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Monday night I attended the first of a series of beer dinners produced by craft beer distributor Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. to celebrate the creation of the Glunz Beer Culinary Council, a panel of beer and food experts dedicated to pairing beer with fine foods as well as using beer as a culinary ingredient. The inaugural "industry only" event was hosted by council member Mindy Segal at Hot Chocolate and was attended by council members such as Hopleaf's Mike Roper and beer cookbook author Lucy Saunders, as well as a handful of industry and media professionals.
I had the pleasure of being seated next to LTH Forum's Catherine Lambrecht (who had just returned from an "emergency mushroom visitation") and Peter Engler, as well as La Brasserie Unibroue's culinary attache Jim Javenkoski. There was much talk about the recent passing of Scharffen Berger cofounder Robert Steinberg (I shared my memories of growing up a mile away from the Scharffen Berger plant in Berkeley; the local punks always derived great pleasure from salvaging expired chocolate bars from the Dumpsters there and giving them away at shows). I was also given a recommendation on the best place to get an ant egg omelet in Chicago.
We started the evening with an aperitif created for the event--Ayinger hefeweissen, apricot liqueur, Lillet Blanc, and grapefruit extract--and were then served three savory courses and three dessert courses with beer pairings:
-A Nichols Farm heirloom tomato salad, paired with De Regenboog's Smisge Blond
-A brioche tart of mushrooms topped with Hook's Blue Paradise cheese and fried quail egg, paired with Het Anker Gouden Carolus Ambrio
-A meltingly rich pork belly braised in Liefmans Goudenband and paired with same, served with pork fat sourdough rolls
-A tiny vanilla-bean ice cream float in Unibroue Quelque Chose cherry ale, served with shortbread marbled with cherry preserves
-Chocolate and muscovado sugar meringue tart served with caramel and coffee-cocoa nib ice cream, paired with Three Floyd's Moloko Milk Stout
-Buffalo milk ricotta doughnuts served with hot fudge (all I heard was "buffalo" and spent an enthralled moment wondering if we were being served fried chicken with chocolate sauce--I probably would have eaten it anyway)
Each dish seemed more irresistibly decadent than the one that preceded it, or it could be that I was getting progressively drunker. Either way, it was one of the best meals I've had this year.
Of course, I decided to wrap up this evening of exquisite culinary delights by downing a can of Sparks at Ronny's with a friend. When I figure out what gourmet dish best accompanies this caffeinated malt beverage, I'll let you know.