It’s a bittersweet day in the LBLF world.
The time has come for my dear friend and chef collaBREWator, Dan Higgins (and his lovely lady), to move to Portland, Oregon. Cue sad trombone. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Dan and can say that without a doubt, my cooking skills have improved as a direct result of his mentorship – I can’t thank him enough. *tear*
We knew the only appropriate send off would be a beer and food pairing dinner so glorious, it would at least temporarily soothe the sting of their departure.
But before we get to that – some crazy and fun updates!
On May 26th I launched ‘Beer Ed,’ an interactive beer and food tasting series with none other than one of my favorite places on earth: Findlay Market. The event is monthly, and features three courses of Findlay food paired up with Cincy brews. This upcoming class is Sunday June 29th at 2 pm and will feature dishes from Eckerlin Meats and Christian Moerlein beers! If you’re here locally, I’d love to see you there!! Learn more and get tickets HERE.
But that’s not all! Friday I got an email from Fox 19 that they wanted to do a live tv segment, basically a ‘preview’ of the event! At first I was super nervous but it actually turned out to be really fun.
Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV
You can check out the video above, or if that doesn’t work, by clicking here to get an idea of what to expect at our Beer Ed events.
OK, now, onto the real excitement of the hour: Six courses of beer and food pairing heaven.
First course: Beef tartare with dijon, avocado, pickles, and sesame oil served with crostini made from my own homemade sourdough bread
Paired with: Two Brother’s SideKick Extra Pale Ale
I wanted to start our meal with a contrasting beer with a nice light bodied, crispness to counteract the richness of the dish.
I’ve told you before about how much I love this beer, but let me repeat: I LOVE this beer. It’s got a great hop flavor and bitterness, while somehow maintaining balance despite the light malt character. The bright, citrusy hops in the beer complement the sesame oil, and the intense carbonation and hop bitterness is the perfect palate cleanser. One of our friends who ‘doesn’t like hoppy beers’ actually loved it, which made me oh so happy. I love broadening people’s beer horizons.
A great way to start.
Second course: Caesar salad with shaved Parmesan, anchovies and freshly cracked black pepper
Paired with: Rockmill Brewery Saison
Dan whipped up an insane, traditional homemade caesar dressing with garlic, egg yolk, lemon and anchovy which was tossed with romaine lettuce, shaved Parmesan and tons of fresh pepper.
I chose the Rockmill Saison because I wanted lots of palate cleansing carbonation to counteract all that garlic and anchovy. I knew that the characteristic pepperiness in a saison yeast would echo and complement the dish. This particular saison is on the fruity side with heavy citrus which worked great with the lemon in the dressing. Overall, a really nice pairing.
Third course: Handmade, pan seared gnocchi with lobster, fresh peas, brown butter and a mushroom demi-glace
Paired with: Allagash Golden Brett
Dan gave me a preview of the food menu so that I could pick out the appropriate pairings ahead of time, and as soon as I saw this dish, I started lusting hardcore. Lobster? Brown butter? GNOCCHI?!
It’s not often that I get to eat lobster, especially out here in the Midwest, so I wanted to pull out a showstopper for the pairing. Last month when the hubs and I were on vacation in the Northeast, we picked up five 375 mL bottles of this special release from Allagash, which was only available at the brewery.
For this pairing I knew I needed a beer that was simultaneously light not to overshadow the delicate lobster, with a bit of funk, and plenty of carbonation. The brett character in the beer was absolutely insane with the lobster -the flavors were eerily similar, while the slight acidity, light body, and carbonation acted as the perfect contrast.
The best pairings have both similar and contrasting characteristics that together create pure flavor harmony. As soon as we tasted this pairing, we all got excited. A sure contender for best pairing of the evening.
Fourth course: Box cut strip steak with beef demi-glace and simple sauteed broccoli with garlic and chili flake
Paired with: MadTree Happy Amber
This simple preparation of seared strip steak with garlic broccoli needed a balanced brew with a sturdy malt backbone and plenty of hop bitterness.
I immediately thought of MadTree’s Happy Amber when I heard about this dish. The amber malt worked beautifully with the caramelized, crispy meat, demi-glace, and counteracted the slightly bitter broccoli. The citrusy flavor of cascade and chinook hops plus the 30 IBU’s of bitterness balanced the garlic and richness of the dish.
Overall the pairing worked well, though we probably could’ve gone even bigger on the malt. Maybe next time I’ll try another great MadTree brew, like Identity Crisis, a delicious hopped up porter.
Fifth course: Seared shrimp with smoky cheddar grits and a seafood demi-glace with a simple mix of julienned vegetables
Paired with: Firestone Walker Double Jack
For this big bold dish, I wanted a nice big beer to match. Firestone Walker is a stellar brewery, and this beer is one of their best, in my opinion. Double Jack is an award winning imperial IPA with some fantastic West coast hops replete with grapefruit and pine.
The beer worked tremendously with this dish – the slightly caramel malt melding with the tangy and smoky cheddar. The big citrus and piney hops stood up to the rich, creaminess of the grits.
I’m drooling again thinking about the dish, mmmm . . .
Sixth course: Garam masala braised pork cheeks with cashew butter, and a salad of mango, cabbage, and green onion with lime and cilantro.
What happens when you pair the flavors of Southeast Asia with a chili pepper infused doppelbock? The answer? One of the best culinary moments in life.
This. THIS is what beer and food pairing is all about. Every one of us at the dinner unanimously agreed that this pairing was the highlight of our meal. The pepper heat in the beer sang with the garam masala and cilantro then counteracted the rich cashew butter and meat. The caramelly malt worked beautifully with the mango, and somewhat sweet, meaty braising liquid.
Even though our dessert of passion fruit icecream was a no-go (the icecream didn’t set in time), I don’t think any of us were upset to end on this note. It was by far one of the best paired meals I’ve ever had, and I’ve never been fuller.
I hope you enjoyed and learned a bit about pairing through these examples! If you’re out on the West Coast, keep an eye our for Chef Higgins in Portland – he is sure to be making culinary waves in no time.
What pairings have you been blown away by recently?? Cheers!