Most people have a favorite bar for a list of reasons that you, and you alone, can decide. Once you find a good local, all others must measure up to your list of criteria. We came up with a simple list in London that included stumbling distance to home, the quality of beer on tap, quality of tunes on the juke box, a decent quiz night, friendly bar staff that recognize you and your favorite beverage, and the all-important possibility of getting a lock-in after 11pm closing time. Sipping a pint after the closing bell has tolled and the curtains have been drawn seemed like sweet stolen sips of rebelliousness.
We'd argue with friends trying to decide whose local was the best, measuring and comparing the vital requirements. Food was always contentious. Technically, a decent boozer shouldn't really serve food, or else, God forbid, it would turn into a gastropub. Seeing that food and booze are obvious partners in my book, that never put me off. I was lucky to witness the birth and boom of the gastropub in London and the food I sampled at many of them shaped how I cook today. Many young, talented chefs have been able to showcase their skills cooking simple dishes with their own modern twists in many of the most beautiful pubs in England. Needless to say, The Shakespeare's food list did not extend beyond bags of crisps and pork scratchings, pickled eggs (which never tempted me) and small jars of pickled clams which I adored.
Without much effort, we have truly made our new local, The Four Moons Tavern, a second home. I've fallen in love with the friendly staff, weekly beer specials, the damn fine juke box and the best grilled cheese and meatloaf sandwiches in town. Wednesday is hump day and the thought of whipping up a tasty dinner straight from work makes a night at the pub an simple choice. I have to admit, I love cooking most nights. Putting some tunes on, cracking a bottle of wine and making even a simple, quick meal means that I get to unwind and feed the two of us something that isn't out of the microwave.
I just found this Black Bean Burger recipe in Gourmet magazine and used it to adapt my standard veggie burger routine. I normally have all the ingredients in the pantry and if I don't, I improvise. It turns a few cans of beans into something I'd gladly order at the pub with a bottle of cold lager.
You can mix anything you want into these burgers. I used one can of black beans and one can of pinto beans. I added Tobasco and scallions to the burger mix. I slathered the bun with mashed avocado, salsa and sour cream and topped it with a beautiful slice of well seasoned red tomato, boston lettuce and a crispy pickle.
This week I'm looking forward to heading up to my family's holiday home in norther Michigan for a long weekend. It's one of my favorite places on earth any time of the year. I'll be food shopping and cooking with some wonderful local ingredients. As it's also Easter, I'll definitely be roasting something and eating lots of chocolate. I'll keep you posted!