Early this week I was lucky to be invited to a free blogger preview dinner at the Red Roost Tavern, the new farm-to-table restaurant at the Downtown Hyatt. With little information about the dinner I was surprised and excited to see that every meal was paired with a local beer!
I had never been to the Hyatt until this dinner, but have heard that over the past year it has made a pretty astonishing turn around. Overall, the restaurant is very welcoming and doesn’t feel too much like your typical hotel restaurant. The bar is the centerpiece of the space with an interesting mix of modern linear decor mixed with rustic reclaimed wood. There are 6 – 8 local beers on tap (including Sam Adams, which you may or may not know is brewed mainly in Cincinnati’s OTR neighborhood just steps from Findlay Market) and a smattering of the usual suspects like Bud Light and Guinness. They have a pretty good selection of beers, craft and otherwise, in bottle as well.
Since I’ve been studying up for cicerone certification, I took the opportunity to assess the quality of the beer and food pairings at the dinner.
To start, we were served a crab cake with honey chili mayo, paired with the Rivertown Jenneke, a Belgian blonde. Somehow I forgot to snap a photo of this dish/pairing. Blogger fail. The crab cake was very tasty and exceptionally crabby. Rather than many crab cakes which are mostly bread crumb with a little crab, this was loaded with sweet delicious crab meat that was accentuated by the sweet and spicy mayo drizzle. The beer, Rivertown’s seasonal Belgian blonde was a nice pairing. This blonde is not particularly bold or strong, but has a crisp light mouthfeel with a bit of bittering hops at the finish, which matched well with the delicate flavor of the crab. I found that the beer was less Belgian forward than I would usually like or expect, but that the pairing was successful.
Course #2 was a sweet corn soup with a smoked tomato jam, paired with the Mt. Carmel Nut Brown. I was initially worried that the maltiness of the nut brown would just accentuate the sweetness of the corn, but it was quite the opposite. The slight bitterness of the beer became a nice counterpoint to the soup, which was quite sweet itself. Despite that I am not generally a nut brown fan (it is usually the last beer that I would choose) I thought this pairing was extremely successful. It goes to show you that when it comes to beer and food pairings, you should leave your pre-conceived notions at the door.
Course #3 was a quinoa salad, paired with the Rivertown Helles Lager. I found the quinoa salad a little bland. It was almost as if someone said, “hey, quinoa is all the rage right now so we’ll just add some veggies and people will love it.” False. Unfortunately, the beer wasn’t going to save this dish either. I found the smell of the beer just, off, as if it might even be a little spoiled. The hallmark of a lager is a nice clean flavor any funk is a bad sign. It wasn’t a draft line issue because the beer was poured from bottles. I’m really not sure what that was about but my colleage, Josh, over at Queen City Drinks agreed that there was something weird going on there. This was by far my least favorite dish and beer of the evening.
Course #4 was halibut with cauliflower and spring veggies paired with the Madtree PsycHOPathy. The halibut was an exceptional dish: crispy outside with a nice flaky moist inside. The flavor was delicate and the veggies were a nice addition. The pairing, however, was not successful. In fact, The second I read about this pairing I became a little nervous for them. The bitter IPA, one that I generally quite enjoy, completely overpowered the fish. Perhaps a Hefeweizen or pilsner would have been a better choice. Madtree makes a nice filtered wheat, the “Pleasant Wheat,” which would have been a far better pairing. The dish was great, the pairing was not.
Course #5 was a slow roasted Berkshire pork loin with a cherry port sauce, paired with the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel ale. The pork loin was extremely moist and delicious – the tart and sweet cherries especially worked very well with the Kentucky Bourbon Ale which is aged in bourbon barrels for up to 6 weeks. Many of you local Cincinnatians have had this beer, but for those virgins, be warned: this is a BOURBONY beer. If you don’t enjoy the flavor of bourbon, you will not like it. Even I who like bourbon think this beer is a little much on its own, but with the pork it was quite nice.
Course # 6, dessert, was Madisono’s corn ice cream which is made exclusively for the restaurant, paired with the Rivertown Blueberry lager. This was another situation where I expected that the sweet with sweet wouldn’t work, but the mild bitterness from the blueberry lager lent itself well to the sweet corn ice cream. It was an unusual but delicious pairing.
I really appreciate that Red Roost Tavern and Cincinnati restaurants in general are branching out with local craft beers as part of their farm to table, local schtick if you will. With so many local craft beers in Cincinnati now, it makes sense that the close to home food scene would embrace them. I have noticed lately that many restaurants and breweries are offering beer dinners or recommending beer pairings with a dish, like at 50 West where each food option has beer suggestions. I hope to see this trend continue. Speaking of which! One really cool new local activity you should check out is Tonic Tour’s. I was recently invited by Ginny Tonic, to the media preview of the Microbrewery leg. The tour starts with a beer tasting and a bit of education from Travis of Everything’s D’Vine, a fantastic beer and wine store downtown, and goes on to three local breweries. This summer they’re going to Rivertown, 50West and Madtree. The best part about these tours is they provide all the transportation, plus you get beer, water, snacks, and a commemorative glass. The clear benefits are: organization of all the beer activities plus tours of stellar local craft beer, and a designated driver to boot. Definitely check out their site for more info and big thanks to Ginny for an awesome time.
Until next time lovahs, drink and eat local!