Archive for the ‘Beer’Category

NABC proves brewpub grub can be healthy, too

With its working-class-hero graphics and its no-nonsense approach to craft brewing, the New Albanian Brewing Company (NABC) has been providing the suds of choice for thirsty folks in New Albany, Indiana, since 2002. In 2009, the original pizzeria brewery, now called NABC Pizzeria & Public House (3312 Plaza Drive, 812-944-2577) was augmented by the downtown NABC Café & Brewhouse (415 Bank St., 812-944-2577, newalbanian.com).

Stacey serves meal at NABCIn 2015, Stacie Bale took over as café operations manager. Serving both lunch and dinner, the café bustles, even outside the normal evening hours when brewpubs do their biggest business. Bale’s approach to the grub has something to do with that. She aims to make brewpub fare as healthy as possible both for the customers and for the local agricultural community. With those goals in mind, Bale sources most of her raw ingredients locally, makes a point of using non-GMO corn, cornstarch, and local oil (no mean feat in corn country), and offers a range of plant-based meals. Bacon, chicken, and beef are all free range and pasture-fed from nearby Hensley Homegrown.

One of the most impressive innovations Bale introduced to the menu was greaseless air frying. She keeps an array of small air fryers lined up in the kitchen so several fried dishes can be produced at once. Most are used for crispy waffle fries, onion rings, or the occasional catfish special.

NABC beerThe beers show a great range from agreeable session ales (like the one shown here) to the extremely hopped and high-alcohol Hoptimus. That’s an IPA with 10.7 percent alcohol and 100 IBU (international bitterness units). Bale uses the Community Dark (3.7 percent alcohol, 13.2 IBU) to great effect to make Beer Mac & Cheese, one of the favorite side dishes. She was kind enough to share the recipe. If you don’t have NABC handy, use your local brewery’s brown ale.

NEW ALBANIAN BEER MAC & CHEESE


NABC mac and cheeseServes 4 as main course, 8 as a side dish

Ingredients


2 cups uncooked macaroni
12 ounces NABC beer (Community Dark or 15-B)
8 ounces cream cheese
2 cups shredded cheddar
2 teaspoons chili powder
cayenne to taste (start with 1/8 teaspoon)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

Directions


Boil a large pot of salted water. Once boiling, cook the macaroni until tender (8-10 minutes). Stir occasionally. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, pour beer in a second large pot. Place the pot over high heat, and add the cream cheese. As the beer starts to simmer, break the cream cheese into pieces with a whisk and whisk into the beer. Add the 2 cups shredded cheddar. Warm and whisk until completely smooth.

Once the pasta is cooked and drained, pour it into the cheese sauce. Reduce the heat to low, then stir and cook another 3 minutes to thicken. Add spices and mix in thoroughly.

15

11 2017

As frost looms, fried green tomatoes beckon

Red Yeti Restaurant and Red Foot Brewing in Jeffersonville, IN

Jeffersonville, Indiana, is a fascinating little town with a deep history and a lot of good eats. We will soon be featuring several spots there in upcoming posts about our visit to Louisville, Kentucky, and the towns across the Ohio River in Indiana. But right now we’re looking at frost forecasts this week. So we’re busy harvesting everything left in our garden. That includes a lot of tomatoes that haven’t yet shown the first blush of ripening.

Charcuterie board at Red YetiJeffersonville happens to be the home of Red Yeti Restaurant and Red Foot Brewing Company (256 Spring St., Jeffersonville; 812-288-5788, redyetijeff.com). We enjoyed a beer flight with a bountiful board of cheeses from five Indiana and Kentucky creameries and along with sausages and other charcuterie from Henpecked Farm in neighboring New Albany, Indiana. Chef Michael Bowe makes the country breads and the tangy porter whole grain mustard in house.

Beer flight at Red YetiThe beer choices change frequently, of course, but we found the entire flight to be eminently drinkable. The mellow porter had a nice roundness, while the stout was a mild, not terribly bitter version. Of the lighter beers we tried, we were especially impressed with the ginger beer. It managed to showcase the brightness of the ginger without the muddiness that often dampens our enthusiasm for such brews. With a bright carbonation on the tongue, it was like drinking a spicy pilsner.

We could have stopped there. But we wanted to try the macaroni and cheese topped with fried green tomatoes.

Chef Michael Bowe at Red YetiChef Bowe (right) cleverly tops a bowl of sinfully luscious macaroni and cheese with a trio of crunchy, slightly tart fried tomato slices. While fried green tomatoes are a Southern staple (and Jeffersonville is almost in the South), the seasonings in Bowe’s breading elevated these crispy, tasty slabs far above the usual fare. So for all our readers faced with a drawer of green tomatoes, Bowe and the crew at Red Yeti agreed to share the recipe below. Ours is adapted, since the original made around three dozen servings.

fried green tom mac and cheese at Red Yeti

FRIED GREEN TOMATO MAC & CHEESE


Serves 6

For cheese sauce


1 1/4 cups milk
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 cup shredded white cheddar
1 cup shredded Gruyère
1/2 cup shredded Provolone
2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 3 tablespoons cold water to make slurry
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 cups elbow macaroni
8 cups lightly salted water

Heat milk and cream on medium-high heat. When near boiling, add the cheeses. While stirring slowly, add the slurry. Continue stirring until sauce thickens. Add white pepper and salt.

Cook macaroni in lightly salted boiling water until just past al dente. Drain and add to cheese sauce.

For fried green tomatoes

Breading


3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Montreal seasoning (see below or substitute steak rub spices)

Preparation


Mix together to make breading.

1 egg
2 cups buttermilk
18 thickly cut slices of green tomatoes
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
vegetable oil to 1/2 inch deep in large frying pan

Beat egg. Then whisk into buttermilk.

Coat tomatoes with breading, then dip tomatoes in buttermilk mixture. Remove and coat with panko breadcrumbs.

Fry breaded tomatoes in vegetable oil until golden brown.

Divide macaroni and cheese into six heatproof bowls. For each serving, place three tomato slices on top. For added flair, sprinkle each with some additional panko crumbs and a little grated Parmesan cheese and brown in 400° oven for 3-5 minutes.

MONTREAL SEASONING


So-called “Montreal” seasoning employs some of the spices used to cure the famous Montreal smoked meat. They are similar to pastrami spices. This recipe makes far more than you’ll need for the mac & cheese, but the remainder makes a good rub for beef or seasoning for hamburgers.

2 tablespoons black peppercorns
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons dill or fennel seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
4 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
4 teaspoons dried minced garlic
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Toast spices in a dry frying pan until aromatic. Crush in mortar and pestle. Makes about 1/2 cup.

16

10 2017

Spanning the decades of Niagara craft brewing

The craft brewing scene on the Niagara peninsula is, appropriately enough, fluid. Small breweries pop up in every town and their styles range from simple session ales to extreme brews. We stopped in to taste one of the newest and most experimental—Exchange in Niagara-on-the-Lake—as well as one of the pioneer craft brewers, now operating as Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery in a newly gentrifying neighborhood in Niagara Falls.

At the bar at Exchange Brewery

Exchange Brewery


Shiny black walls, shiny black bottles, and a marble bar immediately signal that Exchange Brewery (7 Queen St., Niagara-on-the-Lake; 905-468-9888; exchangebrewery.com) is not exactly a suds-soaked beer bar. The brewery and tasting room in the Old Town heritage district strike a sophisticated urban tone in striking contrast to Oast’s aw-shucks country brewery image. The building was the town’s first telephone exchange, which explains the name and the fixation on naming each the beers with a numeral or symbol found on the phone keypad or dial.

Exchange was founded in 2016 by Robin Ridesic, a management consultant with a passion for sour beers and hoppy IPAs. She brought on a team of professional brewers to execute a wide range of beers. (Exchange made more than 30 different beers in its first year.) Those bottled with a symbol have been aged in oak wine barrels, those with a number matured in stainless steel. Ridesic chose 750 ml. Prosecco bottles for all the beers because the glass is manufactured can withstand the pressure of carbonation.

beer and cheese tasting boardAs the brewery finds it niche, it has come to focus increasingly on barrel-aged beers. The # Witbier, for example, spends three months in Hungarian oak. Head brewer Sam Maxbauer combines malted and raw wheat with orange peel and coriander in the beer. The Exchange strain of house yeast contributes nice pepper and clove notes as well. The popular Belgian Golden Ale spends two to four months in used Chardonnay barrels.

The tasting room offers eight lines on tap drawn directly from the brewery in the back of the building. In addition, there’s usually a cask-aged ale of one sort or another (frequently a sour). Flights are available as well as a very nice cheese and beer pairing board. Shown above, it includes three cheeses with three complementary beers and crostini.

Brewery tours are available on the weekends.

Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery


beer tasting at Syndicate

There’s a tangled story behind Syndicate, but the most important thing for a beer-lover to know is that it descends directly from Taps Brewing Company. Founded in 2004, Taps was one of Niagara’s pioneer craft breweries. The building of the Niagara Falls flagship of Syndicate Restaurant and Brewery (6863 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls; 289-477-1022; syndicaterestaurant.ca) also contains Niagara Falls Craft Distillers (289-681-0124). The salesroom on the ground level sells the beers and spirits, while the pubby restaurant upstairs serves some unusual grub for a drinking establishment. (Think duck gravy poutine, fresh pasta stuffed with truffles, or dry-aged beef steaks.) The beers tend toward food-friendly familiar styles—an IPA, a fullsome lager, a crisp rye pale ale, and a porter or two. The brewery makes several house beers for other restaurants as well.

In the spirit of things


Niagara Falls Craft Distillers spirits

The distillation business started up in early 2017. All the liquors are beer based. As assistant brewer and distiller Mike McCormack explained to us, he brews a high-alcohol beer (about 10%) from roughly equal parts rye and barley, and pumps it over to the distillery side for distillation in a fractional column still. The Barreling Annie rye whiskey aims to pull through most of the aroma and flavor of the grain while the clear spirits (Lucky Coin Motel Vodka and 1814 Lundy’s Lane Gin) are double-distilled to make the spirit as neutral as possible. McCormack and head distiller Chris Jeffries are experimenting like mad. They are aging whiskey in three-liter barrels to see if the small format can accelerate the marriage of spirit and wood. (Yes, it does.) And they are crafting a heady absinthe with a swirling world of botanicals in addition to the classic anise and wormwood. We tasted and felt it had just the right balance of aromatics and alcohol. Despite being clear, it had the characteristic cough medicine quality of historic versions of the green fairy. So far, no date is set for release.


For an overview of attractions, restaurants, and lodging on the Niagara Peninsula, see Visit Niagara (visitniagaracanada.com).

20

09 2017

Lift a glass to toast Niagara’s fine craft beer

Oast bottles
As Niagara began to emerge as a major wine district, someone on the peninsula likely did a double take. “Wait a minute,” he might have said. “We’re Canadians. We drink beer!” Let’s face it, Labatt’s and Molson are more than holding their own against Canadian Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But craft brewing has also swept across the Niagara peninsula with salubrious results. Although we, too, were focused on Niagara’s remarkable wines, we squeezed in visits to three very different and very good breweries. Here’s one. Look for the other two in the next post.

Niagara Oast House Brewers


Oast House barn exterior

Route 55 outside Niagara-on-the-Lake cuts through some serious farm country with several vineyards and an aromatic lavender farm lining the highway. But the big red barn of Niagara Oast House Brewers (2017 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake; 289-868-9627; oasthousebrewers.com) might be the most prominent landmark of all. The barn has been a fixture in the landscape since 1895. It’s been a fruit basket factory, a fruit packing plant, a farmers’ coop, and even a John Deere dealership. Since late 2012, it’s been the home of Oast.

Oast owner Cian MacNeillA former sommelier and winemaker, Cian MacNeill was one of the three founders. While he sees Oast as a beer-lover’s extension of the Niagara gourmet experience, he is also careful to ensure that the brewery never loses its fun-loving roots. Oast launched with Barnraiser Country Ale in the American pale ale tradition. At 5% alcohol and lightly hopped, it has a sweet caramel malt flavor that drinks well through all three periods of a hockey match. It is literally the beer that built Oast, which continues to make the popular brew but focuses principally on farmhouse ales that have a Franco-Belgian pedigree.

Specialty ales


Bottled in thick 750 ml. bottles, these ales tend to be seasonal—Christmas, spring, a tart summer ale with verjus (tart juice from unripe grapes). Our favorite of the group, however, is the French style Biere de Garde. A robust and malty ale, it has overtones of cherry, burnt brown sugar, and cocoa. True to its name (“beer for keeping”), it ages nicely in the bottle, reaching its peak flavor at about two years.

In a nod to the fruit-growing tradition of Niagara, Oast also produces about a dozen beers with local fruit in its Rural Route series. They are sold in cans. Flavors range from a strawberry-rhubarb ale to a Russian imperial stout with dark plums. One of the big favorites for fall is the pumpkin and squash spiced ale. The brewery roasts its own pumpkins as well as acorn, hubbard, and butternut squash to caramelize the sugars and provide extra body and depth to the ale.

You can stop by the beer shed daily to taste and buy. Tours of the brewery are offered at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. on weekends.

16

09 2017

Steak and Guinness Pie a pub standard

Steak and Guinness pie on the table
Pretty much wherever you go in Northern Ireland, chances are good that the pub has steak and Guinness pie on the menu. In recent years, many places have taken to plopping a piece of separately cooked puff pastry on top of the beef stew. This version is deliciously retrograde. It uses a classic butter pastry crust. The dish is traditional but every cook adds a personal touch. This version is adapted from several sources. Don’t be surprised by the inclusion of sharp cheddar cheese. It makes a real difference in the flavor and the crust.

STEAK AND GUINNESS PIE


Steak and Guinness pie servedServes 4

Ingredients


For Stew

4 tablespoons butter, divided
large red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 ribs celery, chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms
2 pounds chuck shoulder or round, cut in bite-sized pieces
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
3 cups (1 1/2 cans) Guinness or other stout
1 teaspoon Gravymaster
6 ounces coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese, separated

For Pastry

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) very cold butter, diced
ice water
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten

Directions

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

In Dutch oven or cast-iron chicken cooker, heat 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add onions and garlic. Sauté until soft.

Add rest of butter, carrots, celery, and mushrooms. Stirring frequently, cook over medium heat until mushrooms darken and mixture loses its moisture.

Season beef lightly with salt and pepper, then toss with flour. Add meat and rosemary to pan and cook over high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring often to keep from sticking.

Add sufficient Guinness to submerge the beef and vegetables. Cover pan and place in oven for 2 1/2 hours. Check periodically and stir. If mixture is thin at end of cooking, reduce the liquid on stove top. Fold in half the cheese.

While stew is cooking, start making pastry since it needs to chill for a few hours. Place flour, baking powder, and salt into food processor. Pulse to blend. With motor running, add diced pieces of butter slowly. Process until mixture has the texture of coarse meal. Add ice water, a splash at a time, until a firm dough forms. Remove from food processor and wrap dough in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

When stew is done, spoon into souffle dish that is 2 inches deep and 8-inches in diameter. (An 8×8 baking pan can be substituted.) Sprinkle remaining cheese on top.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll out to circle about 2 inches broader than circumference of cooking dish. Place dough over the stew and pinch the edges to seal. Make three wide slashes in top to vent. Paint the crust with egg yolk. Place dish on baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, or until the pastry is puffy and golden.

13

12 2016

Local color lights up Toronto neighborhoods

Kensington Market street scene in Toronto
Toronto’s playful side is literally written on its walls. The city is full of murals created with a high degree of artistry and a witty sense of humor. The one above with the car-turned-planter in the foreground embodies the spirit of the Kensington Market neighborhood. Just west of Chinatown, most of its shops and eateries are found along Augusta Avenue and adjacent Nassau Street, Baldwin Street, and Kensington Avenue.

The eastern boundary stretches to Spadina Avenue in Chinatown, making a continuous colorful neighborhood of eateries and shops. Once the center of hippie culture in Canada, Kensington Market was where many young American men moved to avoid the military draft during the Vietnam war. The area retains its psychedelic patchouli vibe in the street art and even the graffiti.

burrito stand in Toronto Kensington Market The Kensington Market eateries also lean toward the inventive—be they Hungarian-Thai, Remixed Filipino, or Jamaican-Italian. The preponderance of small restaurants, however, have a Latin flair. NAFTA has opened the borders to Mexican immigrants, and they seem to arrive hungry for such Mexican street food standards as churros, tacos, and chorizo. The Latin presence makes Kensington Market a great area for a quick bite.

But one of the city’s best murals—and perhaps the best Mexican food—is at El Catrin Destilería (18 Tank House Lane, 416-203-2121, www.elcatrin.ca). We stopped for a meal after touring the Distillery District shopping, dining, and entertainment area with Will Ennis of Go Tours (www.gotourscanada.com).

Exploring whisky village


Main square of Distillery District in Toronto “This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city,” Will told us. Gooderham & Worts was founded as a grain processor in 1831 and expanded into making whisky in 1837. About half of the roughly 80,000 imperial gallons produced each year was exported, by the way. The rest stayed in the city of 10,000 residents. The story goes that workers’ wages were actually based on levels of drunkenness that ranged from “morning drunk” (or hung over) to “drunk as a pig.”

The brick distillery as it now stands was built in 1859. By 1862, it was producing a quarter of the distilled spirits in all of Canada. By the end of the 19th century, it was among the largest distilleries in the world. Prohibition in Ontario (1916-1927) put a crimp in the business. (The firm adjusted by canning denatured alcohol and antifreeze during World War I.) Whisky production ceased in 1990 and developers transformed the red brick industrial buildings into a shopping and nightlife district. It is crazy popular among wedding photographers, who love the atmospherics.

One good pour deserves another


Pouring sake at Ontario Spring Water Sake Two small establishments in the development carry on the tradition of making alcoholic beverages. Ontario Spring Water Sake Company (51 Gristmill Lane, 416-365-7253, www.ontariosake.com) brews sake in the “pure rice” style. The brewers use only cooked milled rice, water, yeast, and koji. (Koji is rice inoculated with the aspergillus oryzae mold, which imparts a distinct flavor.) You can watch the process through a large window. Better yet, for $10 you can enjoy a tasting flight of three styles.

In addition, Mill Street Brewpub (21 Tank House Lane, 416-681-0338, millstreetbrewery.com) opened in 2002. It was Canada’s first brewer of certified organic beer. The storefront brews small batch seasonal beers on site. The flagship beer is a Pilsener with a nice bit of hops. If it’s available when you visit, try the West Coast Style IPA. Made with 50 percent malted wheat and a nice dose of Cascade hops, it gives a less bitter impression than most IPAs. The nose has strong, pleasing mango notes. Mill Street also makes beer schnapps, a liqueur triple-distilled from beer and redolent of malt and hops. Mill Street is the only maker in Canada and the schnapps is only sold on site. “It lights a bit of a fire in your stomach,” a server told us as he poured small tastes.

A taste of Mexico


Mural in El Catrin in Toronto Distillery District
After that snort, we were ready for El Catrin Destileria (18 Tank House Lane, 416-203-2121, elcatrin.ca). This cavernous space with 22-foot ceilings opened in 2013. The tequilas and the food are authentically Mexican. Street artist Oscar Flores painted the two-story mural that dominates one wall. (The other consists of cubbyholes filled with tequilas.) Flores went wild with bright colors, decorative skulls, coyotes, sunflower, eagles, and armadillos.

Chef Olivier Le Calvez hails from Mexico City. His father is French, his mother Mexican. He spent his teens living in France and did his culinary studies there. As a result, he prepares Mexican food—even street food—with French technique.

Cuisine in the sun


Making guacamole at El Catrin During warm weather, diners and drinkers flock to the tables in the 5,000 square-foot outdoor patio at El Catrin. With a bright October sun shining, we did the same. A server brought all the ingredients for guacamole to the table and mashed it in a mortar as we watched. Several tortilla chip scoops later, we moved on to an excellent tortilla soup. Le Calvez’s version is rich with ripe tomatoes and pureed to make it as thick as a gazpacho. The tacos al pastor were delicious—filled with smoky pork, tiny blocks of sweet pineapple, and chopped red onion.

Esquítes at El Catrin We especially enjoyed the shot glasses full of roasted corn. Called esquítes, they are a table adaptation of Mexican street corn. Le Calvez roasts the corn whole in the husks over charcoal. It steams the kernels and imparts a smoky flavor. Then he cuts the kernels off the cob and sautées them with a little butter and chopped epazote. He mixes in a little chipotle mayonnaise, some crumbled cortijo cheese, and a squeeze of lime.

distillery-chef Le Calvez sees himself as something of an ambassador, introducing authentic Mexican food to Canadians. He makes recipes “that I enjoyed when I was young,” he says. As with the esquítes, he often brings street food to the table. He hopes Torontonians will adopt the Mexican attitude about a meal. “We love to sit down at the table and enjoy the food,” says Le Calvez. “That’s very important to us in Mexico. A meal lasts up to two hours.”

27

10 2016

Oklahoma onion burger an institution

Interior of Tucker's Onion Burgers in Oklahoma City
During the Dust Bowl years that made many Okies into migrants (see John Steinbeck), Oklahoma grill cooks began serving onion burgers. El Reno, about 30 miles west of Oklahoma City, claims to be the birthplace. According to legend, cook Ross Davis invented the onion burger at the Hamburger Inn on Rte. 66 in downtown El Reno. He piled half a shredded onion on top of a nickel meat patty and smashed them together with a spatula. Presto! The onions transformed the wafer-thin patty into a substantial meal. Three diners in El Reno—Sid’s Diner, Johnnies Grill, and Robert’s Grill—specialize in the dish. The town also holds a Burger Day Festival in May.

happy diner at Tucker's Onion Burger in Oklahoma City The dust storms are gone, but a taste for onion burgers remains. In fact, one of the hottest chains in Oklahoma City is Tucker’s Onion Burgers (tuckersonionburgers.com), with three outlets. Tucker’s brings diner food into the 21st century with its polished modern settings that evoke the mythical malt shop past of the “Happy Days” era. That’s a familiar meme—think of the Sonic or Johnny Rocket chains.

Tucker’s is big on corporate responsibility. The beef is “ethically produced by regional growers” and the potatoes are hand-cut every morning and fried in peanut oil. The company goes to great lengths to reduce water use and electricity and recycles everything. The best modern twist is that every order slip is a paper bag. When the order is ready, the cooks slip it into the bag to go. Although Tucker’s does offer a salad and a turkey burger, most customers choose between single or double burgers, with cheese or without. Drinks include homemade lemonade and canned local craft beer. The burgers are delicious enough to live up to the hype.

Thrill of the grill


Tucker Onion Burger in Oklahoma City In fact, they were so good that when we got home we decided to adapt the onion burger idea to the charcoal grill, since meat always tastes better with a little smoke. Smashing thin-cut raw onions into burger on a hot grate was a non-starter. So we tried something different. We sliced a Bermuda onion 1/8” thick with an adjustable chef’s mandoline. Then we sweated the sliced onion with a little bit of oil and salt in a cast iron skillet until the pieces were soft. We drained them on a paper towel. When the onions were cool, we folded them into 12 ounces of ground beef (85 percent lean) and made two patties.

The onion made the burger a little “loose,” so we cooked them well on one side before flipping. A slice of cheese melted on top for the last 30 seconds helped to hold the burgers together to lift them onto buns. On balance, the onion was more distributed through the meat, and therefore a little more subtle than in a traditional onion burger. Those Dustbowl Okie grill guys were clearly onto something.

15

09 2016

Pioneering pairings of food and beer

cover of Food & Beer Chef Daniel Burns is on a mission to bring beer pairing into the fine dining conversation. Burns runs the kitchen of the Michelin-starred Luksus (www.luksusnyc.com). It shares a space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, with the bar Tørst (Danish for “toast”) operated by Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. (Jarnit-Bjergsø is also the brewer at cult favorite Evil Twin Brewing.)

Between them, they have put craft beer on a par with wine for fine dining. And they have collaborated on a fascinating new book called simply Food & Beer. Part manifesto, part cookbook, part a dialogue on gastronomic philosophy, it’s a perfect addition to the bookshelf of anyone who cares about the cutting edge in contemporary restaurant cuisine.

As part of the book’s launch, Burns did a star turn at Harvest restaurant (harvestcambridge.com) in Cambridge, where he and Harvest executive chef Tyler Kinnett adapted some of the recipes from Food & Beer to pair with craft beers. All the drinks were served in wine glasses. This kept the individual portions fairly small, while giving each beer more head room to express the complexity of aromas.

Burns believes that beer can be more flexible than wine for food pairings. “Wine is a pure expression of terroir,” he explains. “Beer is not. You can take ingredients from all over the world and add any flavors you want. So as a chef, beer gives me a vast spectrum of flavors to choose from when I’m pairing beer with food.”

The meal Burns and Kinnett served at Harvest was a demonstration. A couple of dishes also hint at how to go about the beer-pairing process at home (beyond serving Bud with chili).
.

Licorice gravlax and a blonde


licorice cured trout for beer dinner Gravlax is a style of curing raw fish or meat using salt and sugar. To demonstrate how a panoply of flavors can be enhanced with a beer, Burns and Kinnett served a plate of licorice-cured trout with pickled beet topped by dandelion greens.

Burns was René Redzepi’s sous chef at Noma in Copenhagen, and the experience shaped his palate to favor Nordic tastes. It doesn’t get much more Nordic than gravlax, beet root, and licorice. Yet the cure was light enough that the dish turned out to be surprisingly subtle. The trout was cured with sea salt, Demerara sugar (a coarse, raw sugar), and licorice powder. Slightly bitter dandelion greens and toasted rye crumbs provided crunchy contrast to the soft trout and beet. The beer pairing was Blackberry Farm Abbey Blonde, a light ale made with a Pilsner malt. The beer has a slightly sweet, earthy flavor profile and a rounded mouth feel. One sip brought out the Demerara sugar in the trout cure and the earthy toast of the rye crumbs for a completely altered taste experience.

When Burns is choosing a beer to pair with a dish, he explains, he looks for the secondary flavors of the food. “I might put four or five flavors together on a plate,” he explained. “I want the beer to highlight maybe the third or even fourth flavor.”

Sea bass with an IPA


sea bass with beer dinner Burns prepared a small portion of sea bass with a few pieces of grilled salsify and two purées on the plate—one of fennel, the other of the minty Asian vegetable shiso. The fish and the salsify (which tastes like mild artichoke heart) were both mild. Their flavors were almost secondary to the intensity of the two purées. But it was the beer pairing that accomplished that gastronomic bait and switch.

Burns and the Harvest team picked Evil Twin Citra Sunshine Slacker for the pairing. It’s a beer we’d usually serve with bar snacks instead of real food. It’s an acquired taste, we think, because the Citra hop is so astringent. Drinking it is a little like biting into a grapefruit. But with this dish, the low-alcohol IPA expresses its secondary herbal notes nicely. It assumes a lemon-y quality that provided some punch to the anise of the fennel and the grassy-minty quality of the shiso. Call it the battle of botanicals, but it works.

With a new craft brewery opening up a few blocks from our house next month, we think we’ll get our growlers filled and see what summer bounty might benefit from being served with a little malt and hops. It’s kind of like deciding the wine to drink before picking the menu.

15

07 2016

Montserrat celebrates St. Patrick with Caribbean verve

St. Patrick's Day on Montserrat
I never found anyone serving green beer during the St. Patrick’s Day Festival on the island of Montserrat. But local ginger beer, I quickly discovered, is a perfectly good substitute. One of 14 United Kingdom Overseas Territories, Montserrat is the only island nation (besides the Emerald Isle) where St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday. And I have to say that Caribbean style adds real flair to the celebration of Ireland’s patron saint.

St, Patrick's Day on Montserrat The 5,000 or so Montserratians who inhabit this island in the British West Indies take their Irish roots seriously. Just ask any of the Allens, Sweeneys, Buntins, Farrells, O’Garrs and O’Briens who trace their roots back to the 17th century Irish indentured servants who made a new life here after putting in time on other, less welcoming, islands. Over the generations, they married descendants of the slaves brought to Montserrat to work on the sugar plantations, and created a vibrant Afro-Irish population that definitely knows how to have a good time.

The island’s St. Patrick’s Day Festival, which also marks an unsuccessful slave revolt in 1768, actually lasts a full week. By March 16, everybody is dressed in green and ready to stay up until the wee hours of the morning cheering for their favorites in a competition among artists who perform the island’s signature soca—a musical genre that combines elements of calypso, cadence, funk, and swirling East Indian percussive repetitions.

To get revelers off to a good start on March 17, vendors begin serving a traditional Caribbean breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Heritage Village in Salem, the epicenter of the day’s activities. The hearty meal includes saltfish (salt cod), lots of greens, breadfruit, and several local specialties. “Bakes” are dumpling-like pieces of fried dough, while the more unusual “dukna” is a mixture of sweet potato, coconut, ginger, and other spices wrapped in leaves of the elephant ear plant and boiled. My favorite was the crisp and light pumpkin fritter. Since a similar hard-rinded pumpkin is native where where I live in greater Boston, it’s a perfect dish for New England, where many Montserratians resettled after the 1995-2000 eruptions of the island’s volcano.

PUMPKIN FRITTERS

St. Patrick's Day breakfast on Montserrat

Ingredients
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 thick slices of pumpkin, peeled
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups lard (coconut oil may be substituted)
sugar mixed with cinnamon
limes

Directions

Mix flour and baking powder with a sieve or whisk.

Grate the raw pumpkin into a large bowl. Stir in egg, milk, and nutmeg. Add flour mixture a little at a time until the batter is thick. (Depending on the moisture content of the pumpkin, not all the flour may be needed.)

In a deep pan, melt the lard and heat until a few drops of water flicked into the fat immediately sizzle and evaporate. Add batter a tablespoon at a time and deep-fry until golden. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Squeeze lime juice over fritters as desired.

Bread Box: From white bread to wheat beer

taproom at West Sixth Brewing in Lexington Nothing says more about Lexington, Kentucky as a locus of good ideas, good food, and good drink than the Bread Box. The 90,000-square-foot building at the corner of West Sixth and Main streets spent about a century turning out classic American white bread before ending its active baking life as the Rainbo Bread Factory in 1995.

There’s nothing white bread about it now. A group of friends bought the building in 2011 to create West Sixth Brewing (501 West Sixth St., 859-951-6006, www.westsixth.com) with some of the space and to develop the rest of it for some nifty businesses to make life better in Lexington. Those of most interest on the food scene are the aquaponics demonstration project called FoodChain (foodchainlex.org) and the farm-to-table seafood restaurant called Smithtown Seafood (smithtownseafood.com). More on both of them in later posts.

Ben Self of West Sixth Brewing in Lexington KY Lexington native and Massachusetts Institute of Technology grad Ben Self (at left) was a co-founder of Blue State Digital, the digital consulting company often credited with delivering the youth vote for presidential candidate Barack Obama, but these days he’s busier with malts and barrels than with bits and bytes. Lexington already had a great bourbon culture. Self and his partners set out to build a great local beer culture with West Sixth Brewing at the center. It’s the only brewery we know with its own running club (every Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m., with a free pretzel afterward at the taproom) and free yoga class (every Wednesday at 6 p.m.), as well as a summertime Monday night cycling club.

West Sixth has been growing quickly. In 2014, the brewery produced 11,000 barrels and is on track to make about 17,000 in 2015. Using 15-barrel and 30-barrel fermenters, the company makes four year-round beers and several seasonal ones as well. The beers are barrel aged in a variety of former wine and whiskey barrels. The flagship brew, as with many craft breweries, is an IPA—distinctly bitter but with citrus and piney notes and a 7% ABV kick. The other West Sixth brews tend to go a little easier on the alcohol—most at 5.5% ABV—but offer a nice range of flavors from the easy-drinking amber to the caramel notes of the nut brown to the wonderfully refreshing shandy-like flavor of the lemongrass American wheat beer (think Corona with lemon and a more pronounced malt). The Pay-It-Forward porter is a hefty brew (7% ABV) with strong chocolate notes delivered by the organic cocoas nibs inside the aging barrel.

You can take a seat in the taproom to sample the range of beers for a relative pittance. A flight of the “Flagship Five” in 4 oz. glasses is only $8, and there are always some unusual beers from other breweries available as well. (A pick-your-own flight also costs $8 but includes just four glasses.) Adventurous beer drinkers should plan on visiting on Wednesday nights, when West Sixth taps a different experimental beer each week.

cans of Lemonsgrass American Wheat from West Sixth Brewing If you’re looking for beer to take home, West Sixth puts its beer in cans with a special recyclable plastic holder for six-packs. Self explains that cans are better than bottles for beer because they don’t let in light or air. They’re also better for the environment, since 60 percent of aluminum gets recycled versus only 20 percent of glass. Besides, Self says, cans are better at the pool, the golf course, and anywhere outdoors where broken glass would be a hazard. The six-packs sell for $9.95, of which 50 cents goes back to a nonprofit in the Lexington community.

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08 2015