March is birthday month chez Dr. Dave, since three of the four of us have our birthdays in the span of less than two weeks, which has meant a couple of fun dinners out. In addition, son G and I spent a weekend home alone (Dr. Mrs. Dr. Dave and son S having skipped town for better weather and a family wedding in Arizona) which left me in a non-cooking frame of mind. Yet another celebration was with colleagues who were more than ready for the start of spring break. Each of these occasions took me to a neighborhood establishment with a pleasantly surprising beer selection, so join me on a tour of three establishments along the north-south axis of my neighborhood.
Two birthday dinners were celebrated at our new local franchise of Flatbread Pizza. They are in the shadow of our local Ivy League university in a prime location that had lain dormant for years after a popular Cal-Ital restaurant unexpectedly closed its doors. Flatbread Pizza specializes in “natural” and locally sourced ingredients, with lots of vegetarian selections and organic ingredients. They also give back to the community by donating a portion of every Tuesday’s proceeds to local non-profit organizations, so we are happy to support them. The beer selection reflects the bias toward organic and local ingredients, so during the first visit on a quiet Sunday night I tried the Peak Organic (from Portland, ME) IPA. (The Wolaver’s label on the glass in the photo is a decoy, though that organic beer from VT is also on the menu at Flatbread.) This was a nice crisp IPA that went nicely with our pesto, tomato, and fresh mozzarella pizza.
On our return visit (a much busier Saturday), I went really local with Pawtucket-based Foolproof Brewing Company’s “Backyahd” IPA. (Obviously pronounced with a southern New England urban accent.) Foolproof has been in operation for a few years, and one of their selling points is their use of cans rather than bottles. (I still prefer bottles, but maybe that’s just bad memories of canned beer from my younger days clouding my judgment.) This was a draft beer–the decoy in this photo is the bottle from son G’s root beer–so no bottle vs. can issues, but I wasn’t as impressed as I had been with the Peak Organic. Even so, it was a fun evening and the pizza was particularly interesting–the red cubes on the bottom pizza are beets, and the pizza also featured feta cheese and tiny sprouts of arugula (if I understood the server correctly).
Traveling a few blocks north, I joined several colleagues on the Friday before spring break at Tortilla Flats. As you would expect for a Mexican-themed bar and restaurant, the primary focus is on margaritas and other tequila-based cocktails and the secondary focus is on Mexican beers such as Corona and Pacifica. That said, even though spring is theoretically on its way, the weather here isn’t yet inviting me to enjoy anything that would be served with a lime. Fortunately, the draft selections included some choices that I thought better suited the weather here and I ended up settling on Sierra Nevada’s Ruthless Rye, an early spring seasonal offering. I’m continuing to try and figure out exactly what rye does for the flavor of a beer–the Sierra Nevada website suggests black pepper and similar spices–but regardless of the particulars, this was a nice beer for a cold but sunny late winter afternoon.
Another mile to the north, the final stop on this tour is Hope Street Pizza and Family Restaurant. Although you can’t tell from the outside, this is really more of a Greek restaurant of a type I’ve encountered in other corners of the world: paper placemats printed with ads for other local businesses, lots of traditional Greek food, plus pizza, pasta, and other Italian standards. Not elegant, not a lot of ambience, but also not expensive, so you get what you pay for. Son G and I opted for pizza with sausage and peppers, and I was pleasantly surprised by a nicely varied beer selection, from which I chose the Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA3. Heavy Seas is from Baltimore and their distinguishing features include a pirate/nautical theme to their labeling along with lots of big flavors. I also feel like I get hints of their pushing a slightly higher than usual alcohol content, but maybe that’s just me? Loose Cannon is their flagship triple-hopped IPA which is pretty widely available and usually shows up in their “Sunken Sampler” mix packs.
I seem to be getting fixated on IPA’s lately, though the current batch of beers in the house has more of an emphasis on winter beers. I’m curious about how my preferences might change as the weather warms up and the selection in the stores shifts to summery beers. For now, these four bring the count here at the blog to 37, and spring break should leave me time for another entry in the not-too-distant future. Cheers!