As football season arrives, Summit’s in Snellville is one of the better football options because of the beer, the food, the screens. Summits will put every NFL game up on Sundays. Their menus are seasonal, a base menu plus extras for the occasion, and as we’re smack in the middle of October, Oktoberfest options are available currently.

This is not the only eatery with Oktoberfest options in the region. Red Robin, in the Shoppes (formerly the Avenue) has an Oktoberfest burger, if you like that kind of thing. But Summit’s tends to provide both unique beers this time of year (for example, a plentiful supply of German wheat, or wit, beers), food options you don’t get any other time (a lot of sausage, or brat, options), on top of the seasonal football.


One thing I didn’t know they provided were beer flights. This is a pre-selected set of 5 or 6 beers, starting around 10 dollars, that present a range of options to the drinker. The serving size is usually smaller, about half a normal serving per beer. Summit’s has three beer flights at this time, a light to dark flight ($10), an IPA flight ($15), and a high gravity beer (high alcohol content) flight ($25). In the photo above is the light to dark flight, which I had while watching football one Saturday. I recommend this flight. It’s not expensive, in bar terms, for the beers you get. The taste and flavor contrasts are worth the trouble.

Summits Wayside Tavern
3334 Stone Mountain Highway
Snellville, GA 30078
(770) 736-1333

Summits Wayside Tavern on Urbanspoon

This is an area I’ll probably never complete in any real sense. Places like Churchill’s Pub, Kevin Barry’s, Molly McPherson’s Scottish Pub, and the Distillery pop up on “best of” lists with some frequency, but I never made it to their locations. Many of the eateries I have already reviewed (Dub’s Pub, The Cotton Exchange, B Matthews) have entirely functional bars. What we will be talking about briefly is Moon River, advertised as the only brewpub in town.

Moon River strikes me as a little troubled. The beer is good, the staff are notably indifferent to customers, sleepwalking through their jobs. Receptionists seem unable to find or see customer seating, even when it is in plain view. Bartenders forget to offer menus to customers. Staff are polite and cordial, but only that, and that’s really the issue here. No one wants to be the client in this old joke about Rogerian therapists.

I suspect staff issues in Moon River are new, as you can see a pattern of bad reviews, harping on staff, beginning in the spring of 2013 on Urbanspoon. It has gotten bad enough to affect the Urbanspoon ranking. A 74% rating is relatively low for an eatery with Moon River’s aspirations.

Moon River has a solid wit.

Moon River has a solid wit.

The drafts, such as they are, tend to be sweet. That’s probably an issue more for older drinkers than anyone else. Moon River wants to attract young drinkers. Who cares? If you need bitter, you can always try Moon River’s IPA. What I did try was their brown ale and their wit, both good solid beers.

The beer is good enough to recommend the restaurant. I’m hoping the staff issues are a passing phase, and not endemic to the restaurant itself.

Moon River Brewing Company
21 W Bay St
Savannah, GA 31401
(912) 447-0943

Moon River Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

The Arena Tavern is a bar that does plenty of business with sports talk radio. Advertisements and promotions with the local radio stations are a major parts of this small chain’s identity. And when I saw the 790 the Zone truck in front of the bar, I changed plans (even after lunch) and stuck my nose inside.

Yes, I’ll go inside if a local radio station is talking with bar customers.

This bar and Marlow’s Tavern are close by, and “the book” on these two is that the Arena is a better place to watch a game and Marlow’s has the better menu and food. My experience here suggests that might not be as clear cut a choice as in the past.

Catfish Bites. These things were fantastic. If I was blinded and told these came from a high end traditional all you can eat catfish spot, I’d have believed you. Tender, moist, perfect crust and flavorful.

Some of the best crust on cheese sticks I’ve seen in a long, long time.

I only ordered appetizers because I had already eaten, and besides, the rep for Arena was that it was the lesser of the two large taverns for food. And what I received were two of the best appetizers I’ve had in a long long time.

Crusts on the catfish bites were really good. Crust on the cheese sticks was about as good as any I’ve ever had. The cheese sticks alone are better than anything I’ve ever had at a classic wings n sports chain, and reason enough to drop the wings n sports chains and come here. That doesn’t count the catfish bites, which were as good a bit of catfish I’ve had in ages.

The beer selection is large, not huge, but there is plenty of most things for most tastes. There were good craft beers, good Georgia craft beers, good English, Irish and German brew, and plenty of American light lagers. Dozens of beers were on tap, and dozens more in bottles.

Having said all that, the Arena a roomy bar with plenty of wide screen TVs, with large roomy tables on which to watch those televisions. Yes, it’s a spot to watch games, and listen to sports talk. Further, Arena has rather surprising appetizers. Consequently, the culinary competition between this restaurant and Marlow’s is closer than the generic consensus suggests.

Arena Tavern
2000 Satellite Boulevard
Duluth, GA 30097
(770) 623-4585

Arena Tavern on Urbanspoon

Update: fixed typos.

It’s a bar in Little Five Points, much longer than it is wide. There isn’t much to it physically, a couple tables up front, a long bar, a couple tables in back. Outside, it looks like another small place where locals go to medicate their problems away. It’s only when you’re inside that Porter begins to shine.

I counted 36 taps the day I came, and there wasn’t a dull beer in any of the taps. The beer selection is wicked good, with no filler. Further, given the diverse and exotic nature of the brews, the drinks are fairly priced. The typical tap beer ranges from around 4 to 6.5 dollars.

Brooklyn Brewery’s saison.

Some scallops. Plenty of potatoes.

I had the cheese plate and some scallops. I thought both were quite good. The serving size was small, and the price a couple dollars higher than I would have liked for that serving size. A neighbor ordered calamari, and that seemed a better food deal than what I ate.

But really, the star here is the alcohol. Work through the list of bottled beers sometime. Maybe you’ll find a beer you’ve been looking for, for months. I sure did. Will I be back? Very likely, about as soon as my family decides it needs to window shop the stores of Little Five Points once again.

Porter Beer Bar
1156 Euclid Ave
Atlanta, GA 30307
(404) 223-0393

The Porter on Urbanspoon

To my readers, a belated apology. My wife has been ill, my house has had power and aircon issues, and when your house is broken, it becomes hard to cook and write about food. So we’ll talk a little sous-vide, things that have been building up, stuff I’ve observed, and the occasional incidental that may only pertain to the Snellville GA area as opposed to the much larger world of sous-vide cooking.

Gogi Brothers has closed. I enjoyed my stay there, but I was about the only one I know of who had a positive experience there. If you can’t please customers, it’s hard to stay open.

Fung Mei, which for a while was missing its Sichuan chef, has one now, and their version of “Shan City chicken” (Fung Mei calls it E1 on the Sichuan menu) is exceptionally good right now.

Fung Mei’s “E1” was blow you away good this last Father’s day.

Concerning the dish dry fried green beans: can anyone explain to me the move from spicing with Sichuan peppercorns to a less fiery garlic based set of ingredients? The garlic flavored green beans are good. but not as insanely good as the green beans I had on this visit to Fung Mei.

For the 4th, I prepped a pair of buffalo sirloins. This 8 ounce cut is rapidly becoming my go-to when I want a steak I don’t have to think about. Reliability, tenderness, rich flavors, and serving size about right are driving this. 3 to 5 hours at 131 with dry spices, and these meats are good to go.

Buffalo sirloins are grass fed and very reliable in a sous-vide pot.

When spicing more than one piece of meat, it’s faster if you’ll spice all of them at once on one side, flip all of them, and spice the other side. This approach saves time. Keeping a pot around on the stove, with scalding hot water, also makes it faster to equilibrate the sous-vide pot.

Bottom round roast, 16 hour sous-vide.

Recently I worked up another roast, this time a bottom round roast. I was going to cook it 30 hours, but cut the time short, to about 16 hours, when I found this article on a 10 hour bottom round roast. It ended up a nice cut of meat, some chew but definitely more tender than a stove roasted meat.

I’m beginning to think the 10-24 hour time frame is best for these kinds of meats, regardless. You’re guaranteed something you can eat and not think about it. The longer you go, the more likely it is you’ll get meats with a sawdust texture.

The malty chocolate overtones in this beer make it a creative alternative to another American pale ale or an overhopped IPA.

If you like malt forward beers, you might want to give New Belgium’s 1554 a try, whose malty chocolate overtones make it an alternative to yet another IPA.

Finally, for those of you who are interested in monitoring electricity use, or do some minor electrical work on your own, let’s introduce the common current clamp. Versions of these are available at Home Depot or Lowe’s, or can be purchased for about 50 dollars on Amazon.

A current clamp. It can be more useful to the cook than you might imagine.

The current clamp above came with this temperature probe. Claimed range is less than or equal to 400 C, plus minus 2.5 C.

This one, an Amazon purchase, comes with a temperature probe. That’s what lifts it above the fray for the interested cook. It becomes a dual purpose tool. The accuracy of this probe is 2.5 C, and that’s yet another way to double check the accuracy of your sous-vide device.

Triple checking the temperature in my sous-vide pot.

It could also be used as the main temperature probe in a beer cooler sous vide setup (see also here).

A saison is a beer style I never heard of until recently, when I updated my beer books and glanced through the new material. Perhaps the best description of the style I’ve found is on the the home brewing site Beer Smith, which says of the saison:

Saison is a light, refreshing ale originally brewed in farmhouses in the French speaking regions of Belgium for field workers. Now the beer is brewed in many locations around the world. Its a complex style with a mix of fruity aroma and flavor, some spiciness and even a hint of tartness.

In general, you can’t find saisons easily in your local Krogers or Publix. I did find a 4 pack of Ommegang’s saison in Alon’s recently. The beer is called Hennepin. Rate Beer ranks the Hennepin as a 97 overall, and a 95 on style.

For those used to a world of imperial stouts and extra hopped IPAs, this beer will come as a welcome surprise. Quite drinkable, the only downside to these beers is the American versions tend to pretty high alcohol contents. The Hennepin runs about 7.7% ABV. Other than that, I can recommend that you try one of these. I was reasonably impressed on my first try.

If you, like me, miss Pete’s Wicked Ale and were looking for something to fill that flavor gap, I have a suggestion.

I got this bottle at Publix on Pleasant Hill, in the “pick a six pack” section. Bell’s Best Brown Ale is richly flavored without being overpowering. I find few of the “muscular” beers ( I AM A CRAFT BEER; YOU WILL SUFFER WHEN YOU CONSUME ME ) to be balanced enough to be worth more than one try. This one hits a sweet spot with me, and I’ll probably be buying more of this.

I’ve spoken about Johnny’s NY Style Pizza before, and really didn’t expect to be talking about one of these restaurants again. But Terrapin Beer Company (@TerrapinBeerCo) sponsored what they called a Tap at the Grayson Johnny’s, and as it was just a drive down Webb Ginn Road and turn right for 1.3 miles, yes I went.

The Johnny’s is a little past the Kroger on Grayson Highway, and is impressively built. Plenty of glass and nice brick make this one of the best looking Johnny’s I’ve ever seen. As I was there to drink and eat, I spent most of my time at the bar. The bar top is three sides of a square, seats perhaps 15-20. There are tables clustered around the bar, where you can also eat and drink.

I liked this bar, as it’s friendly, very Cheers-like. They have 24 beers on tap (8 were devoted to Terrapin product this night), plenty of them quality beers, and the bartenders (there were a pair of them this day) were engaging. Terrapin staff were in the mix as well, talking with customers, handing out swag.

Terrapin's Wake N Bake Coffee Oatmeal Stout, in a tulip glass. A richly flavored beer with significant bitterness from the coffee.

Terrapin is a local brewery, headquartered in Athens, GA. Terrapin’s product, aimed at the craft beer crowd, is very American in character, tending to higher ABVs, plenty of hops, plenty of flavor. Beers such as their Hopsecutioner are very well received, and accessible. I can find Hopsecutioner at my local Kroger.

At times, though, their enthusiasm leaves people like me a little concerned. It wasn’t that long ago selling most of Terrapin’s product in Georgia would have been illegal. Being sessionable is something you see a lot of experienced beer heads concerned about.

I spoke a bit with Justin Gwin late in the day, a manager with Terrapin, about a lot of things. To some extent, I asked about Terrapin’s philosophy, a bit about their site, whether they give tours (they do, on Wednesdays through Saturdays). He tells me that they’re considering a beer with 4.5% ABV. That’s not DING’s definition of a sessionable beer, but certainly one closer to the mark.

In terms of food, I had Johnny’s meatball sub and some wings. The sub was up to standard, cheesy, meaty, with a good marinara. The wings were good, the hot buffalo sauce a milder hot. I’d show a photo but all the food photos ran bad this day, just my luck.

It was an interesting crowd overall. I got a food tip from a chef who works at Bonefish Grill, I saw the owner of this Johnny’s in the distance, the Terrapin staff were friendly  and talked knowingly of their product.

Verdict: One of the prettiest Johnny’s I’ve seen. One of the best local bars I’ve seen, in terms of how they treat customers. The food otherwise is up to Johnny’s standards.

Johnny’s New York Style Pizza
2023 Grayson Highway
Grayson, GA 30017
(770) 962-9181

Johnny's New York Style Pizza on Urbanspoon

Most of my low temp gear arrived last Tuesday, and I used Tuesday night to calibrate it. Yesterday I did some steaks using the gear. One calibration run, and 4 steaks later, these are the notes that I have. I’m using an Auberge controller, and a Hamilton Beach 8 quart slow cooker as the base. Since the vacuum sealer hasn’t arrived, I’m bagging food in freezer Ziploc bags for now.

Auberge controller, 8 quart slow cooker. Socket has a circuit breaker.

Calibration with this setup takes about 5.5 hours. Yes, it is worth it to calibrate your device. By calibration, there are a couple steps you’ll want to do.

1) Take ice (plenty of it) and let it melt halfway into a large container. Place the probe in the ice water bath. Best to use meltoff water instead of adding your own, as ice-water baths with tap water won’t be temperature equilibrated.

2) Follow the instructions to calibrate PID parameters with a pot full of the amount of water you’ll use for cooking. In my case, it took perhaps 5.5 hours for the system to figure out what the correct PID parameters were.

With this setup, and in using a PID controller, as opposed to PD controller, there will be overshoot for a couple hours. In my experience, the overshoot is about 2 degrees, with it settling in to accuracy around the 3 hour mark.

In terms of safety, this is a pleasing setup. The water could probably hurt you if you immersed your hands in it for a length of time, but brief fingertip exposure to 131 degree water doesn’t hurt. You can easily handle the lid of the slow cooker without harm. The Auberge defaults to a timed setup. Once the time is met, the device shuts off power to the slow cooker. I made sure to plug into a wall socket with its own circuit breaker, so any electrical short would flip the socket breaker.

Steaks? One thing I have found out is that with a thin steak (circa 0.5-0.75″ thick), one minute of sear on both sides can easily turn that medium rare steak into a medium well steak. 30 seconds of sear per side after the fact preserves the cooking much better. Since steaks can go anywhere from 2-6 hours (I do not recommend cooking steaks for less than 2 hours), adjusting your controller to compensate for the overshoot seems reasonable.

2.5 hours with Auberge controller at 131. Mostly cooked at 133 for that period. 30 second sear each side.

Beer Advocate: I don’t know much about these guys, other than second hand exposure to the collateral damage they’ve done to people they’ve kicked off their forums (oh yes, and delete years of info these beer hounds have collected forum wide). Now, after decades of exposure to every forum “wizard” there is, many with serious delusions of grandeur, I have no tolerance for the self appointed dictator types. But as it’s their forums, and not mine, why am I mentioning this?

It’s because the Beer Advocate folks don’t stop at tossing people out of their forums. They then proceed to taunt the people they’ve tossed off their forums on Twitter. And in that lies the crux of the tale, the reason the generic food blogger needs to be informed.

Don’t go. Don’t get involved. Start a beer blog instead. You might get 1/100th the comments on your pages, but you will be read, and you will be much happier about your treatment. And if you have to do the forum routine, strongly consider Rate Beer instead.

One final beer note: The early months of the year, winter, tend to feature stronger beers, such as barleywines. Sierra Nevada comes out with Bigfoot, and Sam Adams comes out with Griffin’s Bow. I’m not a fan of extreme beers, but Bigfoot is worth some trouble, and I suspect Griffin’s Bow will be as well.

It’s a deeper brown, rather than black, and rich on the tongue. It doesn’t have the aromaticity of a chardonnay or say Bell’s high gravity offering. It has plenty of flavor, spice, malt and hops, fruit overtones in balance, and the alcohol isn’t as noticeable as many. The knock out punch comes much later, and yes, you’ll feel it. There is a touch of bitter in the aftertaste. In my opinion, it finishes well.

Sierra Nevada's high gravity beer.

For those wanting a live review, this one by the Youtube contributor Video Beer Reviews is a good way to spend a few minutes.

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