Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crane Alley International Rare Beer Dinner

Last night was Crane Alley's first International Rare Beer Dinner (also called the Beer Snob Dinner).

From the look of the menu, you may not recognize many of the beers. I don't know many of them. I've had the Rosee D'Hibiscus from Dieu du Ciel in bottles before, but according to the distributor... more on that later.

The first course was the Ichtegems Grand Cru Flemish Red Ale with Mangalitsa Ham, biscuits and pear. As I was eating the pears, it seemed almost as though the beer and the pear were made for each other. The pinkish thing running down the middle is the piece of Mangalitsa Ham. Mangalitsa pigs are woolly and curly haired. Their meat is claimed to be buttery and has better fat. Apparently the fat from Mangalitsa pigs is better for you than normal pig fat. It's really tasty.

The biscuits served with the pear and pork were a little spicy, but that's from the jalapeno jelly. The pears were great. Every now and then when you match food with beer/wine/something else, you come up with what seems like a perfect pairing. These pears with the Flemish Red Ale were that.

The second course to come out was endive with candied walnuts, orange supreme, Roquefort, Mangalitsa crisp, and a frisse. This was served with De Glazen Toren Saison D'Erpe-Mere. The beer was very light, and didn't have the herbs and spices that I normally associate with a saison. It was a clean, refreshing, easy drinking beer. It went well with the frisse. The endives had the rest of the filling. My first bite into it made me exclaim "Oh My God, these walnuts are overpowering". Which made me fearful of the next bite. But then I said "Oh My God, the Roquefort", then there was another OMG moment when i got to the orange supreme. Each bite was a totally different experience. After I finally finished my stuffed endives, I set about eating the frisse, with the things that fell out of the endive. That was a delicious salad. I don't normally like salad with citrus in it (or walnuts) but this was pretty darn good.

The third course was duck confit ravioli, fig-prosciutto compote and Prairie Fruits Farm Chevre. Last Wednesday, Crane Alley held a Beer and Cheese tasting featuring cheeses from Prairie Fruits Farm. The Chevre was one of my favorite cheeses that day. Then, it was served with beers from Merchant du Vin, now, it was served with La Rulles Cuvee Meilleurs Voeux. The beer was described as a Belgian brown. It seemed like one of the best English style brown ale's that I've ever had. The ravioli had a strong pepper smell to it. It wasn't unpleasant. The duck confit was amazing. The ravioli when eaten by itself didn't seem to have much flavor, but when eaten with anything else on the plate, it was awesome.

The next course was the beef filet medallion, shrimp tortillita and pasilla rouille, served with Hitachino Red Rice Ale. The beer was amazing. The beer reminded me of smoked string cheese from Kugel's Cheese Mart in Lena, Wisconsin. (They ship). I always enjoy going up to a Packer game, and before (or after) heading the 20 or so minutes north of Green Bay to go to Kugel's Cheese Mart. Then I get a couple of pounds of cheese and beef sticks. The cheese and sticks have never made the 6 hour trip back from Green Bay, regardless of how much I purchase.

The beef medallion was outstanding. We weren't served steak knives, but they weren't needed as we could cut it with our butter knife. The tortillita with the shrimp inside was amazing. I wasn't a big fan of the pasilla rouille. I may just not know how to appreciate it, but it seemed at first a little to peppery to me, and later it seemed like it had a heavy dose of paprika to it. Brad (head chef) said neither was used, and that it was saffron. Which I guess makes sense.

Next were the two deserts. The first was poached pears, with dried cherries and Madeira zabaglione (as a drizzle sauce). This was served with Birrificio Grado Plato Chocarrubica. The beer was an oatmeal stout with cocoa beans and carrubs from Sicily. It was a pretty good beer. I really liked the pears and the cherries. The pears had a slight almond flavor to it, which might have come from the sauce. There also seemed to be a bit of cinnamon somewhere on the dish (I dislike cinnamon) but it wasn't overpowering or totally unpleasant. Kridz didn't like the pears as she's a texture person, and doesn't like soft/mushy foods.

The final thing we were served was Dieu du Ciel Rosee D'Hibiscus with lemon snow gateau, basil custard, and tuile cookie. Kridz said the beer looks and smells like a flower. The gateau was very lemon flavored. It was very lemon flavored. The cookie was good. The basil custard was interesting, and the gateau was lemony.

Throughout the evening, the courses had a few common themes. You probably noticed a lot of them had pears. Also, the Mangalitsa ham was used a lot. Brad had the ham for a while and was really looking for something to use it with. Each time it was used in a dish, it was great. The pears were also a nice touch on most of the dishes.

The beer was on tap, and should still be available at Crane Alley for the next few days. I would definitely recommend going to have some of the beers. I'm sure Brad will be incorporating the ham and pears into this weeks specials as well.

Back to the beer, I was sitting across from the distributor who carried all these beers for the evening. He said he's never seen any of these in kegs before. Most of them, neither of us had heard of before. I believe these beers are carried by B. United. I don't think they'll be at any other place in town, and when they are empty, they are gone. Some of them you can probably find in bottles at Friar Tucks or at Piccadilly (Rosee d'Hibiscus for sure) but others you'll probably have to look hard to get. The beers are available on the sampler.

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