Comfort Perogies!

Yesterday, my wife and I sat down to a dinner of perogies for the first time in awhile. And they were scrum-diddly-umptious! And it reminded me of my commitment to share ideas for comfort food and the beers that accompany them! So please consider a plate of cheese and potato perogies, paired with a light lager or pilsner as my next recommendation.

Now I’m not one for making perogies from scratch, but I plan to soon enough. In the meantime, a bag of frozen will do. However, if you should happen to have a Polish or Ukrainian grocer in your neighborhood that offers you the hand-made option, get on it! In the meantime, all you have to worry about is garnish preparation. And that’s where things can get creative!

Williams’ not-so-hand-made Perogies:
Of course, its common knowledge that perogies can be prepared any number of ways. Personally, I like my mine well cooked on the outside, but still soft and supple enough to cut with a fork. After some trial and error, I’ve found the boil first, fry second method works best. The boiling ensures that the skin and innards are cooked through, and frying them with the garnish gives them a slightly crispy, smoky, salty flavor.

1 pack perogies
4 strips of bacon

1 yellow or white onion
1 bunch green onions
small amount of butter

Slice bacon strips and add them to the pan, adding chopped onions once enough fat is present to cook them in. Stir well to prevent sticking, add perogies once the onions are soft. Add butter, and then stir regularly to prevent from sticking. Add green onions last and continue to stir. Remove from heat once all perogies are a nice, golden brown, the onions are soft and a little browned themselves and the bacon is nice and crispy. Serve with plenty of sour cream and dill!

As I said earlier, the best pairing for this dish seems to be a nice lager or pilsner. Perogies have a multilayered flavor that ranges from the subtle (cheese, potatoes) to the strong and zesty (onions, dill, sour cream and bacon). As a result, I feel a light beer that will not overwhelm the palate or compete with the flavor would be best. For this, I would highly recommend Hoyne’s Hoyner Pilsner or Creemore’s Premium Lager or Cameron’s Lager.

I say Hoyne’s first because it just happened to be what I was drinking at the time. And it was a per-diddly-erfect accompaniment!

The Manx Pub, Ottawa

Welcome back and hope you’re enjoying my series on Ontario Beers and where to drink them when you find yourself in the nations capital. Today, I would like to pay homage to one of my most favorite pubs (in part because of their many, many taps). As the title line suggests, I am referring to The Manx Pub, located at the cozy intersection of Elgin Street and Frank, right next to that venerable institution, the Elgin Street Diner!

I was first introduced to this pub back in the early 2000’s. I was told in advance that it was good, that it was popular, and I immediately saw why. As soon as you walk in to this basement-level pub, you are hit with a warm, cozy feeling that is augmented by the decor. In addition, they also have artwork and photographs on the walls, showcasing the work of independent artists. I tell ya, it’s like a cross between an updated Tudor-era pub and a Bohemian artists wet dream!

But what I liked especially was the friendly atmosphere and the many taps they boasted. Not only that, but if you were a regular in the old days, they’d let you bring in a mug of your own, hang it behind the bar, and you serve you out of it whenever you came in. Mine was an Alexander Keith’s porcelain mug, and it hung there for a little over two years (since renovating, they had to discontinue this trend, but hopefully they’ll pick it up again soon).

In 2004, when I moved into an apartment just up the road, I made the Manx my go-to place for dinner and drinks. Many an evening I would spend their with friends, my writing note-book, or just a stack of papers that needed marking. Since moving to BC, I make it a point to go back there anytime I’m in town. My wife and friends became easy converts to the place, seduced by the atmosphere, food, and great beer!

The Great Beer:
Of their taps, the following names have typically enjoyed a home there.
McAuslan Brewery: the St. Amboise Pale Ale and Oatmeal Stout have had a home at the Manx for as long as I can remember. Good thing too!
Churchkey Brewery: Another popular customer at the Manx, particularly their Northumberland Ale. However, others seem to be making it into the lineup all the time.
Scotch-Irish Brewery: An old favorite that I keep returning to, and one the Manx has been known to rotate in every now and then.
Niagara Brewery: I can recall many occasions when Niagara was on tap, particularly the Gritstone or the Olde Jack.
Creemore Springs: the lager is available year-round and the Urbock is brought out during the winter season. Every winter, I’m sure to get on that!

The Food:
In addition to all that, I’ve found that they make the best burger in town! Competition on that front has been intense since our most recent visit, especially since the burger joint known as Hindengburger set up shop! Nevertheless, my feelings on this issue stand!

One can always find their daily burger creation listed on the specials board. Everyday there’s something new and creative, but the core principle always revolves around a burger with a hand-made patty of thick beef, a toasted kaiser, and the usual fresh fixings. Not to mention the potato-wedge fries with garlic aioli, which is frankly to die for! The most recent special (which we enjoyed during our visit) featured a Kim Chi twist (Korean pickled/spiced cabbage). I can also remember one incarnation from years back that involved Brie cheese. Others involved shaved beets, cucumber, white cheddar, back bacon… the list goes on!

Aside from that, their special board always includes a Naan pizza (always different), soup, pasta and a main dish which are often vegetarian, but which will sometimes feature steak, ribs, or duck. Portabello mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, and different types of cheese will usually make it into the mix as well. And their regular menu is definitely worth checking out as well. Since it keeps changing and I tend to visit only once every few years, I cannot attest to the contents with any real accuracy. But always the ingredients are fresh, the combinations creative, and the result well worth the price. Word around the campfire is that they do a fantastic brunch too!

The Atmosphere:
When one walks into the bar, one is immediately struck by the old-world feel of the place. Whether it is the dark wood tables, beams, and bar, the warm lighting, or the stucco walls, one can help but think they are in a Victorian or even Tudor-era pub (updated for the current century obviously). In addition to that, adding to the creature comfort factor, are the plush red velvet booths and couches and copper-skinned tables. Where else but on Elgin street could someone find such a place, I often wonder. Ecclectic and artistic, traditional yet trendy-modern. With friendly staff, great beer and good eats to accompany, its little wonder why the place is always packed.

This latter aspect is something that can be a bit uncomfortable about the place. It’s size and popularity lend themselves to a packed a tight mentality. What one person finds cozy, another might find claustrophobic. Live music is often featured, but again, space is not at a premium which means noise levels can get a bit oppressive too. In addition, the food can be pricey as well. Still, once you get your seat and have your meal, you’ll feel that your time and money were well spent!

My thanks to the Manx staff for having us back again this trip! To my fellow Beer Snobs, I say to you that if you find yourself in Ottawa and are looking for good taps and a quality establishment, get yourself a table at this here place. Come early or call ahead, as the place tends to fill up quickly during the dinner and drinking hours! Cheers and keep on tilting!