Every month, California Café in Palo Alto puts on a brewmaster dinner, pairing different beers from one brewery with dishes that are especially created for the event. The goal is to perfectly match one of the brewery’s beers with each course.
This month’s dinner, which took place on March 27, 2012, featured beers from Moylan’s Brewery in Novato, and Brewmaster Denise Jones was in attendance and gave a thorough, thoughtful, and educational introduction of beer in general, Moylan’s beers, and the beers that were served with each course.
Brewmaster Denise introduced each of the four beers served with the dinner – Hopsickle Triple Hoppy Imperial IPA, Kilt Lifter Scotch Style Ale, Chelsea Moylan’s Porter, and Ryan Sullivan’s Imperial Stout. In addition, she shared some of her thoughts about beer. For example, she pointed out that one of the reasons local beer tastes so good to the people in the area is that the main ingredient in beer is water, and people are used to the taste of the local water by drinking it, using it to make coffee, and, of course, drinking it once it is brewed into beer.
Brewmaster Denise also shared her belief that beer is a perfect drink to go with food because the carbon dioxide in beer helps lift fat off the tongue. Therefore, if one takes a bite of food and then a sip of beer, one renews the palate with every sip and the food and the beer can be enjoyed to the fullest.
The meal consisted of four courses. This brewmaster dinner was special, as it was the first time that Sous Chef Madison Montoto, under the guidance of Executive Chef Mark Pettyjohn, created all four dishes. She had been working on the menu for weeks and was clearly excited to share her dishes.
Sous Chef Madison created dishes that went very well with the Moylan beers. Just as Brewmaster Denise stated, taking a sip of the beer cleared the palate and prepared the diner for another bite. This review will focus on the food at the dinner.
The meal started with a very successful first course. A perfectly cooked scallop with a delightful crust was served alongside an Okinawa sweet potato croquette. The croquette was crunchy on the outside and soft and flavorful on the inside and therefore mirrored the scallop. Once diners cut into the croquette, they found the beautiful purple potato, which was a joy to look at.
The second course was pork two ways and consisted of a citrus glazed pork belly and a piece of seared pork tenderloin. Whereas the tenderloin was a bit dry, the pork belly was delicious and decadent and had a flavorful crust, created by the glaze. The jalapeno jelly served alongside the tenderloin had a delicate flavor but could have used some more heat.
The third course was a seared venison loin. It was tender and not “gamey,” as some diners had feared it would be. It was served with mushrooms and greens and confit potatoes. The mushrooms and greens were seasoned perfectly and went very nicely with the venison.
The final course was a playful, deconstructed take on a Milky Way candy bar and was called “Imperial Milky Way.” The individual components were house-made nougat, caramel gelato, stout-chocolate sauce, and crushed honey. Visually, it was the least appealing among the dishes. Sous Chef Madison explained that the unusual high humidity that day had caused the dessert to expand, and the nougat portion of the dessert was quite large, sweet, and a bit overwhelming. Much more successful was the caramel gelato and the stout-chocolate sauce, and the gelato and chocolate sauce along with the Imperial stout that was served with this course made a perfect ending to the meal.
Overall, Sous Chef Madison did a fantastic job and created a memorable menu that was very much enjoyed by those in attendance. Brewmaster Denise made the dinner extra special by sharing not only insights about the beers that were served at the dinner but also general beer knowledge and tips.
California Café is already busily planning the next beer dinner. It will feature beers from Triple Voodoo Brewing in San Francisco and will take place on April 26, 2012. For more information about beer dinners and other events at California Café Palo Alto, visit their events page and sign up for their newsletter.