Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Collababeire Dinner at Roast Detroit

As anticpated, last night's dinner at Michael Symon's Roast in Detroit, featuring beers from Jolly Pumpkin, Stone Brewing, and Nøgne Ø paired with four sumptuous courses, was excellent. If you followed me or any of the plenty of other attendees on the Twitters, you already have an idea of what we ate and drank. If you didn't, well, keep reading for some juicy bits, illustrated with poorly lit photos.

The event began at 6:30pm with roughly 45 minutes to mix and mingle.  Chef Symon was up from Cleveland, though I didn't have a chance to talk to him. Jolly Pumpkin head brewer Ron Jeffries was unfortunately unable to attend, but assistant brewer Sean Brennan and VP of Sales Mike Turriff ably handled schmoozing duties. Stone head brewer Mitch Steele made the trip from California, but so far as I know, no Norwegians crossed the pond to join us. At around 7:15, I sat with Mr. and Mrs. Cicerone; Aaron Tyrell, a Stone rep in Chicago, and his lovely wife, Beth; and a fellow named Kevin from Winking Lizard, the Ohio chain of pubs for whom Bambic was created.

The first course (below) consisted of yellowtail with orange, red peppers, and watercress, paired with Stone's Ruination Double India Pale Ale.  While good, it was my least favorite pairing of the night and it generated a few different reactions from the Cicerone-y experts. Mike Turriff and Kevin of Winking Lizard thought it was a great pairing, provided you took care to get a little fish, orange, and watercress in each bite before sipping the Ruination. Mr. Cicerone and my own opinion leaned toward the unadorned fish being better with the beer.

Course 1: Yellowtail Crudo: orange, fresnos, watercress
Stone Ruination Double India Pale Ale
The second course (below) was brilliant.  I saw "butternut squash" on the menu and thought, "meh," but stuffed inside pasta and smothered in butter and sage and topped with shaved almonds, it was like a party in my mouth. And the sourness, dark fruit tones, and even slightly chocolatey flavor of the Noel were an excellent counterpoint to the buttery, nutty, slightly sweet goodness of the tortellone. Easily my favorite pairing of the four.

Course 2: Butternut Squash Tortellone: brown butter, sage, almond
Jolly Pumpkin Noel de Calabaza Belgian Strong Dark Ale

Next up was dinner proper (below), a pork shank on the bone sitting in a sweet and sour sauce with grape halves and walnuts. The pork was tender inside the crispy skin and required little coaxing to fall off the bone onto my fork and into my ravenous, pig-loving maw. We had three beers with the pork, the three collaboration ales produced over three years at each of the breweries. (Read my previous entry for more on these beers.) The Jolly Pumpkin version, officially releasing tomorrow at the Ann Arbor cafe, was actually the second one brewed, giving it time to age for 18 months in the barrels. The Stone and Nøgne Ø versions were fairly sage-heavy and the Jolly Pumpkin one had the familiar sour funkiness.  What was most remarkable was how different the three were, brewed with the same ingredients but with each brewer's own spin leading to a quite varied results. They all went pretty well with the pork, but none knocked my socks off.

The main event: Pork Shank Confit: agrodolce, grapes, walnuts
Sides: Potatoes Tarte de Flette and Sweet & Sour Cabbage
Trio of Stone, Nøgne Ø, and Jolly Pumpkin Special Holiday Ales
Photo credit: Mrs. Cicerone
Dessert speaks for itself: essentially a fried banana with ice cream, cashews, and chocolate, paired with Madrugada Obscura, Jolly Pumpkin's sour stout. Together, all these flavors made for a nice, but not too sweet, finish to a filling and fulfilling meal. Mmm, cashews.

Dessert: Banana Tarte de Tan: vanilla ice cream, cashews, chocolate sauce
Jolly Pumpkin Madrugada Obscura Stout
After dinner, Chef Symon addressed the assembled host, saying, "I've always been a beer guy. I think beer goes better with food than wine, even though saying that may get me in trouble with some people." He expressed surprise and gratitude that the dinner drew such a large crowd and enthusiastic response (surprise, chef, really?) and said he wants to do more of these in the future (oh yeah!). He also threatened to hang one of his friends off the building (the Book-Cadillac is pretty tall) for asking for a Bud Light during dinner. So yeah, this Iron Chef sounds like one of us.

Your correspondent enjoys a post-dinner beverage at Foran's Grand Trunk Pub
with Stone head brewer Mitch Steele and Mr. Cicerone and his mustache.
Photo credit: Mrs. Cicerone
Following dinner, a number of us repaired to Foran's Grand Trunk for a couple digestifs. I had the chance to pick Mitch Steele's brain on the collaboration process and the results thereof, but as I feared, my recording device (aka smartphone) was unable to make a useful recording with all the background noise so I can't transcribe what he said.

Needless to say, Mitch was pleased with the final products, had nothing but good things to say about the collaboration (including the recipe development that began with "many, many emails," and noted the importance of doing collaborations like this every so often because "It forces each of us to think beyond our own boxes."

Good stuff, great night. C'est tout.

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