Monday, January 4, 2010
TBG Eats and Drinks: Beachwood BBQ
Current Weight: 167.4 lbs.
Far and away, the most frequently asked blog-related question from my readers, friends and family is "How do you eat so much and stay so skinny?" If you were to click on that "Food n Drink" label to the right, you'd think that fast food and beer were a daily part of my diet.
Truth is I don't eat a lot. I'll have one substantial meal per day while lightly grazing throughout my remaining waking hours. During the work week, I get by on organic cereal bars, a ginormous bowl of fresh fruit and clandestine handfuls of salty snacks (pretzels, pita chips) from the upstairs executive secretary's stash. Consequently, I often attack my weekday dinner with a ferocity usually reserved for wild animals.
On weekends, if I happen to manhandle a Monster Breakfast Burrito for breakfast or a Sonic Dog combo meal for lunch, then that's my one real meal for the day.
I've lost about 20 lbs. from eating this way since the summer of 2008, but an unintended side effect is that my once bottomless, malleable belly has shrunk to the approximate size of a silver dollar.
When I was 10 years old, my customary McDonald's order was a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, large fries, a six-piece of the newly-introduced Chicken McNuggets and a vanilla shake. Looking back, I still don't know what's more mind-blowing: that my parents didn't see anything wrong with this or that I was eating at McDonald's.
I get that awful post-gorge bloat just reminiscing about that meal. And, that's why I take my food reviews so g*ddam seriously. That sandwich or burger or burrito might be the only edible item of significance to meet my mouth in a single day.
No pressure, though, Beachwood BBQ!
OK, so, one of my oldest friends just happens to be a functioning alcoholic. Great guy, though. Husband, father and Mrs. Bootleg absolutely adores him. He lives out of state, but whenever he comes back to California for a visit, he suggests a spot for our old high school crew to reunite for the afternoon or evening.
He proposes the location based on the breadth of the establishment's beer menu.
And, that's how 4/5 of our "since-the-late-'80s" clique ended up at Beachwood BBQ in Seal Beach on the day after Christmas.
Now, in defense of m'man JP – the alcoholic from a few paragraphs up – Beachwood's daily assortment of ever-changing pours is impressive. I arrived at the restaurant earlier than everyone else, but even with a 10-minute head start at the bar, I still couldn't figure out which beer to buy.
Eventually, I opted for the Empire Strikes Black imperial stout from Sierra Nevada. Our server – intentionally, I maintain – asked me to repeat my drink order for the ironic yuks and m'man Smitty immediately noted that he'd seen the movie of the same name in a hotel not long ago. I love these bums. It's good to be home.
Oh, God, the beer. Mild, roasted hops flavor in the background with chocolates, coffee and vanilla all up in my mouf [sic]. Had one with the appetizers and one with the meal.
Our table split a plate of Lena's Famous Fried Pickles and an order of Smoked Buffalo Wings. I'm not huge fan of pickles (sorry, New York City Delicatessen Union), but I'll try anything with the words "famous" and "fried" in front – whether it's Famous Amos' chocolate chip hardtack or the fried bologna my aunt took a tad too much pride in.
The pickles were sliced and batter-dipped. They were sizzlin' hot, yet not too firm and not too soft. Still somewhat sour, but not overwhelmingly so, the pickles were served with dipping staple, ranch dressing. Just a great flavor with the right amounts of snap and pucker.
The wings were equally awesome. I'm pretty sure the City of Buffalo would sue on the grounds of their tired finger-waggling towards any wings NOT birthed in the Anchor Bar, but these still kicked ass. They had no sauce to speak of, just deep smoky goodness from the skin to the bone.
For my entrée, I opted for the New Brunswick Stew – braised chicken and rabbit stewed with beer, celery, peppers, onions, corn, tomatoes and lima beans. Honestly, I can't remember a greater gap between the appetizing look and taste of a meal.
The meat had a noticeably subtle saltiness that played off the natural sweetness of the corn and tomatoes. The peppers and onions supplied a gentle kick to the tongue, while the buttery texture of the beans helped the whole bowl stick to every one of my ribs. The stew is served with two good-sized, seasoned drop biscuts. Crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, they were like wonderfully edible pillows.
Half-point deduction, though, for not nearly enough broth. After a few minutes, I could've eschewed the spoon for a knife and fork.
An enjoyable Saturday afternoon with the crew made all the better by the grub. Proof, once again, that all of life's important decisions can be based on the beer menu.
Grades: Empire Strikes Black imperial stout: 5 (out of 5); Lena's Famous Fried Pickles: 5; Smoked Buffalo Wings: 5; New Brunswick Stew: 4.5