Saturday, January 23, 2010

Above and Beyond Pub Food: Ommegang Beer Pairing Dinner at The Grange

There are some nights when having a good time comes easy, and there are others when you have to earn it. I stopped my appointments at 5:00 on Wednesday so I could get out of there before traffic got too bad. A quick check at 5:05 showed minor delays, so I grabbed my stuff, rushed to the elevator, and then out into the gloom. Threw everything in the car, turned the ignition, and…

…Nothing. It was dead, Jim. Deader than Marley (who, you must understand, was really dead at the beginning of the Christmas Carol). Deader than the proverbial doornail.

Okay, now that I've made a lovely metaphor salad, I'll continue. Our administrator tried to jump me off with her Mustang. Hubby was already coming to my rescue and rushed a little faster when I told him we couldn't figure out where to ground the black jumper cable clip (Honda engines are, apparently, made of plastic). Still nothing after he tried. So, we left it at the office and still got to the dinner with time to spare.

Oh, did I mention that the car and battery both came out of warranty at the end of December? How do they know??? As a writer, I'm offended that my car would do something so cliché.

So yes, I was ready for some beer. Ommegang is a New York brewery specializing in Belgian-style beers. The first beer, Belgian Wit (Witbier), was served with the hors d'oeuvres course, almond blueberry and goat cheese pinwheels, Salame Toscano, and Red Dragon, Ale, and Mustard Cheese from Wales. No, this wasn't typical bar food. Yes, it was all delicious and light enough to compliment the mild citrus in the beer.

The second course, jumbo lump crab cake with lemon mayo and parsnip crisps over roasted beet carpaccio, was served with and a little overwhelmed by the Ommegang Rouge, a very tart Flanders red ale. The first impression I got of the beer was of mustard in that it was tangy and a little buttery, and it had some funky blue cheese undertones. One of our table-mates thought it complimented the lemon mayo on the crab cake perfectly, but to me the pairing felt a little unbalanced, even with the strong flavor of the beets. The course itself had a fun variety of textures and flavors on its own.

Everyone agreed that the third course, braised duck leg with Yukon gold and sweet potato Dauphinoise, and roasted Brussels Sprouts, paired perfectly with the Ommegang Adoration, classified as Winter Strong Dark Belgian. At 10% ABV, this beer needed a course with some oomph, and it got it. The duck was cooked perfectly and served with crispy breadcrumbs on top to balance the tender texture. The Dauphinoise had an elegant balance of flavor with the two kinds of potato and cheese, and the Brussels Sprouts had been cooked to ideal "crisp tender." The beer on its own has gingery overtones and lots of spice, and the food cut the spice and smoothed it out, kind like what rich food does with a highly acidic wine.

Finally, dessert! I haven't stopped thinking about this one. I even got a picture, which got a little cut off at the bottom since I was shooting blind:

Yes, that's Chocolate Indulgence stout cake with grains of paradise ice cream. If you're not familiar with grains of paradise, they come from West Africa and used to be a substitute for pepper. In ice cream, they tasted kind of like rosemary and coriander, and it went really well with the chocolate cake. I'm not usually a stout person, but the Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence Belgian Strong Dark Ale wasn't bitter. Malty chocolate with a finish of barely sweetened cocoa kept me drinking it even though I was stuffed.

Was the beer dinner worth the car drama? Absolutely! Plus, Hubby and I got to have lunch together the next day when he replaced my battery. So it all worked out in the end.

If you haven't tried the Grange, or whatever the name will be after next weekend (long story, but it will be the same place and ownership with a new name), they're worth a pint and a snack. If you haven't tried them in a couple of years, the "new" chef definitely proved that he knows what he's doing. I look forward to the next time they let him play in the kitchen.

Next pairing dinner: February 24, Grain vs. Grape – 4 courses paired with 4 wines or beers; you can choose either or do a "Kitchen Sink" option with both.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hey Cecilia, It was great sharing a table with you and your husband! Those were some really good beers! I had a hard time choosing a favorite, being torn between the Rouge and the Chocolate Indulgence. Excellent review! :-)