Several questions were raised at the Craft Brewers Conference last week regarding beer-and-food pairings and what restaurants do by way of beer.
I posed some of the same questions to South Sound chefs and restaurateurs, all of whom own or work at places that have good selections of craft beers.
Have you ever been approached by any craft brewers regarding beer dinners or beer-and-food pairings?
Gordon Naccarato, chef/owner Pacific Grill, Tacoma; and The Beach House at Purdy: I have not ... but I would enjoy the challenge.
Mark Gaimster, owner Il Fiasco, Tacoma: No.
Jeff Bishop, chef, Sound Food Cafe, Vashon Island: No.
Do you cook with beer? Marinades? Braises? Deglazing? Sauces?
Naccarato: I have cooked with beer. Don Henley gave me his favorite Texas-style chili recipe when I was chef at the Monkey Bar in L.A. We called it "a bowl of red" and it was very popular...and from time to time it still appears on the menu out at the Beach House. We of course still serve our "Paltrow-style" onion rings made with beer batter (we use Mac & Jack). I have also used beer in various marinades and a few stews....but not currently. I have not deglazed with beer.
Gaimster: Yes we have used a heavy stout (Beamish) in a few braises of game type meats.
Bishop: Yes, mainly in batters or marinades sometimes for steaming or boiling crabs and such.
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Is your beer selection presented in your wine menu? Do you have a separate beer menu?
Naccarato: Not at Pacific Grill but it is on the wine list at the Beach House. We do not have a separate beer menu.
Gaimster: We have the beer selection on our wine list.
Bishop: Yes, it is on the wine and spirits list. No beer menu per se.
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Are your servers trained to make beer-pairing suggestions in the same way they are trained to make wine-pairing suggestions?
Naccarato: Our servers make suggestions and describe the various characteristics of the different beers, and try to guide the customer toward a style the customer would enjoy based on the customer's criteria of what he or she is seeking. But we do not suggest certain beer/food pairings.
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Suggest some dishes on your menu. What wine would you pair with them and why? What beer would you pair with them and why?
Naccarato: The Fritto Misto which is a good batter-fried combination of shrimp, onion, fennel and thin slices of lemon.
Wine airing with the fritto Misto: La Dolce Vita Pinot Gris
(Willamette Valley) has good fruit and acid to cut through the fried
white wine batter. This is a crisp, balanced Italian-style Pinot Gris and helps cut through the richness of the garlic aioli sauce.
Beer Pairing Fritto misto: Pyramid Hefeweizen: refreshing and smooth and often requested to be served with a squeeze of lemon. It will marry nicely to the beer batter, and crisp fried lemon slices in the
fritto misto. This wheat beer will pick-up on the caramelized flavors of the wheat flour in the golden crisp batter. Plus, there's nothing
like an icy-cold glass of beer to cut through the richness of anything fried.
New York Steak and fries. Wine Pairing: our New York steak is classic and simple and great with just our skinny French fries that we fry with whole leaves of fresh sage, rosemary branches and whole cloves of garlic stewed in olive oil.
When pairing wine with our food there are too many great bottles to choose from-- But with this dish there is no reason to stray further than our own backyard. Recently Washington wine pioneer Allen Shoup and Napa's legendary Cabernet producer, Randy Dunn, joined forces to create a wine called 'Feather' – 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Washington's finest vineyards. However-don't let the name fool you-- there is nothing cute or ticklish-or lighter than air about this wine. Big up-front, long through the middle, with an explosive finish-this wine will impress your dinner companions, but serving the NY with fries keeps you earth-bound and satisfied.
Beer and NY steak pairing: Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale -- rich and lightly hopped with a strong malt character, and a hint of peaty smokiness. This beer would go great also with the spicy character of the mushrooms that accompany the New York steak. They are sautéed with a splash of spicy Worcestershire sauce that helps balance the rich & chewy nature of a classic New York steak with crushed peppercorns.
Gaimster: Our braised wild boar would be the entrée and the wine I would recommend off of our list would be 1999 Kestrel Cabernet Sauvignon because of the wines fruit forward style with tastes of chocolate, berry, and ripe plum it has enough tannin with it to
cut into the rich sauce of the boar.
For beer, I would suggest the Samuel Smith Nut Brown Ale. This beer is full bodied with a rich and slightly creamy finish and is not to heavy as to weigh on your palate.
Bishop: For some foods, example, highly recommend Singha beer with Thai food, Negra Modelo with Mexican. National Bohemia with steamed blue crabs.
It depends on the food. Most beers have a tendency to be very filling. But I suppose it depends on the guest and their likes. Who's to say you can't wash a perfectly grilled NY steak down with a Bud Light. As for me, give me a big, sassy Cabernet.