The food abides…

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Review – Cask Social Kitchen

I had very fond memories in the late 90’s of Hospitality Night every Sunday at the old Mangroves on Howard Avenue. Perhaps it was the desire to not tarnish those memories that caused me to avoid any other establishment that was built on that location but I unconsciously steered clear of that area for far longer than I should have. It wasn’t until recently, when a good friend’s birthday dinner was planned there, that I ventured into that spot upon which now resides, Cask Social Kitchen.

While the soul of the old Mangroves is gone, it’s been replaced with a similar contemporary feeling accented with lots of barrels and exposed light bulbs. It has a relatively small parking lot for such a big building so the complementary valet was greatly appreciated especially in an area like SoHo where parking is usually brutal.

As if the name wasn’t any indication, Cask features wine and lots of signature whiskey-based (among other) cocktails, but I was impressed with the amount of local and craft beer they offered. Ordered the Spacegrass IPA from Angry Chair Brewing right down the road in Seminole Heights and it was a perfect starting brew.

They had a wide range of apps, some of which were rather unique. I went with the Buffalo Cauliflower and this dish was spectacular. I honestly couldn’t even tell I was eating cauliflower because it was breaded so well and had just the right amount of heat. I’m not quite sure why it was served with ranch dressing instead of bleu cheese and that’s the only thing I would change about the dish.

Some of my friends ordered the BBQ Short Rib Flatbread with Caramelized Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, Goat Cheese and Roasted Portabello Mushrooms. They could not stop raving about this and just looking at it made me sorry I don’t eat red meat

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By now you’ve probably noticed the “Social Kitchen” moniker tagged onto their name. Cask has a their own take on “family style” serving that they call “social eating.” A good number of the menu items have two prices. One price is for a single serving and another is for a group serving intended to share.

You’ve no doubt read my thoughts on other places that try this concept and my disappointment when it doesn’t quite work out. To this day, I don’t understand how places like the Rooster and the Till can “encourage sharing” with such small portions.

But this is where Cask knocks it out of the park. A single serving is a full portion and a sharing portion is a serving and a half. This is the perfect amount of food and Cask nailed it; this spot-on structure truly encourages sharing. It also helped that the food was prepared extremely well and it had one of those across-the-board menus that has something for everyone, but we all took advantage of this and the passing around of plates felt like a bona-fide communal experience.

I went with the Rock Shrimp & Lobster Ravioli with Fire Roasted Plum Tomatoes and Sweet Basil. There was a ton of seafood jammed into this dish and the sauce was perfect.

One of my friends ordered the Citrus Scallops with Sauteed Spinach, Grilled Sweet Potato, Caramelized Grapefruit and a Citrus Brown Butter. The scallops were huge, the grapefruit was an interesting tropical take and the brown butter sauce was amazing.

Another member of our group ordered the Chicken & Waffles with Vanilla Cream, Orange Spiked Maple Syrup and Honey Butter. Right up there with Shrimp & Grits, Chicken & Waffles is another one of my favorite southern dishes and Cask did an amazing job with it. The orange maple syrup was a nice touch and added a little bit of Florida flair.

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While they did have an extensive desert menu, since it was a birthday, we brought a cake and Cask had no problems with this.

The service was impeccable. Even though there were sixteen of us and we had only one server, he never flinched. He explained the serving/pricing structure in a clear way and didn’t hesitate when I asked him what current beer on tap he would recommend. Food came out on time and not a single order was messed up even though he didn’t write anything down.

I can’t think of a single negative thing to say about this establishment and I’d recommend Cask Social Kitchen to anyone especially if you’re in a larger group. It truly is a social experience, the way communal eating was meant to be.

 

Oh, and if you’re there, make sure you post a pic of what you’re noshing on. Vincent Jackson just might regram your photo. Thanks for exposure #83!!!

Tried Cask Social Kitchen? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides….


Winter is here…

Are you ready for the Game of Thrones Season 7 Premiere?

I’ll be pouring Ommegang’s “Bend the Knee,” a golden ale brewed with honey. Theses bottles are so gorgeous I almost don’t want to open them at all. There are three different versions, matte black painted and each adorned with a different house crest (Stark, Targaryen and Lannister respectively).

We can rest assured that someone’s favorite character will come to a grisly end at some point this season but Ommegang’s yearly zythophilan attempt to capture the spirit of the show in a beer is sure to cushion the blow.

Hope everyone enjoys the show tonight…

And remember.. beer is freedom… and the food abides…


Capping off an evening with a blind goat…

Any evening that ends with brews at the Blind Goat after midnight can be considered a good one…


French Toast Double Brown Ale? Yes please…

Oh Funky Buddha… sometimes you just get me…

Saving this bottle for vacation next week. Assuming I can resist the temptation of cracking it open tonight…


Boating Brews and Dockside Eats…

Ma Nature managed to give us one last blast of the dry season (I know I said that last time but the weather continues to surprise) with a cold front that stretched all the way down to us in the Bay Area which very rare in May. Being smart enough not to waste it, our crew headed for the high seas to enjoy some boating and kick-ass weather. Of course the day included some great food and craft beers.

I brought along two six packs for the day. The first was Uinta Brewing’s Baba Black Lager. This brew had the flavor notes of a porter but it was no where near as thick. This boasted some malty notes, some toasted barley and just a hit of hoppiness. For a dark beer this was remarkably smooth and wound up being a perfect brew to enjoy out on the water.

The second was 21st Amendment’s Brew Free! Or Die Blood Orange IPA. I absolutely loved this one. Of all the Blood Orange IPAs I’ve tried recently this was the sweetest. It honestly tasted like a hoppy, boozy Sunkist orange soda and this is a good thing.

The cooler air brought a lot of wind so we stuck to the inter-coastal waterway due to all the chop on the water. This afforded us the chance to hit the Seabreaze Island Grill and Raw Bar in Reddington Shores, probably one of the best dockside seafood eateries I’ve been to in quite a while.

Started with a round of drinks and discovered a much appreciated policy of a free beer if you arrive by boat.

Ordered a plate of Caribbean Island Wings for the table. They were cooked in a flavorful but not overpowering jerk seasoning and served with two dipping sauces.

I’m a sucker for good shellfish so I went with the Island Style Mussels. This was hands-down the largest bowl of mussels I’ve ever eaten and the red sauce it was served in was a perfect complement.

I actually had doubts that I could finish the whole thing but with a little help from my friends I’m able to share this photo of post mussel decimation…

We spent the rest of the day out on the water and then decided to hit the Candy Kitchen in Madeira Beach for some ice cream.

Not much of a sweet tooth but Ice Cream and Peanut Butter would definitely be considered my kryptonites so this Vanilla Peanut Butter Swirl was the one that got me.

Being a vintage candy shop, the Candy Kitchen also boasts what is probably the most distracting bathroom you’re ever likely to see.

 

I always feel a little sad when the dry season ends because I know once the humidity kicks in I will be barricading myself indoors where it’s air-conditioned for the next four months (or longer if the weather the last few years has been any indication). With good food, good beer, amazing weather and some great friends, this weekend was a great way to send the season off in a positive way.

Have some favorite boating brews or dockside eats? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… beer is freedom… and the food abides….


National Beer Day Weekend 2017

I had quite a lot going on for National Beer Day Weekend 2017. There was a bit of serendipity in the fact that Beer Day fell on a Friday, I happened to be able to take the afternoon off of work and Ma Nature decided to give us one last taste of cooler weather as the temp dropped to about 73 degrees.  Perfect storm as far as a good beer-sampling weekend goes.

Started at the Brass Tap with a Victory Kirsch Gose. I’ve mentioned Kirsch before as one of my favorite goses. Tart cherries, a perfect amount of salt and just enough of a hint of coriander to not be overpowering.

Moved on to Funky Buddha’s “What is that, Velvet?” Red Velvet Cake Ale. I love the sweetness that this one has throughout, right down to the cream cheese frosting flavor on the back end. And because of the name I now have Eddie Murphy’s old man voice stuck in my head…

Not everyone was lucky enough to get out of work early on a Friday afternoon so on Saturday our crew observed National Beer Day with a little fiesta at my friends’ lakeside abode. And no beer fiesta is complete without a little cornhole. As you can see. my team is winning…

In the spirit of the day, many new brews were on hand to try.

Brew Hub’s Keybilly Island Ale. Sweeter and less tart than I was expecting but a nice rounded key lime flavor throughout.

Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin. I’ve avoided this beer for quite a while because the price-point pissed me off (unless they’re brewing it with flecks of gold, there is no reason for this to be 16 dollars a six-pack). However after trying it I have to admit this may be worth the price tag as this is an incredible IPA. Hoppy and crisp with solid grapefruit notes and a nice carbonation.

Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s Old Elephant Food IPA. Very floral nose, very hoppy, very refreshing. This is a great beer for a hot day and brewed right here in Tampa Bay to boot.

Red Brick Brewing Company’s Laughing Skull Amber Ale. Since my first crack at this one for New Beer Friday a few years ago, I’ve found that this beer has improved its flavor immensely. All the same notes are there but the edge has mellowed significantly.

A fiesta needs eats and a decent charcuterie slate always scratches the itch when drinking beer, especially when you know which cheeses to pair them with.

My friends cooked up a great meal of burgers, Hawaiian chicken kabobs and some grilled pineapple (which was very good by the way).

Pineapples right on the skewer with the peppers and onions made for a pretty damn flavorful piece of chicken. Need to try this one on my own at some point in the future (with maybe a little jalapeno to balance the pineapple sweetness with some heat).

Skewers on the plate with cucumbers, tomatoes and goat cheese and a nice macaroni salad. The Hawaiian Chicken paired very well with the Keybilly Island Ale.

While everyone else was munching on cookies and cake for their desert I turned my focus to some sweeter brews for mine.

Due South Caramel Cream Ale w/Vanilla Beans – Absolutely loved this one. Sugar on the nose, malty and an on-the-dot caramel flavor that carried from the first pull to the back end.

Lagunitas Brown Shugga Ale – Not my first rodeo with this one, but just as great as I remembered it. The brown sugar notes made for a hearty backbone.

Good weather, good food, good beer and great friends. Can’t ask for a better weekend than that. Do anything special for National Beer Day? Leave a message in the comments section below!

And remember… the food abides…


Walking Dead Finale – Terrapin’s “Lucille” Blackstrap Molasses Stout

For the Walking Dead’s Season 7 Finale, Terrapin Brewing Company cooked up something special.

Every so often Terrapin brews a one-off and they never disappoint. For those not in the know, this season’s Walking Dead antagonist is a charismatic, leather-clad psychopath named Negan who beats people to death with a razor-wire wrapped baseball bat he lovingly refers to as “Lucille.” Terrapin has managed to take this character’s swagger and insanity and brew it into an incredible stout.

Lucille pours a dark blackish-brown with about a half an inch of frothy, khaki colored head, that dissipates very fast but leaves quite a bit of lacing on the glass. On the nose is a fragrant bouquet of leather and smokey bacon.

On the first pull the molasses notes come through right off the bat and mellow into some subtle hints of vanilla. On the back end are some earthy smoked wood flavors that round everything out with just a touch of what tastes like maple syrup.

Like Negan, this brew is complex and I’m loving this one. Perhaps it’s the smoked wood, but this tastes like an apocalypse and it was an excellent accompaniment to this season’s finale. Terrapin nailed it.

Tried Terrapin’s Lucille? Leave a message in the comments section!

And remember… the food abides…