June 25, 2012

Green Dirt Farm/Beer Kitchen Beer Dinner

Sunday night, Beer Kitchen hosted a five-course beer dinner, featuring foods from Green Dirt Farm - four dishes their cheese, and one with lamb.

This might get a little long-winded, so if you'd just like the short version, here it is - spoiler alert - it was excellent.  The pairing for each course was spot-on, balancing. Green Dirt Farm's owner/farmer Jacqueline Smith and McCoy's brewmaster Keith Thompson did a fantastic job explaining the food and beer, respectively, and were happy to answer any and all questions that came their way. And chef Michael Peterson outdid himself. The food was magnificent. Overall, a fun, educational, and delicious night.

Jacqueline Smith
Keith Thompson

Now, for the long version. . .

Green Dirt Farm is a sheep dairy farm, located northwest of Kansas City, in Weston, Missouri, one of about 130 sheep dairies in the country, and the only one in Missouri. At the dinner, I learned they're a farmstead - meaning they produce cheese from the milk that is produced directly on their farm. They don't buy their milk from any other source. Out of the 130 sheep dairy farms in the country, only 15-20 (if that) are farmsteads. Pretty great to have one here. They do offer tours of the farm, and sell their products at various spots around the metro - Better Cheddar, Whole Foods, and some farmers' markets. They also have "Farm Table Dinners," a series of dinners featuring their sheep's milk cheese and grass-fed lamb, as well as other local ingredients, but you have to act quickly when the tickets go on sale for the dinners each Earth Day; they sell out quickly. That made this dinner at Beer Kitchen an extra special treat!

For me, there are only two things that can enhance the perfect beer and food match - great company, and the right music. My tablemates for the night couldn't be topped (a perk, sitting with Keith and Jacquie and their plus-ones). And though the music sometimes took a backseat to wonderful conversation, when I noticed it, it fit so well (it was a Pandora station, not any set playlist, which made it all the more impressive to me). So please indulge me as I include a few tunes to help set the scene for the night. I'll do it in the least-invasive way I can, hopefully in a way that you can ignore if you so choose. And I promise, all of these songs came on throughout the night, during the courses where I'm putting them.

First Course

Beer: Hirter Morchl
Food: Prairie Tomme, shaved Serrano ham, grapes, and sour apple
Song: Voxtrot - "The Start of Something" -

Each dish was as delicious as it
was beautiful
The Prairie Tomme is an Alpine-style cheese, and "long-aged." Kind of a milder, nutty flavor, that went very well with the mild, nutty flavor of the German dunkel. Serrano ham provided the saltiness, while the grapes and sour apple gave the dish a little bite. A perfect way to start the dinner, and, well, the song to go with it can't get much more literal. "The Start of Something," indeed. A nice and light song to go with the light dish.

Second Course

Beer: Crispin Browns Lane English Cider
Food: Woolly Rind, blackberry preserves, and wilted rocket
Song: Regina Spektor - "Us"

This may have been my favorite cheese of the night. Woolly Rind gets its name from the "bloomy rind" it has, and Green Dirt's version of a Camembert. I LOVE the soft/creamy cheeses, especially when served with preserves. The blackberries and wilted rocket (think arugula) had the sweet and bitter components, and the Browns Lane had a dry tartness. For me, the cheese took center stage, and everything else showcased it. Each part worked well with the cheese individually, and then could come together for a nice bite. Regina Spektor's "Us" is nice. I don't know if I have any other way to link it to the course, other than I like both of them quite a bit.

Third Course

Beer: Goose Island Sofie
Food: Dirt Lover, lobster fondue, and crunch bread
Song: Belle & Sebastian - "If You Find Yourself Caught in Love"

While the Woolly Rind was my favorite cheese, this was my favorite course of the night. And this is no knock to the other courses, as I find it almost impossible to find a bad thing about any of them. No, this was just near-flawless execution. A dusting of vegetable ash hides underneath the bloomy rind on the Dirt Lover (so named for the ash, and the love the folks have for their soil!). The cheese is firmer than the previous two, which is offset by the smooth fondue. And the lobster. O, the lobster. Delicate, decadent, delicious. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. The Sofie tied it all together. It didn't overpower the buttery flavors of the food, but complimented them as an understated saison. Nicely carbonated to keep light, needed when dealing with the rich flavors. Belle and Sebastian also keeps it light, and I tell ya, I definitely found myself caught in love (sorry).

Fourth Course

Beer: Grand Teton Black Cauldron
Food: Braised Green Dirt lamb, minted potee' & beurre stout
Song: The Weepies - "Painting By Chagall"

This was the one I was a little unsure of before the night. I'm not a huge fan of lamb. It's not bad, I always thought it was kind of gamy, and there are other meats I'd prefer. As it turns out, Jacqueline doesn't really like most lamb, either. Their lamb, though, seems to be an exception. They raise their lambs in humane conditions, and keep them 100% grass-fed. It shows in the flavor. The meat was tender, braised to perfection, and not gamey in the slightest. And the imperial stout had a good roasted flavor to go with the buttery vegetables. I was surprised by how much I liked this. And Chagall had paintings with goats, a ruminant kind of similar to a lamb... and he had paintings that depicted nice meadows, where I imagine lambs frolicking.

Fifth Course

Beer: Unibroue Blance de Chambly
Food: Sheep's milk, iced with roasted garlic, peppercorn, and wheat grass
Music: Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong - "The Nearness of You"

A pairing between another Belgian-style beer and a savory dish. The natural sweetness of the sheep's milk makes it an obvious choice for ice cream. Garlic and peppercorns aren't obvious choices for ice cream, but me oh my, does it work. I love garlic, so there's that, but I think this is the first time I've had it as a dessert. Now I hope it's not the last. The fresh sheep's milk cheese is one of the quickest to make, taking only 72 hours, and remains spreadably soft. The spice of the garlic and peppercorn plays off of the spiciness in the Blanche de Chambly. It's refreshing, and cuts the garlic breath. Great pairing, just like the great pairing of the final tune for the night, with Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Oh yes.

Like I said, excellent, all around. And I'm not saying it because I have to on the blog here, but because I really, really enjoyed it. Where you able to make it to the dinner? What'd you think?

Keep an eye on the blog, or at any of the Beer KC spots for information on the next beer dinner! We hope you'll be able to join us. Cheers!

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