Sep 29 2009
The Scene: The Brooklyn Brewery dinner was hosted in Per Se’s private room on Friday, September 18th. As soon as we walked through the doors, we were greeted with a glass of The Manhattan Project, “a strong rye-based beer that is aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels” and that is infused with spices to mirror the flavors and scents of a true Manhattan cocktail. With first taste, we knew that Brooklyn Brewery was not playing around. This was going to be an evening where the beer could take center stage. If Brooklyn Brewery could pull off a Per Se pairing dinner without being overshadowed by Per Se’s perfectly executed courses, then we could be certain we have a true beer revolution on our hands.
We walked around and chatted with some of the other guests as we were served passed hors d’oeuvres. The salmon cornets (salmon tartar above a black sesame cone filled with crème fraiche) that melted in my mouth as an amuse bouche at my first Per Se dinner were back… and there were lots of them. We also enjoyed gruyere filled cheese puffs, miniature pork belly BLT sandwiches with truffle and a couple other signature canapes.
We met the host of the evening, renowned brewmaster Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery. He was to eloquently lead the diners in a discussion of each course’s beer pairing while Per Se sommelier, Roxane Shafaee-Moghadam, would describe each food course. After making some new friends and chatting with Garrett Oliver about craft beer week and about what’s on tap for Brooklyn Brewery, it was time for dinner.
The Menu and Our Reactions:
I. White Truffle Oil-Infused Custard, “Ragoût” of Black Winter Truffles, paired with Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 2. An unbelievably rich and decadent custard bursting with black truffle that was served beautifully in an egg shell. Brewmaster Oliver, who was sitting at our table, exclaimed how perfect life would be to wake up to this each morning for breakfast. We can dream, can’t we?
II. Salvatore Brooklyn Ricotta “Agnolotti,” Caramelized Squash, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Petite Basil with Castello di Ama Extra Virgin Olive Oil Emulsion, paired with Brooklyn Brewery’s “Sorachi Ace.” A delicate collection of colorful basil, squash, and heirloom tomatoes that worked perfectly with the locally made ricotta stuffed in the luscious agnolotti. The light olive oil emulsion allowed for the flavors of the fresh vegetables, the cheese, the pasta (and the beer!) to really shine.
III. Butter Poached Nova Scotia Lobster, Compressed Fennel Bulb, Rainbow Swiss Chard and Niçoise Olive Tapenade with “Mousseline au Citron,” paired with Brooklyn Brewery’s “Brooklyn-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse.” Oh baby, the bold niçoise olive tapenade and sharp Swiss chard created such an interesting contrast to the creamy, buttery and plump lobster with mousseline au citron. Lobster glory.
IV. All Day Braised Hobbs Shore’s Port Belly, “Choucroute Garnie,” paired with Brooklyn Brewery’s “Local 1.” My favorite of the evening… classic hearty root vegetables and crisp pork belly so fatty and meaty on the inside- comfort food at its finest. The Local 1 really took me by surprise with this pairing, because I had it before but had not noticed its complexity. Pork belly brings out the best in all of us, I guess.
V. Herb Roasted Rib-Eye of Snake River Farms’ Beef, Smoked Bone Marrow “Pain Perdu,” Creamed Arugula and Hen-of-the-Woods Mushrooms with “Sauce Bordelaise,” paired with Brooklyn Brewer’s “Reinschweinsgebot” (Bacon Beer, baby!). Ahh, thinking back to this triumph, I really remember the outstanding beer (described below), but the rib-eye was (of course) cooked perfectly, the bone marrow pain perdu (come on, now) savory and decadent, the creamed arugula bright and bold, the hen-of-the-woods mushrooms earthy and buttery, and the sauce bordelaise, classic. But the beer…
VI. Meadow Creek Dairy’s “Grayson,” Marinated Celeriac, Compressed Granny Smith Apple and Mustard Cress with Green Apple Mustard, paired with Brooklyn Brewery’s “Wild 1.” Now, I love cheese and this rich, potent “Grayson” coupled with the tart and sweet elements on the plate really put a smile on my face. And, who could forget the bread (served throughout the evening): fresh, warm, crusty French baguettes, rye loaves made with duck fat, fresh soft pretzel mini-loaves, warm sourdough, fruity, nutty, hearty, rustic slices with crispy crusts… I could go on.
VII. “Mud Pie,” Dark Chocolate Mud Cake, Liquid Caramel, Chocolate “Crémeux” and Caramel Parfait with Sassafras Ice Cream, paired with Brooklyn Brewery’s “Black Ops.” I have never had much of a sweet tooth, but the presentation alone was outstanding, and sassafras ice cream?!?! A lovely end to the evening with the smooth, robust Black Ops.
The Beer: The beer list that was provided to us really details the elements of these beers much more eloquently and accurately than I could hope to, so I defer to the menu, and include its descriptions below (with some of my own thoughts here and there).
I. Brooklyn Brewery, “The Manhattan Project,” New York. This is a collaborative effort between Brooklyn Brewery and top cocktail expert David Wondrich. “The Manhattan Project” is a strong rye-based beer that is aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels. It is then infused with herbs and spices that mirror the flavors of red vermouth and bitters. A dash of tart cherry finishes the brew. It is a tasty beer that echoes New York’s most famous cocktail, “The Manhattan.” We really loved it. You smell Manhattan as soon as you lift the glass to your nose, and there is nothing like a new take on an old New York classic, especially one that it is done by a New York brewery.
II. Brooklyn Brewery, “Local 2,” New York. Belgian dark sugar syrup, sweet orange peel and raw wildflower honey from Tremblay Apiaries in upstate New York are combined to craft this beer. A special Belgian yeast adds a hint of spice to the preexisting raisin, caramel and chocolate flavors. Following re-fermentation in bottle, the beer reveals a dry, austere complexity beguiles its 9% alcohol strength. Woo hoo! A beer that can stand up to rich custard and black truffle = success.
III. Brooklyn Brewery, “Sorachi Ace,” New York. The very rare hop variety “Sorachi Ace” was developed by the Sapporo brewery in Japan many years ago, yet rejected because of its unusual flavor. While the character of the hop does not suit Japanese light lager beers, it finds an application in this beer. This is a dry Belgian-style farmhouse ale made with 100% Sorachi Ace hops. Its aromatics are redolent of lemon, lemongrass and lemon verbena. This is one of those different, exciting choices… not like anything I’ve ever had. I loved the “unusual” Sorachi flavor and the light, bright, lemongrass notes.
IV. Brooklyn Brewery, “Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse,” New York. Brooklyn Brewery worked with the famous 400-yr old Schneider Weissbier brewery in Bavaria to prepare this brew. It is a strong wheat beer with an extraordinary hop character. The hoppy quality sets it apart from traditional German wheat beers. It has a deep orange color and aromatics of banana and clove. The effects from the Schneider yeast contrast the mango and citrus qualities yielded from domestic hops. There is a robust yet balanced bitterness and a clean, hoppy finish. I LOVE hops, so this beer was also a winner in my book. I loved hearing the story of Brewmaster Oliver running into his counterpart at the Schneider Weissbier brewery in the Mediterranean and popping open a bottle as they sat with their families and gazed out onto the sea (true story). Well, if I couldn’t have tried this stuff lounging on the coast of the Mediterranean, then the next best thing certainly is sipping it in Per Se with some butter poached Nova Scotia lobster!
V. Brooklyn Brewer, “Local 1,” New York. In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the Brooklyn Brewery forges German barley malt and hops, aromatic raw sugar from Mauritius and Belgian yeast to create “Brooklyn Local 1.” Behind the full golden color are complex aromatics and flavors that characterize Belgian flair and Brooklyn fortitude. The beer possesses strength in its alcoholic concentration yet is very dry and highly aromatic with characteristics of honey, earth and sweet spices. I do have to say, my mind is a bit blurred with pork belly memory overload to pinpoint what it was that I liked about Local 1. I have had it on a number of occasions and do enjoy its Belgian/Brooklyn strength, but it is also a really good pairing beer for pork, particularly the ridiculous pork belly at Per Se.
VI. Brooklyn Brewery, “Reinschweinsgebot,” New York. This is a brown ale aged for nine months in “Woodford Reserve,” bourbon barrels. This beer has then been fat-washed with fat rendered from bacon from Benton’s Country Smokehouse. Allan Benton also produced a smoked malt for the creation and a special strong beer was brewer from it. The beer is re-fermented in bottle and will be ready just prior to the event. Only 20 cases are being made and it will not be publically available. BACON BEER!!!!! FAT-WASHED!!!!!!! BOURBON BARRELS!!!!!!! SMOKED MALT!!!!!!!! AWESOMENESS!!!!!!!!! Really the star of the evening- not as forward of a bacon flavor as I imagined, but when that smokiness and rich fattiness comes together, you do think bacon… sizzling… precious… juicy… crispy… fatty… bacon… beer.
VII. Brooklyn Brewery, “Wild 1,” New York. This is a version of Brooklyn Brewer’s “Local 1.” It is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale that has been aged for nine months in bourbons barrels and then re-fermented in the bottle with the wild yeast Brettanomyces. Not at 16 months old, the beer shows fruit, honey, bourbon notes and a strong backdrop of the “funky” Brettanomyces character often seen in rustic French wines. There are fewer than 80 cases of this beer and it is not commercially available. This beer might have come into existence from some wild mistake, but it has certainly developed into something special. I do have to say, I am a big fan of most things “funky” in good French wines, so no wonder I like wild funky yeast made beer.
VIII. Brooklyn Brewery, “Black Ops,” New York. This rare beer originally brewed by the Brooklyn brewing team in secret. Only five people knew of its existence during production. “Black Ops” was then ages for four months in bourbon barrels, bottled flat, and re-fermented with Champagne yeast. It is a very robust beer with 11% alcohol. Chocolate and coffee flavors are underpinned by rich notes of vanilla-scented bourbon. A+ This is what it is all about… top secret brews being re-fermented with champagne yeast in bottle and coming out with smooth, dark, coffee and chocolate tones. I would have this as my after dinner drink or dessert any day. Well done.
The Verdict: Oh, what a night. I was shocked at all the tricks Brewmaster Oliver had up his sleeve. I did expect the culinary excellence that Per Se seemed to so effortlessly deliver, but the beer really lived up to the challenge. I tried some exciting, cutting edge, classic, and even comical brews. I only wish I could buy myself some “Reinschweinsgebot” or some “Manhattan Project” to sip and savor at home while I am writing this. Cheers to Brooklyn Brewery for pulling it off… and then some. The craft beer revolution has come and has conquered.