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Unibroue: Quelque Chose

It's really "Something"

Let me set the scene.  My parents, my girlfriend, and I had just finished an extravagant English tapas-style dinner at the quaint Side Door of Five Crowns in Corona del Mar, a personal favourite[sic] bar for showing off and splurging.  We had collectively cleaned every plate ordered, and thus were feeling quite full, so when it became time to order dessert, I suggested that we split a beer to cap off our outstanding dining experience.  I eyed the Unibroue brewery name on Side Door’s always exciting and ever-changing beer list, and thought I couldn’t go wrong.  On the menu, The Quelque Chose was described as an ultra rare kriek style ale, and it was served in a 750ml bottle, perfect for splitting between 4 people.  I flagged the enthusiastic waitress, who beamed at my order, and shuffled off.

The appearance of this beer gave me a first impression of mixed feelings.  On one hand, the deep ruby red color was stunning, bringing to mind Fender Guitar’s midnight wine paint color.  Truly a gorgeous liquid.  However, there was absolutely no carbonation and zero head.  This was something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in a beer before, and I was unsure weather a completely flat beer could really excite my palate.  Of course, none of this stopped me from sticking my nose in the glass…

The aroma was completely dominated by cherry.  A little vanilla and cinnamon could be detected, but this was an overpoweringly fruity concoction, and not that fresh hoppy citrus fruit that I love to deeply inhale from above the finest of pale ales, no, this was more of a children’s medicine flavoring scent.  Even though this beer is half dark ale and half brown ale, I could make out no hint of malt on the nose at all.

On the palate, I experienced a thick, sticky, almost syrupy cherry-dominated mouthful, with very little else discernible flavor-wise.  I was quite disappointed, especially for the $21 price tag.  I was not alone in my negative review; my mother found the beer undrinkably sweet.  However, my father and girlfriend both enjoyed it enough.  They are fans of light and/or fruity beers, but unfortunately, I am in a darker, more bitter school of appreciation.  I feel like this beer was also not a good choice for me specifically, as with dinner, I enjoyed a North Coast Old Rasputin Imperial Stout, which is a bold, dark, deeply flavorful malt-stravaganza of deliciousness.  The contrast was too much for me.

On the whole, I would definitely not shell out for this particular beer again, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone with a cherry fetish.

Fairfax Avenue is a fashionista’s paradise, sporting kids with wild styles and of course, jeans tailored too tight—often exposing ankles. In addition to the hip hoards of youth that inhabit and prowl the avenue, the area houses a culinary epicenter; a lot of Los Angeles staples can be found somewhere on that road, like Canter’s Deli (practically, an institution, though not my favorite deli), Meals By Genet, Animal and many others. Friday night, I went to the Golden State seeking out “The Burger” but possibly finding the next great café on an Avenue that is rich in food options.

Inside The Golden State Café was a handsome collection of art adorning the walls, unevenly; wood tables were coupled with matching chairs, a lonely flat screen TV projected ESPN highlights and cement flooring all worked in concert to provide the ambiance of an art studio that cooks. Casual yet refined. The soignée establishment was hopping, each seat was filled, and lively chatter took place at every table. One of the owners (a bespectacled and friendly man) and a young waitress (Eva) were behind the counter to field all of our queries, making sure we placed the proper orders on beverages and chow. The entire group was there for burgers so the only thing that changed amongst ordering were the sides; I elected for jalapeño cabbage slaw to accompany the house burger sans cheese. It incorporated: Harris Ranch beef, Fiscalini Farms Cheddar, applewood smoked bacon, arugula, house made aioli and ketchup served on a brioche bun*. I also inquired about the wines and was set up with a glass of Meritage blend.

Food arrived shortly after ordering; the impressive speed was not the only thing to get excited over, rather the burger’s generous presentation was as inviting as the interior of the restaurant, with the bun slightly hinting at what was under the hood. A thick slab of flavorful bacon, a stout patty, and some arugula and on the side laid a mountain of lightly dressed jalapeño cabbage slaw.

The patty was perfectly executed, medium and yielding some jus; my teeth were delighted by the texture, soft interior encased by a little crispness from the char. The complexity wasn’t only in the texture but the bacon, which added sweetness to give the burger some depth. The bun’s egginess was off-putting but that would be my only criticism, since it held up for the entire meal unlike so many other brioche buns I have had. The balance of flavors was there. As for the side… sublime. A little heat was derived from the raw slices of jalapeño that were wedged in between finely shredded cabbage and thin slices of carrot that had bright crispness and was not swimming in a broth of mayonnaise, like so many other restaurants choose to make a slaw. It was a refreshing change.

Another bright spot was Golden State’s dessert. An ice cream case that was open to a couple of possibilities: floats or by the scoop; our table split (as evenly as five people can) to have beer floats—Old Rasputin Ale with a scoop of your choice of ice cream— and some scoops of the unusual flavors like bread, chai tea, and black currant n’ orange. I heard only good things about the beer float and as far as my scoop of ice cream was concerned I chose honey salt that was predominantly a rich honey flavor rounded out by the salt, keeping the honey in check. A smart combination.

On the whole this is a place I want to come back to. The food is enough reason to come—simple but well executed. Friendly service and a relaxed atmosphere highlight the experience. Fairfax Avenue has, indeed, another stalwart eatery.

* Sourcing is a big deal for a lot of foodies; it ensures that the vendor has selected quality goods from a purveyor that is proud enough to have their name on the product.

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