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Session # 8 Food and Beer

You may not know it judging by the ingredients we use in some of our beers, but I am actually a fairly picky eater. In reality my beers are WAY more adventurous then my food preferences. It surprises many people when they hear this. This is especially true of my good friend Eric Rose who is the Head Brewer and owner of Hollister Brewing Co. For the record, he’s constantly giving me crap about it.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, let’s get to Session # 8 Food and Beer. For the past 10 years, I have been fortunate to work alongside a very talented chef. His name is Vince Marsaglia. In many ways, he’s fearless, like my brewing style, when it comes to making food. The best thing about Chef Vince is his complete disregard for Conventionality as it relates to cooking.

Over the years, Vince has amazed us all with his skills. I have never seen anyone cook in quite the same manner as he does. Perhaps, years from now, they’ll be talking about cooking in the “Vince Marsaglia” style? Seriously, I have never seen anyone turn the back of a Toyota Tundra into a kitchen faster than Vince. Did you know he even fabricated his own barbecue that is custom designed to fill the tailgate of his truck? Who does that, Chef Vince that’s who!

I am seriously contemplating trying to build our brand around a new food network show featuring Vince Marsaglia staring in Junk Yard Kitchen. He’s got all the toys these days to do it. Do you know anyone else with a mobile Pizza Oven trailer? How about some body (anybody) with a propane fired deep fryer? And let’s not forget that custom barbecue that Vince built. He’s crazier than Crackhead Dave and Speedball Mitch combined. I swear I could have gotten him a show by now on Food Network if only Vince liked to talk. But when he cooks, he’s focused like Atila the Hun.

Yet, I am very blessed and consider myself lucky to work in the shadow of such genius. Over the last year, Vince was tasked with creating our “Proprietary Raisin Puree.” Lord knows I couldn’t have done that! On a side note, we’re equal opportunity branding whores here at The Lost Abbey. Look for the “Proprietary Raisin Puree” at a Whole Foods near you soon. However, as part of our building The Lost Abbey brand, I am always looking for places to showcase Vince’s Culinary skills.

Earlier this year, Vince and I had the pleasure of working with Chef Carlton on the very 1st beer dinner to take place at the Stone Bistro and World Gardens. Vince and I sat down and discussed a menu for the evening. It was my job to suggest items for the dinner as well as work with Carlton to ensure the pairings. Vince for his part, got the full assistance of the restaurant staff in executing a meal not cooked in the back of a Japanese pickup truck- WHO KNEW?

The beer list featured Avant Garde, Lost and Found, Red Barn, Veritas 001 and The Angel’s Share. I chose to write about this meal today as when it was all said and done, this was the best beer dinner I have ever orchestrated- with apologies to the maestro Tom Peters of Monk’s Café.

Over the years, I have participated in more beer dinners than I can recall. Yet, they always have at their root expression a desire to pair food and beer. (Sometimes, I forget that beer dinners are not necessarily vehicles for getting intoxicated. That is merely the end result AFTER dinners are complete). Our beers have been a part of so many great dinners that I struggled to decide which one to write about.

Then, I started thinking about the best ones and why the succeeded in ways the others didn’t. And, at the end of it all, I was reminded that inevitably, beers dinners have at least one pairing that goes Scott Norwood on our asses and misses wide left (or even right). But, this dinner that we did at Stone went straight through the uprights and was the most memorable 5 course beer dinner I have ever done (my ego’s too).

At the end of the meal, I stood back and marveled at the execution of Vince’s recipes, our pairings and the pure poetry of it all. It was as if for one night, it stopped raining in Seattle, there was no cancer in the world and we all walked on water. Seriously, I am not often drawn to hyperbole but that night was almost better than sex.

I’m guessing that most of you out there reading this weren’t there as I believe announced attendance was 47 people. With that in mind, I thought for Session #8, I would share the menu and pairings from the night so you could play along at home.

The weekend before the event, I sat down with samples of the beers and Carlton and I finalized some of the tweaks to the menu. Having done several dinners with Junkyard Vince, I have come to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of Spring Rolls on plates. For the Stone dinner, we rolled out the rolls (again) and started the dinner with finger food. I mean, who doesn’t like finger foods?

I talked Vince into developing a Chicken Mole Spring roll that highlighted the yeast qualities of our Lost and Found Abbey Ale. When the rolls hit the table, it was easy to see that the dark cocoa flavors and banana yeast esters found in our Lost and Found were going to match perfectly. The addition of sliced plantains in the mix really scored well with the patrons as well.

For the second course, we chose to feature Avant Garde. This has been a favorite of ours to pair with Cheese and as such, I asked the chefs to work around a framework of soup and cheese. I had envisioned something along the lines of French Onion Soup with a caramelized gooey cheese top. Carlton wanted something with a splash more levity. It was less hearty and in the end featured shavings of Asiago. It pretty much smashed. I watched the patrons slurp their way to the finish nodding in approval. The beer provided ample foundation and didn’t take a back seat to the robust flavors. They melded incredibly well and showed the grace of Russian Ice Dancers.

The third course is always one of my favorites. We always have a salad course when I work with Chef Vince on meals. It helps us feel better about all the meat we’re about to ingest. Over the years, we have always paired Saison style beers with salads. They always have great flavors and hooks. Our Red Barn Ale is no exception. It blasts forth with notes of Ginger, Pepper and Orange Peel making it the perfect companion for salads that highlight these flavors.

Our salad landed on the table that night with Spring Mix for the base. Sitting on top of these funky greens was some great goat cheese and an Orange Balsamic Vinegarette dressing. I did my best to make like a cow and be happy. And as we all know, happy cows come from California which is fine by me and especially by Vince who included Cow as part of the main entrée for the evening.

Chef Vince is known around these parts for his affinity to all things Pork and Cow based. I mean he does okay with fish but this guy owns Red and the other white meat too. Our non vegan plates arrived that evening with some of the most tender beef I have ever eaten. They were slow cooked in a sauce that featured our Old Viscosity and a pomegranate reduction sauce. Vince busted out the starch side featuring Potatoes Pave and this combination alongside our Veritas 001 was tear inducing.

The Veritas 001 was the debut for our Veritas series of beers. These are barrel aged and blended beers. They are ultra small scale (never to be replicated) and many of them will be used for beer dinners. The Veritas 001 was a blend of three different barrels of Cherry based beers. The tannins and fruit flavors excelled like red wine in handling the strong flavors of the short ribs. It was my favorite course of the evening.

I don’t know if there is a better after dinner beer than The Angel’s Share. At 12.5% ABV, it just screams “Pick Me, Pick Me,” like the Fat kid who always gets picked last for 5th Grade Dodgeball. But there is nothing flabby about The Angel’s Share. It is a man amongst the boys in this case.

I have consumed enough Angel’s Share since we released it know that the beer sports huge wood vanilla flavors and has a decidedly maple sugar finish from the residual sugars. We felt this would be an efficient assassin for any chocolate based dessert. We developed a ramekin based dessert and had it warmed prior to serving. As part of the finish for the dish, we infused it with Butterscotch and Maple glaze. It pretty much Sucked! I mean in a good way. It punctuated the meal perfectly.

Five course up, five course down. We left stone as satiated as that fat dodgeball kid. It was a fantastic night. I look forward to doing another one soon. Rumor has it, we may even be heading back in November for another round. Somehow, I doubt only 47 people will show up.

Bring on Session #9

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