The best part about being a chef in a beer-centric restaurant is the opportunity to plan and execute beer dinners. (Okay, the BEST thing is that I can trump your untappd badges, but the next best parts are the dinners.) Getting a chance to meet and pick the brewer’s brain is super fun and valuable. I really love learning the how and why from the person who knows the beer best. I guess, on some levels, guests would have the same interest and questions in regards to the how and why a menu item is paired.
The first beer pairing dinner I did at City Tavern well over a year ago was with our friends at Eagle Rock Brewery. It was a fairly short three courses plus amuse, and this pairing was special because Jeremy was open to infusing the beers to match the courses I wanted to serve. That’s how a loquat-infused Equinox young sour gets paired with kumquats, charred green onions and pork belly. Not every item I served that night was a slam dunk, but we drank some great beer, ate some not so bad food and had a generally convivial time. Since then, I’ve had the chance to do dinners with Cismontane, Taps and Ladyface Ale, and I’ve learned something new every time. I take the boundaries a little farther and always choose a theme but it’s still, at the heart, my odd mix of Southern/Mediterranean/French food. I’ve had hits and flops – the night of hop-infused cotton candy and the sketchy rental agreement on the machine didn’t really turn out like I had hoped, but I’ve had fun and I hope our guests and the brewers have as well.
My next step is hopefully to take the remaining pomp out of the beer pairing dinner and just have a “beer enjoyment dinner.” The gist being that I would like to serve a family style meal with lots to try with different beers. This way, you as the guest have the opportunity to compare and contrast tastes as well as to pick the brain of the brewer and hopefully (if I pull it off right) the chef. Drank all of your taster before the course was halfway done? No problem, it’s try and sample and indulge if you are a particular fan of one beer. Don’t like fish? No problem, there will be plenty of other stuff to try. Get it? It’s fun, it basically takes you as the guest to where I have the most fun in sampling pairings and discussing it with the brewer as we go. Hopefully soon I have a menu written and hope to give this a go late summer/early fall. We will see, and then you can come and see if it makes you feel a little more involved in the pairing as a whole.