Archive for April, 2008

April 11th, 2008

The Publick House – Best Boston bars

Publick House

Established: 2002
Specialty: Beer
Prices: Moderate
Atmosphere: Beer-loving ladies and gents congregate here en masse for top-notch Belgian and other artisanal beers, a friendly vibe and a choice of two bars adorned with authentic Belgian taps and brewery decor.
See Best Boston bars for address and contact info.

If the ho-hum lager Stella Artois is what you equate with “Belgian beer,” then get yourself over to the Publick House in Brookline (1648 Beacon St.) ASAP. As you confront the beauty of a complex Trappist ale or bottle-conditioned saison (the Champagne of the beer world), you’ll realize what you’ve been missing.

The Publick House has so successfully schooled Boston-area residents in Belgium’s myriad beer styles that David Ciccolo, who owns the pub with his wife, Ailish Gilligan, was knighted in that country. Seriously. Shortly after opening the Monk’s Cell, a tap room adjacent to the Publick House, in 2007, Ciccolo traveled to Brussels to be inducted into the Chevalerie du Fourquet des Brasseurs, or Knighthood of the Brewer’s Mash Staff. Formidable! I’m guessing the fact that he used to be an actual brewer, at the defunct Tremont Brewing Co. in Charlestown, didn’t hurt.

The Publick House’s beer menu leans heavily toward Belgians (roughly 100 of them), but it has a very respectable selection from the best American craft breweries (Allagash, Sixpoint, etc.), plus the occasional tasty treat from elsewhere in Europe. Belgian breweriana decorates the walls, and the proper glassware is used. I loved my Atomium Grand Cru in its wide-mouthed goblet emblazoned with the beer’s namesake: Brussels’ kitschy monument to molecular science built for the 1958 World’s Fair. Naturally, there are mussels and frites on the menu, along with several dishes in the gastro-pub vein. And one of my favorite bartenders, Matt Tremblay (pictured above) — whom I’ve known since he worked at the Cambridge Brewing Co. back in my brewing days — is the top tap man there. His attitude echoes that of the Publick House as a whole: respectful of good beer without being snobby about it.

Beers range from $4 to $8 (and more for the rare stuff); dishes from roughly $8 to $20. Astute barflies will remember that the Publick House originally opened under the gaelic name Anam Cara. Naturally, confused patrons would walk in expecting an Irish pub. Ciccolo says that was an “admitted mistake,” and changed the name. The most frequent complaint about the Publick House is that it gets too crowded. “I don’t understand why more people aren’t doing what we’re doing,” Ciccolo says. Not surprisingly, he has plans to expand his empire, which now includes not only the Publick House and the Monk’s Cell, but Publick House Provisions (1706 Beacon St.), a specialty grocery store that features the beers on the Publick House menu, cheeses, Belgian chocolates, etc. Personally, I’m lobbying for a Belgian tap room in the Cambridge-Somerville area.

Posted in Beer, Boston bars | 7 Comments »

April 3rd, 2008

Little Black Book of Cocktails

Little Black Book of CocktailsIf you attended LUPEC Boston’s Ladies Night at Toro on Sunday, it’s entirely possible that the sea of bodies filling the room prevented you from noticing that the Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails were selling a book. That’s OK, because for $15 you can still get a copy of the Little Black Book of Cocktails: Namesake & Favorite Recipes by LUPEC Boston.

It’s a great-looking little volume, and it’s for a good cause. Cambridge photographer Matt Demers took photos of all the Ladies as part of what he calls his “pearls project” — portraits of a variety of women he knows, inspired by the iconic Eugene Richie portrait (below) of 1920s film actress Louise Brooks. Damned if that Matt doesn’t have a way of making everyday gals look like glamour-pusses. We (yes, I am a founding member of LUPEC Boston) were so pleased that we decided to put our photos together in a book, along with cocktail recipes, and give the proceeds from the books’ sales to an organization that seriously helps women feel better about their appearance. That organization is the Friends Boutique at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which provides wigs, prosthetics, scarves and other items to people dealing with the side effects of cancer treatment.

Louise BrooksEach portrait in the book is accompanied by recipes for the subject’s namesake cocktail (mine’s the Barbara West) and two favorites (I chose the Jaguar and the Maharaja’s Revenge, by two of Boston’s best bartenders). The book contains roughly 40 recipes, all classics or inspired by classics.

Instructions for ordering the Little Black Book by mail are on the LUPEC Boston blog. And starting this weekend, you can purchase a copy at Magpie (617-623-3330) in Davis Square, Somerville, or Buckaroo’s Mercantile (617-492-4792) in Central Square, Cambridge. But give these places a call first to make sure they’re not sold out.

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Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails | 1 Comment »

April 1st, 2008

Get your Tales tix

Pour it on - Tales of the Cocktail

Drinkboston contributor Scott Howe was trying to explain Tales of the Cocktail to his fellow office workers, most of whom have never sampled a Sazerac, never mind traveled to the Deep South in midsummer to discuss the history of the Martini. The notion of a “cocktail conference” wasn’t quite registering with them. As they gave him quizzical looks, he hit upon an analogy. “It’s like MacWorld for drunks.” They nodded in understanding.

Tales isn’t just a conference. It’s a giant, week-long, educational cocktail party in the birthplace of the cocktail, New Orleans. And it’s a pilgrimage that every Craft Cocktail Convert in the nation makes at least once to anoint him/herself with Peychaud’s bitters. Where else can people attend classes where the instructors serve drinks and don’t assign homework?

Tickets for Tales of the Cocktail, which takes place July 16-20 at the Hotel Monteleone in the French Quarter, go on sale today. If you’re thinking of going and want to stay at the hotel, book your room ASAP — attendees get a special rate of $99/night. All the info you need about seminars, events, dinners, hotel reservations, sponsors, etc. is on the Tales website.

Oh, and for the first time this year, there’ll be a group blog, Blogging Tales of the Cocktail: 2008, where drinks bloggers from around the country (me included) review seminars and discuss their experiences, among other topics. In case you missed my impressions from last year’s TOTC, click here.

Posted in Books & resources, Cocktails, Events | 4 Comments »