Friday, January 15, 2010

Grand Opening: The Town Crier Pub

Remember how I am always saying things in the world of beer for the Treasure Coast keeps getting better… enter the Town Crier Pub in Tradition of St. Lucie County.

While the gastropub itself may be new, the entrepreneurs behind it are anything but new to the Treasure Coast beer and food scene. The mastermind behind it all is Chris Russo of Hurricane Grill & Wings fame along with Dan Steinberg, Alex Scheer, and Richard Adams. Their head chef, Sandor Matyi, enjoys a tasty background in the culinary arts with past experience at the Sunrise Ocean Grille. Add to the overall equation a nice location in an independent community growing by leaps and bounds, one would assume sure success for both owner and patrons.

So what does all this actually mean for the beer geek foodie in all of us, myself especially?

Hopefully a whole lot of promise which blossoms into tangible fruition that I can see, smell, touch, drink, and eat on a regular basis. It doesn’t even have to be the same beer and food all the time either; as much as quality is diversity, so too diversity is quality buoyed by a congenial sprinkling of patience, understanding, and flexibility. I’ve been down that dismal road too many times before where promises of beery bliss and foodie heaven were never kept. Or, even worse, met with tangible fruits of my passion only to watch in horror as they are heartlessly abandoned for more of the same old boring homogenized beery and culinary schlock I can find on any common street corner in any nondescript neighborhood.

Saturday night I got a sneak peak at a promising future between the Town Crier Pub and I, but the real test is to come: an actual sit-down beer and meal experience followed hopefully by many more. Remember, once is not enough if upon a later visit the initial pleasure has become a doomed memory destined for the pages of beer geek foodie gastropub failure.

Now about Saturday night… it was fanfreakingtastic. Let me expound.

Saturdays at work feature my most coveted and cherished beer tastings from 2pm-7pm, highlighting a different selection of artisanal craft and import beers. The tasting was wonderful, the company smashing, and the weather horrible. I don’t know what the overall high for Saturday was, but I can tell you what the overall low was: too freaking cold. This is Florida. I’m a native. I don’t do cold. Sunny and humid year round works wonderfully for me. If you don’t like that, then don’t live in Florida. Now, back to the weather previously at hand; overcast, cold, damp, rainy, and miserable from morn to eve. But I love my Saturday tastings and my lovely crowd of beer peeps, so even the pain was pleasure.

My dear friend Tim had called earlier that day to see when I was getting off work and if I felt like going out. Crappy weather + work all day = not really. But then those magical words escaped his grinning lips: grand opening of the Town Crier Pub in Tradition.

I’m there.

Time flies when having fun and so did my work day. Come closing time, I got directions from Tim and was on my way. After suffering frostbite upon stepping outside, I jittered to my car where the heat function was immediately utilized. My already cold and stiff body was exacerbated by my car’s selfish need for gas, and so once more I braved the arctic air to offer up her vital nutrients so as to get me to my vital nutrients safe and sound.

The Town Crier Pub is really easy to get to, especially when cruising I95 South as I did. Nearing the Gatlin Boulevard/Tradition exit, destiny shone as three spotlights arced across the cold night sky. Guided by their dashing beacon of promise, I found a parking spot in the Publix plaza and jittered outside once more. Following the din of human joviality filling the night air along with good music and bright lights, I located the main entrance with nary a hardship while snapping pictures along the way. Stepping through those glass double doors, I quickly joined the milling throngs of people making merry and having a smashing good time.

But first, to locate Tim…

His buzzed head gleamed while Ryan towered, making finding my two good friends fast and easy. Hugs and kisses were immediately exchanged and Tim, humble host and gentleman that he always is, threaded his way through the mass of bodies to bring me nonic glasses filled to brimming with the glorious nectar of life; beer, specifically the Samuel Adams Noble Pils.

You see, last year Samuel Adams held their annual Beer Lover’s Choice contest which, through months of tasting elimination, boiled down to two beers: Sample A – Pils, and Sample B – Ale. Me and you, the beer drinker extraordinaire, voted at beer fests and other such related events on which Sample they enjoyed most. The winner? Sample A, the pils, which is righteously named the Noble Pils. It’s inaugural release nationwide and on the Treasure Coast of Florida specifically, for me at least, went down at the Town Crier Pub. Personally, I’m thrilled. When tasting both samples, the pils was the obvious shining star: balanced, refreshing, gorgeously golden, and breathtakingly rich with flavor as a proper pilsner should always be. Sadly, a proper pilsner can be frustratingly hard to find at times, making the wonderful and highly accessible Noble Pilsner a true treat for this beer geek.

I followed through the rest of the evening with a couple Anchor Porters and a couple Rogue Dead Guy Ales. Together, all three are solid beers from solid brewers who have proven their craftsmanship’s mettle decades over. Even better, I enjoyed them in the company of Nicole whom I haven’t seen in ages, Satin – a blast from my Saint Edwards past, Howard of Hurricanes, and a few others. Tim and Ryan were a given, of course.

We perched at a cozy round table in the back patio conveniently located right next to a heat lamp and just steps away from the table-o-food. The patio was comfortably warm thanks to a generous helping of those blessed heat lamps aided by plastic curtains that encapsulated the whole patio, keeping the cold out and the heat in. Speaking of being close to the food, the classy spread of gourmet nibblies had unfortunately been well raided by the time I arrived. Nonetheless, I enjoyed a couple plates of (as far as I could deduce) baby dills, pan-seared veggies, sautéed green and red peppers, clamato olives rich with oils and herbs, mushrooms and artichokes slathered in a rich tomato sauce, proschetto and cheese stuffed hot peppers, and a couple different flat breads. Yum! Seeing as I hadn’t ate yet, those couple helpings didn’t last long. I saved the platter of cheese for last since all that was left were unsliced hunks of fresh parmesan and creamy munster-style cheese. Shyness does not apply when it comes to cheese, so a couple of those chunks innocently ended up at our table for all to enjoy.

Beer, cheese, and bread. One really needs no more to achieve nirvana. At least, I don’t.

As the night waned, the food disappeared and the crowd slowly thinned, I found myself taking a moment to simply soak in the atmosphere, the memories, and the band, The Nouveaux Honkies. I have never heard of them much less listened to their music, but it was love at first note. From the moment I walked through those doors, nay, as I approached the locale in question, the musical vibe enraptured me. While a band can’t literally make or break a restaurant in the long run, a good band with a good feel for the crowd, ambiance, mood, and how to play it goes a long way to enhancing the success of a night such as this. The Nouveaux Honkies played with finesse and charm for a smashing night. I will definitely be keeping an ear out for future performances and potential CDs.

Also making a showing at the Town Crier Pub’s grand opening were two ladies tending a Magic Hat table on the patio and pouring samples of the brewery’s #9 Pale Ale. Beers like #9, Fat tire, Anchor Steam, and Brooklyn Lager are excellent gateway beers for those looking to venture away from the macro swill of yore to the craft beers of today and tomorrow. Packed with flavor and individual personalities, the beers are a perfect match for the individuals who drink them. Unfortunately and fortunately, one downside to gateway beers is the beerly initiated eventually leaves them for larger more diverse pastures, though they are never forgotten. After all, if I’m at a bar and my choices are macro 1, macro 2, macro 3, and a gateway beer such as any of the above, my choice is easy-peasy.

Doing their best to keep pace with the bustle and hustle of the enthusiastic crowd was an attentive staff of young men and women scooping empty glasses off tables as often as possible. After all, it’s not as if the Town Crier Pub has an infinite supply of glasses to pour my illustrious beer in, and no clean glasses means no beer which is a sad tragedy indeed. The gathering of trash such as empty plates was a different story, but they eventually made their way to their proper receptacles. Overall and considering the crushing crowd, a job well done.

Though beer is my #1 imbibing pleasure, I am far from a one drink wonder. For example, an artfully crafted martini is an especial weak spot of mine because they are so good and yet so hard to find. I’m not sure if a martini ice sculpture luge qualifies as ‘artfully crafted’, but darned if it wasn’t really cool (pun intended). The ice sculpture/martini luge was a masterpiece to behold with her precision cuts and dual ice buckets sculpted out of, what else, ice. Situated under the base was a strobe light of sorts which set the ice sculpture aglow in alternating soft arctic hues of blue, purple, aquamarine, and rose. Mesmerizing. Unfortunately, I did not partake of the martini luge, but I imagine there will be another time in another place.

Good beer, good friends, and good times was my enthusiastic mission Saturday night which I accomplished with flair, charm, and a purse (see slideshow). Old Man Winter never let up, even when I temporarily parted ways with the Town Crier Pub for a quick jaunt across the parking lot to use a restroom. One restroom per woman and man marked by a long line during a grand opening versus the 15 minutes that Publix remained open was a no-brainer. Let’s just say that I was back at the table supping my Dead Guy Ale before my other fellow female and male compatriots returned. Thanks are due to Tim for gallantly holding down the fort while we were missing in action.

I got to meet the Town Crier Pub’s happy pappy, Mr. Chris Russo, before braving the arctic storm to drive home and snuggle with my kitty. It was thanks to Chris that I was able to peruse the menu and determine immediate plans for a return visit must be scheduled, and to offer a beer-warming gift: Solstice d’Hiver from Brasserie Dieu de Ciel. After final farewells were made, we parted ways and I safely arrived home where pjs were donned, the space heater cranked, and sleep embraced. Till next time, Prosit!

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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