Friday, February 26, 2010

Monk's Café Beer Dinner with The Lost Abbey: 2/23/10

Flashback almost exactly two years. Bad weather, smooth train ride in, early morning flight next day. Wow! How similar the Monk's Beer Dinner this week featuring The Lost Abbey and Tomme Arthur was to the last one almost exactly a year ago. The beers were fairly different, but the gastronomical end result was much the same. In terms of wow experiences at Monk's and its beer dinners, this one ranks right up there. That may surprise you given that I'm not going to give out many awards here in terms of food and beer pairings. But, sometimes it might just not be the most important element of the night. During Tuesday night's dinner, the crowd (filled with many of the Usual Suspects) was humming, the food was delicious, Tomme hit his stride about midway through and was taking questions from the crowd, and the beers were excellent. Funny thing was, I wasn't due to go to this dinner. Part of the reason was an early morning flight the next day that would get me out of bed at 4:30am for a connecting flight to Omaha, Nebraska. But, then, some seats opened up and Jodi called to ask if I was interested. Mrs. Brew Lounge had just asked the day before why we were not going...considering she's a fan of the beers herself, the fact that we were not scheduled to go was at least a bit disappointing. So, my answer to Jodi became, I suppose, a no-brainer. At least it seemed like a no-brainer until we got home at 11:30pm and I still needed to pack a bag for the next morning's flight. Anyway, you didn't come here looking for travel least not in this posting. Seated at the bar, we had to keep a careful watch on our backs, given that a certain mischievous retail beer distributor was seated behind us. The two of us were seated at the bar in between two fun groups of people. To the right, a couple of pilots on 24 hour furlough in Philly. Chuck and Judd if I recall their names correctly. One of whom was very interested in the beer, particularly the Angel's Share and the other who just could barely care less about the beer or the food. But, he was still a kick in the pants to hang out with and hear of his wild stories. To our left a couple of locals, Aaron and Veronica if memory serves correctly, who were as in to the tastes, the sights, and the sounds as we were. Had a conversation with Aaron that left me at least one step closer to buying a newer and better camera. Many of you would probably agree that this decision is way overdue! With some new friends made, let's get around to the spectacular food and beer that Eddie was serving up to us from behind the bar. I began with a Cantillon Gueuze to awaken my palate. Funny, because the Amuse Bouche course and Red Poppy, that really wasn't necessary; they would have done the job on their own. Though, I kept the Gueuze around until three hours later after dinner and it was just as good to finish the evening's festivities with...I was even thinking it was better than when it was first poured! So here's the thing. I mentioned earlier that I didn't come up with a bunch of clear-cut pairing winners in this dinner. That's fine. Because in this case, when the food is right and the beers are right, they don't always need to be perfect together to make for a memorable evening. But, what were the winners? The winners were big-time winners, like... Ten Commandments with Osso Bucco. Osso Bucco, when done right with a good cut of meat, is one of my favorite carnivore plates. The tender meat, braised and simmered for hours in broth and vegetables was a perfect match for the big Ten Commandments beer, filled likewise with many big flavors like of raisins and chocolate. As is my practice at these such dinners, I hold on to at least a couple of swallows of each beer for each subsequent course to see if I can find a better pairing on my own during the remainder of the dinner. I held on to the Ten Commandments purposefully thinking it would go great with the chocolate dessert. It did, in fact, go pretty well. But, one interesting note came out. During Tomme's description of the Ten Commandments, he mentioned the addition of rosemary to the brewing process. I didn't recall that this had been done in previous batches and really couldn't detect it while drinking it alongside the Osso Bucco. But, with the chocolate cake? Boom, goes the rosemary! okay, maybe not Boom!, but definitely noticeable. Then, the pairing to end all pairings (echoed across the room elsewhere...and when I say echo, I mean that people were in agreement...not referring to Guyer's voice echoing...but, that is yet another note for another day) was the Stilton cheese and Angel's Share beer. For crying out loud, if you don't yet understand how beer and cheese can be such an otherworldly combination compared to wine and cheese, then get thyself in front of some strong beer and strong cheese. Though, come to think of it, you likely wouldn't be here reading this if you didn't already have some inkling on this topic. The creaminess, the pungency of the Stilton....the strength, the brandy sweetness, the smoothness of this expensive beer was a match made in heaven...or wherever Lost Abbey beer is inspired by and made. An honorable mention goes to the GABF award-winning Carnevale, the dry-hoppped saison that undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle and the salmon tartare served with caviar and crème fraîche. The bottles poured for us came from the same bottled batch that was sent to Denver last year and is seasonally made to be released right around the Lenten Season of the Christian calendar each year. The most well-decorated beer of the Tomme Arthur family is the Cuvee de Tomme. While I didn't think that the dessert pairing worked out all that well, it's worth noting the presence of this beer because, well, just because this beer is just so good and deserved of its 5 GABFs, 2 WBCs, and 3 USBTCs. The floodgates were opened to the general public and it wasn't long before we were whisked out the door into the night for our train ride home. Of course, it meant meeting up with some other dinnergoers at 30th Street Station and having that One Last Once More at Bridgewater's Pub (the country's best train station beer bar). Did you think that my run-in with Belgian beers for the week might end once I got to Omaha, Nebraska? Then, you might not know about the Midwest brewing wonder that is Upstream Brewing Company in the Old Market neighborhood of downtown Omaha. I met them a couple of years back at GABF and was excited to check them out on their home turf. More to come next week... Amuse Bouche Lost Abbey Red Poppy ~with Smoked Duck Pate First Course Lost Abbey Carnevale ~with Salmon Tartare, crème fraîche, and caviar Second Course Lost Abbey Framboise ~with Stuffed Quail, merguez from D'Angelo's, wild rice, and barley Third Course Lost Abbey Lost & Found and Lost Abbey Ten Commandments ~with Osso Bucco and potato ravioli and glazed baby carrots Fourth Course Lost Abbey Veritas 007 and Lost Abbey Angel's Share Grand Cru ~with Forsterkase (Swiss) and Colston Bassett Stilton (English) Fifth Course Lost Abbey Cuvee de Tomme ~with Molten Chocolate Cake and cherry sauce

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