If you weren’t able to make it out to Sunspot last night for their European Beer Dinner, you missed quite a culinary experience. Seriously though, it was a Monday night, what else did you have to do? I had been warned that the food may very well outshine the beer and last night, it was a very close call. The food was exceptional and the beer, well, let’s just say I we had a good time. Fellow KnoxBeerSnob Don joined me as well for what we labeled a “man date” so that our wives would laugh a little when we asked for clearance to attend. IT WORKED!
For those who may not know, the way this works is that you make a reservation and $45 a head gets you FIVE courses paired with FIVE brews. Now, the pours aren’t a full pint but it’s pretty close to it and they do a good job of asking if you’d like more of any particular brew. They also supply a menu as well as a list of the brews showing why the chef (Brandon in this case; genius) chose the pairing and what to look for. As far as I’m concerned, $45 is a deal for this kind of fare. To give you an idea of what it was like, here ya go:
Round 1: Belhaven Scottish Ale paired with salmon, sherried apples, lump crab salad and oat cake. Verdict: awesome start. First time with this beer and while it wasn’t my favorite of the evening, it was very good. What was also interesting was to taste the beer prior to the food and then with it as the vanilla and caramel tones of the beer really came through.
Round 2: Rodenbach, which is a Flanders Red Ale paired with smoked duck with cherry and barley risotto, grilled shiitake and oyster mushroom raguout. Verdict: holy cow. This is a sour beer. Neither myself nor my hairy date care for sours all that much but wow, this is a great beer and it paired well with the duck.
Round 3: Ayinger Ur Weisse (Dunkelweizen) paired with veal schnitzel, lemongrass spaetzel, carrot butter, tuna nicoise tartare. Verdict: SLAP YO MAMMA! This was probably my favorite pairing. I don’t drink Dunkelweizen that often as it isn’t my favorite style but it’s fun to say. Pairing it with veal though – wow. Makes me want to visit Germany and eat myself silly as I travel the countryside.
Round 4: Young’s Double Chocolate Stout paired with coffee spiced flank steak, corn souffle, red mole and cilantro spiced papa fritas. Verdict: while the veal may have been my favorite pairing, this one would get an award for the most creative. Don and I regularly use chocolate stouts as dessert beers. They make great beer floats and are often a great way to get someone to try darker brews. I am very familiar with Young’s as I often picked it up in North Carolina before we could get it here in fabulous Knox-vegas. Pairing it with red meat though? Genius. The sweetness of the beer paired very well with the spiciness of the flank steak and while I was ridiculously full I was a full on glutton in my desire for seconds of this round.
Round 5: Strawberry Fruli paired with summer berry trifle with honey lavender goat cheese, balsamic figs and candied orange. Verdict: nice end to a great evening. I’m no stranger to this beer – it reminds me of strawberry soda and I’ve often recommended it to guys who are trying to get their ladies into beer. It is a nice summer beer though and with this dish, very nice.
If you’ve read this far and are lamenting your terrible decision to not attend last night, fret no more. The next dinner will be on August 27th – more details to follow but I hear the theme will be something along the lines of the pioneers of craft beer.
To the staff of Sunspot, excellent job and thanks. Cheers!