Eat: Mincemeat pie at Legume

Not so long ago, I would have balked at the idea of beef tongue in my dessert. Admittedly, the notion sounds a bit insane. But last January, I ordered the mincemeat pie at Legume and the dish that arrived completely blew my mind. It burst with dried fruits and citrus and warming spices, and the beef’s pleasant richness and hearty texture made it the perfect end for a winter meal. I eagerly anticipated the next chance to have it.

As it turns out, I was not the only one. “We always have people who start inquiring about when it’s going to be ready,” explains Trevett Hooper, the chef and owner of Legume and its adjoining bar, Butterjoint. The classic British pie has become a holiday tradition at Legume, and this year’s batch marks its ninth season. For their version, Hooper combines dried fruits, candied citrus peel, molasses, apples, beef tongue, and whole ton of booze and spices, then lets it age for about a month. The aging process mellows and melds all of those intense flavors, creating something entirely new using a process that’s very old indeed.

The mincemeat pie debuts today and will be available for as long as it lasts—usually around three or four weeks. This year, the pie will be featured on their “Have a Truly Offal Holiday” menu, which highlights all of the wonderful bits of animals that too often go to waste. The menu, which will be available all this week, features tasty and traditional dishes with tripe, kidneys and more.

In other Legume news, Hooper is discontinuing lunch service at the end of this year. But to kick off the new year’s dinner menu, they are featuring traditional “good luck” dishes on New Year’s Day, including pork with sauerkraut and black-eyed peas with greens.

Drink: A suite of holiday beers at Hop Farm Brewing

Plenty of breweries don’t bring a whole lot of creativity to the holiday beer game. Take a dark-ish brew, throw some cinnamon and cloves in, and call it a Christmas ale. Hop Farm Brewing is not one of those culprits. The Lawrenceville brewery offers a stellar lineup of creative seasonals to keep the cold weather at bay a little longer.

Last week, owner Matt Gouwens debuted this year’s rendition of his Sugar Plum Fairy, a Belgian tripel brewed with black currants and plums. The ale is flavored with anise, caraway and other spices traditionally found in sugar plum candies. At nearly 10% ABV, a couple of these will surely inspire a vision or two dancing in your head.

Hop Farm also has two versions of a beer brewed with cranberries. Cranberry Sauce is an imperial Berliner weisse, a dry and slightly sour wheat beer made with the holiday fruit. For an extra treat, try the Cranbarrel, a version aged in Merlot barrels. Gouwens also aged his Kulak—a rich Russian imperial stout—in red wine barrels to make the Red Russian, a thick, boozy and undeniably delicious winter offering.

Hop Farm has some other big things in the works. Gouwens plans to return to canning very soon, which will make Hop Farm one of just a handful of local breweries to offer canned beer. He is also planning to scale up their sours program as well as greatly expand the number of taps at their Butler Street taproom.

Keep up with all the new developments over at their Facebook page.

Do: New Year’s Eve with Big Burrito

Plenty of places around town are offering special menus for New Year’s Eve. But for a variety of menus to suit every palate and budget, look no further than Big Burrito. Aside from Umi, which is closed on the holiday, all of the restaurant group’s locations are serving up prix fixe menus to ring in the New Year.

Want to blow it out? Head to Eleven, where the five course menu features foie gras, stone crab and Elysian Fields lamb. Of course, if your New Year’s resolution is to spend less, you could hit Mad Mex, where just $40 gets you and a guest a margarita and entrée, plus an appetizer and dessert to share. And if one of your party is a vegetarian? Each of Kaya’s four courses includes a veggie option, such as ricotta gnudi and charred trumpet mushrooms.

Rounding out the choices are Casbah’s four-course Mediterranean-tinged menu and Soba’s Asian-inspired, seafood-heavy dinner. The prix fixe menus range from $45 per person at Kaya to $75 per person at Eleven, and all of the locations offer the option of adding wine pairings. Wherever you pick, be sure to make your reservations ASAP—New Year’s Eve is one of the country’s most popular nights for dining out.

Drew Cranisky

Drew Cranisky is a writer, bartender and recent graduate of Chatham University's Food Studies program. He enjoys cats, pinball and fancy burgers.