hot Dogs on Brioche Buns with Red Onion Marmalade
Beer Batter Shrimp Ginger & Horseradish
-The Line of Scrimmage-
Truffled Popcorn, Garlic Chips, Honey-Roasted Nuts, Crisp Tortillas
-The Red Zone-
Cowboy Rib-Eye Sauce Béarnaise, Gratin of Gruyère Baked Potatoes, Creamed Spinach
Roast Rack of Lamb Rosemary Jus
Honey Glazed Ham Dijon Mustard Sauce
Tortellini with Pecans and Prosciutto
Sautéed Breast of Capon Wild Mushroom Risotto and Madeira
King Salmon Ragout of Orzo & Broccoli Rabe
Cold Antipasto Sopressata, CopaSalami, Mozzarella & Grilled Vegetables
Classic Caesar Salad
-The End Zone-
An Array of Passed Desserts
Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar, Congers NY
Please call for reservations & information
X2O Xaviars on the Hudson, Yonkers NY
Please call for reservations & information
Brewery Ommegang Beer Dinner at Harper’s Restaurant & Bar
February 23, 7:30pm
$55, exclusive of tax and tip
From the announcement, “Due to the sensational response to our Captain Lawrence Beer Dinner, we are pleased to announce that Harper's will be hosting a beer dinner with New York's premier brewer of Belgian-style beer. Belgian Beer. Local Food. Four Courses. Four Brews. $55.00.” For developing menu and paring information, call (914) 693-2306.
Gordon Ramsay is Stalking Westchester Fields for Kitchen Nightmares
I don’t mind saying that this man gives me the fear. As soon as I got Netflix, I plowed through his long-running British TV show, Kitchen Nightmares http://www.bbcamerica.com/kitchen-nightmares – at first, hating the red-faced git, then finally coming to love him. Don’t judge Ramsay by the Fox show. Check out the British series that launched his television career. On it, he may scream, but he also rolls up his sleeves and jumps on the line. Anyway, while the current American series dials up his rage (and tunes out his empathy), it’s still a pretty delicious guilty pleasure. Ramsay’s production company is looking locally for restaurants that might welcome his help/predation. From an email: “Fox's hit show starring Gordon Ramsay KITCHEN NIGHTMARES is CASTING IMMEDIATELY! Are you trying to make some green, but still running in the red? Or maybe you have a great location, but are unable to bring in the customers? Email us immediately if interested, TWINSWORLD1@AOL.COM or KNAUDITIONS@GMAIL.COM. FEEL FREE TO NOMINATE A RESTAURANT YOU KNOW, CAN BE ANONYMOUS!” PS, just note the scary use of all caps here. The email continues, “Include: your name , contact info, name of your restaurant, where you are located, type of cuisine you serve, how many seats you have, how long you have been open, photos or website if available, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, why you need our help. The MORE INFO THE BETTER.”
Foie Gras Tortellini with Duck Consommé at X2O
Here’s a dish that delivers a powerful sensual hit without overindulging in the cheap thrills of fat, salt, and sugar. It arrives as a spare, prettily plated dish of tortellini and roasted maitake mushrooms, scattered with a few sweet/tart ice-wine-plumped white raisins. At the table, a deeply carnal duck broth is poured over the top, enveloping the lucky diner in a cloud of heady, attention-getting fragrance. Dip in: a morsel of sweetness here, a hint of lush fat there, and throughout, the cleanest, most precise expression of umami around. PS: it’s even better paired with a glass of Bodegas Dios Baca oloroso sherry or - per Xaviars Restaurant Group Wine Director and Sommelier Billy Rattner’s suggestion - Rare Wine Co.’s Charleston Madeira.