Today we introduce a guest blogger. Please welcome Sully Braytor to the Washington Beer Blog. Last Friday night’s Belgian Beer Dinner at the Corson Building was a big deal. For fear of it going over our heads, we decided to call in the experts for this one. We have invited Sully to contribute to the blog at serious risk of out-classing ourselves.
Food coma, food hangover, oh so sweet.
by Sully Braytor
In a city already besotted with a plethora of dining-out venues, the Corson Building stands out as one of Seattle’s most distinctive. Owner-chef Matthew Dillon took over a dusty, neglected building in Georgetown, Seattle’s emergent art-bohemian neighborhood, and has transformed the place, hidden under the nook of a freeway offramp, into a communal-dining high-end restaurant, where everyone is seated at common tables and served family-style from heaping platters of whatever the kitchen deems fresh and worthy of preparation. As is typical of so many better restaurants in town, the dining experience tends to be wine-oriented; beer is an afterthought, with two Czech lagers on offer. Still, the Corson Building had no problem selling out its first-ever beer-focused dinner event, held on Saturday, January 24, 2010, on the evening before Seattle’s Belgianfest (also a first-ever), a festival of Belgian-inspired beers, all brewed by Washington’s craft brewers. Six of these beers were paired with an equal number of courses.
Guests were ushered in to the smallish front waiting area, and handed stemmed glasses of Elliott Bay’s Hop van Boorian, a hop-forward take on a Belgian-style pale ale, accompanied by gruyère cheese gougères, a savory take on cream puffs, making for a perfect starter pairing. After a little bit of mingling, sipping beer and munching on the gougères, the guests were seated to place settings that each sported a single tall stemmed wine glass, into which was poured Red Queen ale, Elysian Brewing’s new collaboration brew concocted with San Diego’s Green Flash Brewing, which had just expanded distribution into the Seattle market. The base beer was in the style of a Belgian saison, with the addition of rose hips and pink peppercorns for spice and two varieties of apples for body and fruitiness. This single course actually featured three different shared platters: first, a single Kushi oyster on the half-shell, with a thin-sliced pickled-watermelon garnish; then, pheasant and liver pâté with toast; and finally, crab and artichoke salad. Yes, that was one course. The Corson Building’s kitchen will never be forced to withstand the accusation of underfeeding its diners.
Next up were heaping platters of mussels that had been prepared in an outdoor wood-burning hearth-style oven. Accompaniments included chips made from parsnips and sunchokes. Glasses had already been rinsed with table water and refilled with Big Time’s Malaprop 8. Beer pours were appropriately modest, but still quite sufficient. The mussels generated involuntary moans of gustatory pleasure. The guests were toasting and tapping glasses nearly constantly. Polite introductions were giving way to celebratory conversation and laughter. The Malaprop 8 was living up to its name, a full-bodied variation on a dark abbey ale that was working its magic.
The glasses, emptied and quickly rinsed, were at the ready for pours of Pike Brewing’s Monk’s Uncle Trippel, the brewery’s brilliant golden ale, modeled on Belgium’s abbey triples (the most obvious inspiration being Westmalle), and an excellent accompaniment to massive platters of house-made bratwurst, served over house-made sauerkraut and sliced mushrooms with house-made mustard. Dillon and the Corson Building’s kitchen crew do nothing half-way. Had this place been out in the countryside, there is no doubt that a herd of house-raised pigs would have been on view as well. As it was, this classic Germanic belly-filler matched Pike’s triple beautifully. Note also that at this point, we were four courses into a six-course dinner.
Drained glasses again. Rinsed again. Much more laughter and giggling. Boisterous conversation. Glasses filled again, with Hale’s 25th Anniversary Dubbel, another take on a Belgian abbey classic, rich, dark, and strong, apropos of the fifth course, platters piled high with beer-braised beef short ribs, accompanied by platters chock-a-block with potatoes, onions, shallots, celery ribs,and pickles, and hot pans with melted Morbier cheese. Those crazy-rich savory beef short ribs were accompanied by, of all things, raclette. It was insanely good, unabashedly beer-friendly, and formed a solid foundation for the evening’s beer-and-food coma that would coalesce into fog-bound certainty a couple of hours hence … after dessert, of course, that being a dark beer spice cake with crème fraiche sorbet, accompanied by Dick’s Grand Cru. Coffee afterwards. Done. Food coma in full swing. Food hangover the next day was oh-so-worthit.
I have it on good authority that Matt Dillon and the Corson Building crew were absolutely delighted with how everything worked out, and are eager to do another beer-centric dinner. Jeez, what a great idea, guys. Seattle Beer Week is coming up in in a few months. It isn’t too soon, is it? Cheers!