In next week's Indy we'll have moved from Christmas overload into New Year's overload, with an eye toward options for ringing in 2012 fashionably. But we have elected to provide one teaser early, in the interest of getting your fridge stocked in a timely manner. That teaser is a suggestion for a Champagne alternative, something that will likely make you a contrarian at whatever party you attend, but also could make you very popular.
Beer is that alternative — specifically, a nice light Trappist ale that by its dynamic nature, offers a good parallel, or answer, to Champagne. Steve features one ale in particular, but many can be found across town, and of course your personal favorite beer of any style can be substituted as well. There's no rules for partyin', people.
If you want to toast the New Year with the good stuff — not that fancy, headache-inducing potion called Champagne — do it with a great beer. Ditch the status quo and raise a glass of the La Trappe Quadrupel Trappist ale ($12.49/750-ml bottle) as the clock hits midnight. This copper-colored, mild ale will have you holding your pinky out with pride.
Boasting 10 percent ABV, it's definitely a match for Champagne — and hey, it does have a cork — but with the complexity of the fruit and caramel favors that only a big quad-ale can pull off. The Trappist monks of the Netherlands really nailed this brew, not surprising since they've been making it since 1884. Call your favorite liquor store to check availability, and remember you can also substitute another Trappist ale, even the most recognizable Chimay brand. — Steve Hitchcock
The Downtown Burrito Company
street cart, 465-8483, tinyurl.com/burritofb
Zack Travis rotates through six savory burritos that he serves from a small cart at the corner of Pikes Peak Avenue and Tejon Street, and he does it well. All burritos get prepped at Smiley's Bakery & Café before joining their compatriots in steaming compartments next to a small flat-top grill on the mobile unit. Sour cream, and tomato-based sauces spiked with cayenne offer something extra for street-eaters, but they're not really needed.
Take the Early Riser ($3.75): hard scrambled eggs, peppers and onions, sausage, cheddar cheese and great potatoes colored a deep red and tasting like curry in a 5-inch-long burrito. It's flavorful and just small enough to easily eat on the go, but large enough to offer a good option over neighboring 7-Eleven's hot dogs. Jealous office mates should note the five-for-four special. — Bryce Crawford
House of Saigon
1014 S. 21st St., Suite A, 473-6707
A friend swears by House of Saigon's vegetable noodle bowl ($7.75), inspiring my visit. It's your basic Vietnamese bun of rice noodles served with the ubiquitous, slightly fishy and citric dipping sauce. A generous amount of lightly cooked, still-crisp broccoli and green bell peppers highlights, backed by long strands of thin carrot, ample crushed peanut garnish and tofu blocks. It's pleasant enough, but noticeably lacking the fresh herb enhancements like cilantro, mint and basil that make the dish really pop. (Mental note: Harass friend next time we meet.)
We also test the hot and spicy squid lemon grass ($11), a mound of again-fresh onions, green bells and bamboo with chewy, knife-scored squid cylinders in a puddle of starchy, red-chili-flecked sauce with faint ginger notes. A building heat improves an initial blandness. — Matthew Schniper