Wine enthusiasts and chefs have been feeding us the same old stodgy menu for centuries: reds with the meat and whites with the fish. Brewers and chefs, however, have only just met in the culinary sense, and, with the vast variety of colors and flavors in the microbrew scene, it's shaping up to be a very exciting relationship.
At Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol, executive chef Lynn McCarthy is exploring the realm of brew-to-food pairing with a series of twice-monthly five-course beer dinners. Two such events have already been held in the last month, featuring New Belgium Brewing Company in late August and the Russian River Brewing Company in early September. The latter, says McCarthy, was a tough menu to create, given the oddly sour Belgian-style ales of Russian River—but that, she says, is the fun of working with craft beer.
"In our area, with all the craft breweries we have, there are a lot of flavors that aren't even in the books yet—anywhere—and it makes creating a menu to match them really interesting," she says.
McCarthy is currently prepping for the next beer dinner, featuring Lagunitas Brewing Company on Tuesday, Sept. 23. McCarthy takes one of two approaches when designing dishes to accompany a beer; she either makes a dish to harmonize with the beer's most prominent flavor or she makes one to complement it. For example, the Lagunitas dessert course will feature the Cappuccino Stout and a coffee crème brûlée with candied hazelnuts, a complementary relationship if every there were one. On the other hand, the entrée course, starring three vertical vintages of the super-strong Brown Shugga, will offer a spicy chicken-sausage-duck paella to cut through the relatively sweet beer—a harmonizing match.
McCarthy promises that the gathering will be just as sophisticated as any wine dinner, minus the fluff—and with a lot less stemware.
Chef McCarthy's Brewmaster Dinners are held every other Tuesday at at Hopmonk Tavern, 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 6:30pm. $45 per person. 707.829.7300.
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