Wednesday, December 30, 2015

A Pairing Dinner to Remember - Featuring Cider

Last night was one of the most outstanding pairing dinners I've been to and yet I have not a single picture of the meal to share. Maybe that's not a bad thing although the dessert and third courses were certainly as much a feast for the eyes as for the mouth.

If you can get past the lack of foodporn I'll do my best to use my words to tell you about this first ever pairing dinner held at the Alberta Street Pub. They teamed up with Reverend Nat's, makers of some of the best cider being produced anywhere, for an intimate meal.

Sacrilege Sour Cherry with Fernet & Sour Cherry-Glazed Hazelnuts
Not only is this a beautiful cider to look at, it's absolutely delicious to drink and complimented the hazelnuts wonderfully. The glaze, made with a reduction of the cider, was slightly sweet and while it worked I'm curious as to how roasted, salted hazelnuts would be with the cider. It's something I may have to explore as I will most certainly look to enjoy more of this cider, which according to Nat this version is slightly different from past batches and will be the recipe going forward. Yum!

Tepache with Guajillo Chile Braised Pork Cheek Tacos
I generally think of Tepache as a summery drink but when paired with this exceptionally tender and flavorful pork was transformed into a comforting, cold weather drink. As with the first course, the cider was used in the preparation of the food, no doubt infusing just the right amount of sweet into the dish. The portion size was very generous - two tortillas (not made in house, but you could have fooled me by Mike, their kitchen manager) chock full of hunks of meat and slaw - and could have been slightly smaller. That said, I finished every last morsel on my plate (and would have eaten more).

Winter Abbey Spice with Shepard's Pie
Whereas Tepache represents summer, this cider, which was aged for six months on raisins, exemplifies all that is winter. In this pairing it cut the richness of the Shepard's pie - served in muffin sized ramekins, a bottom of tender, flavorful meat and topped with cheese-crusted mashed potatoes - but was even more spectacular with the soda bread. This bread was no afterthought; the flavors from the raisins it contained clearly intended to play off the aging of the cider and the outside perfectly crusty to compliment the melt-in-your mouth interior. As an added bonus the cider was a delight with the remaining hazelnuts from the first course.

Whiskey Sour with Sea Scallop Masala
Not being a mixed drink drinker I can't say how true to the drink this cider is but if so I may have to start ordering them. Tart and lovely it played well with the smoky, perfectly cooked (if slightly over salty) scallops and was surprisingly stunning with the oven roasted tomatoes dotting the plate. Those tomatoes were reminiscent of the tomato confit I made recently and has planted the idea to make them again soon, pairing them with this cider, bruschetta-style.

Revival with Panna Cotta with Cranberry-Orange Sauce
Served in a stemmed dish the creamy panna cotta was topped with a chunky, fresh sauce and bordered with fresh orange slices. The most straight forward cider of the evening, a semi-dry cider aptly named, combined with the dessert to provide a refreshing end to the meal. I was revived and ready to start the whole thing over again.

The dinner wasn't without some issues from the kitchen - some courses coming out too close to one another, others with a significant pause between them and some dishes that were closer to room temperature than hot - but just like a newly opened restaurant, I'm more than willing to give them a pass. The quality and flavors of the dishes were outstanding and for the first time out, from a 10x10 kitchen no less, there's most definitely promise. I'm looking forward to getting information about their future dinners and I encourage you to do the same.

In the meantime, head over to Reverend Nat's tasting room or grab a bottle at your favorite shop to enjoy the liquid portion of this meal or visit Alberta Street Pub to enjoy the on-menu versions of the Irish Soda Bread, Pork Cheek Sliders or Shepherd's Pie.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Burnside Brewing Celebrates 5th Anniversary Deliciously

Craft beer, people and breweries both, are notoriously generous and recognize their success is based on the people who enjoy their products. Burnside Brewing just celebrated their fifth year in business and invited people into the brewery to say thank you with a golden rye beer brewed five ways and a spit-roasted pig served five ways.

Excited to try the beers that had been specially brewed for the event along with the food pairings, I showed up just as things were starting. Having run into a friend on the way in we approached the jockey boxes to get the details on how to pay and how to order the pairings. To our surprise we were informed that there was no charge. All of the beer and the food being prepared just off to the side were there for our enjoyment, as much or as little of it as we cared to partake in.

Recovering from that unexpected news we dove into the first pairing, pleased that the pours and portions were small so that one could enjoy all five. As we made our way through, more people arrived and "the kitchen" got into its groove so that soon the brewery was comfortably filled with people enjoying sips and nibbles.

In short it was all great. My personal favorites were:
Beer - Rum & Bosc Pear Barrel Aged Golden Rye (Natalie's recipe)
Food -Sweet Heat BBQ Pulled Pork with Roasted Fresno Pepper & Napa Cabbage Slaw
Beer & Food Pairing - Top Secret Dry Hop Golden Rye (Hopsteiner experimental & Apollo hops) + Chilaquiles with Radish Salsa

I'd love to see Burnside incorporate the rest of these (the chilaquiles are already on the menu) into their regular offerings. Kept in small portions like were served yesterday, they'd be great happy hour items. And the bahn mi, pulled pork and porchetta could easily be scaled up to be full sized meals.

Thank you, Burnside, and here's to many more years!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Last Minute Gifts

The older I get the less I'm interested in receiving stuff as gifts, preferring instead to receive experiences. Don't get me wrong, I'll never look a beer-toting gift horse in the mouth and in fact, in my mind "experiences" include edible gifts.

For those of you that are behind the eight ball in buying a gift for the craft beer person in your life or you need to send some suggestions to the panicked relative that calls mere days in advance here's a short list of experiences that have the added bonus of being available for online purchase with online delivery.

Imperial Bottle Shop & Taproom
Imperial is one of the best combo bottle shop/taprooms in town and by purchasing a gift card from them you're giving the gift of beer without the worry that the bottles picked out are going to be up the recipient's liking or figuring out how to get those bottles to them since as we all know, it's illegal to ship beer.

Portland Craft Beer Festival
The folks behind the festival, which debuted this year and takes place July 1 - 3, 2016 at The Fields Neighborhood Park, are on the ball and have made sure that you can purchase festival tickets as holiday gifts. To sweeten the pot a $25 ticket includes mug and 15 beer tickets (for the same price at the door it's only 10 tickets).

Brewvana Brewery Tours
Brewvana offers multiple tours weekly, as well as specialty tours (like the January 8th Join the Dark Side tour that includes dark beers, chocolate and coffee) and gift certificates can be purchased in multiple amounts, redeemable for any tour or even merchandise.