Beer and Birchmere

Friday I headed over to Alexandria after work, Jill picked me up and we went to dinner at Rustico. An extensive selection of draft beers and great pizzas already had the place on my radar, but then I found out the new chef (from Zola) had created a tapas-like menu, with beer pairings. I started with the air-dried beef with greens while Jill had a mixed baby romaines salad. For entrees, she had the beef and chicken pot pies and mac & cheese, while I had the pork trio, which included a funky ham and grilled cheese sandwich, fried pork belly grillades and pig trotters. I had the beer pairing with the pork, which was Bell’s Two Hearted Ale, Bluegrass Bourbon Barrel Stout, and Unibroue Maudite (my favorite). For dessert, we ordered a beer popsicle. They’d had some trouble with them, which may be why they’re not on the menu. But our server brought us one when I asked about it, we got one made with a plum lambic that was just right to follow the meal. It was superb, I’m already planning a follow up visit sometime.

We then went over to the Birchmere to see Paul & Storm and Jonathan Coulton. We’d missed them their last show together at Jammin’ Java, but since it was overcrowded when we’d seen them there before, I’m sure the seating arrangements weren’t any better. That was in contrast to the Birchmere – even though I’m not a fan of the food, the layout is great and it never feels overcrowded, even at when it’s sold out. This show wasn’t sold out, but it was close (beware the power of nerdcore). Paul & Storm have a new CD out, which was good, because I like them, but they can wear thin with repetition. They went over well with the audience, but JoCo drove them crazy. Crazy like littering the stage with stuffed animals, during the early part of his set. Some had money and notes tied to them. Paul picked one up when they came out to sing along, and read the note – it was a proposal to have JoCo play a bachelor party in Las Vegas. He kinda blew it off, to which someone replied from the audience that Neil Diamond had blown them off too. For some reason that led into a fullblown rendition of “Sweet Caroline”, with audience singalong. Very fun, even if we had to leave early because Jill was falling asleep.