When I started this "try something new" resolution in 2004, I never expected it would become a lifestyle change...now going into my 6th year. But I'm LOVING it!! Some months, I put my life at risk (see January 2007 or July 2008) -- some months, I'm simply trying a new food or beverage -- some months I'm broadening my cultural horizons. But no matter what I'm doing -- I'm stepping outside my comfort zone to LIVE LIFE!
So...January 2009...my "new" experience was a Beer Dinner ... during the Michigan Brewers Guild annual winter conference at the Radisson Plaza Hotel in Kalamazoo. Now, I've attended many wine dinners over the years, but this was my first pairing for food with beer. I admit, I was skeptical. I mean, I'm only now just starting to enjoy beer by itself...how could I possibly be ready for beer with food? I was trusting the experts (the chefs at the Radisson and the brewers who make the beer).
FIRST COURSE: IPA Steeamed Mussels with Sourdough, paired with Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Calabaza Blanc.
Yum...mussels was another new food for me. I was a bit apprehensive...but my pal Jon Piepenbrok from Arcadia Brewing settle my nerves and encouraged me along. For an ugly thing, they sure taste good. Swished around with a bit of that Calabaza Blanc...quite tasty, if you ask me.
SECOND COURSE: Brewers Salad of Beefsteak Tomato, Shredded Pepperjack Cheese, Croutons & Lager Vinaigrette, paired with Arcadia Brewing Company Amber Ale.
Double Yum...I could have eaten an entire chef's bowl of this salad. The pepperjack gave it a slight bite, which was offset by the Amber Ale (much like a Riesling to spicy foods...in my professional opinion).
THIRD COURSE: Grilled Beef Tender with Beer Braised Wild Mushrooms and Cipollini Onions, Roasted Redskin Potatoes and Apsaragus, paired with New Holland Brewing Company Cabin Fever.
Seconds...please? OMG...this was yummy...perfectly medium-rare to the rare (an 8-8.5 on my scale) and melt in your mouth good. Typically a brown ale is too much of a beer for me (just yet), but this pairing brought it within reach for me. I'm not quite ready to handle this by itself...but with food...definitely.
FOURTH COURSE: Stout Flout with Vanilla Ice cream, paired with Founders Brewing Company Breakfast Stout.
Now I call THAT dessert!! Again, by itself, this is too much beer for me (remember, I've been drinking beer for less than a year...see February 2008's posting). But, poured over a scoop of ice cream...I thought I died and went to heaven. In fact, I almost stole Piepenbrok's when he wasn't looking! I asked the guys at Founders if I could show up at their place with my own ice cream from now on...just to enjoy this wonderful dessert. I don't think they'd object.
So that was my first beer dinner experience...an A in my book (although, to be fair, I think I'll have to go to a few more of these types of dinners in the near future to be totally objective)!
As a footnote to the MBG conference...I've discovered a couple beers that have become favorites (my friends are all gasping at this point...because I used "favorite" and "beer" in the same sentence...talking about myself...YES...get over it!!).
The first is Sky High Rye from Arcadia Brewing. Yes...I admit...I was drawn to the skydiver on the label (see July 2008). But after the first sip, I was hooked. In fact, I was pretty territorial when it came to this beer. Some nearly lost an arm when they tried to take my bottle from me! :)
The second is Soft Parade from Short's Brewing. I haven't researched this much yet, but I do know it was very tasty (during dinner at Food Dance Cafe) with a beautiful color. I found it later at Shakespeare's. Still just as good!
If you are interested in sampling these -- and hundreds of other Michigan craft beers -- I invite you to the Michigan Winter Beer Festival, February 28 at Fifth-Third Ballpark in Grand Rapids. Details are online at www.michiganbrewersguild.org. Look for me when you get there...I'll hopefully have the Sky High Rye in one hand and Soft Parade in the other!