It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, but after attending the Beer Pairing Dinner on Friday I felt compelled to give you guys the low-down on what was an amazing culinary experience.
Last summer, our beer-loving F&B dudes were trying to think of cool things we could do to show off our culinary acumen, so they decided to experiment with beer pairing dinners. The guys wanted it to be an experience that pleased the mind as well as the palate, so for each dinner they invited a representative from that evening’s featured craft brewery to help conduct the event.
Before each course the charismatic Chef Mike and said brewery representative stand up in front of the room and explain in fantastic detail the who, what, why, where and how of the beer and the food. So before you even sink your teeth into the masterpiece on your plate or touch your lips to the magic in your glass, you feel like an expert. You know who made it, how it was prepared, how it was brewed, what went into it, where it’s from and why they go so well together. These events became such a tremendous success that each one sold out quickly and we were being asked why we didn’t do them every Friday.
Fast forward to now. My wife Kim and I were lucky enough to snag a couple seats for this past Friday’s Beer Pairing Dinner at 1900’ Burger before the event sold out. It featured one of my favorite breweries, Allagash Brewing Co. from Portland, Maine. I’m going to do my best and keep it brief, but that might prove difficult because there is so much to highlight.
You know 1900’ Burger as the rocking gourmet burger joint at the base of the mountain which is only open for lunch and après on weekends and holidays. What you may not realize is that it’s a beautiful space with really cool post and beam framework, huge windows looking out to the mountain and subtle lighting which creates a festive atmosphere. The Beer Pairing Dinners are meant to be social so in the middle of the dining room were two long, elegantly decorated tables each with about 16 seats.
Kim and I were two of the first people there and being that I’m Captain Hihowareya I promptly introduced myself to Matt, the Allagash rep who was sitting at the bar eyeing the beautiful tap handles adorning his company’s logo. Right off the bat we knew he was going to put on a good show because he was super personable and well spoken. Smart dudes who are genuinely excited about beer tend to be people that we enjoy hanging out with. We picked his brain about Allagash for a little bit and after he told us about the sweet brewery tours they hold at their Portland, Maine facility we were ready to head east…but first, there was a beer pairing dinner to enjoy.
As the rest of our dinner-mates filtered into the bar area it was apparent that the crowd was excited to be a part of this. Everyone was dressed for a casual night out and there were introductions all around with people making each other’s acquaintance. We were handed our first beer, Allagash White, elegantly served in a pilsner-style flute. The room then rang with glasses meeting in a flurry of cheers while everyone savored the passed hors d’oeuvres course. Here we go.
After we all took our seats we were promptly greeted by our hosts, Chef Mike and Matt. I’m not going to get into detail about each course because this would turn into a novel, but I will elaborate a little more on the first plated course because it really set the tone for the rest of the evening. We started with braised oxtail. As Chef Mike said when addressing the room, it is in fact a cow’s tail. This is a great example of his interest in utilization. He could have served us tenderloin or the like, but this part of a cow is rarely utilized despite the fact that it’s tender, flavorful and juicy. The cheddar grits were made with cheese from Vermont Farmstead Cheese Co. and the apple-fennel slaw rounded out the dish. Here’s where the knowledge comes in; according to Chef and Matt, a drink doesn’t bring out the flavors of your food, food brings out the flavors of your drink. We were advised to start with a bite of the oxtail, and then take a sip of the Allagash Black which was paired with the dish. And then, they said to take a bite of the slaw followed by another sip of beer. By doing this, we were told each bite would bring out different flavors in each sip…and boy did it ever. There was an audible moment of minds being blown all over the room.
Course after course, the pairings continued to generate “ooooohs” and “aaaahs” and some other colorful adjectives as people expressed their love for what they were consuming. But here’s the deal with the food – Chef Mike and his team turn out amazingness like that every night at Harriman’s Farm to Table. Whenever we have guests in town or I’m hosting a friend from the media, we go to Harriman’s because it is the best food around. That’s not a plug, it’s my honest opinion.
As the night flowed along, Kim and I started to realize just how neat the whole thing was. Not just because we have the opportunity to savor Chef’s artwork, but also because the beers we were drinking aren’t the kind found in six packs at Snow Mountain Market. They’re special. The Midnight Brett Ale comes in small bottles and is produced in such limited batches you can only find it at specialty beer stores. The Interlude Farmhouse Ale takes 30 months to make and is only released once a year. And the Red Howes Ale is another extremely limited batch stout, the recipe for which was concocted by a gentleman named Jeff Olson who works in Allagash’s shipping and receiving department. Bravo, Jeff. Bravo.
Bottom line is folks; the events in our Beer Pairing Dinner Series are an opportunity to enjoy a culinary experience, not just a night out for dinner. The food is straight out of Top Chef, the beer is on another level and the two together make your taste buds dance like Michael Flatley. I am pleased to say that what was once an experiment is now something we plan to do year round. Successful experiment methinks.
The next event is on March 14 featuring Lagunitas Brewing Company. After Friday night it’s safe to say many of the seats are already taken by guests who, like Kim and I, have vowed not to miss another one. Why don’t we do this every Friday?
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