Blitzkrieg Burger Bop

blitzkrieg burger

The Blitzkrieg Burger at the Cloverleaf Tavern. a 5oz patty grilled medium rare, topped with a split, grilled Guiness-boiled bratwurst and Guiness steamed sauerkraut, slathered with spicy brown mustard on a delectable, chewy pretzel bun.
I told them to call it the BierGarten Belly Bomb, but they opted for Blitzkrieg. For that name, it should be currywurst with curry mayo, if ya ask me.

Anyway, this was a great burger. The steamed kraut soaked the chewy bun and the flavors worked together. They make one of the best burgers around, so the meat wasn’t overpowered by a slab of seared sausage.

The real Blitzkrieg was how our trivia time plowed through the Maginot line to get 1st place. Once again my nerd powers of random knowledge assisted us. We have a solid team, though we almost lost due to lack of Passover knowledge and a weakness in geography…

Tommy Salami vs. Zee Germans

In Germany I first experienced the joy of the beer garden. A summery outdoor park with picnic tables, where beer and festival food are served, but most importantly the German feeling of gemütlichkeit. It loosely translates as coziness or belonging, and a “leave your troubles at the door” attitude. And I was glad to find this spirit alive and well in Jersey City at Zeppelin Hall, a biergarten in Liberty Harbor. It’s a new development on the waterfront, not far from the Grove Street PATH station and another favorite haunt, the Brownstone Diner & Pancake Factory.

Turkish: No, Tommy. There’s a gun in your trousers. What’s a gun doing in your trousers?
Tommy: It’s for protection.
Turkish: Protection from what? “Zee Germans”?

That wasn’t a gun in my trousers, it was their curry wurst! It was nearly as tasty as the one I had a Curry36 in Berlin. That’s a late-night joint in Germany that serves excellent crinkle cut fries and currywurst. When I carried this foot long monster sausage from the counter, a group of frat boys cheered, “You got the big cock!” So I carried it at waist level. Firecracker was not amused, but she took the picture. The rest of the crowd was much less boisterous, probably because the Saints were kicking a mudhole in the Jets’ ass on the big screens. Instead of a bun, you get some spaetzle and potato salad with your wanger. It’s pretty good. I much preferred the wiener schnitzel that Firecracker ordered. It was a pork chop instead of veal, but nearly as tender and perfectly delicious. The lightly spiced batter was excellent. I’d get that, or a platter including it, next time.
They claim to have 144 taps, but their beer selection doesn’t run that high. There’s some duplication. They have a solid selection of German beers- including Spaten Oktoberfest and other tasty brews like Aventinus, which has a caramel malt flavor, and Belgian beers like Kira white, which was refreshing and light. However, they were missing the perfect beer for a German beer garden in America- High Point Brewing Company’s Ramstein Blonde Weiss. Or better yet, their Oktoberfest Lager, which is currently rated #1 Oktoberfest beer on Beer Advocate. Ramstein Blonde is brewed with Bavarian yeast and hops that they import exclusively, and founder Greg Zaccardi trained in Bavarian breweries before coming home to create this excellent craft beer. So what better suits an American German-style beer garden?
Because I’d love to try one of their beers in the immense $12 pitcher-sized mugs you can get at Zeppelin Hall. They also serve an Imperial pint size, but the big ones got us buzzed with one glass. I believe it’s the biggest beer I’ve had alone- though I shared a 96oz. one at House of Brews last year! The beer hall has an indoors for inclement weather and plenty of seating. It’s kid and small dog friendly, but they have some rules like “no birthday cakes,” which I found puzzling. Firecracker wants to have her birthday there, so I’m going to call and see if they order them for you, or what.,-95.677068&sspn=32.38984,43.154297&ie=UTF8&hq=zeppelin+hall&hnear=&ll=40.75506,-74.029999&spn=0.120956,0.168571&z=12&iwloc=A&cid=17531812560944171882&output=embed
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Ramstein Brewery’s Oktoberfest Lager

I have the hardest time explaining Oktoberfest to the non-beer lovers. “Why is it in September?” Well, it’s complicated. High Point Brewing Company founder Greg Zaccardi gave us a bit of history at the 2009 Open House tour at the Brewery this year. Oktoberfest commemorates the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese in 1810, which was held on October 18th. But in modern times, it has begun in the last two weeks of September and runs until early October. It celebrates the end of the harvest, when there is actually time to celebrate. Nowadays, we just celebrate great beer and how it brings friends together. And that’s reason enough!
The brewery’s Oktoberfest lager is unfiltered, but the lagering process makes it a sparkling clear dark amber reminiscent of fine whiskey. It has a crisp yet malty flavor but is remarkably light and delicious, a refreshing brew great for the end of a workday that won’t be heavy in your belly. This award-winning lager remains a spectacular beer that is well worth the wait, every year. According to the excellent Beer Stained Letter blog the brewery doubled their output this year, but it remains keg and draft only. The bars have siphoned up the supply, so if you want to try it, find a bar that serves it, or come to the October open house (second Saturday of the month) and get a growler filled. They have growlers on hand, and take credit cards. The brewery is open most workdays and some weekends, check their website for their phone number and call ahead.
We had a great time, meeting friends old and new. The brewery served up some wurst, German potato salad, sauerkraut, pretzels, cheese and more. It was all very good, and there was plenty for everybody. Also on hand was Ted of SR Fresh Hot Sauces, offering tastes of their Cherry Cayenne and Habanero Gold sauces. They were both very tasty and not dangerously hot. Of course, myself and Milky had to try the Pure Habanero that Ted had on hand. It was ridiculously hot but still had flavor. I hope they’re back next time, I may pick up one of each!
The Oktoberfest lager is served from kegs, but to make things special they crack open a barrel of it, to open the celebration. Here’s video of the grand event:

Let’s not forget the men who do all the hard work serving us up the beer. Check out those guns from pulling beer taps all day.
And here’s Brian, the man who fills the growlers. A bad day working at a brewery is better than the best day working in an office! He does a great job filling our bottles and keeping the foam down. Thanks for the hard work, man!
I haven’t written about the Brewery in a while, but they truly make some of my favorite beers. Their flagship Ramstein Blonde Weiss with its toasty notes, is a classic of the form. Their seasonals like the Oktoberfest Lager and Maibock are simply fantastic, and worth hunting down. In winter, their Winter Wheat doppelbock is one of the tastiest, chocolatey beers you’ll ever find- and is available in stores. Their Classic Wheat dunkelweiss shouldn’t be overlooked either- it’s readily available, when dunkels are fairly rare, and it’s great to drink all year round. They truly make a craft beer at the High Point Brewing Company, and any lover of good beer should make time to try their world class brews.

Movies to Watch with Zombie Hitler on his Birthday

Cap’n America punching Adolf in the kisser. America, FUCK YEAH! 4/20 is Hitler’s birthday- guess he was a stoner, man! And here are our picks to watch with Zombie Hitler, if he should ever arise. What would Zombie Hitler be like? Well, just look at this photo and imagine this watermelon is your brain:

They Saved Hitler’s Brain

Mein Gott! Zis is Charlie Chaplin!

From IMDb: “Nazi madmen preserve Hitler’s brain on a small tropical island until the time is right to resurrect him and, along with him, the Third Reich.” Okay, I have to see this. It’s not on DVD, but I found it through some rarity site. You’ll get a full review sometime soon. The whole concept is hilarious. And it’s not like his brain conquered Europe. And they saved his HEAD! Wouldn’t it be funnier if it was a floating brain with a little mustache?


Who vants zee first happy pill?

Zombie Hitler might cry if he watched this. Bruno Ganz plays Hitler during the last days of his failed Reich, when he has children fighting the Allies in the streets of Berlin, fanatical soldiers committing suicide rather than see their own defeat, and psychotic Nazi leaders poisoning their own children. Ganz is one of Germany’s great actors, best remembered as an angel in Wings of Desire, and he encapsulates Hitler’s terrible charisma and self-loathing with perfection. Besides, there’s wonderful schadenfreude watching these monsters suffer and consign their genes to the dunghill of history.

Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS
It’s a lot harder to find work safe images of this, lemme tell ya.

This is a lot more fun. Dyanne Thorne- last seen in a cameo in one of the Grindhouse fake trailers- plays Ilsa, fleshpot dominatrix of the SS. Pure, classic trash. That’s one of the few scenes where she has her clothes on. To my shame, I’m almost embarrassed to watch this one. I’ll get over it, and a review will be forthcoming. How can you NOT watch a movie like this?

Marathon Man

Nazi + Dentist = pure genius.

William Goldman wrote the book, which is about a Nazi Dentist living off the diamonds he stole from the Jews he slaughtered in the camps. When his source- who sells them in the NYC Diamond district, how’s that for irony- is killed, he comes to figure out what happened. He ends up killing CIA Agent Roy Scheider, whose little brother Dustin Hoffman- a sad sack long distance runner- ends up mixed up in it. Lawrence Olivier plays the “white angel” Dr. Szell, famous for stuffing a power drill in Hoffman’s mouth and asking “Is it safe?” He also has a huge switchblade up his sleeve. He’s one of the great cinematic villains, and this is one of the best thrillers of the ’70s.

The Boys from Brazil

Nein! I am not your weiner schnitzel!

To make up for playing a Nazi, Olivier plays a Nazi hunter here, and Gregory Peck gets to play Zee German. He has a diabolical plan to use DNA harvested from Hitler to make clones of der Fuhrer, in the hope that he’ll lead a new Reich. It doesn’t make any more sense than saving Hitler’s brain, but it sure is fun! They try to raise the Little Hitlers in households similar to Adolf’s, and one kid has a pack of bloodthirsty dobermans.

Dead Snow
aka Død snø, where a møøse once bit my sister, this is a zombie flick where skiers in Norway are beset by a horde of Nazi zombies! It was only a matter of time before someone made a Nazi zombie movie. It’s not on Netflix yet, sadly. When will Hollywood get around to making a Castle Wolfenstein movie? It would be most incredibly awesome. For now, this is the closest we get. Zombie Hitler would approve.

The Reader

This is a fine drama but I’m not sure it deserves a best picture nomination. Like Frost/Nixon it is held together by performances, like Rachel Getting Married it has some flaws. Kate Winslet is 99% fantastic, channeling Marlene Dietrich as a German woman named Hannah nearing 40, and still working as a ticket taker on a tram. One day a young man named Michael (David Kross) is sick on her trolley and she helps him; later his mother urges him to go thank her, and a spontaneous affair begins when he peeks at her putting on her stockings.
The first act of the movie is Summer of ’42 and the lovers spent a great deal of time naked. Some complain, but this feels and looks natural. It doesn’t stand out as gratuitous, but shows how prudish most movies actually are these days. As the physical relationship softens and becomes an emotional one, young Michael begins to read to her. It becomes obvious to us watching that Hannah cannot read, but the movie treats this as a surprise later. Perhaps if the movie wasn’t called “The Reader,” and I didn’t immediately think “who’d need a reader? a blind person, or an illiterate?” it could have been a surprise. But it is not, and the movie feels clumsy when it tries to make it so. As Michael ignores the beautiful young girls flowering around him at school, Hannah one day disappears, breaking his heart but freeing him to live a normal life.
We see Michael go to university, years later, where he is studying law. His ethics teacher wants his students to know the difference between law and morality; he takes them to the trial of SS guards charged with the murder of Jews. And Michael sees Hannah again, and she’s not a member of the jury. The “secret” of her illiteracy becomes the linchpin of who is the guiltiest person on trial, and she is too ashamed to admit it. And it becomes obvious that her shame of illiteracy led her to become a guard during the war, and “sign” a statement she could not know the contents of. At first this seems like a clever construct- what if someone ended up a monster through no motive of their own? But it is not. Does redemption exist for ordinary people who followed the rules and abetted atrocities? Or are they just scapegoats for the entire country?
Soon it is Michael’s turn to stand up to the unstoppable engines of the government, justice, and the country’s demand for absolution. Like Hannah, he has a shameful secret he is loathe to reveal, and makes a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. For every whistleblower, for every man who stands up to the tanks at Tienanmen Square, for every Oskar Schindler there were a million people who just went along. The Reader is about those people.
Michael’s shame weighs down on him throughout his life and makes him distant from his nonexistent wife and neglected daughter. Played by Ralph Fiennes, he manages to be quiet yet expressive, a shadow of the passionate young man he once was. The third act is his attempt at redemption with Hannah, his daughter, and a survivor, and the weakest part of the film. There are plenty of good scenes, but the pacing is languid and the editing awkward. Like The Return of the King, it doesn’t know when it’s ending, and we get several denouements. We get a clumsy and unnecessary flashback structure with bookends, and it weakens the film.

I think it is still worth seeing, and the performances of Winslet, Kross and Fiennes hold together the director’s clumsy web. If you want to see Kate’s nipples, they’re like the double crimson sunsets on Tatooine in Star Wars on the big screen. Her make-up is excellent and while not as creepy as Benjamin Button’s, she ages convincingly. With her accent and severe expressions, Winslet proves that she can transform into a character- even if that character is eerily reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich in A Foreign Affair. Only once, when she smiles up at us, did she remind me who she was. It wouldn’t be an outrage if she got the Oscar for it.
4 big red Nazi nipples out of 5

Oktoberfest at Ramstein Brewery!

Some great things only come once a year; Christmas. The Hamburglar’s birthday. And best of all, the release of Ramstein Oktoberfest Lager at the High Point Brewing Company. Consistently rated as one of the best Oktoberfest beers, and only available on draft at the brewery and a few select taverns and distributors, it is a beer-lover’s prize worth hunting down if you truly love German style beers. The amber lager known as a märzen after the month of March, when it is was first brewed to last through the summer months, has become an autumn favorite and has become a September seasonal in celebration for Oktoberfest.
High Point Brewery has always made their monthly open house for the Oktoberfest season extra special. While the regular open house is great enough, with beer sampling and snacks, tours and camaraderie, for Oktoberfest they go all out. They open a cask of their Oktoberfest Lager, and have a feast of German delicacies. There was a huge crowd this time around, but being old hands, we got our growlers filled first while everyone swarmed over the beer sampling line, and stashed our growlers (5 this time around) in the car.

This time they had a double serving of their Oktoberfestbier, the filtered version known as Munich Amber, and the unfiltered, just called Oktoberfest Lager. They both have the malty flavors of a marzen, but manage to taste quite different. The Amber has fruitier notes and is a little more crisp, but the unfiltered lager has more notes of the grains and is smoother. They’re both quite delicious and I’m glad I got the extra growler, so I could get both- and one of the Classic! Their flagship Blonde hefeweizen has not been available in growlers for a while, but Firecracker grabbed a sixpack.

The food this time around was done by Karen Ontell, and it was excellent! Thanks again, Karen. To make things easier, everything was done as tapas or finger foods. There were huge soft pretzels and assorted mustards, to built a fine bready foundation, and then little skewers of chicken and pork made with Ramstein beers! Potato soup with spaetzel, stuffed cabbage rolls, and fantastic wurst with sauerkraut. Potato pancakes dotted with applesauce. And of course, dessert of raspberry streusel and butter cake. It was the perfect catering job for a crowded house full of hungry beer drinkers, and the food was delicious.

The cask was opened to great singing and fanfare, but I missed getting any of the actual casked lager this time around; I’ve had it before, and it does taste better. Maybe that’s wishful thinking, but the celebration certainly adds to the flavor of an already great beer. If you missed the open house, call the brewery and stop by to get a growler filled. They usually have it for the October open house too, but don’t bet on it. Beer this good is hard to get your mitts on! Let’s hope we see it in bottles sometime soon, at least the Munich Amber. Actually to hell with that, it leaves more beer for us! Prost!

We also met Jeff Linkous of the excellent Beer-Stained Letter blog, as we made a stack of pallets out back into a makeshift picnic table. He’s the source of the quality photos and videos of the events, and his blog has introduced me to quite a few Jersey brewpubs I hadn’t known of. So check it out for Jersey area beer news!

Spring Awakening

Firecracker’s been wanting to see this for a year, and we finally got to it. I took her to see Rufus Wainwright for Valentine’s Day instead. While Rufus is entertaining, I wish we’d gone to see this musical instead. It’s pretty funny and very hot. For a show based on a play from 1890 that’s a surprise. There’s sort of a dearth of bawdiness in that era, and that’s what the story is about- it’s a morality tale about sexual repression, the kind of thing John Waters should be making a campy movie version of.

Sure it’s a little emo, but it’s a good show. I was thoroughly entertained and titillated. We had on-stage seats, which gives you a unique perspective; I’d probably want to see the show from the audience before I did it again. You miss a lot of the dialogue and lyrics because the actors are projecting away from you. You get the best view imaginable, and get bumped around sometimes as they bounce around the stage. The stage seats are incorporated into the show, actually- the backup singers sit with you, and occasionally the cast is standing right next to you.

Moritz, Melchior, Wendla

The story begins with young Wendla, a German girl who asks her mother about the birds and the bees. Our Prussian-Puritan background shows in that I said “birds and bees” instead of “the penis and the vagina.” We’ve got a thousand euphemisms for it. Anyway, her mom is too embarrassed to tell her not to let snakey into her no-no, so you know she’s going to get in trouble later on. From there we cut to a strict Prussian schoolroom, where mussy-haired Moritz (Blake Bashoff, Alex’s boyfriend on “Lost”) has fallen asleep during recitations of Latin. His friend Melchior (the lead, Kyle Riabko) defends him and becomes the rebel of the show, questioning the schoolmaster’s methods.

I’ll only put it in a little

He’s the one who gets in trouble with Wendla. Moritz falls asleep in class because his wet dreams are keeping him up all night, and he asks “Melchy” to write him an essay with illustrations because he’s read about sex in those forbidden books. Wendla finds him by the lake scribbling his naughty essay and eventually succumb to their throbbing hormonal urges. From the stage seats you get subjected to Mr. Riabko’s ass-crack, which delighted Firecracker. I got a look up Wendla’s skirt, and can tell you Alexandra Socha wears tighty whities. Besides being appropriately cute, the actresses and actors are all quite good. Beast said Melchior overacted, but he’s playing a rebellious teenager, and he played the part of the “Angry Young Man” from that Billy Joel song perfectly.

We’d be in those chairs on stage left

Emma Hunton was my favorite- she plays Ilse, a girl who was kicked out by her parents and now lives on the streets, posing for the Bohemian painters to live, usually wandering barefoot or in one of the artists’ shirts. She’s got great pipes and has a touching scene where she comforts inconsolable Moritz, who besides suffering the cruel injustices of the schoolmasters, can’t tell when a girl likes him. They sing a duet together that was the best song of the show, “Blue Wind.” The real crowd-pleaser is “Totally Fucked” when Melchior finally rebels, but it was loud and heavy on percussion so I couldn’t understand any of it from the stage seats.

Moritz channeling Amadeus

Overall Spring Awakening is a good show and worth seeing- the current cast is excellent, and while the story might appeal more to teenagers than adults like me, who wanted it to be campier or even more daring, it is never boring. The set design is spartan and efficient, with no big set changes- it’s not showy like Hairspray but it was clever and impressive. Check out the soundtrack on Amazon: