Compared to wine dinners, beer dinners are virtually non-existent.
In the past 12 months, I doubt I could recall writing about even eight suds and supper events.
Yet if you look around any restaurant, especially casual ones, you’ll see far more people drinking beer with dinner than wine. So it’s odd more restaurateurs don’t see the potential of pairing beer with food in the traditional course-by-course format silently reserved for wine.
Harvest is aiming to change that, albeit slowly.
On Aug. 7, it had its second beer dinner of the year (which, if you do the math, is exponentially higher than any other restaurant of its caliber), partnering this time with Bluegrass Brewing Co.’s production brewer, Eileen Martin. (The production company is not affiliated with the brewery-restaurant company, though its bottled beer is sold at those sites.)
The whole meal was balanced, straightforward and delicious—not ironically, like the food at Harvest and the beer at BBC. It was one of those affairs where you tasted, sipped and thought, “This is how I’d want to eat and drink most nights.”
Well, certainly if I didn’t have to cook four exceptional courses and think through a correct pairing. Mere mortals choose a main course, some sides and then gamble on a pint they hope will manage those flavor shifts really well, if not perfectly.
You save perfection for the experts who design dinners like this one, and it was on target.
Martin, BBC’s head brewer, started the meal by pairing its American Pale Ale (all pours were around 3 ounces, amounting to a single beer consumed over the entire dinner) with executive chef Coby Ming’s grilled and chilled tomato soup with basil pickled cucumber and tomato chips. The soup was, quite simply, a serving of summer and the beer a swell match for its acid—and as I discovered the night before the dinner, the ideal post-lawn mowing palate scrubber.
A chopped salad of grilled summer squash and potatoes, peas, greens and deviled egg followed, paired with one of my two favorite BBC standards, Nut Brown. Yes, a darker, sturdier, malty beer really did work well with a light salad, likely because the savory onion vinaigrette stood on its own and gave the beer what for.
Martin bumped the malt scale up further with a bourbon-barrel aged Porter that coupled nicely with Ming’s smoky pork confit. No, you can’t go wrong with well-smoked hog, but it’s pleasantly surprising to see the bread—a jalapeño-Norwood biscuit in this case—become the star.
Fragrant, mildly spicy and crumbly in that southern style, it was terrific. (Ming’s a friendly gal who, I bet if you asked her, would tell you how to make it. I know I’m bummed I didn’t. )
Except for the rare occasions when I’ve had beer floats, I don’t recall having beer with desserts, but the peach five-way paired with BBC Saison made me rethink that.
The fruity and aromatic Belgian farmhouse-style beer (this is my other BBC favorite) was a perfect partner for the peach preparation, especially the peach-basil ice cream.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the meal was ideal in the rustic and spare setting of Harvest. Save for its headline-grabbing nomination by Bon Appetit as one of the 50 Best New Restaurants for 2012, the farm-to-table restaurant continues to build its following humbly and quietly, much of like its friendly and mild mannered co-owner Ivor Chodkowski, also there that evening.
It was a well-done dinner in a cool place, and a steal at $45.
Postscript: Chodkowski also is a full-time farmer at Field Day Family Farm behind Oxmoor Center. And as we were talking about the drought and its effect on his crops, he shared this bit of info with me: “Did you know that on an ear of corn, there’s a strand of silk for every kernel of corn? And that if that strand of silk doesn’t receive pollen, it won’t create a kernel?”
No, I didn’t, and I doubt many people do know that.
Cool little miracle, eh?