Wednesday, October 22, 2014

“Taste of New York” beer dinner at Uncle Marty’s Adirondack Grill

Last night I got do something I’d never done before – host a beer dinner. And not just host the dinner, but also select all the beers for each course. The theme was “Taste of New York,” as all the beers were brewed right here in New York State, and most of the food was locally-sourced as well. This was the first beer dinner ever held at Uncle Marty’s Adirondack Grill in Averill Park, and I have to say it went extremely well. For a casual restaurant located in rural Rensselear County, there was a surprisingly large turnout.
NOTE: All photos were taken by Dawn Vink. See her complete Shutterfly album here.1619561_693043400803340_9166334999221507651_n
I realize that this particular blog post may sound a bit narcissistic, though that’s not my intent. When I say it was one of the best beer dinners I’ve ever attended, I really mean that! Dustin Aipperspach (pictured below), the new head chef of the restaurant, put together a fantastic menu of six distinct courses, each utilizing a unique food item (or prepared in a unique way, that is).10421491_693043214136692_8448369352620343999_n
My job was to select beers that would pair with each course and would be enjoyable by the crowd – most of whom are probably not foodies (including myself). I went up to each table a few times throughout the dinner and asked how everyone enjoyed the beers and if they thought they paired well with the food. Almost everyone seemed to like the beers and their place in the lineup. Speaking of which, let’s run through the menu:
Amuse Bouche
Upstate Brewing Common Sense Ale (5.3% ABV traditional ale)
Fire Roasted Chestnuts1069836_693043694136644_5556273571906227566_n
I’ve never had chestnuts before, so this was a new experience for me. They reminded me of walnuts, only “meatier.” In fact, they seem to have a chicken flavor to them. The beer was a great liquid component to this snack as it has a slight nutty character to it, though it’s also quite malty and slightly fruity. I was amazed by how many people told me this was their favorite beer of the night.10734077_693043580803322_2741081448252304843_n
Appetizer
Ommegang Witte (5.2% ABV witbier)
Grilled Elk Sausage, Aged Provolone Cheese, Soft Pretzels, Whole Grain Beer Mustard1901736_693043827469964_2230991027108577753_n
Sausage is great, but any sausage made from wild game tends to be even better than pork sausage. The pretzels and dipping sauce was classic bar food and the chunks of Provolone cheese tied it together perfectly. I wasn’t sure if a witbier would pair with this type of food, but the light spiciness from the orangepeel and coriander, as well as the banana notes from the yeast esters made Ommegang Witte an ideal choice.
Salad
Brooklyn 1/2 Ale (3.4% ABV saison)
Hudson Valley Duck Breast, Baby Arugula, Toasted Almonds, Blueberries, Maple Vinaigrette10624608_693043920803288_4873943310497156512_n
Usually, salads are kind of boring. But if you throw some duck breast on it and cover in maple vinaigrette it’s a pretty amazing experience. The spicy/herbal/earthy character from the Sorachi Ace hops in this beer contrasted the sweet and savory character of the salad quite well. Many people said this was their favorite of the food courses.
Risotto
Southern Tier 2XIPA (8.2% ABV double IPA)
10661787_693044440803236_3304031217378768328_oSeared Diver Scallop, Butternut Squash Risotto, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, Parmesan
The first three beers were all pretty light, but transitioning to a big double IPA like Southern Tier’s 2XIPA was seamless (especially on the heels of the Brooklyn saison). The seared scallop was delicious, and the risotto and pumpkin seeds made for a great autumnal meal.
Entree
Chatham Porter (6% ABV)
Apple Smoked Beer Braised Hog Wings, White Bean Cassoulet
By the time this course came around, we were already well satiated by all the food and beer we had consumed by that point. Though the “hog wing” was not any bigger than the previous offerings. Reminiscent of wild boar with a fatty, tender, brisket-like composition. The porter was the only truly “dark” beer of the night, but it was the right selection for this food as the smoke from the meat and the natural roasted flavors of the beer had fantastic synergy. It also gave me an opportunity to read a selection from my book – The Handbook of Porters & Stouts – that described this beer.10765_693045470803133_5513556666642700563_n
Dessert
Rushing Duck Dog’s Bollocks (9.5% ABV barleywine)
Pumpkin Cheesecake, Sea Salted Caramel Sauce
10733719_693046544136359_883731994786116095_oWith it being pumpkin season, it only made sense that the dessert course would of course utilize the big orange fruit. Except, instead of the usual pumpkin pie, this was a small cupcake-size of cheesecake coated with a delicious salty caramel syrup and dusted with powdered sugar. Pairing it with a rich, heavy barleywine like Dog’s Bollocks would seem to be overkill on paper, but in reality it was perfect. The beer seemed to cut the sweetness of the dessert and yet complement it at the same time (if that makes any sense).
Overall, this was a really fun and educational experience. I really didn’t hear any complaints about anything, though I did hear plenty of compliments. People were impressed by the food quality and quantity, and said it was a terrific value at only $58 per person (tax included). Additionally, most of the beers were served in large 8-10oz servings (5-7oz for the IPA and barleywine), which was nice since many beer dinners tend to only pour about 6oz per course. Since the evening was spread out over the course of 3.5 hours, it didn’t seem to be overwhelming. I did notice a few people drinking only a small amount of each glass, though they were driving and wanted to be responsible – kudos to them.
We’ve already started brainstorming ideas for the next beer dinner. Considering how well this one went, I can only imagine the next one will be even bigger and better. I hope to see you there :)