The spicy heat of a chili pepper
Not all flavors of Jell-O that have been proposed have been commercial successes. Here are the five Jell-O flavors that flopped: celery, coffee, cola, apple, and chocolate. Now, I can’t imagine why celery wasn’t a huge hit.
Pop Quiz #9
If you have a sensitive stomach, then you should be well-versed with the Scoville scale. What does it measure? (This should be a pretty easy one for you college aged gents).
Overall GrubGrade B-
Atmosphere: Grade B: We were admittedly a little flummoxed by the atmosphere at Polaris Grill. We had stopped by for a lunch service, and the place was doing brisk business. The crowd appeared to be on the older side, which was a little surprising. Polaris Grill had nice table spacing and it wasn’t too loud, although there was some background noise. Décor, both inside and outside, is nice but uninspiring. We were expecting a slightly more upscale feel, but that wasn’t the case. We’re not sure if that’s because we’ve been to so many really nice places, or if Polaris Grill is on the downslide.
High marks: Clean, well-spaced dining area
Low marks: Slightly noisy, not as upscale as expected
Service: Grade B: Our server was energetic and friendly. Plus, service was accurate and timely. There was just absolutely nothing memorable about the service. Our server did comment that we both made good choices on our entrees, but we would honestly be shocked if we ordered a dish and our server confided that the selected dish was basically low grade dog food. Not that we wouldn’t appreciate that level of honesty, but we can’t imagine a server holding their job for too long with that amount of honesty. Again, we walked in feeling like we were about to have an upscale experience but got more of a TGIFridays type of experience. The grade of “B” is because there were no glaring issues with the service, but even that grade may be a little generous.
High marks: Accurate and timely
Low marks: Not memorable at all
Food/Spirits: Grade B-: Think of some of your favorite dishes from your favorite restaurants. Got ‘em? Okay, no imagine instead of your favorite eatery supplying the food, your crazy grandma with the hairy chin mole cooks them instead. Granny may know her way around the kitchen, but you know it just isn’t going to be as good. That sums up Polaris Grill. The food is good, just not as good as a lot of other places. We ordered the Cajun shrimp for an appetizer. It was somewhat similar to Bang Bang Shrimp (from Bonefish Grill) but not nearly as good. The sauce had more sweet than heat, which was okay but just didn’t come off as too Cajun. For her entrée, Katina ordered the NY style pizza. It was simple and basic. The pizza needed more sauce and for that sauce to be a little less bland than the one that was on the pizza. You could get a much better pizza at Winking Lizard. I settled on the jambalaya. Overall, the dish was decent. The flavor was pretty mild for jambalaya, with the sauce having virtually no heat to it. Also, I like my veggies in my jambalaya to be a little more finely diced than the boulder sized ingredients in the jambalaya at Polaris Grill. The ingredients were also out of balance, with an overabundance of celery and onions and almost no peppers.
High marks: All the dishes were okay
Low marks: None of the dishes were spectacular
Value: Grade C+: We didn’t have to skip paying any of our monthly bills after eating at Polaris Grill, but the value grade here is more indicative of a lack of the premium quality one would expect with the size of our lunch bill. Maybe it was an off day. While we aren’t comfortable advising you to skip Polaris Grill, there are a whole bunch of better places to eat right in the same area, so dine at your own discretion.
High marks: Decent portion size
Low marks: Sub-premium quality for a slightly premium price
Well, February has come and gone, and there weren’t too many highlights for the month. The weather here in Ohio was quite crappy, but that’s pretty much the case everywhere. Thankfully, the nearest Winking Lizard is only a hop, skip, and a jump from the homestead. That gave me plenty of excuse to work on my world beer tour, and with the help of my unofficial manager, Katina, we are going to add another 8 beers to our list, bringing our grand total to 24.
Aventinus (ABV 8) — This beer is an example of a Weizenbock. I am a huge fan of wheat beers, but Aventinus is a unique example because it shuns all of the traditional characteristics of a normal wheat beer. This beer is nice and dark instead of golden, and there was no fruity notes as one would expect with a wheat beer. But, Aventinus is an experience, and I found it to be unique and quite tasty. Just be forewarned if you think “weizen” is going to get you a traditional wheat beer — don’t forget the “bock” part of the name.
Unibroue La Fin du Monde (ABV 9) — This example of a Tripel is thick and golden. I found it to be very tart and fruity. There was some hoppiness, but not enough to dominate the overall flavor of the beer. This beer is really good. It is very smooth and its tartness is a nice change of pace without being overwhelmingly sweet. I highly recommend this beer if you haven’t tried one yet.
Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Stout (ABV 6.9) – This Imperial Stout pours nice and dark with a thick golden head. There were distinct chocolate and vanilla aromas as well as those same taste notes. This beer isn’t quite as thick as I expected, but that did not detract from the overall superior flavor of the beer. The bourbon barrel notes are not quite as prominent as some other bourbon barrel stouts, but were still present enough to add a little something to the overall flavor of the beer.
Thirsty Dog Bernese (ABV 10.5) — If you order this barleywine, brace yourself. It is very strong, and it is hoppy, hoppy, hoppy, hoppy, and also a little hoppy. Instead of a barleywine, I thought I might have been poured a glass of whiskey mixed with liquid grass. You had better LOVE IPAs if you’re going to tackle this beer. I don’t, so next time I’ll pass.
Great Lakes Conway’s Irish Ale (ABV 6.5) – This beer is an example of a red ale. It pours with a deep copper color that has a reddish tinge to it. The beer drinks smooth and is on the thin side of the spectrum. It is advertised as having a caramel and apple aroma, but I could not detect ANY aroma coming from this beer (maybe I was stuffy — it has been rather cold here) nor could I detect any aftertaste. This beer imparts its flavor on your tongue while it’s in your mouth, but the taste quickly excuses itself after you swallow. There was minimal to no hoppiness. This beer was a real pleasure to drink.
New Belgium Fat Tire (ABV 5.2) — I was at a loss with this amber ale. I felt there was virtually no taste to this beer. Once it slides of the tongue, any flavor it had was immediately gone. There was no hoppiness to this beer at all. This would be a fine beer for someone who doesn’t really like the flavor of beer to drink. Not very impressive, in my opinion.
Stone Smoked Porter with vanilla bean (ABV 5.9) — This example of a porter is one of my favorites so far. The beer pours very dark with a thick, sudsy head. This beer has a nice, thick texture and some deep, dark chocolate notes. Stone Smoked Porter is lightly carbonated so it is easy to drink. There is some slight bitterness on the back of the tongue with a hint of nutty aftertaste. This is one you gotta try if you get the chance.
Lindemans Framboise (ABV 4) – My wife actually drank this example of a fruit lambic, and she really enjoyed it. But, she doesn’t like beer, in general. That is how I think of Lindemans Framboise — a beer for those who do not like the taste of beer. I love beer, so to me this drink tastes like someone is drinking raspberry Kool-Aid from an unwashed beer mug — lots of fruit flavor with minimal beer characteristics. I am interested in trying other lambics, but this one is one that I will keep skipping.
Overall GrubGrade B+
Atmosphere: Grade A: This was our second visit to Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Our first visit was well over a decade ago, and all we can really remember about it was it was expensive. Now that we are a little harder to impress, we decided to put Ruth’s to the test. We booked a reservation for Valentine’s Day, and as such I was expecting the place to be packed. Ruth’s was obviously expecting a big crowd, because they sat us in a part of the dining area that is not usually used. It was secluded in one of the corners. We were originally a little miffed at being put in the corner, but the seclusion turned out to be pretty nice since we were on a date. Ruth’s was quiet and clean. There were spotless linens on the tables and spotless glassware and plates on those spotless linens. The only reason Ruth’s Steak House did not score an A+ was that the décor was slightly bland. An hour after we left we couldn’t tell you any details about the décor, so it wasn’t very memorable.
High marks: Nice secluded table, clean linens and glassware/plates, busy but not too crowded or noisy
Low marks: Bland and unimaginative decor
Service: Grade B: Our server, Jessica, did a fantastic job making sure all of our wants and needs were met. Wait time for appetizers and entrees was what you would expect for this type of dining experience. We didn’t feel rushed, nor did we feel like we were waiting an excessive amount of time for food. There were no mistakes made with our order. The service was extremely professional and efficient. Normally, this type of service would earn at least an A-/B+ grade. However, in this case we found nothing really special about the service. We did not feel engaged, which isn’t a huge deal except that when you go to Ruth’s Chris, you know you’re going to drop some serious coin. So our expectations for phenomenal service are really high.
High marks: Accurate, timely, and professional service
Low marks: Stiff and unimaginative service
Food/Spirits: Grade A-: Ruth’s Chris was so close to scoring an A or A+ in this category – real close. Katina started off with a couple of Blueberry Mojitos and I enjoyed a couple of Thirsty Dog Cerberus ales. The beer selection was golden and malty, with a slight oaky/bourbon note and some vanilla undertones. Katina’s Blueberry Mojito was sweet and sugary, with virtually no alcohol bite to it. It was a very well-mixed cocktail. For an appetizer, we ordered the spicy lobster. This dish consisted of bite-sized portions of lobster lightly breaded and tossed in a sweet and spicy glaze. I think Katina and I had simultaneous mouthgasms. We are big fans of the Bang Bang Shrimp at Bonefish Grill. The spicy lobster at Ruth’s Chris was like Bang Bang Shrimp on steroids…fantastic. For entrees, Katina ordered the Crab cakes and I selected a NY Strip. We split an order of Lobster Mac and Cheese for our side dish. The Lobster Mac and Cheese had a nice crust and was slightly creamy. It wasn’t quite as good as the lobster mac and cheese at Eddie Merlot’s, but Ruth’s Chris version was still pretty delicious. Katina’s crab cakes were bigger than expected. They were packed with crab meat and had a distinct crabby flavor. In addition, the crab cakes absorbed the butter sauce they were served with, which further enhanced the flavor. My NY strip arrived on a heated plate and immediately got me drooling. I ordered the steak prepared medium well, and the version I received was definitely more on the medium end of the spectrum, but that was okay. The steak was expertly seasoned. BUT, I had originally wanted to order the lamb chops, but was told by our server that they were out of lamb since the shipment they had just received did not live up to Ruth’s Chris standards. That’s fine, but that means that my second choice had better be a spectacular chunk of meat. The first half of the steak tasted just a juicy and tender as it looked, but the second half of the steak had a ribbon of gristle running horizontally through the meat. You couldn’t eat around it because of how it was situated in the steak. I was a little disappointed that this piece of meat lived up to their standards but the lamb chops were tossed out.
High marks: Maybe the best appetizer we’ve had, great drinks, fantastic crab cakes
Low marks: Large amount of gristle in steak led to doubts about the restaurant’s standards
Value: Grade C: We give this category the lowest weight when we calculate the overall grade for a restaurant. Unless you’ve been living in a box (or a van down by the river), you should be aware that Ruth’s Chris is not a place to visit if you’re concerned about spending some coin. We entered Ruth’s Chris with the expectation of leaving a couple hundred dollars poorer, but we also expected our taste buds to experience an hour of ecstasy. Ruth’s Chris came pretty close, but fell a little short. However, don’t let the mediocre value grade dissuade you from stopping by. Cash that income tax refund and live it up a little at Ruth’s Chris Steak House. It is an experience everyone should have (at least once).
High marks: Nice upscale meal
Low marks: For the price, quality should be beyond exceptional – this was just a little short of that
This has to be my favorite food fact yet….
Overall GrubGrade B+
Atmosphere: Grade A-: First off, before you click the link above and visit the website for J.Liu, make sure you turn down the volume on your computer. It’s loud! I didn’t turn down my volume and accidentally made a little water in my britches when the music came blasting out of my computer. It’s not what you’d expect. On the outside, J.Liu is nearly identical to the buildings adjacent to it, one of which is a bank. So what, you ask? You just need to make sure you have an idea of where you’re going or else you might just drive right on by it. On the inside, J.Liu is nicely decorated with a distinct upscale vibe. Check out the menu online first though, because you’re not going to be able to determine what kind of restaurant J.Liu is based on its décor. Tables are nicely spaced and the place was spotless.
High marks: Nicely spaced tables, clean, upscale
Low marks: Upscale décor lacks theme
Service: Grade B: If you happen to check out any other reviews of J.Liu (and you shouldn’t since our review is the best), you might see some comments on inconsistent service in the dining room and at the bar. We’ve dined at J.Liu a number of times and have never had bad service in the dining room. We can’t really speak for the bar area since we go to restaurants to dine and we go to bars if we are looking to tie one on. Our server, Kate, did a really nice job of providing for us. But again, this is one of those occasions where we had good service but nothing spectacular. There was nothing memorable about the service. Food arrived promptly and our drinks were replaced with minimal wait, but the service was professional but a little lacking in personality.
High marks: Quick and accurate service
Low marks: Nothing memorable about service
Food/Spirits: Grade A-: Let’s talk about the good stuff, now. For our drinks, I opted for the Rogue Dead Guy Ale, which I’ve reviewed a couple of times already. Katina, on the other hand, ordered a drink named the “Royale.” She found the drink to be delicious, with a pronounced blackberry flavor (both of us are quite fond of blackberries). We opted for the potstickers for our appetizer.
My gripe with potstickers (and to some degree egg rolls and spring rolls as well) is a noticeable lack of meat and an overwhelming amount of veggies. These appetizers are text book cases of unbalanced dishes. However, the potstickers at J.Liu were pleasantly packed with meat. They were quite tasty. For her entrée, Katina settled on the spicy chicken with a side of fried rice.
While the dish was tasty, Katina did not feel there was any spiciness to the dish at all. But the dish came with an abundance of sauce, which is a great way to get on Katina’s good side (the girl loves her sauces). I ordered the Pasta Diavolo, which was quite delicious.
The spicy cream sauce was decidedly not spicy, but still flavorful. What surprised me the most was the amount of meat in the dish. Usually an entrée like this one would have a ton of pasta and a couple of scraps of meat, but in this case I actually needed more pasta since I ran out. We decided to indulge in some dessert on this occasion, so Katina ordered a piece of key lime pie and I ordered a piece of chocolate flourless cake. The key lime pie was very good, but I found the cake to just be average. I am not a huge chocolate cake fan, so I might not really be the best qualified person to rate this particular dessert.
High marks: Great appetizer, tasty entrees
Low marks: Spicy dishes not actually spicy, chocolate cake uninspiring
Value: Grade A-: J.Liu almost made me part with one of my Benjamins, but for the quality of food, and the fact we had drinks, appetizers, and dessert, the price was not too bad. If you were so inclined, you could probably make it out of J.Liu with a reasonable bill. With an Asian flair but lots of non-Asian dishes to choose from, almost everyone can find something to eat at J.Liu. If you haven’t found your favorite yet, stop lollygagging and get to it.
High marks: Very good quality food, fairly reasonable price
Low marks: Take a credit card if you plan on living it up
Overall GrubGrade C+
Atmosphere: Grade B: Both the outside and inside of La Casita has that “authentic” Mexican restaurant feel to it, which I imagine means that they are nothing like authentic Mexican restaurants. Gaudy Mexican themed décor dominates the interior, but La Casita is certainly not the only Mexican restaurant to be guilty of this sin. The place was clean both inside and outside, but a little on the small side. Thankfully, the weather in Columbus has kept the less hardcore diners at home heating up their ramen noodles, but nothing short of the Apocalypse can keep us from getting our grub on.
High marks: Clean and well kept, not crowded
Low marks: Small, gaudy decor
Service: Grade B: We love grabbing a bite at all the various little Mexican joints in Columbus. But we have noticed a theme with most of them – good but never great service. La Casita certainly continued that theme. Our food and drinks came out el rapido (not even sure that’s really Spanish for anything), but our server gave us the bare minimum service. There is usually a small language barrier, and I feel a little bad then I have to point to the menu to order. But as you can tell, my Española is severely lacking (you should see me try to order Chinese food).
High marks: Fast
Low marks: Bare minimum
Food/Spirits: Grade C-: For most of dining experiences at Mexican eateries, the quality of the chips and salsa has been a good indicator of what the rest of the experience is going to be like. This was also the case at La Casita. The chips were stale, and the salsa was completely unremarkable. As a paying diner, you should not feel that you could have gotten better chips and salsa from a bag of chips and a jar of salsa. When the corner UDF can provide better chips and salsa than your restaurant, that is a grande red flag. We ordered margaritas, of course (not ordering a margarita at a Mexican restaurant means you should never be allowed to eating anything Mexican except for Taco Bell). We were pretty sure there was zero alcohol in our margaritas. They tasted more like slushees served in fancy glassware. Katina ordered enchiladas for her entrée and said they weren’t bad, but also not good enough to be memorable. I can’t even remember what I ordered. But I do know it had beef, and the beef was runny – like they dumped some left over chili into a tortilla and served it to me. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. My instinct was to hand La Casita a big fat “D” for food, but since Katina said her food was not “that bad,” I settled on the “C-.”
High marks: Being described as “not that bad.”
Low marks: Everything else
Value: Grade B-: If La Casita were to be located in my hometown of Gratis, Ohio, it would probably appear to be the best Mexican restaurant ever. But since it is located in Columbus with a bunch of other Mexican restaurants, it comes across as way below average when compared to its competitors. Portion size was okay and price was what you would expect for this type of restaurant, but the quality was lacking. Our advice…drive on past La Casita…you’ll can find better quality with minimal effort.
High marks: Cheap
Low marks: Cheap tasting
Back when we first got married, Katina and I loved nothing better than grabbing a good hamburger. In fact, if you follow this blog, you can see that we are still quite fond of our beef patties. Way back then, when cell phones weren’t as thin as a credit card and people still wore beepers, one of our favorite haunts was a little joint called Fuddruckers. We had one that was almost close enough to the house that we could walk to it. But alas, it closed down, and left an empty hole in our lives that we’ve been desperately trying to fill. We loved the condiment bar, which allowed an amazing degree of customization. It really made Fudds a special place.
Since then, we’ve tried about every burger joint that’s popped up in Columbus. And I’m talking about those middle tiered places that are a notch above McDonald’s and Wendy’s, but not a full scale fine dining experience. We’ve been to Five Guys, which is good but doesn’t really do a whole lot for us. Even better is Graffiti Burger, which is as close to Fuddruckers in quality and variety as we’ve found. So when we heard there was a new burger joint in Westerville called Smashburger, we had to go. Expectations were high, so we recently satisfied our curiosity by snagging lunch there.
Katina went with the BBQ, Bacon, & Cheddar and I opted for the Spicy Baja burger. While both burgers were serviceable, we are sorry to say we are still looking for that alternative to Fuddruckers. The high point of the lunch was the smash fries, and when the most memorable part of the experience is a slightly churched up French fry, that means the burgers were lacking in the “Wow” factor. Our burgers were nice and large, but very mediocre. Smashburger might be a nice alternative to the traditional fast food burger options if you’re getting burned out on the Big Macs, but for us, we’ll drive the extra 10 miles to the nearest Graffiti Burger the next time we want a “gourmet” burger without jumping through all the traditional dining hoops. We will keep trying, and hopefully we find that place that really knocks our socks off. You might think Smashburger is the cat’s pajamas, and if so, drop us a line and tell us why. Otherwise, you might as well just hit the drive thru and save a couple of bucks.
Overall GrubGrade B
Atmosphere: Grade A-: If you’ve ever been to Bravo, then you might be a little confused when you walk through the front doors of Brio. These two restaurants are so similar in décor that you might doubt your sanity and think you’ve entered the wrong restaurant. The interior is clean, and the overall vibe is very Mediterranean with all the stucco adorning the walls. When we visited, there weren’t a whole lot of other people there, but like its cousin Bravo, the place seemed really noisy. Seating was nicely spaced, and other than some poor seals around some doors and windows making the place drafty, the overall atmosphere was really nice.
High marks: Clean, well-spaced tables
Low marks: Noisy and drafty
Service: Grade B+: After a change in tables (the first place they sat us was right in front of some doors that led outside, creating a real draft problem), our server’s name was Joshua. Josh did a very commendable job serving us. Our food arrived promptly, our drinks were served with minimal delay, and we received refills of bread almost as soon as we ate the last piece in the basket (I should point out that the majority of bread consumed was done so by our daughter, who are like she’s been in a prison camp for a decade). Since Brio’s wasn’t very busy, I expected a little more “umph” out of the service. Our server got everything right, but there wasn’t much engagement beyond the basic back and forth involved with dining out.
High marks: Accurate and quick
Low marks: Not anything really stood out about the service
Food/Spirits: Grade B: On this visit to Brio, Katina selected the White Peach Sangria for her first cocktail and chased it with another cocktail called a Strawberry Basil Lemonade. The sangria was very tasty, with a heavy peach flavor and a lot of sweetness. This sangria wasn’t dry like some sangria can be, and it was very lightly carbonated which made it easy to drink. I ordered the raspberry mojito. I found it to be very smooth with a pronounced raspberry flavor. There was virtually no alcohol flavor in this mojito, which made me wonder if they might have forgotten an important ingredient. For entrees, our daughter, Morgan, ordered the sausage and pepperoni flatbread. She found it to be delicious, with just a hint of spiciness and a nice, balanced flavor. She particularly enjoyed the thin and crispy crust. I really don’t even know how she tasted it since she eats so quickly I’m not sure the food even touches her tongue. Katina selected the veal marsala for her entrée. She found it to be very good (and she’s a veal marsala expert). The veal was pounded nice and thin and cooked to perfection, and Brio wasn’t stingy with the marsala sauce, which was perfect for Katina (who usually orders a side of whatever sauce comes with her dish, anyway. The veal marsala was accompanied by a Caesar salad (which is Katina’s favorite style of salad). She thought it was good, but just too light on the dressing. For myself, I begrudgingly ordered the crab and shrimp cakes. Evidently, the only reason I wanted to go to Brio (can you say gorgonzola crusted lamb chops?) was removed from the menu. That was rather suckish. The crab and shrimp cakes were okay. They were very light on flavor, and portion size was ridiculously small (think 3 bite sized cakes). The crab and shrimp cakes came with crispy potatoes, which I might have ordinarily passed on but devoured due to food shortage that was evident on my plate. The crispy potatoes were surprisingly good. I ordered the Biscetta Insalata to go with my dish…and thank god I did. Otherwise I might have taken down the first elderly or sick person in the parking lot like a lion dispatching a gimpy zebra. This salad looked terrible – a huge wedge of lettuce with some creamy Italian dressing and some bacon bits. However, the Biscetta Insalata was one of the best salads I’ve ever tasted. The lettuce, while not loose, was very fresh, and the creamy Italian dressing was perfect. Plus, Brio was fairly generous with the bacon, so the salad ended up in near perfect balance. It’s pretty sad when the salad is the highlight of the meal. Katina gave Brio an “A” for food, but I couldn’t muster anything higher than a “C+,” so we split the difference to get the grade of “B.”
High marks: Good flatbread, good drinks, excellent salad, good veal marsala
Low marks: Mediocre crab and shrimp cakes, I think (not really enough of them to taste), weak mojito
Value: Grade B- : The quality of food is high at Brio Tuscan Grille, and on this occasion, so was the price. Portion size was adequate for most of the dishes (except the crab and shrimp cakes), but we certainly didn’t have much need for a doggy bag (Katina took half of her dish home, but I bet she could have finished it off – she was looking for an easy dish to take to work for lunch). However, for the price we paid, I would expect service above and beyond the normal and the food quality to be exceptional. While not our first pick for Italian food, Brio Tuscan Grille does provide a nice alternative to Olive Garden and Bravo if you’re in need of a change.
High marks: Good food quality, adequate portion size
Low marks: For the price, our expectations were a little higher
So, after a whole lot of arm twisting, Katina has talked me into doing the Winking Lizard World Beer Tour. This will be my second time completing the tour, if I am successful. Each month, I plan on bringing you all along on the journey. We have to drink 100 beers at least (but we’ll be really awesome if we can hit 150) in 12 months. Katina will be our manager, so if your game, let’s go.
Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout (ABV 5.8) – This oatmeal stout was nice and dark, with a pronounced thick and creamy texture. It had some obvious bread and coffee notes, but I found the alleged raisin and dried cherry notes to be undetectable. I am particularly fond of oatmeal stouts, especially because of this type of beers thickness, and in my opinion the Anderson Valley Oatmeal Stout is a fine example of this genre of beers.
Ayinger Brau Weisse (ABV 5.1) – This hefeweizen has the traditional cloudiness of a wheat beer, but without the citrus notes. However, there is definitely a fruity aspect to this beer, but I could not put my finger on which fruit was represented. There is probably a nice blend of fruits, or maybe I need to try this beer first on a visit instead of fourth, when my tongue has taken a proverbial beer beating. I found this beer to be on the lighter side of the spectrum of wheat beers. It is incredibly refreshing, and probably tastes much better if enjoyed in the summer.
Deschutes Black Butte (ABV 5.2) – This may be one of the darkest beers I’ve ever sampled. This member of the porter family of beers was probably the mildest porter that I’ve had. I was not able to detect the chocolate finish, but I didn’t care. It was incredibly nice to drink a dark porter that didn’t make Katina scrunch up her face.
De Dolle Dulle Teve (ABV 10) – The name of this Belgian strong ale (Trippel) translates to “Mad Bitch.” But this bitch has nothing to be mad about. Amber in color and earthy in flavor, this beer slides across the tongue with ease and is surprisingly drinkable considering its complexity.
Alltech Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale (ABV 8.2) – This example of an old ale is probably one of the best beers ever brewed. Every one of my friends who have tried it upon my recommendation have become hooked, and its growing popularity is evident by the increasing number of establishments that are now carrying it on tap. It is creamy, and it has a perfect blend of earthy, wooden notes from the bourbon barrel and vanilla. It’s like a Victoria Secret ad for your tongue.
Alltech Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale Stout (ABV 6) – This stout beer is not the most stout I’ve had, but it was fairly stout. I could definitely detect some coffee and expresso notes, but there was minimal vanilla and bourbon notes in my opinion. While this is a very tasty beer, I feel it pales in comparison to its cousin, the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.
North Coast Old Stock Ale (ABV 11.9) – This old ale is very smooth. It has been compared to barley wine, and while I can taste some similarities, I didn’t detect the bite that I normally find with barley wines. It was creamy but a little thin, which didn’t detract from the overall experience of the beer. While not a beer that I would stock in my fridge, it’s a nice change of pace from the usual offerings around town.
Bells Kalamazoo Stout (ABV 6) – With its minimal fruit notes and pronounced coffee attributes, this stout is a fine example of this genre of beers. This beer is thick enough to coat the tongue but doesn’t linger on the palate long enough to interfere with any food that might be served with it. This is a very impressive stout, and probably a good stout to cut your teeth on if you’re not familiar with this beer style.
Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot (ABV 11.1) – I drank this barley wine after I had finished the North Coast Old Stock Ale, so by the end of it I was pretty much out of my mind. With its slight carbonation and pronounced boozy flavor, this barley wine is less sweet than many of the other examples of this genre of beers that I’ve sampled, and because of that lack of sweetness I found this beer to be very enjoyable (the fact that I was near bombed probably helped as well).
Thirsty Dog Rail Dog Smoked Ale (ABV 6.7) – This beer is an example of the Schwarzbier family of beers. It is an incredibly dark beer but not as thick as some of the other dark beers that are out there. This beer has a pronounced chocolate note upon the first sip, but the chocolate flavor diminishes somewhat as you approach the bottom of the bottle. I also was able to detect some coffee and toffee notes, but none of the fruit notes that the “official” description states should be there. Overall, the beer was very flavorful for a dark beer.
5 Rabbits 5 Lizards (ABV 4.3) – This example of a wit beer pours nice and pale yellow and cloudy. Instead of the traditional citrus aroma that you find with many wit beers, this beer has an aroma that reminded me of pineapple. The beer is quite acidic with a heavy sweetness to it, almost reminiscent of a lambic. The use of passion fruit results in a sweetness that is almost overbearing. While I appreciated the nice, thick texture, I am not a fan of really sweet beers, so this was not one of my favorites. But, I bet my wife would love it (she’s into fruity drinks).
Great Divide Hoss (ABV 6.2) – Amber pouring, this marzen came out with almost no head at all. Thin textured are very light, this beer has almost no aftertaste…one second it’s there, and the next it’s gone. This beer would be a nice beer to pound if you were tired of Bud Light or Miller Light.
Indigo Imp Blonde Bombshell (ABV 6.2) – This butterscotch colored blonde ale pours with almost no head and barely any carbonation. But that doesn’t mean there is not a little bite to this beer. That bite is supplied by a severe sweetness imparted by the malt. That sweetness lends this beer an almost fruity, citrusy acidity to it.
Kulmbacher Pils (ABV 4.9) – This pilsner is a little heavier than the other pilsners that I’ve samples. In addition, I found this beer has a much larger malt presence than other beer in this style. There is some discernable thickness, and the carbonation is not too high. The result is a smooth beer that remains firmly planted on the tongue even after swallowed. Thankfully, it delicious, because you’ll be tasting it for a while, even after you’ve finished the bottle. I highly recommend this beer.
Jackie O’s Chomolungma (ABV 6.5) – The beer is an example of a brown ale. Dark brown, thin, and pouring with almost no head, I found this beer to be really bitter and not smooth at all. This is probably one you can skip and feel good that you’re not missing out on much.
Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald (ABV 5.8) – This very dark brown porter pours with a thin, coppery head. I found this beer to be moderately bitter, which made if a fairly drinkable beer. I don’t think you would necessarily need to be a fan of porters to enjoy this beer. The beer presents itself boldly on the tongue with some chocolate and coffee tones, but quickly dissipates once swallowed. This porter is not particularly thick, which translates to a lighter feel than other porters.
Overall GrubGrade B
Atmosphere: Grade B+: Ashland & Highland, in Dublin, is a fairly new restaurant. It’s new enough that my car’s nav didn’t even think the road it is located on was finished. I thought that my car wasn’t the only one that didn’t know where it was located when we arrived, as the place was pretty much empty. We were a little early for the dinner crowd, and that was illustrated by the growing number of diners that were arriving when we left. Decorated like a slightly upscale sports bar, Ashland & Highland even smelled new. The smell was hard to describe, but it was reminiscent of a new car smell, but a little different. Table spacing seemed adequate, but it would be hard to tell for sure with the sparse population of diners present.
High marks: New, clean, quiet
Low marks: So new it might be a little hard to locate
Service: Grade B: Our server, Rob, seemed a little distracted when we first arrived. However, he seemed to snap out of it once we had a couple of interactions. We did drinks, appetizers, and a main course and it all came out within a reasonable amount of time. It also seemed as though every time I started to look around the place to get his attention, he magically appeared. Our service was friendly and accurate, and once Rob focused on the task at hand, he had a pleasant personality that put us at ease.
High marks: Accurate, friendly service
Low marks: Took server a little while to warm up to us
Food/Spirits: Grade B: I usually take notes on my phone about the food and service, but I recently swapped phones and lost my notes, so the discussion of food in this case will be from memory. That pretty much sucks for all involved since my memory is shot, but we’re going to do it anyway. Katina ordered some sangria and a drink called Rooftop Punch. I selected the Rogue Dead Guy ale, which I have had a few times recently and already described, so we’ll skip that part. As for the sangria, it was good, but Katina is somewhat of a sangria savant and while she enjoyed it, she has had better. The Rooftop Punch was very fruity and refreshing, and definitely the better of the two drinks. For our appetizer, we ordered the calamari. Other than the fact there were more tentacles than rings (Katina hates the tentacles, so I have to eat them), there was nothing about the calamari that was memorable. For her entrée, Katina ordered the lobster mac and cheese. Again, this was a dish she enjoyed, but after dining on the lobster mac and cheese at Eddie Merlot’s, we’ve found it almost pointless to eat it anywhere else – Eddie’s has set the bar too high. I ordered the ribeye, which was cooked really well but was lacking seasoning. If I find the need to ask for steak sauce with my steak, then usually that means the dish is lacking. A really great steak should require nothing else but a fork and knife to eat. But what the steak lacked in flavor it had in texture and tenderness. I ordered my steak medium well, but I think the steak that got delivered to me was more on the well done side. There should just be a smidgen of blood mixed in with the other steak juices if the meat is truly cooked to medium-well, but there was no blood to be found. That did not detract from the steak’s texture, though.
High marks: Very tender steak, decent drinks
Low marks: Lackluster calamari, steak was under-seasoned
Value: Grade B-: We spent slightly less than I thought we were going to spend, considering I ordered a decent sized steak and Katina and I had plenty of drinks (we were kind of celebrating). The quality of food was good but not exceptional, and portion size was adequate but not generous (we left full, but no doggy bags required). While we probably won’t make a special trip back to Dublin to revisit, my would probably stop by again if we were in the area. If you happen to be in Dublin, you should give Ashland & Highland a try – they were pretty good, and will probably only get better with time.
High marks: Reasonable price considering drinks and steak
Low marks: Portion size just adequate