Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It rhymes with long

I've tweeted about it, but 140 characters doesn't quite allow one to do it justice. Ngon Bistro, on University and Avon in the heart of Frogtown, is a mere four blocks from my house, and I couldn't ask for a better restaurant/beer bar so close to home.

They offer standard--well actually above standard--Vietnamese fare. Their pho soup and bun salads are top notch, and they also offer higher end entrees ($16 - $20) that are fantastic. But my favorite menu items are the small plates, offered for $5 during happy hour: a walleye sandwich with amazing sweet potato fries, chicken skewers in lemongrass sauce, elk noodle salad, pork belly with wasabi pureed Brussel sprouts and potatoes, chicken pate on baguette and ginger beet salad. Plus, being the cheap-ass that I am, I appreciate that all their beers are $1 off and Minnesota wines are $2 off.

Oh, and the beers. Only Minnesota beers, with seasonal and cask offerings. Owner Hai Truong is a true beer advocate and has his own firkins, which local breweries fill with special offerings. They just finished a cask of Surly oak-aged Cynic, and up next is some lovely Summit Winter. Surly Smoke is still on tap from New Year's Eve, when they also finished a keg of Surly Darkness.

My only complaint is the hours. On weeknights they close at 9pm, and at 10pm on the weekend. Of course, there are only one maybe two tables with customers when I've been there at closing, so it's probably just me being selfish. But still, I'd like to think that they could sustain being open an hour longer.

So next time you're in the mood for a fantastic Vietnamese meal with a finely-crafted Minnesota beer, head over to Ngon Vietnamese Bistro in St. Paul.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Welcome back!

As I sit here drinking a John Barleycorn Barleywine from Mad River Brewing in California, you can rightly assume that I am back on beer (and tomatoes and peaches, although my drinking beer might not lead you to assume that).

See, despite cutting the aforementioned libations from my diet, my symptoms didn't really improve drastically. So, we continue to hunt. The symptoms seem to have gotten better, due to a combination of stopping the steroid inhaler as it was causing thrush, which can mimic the symptoms, and switching my reflux medicine to one that has anti-histamine properties, and you know, eosinophilic esophagitis is caused in part by allergies.

But really, I'm kinda tired talking about it. And besides, the doc told me its not a progressive disorder and they don't actually know a ton about it anyway.

So I'm drinking beer again. Highlights of the past few weeks back on the sauce? Ketchup. Seriously. I missed beer, but fries with mayo or an egg sandwich with hoisin sauce or hotdogs with only mustard just didn't cut it.

But yeah...08 and 09 Surly Darkness were fine moments for Xmas and New Years, love the new offerings from 21st Amendment Brewing (another craft beer in a can!), Nogne 0 Dark Horizon 1st Edition was a surprising treat at a beer tasting I had, Summit Scottish Ale and Schell's Snowstorm were local seasonal releases that I was looking forward to drinking more than about anything.

But really, the thing I missed most? Drinking good beer with good friends while watching a football game or bottling beer or listening to Phish or hanging out on the couch with my family. It's good to be back!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Eosinophilic Esophagitis

It's been four weeks, and I've only had beer three times.

Last June, I began noticing that sometimes I felt like I had a lump in my throat. A long time sufferer of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as well as being plagued with seasonal allergies since I was young, I figured it was related these conditions. When it didn't dissipate after several months, my doctor suggested I have an endoscopy to examine it further.

Upon seeing ridges in my esophagus, a biopsy confirmed that I had a disease called eosinophilic esophagitis. While little is known about EE, preliminary research shows that it's generally caused by food allergies, in which your body, sensing that something is wrong with your esophagus, sends white blood cells to take care of the problem. The result is the hardening of your esophagus.

The GI doctor recommended that I use a steroid inhaler to reduce the inflammation, which is proven to correct the symptoms. Reading that food allergies is often to blame, I asked about further testing, and was told that no, they don't typically try to find the cause. I brought this to my primary physician, at which point she ordered the further testing.

You may be wondering at this point what this has to do with beer. Well, 30-odd pricks on my back with various food derivatives showed that I was potentially allergic to three foods: peaches, tomatoes and hops.

Yes, I catch the irony.

To make sure the results weren't a false positive, I was directed to eliminate the foods from my diet for up to 6 weeks, and then introduce them to see how my body reacted. And unfortunately, each time I've had beer, the following day I felt like I had something caught in my throat.

So I've been drinking a lot more wine, cider and spirits, but they don't do to my palate what beer does. Gruits--beer bittered with herbs and spices instead of hops--are pleasant, but there are only a couple in our market and they're pretty spendy to have as a session beer. Soon, I'll be getting in touch with Minnesota's local brewers to urge them to try this style of old once in awhile :)

I'll be discussing the future with my allergist in more detail, and hopefully, be able to come to some resolve that allows me to drink low-hopped beers and the occasional IPA, barley wine or imperial stout. But I know one thing is clear: beer will have to become a less-frequent part of my diet.