All posts by David Barrett

Vivant – Can a Brewery have good beer and good food?

From David- Founder of Sommbeer:
I love my daughters.  They just aren’t’ too crazy about brew pubs.  When we announced we were going to Brewery Vivant after we saw the Museum in Grand Rapids, Emm’s response was “you’re going to drink beer while we eat warmed up frozen food”.  I bristled at her harsh response but knew it could be true.  Good breweries do not always measure up when it comes to food.IMG_3759
We walked into Vivant just a few minutes after they opened up for the day (no I wasn’t banging on the door).  We were immediately greeted by a hostess and seated in a booth.  I was already impressed as the interior was a beautifully renovated church.  She handed us all menu’s and I immediately panicked.  Nothing looked familiar. It was all “high end” French food, for the most part.  We coaxed Emm into trying some new stuff and then waited.
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Food: The waiter was super friendly and talked to my family as I researched the beer menu.  Along the conversation, he suggested to Emm, that when she grows up and goes to college she should always remember to go back and visit her parents (Dude! I thought to myself, you just earned yourself a nice tip).  We ordered our food, beers and pops.
The appetizer showed up – Duck Confit Nachos (a mountain of chips smothered in sauce and duck meat).  We couldn’t be happier.
My wife and youngest ordered a hamburger and grilled cheese, both outstanding.
Emm ordered a bowl of wild mushroom soup.  Something she never had, trust me. She loved it.
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I ordered deer sausage.  Fantastic earthy flavor, I even ate my brussel sprouts.   All the food is super high quality and unique.  In fact it was unique to the point that they took more than a few culinary risks – and succeeded.  Only issue was the cost $$$.  Our bill for two adults and two kids hit around $100.  That said, it was a great meal and we will be going back.
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Beer: Our hostess explained later that Vivant is all about the Belgian wild yeast style of beer.
Update 2017: My taste has evolved since I first wrote this article. Belgian style beers have become one of my favorite styles of beer. It’s not uncommon on many a beer night for my belgians to even edge out my previous favorites – stouts and scottish ales.
I ordered a glass of their Egoiste and followed it with one last glass of Dubelicious – I loved them both.  Here’s what I learned about this style of beer, to enjoy it to it’s fullest I have to prepare myself for it.  Belgian wild yeast style is kinda tangy like sour dough bread.  Doesn’t matter the variety they make it still has that tangy flavor.  If beer is like music (a post on this later) then this tanginess is a high pitched trumpet. My wife ordered their Fat Paczk beer that arrived in a tulip glass.  That beer was out of this world good!  It’s been a week since our visit and she still talks about that one beer.
When we walked out, our hostess greeted us again (the service here is unreal).  My family took this opportunity to start shopping at the gift shop.  I grabbed a souvenir glass and the hostess recommended I purchase some Vivant beer (Acidulated Trip) to pair with my glass!  What an up-sell.
Emm and I avoiding Paparazzi
Emm and I avoiding Paparazzi
Brewery Vivant surprised me.  I have been in search of a brewery that has both great beer and food.  What I found was great food, beer and service.  My daughters are the toughest critics believe me and they were happy.  We will be going back.
Sommbeer – John Fahner @fahrn13 also reviewed some beers from Brewery Vivant.
– David
Check out this beer review for Brewery Vivant –> Solitude

Snow Smoke

This post utilizes the marinade I made in my last article “Drunken Marinade“.
I love to smoke.  I use my smoker all year long even in the winter.  It is a common belief that it’s difficult to do this when it is snowing and frigid outside. Not true.  In fact I have been successful even with my electric smoker.

 

To accomplish this I insulated the outside. The next smoker will have a more professional wrap, but what I have works.

 

Tips for solid snow smoking
1. Marinate the meat at least over night.  Beef can marinade for days.  Chicken should only have a few hours.
2. Consider milder wood like pecan and fruit woods (apple, peach) that is more forgiving and allows you to smoke continuously.  The strong stuff like hickory is too easy to over do, plus it’s just so common. Shake things up and experiment.  I commonly mix my woods during the same smoke (apple and pecan for example).
3. Keep the water tray full.  It helps to prevent the meat from drying out. Just grab some (clean) snow.
4. Enjoy a beer. This is the best part about smoking outdoors in the winter. Bundle up grab a beer and chill.
5. Smoking takes time, throw in some appetizers to tide you over. We added cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped jalapenos.

Seems nobody hangs out, outside in my neighborhood. I’ve always thought this was weird but it does help my smoking by limiting distractions.  I can tend to the smoker for hours and not have any surprises.

Check out this action smoke video!

My Smoker Settings for beef and pork
1. Temperature: I run low at 200-210 degrees
2. Time: Minimum of 5 hours. Check the meat moisture for the last hour (tinfoil helps).  Internal temps need to be safe.

 

Have fun and Cheers!

David

 

Drunken Marinade

I’m not a chef and I’m not even the primary cook in my family.  Honestly, I think my family keeps me around just for the spare kidney and my grilling/smoking skills.  My primary cooking function is to take the workload off my wife.  So I do it for fun and I have a lot of freedom to mess around.   While my wife has to worry about making a balanced meal for the kids with vegetables, meat, fruit etc… I focus my energies on things like making a good marinade.
When John started this site, this was the first food item I thought of. Problem is I don’t really know how to make it.  My marinade is usually made the day before I smoke or grill.  Usually this occurs on a Friday evening when I’ve had a few beers and I’ve forgotten to make the marinade.  I have attempted to recreate this beer recipe inspired and created by beer.  There are no measurements and the ingredients change every time, because again – I’ve had a few beers.
Why use marinade?
Marinade infuses the meat with great flavor but also tenderizes the meat.  This is especially true for the rougher cuts that are prized for the ‘low & slow’ cooking method used while smoking.  The acids in the marinade make the meat tender, the salt pulls in the moisture and the spices add flavor.
Base ingredients
My base ingredients are apple cider vinegar, mustard and salt.  Everything else is added to make it unique or fun, or because I’ve had a few beers.
– Apple Cider Vinegar
– Mustard (nothing fancy required)
– Salt
Here’s how I have fun making my “Drunken Marinade”
  1. Grab a bowl and add the cider
2. Add the mustard and salt.  Easy chief, you’re tipsy so go heavy on that cheap mustard not so much on the salt.
Additional Additions – Beer is my Inspiration
This is the fun part.  Beer, wine, liquor removes inhibitions so I tend to explore and find new marinade flavors I otherwise would never consider.  One sobering word of caution: If it doesn’t taste good by itself it will not taste good as a marinade.  I used a bad beer once and the meat tasted like stale bad beer, not good.
I’m drinking a spicy IPA and I’m drawn to the label on a bottle in my fridge.  Turns out lemon juice tastes great in marinade and helps to tenderize the meat.
Uh, well now I’m drinking some fine wine but I’m immediately bored with it.  I’m a beer guy so this is going in.
This is where things can get stupid. I like sriracha sauce, it has a funky chicken on the bottle.  I add it but it’s a big gamble (turns out ok).  Soy sauce is added for flavor and salt and I’m drunk.
Marinade – it’s not pretty
Add the meat since that’s why I’m making this marinade.  Yes, I bought some “clearance meat”, leave me alone.
The bag of meat goes into my 30 degree winter garage over night.
Tomorrow we grill…..