Monday, 2 September 2013
August Beer Dinner at The Crest Gastropub
Barely a connoisseur of wine, I was both intrigued by--and eager to learn from--the proposition of a beer dinner. The dinner, my notes from which I'd like to share below, was prepared at the transparent and philosophically- and intellectually-charged Clintonville staple The Crest Gastropub. Rooted and inspired by the triple bottom line of sustainability ("environmental, economic, social," also defined as "people, planet, profit", ), which I also included in my initial review of The Crest, the entire team continues to gradually teach the general public about this approach to cooking, eating, and business management, without complicating the menu or throwing it in their faces. This third beer dinner, paired with beers brewed locally by Seventh Son Brewing Co., was another perfect example of how we can all do our best as we strive for the sustainable, and certainly tasty, ideal.
Joined at the last minute by Zach, co-leader with me of the OSU chapter of Slow Food on Campus, Abed and Sean, our first course came in the form of foie gras with a granny Smith apple jam. The foie gras was lusciously smooth and elevated even more so by the sweetness of the jam, with a textural contrast coming from the toasted baguette and a slight peppery bite from the radish sprouts from Swainway Urban Farm.
This course was paired with the rather eponymous Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, an American strong ale, which had a crisp finish and strength to match the richness of the foie gras. As explained by drink pairer Braden, and as noted on Seventh Son's website, this particular beer contains the aroma and character of grapefruit and strone fruit. The bitterness of the former paired not only with the foie gras but also matched the profile of the radish sprouts.
For round 2, we were served sustainable Lake Erie flash fried smelt, which stood in a glass filled with an amazing lemon black pepper aioli. Paired with Seventh Son's Summer Farmhouse Ale, this was a playful (but at the start difficult to eat, in terms of getting at the aioli) dish resembling an adult version of French fries. Wouldn't it be great to see this combo being served at a stadium of any kind? Here, and with Braden's guidance, the protein base matched with the deeper saison flavour and the pepper the saison yeast, while the lemon of the aioli was set up to cleanse the palate with each bite. Carrying on the inherent northern French southern Belgian theme, diced cornichons added both acidity and a crunch that one might otherwise expect to have come from the smelt.
Perhaps the most sustainably-focused (or at least evident) dish of the entire menu was our third course: a rooftop heirloom tomato salad (as in literally, from The Crest's rooftop garden), with feta cheese from Northwest Ohio's Lucky Penny Farm Creamery, and Mexican oregano. Full of vibrancy in both colour and taste, the acidity of the tomatoes that I typically turn away from was absent and replaced by a refreshingly non-agressive character. And what little acidity did remain helped cut through the Himulus Nimbus Super Pale Ale, making this one of the clearest pairings where the food took precedence. The tomatoes took on a meaty quality to them, the oregano brought in a burst of flavour, and the feta provided a great creaminess and salt content that, with the simple red wine vinaigrette, pulled everything together. This being said, my one critique for this dish is directed at the last-minute addition of the fried parsley garnish, which seemed to have lost all sense of freshness from being fried. Despite its aesthetic value, its functional value seemed to be nil, as the parsley ended up not being crisp, or at least crisp enough, to add any textural difference; in terms of flavour, it strangely took on an almost seaweed like taste. As for the beer itself, we were told that it was the hoppiest and most floral of the ones featured on the evening's menu, and had a distinguishly lighter weight and taste to it.
For our fourth course, we were presented with a truly memorable dish of shiso miso pesto linguine, with Stone Rabbit Hoppy Brown steamed mussels, the broth of which was the star and the mussels of which were plentiful. In harmony with the peppery/cinnamony profile of the shiso from The Crest's garden boxes, the broth brought together Asiatic flavours of ginger, lemon grass and coconut milk, making this a complexely light base for the dish. My only complaint of the entire meal was that we didn't have any bread to sop up all of that deliciousness. (Though, Zach managed to find away to get it all.) In terms of technical execution, I'll note here that the rest of the dish was so good that it made up for the fact that the linguine was cooked on the gummier side. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we were served Stone Rabbit Hoppy Brown, an American brown ale, with this course, which had a fuller body and smooth finish, with bitter undertones, the whole of which left a lasting impression on the palate.
To conclude the meal, we were presented with roasted Ohio Amish peaches, draped in dark chocolate and toasted coconut, all of which sat on an amazing, buttery line of graham cracker. Reminiscent of peach cobbler (well, a lighter version thereof), the symphony and diversity of flavours, heat levels and textures were all noteworthy. Paired with a Russian Imperial Stout, however, this final course was perhaps the most off pairing, as the deep, oaky flavour of the stout seemed to be too strong for the much more delicate items on the plate. That said, a few sips were no match to the final taste of the food itself, nor did it take away from the overall ambiance and enjoyment of this dinner.
In closing, I would like to thank The Crest, especially Chef Dustin and Abed, for their invitation to the dinner, and mutual support for my work. Kudos to the entire kitchen and wait staff, as well as the folks of Seventh Son, for a wonderful Columbus gastronomic experience. For these, and additional photos from my first foodie weekend back in Columbus, click here.