Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Barley Swine

One of the perks of writing this here blog, is occasionally you get invited to a tasting. And when the tasting happens to be at one of the brand new hot spots, then all the better! And when the restaurant is closed to the general public, and it's just you and your fellow food bloggers, and you have the staff at your disposal to ask questions, then even more fun! And just who is this new kid, you ask? Well, turns out, it's a rather familiar face -- Bryce Gilmore, the man behind the Odd Duck trailer, which sits about 1/2 mile north on South Lamar from it's new baby sibling, Barley Swine
The name Barley Swine comes from some of the owner's favorite things -- beer and pork. Like Odd Duck, the food menu, comprised of mostly local ingredients, will change as the seasons do. The beer menu is comprised of several local breweries, and all the staff are educated on the beers, being able to make food pairing suggestions to customers. I have never seen a beer menu where the percentage of alcohol is listed, and I imagine this is a trend we may start seeing more and more. The space itself was completely remodeled after the previous tenant (RIP Pie Slice....your pies were fantastic) vacated. Very efficient use of space, with the whole place only seating about 40 diners total. There's a rustic farmhouse feel to it, which matches that of the food. The old doors along the base of the counter give it some further character.
Our tastings started with the Ommegang Hennepin, a lighter citrusy beer, and my favorite of the night. The food began with the potato fritters, with goat cheese (the puree), leeks (inside the refined tater tots) and espelette pepper. Normally these come five to a plate, and I think I could have eaten ten! Very light and flavorful.
Next, grilled broccoli, farmhouse egg dressing, and housemade ricotta. This also included some seasonal greens and radish slivers. Broccoli has never been one of my favorites, but grilling the florets made them much more tasty.
The next beer was the Brooklyn Local One Strong Pale Ale, my second favorite. The dishes were grilled scallops, with pancetta, (green) cauliflower,and a curry-esque sauce. This was one of my favorites. For big, fat sea scallops, they were still moist inside, and the curry sauce didn't overpower.
Also with the Local One, was grilled baby octopus & chorizo on a white bean sofrito. While I thought the octopus was cooked properly (as in not tough and chewy), it was too smokey; the chorizo was flavorful (and turns out to be from local charcuterie Salt and Time), and I could have eaten a whole bowlful of the beans! Tender but incredibly tasty.
The next beer was the Ommegang Rare Vos, an amber ale with a hoppy finish. Lamb sweetbreads followed, with a creamy garlic and almond puree, baby brussel sprouts and while described as bacon on the menu, it was larger cubes, like pork belly. I have not eaten that many sweetbreads in my life, and these were so tender and light; the whole dish was amazing.

Here's where barley and swine came to play, as crispy stuffed pig trotter's (feet), were paired with a soft-poached egg, mushrooms, and some greens. It was suggested you cut everything up so it all mixes together with the runny yolk; and while runny yolks aren't my faves, it really worked. The trotter was very well fried, and I wouldn't have known what body part it was unless I had been told. Extremely tasty.
Getting fuller by the minute, the next beer was Brooklyn Local Two Dark Ale. The richness continued with red wine and bone marrow risotto with radicchio. This one normally comes with grilled beef, but it was plenty decadent on its own.
Finally, coming to the end of the gluttony, was more swine, this in the form of braised pork belly, with lightly pickled enoki mushrooms, on a very tasty, creamy puree that I can't recall what it was. The belly was some of the meatiest, least fatty I've had, and while fat = flavor, this swine still had plenty of it.
Dessert also had a creative touch.  A Real Ale Coffee Porter float, with pecan ice cream in it. The porter was too bitter for me, but the ice cream was delicious!
Barley Swine has barely been open a month, but I've already seen a lot of buzz on Twitter, and imagine there will be much more for some time to come.  So excited to have a place like this in the neighborhood, and I can't wait to go back and try things like roasted beets and foie gras that we didn't have.  A big THANK YOU to Bryce, the engaging and dedicated staff (they're usually closed on Sundays, so this was their "day off"), and Bread & Butter PR for hosting this delectable evening!

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