I was sick and tired of beer dinners. Sick and tired of trying to come up with concepts for beer dinners. I had hosted a series of cool beer dinners in the past like the Aztec Beer Dinner, or Soul Food Brunch pairings, chocolate beer dinners, Russian beer dinners, even the now infamous Gallia Belgica.
All of those events were cool. No scratch that, they were amazing. But I now I am done with concepts or themes. I am done working with one sole brewer and only their line up of beers for beer dinners, and I am done with beer dinners that serve amazing food, but all anyone walks away with is, did they get enough of the geekiest beer being served that night.
I am through with coming up with beer dinners for beer geeks. A lot of them will never be satisfied and only want dinners that include full pours of Allagash Gargamel or something equally rare, they want the finest food to be served with it, and only want to pay $45 dollars max to be served like and eat like kings.
Sorry beer geeks, it's simply not about you anymore.
It's also not about the uber foodie either. I am frankly sick of them too. They don't have any idea about good craft beer (some of them anyway, not all of them), and they still turn their noses up at the idea that beer can be and is amazing with food.
Of course I am completely generalizing here, but you get the idea.
No Mas! No more creating dinners to suit other peoples needs. I wanted to create a series of dinners that highlight the things we love. From the restaurants, the chefs, the waitstaff, the style of food, and various beers. It may also include a wine versus beer tasting, a beer cocktail or spirit served with the meal, or even a beer battle itself!
The idea is to elevate the foodie to beer, and bring the beer geeks back down to reality with good solid beer and food offerings.
We had been discussing a possible beer dinner with Hungry Mother in Cambridge. A favorite restaurant who hadn't hosted a beer dinner before but was really contemplating the idea of working with us. I decided this was the right place to launch such an idea. Anyone who is local around here already knows Hungry Mother and how awesome they are. If you don't, drop whatever it is you are doing, shut your mouth, and go over there and have dinner immediately.
Their style is Appalachian-style southern food with local ingredients, and French techniques.
** When I say Appalachian, I mean App-il-lay-chin. The fine folks at HM will disagree with me until we are all blue in the face, but actually being from Virginia, and more the Appalachian Mountain chain extending way up into New England, I am right! Only in the deep corners of the south and the Blue Ridge Mountains do you call it "App-a-Latch-chan."
This is the kind of place that will serve you cheesy grits and bacon that will make your mama cry. They will serve it with a Hickory Dickel (Gingerale, George Dickel, a tiny hint of liquid smoke, and a bacon lardoon garnish. They will serve you a gorgeous country-style gnocchi with peas, mushrooms, and bacon, but serve you a Genesee Cream Ale with it. This is exactly our kind of place.
Together with Todd and Jason, myself, Alon and Rachel Munzer, Barry Maiden, John Kessen, and the various waitstaff and barkeeps, we created a fun menu to showcase the fun stuff Hungry Mother likes to create, and we all had a hand in picking our favorite beers for this menu. Beers that WE loved and it didn't have anything to do with whether they were super rare or super generic. It's all about what we love and what we wanted to share with our friends and patrons.
I want to highlight that at the very bottom of the menu listed all the things Hungry Mother loves.
Things We Love: BeerAdvocate, Deep Ellum, The Gallows, Carolina Chocolate Drops, East by Northeast, pizza, opera, Dylan & Mira, our lawyer, Jamison Farm, Tetris, Anson Mills, Eastern Standard, Muddy Pond sorghum, bourbon, hot dogs, Ridgeway Blue, rainbows and puppydogs, Kanye, days off, snood, golf, ukuleles, drinking, Strangeways Here We Come, (ex) data synapse, Joe-Joe's, Brazil, Hulu, bonfires on Wiborgs Beach, boo ya later.
We welcomed everyone to dinner with southern specialties of house made dilly beans, boiled peanuts, and homemade chips.
*Click to enlarge any image.
Great social foods to pick at and get introduced to your table. We sat a lot of people together in groups. The Dilly beans were spicy and tangy, the chips were crisp and addicting. I will take the word from everyone at the table that said the boiled peanuts were fantastic. They ate them all! I am a southerner who who doesn't care for boiled peanuts. I know, it's pure blasphemy. But it's a classic none the less and perfect for the table.
We also opened up with a beer cocktail of Campari, sorghum syrup, and Smuttynose Star Island single.
Miss Lewis' Tomato Aspic with Deviled Quail Egg and Bacon.
Beer: Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project American Darling, 7% abv
I think this was my favorite course. The aspic was soft and extremely flavorful with tomatoes. The deviled quails egg was cute and packed just the right amount of pop of creamy texture and flavor contrast for the beer. The bacon was just an awesome hint for the plate that tied every thing together. Really, who can deny a lovely piece of bacon? They should have had a piece of bacon on every course served for this dinner.
The beer was perfectly fresh, crisp, and delicious. Just a tad too hoppy for the aspic though. Not enough to clash, but while pilsners and lagers are excellent for tomatoes, the added hop bite of American darling, almost proved to be to much. But as a hop head, I never mind big hops.
The Bro's approve.
Pork Plate of smoked cocktail sausage, ciccioli, stout mustard, zucchini relish.
Beer: Schlenkerla Rauchbier Marzen, 5.4% abv
HM always offers a pork plate of some sort. This was the perfect portion size for wonder flavors and two different variations of pork. Paired with the most classic beer for pork, Schlenkerla Marzen larger. Smoked beers are made for pork dishes. It's a simple pairing but packed full of flavor and proved during this dinner why we love it.
Catfish Caveach picholines, capers, poblanos.
Beer: Allagash White, 5.2% abv
Caveach is basically a method of pickling fish. It was fantastic catfish too. It had a lovely earthy rustic taste to it and the Allagash White really went perfectly with it. The tangy capers and vinegars tastes were smoothed out by the lovely and soft flavors of the wit bier. The soft texture and hearty flavors of the catfish were fantastic.
Shrimp and Grits with HM tasso, cornbread croutons, and rosemary.
Beer: Cape Ann Fishermans IPA, 5.5% abv
You can't have a real southern meal with out grits. HM always has a grit offering in some way. Shrimp and grits are a classic southern, soul food offering. These grits were slow cooked, creamy and deliciously buttery. The shrimp and sauce was extremely flavorful and worked well with the malty IPA. Malty and hops are good for rich sauces like this. I really didn't want this course to end.
Fried chicken picnic with "kohlslaw", compressed watermelon, and Texas Pete.
Beer: Narragansett vs. Genny Cream Ale
Yes! Yes, we did go there with fried chicken and cheap beer at a fancy beer dinner. Genny Cream Ale is a favorite of the HM staff, and Narragansett is a Todd favorite. We thought, why not battle them out and see which cheap beer is the favorite among crowd?
The best part of this was serving the chicken in paper baskets and the beer served in cans with paper cups on the tables. As soon as the beers were delivered, the cracking noises in sync around the room from the cans was amazing. It was super fun and had everyone engaged. I have never seen that many smiles for cheap beer in a long time. It goes to show you that there is a time and a lace for every beer. Only one person wasn't really thrilled with the cheap beer choices because he prefers Budweiser for his cheap beer of choice. I am a PBR girl myself, but I didn't let that stop me.
Before I announce the winner, lets talk about the food. Compressed watermelon? Yep vacuumed sealed so that all the juices compressed further into the melon. Sprinkled with salt to give it an awesome contrast to the insanely sweet and delicious melon. The "kohlslaw" was light and creamy and packed a delicate hit of flavors.
The fried chicken was perfectly southern. Juicy and that right bit of nearly burnt skin flavor. It tasted just like my mom's pan fried chicken and no one beats my mom's chicken! I was surprised to find out it was not pan fried. Close enough though. They deep fried it in a deep fryer but set the chicken high in the fryer like it was pan frying.
But winner by a slim margin. The way it worked for me and a lot of people tended to agree was that the Genny Cream Ale was perfect right after the grits and worked extremely well with the "kohlslaw." But it was the 'Gansett that over took every thing by working perfectly with the watermelon and fried chicken.
Very fun course.
Pulled Jamison Lamb with hominy tortilla, corn and tomato chow chow.
Beer: Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye, 8% abv
Wonderfully tender lamb. Flavor explosion with the southwest-style flavors perfectly matched with the malty and bitter Hop Rod Rye. This was one of the best matched courses with the beer. Unfortunately this was also the course where we all realized that this we may have been in over our heads. We still had desserts and cheese coming!
Meadow Creek Grayson with green tomato and sour cherry jam, crystal malt, and house made beer bread.
Beer: Cisco Brewing Co. Cherry Woods Ale, 4.7% abv
Originally we had planned for the beer to be Cerise from Founders. The reason being is that that beer tastes exactly like cherry pie filling! Something so southern, and cherries were in perfect season. However, there was none available and I think it worked out for the better.
Cisco Cherry Woods was available. It too had a delicious cherry pie filling taste, but with a much more crisp and delightfully sour bite to it. Not too sour where it burns your throat going down. It was very enjoyable and delicious. I am not usually a fan of sour ales, but this is one I very much enjoyed and could drink more than one glass of.
The sour notes and carbonation cut right through the cow's milk cheese allowing for an excellent pairing.
Via Meadow Creek Website:
The beer bread was homemade and soft and the sour cherry jam was actually pretty mild. I think most people were expecting more of a cherry pop to the jam, but it was soft and mild because of the green tomatoes. If if had been more sour, the beer and jam would have over powered the pairing. I really enjoyed the sweet little accent of the crystal malt sprinkled on the plate as well.
Chocolate cake, sorghum buttercream, Benne brittle.
Beer: Left Hand Milk Stout 5.2% abv
Yes!! Chocolate cake covered in chocolate. A sesame seed brittle on top and Left Hand Milk Stout served in coffee cups. I loved that detail. HM has such cool flare.
This cake was rich and balanced by a lovely sorghum buttercream filling. It was very reminiscent of a New England whoopie pie. Rich chocolate flavors, butter sesame brittle, and rich, bitter, chocolate-y beer.
When we realized we were in trouble with the lamb course, this surely sent us all over the edge. And we still had one more to go.
Taza Chocolate Chip Cookies with sea salt.
Small Cocktail: Makers 46, Amaro Meletti, 888 Huixoc Coffee, Bittermens xocolatl mole.
Taza is a local favorite of HM as it is with many local shops and restaurants. It's a natural fit for those shops and restaurants who keep it local and source ingredient from their area and local producers. I am personally not a huge fan of Taza Chocolate, but just for this once I didn't mind it. The cookies were soft, buttery, and had that perfect balance of salt by being topped with sea salt. Sweet and salty always works. The cookie dough covered up the flaws I normally find in Taza Chocolate.
The cocktail was a nice way to end the night. We were all so full and in full on food coma mode. The cocktail was soothing and settled our full bellies.
And there you have it. Hungry Mother's first beer dinner showcasing their favorite things with a combination of our favorite beers. From the details of the paper in the fired chicken course, to the mini mason jars filled with gorgeous tomato aspic, to the coffee cups filled with milk stout, they really knocked this one out of the park. For their first ever beer dinner, they really seemed to get it. Look for more events with BeerAdvocae and Hungry Mother in the future. I know I certainly can't wait to work with them again.
The idea that having a fun and a well received beer dinner without serving the most rare and geekiest of beers was made abundantly clear with the super fun fried chicken course. A successful event that proves we need to listen to ourselves more. Trust our own ideas and go with what we know works and what we love. It's up to you to come with us or not. As you can see, if you don't, you might be missing out on some really amazing food and some real good times.
These are the Things We Love.