Sunday, June 03, 2012

Winner, Winner, Beer Dinner Part 1

This week I have felt like royalty.  I was lucky enough to attend two beer dinners on consecutive nights that were part of Asheville Beer Week, and they both were outstanding events.

First up was the Thirsty Monk and Curáte dinner on Tuesday night.  The evening started at the Thirsty Monk with the Spanish beer Estrella Damm Inedit, a witbier that was developed in cooperation with Ferran Adria, former head of the world famous Spanish restaurant El Bulli.  It was quite an appropriate first beer, since Curáte's chef Katie Button interned at El Bulli before opening her Tapas restaurant here in Asheville.  The Estrella was paired with a red snapper and shrimp ceviche and a chicken mousselline with orange and fennel on a crustini, with both dishes prepared by the Chef Todd Mallin at the Thirsty Monk.

After a couple of beers, the group walked down to Curáte for the main attraction.  There is a nice private room downstairs, and every beer was paired with three courses that were shared family style, with the last beer that was plated with dessert.  First up was the Westmalle Tripel.  Westmalle was one of my first introductions to Belgian beer, and it has been awhile since I have had their Tripel, and it is such a great beer.  The first three courses were toasted bread with tomato and olive oil, cod and potato puree, and the oh so delicious spanish ham.  If you have not had the ham at Curáte, I suggest going there to try it.  Right now.  You can finish reading this blog when you get back.

The second course featured Orval, one of my favorite beers by the trappist breweries.  The interesting thing about Orval is the addition of brettanomyces, which gives the beer a slightly funky (in a good way) aftertaste. The taste of the beer changes over time, ensuring that every time you have an Orval it is a unique experience.  The food in this course was amazing.  First off was a green salad with sunchoke, carrot, peas, and a sherry brown butter vinaigrette that made the whole dish sing.  This was followed by a shrimp and garlic dish that had a wonderful broth for dipping your bread into.  Lastly, we were served asparagus with romesco sauce, which is similar to a pesto but with red pepper instead of basil.

Course number three included the Chimay Grande Reserve (or Chimay Blue), which is a Belgian Quadrupel.  Quads are wonderful beers that are high in alcohol and great in flavor.  The high alcohol comes from the addition of dark candi sugar, and that combined with using belgian yeast strains yields a beer that is rich with notes of fig, date, and raisins.  While enjoying this beer, we were served lamb skewers with Moroccan-like spices, mushrooms sauteed with sherry, and the last course was fried eggplant drizzled with wild mountain honey.  All the courses were delicious.

The final course was a dessert that was made especially for the dinner that was introduced to us by Chef Katie Button.  The beer for this course was the Rochefort 10, another quad style belgian beer and is considered to be one of the best beers in the world.  The beer was paired with a take on a turrón, which is a spanish style confection that resembled a creamy nougat and also had carmelized almonds.  The taste reminded me of one of my favorite childhood cereals, Sugar Smacks (Dig-em!).  In addition to the nougat was an apricot sorbet, and it all went together surprisingly well considering all the contrasting flavors.

Overall it was a fantastic meal.  I love the pacing of a long beer dinner, and while I was tired at work the next day it was well worth the experience.  The good news is that many of the dishes that were served with this dinner are available on Curáte's Spring Tasting Menu (small menu, large menu), which will not be available long.

Thanks mom, and Caroline, Barry and Donita.

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