On Monday, we hosted our final dinner in the summer series, Things We Love Summer of Beer at Toro restaurant in the South End of Boston. Things We Love is a beer dinner concept that was designed to shed beer dinner images. No longer do we work with one sole brewer and only their profile. We work with what we love at that moment and what we love to eat, fresh and seasonal. The idea is to gain a better inclusion of the restaurant staff, and a better idea of the restaurant itself. So many times, people leave beer dinners talking only about the terrific beer they just had. We want people walking out of our events thinking in new ways about beer and food together.
We wanted to shed themes and concepts to elevate the beer novices and foodies, and also bring down the beer nerd who demands the finest foods, rarest beers, but won't pay more than $45. The idea is to have fun and not work with impossible people or parameters. These our dinners, our favorites and our idea of fun. This can also include a wine pairing with the dinner, a battle of beer versus something, a beer cocktail... No limits anymore, but one rule, the main focus is the beer. You are being welcomed to sit at OUR table. To add any restrictions or rules about how it should be done changes the concept completely.
When I sat down with Jen Fields, the General Manager at Toro, we talked about our past histories in the restaurant world of Boston. Jen and I both used to work a crummy, yet popular hipster dive bar in Cambridge. We know our bartenders in this town. Boston has become quite the town for craft cocktails and craft beer. One thing that has never changed, is the need for cheap beer and shots of bourbon or fernet after a long day.
At Toro, head chef Jamie Bissonnette loves Bud Light Lime. So does a lot of the kitchen staff. If you are a beer nerd, this is probably cringe worthy to you. But this is burden of true Beer Advocate. It's not our place to tell anyone who they are or what they can and can't drink. It is a beer in their hands after all. It's obvious we advocate for better beer and will always do so, but the hardened beer geek must realize we are BeerAdvocate and not Craft Beer Advocate. This doesn't mean that we are in the pockets of Budweiser because we don't shamelessly rip them apart every chance we get. The arguments against them are stale, old and tired and no one is really saying anything new about the big bad beast that is Anheuser-Busch. Having said that, we would still defend and support a craft brewer long before the corporate beasts if problems arise. And at the end of a hard day in a hot kitchen, you want slamming back beers. And if BLL is their choice, so be it. They have earned the right to drink whatever they fancy.
When I sat down with Jen to discuss the menu for our beer dinner, I asked her what is everyone in here drinking right now, what do they love right now. And she mentioned Jamie's BLL affinity. This made sense to me, because at his other restaurant Coppa, also in the South End, he features awesome Shandy's on his cocktail list using stouts and 21st Amendment's Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. It's called the Merman, with the wheat beer, and it's delicious and hilarious with the name proving there is a time and a place for every beer. Beer cocktails are fantastic. We even featured a French Shandy at the Aquitaine TWL dinner.
We got a consensus of what everyone wanted to drink. And Jen thought it would be funny and awesome to make Bud Light Lime Margarita as a welcoming drink since we told her that we LOVE beer cocktails and that they should feature one. She thought this would be a good way to kill two birds with one stone. Get Jamie's choice in there, make a beer cocktail, and be completely cheeky about it without having any pretensions at this dinner. One, Toro makes slamming cocktails with Andy McNees behind the bar. It's only right to have something fun. Jen, was also a bartender in this town and knows how to make a good drink, this was all her idea. Two, it's in line with our idea of featuring what we love with beer cocktails. Three, we made it into a cocktail and enhanced it.
Bud Light Lime Margarita; tequila, elderflower liquor, grapefruit and lime, with lime salt. We paired it with tempura rock shrimp that used BLL in the batter, lime salt again, shrimp mayo and charred jalapenos.
One person saw the dinner being advertised on their blackboard, and asked how much Bud was paying us and the restaurant to use their beer. Another person, a member of our website, actually turned it away at the dinner. Rude and silly if you ask me, but then again I tell no one who they are and what they can and can't like. Not to mention random tweets from judmental dickheads who weren't even there to to try it, but saw Todd's tweets about it. I find it ridiculous, all the kerfuffle one beer cocktail has spurned. Not to mention it tasted fantastic, made the beer quite enjoyable, and worked amazingly well with the pairing. His loss, not mine.
We are not in Anheuser-Busch's pockets, it's ridiculous to even have to say that. We have not, nor have we ever or will ever, sell out to AB. It was Jen's idea to highlight one of the most respected Chef's in Boston, Jamie Bissonnett's favorite, as well the the staff favorite. For the love of fuck it wasn't a big deal, but it had enough people's panties in a bunch that I felt like I had to say something about it.
The dinner was a huge success. We had so much food and beers, it was well worth it. And the next time we do a dinner like this or a tasting social, I will have no problem featuring a macro product if the timing and idea behind it, is right.
Once we, hosted an Aztec-themed beer dinner at Upstairs on the Square. We featured and incredible ceviche on a bed of avocado with Negra Modelo. There was an historic aspect to the beer, the style, and it worked out so well. In a Russian-themed beer dinner, Budweiser, sent me Bud made in Russia for the dinner. You see, beer is the number two drink in Russia behind tea. And Budweiser did this for us with no questions asked, no favors exchanged. It tasted very different from our Budweiser and it was really good and more malty. It was paired with corn belini's, boiled eggs, caviar, and creme fraiche. It was amazing to be honest. And you'd never know if you had such a deep snobbery, it prevented you from being adventurous.
I am not asking anyone to roll the way we do. You can do whatever you like, pair how ever you see fit. But we're having mad fun and keeping it real with what our friends and restaurants we like. When you see the pictures from the dinner, which I will blog about very soon, you will be jealous you missed an event like this. Hang your heads in shame if one light hearted beer cocktail prevented you from coming to this dinner.
Edited: I forgot to mention how when we started Things We Love with Hungry Mother in Cambridge, we featured a battle of the cheap beers at that dinner. 10 courses and one was a fried chicken course served in a paper basket with watermelon and cole slaw. We featured their shitty beer of choice which was Genny Cream Ale vs. our choice of Narragansett. We served it in paper cups to be cheeky that an upscale southern restaurant could stay true to it's down and dirty roots. Everyone had so much fun popping open the cans and hearing the simultaneous cracking from the cans. It was awesome, Narragansett won, and a whole room full of diners had fun. All done with "shitty" beers.
We also did our second TWL with Hungry Mother for a Valentine's day, and that time we featured a beer cocktail with Miller High Life. We had 40's of HL on the bar and made and awesome cocktail with Vida Mezcal, grapefruit 'concentrate,' beer syrup, Miller High Life, salt. It was awesome.
No one complained once during those dinners that cheap macro beers were being used. They served a purpose and ended being awesome and people loved it. They were fun, they tasted good, and they fit with our theme of having fun the way we like it.