If you follow me on twitter you know that last Saturday I was at the Gingerman's Belgian Beer tasting. I have to say I went to this tasting extremely excited, but at the same time unsure of what to expect. On one hand I knew that Gingerman would have a great selection of Belgian beer's available for tasting. On the other hand, this was a Belgian beer and FOOD tasting, and for anyone that's been to Gingerman, you know they don't have much food available beyond cheese, some chips, and a meat plate. So what kind of food was it going to be? And how is this Michael O'Connor the chef that was going to cook the food? And how was he going to cook it?
Well you'll be happy to know the event was amazing. The food was for the most part excellent, the chef O'Connor is the chef at the Houston Country club (you can also follow him on twitter), and also surprisingly elegantly plated. There were a total of 8 courses, each paired with a small sample of beer and a small plate of food.
Course 1: Chimay White paired with Chimay Cheese and beer soup w/ sausage: This may be been my favorite dish over all. Chimay White is a Triple that weighs in at 8.0% and has flavors of oranges, floral perfumey hops, spicy cloves, honey, along with some bready and yeasty notes. The soup was served in a tall shot glass, the sausage was Italian from Central Market. The soup was creamy with just a bit of spice from the sausage, and small bits of onions and carrots that added a nice texture. The Chimay really paired well with it, marrying the flavors in the beer and soup, also cutting through the fat in the soup since the beer is so effervescent it wiped the fat off the tongue. The fruitiness of the beer also was a great match for the slight spiciness of the sausage.
Course 2: Stella Artois paired with Sezchuan Peppercorn Shrimp:
From one of my favorite dishes to my least favorite. The plate came out and looked very nice, with two shrimp covered in a light sauce with some peppers. Stella of course is the ubiquitous Belgian Lager. Initially I thought this would be good pairing the crispness of the Stella against the spiciness of the shrimp. Unfortunately the shrimp were cold by the time they were served and there was very little if any spice to the dish. It was a nice pairing from a shell fish standpoint, but I was really hoping for more.
Course 3: Houblon Chouffe paired with Black Eyed Pea Cake w/ smoked trout and IPA mousse:
Does the title alone get you excited? Houblon Chouffe is an IPA Tripel with flavors of pineapple oranges, spice, fruity esters, and bananas. The dish came out with the Blacked eye cake (looking for all the world like a little crab cake) topped with the salmon IPA mousse. Again this was a really solid pairing, my only issue was that I didn't get much of the IPA in the mousse. The smokiness of the black eye peas worked well against the fruitiness and spiciness of the beer, and at the same time, the IPA didn't overshadow the salmon. It was really a nice almost perfect pairing.
Course 4: Hoegaarden paired with beer steamed thai mussels: Ah yes the classic Belgian pairing, mussels steamed in beer paired with a Hoegaarden. Of course the there is a Thai twist here. Hoegaarden is THE wit and weighs in at a light 4.9%. The mussels were served two to a square shaped bowl with a slice of bread sitting in a rich brown Thai sauce. This was another really great pairing. Of course the mussels and beer paired well together but the surprise here was how the wit stood up to the spiciness of the Thai broth (a broth by the way that was sopped up by the bread and any leftovers were drank. I wish I could bottle it!).
Course 5: Maredsous 8 paired with a honey mustard marinated pork loin w/ Maredsous 8 sauce:
Again doesn't just the name of the dish get you excited? Maredsous is a dubbel that weighs in at 8%. It has flavors of caramel, raisins, toffee, and chocolate. The dish came out on a small plate with 4 slices of the loin with the sauce drizzled over them. Again the sauce here was amazing and I think you could actually taste the richness of the Maredsous. The pork was a little dry, but having it with the beer really brought out the flavors with the sauce marrying everything together, really enriching the dish flavor wise.
Course 6: St. Bernardus ABT. 12 with beef short ribs carbonade:
This beer is a Quadrupel that weighs in at 10.5%. This is your big cab to go with beef. There are flavors of raisins, figs, licorice, brown sugar, and a slight alcohol burn. The short rib was served simple with a side of potatoes. Again the slight effervescence of this beer cut through the fat of the short ribs, opening up the flavors of the beef bringing the dish together. Really nice pairing.
Now on to our two desert courses.
Course 7: Kasteel Rouge with Chocolate Truffles: Kasteel Rouge is new to the Texas market. Its a top fermented cherry beer and weighs in at 8%. There are flavors of honey, cherry, Cinnamon, with very low carbonation. The chocolates are served two to a place, one lime chocolate the other just chocolate. The Kasteel paired amazing well with the regular truffle. The slight sourness of the beer feeding off the rich dark chocolate. I thought the lime Chocolate was a little off putting.
Course 8: Lindemans Framboise paired with raspberry topped pound cake with Framboise Foam:
I think every knows of this beer, even if like me they had never had it. The beer pours a bright rose color and weighs in at a light 4%. Sour raspberries is the flavor here. The cake came out on a small plate topped with the raspberries and then the nicely pink tinted Framboise foam. This was a pairing made in heaven. Everything really worked and fed off of each other. I'm not a huge lambic fan but this was a really nice pairing.
Overall I thought Gingerman's hit a home run on this tasting. It was there first time to do something like this and there plans are to do one once a quarter with the next one being in July. There were about 14 or 15 people participating and everyone that reserved showed up even with the horrible weather. It was a really fun time, the people all talked to eachother about the dishes, and someone even brought along some extra beer to share with everyone which was quite a treat (the beers were a 2004 Chimay Reserve and a 2003 Cantillion).
Joe from Gingerman gave a little back ground on each beer a little history, and was a very gracious host. A knowledgeable way to spend a wonderful afternoon. If you get the chance to go to the one in July I would highly encourage it. The topic will be Beer Vs. Wine.