December 12, 2013

Feast of Samichlaus Recap

Now that it's been a few days, the cloud of euphoria (and from drinking a high abv beer) has worn off, but the memories still last. The final beer dinner of 2013 may very well have been the best. Especially when it's starting with...

A surprise amuse-bouche! This zucchini bread was more substantial than a typical one-bite deal, but I'm not complaining one bit. I would eat an entire loaf, especially topped with the pear compote. Making this even more special was a one night only beer from McCoy's, a Holiday Brown. This was a throwback to one of the first Randyl'd beers McCoy's did, the Hogpound Brown with cranberry, clove, and cinnamon. The course was more like a dessert, but who doesn't love starting (and ending) meals with something sweet?

The true first course was a vegetarian golabki with sweet tomato and mint coulis, paired with Deschutes' Chainbreaker White IPA. It turns out golabki is a polish cabbage roll and it looked much more appetizing in person than the picture shows. Very fresh and light, beautifully mimicked in the beer. The lemongrass in Chainbreaker was perfect with the sweet tomato sauce. 

Now the second course. Seared white fish with butternut squash, zucchni, radish, brioche, and chestnut brown butter. Maybe it's because I've had it recently and it's the freshest on my mind, but this is possibly my favorite dish in a beer dinner this year (mental note: make a Top Ten of beer dinner courses for 2013). The "hash" of squash, zucchini, radish, and brioche was great in its own right, but topped by the not-too-delicate white fish took it to the next level of OMG THIS IS SO GOOD. And I love love love chestnuts, so it was nice to have a couple thrown in here. Their rich, nutty (well duh they're nutty), slightly sweet flavor was amplified by the butter, and fantastic with the rest of the food. The Crabtree Berliner Weisse was an excellent pairing; it provided a sweet tartness that kept this from being too heavy. This was spectacular. 

As hard of an act that is to follow, the wild boar ravioli held its own. This course was a different take on a couple things. First, the ravioli itself was closer to a wonton than traditional ravioli. And the potatoes were sambuca creamed potatoes. It used to be I'd always say I don't usually like fish (now it's the best thing that I've had all year), so I guess I'm changing my tune to not normally liking anise flavors. But here, the sambuca was subdued enough to not take over the potatoes and the rest of the dish, so it worked as an asset. The Stillwater Folklore helped, as the foreign stout was a big compliment to any anise flavors that came through. (Also it should be noted that wild boar is a great meat, one that I don't think I've had since the Wild Game Dinner of 2012. I hope it's not another year before I have it again.)

That darkish area towards the top of the plate is a delicious venison chop, I promise
After a unique take on meat and potatoes, the fourth course served the diners with a more straightforward approach. Venison chops with black currants and a cherry glaze, potatoes au gratin, and sage derby. Since I didn't see a hat made of sage, I took to the internet to learn that sage derby is a sort of cheese, I'm assuming used in the au gratin. It was a good decision. Of course, in my mind it's hard to mess up buttery cheesy potatoes. A venison chop? That can be easier to screw up, but these were perfect. Some pink in the middle, not gamey, and expertly sauced with the cherry glaze. Then the cherry glaze provided an expert link to the sour Foeder Projeckt #1 from Boulevard. Mmm I like this beer. Sour and delicious. This may have been the first time that a beer has been applauded when it was announced. Cheers to you, Boulevard!

The beer star of the night, however, and reason for the season(al beer dinner) was the final toast. The 2012 Samichlaus, filling our glasses just days after the 2013 had been brewed. It'll be a while before the current batch can be sampled, but this one is best with a little age. And even better with six different preparations of pumpkin. Now I didn't catch what all of the desserts were, but I believe they were (from left to right) a pumpkin shortbread with pumpkin cream, pumpkin crème brûlée topped with burnt pumpkin sugar, and a pumpkin ice cream with a pumpkin sauce. All three were tasty, but it was between the crème brûlée and the ice cream for my favorite. The shortbread was good, but didn't have the same strong pumpkin flavor the others did. Regardless, Samichlaus gave each a strong backbone. And it got me ready to be all tucked away for a long winter's nap. 

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