March 10 2012 – Beer v. Wine

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Thank you to everyone for making our first beer versus wine party so much fun. Each beverage represented well, with a few standouts like the Alycone Dessert Wine (perfect with chocolate with notes of vanilla and a syrupy mouthfeel) and the Fastenbier (tastes like bacon!).

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Our neighborhood vendors for the drinks were Mike and Rebecca of The Natural Wine Company (N11th between Driggs and Roebling) and Erik of Brouwerij Lane (Greenpoint Ave and Franklin). Both vendors went far and beyond what we could possibly have imagined in curating the pairings, general support for us, and making the night a success so please please visit their stores and buy lots of booze. Or rather, don’t do it because I tell you but because you know you’ll be getting something delicious along with someone to guide you in choosing what matches your tastes.

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The menu follows and you can hear even more details about the meal after the jump.

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Spring Cocktail

Aperol, St. Germain, lime, fizzy water

Salty + Sweet Granola

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Cherry Rosemary Flatbread with Guffanti Taleggio

Wine Butterfly Riesling Zilliken
Beer The Bruery “Saison de Lent”
Winner* TIE

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Linguini with Clams

bacon, tomato sauce, ling cod
Wine Fuso Barbera
Beer Dentergems Witbier
Winner WINE

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Caesar Salad

smoked whiting dressing, farmer’s market greens, pumpernickel croutons
Wine Pecorino Terre di Chieti
Beer Aecht Schlenkerla Fastenbier, (aka “the Fastenbier” or “Bacon Beer”) 
Winner BEER

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Hangar Steak

herb butter, whipped + fried potatoes, glazed carrots
Wine Le Ragose Valpolicella Ripasso
Beer Wandering Star Brewery “Mild at Heart” English Dark Mild Ale
Winner WINE


Molten Chocolate Cake

Amaretto whipped cream
Wine Viñedo de los Vientos Alcyone Tannat Dessert Wine
Beer Rodenbach Original
Winner WINE

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*Winners are based on the combined scores of both seatings

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Wine seemed to have an edge throughout the night, winning most of the courses in the first seating and winning or tying most in the second. Beer had a good showing though, with many delicious pours and complex beers that we’d love to have again but maybe were tricky for pairing with the food. Next time we might try evening the playing field with some more beer friendly dishes like spicy food and some fried stuff too (burgers and fries!).

Truth be told I don’t always jump for drinking heavily hopped beers but I’ve been developing more of a taste for them. I’ve found the hoppy stuff growing on me the same way that coffee did, which I hated as a kid but now just the smell of makes me happy. I’ve also heard that hops are a taste you can in fact acquire, so come, drinkers of beer who shy away from the IPAs, join me!

Our instructions for guests, copied from the book He Said Beer, She Said Wine:
Beer or Wine? Which beverage goes best with food? Tonight, you decide! We will be serving a series of dishes. For each, we have chosen two beverage pairings – one beer and one wine. For each of those dishes, we will ask you to chose which beverage is the most flattering pairing. Don’t focus on which you prefer alone. Examine how the flavors change when you try each combination, then decide which you think is the most pleasant. Ballots are anonymous. You do not need to defend, or even admit, your preference unless you wish to. Only one vote per course, please. Enjoy, and may the best beverage win!

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This time around we had a record number of ten new guests welcomed into the Brooklyn Table family/club/dinner party team. Paul was in the kitchen for both seatings while I worked front of the house, which turned out to be trickier than I thought. Keeping all those drinks and their courses straight was hard, especially when the paper labels for our beers got wet in the cooler and fell off. And this time around I also tried to serve everything at the proper temperatures, which meant taking bottles out of the coolers 30-45 minutes before serving, which also meant knowing how long it was until each course would come out of the kitchen. Embarrassingly, I actually found myself pulling a Tim Gunn and saying to Paul: “ahhhh, Make It Work” when he pulled me into the kitchen for help with the dish I had come up with. Had I taken a moment I would have remembered to add honey to those flatbreads.

I saw on a food documentary recently that as a food critic Frank Bruni would go into restaurants and leave something in the bathroom, like a paperclip on the counter, and return later to see if anyone had cleaned it up. While I should have taken away from this something like, Huh, that sneaky Frank Bruni, what I actually took away from it was, Oh geez I should be checking the bathroom during the meals. So. This time around I checked the bathroom. Three times. Candle still lit, check. Sink clean, check. Toilet paper, check. Towels, check. I was super on top of it and super proud of it too.

At the end of the first seating I opening the front door to see that I had left Roomba in the middle of the hallway (in front of the door in fact) as well as a few stacks of chairs. All the guests for the first seating had politely walked over my pile of stuff to come inside. As I write this I’m realizing that, hey, this sounds silly and it really was no big deal but still…to someone who had in their head that they were the hostess with most-ess, it was a huge shock and another thing to add to the “be sure to check this” list.

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Our near disaster with the Linguini with Clams makes us wonder if we would be able to pull off these meals if we didn’t live in New York with a fully stocked 24 hour mini mart just around the corner. Paul tried out a new technique of pre-soaking the pasta in water, which allows for a cooking time of only one minute (life-saving for the cook who’s trying to time the pasta to be finished at exactly the time the clams are). Unfortunately we accidentally oversoaked the first batch, so with a few moments to spare before the first seating I ran out to the deli that’s just around the corner to buy more pasta and we tried again. The pasta came out delicious, even to our resident Italian Nicola. Harold McGee has a video on this technique though we got our exact instructions from this book.

I’ve always had trouble figuring out exactly when cake is done (especially molten cake) so when we forgot to set the timer when dessert went into the oven, there was some nervousness and hesitation as to when things were done. I’d tested the recipe already a few times that week, taking the cakes from the freezer straight into the oven but for some reason these took longer than usual. It sounds weird but I think that they were somehow more frozen than the test batch…two days versus one in the freezer.

Special thanks for prep work and help throughout the whole meal go to Nicola, who has way more restaurant experience than we ever will and it shows.

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