August 22, 2012

Summer Harvest Vegetarian Dinner

Being an avid lover of carnivorous dishes, I was a little nervous that after Monday night's vegetarian beer dinner, I'd have to go out and get a mess of greasy hamburgers to sate my appetite. How wrong I was. Starting with the first course, I was satisfied (and well fed!).

Up first was a roasted heirloom tomato (from Kurlbaum's) with citrus-feta orzo, paired with the Leipziger Gose. Every aspect of this course worked together. The citrus and feta orzo had a salty aspect that matched up with the gose, and the tomato had a sweetness to balance it all. Also, I still have a crush on heirloom tomatoes, and this did nothing to dissuade it. A great start to the dinner, and not suffering from a lack of meat.

This is my artsy picture
Next was seared shiitakes, wilted spinach, and fennel vinaigrette. With crispy bread and Gouden Carolus Ambrio, this was another winner. I love mushrooms, and spinach, and Parmesan cheese, and fennel. So yeah, I liked the food. This time the Gouden Carolus Ambrio provided the sweetness for the dish. And I think this was the first time I'd had this particular beer. It had some dark fruit tones, nice with the earthier flavors of the mushroom and spinach. Mushrooms took the place of meat, without taking away any of the flavor.

This was my probably favorite course. Smoked potato and leek skewer with warm gouda, paired with Orkney Skull Splitter. Rich and creamy gouda "fondue" was a perfect condiment for the smoky potatoes and leeks, and the peat in the Skull Splitter went right with it. I wanted about twenty more plates of this.

If there was one course that wasn't a crowd-pleaser, it was the tofu course. It's a divisive product, for sure. Personally, I like it, but I understand people not enjoying it. It's got an unusual texture, not a lot of flavor of its own, and not . But this worked well with the black beans, barbecue sauce, and the watercress slaw. For me, though, tofu can't be a proper substitute for meat in barbecue. Deschutes Black Butte was the beer pairing, and the porter was a great compliment.

The dessert course was possibly the best overall pairing in the meal, matching house-made Ice Chai Neapolitan  - strawberry balsamic, chocolate lavender, and peach honey vanilla, all made with chai ice cream - with McCoy's Hogpound Brown, "Randyl'd" with tea leaves and chai spices (including clove, orange peal, cardamom, peppercorn, ginger, cinnamon, star anise, and bay leaves). Again, it's another case where I like the main component of a dish, and it's knocked out of the park. Chai is a natural fit with the brown ale, as well as the three ice cream flavors. Fantastic, all around.

It was a fine night and a fine meal, and a fine example of vegetarian dishes. It wasn't a case where there were "meat substitutes," (which is where I can get derailed), but a meal made up of well-crafted dishes, dishes that required no meat component. Of course, September's beer dinner will be on the other end of the spectrum. On September 17th, Beer Kitchen will be hosting a 6-course meal with Local Pig, featuring Chef Alex Pope!  I'll put more details up soon, but this is one that you won't want to miss! I mean, aside from the vegetarians. I'm not sure there'll be much for them, so they'll probably want to miss it.

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