July 3, 2008

Inaugural beer dinner: Stoutstanding!

Ages ago, when I was still in the early stages of "researching" my book, I dreamt of hosting some sort of beer tasting event. A few nights ago, I began what will hopefully become a tradition. Pairing beer with food--all the rage. From restaurants such as Monk's Kettle to books such as He Said Beer, She Said Wine to my very own b-day dinner with the notorious Beer Chef (oh, just scroll down a post), everyone's doin' it. I asked chef Bruce Patton if, instead of doing a beer dinner focused on just one brewery, if he'd ever thought of doing it with just one style of beer, it took him practically no time to reject that idea. Wouldn't work. I'm no Thomas Keller, no Garret Oliver, but I did have an overabundance of stouts in my fridge and figured an all-stout dinner was just the trick to lighten, if you catch my drift, my fridge. And in doing so, five friends and I agree that the Beer Chef doesn't get the final word on the matter.

The evite called for Sunday, 7 p.m. So K'ro and I hit a schmancy Berkeley grocery store on Saturday, which is when I started making my award-winning* 24-hour chili. (*For reals. At the Kenpo Not- so- annual Chili Cook- off.) Thick bacon, 5 lbs. of chuck beef (cubed), and a bottle of Indian Wells Brewing's Piute Stout (unless you live in the Mojave Desert, you are unlikely to find their beers. It was an old bottle, so I was afraid to serve it, but not too afraid to take a few swallows).

Seven p.m. rolled around and Jen, Gavin, Mara, Matt, and K'ro were all poured a beer of their choice as the only non-stout of the evening. I'll add that Matt had to sacrifice some of his Rogue Smoked Ale to the root veggie surprise, which made both an excellent side dish and chili topping.

To truly kick things off, Jen prepared three dips/spreads (a creamy smoked trout with horseradish, a savory tomato- onion
chutney, and a sweet cranberry- orange- fennel chutney) with a hearty German brown bread, and a plate of 3x cream brie, a smoked German cheese, and sliced stonefruit. Paired with Terminator Stout procured from a recent stay at the McMenamin’s Kennedy School in Portland, followed by Organic Devout Stout from Santa Cruz Mountain Brewing., which I picked up after a half marathon down there.

For the main course, I first paired the chili with El Toro’s Imperial Stout. Though my chili didn’t have the heat I wanted it to (Gavin’s British and I didn’t know if his taste buds could handle it), I also cracked open Dick’s Oatmeal Stout. I happened upon this at the Bier Stein, a great deli and bottle shop in Eugene, Ore.

Finally, for dessert, I had a rare opportunity (or motivation) to bust out my crème brulee torch, which my sister regifted to me years ago. I figured, if I could think of it, someone’s already done it AND put it on the Interweb. Hence, I wound up making a chocolate “crème brew-lee” using Young’s Double Chocolate Stout, which was complemented by Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout.

Number of stouts used/drank: 7
Number of diners who thought the all-stout dinner went a'ight: 6

So, whether I pick a single style, brewery, or perhaps country to feature next time, at least I know I finally have my beer tasting tradition I’ve always wanted.