Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Let the Rivers Run Amber with Ale & Malt Vinegar

Last week, I became a resident of Troy, NY, and while I'm fixing up my new abode and turning it into my own sanctuary/den of iniquity (there may be updates on bigger projects, but I make no promises, as such things need to actually be accomplished, rather than written about before action is taken), I've decided to venture out and take in the various offerings this city has for its inhabitants. I figured I'd start off this section by writing about something most of us can relate to: food.

As the sun was setting, and before the roads and sidewalks turned to treacherous sheets of ice, I ventured down by the river and walked into Brown's Brewing Company. I have been there many times over the past year or so, but there's a very different feel about a restaurant when one is visiting an area, than when one comes to the realization that a full menu is available at (almost) anytime.

Brown's (as you may have guessed by the full name) brews its own delicious beer to not only serve its patrons in pint glasses, but they use it in many of their dishes, as well. We might as well get this part out of the way, so I can tell you about the atmosphere, food, service, and anything else that I think you might find to be of interest.

If you are going to Brown's, you have to get a beverage. Okay, you don't, but you'll really be missing out on the whole experience. Of the beers I've had at Brown's in my various visits, I can recommend the brown ale (a good beer with a very full, yet mellow flavor), the porter (the touch of chocolate reminded me of some of the better porters I've had, back when I lived in Pennsylvania and near a few microbreweries), and the Rauschbier (Märzen style beer -- smoky, though slightly sweet, and reminiscent of similar beers I had many years ago, when I was in Germany). If you want something lighter or sweeter, you might want their cherry-raspberry ale, but I find the flavor to be too sweet for me to drink, though a great ingredient in dishes like the sauce for their chicken tenders. If you're not in the mood at all for an adult beverage, I highly recommend their  homemade cream soda, which is the best I've had outside of when I attempted to make my own (yes, I can be cocky, at times).

The interior of Brown's has very comfortable seating (hard wood booths with cushions), lost of dark metalwork and railings on both floors, and brick walls (the entire place is housed in a 150 year old warehouse) are lined to pictures an theatre programs from the turn of the (last) century, and older. While the seating areas are large, they are private, and for those of a more gregarious bend, there is a large bar area and (in warmer months) an open patio that overlooks the river.

The service is friendly, prompt and attentive. The wait-staff are also quite knowledgeable about how the food is prepared, and ready to answer most inquiries as to the recipes or where the restaurant gets its provisions. The cooks also don't mind special requests, in case of allergies or special diets.

The menu also isn't stagnant. Like most places, there are daily specials, but if you visit once a month or so, I can guarantee you'll see something new on the main menu itself. Last time (if I remember correctly), it was a seared tuna dish. This round, steamed clams with chorizo appeared in the appetizer section. The kitchen staff likes to be creative, but they also strike a balance between going over the top, and knowing those things that sell consistently. 

This evening, walking into the pub from the cold, dressed in my wool coat and riding cap, I felt it only appropriate to order extremely standard fare: fish and chips. 

I've had Brown's take on the Juicy Lucy burger (and it's fantastic), their grilled ahi and asparagus salad, and pan seared scallops with hoisin butter, but tonight I wanted something simple and comforting. (To not completely abandon the vegetarians reading this, Brown's also makes breaded and deep-fried portabella wedges which are out of this world.)

My meal (which was prefaced by a salad that came with the order), consisted of large pieces of cod, batter-dipped and fried, and served with homemade fries and coleslaw. I'll work backwards from the previous description. I am not a big coleslaw fan, but the lack of bitterness to the cabbage and the fact that there wasn't a ton of mayonnaise mixed in made it more than palatable. The fries were golden, crispy, and not overly seasoned or salted. The fish might be the best I've had this way in many years. It wasn't oily. The batter crust was light, flaky, crunchy, and provided a nice shell around the cod -- It wasn't hard as a rock, nor did it fall to a million pieces when I tried to cut the fish.

And they had malt vinegar! Yes, I had to request it, but at least they had it (unlike experiences I've had at other restaurants). Some people like ketchup, but I prefer malt vinegar (and on occasion garlic or other infused vinegars) with fish and chips.

When all was said and done, my stomach was filled, my thirst slaked, and I was once again warm enough to not mind the journey home. (I also didn't even break a double sawbuck in the process - before tip.)

One more thing before I stop rambling about tonight's experience -- Brown's isn't a house of secrets when it comes to their food. They feature recipes right on their site (I'm tempted to try the tomato bruchetta or the oatmeal stout butter salmon), so you can make things at home instead of going out to eat. 

So, if you're in the area on business, to visit friends or family, or just plain live here and want to go someplace for great food and atmosphere that won't leave you with only lint in your pockets, check out Brown's Brewing Co. I know I will be exploring the rest of the menu and brewery selections during my stay in this city.

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