Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Standing "O" for the Wrong Joe

So this beerwriter walks into a bar--actually a fine restaurant with craft-brewed beer--and gets a standing ovation from at least six comely lasses--and the OWNER! What you may think was a barley-and-hops induced dream was reality, but in the opinion of The PubScout, entirely backwards.

The event was designed to promote Artisan's for a TV shoot that was being done on the premises to promote what is already one of the most unique restaurants in the southern part of the state. It already holds a number of restaurant/brewpub distinctions, as well as that of hosting the best annual Octoberfest Celebration in Jersey. The recipe for that now-legendary party carries over into its daily business model. Great food, great beer and exceptional hospitality will work every time, even without an oompah band and fetching women in dirndls.

The TV crew interviewed Yours Truly, still basking in the glow from that breathtaking welcome at the door--and the crux of my message was just that. The Petes, brothers who own Artisan's (don't ask--it was ouzo and their mother), have put their hearts and souls into this place and it shows. Executive Chef Steve Farley wields a master's hand in the kitchen, and Der Brewmeister Himself, Dave Hoffman does the same at the kettles.

Last evening for example, Dave greeted me with a goblet of his newest beer, just filtered and unavailable to the public--yet--which will be his Winter Ale. OMG. Malty, raisiny, plummy and chock full of blackstrap molasses, this baby will warm your cockles--even if you don't know where they are. Reminiscent of Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome--the one with the Shakespeare quote on the bottle--it's destined to please many a palate, and at 8.5% it deserves respect in terms of where and when you quaff it.

The missus had a dish called Butternut Squash Agnolotti and her repeated vocalizations of pleasure nearly interrupted my enjoyment of Homemade Gnocchi with Filet Mignon. I had already whetted my appetite with some delightful Lamb-Stuffed Meatballs, but the main dish was just outtasight. (Do our youth even know what outtasight means?).

Outtasight is the word that applies to watching "Panagiati" and his "daughter" do moves on the dance floor that made me think John Travolta and his dance partner from Saturday Night Fever were in the house. And it also applies to a sinfully delicious baklava that Panagiati demanded I sample. Not a dish for calorie-counters, for sure, but definitely one for those who appreciate art from the kitchen.

And Art is what Artisan's is all about. In their food, in their beer and in their hospitalty, you just won't find any better. The great shame is that folks north of the Raritan River have to drive a bit to get to it. But if you're anywhere south of the Raritan River, Artisan's awaits you with open arms, big smiles and an exceptional experience.

Don't expect a standing "O" at the door when you enter, but you may be tempted to give one when you leave.

Cheers! The PubScout

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