Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Epic Beer Dinner #4 Utopia Edition

These dinners get better (and easier) with each attempt. As always the event was held at the beautiful Liquor Plus on Douglas Street tasting room - Thanks Rod. The format always involves five volunteer chefs, four local brews and something special from my cellar.

Course one was prepared by Simon. Once again he tried to poison me; this time it was with pumpkin stew. Truly a seasonal dish with all the needful flavours: pumpkin, nutmeg, cloves and other warming spices. The pairing was another comfort food: Moon Under Water's Blonde Ale. The creamy texture and notable spicy hop snap was a perfect pair for the creamy stew with its spices. Thank you Bonnie from MUW.

The next item for enjoyment was a salad by Terry. Organic greens and arugula were adorned with a simple dressing of olive oil and red balsamic crema. Don't forget the strawberries, sliced almonds and cracked black pepper on top. Our pairing for this was Driftwood's Farmhand Ale. The slightly sour/tart farmhand was a nice mix with the vinegary sweet balsamic. Black pepper flavours came from both directions. Thank you Driftwood for the contribution. I had seconds of both.

Things were building to a crescendo with the next course prepared by Jen (Mrs. Left4Beer). Even the name sounded great: Two olive tapenade on brie crostini. The pairing for a salty/fatty olive dish was obviously a good saison. Thank you Lighthouse for offering some Deckhand Saison for this event. The warming, spicy and tart Deckhand did wonders to draw out the complex and rich flavours that only brie and multiple olives and offer.

For those who like the spice, Michael always delivers. This time it was either a vegetarian or meat chili. If the stock chili wasn't spicy enough, Michael brought additional hot peppers and chilies as toppings. For a spicy dish I go with my favourite double pairing, a malty beer and an India Pale Ale. Our friends at Vancouver Island Brewery provided options: Hermannator ice bock and Double Decker IPA. Malty beers are perfect for calming spices while IPAs tend to enhance the warmth. Many guests learned that blending the two beers made a pretty good Cascadian Dark Ale. Did I mention that Michael also made bread using spent grains from homebrewing?

Finally the moment everyone was waiting for: dessert. Chef John took a bold step and attempted his first plum cheesecake with a ginger/plum sauce; it was a success! This was a perfect pairing with the cognac, dark fruits and spicy alcohol vapours that defines the Utopia. I was lucky enough to win a bottle in the LCBO lottery a couple of years ago.

As always, we chatted until the staff kicked us out. A safe trip home was not a problem thanks to Dial a Driver Victoria. Let me tell you a little secret; there really is no wrong pairing when you have good beer, great food and close friends together in the same room. Whatever shall we do for next year?

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