The Chopping Block is celebrating Chicago Craft Beer Week with different beer-focused classes, including last Friday’s “He Said, She Said: Food & Beer Pairing Dinner”. The evening featured five courses demonstrated by Chef Mario Scordato, while his wife, Stephanie, a certified Cicerone, poured and discussed five expertly aligned brews.
As someone lucky enough to get one of the last seats, it was the perfect way to start #CCBW and I learned an interesting fact, with which wine people will probably disagree. Beer pairs better with food than wine (gasp). I know, but it’s true.
Take a minute and let that sink in… don’t worry, I’ll wait.
Beer can complement or contrast and even prepare your tongue for a brand new bite each time thanks to carbonation. When is the last time a big, bold Bordeaux gave your taster a scrubbing between each mouthful?
All that remains from that delicious meal is a recipe packet with a few giddy notes about how “I must go to Penrose immediately” and “Tonnato is the greatest thing I have never tasted”. So needless to say, pictures were not happening as the dishes rolled out. I was more interested in being in the moment with exceptionally balanced food and beer.
Here’s the menu with the pairings:
I would be happy to discuss further with anyone who has questions… that’s what the comment section is for.
Sweet Pea and Pecorino Crostini – Penrose P2
- Fresh taste of spring that complimented the fresh, slightly tart flavors of the P2 (which was fresh from the tap and served out of a Growler).
Ricotta Gnocchi with Leeks, Fried Lemon & Fava Beans – Metropolitan Krankshaft Kolsch
- The crisp, clean citrus notes in the Kolsch enhanced the seasonal flavors of this dish. The beer emphasized the lemon while reinforcing the light, fluffy nature of the ricotta “pillows” as Chef Mario called them.
Pork Tenderloin with Arugula Salad and Tonnato Dressing – Solemn Oath Whisper Kisses
- “Whisper Kisses” has a great/creepy origin story for the name and I will leave it at that. Tonnato sauce can be seen in a similar light. However, both when tried are outstanding, and I would recommend giving each their fair shot if you ever have the chance to indulge in either.
Herb-Crusted Lamb Chops with Crispy Artichokes & Wild Mushrooms – Two Brothers Cane & Ebel
- The lamb was rich, earthy and comforting, and begging for the roasted, malty flavor of the Cane & Ebel, which is a hoppy rye beer. The meaty flavors of the lamb and mushrooms were complimented by the rye, while the hops cut nicely through the fat and added a slightly grassy, herbal note which refreshed the palate.
Profiteroles with Espresso Chocolate Sauce – Finch Secret Stache, Milk Stout
- Stouts and Porters typically pair well with desserts and this was a great example of this concept. The Chocolate in the dessert seems to draw out the chocolate, vanilla and toffee flavors in the beer.
The first time I attempted beer pairings for a group was my wedding last month, and was shocked by the positive feedback about the combinations. Especially when it comes to the craft beer uninitiated, the idea that beer could pair with food was akin to the discovery of fire many, many years ago.
Whole Roasted Pig – Freehouse Battery Brown Ale
Boiled Peanut Falafel – Westbrook IPA
Lowcountry Boil – Holy City Pilsner
The biggest takeaway I got from these pairing adventures is that beer and food belong together, and I would be happy to create a custom beer experience for you. As a planner of private events and armed with the knowledge of great local craft beers in Chicago, I can make this happen for any adventurous soul who wants to be buds with tasty food and suds!