Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Recap of Soup Spoon & Vine and Brew's Rare Beer Dinner

Written by  Ryan Ranspach
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Recap of Soup Spoon & Vine and Brew Rare Beer Dinner

We were privileged to receive an invite to the first ever collaborative beer dinner put on by The Soup Spoon Cafe in Lansing and Vine and Brew, the specialty wine, beer, and food shop in Okemos. The theme of the dinner was "rare beers", focusing on those pricey, hard to come by limited release beers that have become more and more popular as enthusiasm for craft beer has grown. Typically, these beers have very unique and interesting flavors derived from specific spices, fruits, or aging processes, so they lend the opportunity for some great pairings with food.
On the night of the dinner, we were greeted by the Spoon's friendly staff with a pre-dinner pint of Founder's Pale Ale, a perfect way to start any night. Nick, the owner of Soup Spoon and Curt, owner of Vine and Brew, gave a few words of thanks and welcome and we were off and running with an appetizer of spicy grilled edamame beans. After this tasty starter course and session beer, we were ready for some rare beer and delicious main courses.
Course #1
Seared Scallop with Pancetta

The first course was a seared scallop with pancetta, "roaring 40's" bleu cheese, smoked pear, and strawberry puree served with the Flamboyant Wild Red Ale by Ann Arbor's own Arbor Brewing Company. The beer is a strong, Belgian sour red ale with heavy forward notes of fruit and spice. The high carbonation works well with the acidity and creates a nice balance at the finish. The way it paired with the fruits, bitter saltiness of the cheese, and gentleness of the scallop was just perfect. We really enjoyed this dish and thought it was a great way to come out of the gate swinging--lots of big flavors with a very unique beer. Tremendous first course, and arguably the best complete pairing of the night.

Course #2

Foie Gras with a Cornmeal Pancake

The second course was Foie Gras with a cornmeal pancake, maple-balsamic gastrique and viognier soaked golden raisin served with the Noble Rot by the Delaware brewery, Dogfish Head. This beer definitely falls under the "mad scientist" variety as it is a blend of two different kinds of wine-grape juices brewed with pils and wheat malts. This gives it a champagne type flavor with the body of a classic European style pilsner; one of Dogfish Head's brewers called it "the absolute closest to equal meshing of the wine world and the beer world that's ever been done commercially." Paired with the food course, it was outstanding and I told Curt after dinner that it made me think of a very decadent brunch. The champagne-ness of the beer with the richness of the foie gras,  sweetness in the balsamic glaze, and chewy golden raisins all married very well together. This was a great way to dip one's toes in the magical world of foie gras, and with a great & unique beer.

Course #3

Puff Pastry with Brie and Ricotta, Pecorino, Gruyere

The third course was a Puff Pastry with brie and ricotta, pecorino, gruyere and fresh cranberry-port chutney served with the extremely rare Maui Sobrehumano Palena'ole by Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter, Michigan. This beer was another high alcohol, sour Belgian ale with heavy fruit notes and a high acidity. What set this beer apart from Arbor's was a strong, lactic, fermented acidity that almost tastes of rotten apples rather than a straight, clean and bitter acidity. Somehow, Jolly Pumpkin makes this work in their beers and they are all very unique and delicious (though perhaps an acquired taste), and this one was no different. We felt it paired well with the tartness of the cranberry port chutney served in abundance over the brie and ricotta pastry. Solid dish.

Course #4

Lamb Chops with Spicy Berbere African Barbecue Sauce Sweet Potato Puree and Fried Leeks

The fourth dish was the big swinger of the night. It was Lamb Chops with spicy berbere, African barbecue sauce, sweet potato puree and fried leeks served with the 10th Anniversary Ruination by Stone Brewing Co. of San Diego. This beer is an enhanced version of their renowned Ruination IPA--for their 10th anniversary, they upped the alcohol content from 7.7% to 10.8% and doubled the amount hops used in the brewing process. It is a big and hoppy IPA and did well with the delicious (and I mean delicious) lamb chops which were cooked to a perfect rare to medium-rare. The barbecue sauce with the fried leeks and sweet potatoes made this dish worth the price of admission on its own. Just outstanding, and hats off to the chefs for cooking that many lamb chops so evenly and perfectly.

Course #5

Chocolate Bourbon Truffle with Macadamia Nut, Bacon, Coffee Foam and Pretzel

The final dish was the Spoon's award winning Chocolate-Bourbon Truffle with macadamia nut, bacon, coffee foam and pretzel served with the iconic, "highly acclaimed", widely sought after Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) by Founder's Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids. This is an imperial stout that is cave-aged in bourbon barrels and comes in at 11.2% ABV. Man's Game. The Spoon's decadent truffle, shaped like a little mug of coffee, was as rich as it was delicious and fitting for the end of a dinner of this magnitude and girth. The nuts, bacon, pretzel, and coffee foam was simply perfect with the huge beer. No-brainer here. Great job.

Again, we were thrilled and honored to be a part of this event. Kurt and Nick have rocking two of the most exciting, locally oriented food and drink businesses in the area and have been huge advocates of promoting Michigan beer and helping us grow the Beerhound brand. We look forward to their continued success and to more of these joint ventures in the future!