I woke up this morning with a hangover. Not a beer hangover, mind you, but a food hangover. For those of you who don’t know, a food hangover is not attained by merely eating large quantities of food, but by eating any amount of rich and delicious food. While dehydration might be the key element that drives a beer hangover, the food hangover is as much about a dreamy memory as it is any biophysical reality.
Just Get Over It
People in Seattle can sometimes be a bit skeptical. We are not quick to judge, which is nice, but sometimes we prove equally slow to believe. For instance, when I talk about the Brave Horse Tavern I still hear doubt in some people’s voices. Some still don’t believe that Tom Douglas Restaurants could succeed at creating a noteworthy restaurant built on a concept as pedestrian as a tavern.
I used to acknowledge their point, recognizing that their skepticism had some reasonable standing. Now, I just feel sorry for those people. They are missing it big time. Just get over it already.
Last night’s dinner included four courses and six beers. The food was amazing on its own, but the pairing choices elevated the experience to a whole new level of deliciousness.
Courses Within a Single Course
To start off, for the first course we were served one of the Brave Horse Tavern’s amazing pretzels with three different spreads and three different beers: a savory caramel apple sauce that paired perfectly with Oskar Blues Old Chub Scotch Ale, a soft teleme cheese paired with Maui Big Swell IPA, and apricot mustard paired with 7 Seas British Pale Ale.
This was a good primer for the night. If you’re unfamiliar with beer+food pairing, this was a clinic—proof that it can be done exceedingly well. For example, the Old Chub paired amazingly well with the apple sauce. You might imagine the apple sauce too mild to stand up to a big beer like that, but the flavors complemented each other so well that it wasn’t a power struggle. Try the same beer with the cheese and you immediately learned to stick with the program and trust the chef. The Old Chub overpowered the cheese and the IPA overpowered the apple sauce, but if you color inside the lines you end up with a beautiful picture.
The second course was probably my favorite. Pickle-brined Alaskan halibut, with potato aioli, and sea salt and vinegar garlic chips. It was described as a play on fish and chips. Paired with Monk’s Uncle Tripel from Pike Brewing, every savory bite was divine. I vaguely heard some noises. I think my tablemates were discussing the subtle nuances that made this such a clever and successful pairing. I was busy eating and didn’t hear a word they said.
Behold the Power of Pork
Pork. Is there anything it can’t do? The third course consisted of wood-roasted Oregon pork rack and malt-glazed ribs sitting atop a bed of pickled mustard greens. To provide some sweetness, a grilled peach. Tom Douglas Restaurants’ Beer Czar, Chef Warren Peterson, paired this course with Elliott Bay B-Town Brown. Smokiness in the grilled meat brought out some wonderful, unexpected smokiness in the beer’s malt profile. And then the peach brought out sweetness in the same malt profile. Genius.
And finally, dessert. Oh boy. This was something else. Apparently Beer West Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, Megan Flynn, asked that they find a way to incorporate New Belgium La Folie Sour Brown Ale into the dinner. Chef Warren and the crew decided on a sour apple dumpling with date butter and gorgonzola. Okay, sour with sour. I get it. But holy cow! Stinky cheese with sour beer? I wasn’t expecting that. I really don’t understand the hook between these two. I don’t know why this worked so well. I never would have gone there on my own, so I’m glad that the Brave Horse took me there.
Digesting the Whole Thing
I know that some of you might shake your head and continue to be doubters. I know that some of you feel bothered, threatened or somehow betrayed that someone with Tom Douglas’ standing in the culinary world is venturing into our world of craft beer. Seriously, it’s time to put childish things behind you and get with the program. More and more chefs are beginning to embrace the concept of beer+food pairings. Taste the future. Enjoy this new and beautiful trend. Swallow it whole. Can I get a “Hallelujah” from the congregation?
The cost of the dinner was $50 per person. I know that things are pretty tight these days and fifty bucks isn’t chump change, but if you compare it to a night of good food and ample quantities of great beer, that’s not a bad price at all. I guarantee that nobody at last night’s dinner thought the price excessive.
The Brave Horse’s chef, Brian Walczyk, along with Beer Czar Warren Peterson, put on quite a show. You should not miss it next time.