Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Urban Chestnut Beer Dinner

Instead of going to the big Wine & Cheese Festival over the weekend, I decided to try the Brewmaster’s Beer Dinner hosted by Florian Kuplent of Urban Chestnut Brewing Company. I had sampled a couple of Urban Chestnut’s beers during Craft Beer Week at a Beer and Cheese pairing class, so I was curious about some of their other beers.

I remembered the first two beers right away because they are both so light: The Zwickel and the Schnickelfritz. I was surprised that a heavy roasted garlic and bread soup was served with the Zwickel, but it was a good match of opposites. The soup was actually a bit too strong…perhaps a rye flavor…so the sweetness of the Zwickel was needed to calm down the soup.

The mixed green salad was a much better pairing because the Schnickelfritz was mixed into the dressing. Both the dressing and the beer had a tangy finish, and the spiced pecans were the secret treat in this dish.

Getting to the meatier courses, quite a few people thought the pan seared halibut with the Chinook India Pale Ale was the best pairing, even though you wouldn’t think so by just looking at the description. The hops used for the Chinook IPA were so mild that it had a smooth finish instead of a bitter one. I was shocked! The halibut was served with a grapefruit beurre blanc over Israeli couscous and the tartness really helped to balance out the beer even more.

Packing even more flavor was the Harwood Myth, and my friends who quickly dismissed the Zwickel and Schnickelfritz for being too light, would totally love this beer. A thick, coffee stout (or was that a hint of chocolate?) was full of flavor and not too bad of a bitter finish. This beer matched up well with the porter braised short ribs placed on top of parsnip puree, which looked just liked mashed potatoes but tasted so much better.

Of course we finished on a light note for dessert. The Apotheosis was almost a palate cleanser since it was so light and crisp. This beer is really meant for summer, but it helped tone down the richness of the white chocolate and raspberry bread pudding. The saison ice cream was actually a sharp, lemon flavor to add sweetness on top of sweet. It was safer to let the bread pudding soak up the ice cream and raspberry flavors.

I was really impressed by Executive Chef Tony Cole. There were several other parties going on at the same time and our courses were amazing and well paired.

I think I made the right choice after all and definitely would do the Brewmaster’s Beer Dinner again next year.

Resource:

Urban Chestnut = http://urbanchestnut.com

Root

Even though I wasn’t able to make it opening night, I still got to be among the first to kick off the new restaurant, Root, located in Richmond Heights at Big Bend and 40. The official opening was held the week before and the theme of the restaurant is Old World American foods, including such dishes as rabbit and squab, so I knew this would not be a typical meal.

Starting with the appetizers, Beth and I, along with my parents, decided to be adventurous and try the creamed lobster on fried bread. The lobster came in such a rich sauce that you really needed the bread underneath to pick it up and help soak it all up. Delicious!

As a special treat, the chef sent over three types of caviar for the next course! I had never seen eggs so large before and the ones I tried had a salty tuna or salmon flavor. We also each ordered a small salad with greens sprinkled with goat cheese so I didn’t have to go completely without cheese on this night.

The highlight of the meal by far was definitely the whole, red snapper, which was more than enough for the four of us. Luckily, Linda had NO fear and quickly went to work cutting into the fish despite a lack of proper utensils. The meat underneath the skin easily flaked off and tasted so light and fresh. Once we cut all the meat from one side, Linda then pulled up the tail and the bottom half almost fell right off the rest of the bone!

For our sides that came a la carte, we ordered a few vegetable dishes that were appropriately sized. The Roasted Mushrooms were lightly seasoned and easily everyone’s favorite as opposed to the creamed kale, whose sauce drenched and overpowered the leaves. The cheesy grits actually tasted more like potatoes and definitely were a guilty pleasure although it was hard to get off the spoon because they were so thick. hehe

We all desperately wanted to try a dessert as well but no one had room since we still had quite a bit of fish leftover.

Instead of my usual glass of wine, I wanted to test out Bartender Matt Sorrell’s “Mr. Collin’s Mule”, which tasted similar to a ginger beer. Very refreshing without the heavy, boozy flavor. I do hope to try more of his specialty cocktails in the very near future!

Resources:

Root = http://rootstl.com

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Mad Tomato

Since my foodie friend, Beth, offered to take me out for my birthday, it meant I got to try Mad Tomato, which had been at the top of my list after hearing so many good things about it. Better yet, Beth promised that I could order cheese!

Mad Tomato had nine different cheeses to select from so it was hard to pick between my local favorites such as Baetje Farms or to go with something Italian to keep with the theme of the evening. Luckily, I was allowed to pick a few so I went with the Alpine from Marcoot Jersey Creamery, the Widmer 6 year aged Cheddar from Wisconsin, and then a firm goat cheese from Italy.

Next course was the appetizers and you could definitely make a meal from them because there are so many to choose from. We selected the Calabrese Olives and the Abruzzese Prosciutto di Parma Salumi, which provided a salty break in between bites of cheese.

I was about to order Grandma’s Eggplant, but it was explained to me that this was not the eggplant parmagian that I am used to so instead I went with another all-time favorite: Ricotta Gnocchi. Super rich, cheesy and creamy.

My friends ordered the Fettuccine-Gulf Shrimp and it’s strange to taste fettuccine in a tomato sauce instead of the traditional alfredo, but this was a much lighter pasta and I really enjoyed the huge chunks of shrimp in every bite.

The other item I highly recommend is the pizza as they have their own brick oven on site. I had a couple of pieces of the Funghi pizza which came with mozzarella and arugula as well as the mushrooms. I probably should have requested black olives on it to make it perfect, but instead, I tried it with a fried egg on top for the first time and it’s a great combination!

My friends weren’t as lucky as their pizza came out burnt and had to be replaced. Since the pizza is thin crust, it really didn’t go so well as leftovers either.

As the person with the birthday, I had the added pressure of picking out the wines for the table but I immediately knew that I wanted a Barbera, which is sometimes called the “Italian Pinot”. This way everyone could have red that was not too dry and the 2008 RioFava Barbera from Piedmont had a strong, fruity finish. The first bottle went quick and I wasn’t quite ready to order a second one so luckily I had some help picking a red that would be a little stronger for the main course. I still really wanted an Italian wine as well so we settled on the 2008 Argianno Super Tuscan. I don’t think you can go wrong with a wine that has “Super” in the name!

I really appreciated our waiter because I asked him a lot of questions about the cheese and the wine and it can’t be easy to be an expert in everything, but I was very happy with all of his recommendations. And since it was my birthday he was kind enough to bring us Tiramisu for dessert along with a strawberry mojito in a cute, little aperitif glass!

Resources:

Mad Tomato = http://www.madtomatostl.com/