Jan 2, 2013

Beer Czar's Beer Dinner

Over this passed New Years, my wife and I traveled to Las Vegas with the kids, to visit with my wife's parents, her brother, and his family. They decided, that this year, we would have a series of "pairing dinners". My In Laws, both wine lovers, along with the help of family friend Billy, did an Italian themed wine pairing dinner. My brother in law, and his wife Kate, did a Whiskey pairing dinner. While, not surprising, my wife and I were tasked with creating a beer dinner.

Home made pasta!!!
Let me just start, by saying these three meals were among 3 of the best dinners I have had the pleasure of sharing with my wife's family (and that is saying something, because my brother in law is some what of a smoke master with his back yard smoker, and has prepared numerous spectacle meals for our consumption). The wine dinner, was, if nothing else, filling! However, it was so much more. Anti-pasta salad, with a pinot grigio. Homemade pasta, with two sauces, manicotti, and baked ziti. I also learned a lot, mostly that my mother in law was holding out on me, seems she makes this amazing from scratch pasta sauce that is just the other side of amazing!

So Good!!!

The whiskey pairing dinner, hosted by Mike and Kate, was a great mixture of casual elegance, humor, and some amazing food, and great whiskey. Putting his aforementioned smoker to some good use, he started us off with some just incredible smoked salmon, along with a selection of great cheeses and fruit. Followed by, and I mean this in complete honesty, one of THE BEST pulled pork sandwiches I have ever had the pleasure of tasting, paired with some Jack Daniels Lynchburg Lemonades, and tater tots! Wrapped up with a selection of various dark chocolates, and some Woodman's Reserve Bourbon!

My wife, pouring the first beers
In between those two feasts, my wife and I got to host a beer dinner. Now I have done recipes with beer pairings in mind, as well as some actual cooking with beer. However, I have never actually put together an entire menu of beer infused recipes and/or beer pairings. It was a challenge I was up for! Here is what we came up with....

Course one- We started off with some warm, soft Bavarian pretzels, with some of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale mustard. We paired this with Stone Brewing's Pale Ale. Let me tell you, if you haven't tried this mustard, do yourself a favor, and head to your nearest grocery store, and get some! Great stuff, and as you would imagine, tastes great on a soft, lightly salted pretzel, with a glass of chilled Pale Ale to chase it down!

Course Two - A smoked cheddar and bacon soup. Made with some aged smoked bacon cheddar cheese, and brown ale, this soup worked out really well! I made it, and paired it with Dogfish Head's Raison D'Etre, and I must say, the two worked really well together. The soup was great, and if anyone is interest, let me know, I'll email you the recipe (just drop me a line at thebeerczar@gmail.com ).

Course Three, the main course! Ok, I didn't go along with the standard, start off weak, and work your way to stronger beers method. Mainly, because I love this dish, and from the first time I had it, I thought this beer would go well with it. We made a baked, breaded, orange glazed chicken, with couscous, and green beans, pair with the world class Saison Dupont! Seeing as my wife's family hails from Michigan, I briefly thought of pairing this meal with Oberon, however, not only did I want them to try a beer I was pretty certain none of them have had before, I also think, and no disrespect to Oberon (one of my favorites) that Saison Dupont is a far superior beer. In fact, I feel, there are few better. As I expected, the pairing worked well, and I think the two complimented as much as I had hoped they would. I also think the beer was a big hit with that family!

Course Four - Dessert! For this, I made a chocolate stout mousse, and paired it with Rogue's Chocolate Stout. I was looking for Fullers Chocolate Stout, but they didn't have it, so I went with Rogues, and it was a pretty good pick! Despite the mousse not setting up properly (my first attempt at making mousse) it tasted rather good! However, my brother in law pointed out, as we were finishing up, and trying some other beers, that the framboise we tried actually paired better with the mousse then the stout did, and upon trying it, he was right. Rather then sharing a lot of the same flavors, the two contrasted, yet complimented each other VERY well! In hindsight, and going forward, I would probably pair a chocolate stout mousse with a framboise, or other raspberry flavored beer.

Like I said, this was a great experience, and I am glad we were giving the opportunity, as well as a respectful, enthusiastic audience to do this with. Not only was it a fun, filling, educational meal, more importantly, it was, as were the other two, meals shared, and spent in the company of family, making it all that much more enjoyable, and rewarding for us. If you ever get a chance to try and create a menu like this, or even just the pleasure of experiencing a menu like this, please do. I learned a lot, not only about the wine, and whiskey we enjoyed the other two nights, I also learned a lot about beer as well, that I didn't know before researching this meal. So, everyone will get something out of it.

Thanks to my lovely, supportive wife, for all her help, as well as my heartfelt thank you to her family, for not only providing us with a place to stay, and a couple of awesome meals while we were there, but for allowing us to share our love of beer, and food with you, and for your attentiveness, and enthusiasm for what we shared with you. We had a great time, thank you!

*note- I want to give photo props to my brother in law Mike, for most of the photos I used above!

Until next time my friends
Bottoms Up!
The Beer Czar!

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