Thursday, March 24, 2011

Recapping the Bell's Beer Dinner at Carson's Bistro

The main event: Roasted Chicken Stuffed with Applewood Smoked Bacon
Third Coast Old Ale

The first beer and food pairing hosted by Carson's American Bistro last night was a grand affair – and a good deal. For around $50 (after factoring in taxes and tip), the roughly 35 people in attendance, including yours truly*, were stuffed with five delicious courses prepared by Executive Chef Beth Crawford and paired with a variety of beers from Bell's Brewery, with refills available for the asking!

Bell's Southeast Michigan beer representative David Munro led the proceedings, providing history, context, and details on the brewery and each beer. So what did we eat and drink? Glad you asked...

Appetizer: Boneless Chicken Wings and Grilled Flatbread Pizza
Oarsman Ale
For appetizers, we were served grilled flatbread with caramelized onions and feta and boneless chicken "wings" in a type of glaze that I, as a pretender and not a real food pornographer, did not quite identify. The slight sourness of the Oarsman, a light, sessionable (3.9% ABV) beer, matched well with the tanginess of the cheese. Although I love me some chicken wings, and these were no exception, I think they introduced some unnecessary flavors to this pairing, particularly considering we would have chicken for the third course.

Course 2: Roasted Beet and Feta Salad with Citrus Balsamic Vinaigrette
Third Coast Beer (pale ale)
Another crisp brew from Bell's, Third Coast Beer (4.8% ABV), was paired with a salad of fresh greens. I would almost rather cheer for Ohio State than eat beets, so I left those aside, but the vinegary and slight citrus notes of the dressing really picked up on the hop bitterness of the beer, while its well balanced malt profile stood up well against the tart feta.

The third course (pictured top) was the sort of dish a carnivore like your correspondent craves: moist chicken stuffed with bacon. The roasted potatoes and asparagus were a nice addition, but... bacon! The first of the big beers, Third Coast Old Ale (10.2% ABV), a barleywine, provided heavy dark fruit and caramel flavors that complemented the savory chicken and bacon, not to mention the roasted asparagus. Yum.

Course 4: Beer Braised Bratwurst
with Slow Simmered Pinto Beans and Oven Roasted Tomatoes
Hell Hath No Fury Ale
The next course also featured big malt and caramel flavors with a savory dish in the form of Hell Hath No Fury Ale (7.5% ABV), which may best be described as a Belgian strong dark ale. The abbey yeasts impart to the beer some fruity, clovey notes on top of the heavy roasty, malty profile. It paired quite nicely with the braised brat, which sat in the midst of a mess of pinto beans – I remarked that it was hard to imagine a course like this at a wine pairing – and this is the point at which my food coma began.  It was all delicious, but I felt this course could have been eliminated entirely, or switched to something less similar to the preceding course.

Dessert: Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with Creme Anglaise
Java Stout
Finally, for dessert we had chocolate cake with strawberry paired with Java Stout (7.5%), which was much like having cold brewed coffee with dessert. NeedIsaymore?

Afterward, Chef Beth addressed the group, explaining how although this was her first beer and food pairing, she greatly enjoyed preparing it and even preferred it to wine dinners she has done in the past. Dining Room Manager Laura Zischke remarked that the event was a success and expected that Carson's would do more beer dinners in the future... so keep your eyes peeled for future announcements, beer and food lovers.

* In the interest of disclosure, I should note I attended as David Munro's guest. You may now discount all of the foregoing as biased blabbing, although, come on, you don't need me to tell you Bell's makes good beer or Carson's has tasty food.

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