I know I write a lot about the wine I pick to go with dinner. At this dinner, I learned that beer can actually pair with food just as well, if not better than wine. John Hufnagel, the chef of Ten Ten combined with Jason Hulse, certified cicerone and Yard’s sales representative for the are put together a brilliant 5 course dinner with beer pairings. The beers are selected specifically around the way it enhances the meal: complement, contrast and/or cut flavors of the food.
We started with surprise complementary appetizer; a single bite of fresh heirloom, basil and house made ricotta. I definitely tasted the chopped walnuts which gave the nibble a nutty finish. It definitely set me up for wanting to try the tomato tasting menu at their sister restaurant Fleet Street Kitchen.
Let me get to the pairings. First course was Yards Love Stout, a nitrogen cask style stout and Baked Bay Oysters; local old black salt oysters that are farm raised in the Chincoteague Bay. I asked lots of questions and Tim Riley had all the answers. These are small oysters are grown to be quite salty, but with a sweet finish. The Chef was certainly inspired when he created the yards love stout sabayon which rounded out the bacon, cabbage flavors. The oysters was my favorite dish of the night.
Next, we had the Saison and Beer and Cheddar Soup. The soup was a thin cheddar broth made with the yards beer. Saisons are made with Belgium yeast and this one is perfect – delicately sweet and subtly spicy. I was worried about the fruity notes, then I realized we were pairing with cheese… I loved this pairing the most; with each bringing out new flavors in the other. I was also amazed at the cheese curds at the bottom of the bowl – they were melty and soft, but still kept their integrity in the warm liquid. That is science at its best folks. The soup was topped with house made soft pretzel croutons, paying homage to Yards Philadelphia home. Very classy and very well done.
The food kept coming and so did the beer. Our next course was the Yards Thomas Jefferson Tavern Ale and a medium rare skirt steak from Creekstone Farms that was also marinated in the hoppy table ale. The steak came with caramelized onions on top of a small bed of lettuce and little of that panzanella – that yummy crusty bread. My favorite part was the gruyere cream – rounding out the flavors with a little creamy tanginess.
I was already starting to get full and then they dropped off the pork belly. Look at the size of that portion. The pork belly comes from their own Cunningham Farms, and was roasted to perfection and served with a pickled carrots and daikon radish. I really liked the chili-caramel glaze and the combo basil and cilantro garnish. The culinary team matched this with Yards India Pale Ale. This is the first glass of IPA that I have actually finished. The beer was quite balanced and because they add the hops late in the brewing process, they do not overwhelm the rest of the bold citrusy flavors. This was not my favorite pairing. I thought that the pork belly went great with the beer, but I didn’t like the pickled salad with the beer at all. However, one of the other other attendees couldn’t have disagreed more; we clearly have different palates.
I didn’t think I could eat or drink anything else – but then came the doughnuts. I don’t know how many times I can write about fried dough, but each time I am surprised and in love with the deliciousness. Three blueberry cake like dough fried to a slightly crunchy golden brown. The star of this show, however, was the malted vanilla ice cream – which was better than any malted milkshake I ever had. This was coupled with their Brawler Puglist Style Ale. I didn’t like this beer. It was far to sweet and wine like for me – missing the “cuting” or “contrasting” part of the pairing. The caramel flavors in the beer were supposed to complement the sweetness in the dessert. Jason said it was designed for folks to be able to “go a few rounds”; I’d rather have a few rounds of those doughnuts.