St. Michaels, Md: Wild Game and Beer Dinner

The annual Waterfowl Festival provided the perfect backdrop to a Wild Game Beer Dinner featuring the Harbour Inn and Eastern Shore Brewing Company. Photo: Bryan Kolesar/TheBrewLounge.com

St. Michaels, Md., November 26, 2010  - The 40th annual Waterfowl Festival kicked off with a VIP reception in neighboring Easton, but the food focus began in earnest on Friday night in St. Michaels at Bob Pascal’s St. Michaels Harbour Inn, Marina & Spa.

The Harbour Inn restaurant

The Harbour Inn welcomed a new Executive Chef, David Hayes, earlier this year. He came with experience that has taken him from Buckingham Palace to the acclaimed Inn at Perry Cabin nearby in St. Michaels.

Executive Chef David Haynes (Photo/B. Kolesar)

Executive Chef David Hayes (Photo/B. Kolesar)

At 25 years of age, Hayes brings an enthusiasm to the kitchen that shows through both in his cooking and in his interpersonal skills with his dining guests. Just days prior to this beer dinner, Hayes added accolades to his culinary resume with two first place awards in Baltimore at the Pork Association Competition and tied for first place at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’ OysterFest in St. Michaels.

Eastern Shore Brewing Company

Down the street just a few blocks, Eastern Shore Brewing Company (ESBC) has its brew kettle feet under it as it goes strongly into the third year of business. As St. Michaels’—and the immediate region’s—only craft brewer, ESBC has enjoyed growth that has doubled its output in the first two years of business. According to its owners, their seven-barrel brewhouse is targeting another fifty percent growth in the coming months.

(In the upcoming months, you can catch the brew crew in action at the brewery during their winter hours of Wednesday-Thursday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 12 p.m.-7 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m.-4 p.m.)

The dinner planning

When Hayes met with brewery owners, Adrian (“Ace”) and Lori Moritz, they discussed brewhouse and kitchen flavor and pairing concepts for a beer dinner. Over a few beers worth of sampling, they conceived a five-course menu that would showcase a wild game theme (tying in to the Waterfowl Festival) paired with each of the brewery’s five current production beers. Collaboration came as easily as could be hoped, certainly helped by the mere blocks that separate the restaurant and the brewery.

The dinner execution

Second course: Bangers & Mash paired with Magic Hefeweizen

Second course: Bangers & Mash paired with Magic Hefeweizen (Photo: B. Kolesar)

The dinner guests were hosted in the enclosed outdoor patio just steps from the water and boat slips. With such pleasant weather, the location provided for comfortable strolling both before and after the dinner.

During the dinner, Hayes and his kitchen staff and brewer Randy Marquis and the owners of ESBC took the time to discuss each course’s preparation and pairing. Clay Swartz and his restaurant staff executed a smooth delivery of the dinner that started within just a few timely minutes of the scheduled 7 p.m. start.

The dinner was a perfect canvas for both Hayes’ and Marquis’ talents. Individually, the five courses of food and the five beer selections could have stood on their own. Paired together, a couple of courses stood out from the rest.

The first course kicked off with a refreshing Lighthause [sic] Ale. This beer—weighing in at a mere 4.7% ABV—would work perfectly as a summer session beer; that is, one defined to be an easy-to-drink, thirst-quenching, and low-alcohol beer. This type of beer is often enjoyed at its best during summer months—perfect for the outdoor and boating community on the Eastern Shore.

At this dinner, though, it was this beer’s place to pair with the imaginative Wild Boar Bacon & Eggs, which featured a thick piece of meaty boar bacon and halved quail eggs.

It turned out to be a nice pairing of a dish of both salty and citrus flavors offset by the crisp and slightly fruity ale.

Third course: Duo of Duck paired with St. Michaels Ale (Photo: B. Kolesar)

Third course: Duo of Duck paired with St. Michaels Ale (Photo: B. Kolesar)

With the second course, the kitchen created a nice dish of tasty venison sausage that when dredged through the mashed potatoes made for a delicious mouthful of flavors, particularly with a couple of crispy onions picked up along the way.

The Hefeweizen, as good as it is, didn’t pull off the pairing for this palate’s pleasing. This type of beer, typically, is a style that will be dominated with banana and clove flavors, thanks to the magical workings of the yeast. ESBC’s version is decidedly very light on these flavors and instead showcases a bit of hops and some light fruit flavors.

This was a nice and refreshing beer when sampled during a visit to the brewery earlier in the day; with the food pairing, they were just in different worlds.Before the two all-star courses of the evening, there was a smartly assembled plate of duck meat and red cabbage.

The St. Michaels Ale that was paired with it had enough of a nice, spicy hop presence balanced against a solid caramel malt backbone.

Both of these attributes played nicely against the fat of the duck and the bitterness in the cabbage.

No where, however, did the pairing concept work as seamlessly as in the fourth and fifth courses.

The fourth course showcased tender rabbit meat, dumplings, and diced vegetables in a stew that was accentuated with a pleasant spicy heat and complemented the Knot So Pale Ale, which can be best described as an India Pale Ale (IPA). An IPA can often use its hop bitterness along with its carbonation to help scrape away the effects of spicy heat, readying the palate for another spoonful of food—in this case, stew.

The last course of the dinner brought together a match made in cacao heaven.

Fourth course: Pale Ale Rabbit Stew paired with Knot So Pale Ale (Photo/B. Kolesar)

Fourth course: Pale Ale Rabbit Stew paired with Knot So Pale Ale (Photo/B. Kolesar)

Individually, the decadently rich chocolate flourless torte and the Duck Duck Goose Porter could have been dessert items on their own.

Together, they exemplified everything a solid beer and food pairing should be. In this case, it was smooth, rich textures and chocolaty flavors that complimented each other.

Some times, the idea is to get flavors and textures to be different, without contrasting too harshly, and other times the idea is to get it all to blend together into something that is greater than the sum of its parts.

This time, it was the latter.

More beer dinners

For the Harbour Inn’s first beer dinner (and Eastern Shore Brewery’s second), the evening went considerably smoother than one might imagine. Both parties (brewery and restaurant) appeared at great ease sharing the spotlight during and after the dinner. It was obvious that planning went into the meal and that both brewer and chef appreciated each other talents that they brought to the table.

Of course, as with almost anything, practice makes perfect. To that end, the two are wasting no time in planning a follow-up dinner for Friday, December 10th.

_______________________________________________

Wild Game Beer Dinner at Harbour Inn with Eastern Shore Brewing

November 12, 2010

5-course beer pairing menu

 

Fifth course: Chocolate flourless decadence infused with Duck Duck Goose Porter

Fifth course: Chocolate flourless decadence infused with Duck Duck Goose Porter

1st Course

Wild Boar Bacon & Eggs

- poached quail egg and frisée salad on brioche crute with cranberry-orange vinaigrette

paired with Lighthause Ale

2nd Course

Bangers & Mash

- roasted venison sausage with garlic mashed potatoes and crispy fried onions

paired with Magic Hefeweizen

3rd Course

Duo of Duck

- crispy smoked duck breast & confit leg with braised red cabbage

paired with St. Michaels Ale

4th Course

Pale Ale Rabbit Stew

- spicy stew with dumplings and hearty vegetables

paired with Knot So Pale Ale

5th Course

Sinful Goose

- chocolate flourless decadence infused with Duck Duck Goose Porter

paired with Duck Duck Goose Porter


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Bryan Kolesar

Bryan Kolesar has been tracking down great beer for over twenty years. From the most hard-to-find delicately balanced low alcohol beer to the big monsters weighing in at over 10% ABV, he has yet to find a style that does not have a story to tell and a taste to share. Though, when pushed, Kolesar has historically staked a claim to the Saison style as one of the most versatile and his favorite.

In 2005, Bryan co-founded The Brew Lounge blog/website as a canvas to illustrate the best of the craft brewing industry and to document his own travels within it. Though he has lived in Philadelphia and is currently headquartered in the city's western suburbs, Kolesar shares a wealth of information and images that he collects from his travels around the world and some of the best beers that he has tasted along the way.

In 2010, Kolesar came aboard the Communities section of The Washington Times to contribute stories from across the craft brewing industry as it continues more than ever its explosive growth amongst increasingly more of the mainstream alcohol-consuming public. 

While the beer - its tastes, aromas, and incredible pairing opportunities with food - is often the beginning of a story, he often finds it more interesting to dive into the stories behind the people, places, and events associated with the final product. 

Locally around Philadelphia, he has been named a Beer Writer of the Year finalist multiple times, hosted beer/running events during each annual Philly Beer Week, served as a Philly Beer Geek judge, paneled local beers for submission into the Great American Beer Festival competition, judged beer and food competitions, been featured in local publications chronicling the beer scene, and been named the "Best Beer Guy" of 2008. 

In addition to his beer-y pursuits, Kolesar works a professional career in the business world by day and dabbles in distance running, cooking, homebrewing, gardening, photography, and is a staunch advocate for animal rescue/adoption. He lives with his wife, Patty, of fifteen years and has been a long time, mostly suffering, supporter of local Philadelphia sports.

Contact Bryan Kolesar

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