Sunday, May 30, 2010

Foodbuzz 24x24: He Picks, She Cooks - A Beer Pairing Dinner

 
I love cooking and entertaining, and Joey loves well, beer.  In the past few years he's really gotten into microbrews, and we wanted to have a party to showcase some great ones.  Wine pairing dinners are pretty popular, but beer pairings are on the rise.  We thought it would be a lot of fun to have a beer pairing party, but with a twist:  Joey would choose all the beers, and I would choose a dish to pair with each one. Typically when I throw a party, I plan the menu first, and then choose drinks that will work around those dishes. However, with this beer pairing dinner, Joey chose the beer, and the food revolved around that. We aren't one of those couples that likes to cook together (Joey would have to cook for that to happen), so this was a great chance for us to work together.  I am thrilled that my proposal was chosen to be a part of Foodbuzz's 24x24 blogging event, so thanks to Foodbuzz for sponsoring the event!


Joey took his role as "beer sommelier" very seriously, and he did a lot of research for his choices.  He wanted to have a good variety of lighter and darker beers, and we planned the menu to go from lightest to heaviest beer.  When I started researching beer pairings, I read that you should consider the Three C's:  Complement, Contrast, and Cut.  I tried to abide by this guideline when choosing dishes to pair with each beer.  I also wanted to have a good variety of heavy and light dishes, since we would be eating five courses, plus trying five beers.


I had originally planned to have the tables set up outside on the deck, but there was a good chance of rain in the evening.  We made the decision to move everything inside, and I'm actually really glad we did - it started raining about halfway through dinner.  We set up two tables in the dining room; I used empty beer bottles as vases for flowers, but kept the decor minimal other than that.



Joey put together a great beer guide for the party.  He used a picture of each bottle and listed the beer.com rating, brewery location, style, alcohol content, retail price, and the commercial description.  The guide was really helpful for learning a little about each beer before the course.  We planned it so that Joey poured the beer as I plated the course, and he took a minute to explain the beer and allow everyone to taste it before the food.  Then as I brought out the food, everyone was able to try the beer and food together. 

Joey chose 5 beers to pair, but we decided to have a "bonus" course as an appetizer as everyone arrived.  One of Joey's favorite beers is a local Atlanta brew, Sweetwater 420, but we didn't really have a place to feature it in the menu.  So we paired it with black eyed pea hummus and cornbread sticks for our friends to snack on while everyone arrived.

The first beer was Allagash White, from Portland, Maine.  It is a Belgian style wheat beer that, to me, is the perfect summer beer.  It is light and refreshing, with just a hint of spice, yeast, and lemon.  There were a few people at the party who aren't huge beer fans, but this one was really enjoyed by everyone.  I paired it with crab and shrimp campechana.  I had never heard of campechana, but it is apparently a popular appetizer in Mexico and Texas.  Campechana is basically a seafood cocktail:  shrimp is sauteed with onions and pepper, then simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and chilled before serving.  Finished with some horseradish, lime, and cilantro, it has a lot of the flavors of a Bloody Mary.  But served with avocado and tortilla chips, it is a perfect summer snack.  I can easily envision sitting on the patio, drinking Allagash and eating campechana (and I plan to do just that this afternoon!).  This was a nice and refreshing pairing, and my personal favorite beer.


The second beer was Victory Prima Pils, a pilsner bottled in Downingtown Pennsylvania.  It is hoppy and slightly bitter, with a subtle malty flavor.  I paired it with a southern-inspired dish:  fried green tomatoes topped with a scoop of pimiento cheese and bacon vinaigrette.  While this was probably my least favorite beer, it was actually my favorite pairing.  The creamy cheese and tangy tomato cut through the bitterness of the pilsner, and the food actually made the beer taste better - which was kind of the whole point of this dinner, right?  The fried green tomatoes were a table favorite, and I'm glad I made a few extras - they definitely didn't go uneaten!

I mentioned Sweetwater earlier in the post, and it is one of our favorite breweries.  Its right around the corner from Georgia Tech, so we have spent many an afternoon taking the tour and tasting the beers.  While 420 is probably their most popular beer, their IPA the highest rated.  Its really a great IPA, brewed with premium hops, and it has a very strong grapefruit flavor.  Its light, but still robust, finishing with a light floral note.  IPA's pair really well with spicy foods, so I chose to make jerk chicken sliders, and topped them with pineapple-papaya salsa.  This was a fun course, because really, who doesn't like burgers and beer?  I used habaneros in both the burgers and the marinade, and they had a nice kick, but it was tamed by the salsa and beer.  This was a good example of contrasting flavors in the food and beer:  the spicy burgers contrasted nicely with the citrusy beer.


Schneider Aventinus Wheat Doppel is the only imported beer that Joey chose, and the highest rated according to ratebeer.com.  It is brewed in Kelheim, Germany, and is a Weizen Bock with a full-bodied, but still light and delicate taste.  It has a clove-like aroma, and a hint of caramel.  It tastes surprisingly light given how dark it is.  It pairs well with roasted meats, Mexican food, and fruit.  I chose to serve it with molasses-ginger glazed pork loin over Mexican corn salad.  The glaze was nice and sweet, but with a spicy kick from the serrano chiles.  Several people mentioned that the pork was reminiscent of Korean BBQ.  The molasses gave it a great caramelization, and the corn salad was nice and fresh to go along with the pork.  This pairing was also a favorite, and the beer was a favorite as well, especially with the men.

The final course was dessert, and Joey chose Ommegang's Three Philosophers.  It is brewed in Cooperstown New York, and is an astounding 9.8% alcohol.  This beer has the most interesting backstory, as it was brewed based on a homebrewer's description of his ideal beer.  It is a smooth beer, characterized by dark fruits and toffee, with just a hint of spice and bitterness.  I paired this with cherry, brie, and chocolate paninis served with homemade chocolate ice cream.  The brie and chocolate went really well with the beer, and the cherry preserves in the paninis definitely complemented the cherry flavor in the beer.  The star of this course was actually the chocolate ice cream though.  Rich, smooth, and creamy, this ice cream basically tastes like pure chocolate.  It was really interesting how much the chocolate changed the flavor of the beer.  It really enhanced the cherry flavor, and we all know how chocolate and cherries are a match made in heaven.  It was most definitely the perfect way to finish the meal.

Our friends really got into the tastings, and they took great notes for us to refer back to later.  Even some self-proclaimed beer-haters enjoyed tasting different styles and types, and I think everyone found something that they'd like to drink again.

Joey and I had a great time planning the meal, and I had a great time cooking for the party.  I felt very "Top Chef" as I presented each course, and it was fun to hear feedback on the beer, food, and the pairing.  I'm really pleased with how everything came together, and I can't wait to plan another beer-pairing party!  In the meantime, I'll be posting the recipes for each course in the coming weeks - so stay tuned!




18 comments:

Jennifurla said...

great idea and party, my husband would LOVE LOVE this.

Liz said...

I love this idea--especially your attention to all the complexities of the beer selection. It sounds like it was a fantastic night to be among your friends.

BMK said...

What a great party idea! Your menu looks fabulous. Can't wait for the recipes.

Annie said...

Awesome job, Josie! Great event (even to this beer-hater!), great post - can't wait to see what you do next time!

Michelle said...

As a guest at this event, I have to say it was well thought out and well executed. The food was delicious and it was clear that a lot of care was put into the pairings. It was amazing to taste how each dish brought out subtleties in the beers you might not notice otherwise.

Being a non-beer drinker, I was really impressed with how the pairings made me genuinely enjoy the beer I did taste.

Great job Josie! I am very much looking forward to the recipe postings.

Melanie said...

I'm totally stealing this idea once I have access to microbrews again! What a fabulously fun way to spend an evening!

Carrie said...

What a great idea for a party. My husband and I are big beer drinkers and would love to do something like ths. And your menu looks fantastic! I'm especially interested in the fried green tomatoes - they sound fab!

Donna said...

OMG. My husband would loved to be invited to this kind of event. What a great idea! This will be my next party theme. I have to make sure to reach out to you for some advise.

Laura said...

My husband is a homebrewer, so I really enjoy pairing different beers with meals. Love, love, love a good IPA - the citrusey smell just makes my mouth water. Great post!

The Wind Attack said...

Wine pairing has long been part of the food world so it's about time that people get into beer pairings. You made some creative choices and that one with dessert sounds delicious!

Natalie said...

SUCH a fun idea, and that's coming from a girl who isn't even a beer drinker :) I bet your guests had so much fun!

dasunrisin said...

This is such a wonderful idea! I love that you picked such interesting beers to work around.

I may have to try this out. Thanks for sharing.

dasunrisin said...

Great idea!

Shawnda said...

What a fab idea!

Cara said...

What a great idea for a party! I would love to have someone teach me more about different kinds of beers and what they go well with.

Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes said...

This is brilliant - so glad you posted the link in your 2010 faves! Going to have to try something like this.

Anonymous said...

My friend. And I are doing this for our husbands. Can we please get the pork dish w corn salad recipe. Thank you looks delish11

Amy said...

Looks like I'm almost 2 years late for this party, but love the idea!!! Love, love the idea!!!

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