August 07, 2013

Once again, We Say Tomato

Last year's beer dinner with Kurlbaum's heirloom tomatoes opened up my eyes (and taste buds) to the world of heirloom vegetables. I was sort of familiar with the concept, and knew they had a much better flavor than the mass-produced tomatoes usually found in stores, but that was about it. I didn't know the rich history behind the seeds, legacies being traced back hundreds of years, and the different varieties that exist. Check out their website for some more about the history of the tomatoes and what kinds they have on their Tomato Varieties page. They had some information about their farming methods as well - they dry farm, which means they don't irrigate the plants. So you'd think the mild, wet summer we've had would be a boon, but tomatoes actually like warmer, dryer climates. Last year was a great year for them, this year has been a little slower. That just makes this dinner that much more special!

It started off with a reception pairing, almost an amuse-bouche, called "El Matador." A tasty combination of fresh mozzarella, a Juanne Flame tomato, and I believe prosciutto, served with McCoy's Cerveza in a sort of "chelada/cubana" style - some Worcestershire sauce, peppers, and salt. With the tomato it kind of had the feel of a beer Bloody Mary. I could go for having one of these most every morning.

The Juanne Flame is a flavorful tomato, sometimes given the title of "best tasting tomato ever." It certainly worked well with the bit of spiciness in the beer, and the combination of tomato, mozzarella, and pork is one for the ages.

The first course continued the fun presentation, this time with tempura Gold Medal tomatoes with bay scallops and lobster miso butter, served in a "takeout" box. Oh goodness. My love for scallops and lobster has been documented (most recently with the sea scallop taco in the Lips of Faith dinner), and this dish didn't disappoint. The tempura Gold Medal tomato was a subtle addition to some hugely rich flavors (I'm not ashamed to say I nearly licked the lobster butter clean). Tallgrass's Wild Plum Farmhouse Ale cut through the richness of the dish, providing a good, sweet counterbalance. And I learned something about this beer! The plums used were grown near Manhattan, KS, in farmhouses!

Now a salad course to lighten things a little, with pickled Brandy Wine tomato, crisp romaine, charred vinaigrette, and Maytag blue cheese, paired with the latest year-round offering from Boulevard, the Pop-Up Session IPA. The bitterness from the IPA and the acidity from the tomatoes complimented each other beautifully. And another classic pairing, this time with tomato and blue cheese. Maytag is one of the finest available, made in Iowa. Sticks with the local (-ish) theme for the dinner.

The third course was pureed Belmont tomato with crispy bass and gnocchi paired with the Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen. I think it's safe to say now that I like fish. I thought I didn't, but these dinners have turned me. It helps when the fish is as well prepared as this. The Belmont puree was almost like a tomato sauce, but some of the best tomato sauce ever. It gave some acidity to the dish. And gnocchi is just good. A bite of everything on the plate made for a wonderful melding of flavors. The Gordon Biersch Hefe (the first ever GB beer served at Beer Kitchen!) was nice, with a hint of banana and clove, like a good hefeweizen has. It didn't overpower the food, but provided a nice mellow background.

Thanks to Brent for letting me use his plate as a model. His was pretty.
Next was a big one. Berkshire pork with bacon jus and stewed San Marzano tomatoes. Again, the pork/tomato combo. Add in a potato croquette and I want all of it you have. This was delicious. Tender and succulent pork, some tang from tomato, and saltiness from the bacon jus. McCoy's Sticke Alt is malty and sweet, rounding out the flavor profile for the course. Great, now my mouth's watering. This was excellent

So excited to eat, I couldn't get my finger out of the way for the photo
A beer dinner would not be complete without a dessert, especially when tomatoes are involved. Last year's dessert was a cobbler with ice cream. This time around it had macerated Black Krim tomatoes, shortbread, whipped cream, syrup, and Boulevard's Long Strange Tripel. More savory than sweet, it was a great light finish to the evening. The shortbread was crumbly and delicious, with light whipped cream and the sweet tang of the tomatoes.

I'm already looking forward to next year's dinner with the Kurlbaums! And I'm definitely going to have to seek out some heirloom tomatoes for myself.

Keep an eye out here soon for the next beer dinner, which will be the annual vegetarian meal.

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