This is the first time I’ve made a dinner for friends with courses each paired with / inspired by a specific beer. Some of them worked well together, some didn’t, but it was a good evening overall.
Appetizers: a slightly bitter, slightly floral beer (Upright Flora Rustica) with a collection of snacks: bread, cheese (Cowgirl Creamery Mt Tam), radishes, fresh-pickled fennel (an interesting concept), Boccalone orange-fennel salami and pepper salami, salted almonds, and three kinds of pickled carrots (carrots pickled for a week with dill, vinegar, and salt, carrot quick pickles (overnight with lots of vinegar, mustard seed, cloves), and some Happy Girl spicy carrot pickles I bought).
The most vinegar-heavy pickles overwhelmed the beer (and the beer didn’t have the same hint of jalapeno it did when I’d had it on tap in Portland), but the rest of the food seemed to go reasonably well with it, especially the fennel salami and pickled fennel.
My favorite course: a salad of mixed greens + roasted stonefruit (peaches and black plums, still warm) + a little fresh mint + a ricotta that didn’t turn out the way I expected (I tried to make it with 1 pint whole milk, 1 pint heavy cream, 1 tsp salt: brought to a boil, 3 Tbsp lemon juice added, then simmered to curdle.. but it never fully curdled (did the cream interfere somehow? were the lemons not acidic enough?), so it ended up soft and creamy) + a dressing of balsamic vinegar reduced with agave syrup. We were still drinking the Flora Rustica, which worked quite well with the fruit.
Black bean soup generally based on the Cooks Illustrated New Best Recipe version: dry beans and a diced onion boiled for a few hours with a ham hock and bay leaves and a little beer until beans were soft, the ham hock and bay leaves removed and the meat from the hock shredded and returned to the pot, then a separately-sauteed sofrito (onions, garlic, red bell pepper, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, chipotle flakes, salt) added to the pot for about 20 minutes. I made this the night before and reheated it the day of the dinner. Cilantro and lime juice added just as it was served.
This was paired with Upright Billy the Mountain, which turned out to be a rather… challenging beer– a very tart and woody barrel-aged old ale, about 9% alcohol but not at all sweet like a barleywine. Whew. Interesting, but I’m not sure I’d do that again.
Pre-dessert: my second attempt at fresh ricotta (simple: 1 qt whole milk + 1 tsp salt, brought to a light boil, then 1.5 Tbsp white vinegar added, simmered a few minutes until the curds separated, strained for an hour in cheesecloth): bright, fresh, and sweet, with a nice texture. Served with Pannepot 2010, a delicious slightly sweet / musky / lightly spiced ale I’d had in Belgium but had never seen in the US until I came across it at City Beer Store (apparently they get it very occasionally). A good combination.
Official dessert– honey lavender ice cream from Bi-Rite, paired with Russian River Supplication (a sour ale fermented with brit and lots of cherries). The Supplication was actually not as acidic or difficult as the Billy the Mountain, and while strong, worked well with the ice cream (especially, a bit of ice cream after each sip of beer).
Then as our post-dinner digestif/nightcap/whatever: some Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (an oatmeal stout brewed with coffee).
Success! Time to go lay down and do the final clean-up tomorrow.