As I continue to prepare for the Certified Cicerone® Exam in November, one study strategy I am employing is to cook a series of ‘beer dinners.’ Pairing food with beer is a key section on the Certified exam. Cooking meals and pairing them with beer is a practical (and fun!) way of studying. Here is my latest ‘beer dinner’ menu:
Appetizer Course: Salmon and Gouda Bruschetta, paired with Hoegaarden Wit
Salad Course: Watermelon and Feta with Basil Salad, paired with College Street V. Beauregarde Blueberry Sour
Main Course: Pork Chops with Savory Vegetables and Apples, paired with Spaten Optimator
Dessert: Vanilla Crème Brulee, paired with Belhaven Scotch Ale
Garrett Oliver’s Brewmaster’s Table was again the inspiration for the menu. Here are the results!
>Salmon and Gouda Bruschetta. This was a pretty straight forward appetizer; easy to make. The fattiness of the fish and cheese required a bright, crisp, palate-cleansing beer. I chose Hoegaarden Belgian Wit to give it a bit a fruity brightness. The bread ended up being a bit too soft (I needed to toast it prior to adding the fish and cheese), but it was tasty enough. The beer did lend some cleansing brightness to the dish, but only somewhat.
>Watermelon and Feta Salad. This was the only dish where the recipe did not come from Oliver’s Brewmaster’s Table. Rather, I found it in John Holl’s American Craft Beer Cookbook. The recipe itself came from Trinity Brewing in Colorado and I made a few customizations: swapping blue cheese for feta and losing the endive serving vessel. The salad was bright and cool and crisp. I added a touch of sea salt so it was not overly sweet. Holl recommends pairing with a sour beer to balance the sweet of the watermelon.
I generally hate sour beers. I just don’t get it. But, to stay true to the cookbook, and expand my beer repertoire, I choose a local beer—College Street Brewing’s V. Beauregarde blueberry sour. The salad had the effect of mellowing the beer just slightly. On its own, the beer displayed all the tartness you’d expect for a sour beer, but with the salad, it took a step back. Not a grand pairing, but…intriguing.
>Pork Chop with Savory Vegetables and Apples. Simple enough dish…brown the chops, sautee celery, carrots, potatoes and onions and add apples near the end. Roast the dish for 25 minutes. You can make a great sauce by removing the meat and veggies from the saucepan after roasting and then deglazing the pan with apple cider vinegar and apple cider. That’s tasty stuff!
Here, I went with a Spaten Optimator, which was a terrific pairing. As the beer warmed, the malty sweetness complemented the apple notes in the dish. The longer I went, the better the pairing. Too bad the pork chop was eventually all eaten! I could have kept eating and eating and eating…
>Crème Brulee. Crème Brulee is one of my favorite desserts. I had no idea it was so easy to make: egg yolks, sugar, cream; warmed and baked for 25-ish minutes then cooled. Sugar added to the top and scorched prior to serving. I wanted a complementary flavor here so I went with Belhaven Scotch Ale, which also has a malty sweetness, but not as dark and roasty as a doppelbock. This was quite delicious, but not a home run. More like a solid double.
>Salmon and Gouda Bruschetta with Hoegaarden Wit: 2.5/5
>Watermelon and Feta Salad with College Street V Beauregarde Blueberry Sour: 3/5
>Roasted Pork Chops with Savory Vegetables and Apples with Spaten Optimator: 4.5/5
>Crème Brulee with Belhaven Scotch Ale: 3.5/5
I’ll try again in winter! I have one more dinner prior to my test in November.