Enth Degree - December 1, 2005

News and Notes from the World of Wine.



Published:

Great American Holiday Beers

Sure, you'll drink your fill of Champagne and Port this holiday season, but there will inevitably be a few circumstances under which you'll want to reach for a quality, craft-brewed beer. Here are five beers to keep on hand, and when to drink them.

For a "Merry Christmas to Me" Present:
Anchor 'Our Special Ale'

This seasonal classic, each year sporting a different label, is brewed annually according to a new recipe. Often it's spiced, sometimes it's hoppy, but always it's a most interesting, rewarding ale.

For When You're Snowed In:
Geary's Hampshire Special Ale

Although it's now available year-round, this richly malty, 7% alcohol ale is just the thing for when the weather sucks, as its label used to boast. What makes it particularly special is a finish as long as a New Hampshire winter night.

For Turkey Sandwiches on the 26th:
Alaskan Winter Ale

One of the season's more unusual ales, this brew is spiced with tips cut from Alaskan Sitka spruce trees, also used locally to flavor jams. Its floral character and almost marmalade-like fruitiness make it most versatile with holiday foods, even leftovers.

For Christmas Morning:
New Belgium Frambozen

After coffee and toast, but before lunch, you might want to kick back with something fruity, like this Belgian-inspired raspberry ale. Fermented with real fruit, and tasting like it, it's a flavorful alternative to morning mimosas.

For A Much-Deserved Good Night's Sleep After You Get Rid of Your Houseguests: Victory Old Horizontal Barleywine
The name of this Pennsylvania strong ale says it all. Rich, with ripe fruit balanced by the judicious use of hops, this complex, 11% alcohol beer puts to shame conventional nightcaps like Cognac and Port.

—Stephen Beaumont
 

Sugar Shock

Brew n' Chew Napa chocolatier Brent Madsen laces his new microbrew Firey Beer Brittle with enough chile de arbol to pack a relleno-style punch. The chili heat brings out the butter and peanut flavors, and a sprinkle of salt brings out the hops in the brittle's secret ingredient: Red Tail Ale. This sophisticated sweet is rich rather than cloying, and crunchy rather than sticky—no worries, then, about peanut brittle-induced lockjaw. Best known for ethereal dessert toppings such as Chocolate Cabernet Wine Sauce and Caramel Brandy Sauce, Brent's produces three brittles in all: another from beer without the spice, and an elegant Chardonnay Wine Brittle made with a barrel-aged vintage heady with tropical fruit and butterscotch notes. $9.95 for an 8-ounce bag; www.anettes.com.

FREEZE, PLEASE Gelato wizard Stephanie Reitano is known for creating desserts out of unlikely raw ingredients, like hot peppers, wasabi and goat's milk. The secret behind the clean, clear, sometimes startling flavors of Capogiro Gelato is an artisanal process so painstaking it's rarely used even in Italy these days.

"I'm a little psycho about concepts like sustainable agriculture and using local sources," admits Reitano, who spends five hours each morning creating the day's gelato and sorbetto bases out of Lancaster County produce. Some of Capogiro's most intensely flavored gelatos are made from wines and liquors, and while the alcohol must be cooked off before freezing there's no mistaking the flavors in gelatos like Heirloom Apple with Calvados, Melon with Absinthe, Star Anise with Ouzo, Yellow Watermelon with Grappa, and Vin Bruleé, an egg-based gelato spiked with seriously reduced Barbera. $10/pint, available at gourmet shops, including Whole Foods, or from www.capogirogelato.com.

RUMCAKE REIMAGINED While Reitano's sharply etched flavors are from produce picked just a few hours earlier, the best rum cake we've had this year comes out of a can. Jim Walters produces four traditional, liquor-laced cakes steamed in cans, including old-fashioned Christmas pudding, and a buttery single malt whisky cake made with McClelland's Speyside Single Malt. His Barbados rum cake contains spirits from Celebration Distillation, the oldest premium rum distillery in the continental U.S. With the texture of light shortbread fudge, this cake doesn't even need hard sauce. (Advisory: Avoid reading the label's calorie count, a number that is unprintable in this mainstream magazine.) $10-17 each, from www.caledoniankitchen.com.

—Janet Forman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Destination: Singapore

Singapore is often overlooked by regular travelers. As a major airline hub, many see it as just a layover between West and East. Those who explore the city/state beyond the sanitized Changi Airport find a fascinating mix of cultures: Chinese, Indian, Malay and European ex-pat. It's a taste of exotic Orient, with all the Occidental comforts.

"The Food Capital of Asia" celebrates this hodgepodge of ethnicities by boasting every possible kind of cuisine. Hamburgers and pies are found in the ex-pat filled Boat Quay and Holland Village neighborhoods. Indigenous food is called nonya; it's a mixture of Chinese and Malaysian styles, and is spicier but tastier than western "Chinese food." The best place to try a nonya meal is at one of the thousands of food carts, called "hawker stalls," lining the streets. Don't be put off by their chaotic appearance— they are clean and well maintained. Smith Street is the best place to experiment.

Good bites can be had at sit-down restaurants, too. Lei Garden Restaurant (01-24 Chjimes Centre, 30 Victoria Street; tel.: 65-339-3822) is widely considered the best Cantonese restaurant in town, while Indian food lovers rave about Samy's Curry Restaurant (Block 25 Dempsey Road, tel.: 65-6472-2080), a casual place where food is served on banana leaves. For a swanky night out, try the 69th-story, Asian-fusion Equinox (2 Stamford Road, tel.: 65-6837-3322) where you'll get the best views of the city.

While eating may be a national pastime, Singaporeans are also champion shoppers. Everything from Chanel to cheap Chinese textiles can be found for a good price on Orchard Road. Glitzy department store Takashimaya (391 Orchard Road; tel.: 65-6738-1111) is a must. Nearby, Funan The IT Mall (109 North Bridge Road; tel.: 65-6336-8327) is a computer geek's dream.

If you're more into nature than lucre, check out the tiny monkeys along the trails at Bukit Timah Reserve (National Parks tel: 65-6471-7808). The Singapore Zoo (80 Mandai Lake Road; tel.: 65-6269-3411) has a cage-free philosophy— visitors can, if they are so inclined, share their meals with orangutans. Nocturnal wildlife roams free among the tourists at the Night Safari (80 Mandai Lake Road; tel.: 65-6269-3411).

Culture vultures should head to Chinatown for the Chinese Theatre Circle teahouse evenings (5 Smith Street; tel.: 65-6323-4862). Professional actors explain the ancient art of Chinese opera, and audience participation is welcome.

Nightlife in Singapore is a burgeoning business. Wine drinking hasn't been popular in the past, but it's starting to take hold, and at least one new wine bar opens each month. The most atmospheric place for a glass is Emerald Hill, where tables spill out onto a lantern-lit sidewalk. Locals know Qué Pasa (7 Emerald Hill, tel.: 65-235-6626) because it has the largest wine list in town. Nearby, the aptly named Ice Cold Beer (8 Emerald Hill, tel.: 65-6735-9929) sells brews from around the world. Harry's Bar (28 Boat Quay, tel.: 65-6538-3029) is the one-time hangout of Nick Leeson, the infamous Barings Bank rogue trader. It's still a favorite of financial types, and has happy hour and late- night jazz.

Other ex-pats gather in the Colonial District at the legendary Raffles Hotel (1 Beach Road, tel.: 65-6337-1886). There are several places to drink here, but the Long Bar—the home of the famous Singapore Sling cocktail—is the most fun. Get a taste of Imperial Britain while sitting under swinging bamboo fans.

While shopping and eating can be cheap here, sleeping in Singapore can be expensive. The price tag at Raffles Hotel is well deserved. Its style and service are unmatched in the world. Chain hotels like the Marriott (320 Orchard Road, tel.: 65-6735-5800) offer more than the usual comforts. Budget travelers should check out shophouse hotels in Chinatown. Hotel 1929 (50 Keong Saik Road, tel.: 65-6347-1929) is one of the best.

So whether it's a 12-hour stopover or a longer vacation, get yourself out of the airport and into delicious and decadent Singapore.

—Tara Gadomski

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