Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My Dinner With Tomme

5/21: Tomme Arthur beer dinner at Union hosted by the Rare Beer Club. Six courses of American Bistro-Style cuisine paired with beers by Artisinal Brewer Tomme Arthur. Woo woo! This should be good. Tomme says that he doesn't brew Belgian-Style beer but Belgian-Inspired beer, cool with me, but they're still Belgian-Styled beers.

• Hors d'oeuvres: Nice firm and nutty prosciutto with toasted Spanish almonds and batter fried quail legs served with the Lost Abbey Devotion ale. Dry, drinkable and dry-hopped glass of "6". Firm resinous bitterness and soft conditioning. A nice pair with the prosciutto not so much with the quail (too much batter coating, tough, dry meat).

• Foie Gras Terrine with Pear Mostarda (pear candied with mustard) served with Mahleur Brut Reserve. The Lost Abbey beer "Signature" was not available due to Customs SNAFU so was replaced by the Brute. Amazing glass of beer; elegant aromas of perfumed tropical breezes, deep earthy cellar flavors, luscious velvet-like mouthfeel, warming and heady at the finish. Excellent pair with the liver, both similarly rich on the palate but played with the spicy/sweet pear/mustard and the effervescent Brut. Nicely done.

• Seared Halibut with Braised Morel, English Peas served with Lost Abbey Avant Garde ale. Tomme Arthurs' Blonde Biere de Garde didn't display the dry, earthy richness I associate with this type of beer. A fine, dry cracker malt character, bitter forward (slightly too much so) and a tad too much spritz in the condition. Seemed to close to the Devotion. The dish was similarly a little loose; fish slightly overdone, not enough morel and the peas too firm. Better yet would have been a larger proportion of morel presented as ragout placed over a rich puree of peas and topped with a flash seared piece of fish. The highest quality halibut can stand to be served slightly less than medium. No matter what the Health Department says.

• Braised Veal Cheek with Potato and Ramp Puree, Roasted Artichokes served with Lost Abbey Red Barn Ale. EEK! The servers are swirling the bottles! Yuk, serving the lees should be optional at best. I'm careful to select from the brighter pours from here on. Tomme Arthurs' updated Pizza Port SPF 45 Saison; a very expressive mix of earthy perfumes, spices, lightly resinous bitterness, tart mineral-like yeast and firm effervescence. Paired with a drop dead amazing dish of intensely rich and flavorful fall-apart-under-the-fork cheek, rich buttery puree and fleshy artichoke. Good pairing where the beers' black peppery notes complimented the dish and forward bitterness and firm conditioning kept the palate bustling.

• Roasted Venison served with Lost Abbey 10 Commandments ale. Tomme Arthurs' updated Pizza Port SPF 8 Saison; strong, dark and richly flavored, firm bodied and dry chocolatey, light rum and raisin flavors complimented by a light peppery yeast character. Served with a very rich and firm medallion of venison loin with a red wine/dried cherry jus. A good dish but after that veal cheek, it just doesn't show very well. Pairs with the beer OK, nice warm spiciness of the beer compliments the venison. I might have chosen something else, duck, goose or wild boar, to pair game with the 10C. Texturally the venison was just too big and chewy.

• Chocolate Terrine, Coffee Ice Cream, Pistachio Brittle served with Cuvee de Tomme 2005. Aromatic and funky; strong, dark chocolate, bourbon oak, meaty cherry pit and wonderful Brettanamyces tang. A delicious take on the Belgian Sour Red. Served with a challenging chocolate terrine; too starchy tasting with a slightly gritty texture. OK ice cream and just a dusting of the brittle. Better yet would have been a single simple chocolate truffle faintly infused with black pepper. The Cuvee de Tomme is a deeply flavored glass of beer. Almost too much to serve just to wash down a desert. Maybe a sliver of a hard, aged cheese, Manchego or Edam; a slight salty/nutty counterpoint to the fruit and tang of the Cuvee would be nice. I could go on and on. Man, it was tasty.

Does it seem like "earthy" as a flavor descriptor is overused here? What the hey, if the shoe fits... "Beer Style" or the language we use to define and describe beer flavor always reflects where the beer comes from. Tomme Arthur is partial to Farmhouse or Country Style beers, Saison and Blonde/Brune Biere de Garde are just the starting points. These types of beers come from the land and the people who work the land. These beers will share aromas and flavors with the things that come out of that ground and that ground itself. Tomme Arthur considers himself an artist, his palette is beer flavor and he has deep talent for creating a true expression of where beer comes from.

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