Monthly Archives: January 2010

Beer Review: Justin Way American Pale Ale

The Beer

Val and I are beer lovers, but I realized we haven’t really focused too much on our love of the brew.  Maybe it’s because Val and I met at Penn State University that we love good beer, or maybe its because all our friends love good beer, or maybe its just because good beer is awesome.  Whatever the reason, we drink a lot of beer, whether at home or at our favorite DC joints.  And one of our favorite sources of beer is our friend Matt, who home brews GMan Beer.

Matt’s beer brewing career started a few years ago while making a batch of Dunkelweizen – a dark wheat beer – at Shenandoah Brewing Company in Alexandria, VA, for my then upcoming wedding.  Next thing I knew, Val and I were at Matt’s one snowy Sunday afternoon helping to brew a batch in Matt’s kitchen using his newly acquired home brewing supplies.  Since then, Matt has gone on to brew dozens of batches, join a local home brew club, and built a homemade kegerator.  Oh, and he always has a few beers on tap.  Anyway, last summer, as I was planting our garden, I jokingly asked Matt if he wanted to grow some hops.  Next thing I knew, we had a hop rhymezone in our garden.  After a few months, and a few 10′ poles, we had fast growing hop vines everywhere, producing lots of hop cones.  Matt came over a few times a week to harvest ripe hop cones, drying them at home, and saving them for a batch of beer.  And thus, Justin Way (our street) American Pale Ale was born, with hops grown right here in Silver Spring, MD.

Justin Way American Pale Ale is has a light brown color and a slight foam head.  It goes down easy, paring well with somewhat hearty food.  And the hops – oooh, the hops.  I’m not crazy for really hoped up beers, but Justin Way has a really nice balance.  Just enough of a hop taste that mellows out after a few seconds.  Unfornuatly for you, almost all the Justin Way APA is gone, but maybe you can snag a bottle next year.  Just Way or whatever street we’re on…  And be sure to check out Matt’s guest posts about home brewing beer.

A Bottle of Justin Way American Pale Ale

Justin Way A.P.A.

Justin Way American Pale Ale w/ Home Grown Hops

The Label


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Restaurant Review: Black Hog BBQ

Black Hog BBQ

Black Hog BBQ

Is it just me or are all BBQ restaurants closed on Sundays?  Val and I travel a lot on weekends, and so Sundays we often find ourselves looking for a new restaurant to try on our way home – to make the trip an adventure unto itself.  And our last two attemtps to visit BBQ restauarants – Andy Nelson’s BBQ and Black Hog BBQ – have left us staring at Closed on Sundays signs.  Luckily the weather forecast made Saturday the best day for skiing over the weekend, perfect for stopping by Black Hog BBQ on our way to Whitetail Ski Resort (which was awesome skiing btw).

Black Hog BBQ is located in Frederick, MD about 45 minutes north of Washington, DC, in the heart of historic downtown Frederick.  On an old city street lined with row homes and small business, Black Hog BBQ was pretty full at 3:30pm when we arrived.  Val and I grabbed a table for two in the front, with about a dozen tables seating 2 to 8 around us.  Behind the seating area, there’s a walk up counter for take out service and a small corner bar with a tv that seats about a dozen people.  After ordering a round of sweet teas – like there was any choice – we started ogling the menu.  Black Hog BBQ has a solid selection of BBQ fare, including brisket, ribs, pulled pork, chicken in addition to some lesser often found items like smoked sausage and Arkansas beef (which I’m unfamiliar with, but going to try next time – oh yes, we’ll be back).  Since it was my first visit, I wanted to try some variety and had a BBQ Platter with smoked sausage and Texas beef brisket, coleslaw, collared greens.  Val had a BBQ Plate (only 1 side) with pulled pork and coleslaw, and a extra side of fries.  Both meals came with corn bread and pickles.  Our meals arrived quickly and lightly dressed with BBQ sauce.  In addition to the pre-saucing, we had table-side options of Black Hog BBQ, Carolina, Kansas City, and Mustard sauces.  I enjoyed the Black Hog BBQ sauce on my brisket, having a blanced sweet and vinegar flavor.  I also enjoyed the Mustard sauce on my smoked sausage.  In both cases, I felt the sauces really balanced well with the meats, not overpowering, but complementing.  The sides were really good and Val enjoyed her meal as well.  After finishing off another round of sweet teas and laughing at the “hand soap in a BBQ sauce bottles” in the bathrooms, we headed out – fueled up for an awesome evening of skiing.

Pulled Pork with Fries, Coleslaw, Pickles, and Cornbread

Pulled Pork

The Menu

The Menu

Sweet Tea

Sweet Tea

The Sauces



Black Hog BBQ Bar on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Jackie’s

Inside Jackie’s

The Restaurant

Located in downtown Silver Spring, Jackie’s Restaurant embodies the up-and-coming spirit of Silver Spring.  Ever since I moved to Silver Spring in 2006, the city has been growing, constantly surprising and delighting me.  Maybe the thing I like best is that its not predictable; Silver Spring is a organic city, full of changes, new, old, good, and bad – but that keeps it real.  But anyway, back to Jackie’s…

Jackie’s is located in a old brick building, refitted with a modern twist.  This is immediately noticeable from the outside from the pink back-lit Jackie’s sign, frosted glass window behind the bar, and large black curtains over the front door (probably to keep the cold out and the warm in, but still funky).  The inside has a bar along the length of the front wall with a lounge off to the side, a dining room with booths and table, and an open air kitchen in the back.  The decor is modern and eclectic, with pink fabric and lighting, neon green chairs, bare bulb construction lights hanging from the ceiling, various other items, such as the homemade bungee cord and flood light combos over the booths.  I know that sounds odd, but its very classy and cool.  Go see for yourself :)

This was our second visit to Jackie’s; our first since Chef Frank Morales took over a few months ago.  We had been meaning to check it out again, and when our friend Jim suggested dinner in DTSS, we braved the cold.  The focus is still on American classics, well prepared and with gourmet upgrades.  The menu changes seasonally; I appaprently had just missed the grilled Sardine appetizer, which left the menu a few weeks prior  Oh well, I’m sure it will be back :)  After munching on some bread with yummie sweet butter, I ordered Stella Artois, Jim a Flying Dog, and Val ordered a Golden Lady cocktail – a combination of ginger liquor, apple brandy, and prosecco.  Since it was cold winter night, we all decided to start with roasted butternut squash soup.  The soup arrived with a dollop of creme fresh, and was very well balanced, not being too sweet as can often be the case.

Stella Artois (and Jim)


For our main courses, I had the St. Louis style ribs with apple carrot slaw, creamed spinach, and potato salad.  The ribs were cooked to the doneness of pulled pork, which allowed for easy eating with a fork.  And they where really good!  The accompaniments were also very tasty, with the bright citrus flavors of the apple carrot slaw nicely completing the richness of the creamed spinach.  Val had the Steak N’ Egg, which was a NY Strip steak server with a  bearnaise sauce (thus the N’ Egg) and broccoli.  And Jim had the chicken cordon blue with a side of cheesy grits, which had another complementing flavor that I couldn’t place.

In between courses, we chatted away, enjoying the people watching.  We had arrived around 7:30pm and the place filled to capacity shortly thereafter.  There were lots of couples, mostly in their 20s and 30s, with a few larger groups.  During a standout moment, a really cute child sitting at the table across from our booth managed to flip his yougert cup, shooting a nice spray about 10 feet.  Luckly no one was dairied in the process and laughed it off.  The kid’s got some aim!

St. Louis Ribs with Apple Carrot Slaw, Creamed Spinach, and Potato Salad

St. Louis Ribs

Cheesy Grits


During his initial review of the menu, Jim decided he had to try the spiked hot chocolate.  Pretty full from dinner, we ordered the hot chocolate and two coffees and a Snickerdoodle Pie to split.  Jim’s looked quite taken aback after his first sip of this spiked hot choc.  Apparently it wasn’t stirred and all the liquor was on the top :)  Dessert was good, and after lingering for a bit longer we headed back into the cold winter night.

Jackie’s is a gem in downtown Silver Spring and certainly worth a trip for drinks or dinner.  During both visits, I thought the prices were a bit high for classic American fare, but ingredients are mostly organic and locally sourced, and its a fun place – so go enjoy yourself.

Spiked Hot Choc

Spiked Hot Choc

Artful Coffee

Val's Coffee

Snickerdoodle Pie ‘Wit Whip


-Adam and Val

Jackie's on Urbanspoon

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Guest Post – Homebrewing Beer

Adam and Val were kind enough to ask me to make a few posts on ‘Till It’s Done about brewing beer. My goal in these posts is to provide the average home cook with enough information to take the first steps into home brewing.

I started home-brewing my own beer about a year ago and have about eight brews under my belt so far. I brew using a method known as “extract brewing,” meaning that the work of extracting the sugars from malt has already been done for me. The other method of brewing is known as “all grain,” meaning you buy whole malted grains, crush them, and extract the sugars yourself. I will eventually start brewing all grain when space allows, but for the moment, I have been very happy with the beer I’ve brewed and so have my friends.

The Equipment

To brew your own, you’ll only need the following equipment. Most of which is either already in your kitchen or easily obtained.

  • Basic Beer Brewing Starter Kit – such as this one – contains things like the fermenter, a hydrometer, and other simple brewing tools.
  • A large pot – the bigger the better. You’ll want at least a 20 quart pot. 30 is better. 40 is best.
  • A large heat-proof plastic spoon
  • Thermometer (I use a long brewing thermometer as well as a digital kitchen thermometer)
  • Colander for straining the hops out

The Process

I buy ingredient kits from local and internet-based homebrew supply stores. These kits come with all of the ingredients needed for a single 5 gallon batch of beer (if that’s sounds like a lot of beer, it works out to about 2 cases).

When brewing, the most important thing to keep in mind is that EVERYTHING that comes into contact with the wort (that’s the beer before it’s fermented) must be sanitized. Not just clean. Sanitized. I like StarSan. Beer uses yeast to convert  the sugars into CO2 and alcohol. There’s lots of things in the air and on surfaces that can cause off flavors or even complete spoilage of good beer. Save your beer – use proper sanitization techniques.

Now that we have everything clean and sanitized, the general process of brewing is this:

  1. Heat about 2.5 gal of water to 150F (this is where the temperature alarm on the digital thermometer comes in handy)

    Heating the water to 150F

  2. Add specialty grains and hold between 150F and 160F (Note: Not in all kits – if yours doesn’t have them, skip right to the boiling)
  3. Let the grains steep like a tea bag for about 20-30 minutes
  4. Remove the grains and drain over the pot (don’t squeeze the grains!)
  5. Bring the wort (it’s now wort!) to a rolling boil
  6. Add bittering hops, extracts, and any additions. Save the flavor and aroma hops for later

    Ingredients from kit. (not shown - 6.6lbs of Liquid Malt Extract and hops)

    Warming the LME so it pours easily.

  7. Boil for 45 minutes and then add the flavor hops
  8. Boil 10 more minutes and add the aroma hops
  9. Boil 5 more minutes and kill the heat
  10. Cover the pot and quickly cool the wort. The faster the better. I use a sink full of ice water and I add ice as it melts.
  11. When the wort’s down to about 95F, pour the wort through a strainer into the fermeneter. Top it off with cold water to the 5 gallon mark.
  12. Stir it well (get some air in there!) and pitch the yeast by sprinkling the yeast over the top (liquid yeast just gets poured in)
  13. Seal it up. Add an airlock. Let it ferment for about 2 weeks. If you taste the wort now, it won’t taste like beer. It’ll be sweet and bitter. I think it’s good to take at least a small amount and give it a sip and remember the flavors you get. Compare that to a few weeks later when it’s actually beer.

    Primary Fermentation

That’s really all there is to brewing an extract beer. After about 2 weeks, I like to move (or rack, as it’s called) the beer into a secondary fermentation chamber. This lets the beer flavors blend and lets the heat of the freshly produced alcohol mellow out a bit. Bigger beers (those with lots of sugars in the wort) take a bit longer to age before they’re optimal for drinking. From there, you can bottle or keg the beer and share it with your friends.

My guess is many of the ‘Till It’s Done readers are interested in cooking and/or beer. Hopefully both. My hope is that I have at least opened your eyes to the idea that brewing beer is not intimidating and has a lot in common with cooking. Quality ingredients, respect for the process, and experimentation can lead to great times in the kitchen and then great times sharing a homebrew.



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Restaurant Review: 10 Arts

The Dining Room at 10 Arts

Dining Room

Adam and I found ourselves within a half hour of Philadelphia one afternoon, so we decided to stop for lunch at 10 Arts.  We just made the last lunch seating, with our table being only 1 of maybe 5 or so that were occupied.  I always hate being in an empty restaurant, but 10 Arts is in the lobby of the Ritz Carlton, so it has a very open feel and it wasn’t as awkward as I thought.

Our waiter was very attentive and friendly, and had good recommendations about the flavors of the different dishes.  Unfortunately, because it was lunch and a Monday, Top Chef contestant Jennifer Carrol wasn’t working, but we were pleased to find all our courses excellently prepared.

The Lunch Menu


Lunch is a good time to go to restaurants that are hard to get into during dinner service.  The menu is generally the same, but with lower prices.  My favorite thing is that lunch usually includes sandwiches as well, with tend to be an underrated / overlooked food.  Adam and I decided to get appetizers and sandwiches, to include smoked corn soup, a country terrine, Pork Belly BLT, and the Fish Burger.

Pork Terrine


Pork Belly BLT

Pork Belly BLT

Everything was cooked perfectly, and each bite was bursting with flavor.  Our favorite thing on both of our plates had to be the fries.  They were well seasoned (something that restaurants are getting away from, for some reason) and made better by the inclusion of an aioli that accompanied my fish burger.

We had not planned on dessert, but we overheard our waiter talking to another table and describing the beignets.  There really wasn’t any way that we could skip those.  They were warm, dusted with sugar, and went well with our espresso.  It was the perfect end to an excellent meal.



As we were enjoying dessert, our waiter mentioned to another table who asked about Chef Jennifer that Top Chef was how he found out about the restaurant as well.  Both Jen and Chef Ripert have certainly won the hearts of Philadelphia.

Reflections of Philadelphia


-Val and Adam

10 Arts (Ritz-Carlton) on Urbanspoon

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