Saturday, June 1, 2013

Trying Virtue and Oliver's Ciders at The Queens Kickshaw and having a blast

I'm really sorry, but every reader is about to get jealous.  My husband and I finally made it out to The Queen's Kickshaw in Astoria last night to sample their extensive and thoughtful cider menu. We knew we'd have a good cider or few and a nice time, but we were simply blown away. The experience was so great, I had to write it up in a whole new style. There are some cider reviews imbedded here, but I want to share what a fantastic evening we had at The Queen's Kickshaw.
First a few facts. Here's the restaurant's website: They can be found at:

40-17 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11103

The atmosphere in this small restaurant is very homey and understated yet up to date. I love their embellished hardwood floors, their mix of seating, and the fun music choices.

What we drank:

Virtue Red Streak. 5.2% ABV This is what Virtue's official description says, "RedStreak is a proper English style draft cider. With its hazy lemon hue, scent of ripe apples and just a touch of oak, RedStreak has a crisp, tart finish that pairs perfectly with your favorite mature cheddar. First discovered in Herefordshire in the 1630s, the Redstreak bittersharp apple produced a cider so delicious it was deemed to be ‘fit for kings.’"

There is description is largely spot on. The Red Streak is a barely cloudy lemon color with almost no visible bubbles. The scent also evoked lemons, but with a creaminess that takes it from lemon into a lemon dessert with whipped cream. I also smelled minerals in a pleasant almost vinous way. The taste is floral and grassy. I thought of fresh pea shoots. It rewards big full drinks that fill the mouth. The farminess is understated but adds to the pleasure of the cider. The finish gives a brief impression of dark concord grapes. A lovely fresh springy cider! All of the good things I've heard about Virtue's RedStreak are true and all of the anticipation I had for trying this cider completely paid off.

Oliver's Gold Rush 

This comes from a collaboration between UK cider maker Tom Oliver and Virtue Cider's Greg Hall. The ABV is 6.8%. Here's some information from the press release: "The 6.8% sparkling, medium dry cider with a deep, burnished color was made from 100% bittersweet and sharp vintage cider apples from traditional Herefordshire farms. The juice was slow fermented by wild yeasts in old oak barrels through a cold winter and underwent malolactic fermentation in the warm spring.  Oliver then added fruit sugar and lambic yeasts for a second alcoholic fermentation, adding a touch more alcohol and complexity. It was finished in oak, for maturity, before final blending and bottling."

In terms of appearance this was fairly dark and red brown; the color reminded me of some teas. The aromas that came from this cider were fascinating: wood, pickled ginger, and farminess. After a bit of time a second smell drifted to the fore, a spicy leather scent. I knew I'd be in for something exactly up my alley when I could smell the wildness of the cider. When drinking the flavors include sour cherry and tons of tannins all supported by the dry oaky farminess that makes English-style ciders my favorite. The level of sparkle hits just right in that it does not prevent a drink from enjoying a big gulp, but it livens the taste. The finish is dryly effervescent and fast. The cider tastes complex and mellow at the same time.

All in all, the Gold Rush has to be the best cider I've tasted in 2013.

What we ate:

Fontina and Hard Cider Arancini: I loved this. Arancini are little fried balls of risotto, which basically takes my favorite food in the world and adds to it the sinful deliciousness of being fried. The Queen's Kickshaw version was made utterly mouthwatering by using cider in the risotto and pairing that sweetness with a tomato spiciness and Fontina cheese. Eat it and die happy.

Polenta Cake: This was the biggest risk for me because I have a love/hate relationship with mushrooms, and this dish uses a mushroom sauce. It worked out really well because of how the sauce added richness to the roasted vegetables and polenta cake. The cake itself was super tasty with the egg yolk confit and sauce.

Gouda Grilled Cheese, but the title does not begin to describe it. The bread was sweet and the sandwich had not only gouda but also black bean hummus, pickled jalepenos, and guava jam. Totally insane. I'm a sucker for pairing sweet and savoury (as if that isn't obvious from what dishes we chose)

Apple Cobbler with fresh whipped cream: since there was an apple dessert, we just had to try it. The apple cobbler was delicately-spiced, rich and crumbly and the whipped cream was so light and fluffy. It had a tasty garnish that I think was micro-grated chocolate.

Many thanks to Chef Youngsun Lee!

Last but far from least, I got to meet one of the owners, Ben. Sadly I didn't get to meet his wife, but we had a great conversation. I heard a bit about his cider-loving staff, distribution, and the growing enthusiasm for cider he's experienced as a restauranteur. We talked a bit about cider in the sphere of social media and blogging.

 What a wonderful night! I hope to go back soon and try their brunch and breakfast menus and even more ciders. The Queens Kickshaw cider menus is deep and international, it has a lot to keep cider fans coming back.