I can hardly believe how quickly time can fly by. About two and a half years ago I was heading up to Andersonville with my copy of the Chicago ‘Not For Tourists’ guide in my hand hunting down a Belgian bar called Hopleaf. I got all the way up there and sady it was not open. Since then apart from the occasional memory prompt while watching it appear on Diner’s, Drive-ins and Dives I pretty much forgot about it for the next couple of years. Until this week that is when I was trying to find somewhere to eat and get a good beer and the mists in my mind cleared for a Belgian beer moment.
It was much bigger inside than I thought it would be, there was a front bar, a restaurant at the back, and we were taken up to the mezzanine to a select group of quiet tables overlooking the downstairs area. There was a really large selection of beers to choose from, but it did not take me too long to settle on a draught Kwak beer (pictured above), and before you ask, yes one of the things that I like about drinking this beer is the funky drinking vessel. You get a round bottom goblet a sort of smaller version of a yard of ale glass, and the handle is a wooden holder. The first time I ever saw one of these was in a themed Belgian Bar on the waterfront in Cape Town. At that bar if you had one of these glasses they made you give up your left shoe as a deposit and it was put in a basket above the bar. Something I have seen elsewhere and a memory that is embedded in my mind. That is not the only reason I get this beer, it is also a very drinkable beer, not too overpowering in terms of malt, and it hides it’s alcoholic content well. Just a couple of these can send you well on your way.
OK now for some food to soak up or rather accompany this beer.
We shared a starter getting the Rabbit Sausage Platter. This came in a bowl, which was unexpected, I was exepecting a plate or even a charcuterie board. It might not have been quite as envisoned, but it certainly was visually a good plateful or rather bowlful. Apart from the lightly spiced rabbit sausage it also had some braised Savoy Cabbage, a Rosemary Yorkshire Pudding (which was perfectly done), Red Pickled Beets, and a light jus. The sausage was quite subtle and had a spicing that we could not quite place. I queried this with the waitress and the message came back that it was rosemary, but I was still not convinced, it was more like a fennel or fenugreek flavour, at least that was what I tasted. This was a good bowlful, you could eat this yourself, and get a main course, but it was big enough to share if you just wanted a tasting plate.
There was only ever going to be one choice of dish for the main course and that was going to be some brisket. More specifically the Organic montreal style brisket platter. I had seen this prepared on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on a few occasions. The most recent being about 10 minutes before I caught the bus over to Andersonville this evening. Apart from the brisket the platter came with dill pickle (which was left untouched), coleslaw, and a stilton mac ‘n’ cheese. The Stilton Mac and Cheese was surprisingly good, I am not a massive stilton fan, but this was judged just right not too much stilton, and you were left with a good flavour, but not too blue.
We also got a side of german potato salad which was made of fingerling potatoes, caramelized red onions, garlic, bacon, apple cider vinegar. Largely because we both love fingerling potatoes. Really a nice mixture I may try and make these myself.
This was all great, but the brisket, the star of the show, was kind of out of this world, a beautiful thing to behold. Organic grass fed brisket is rubbed all over with minced garlic then coated with a montreal style rub made up of a mixture of kosher salt, black pepper, smoked sweet paprika, brown sugar, ground cumin, ground fennel, ground coriander, ground celery seed, mustard seed, mustard powder, all spice, and pink salt. It then gets left to marinate in the cooler for 72 hours. Then it is put on a sheet tray, covered in slices of bacon, and some red wine poured into the base of the tray to keep it moist as it is placed into a smoker for 8 hours at 250F.
After all that work you just know that it has to be good and believe me it was seriously good, tender, juicy, flavoured so well.
All in all a great meal, some great flavours, good beer, and a decent price point.
There is not much else to tell you about this trip to Hopleaf other than I was sad that I had left it so long to pay them a visit.
check them out at their websit; http://hopleaf.com/