Tuesday, February 14, 2017

BBQ, Pizza and Wings: The Stuff that Makes Good Times

When I found out that Hazel serves some of my favorite foods, I made it a point to go to Elliot Street in Brattleboro and find out what was going on. Yes, BBQ, pizza and wings are casual food or pub food, but countless digital space has been used to discuss these seemingly inconsequential dishes. So many of us love them and celebrate fun times with them in very large groups. Some of the difficulty with our familiarity and casual consumption of these foods is that people get lax, as in:  Oh - it's just wings. Well, I want to be wowed by food.  I want really really good wings and pizza, not something that has been tossed inconsiderately out of the kitchen. I want the pub to care about these casual foods to the point that they enhance whatever party or game or office lunch, rather than just remain at the "meh" level.

At first I thought I'd dry the BBQ, so I ordered a rack of ribs. When I dived into my first bites I couldn't believe what had happened. The probably nice and tender and juicy smoked rack had been put under some hellish flash grill or something of the kind and burned to the point that it was like biting into toothpicks, the meat had been so dried and charred. What little barbequed meat flavor was left was barely discernable, so I knew at one time these ribs had probably been tasty. Perhaps a young inexperienced cook thought that drying them into crisp charred sticks was the way to go.  I was a bit bewildered. I ordered the cole slaw and mac'n'cheese sides. The cole slaw was delicious. This is not an insignificant comment. Cole slaw is particularly difficult for restaurants to get right, so most restaurants serve awful cole slaw.  Not Hazel!  It was very well balanced with fresh flavors and not too much dressing. I wish I could say the same about the mac'n'cheese, which was a very sour/bitter concoction that looked like milk poured over little oily pasta shells and not stirred.

The service staff, consistently polite and efficient, handled the return of the mac'n'cheese and ribs well. I was comped a slice of very lovely and delightful cheesecake.

On another visit I tried the wings, which were actually small drumsticks. I always wonder why people call a food by a name that isn't correct. Am I too literal minded? Hazel has a choice of Asian, Buffalo, Sweet BBQ, Spicy BBQ, and  Szechuan flavors, so I chose the Buffalo, wanting to know how they would prepare this classic wing style.  I've lived in upstate New York long enough to know that in that area one would not call what I was served a "Buffalo" wing.  It doesn't have the right sauce, which is Frank's hot sauce with butter. Frank's is chocked full of peppers and vinegar. The wings I got had a mild, vaguely BBQ sauce and were good. I'm sure we're far enough from New York for this not to matter. Sort of. I ordered the slaw again, which was delicious. I wanted to try the cornbread, and it was a standard sweet style.  I love cornbread, so I relished the perfect crumb and it complemented the wings and slaw beautifully.

I haven't tried the pizza yet and people say that Hazel has good pizza.  I'm eager to try all their great-looking combinations.  The menu has several other items such as poutine and other BBQ choices beyond the ribs. The bar looks like a great place to enjoy drinks and food, and they have live music. 

Although I've had hit and miss experiences I think Hazel is capable of making really good food. I'm hoping to enjoy some there soon.