Thursday, September 03, 2009

Jamaican Food & We Tastin’ Craft Beer (Mon) at Philly Kitchen Share: 9/2/09

I knew I'd heard of Philly Kitchen Share somewhere before and I've definitely heard of Rolling Barrel Events. But, until last night, I hadn't experienced anything from either of them. Thanks to an invitation from Corey Krejcik (a founding father of RBE), I found myself on a train into Philly and continuing on to a pleasant walk over to 15th and South Streets on yet another in a string of beautiful evenings that we've been experiencing of late. Of course, with a little extra time padded into my schedule, I felt the need to meander by Monk's, looking forward to a dinner there next Tuesday (or up at Belgian Cafe, depending upon the status of the building after last week's tragedy). Then, a block over to Jose Pistolas for a quick one. The 'one' turned out to be Flower Power IPA from Ithaca, though in hindsight perhaps it could have or should have been Allagash's Confluence. Did I really think I'd return after the dinner at Philly Kitchen Share? After a chance encounter with The Beer Lass, who had just left the weigh-in at Nodding Head, I moved on to South Street. Speaking of Ms. Woods, has anyone ever spotted her sleeping? I'm just asking because wasn't it just the other day that she was hop-scotching (sort of a pun?) around Michigan? Turns out, she'd just driven back and was already back into the Philly Beer Scene (the actual Scene, not the magazine). There's not many people that you need to get up before in order to get a jump on the Scene...she's one of 'em. Anyways, what was this all about? Oh yeah, Local Beer...Local Food (via Jamaica via New Jersey and across the Ben Franklin Bridge). Chef Janet Davis of Scotch Bonnets in New Jersey was preparing a 4-course meal and tutoring the attendees along the way. Just the name, Scotch Bonnets, was enough to make my mouth water and make my decision to attend even easier. The beer? Well the beer added the extra incentive, but of course you already knew that. Emily Pollack, half of the husband-wife team at PKS, and Corey Krejcik (Rolling Barrel) kicked things off introducing the concept of the Kitchen and the objectives of the evening. They turned things over then to Chef Janet Davis who jumped right into the first course. As Chef Janet was guiding us through the preparation of the Tropical Salad, made with typical salad greens and Lemon Juice, Orange Juice, Olive Oil, salt, and avocado, Corey discussed the pairing with PBC's Kenzinger. Not one of my favorite beers (and I know that I tend to be in the minority with that statement, just my personal taste talking) but it did work nice and cleanly with the salad, not allowing it to overpower the tropically citrus flavors of the salad. Could have a saison, a wheat, or a lambic worked better? Perhaps, but still not a bad pairing. If I had any quarrel with the first course, things only got better from there. Prima Pils from Victory is such a great beer on its own; pairing it with food can really enhance it. In this case, it was salt-cured cod formed, with paprika, scallions, and other things I didn't keep up with ear to pen to paper, into lightly floured codfish cakes. These tender delights were straight out of the feeding of fish and that I lost count around 3 or 4 of these that I had, as the Chef's rations went farther than expected. I'm sure you know that I wasn't about to complain! The saltiness and gentle spicing from the paprika played nicely against the spicy hops in the Prima Pils. Oh, did you ask how many people were there? I recall hearing somewhere around 16 or 18 is the maximum for one of these events; there was just over half in attendance for this holiday week event. Not bad, given the timing, I figured. I am not a bum, I'm a jerk. What Jamaican meal would be complete without some requisite jerk this case, on the chicken? And in this case the dish and its beer pairing tied for the best pairing of my evening's dining experience. The subtle sweetness in the jerk seasoning and the malty sweetness in the beer played nicely with each other while at the same time alternatingly against pepper heat from the jerk seasoning and the bright hops in this reborn Philadelphia Pale Ale from Yards. Rice and beans soaked in coconut milk on the side made for the perfect accompaniment. Winner, winner...yeah, you know. Then there was sweet dessert, yes sweetness...punctuated by rum and beer. I often say that if you don't do chocolate in a beer pairing dinner's dessert course, you better make sure you hit a home run. Well, how do raisins soaked in Jamaican white rum and combined with powdered ginger sound? And give them a little a la mode treatment and, yeah, it was like that. But wait, how about an organic Brown Ale from Appalachian? Now you've got the wow factor working. Something in the raisins was really helping to bring out the roasty goodness of the brown ale. This shows that I'm a little behind in my Appalachian studies, but I hadn't realized that they had a Pennsylvania-certified organic beer on the market. This course, if you couldn't tell tied atop my list of pairings for the night along with the chicken course. This event did not leave much room for improvement. The handoffs between promoter, proprietor, and chef were seamless and it was evident that some thought went into the pairings and preparation. It was a nice touch to have the beers laid out on a tastefully printed menu. I'd like to think that the food items would have been printed up and described as well, but yet just another minor point. And even with the dustup over at earlier today, I don't mind saying that it was clear from this event that Rolling Barrel events deserve to be on a beer lover's radar. And, Philly Kitchen Share, though I haven't said a whole lot here about this shared use commercial kitchen, has a calendar that you should keep an eye on as well. Some classes are more hands-on than others; all sound well worth checking out.

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