First, remember how my phone would crap out every Sunday and only let me type “hlhlhlhlhl?”. Well yesterday, my first Sunday off work in 2 months, it was absolutely fine. Curiouser and curiouser…
Maybe my phone was just too happy to get ornery on me. Why? How could you NOT be happy eating beer-inspired savory and sweet dishes, then washing them down with home-brewed craft beers? I kept up my tradition of working for free by rolling plastic flatware in paper napkins at the door, and have the blister to prove it. It’s harder than you think, ok??? We weren’t the only ones there to help our friend Nick (thank God) – he actually had a small army of friends and family making sure everything ran smoothly. It’s really a testament to him. For comparison, I wanted to sell holiday cards last year made by orphans in Vietnam to help keep their center running, and couldn’t get any of my friends onboard. Nick can rally an army for beer, I hear crickets when it comes to buying a $5 pack of holiday cards… FOR ORPHANS!
Anyhoo, I didn’t get to try all of the food, but there were a few that I tried and enjoyed immensely. The “Half Pints” were two lovely ladies from the pastry kitchen at Jean Georges WHO WERE ROBBED. They should have won something, if not everything, for their delicious pretzel-scone sausage mini-slider with a smokey beer gel, carbonated and served out of ISI Whips. I can’t really complain because I didn’t vote (I was volunteering, didn’t feel right about voting), but I’m still shocked that neither the judges nor audience sent the love their way. I’m sure they’ll get over it because they know, deep-down inside, that they’re better than us all and could bake us under the table. That must be a great feeling to know that you’re the best at something… never experienced it myself, but I imagine it’s something like eating cheese for every meal and never gaining weight.
Now, this may sound like foul play, but I swear that Nick’s mom, Bonnie Suarez, won 2nd place fair and square for her “You can have your brew and eat it, too!” Not only that, but I have the inside scoop that she was 1 vote away from winning 3rd in the audience’s pick category (inside scoop because I counted the votes). Besides having a great name, she had a dual-component dish: the first was a kick-butt (I keep having to go back over my posts and censor out expletives) curry-chicken salad topped with spicy, pickled raisins. The chicken was perfectly tender and the dressing had just the right balance of curry. And those raisins… oh, those raisins… Tomorrow’s post will tell you more about those damn, delicious, raisins. Ok, back to what really put Bonnie over the top – her homemade beer bread. So tender, a little molassessy, with that delicious hoppy-yeast aftertaste; this bread was so delicious that I wanted to take it home and toast it and have it with creme fraiche and cured salmon for breakfast. It was so delectable that I wanted to have it cold and dense, slathered with peanut butter, and topped with honey and sliced bananas for a snack. Now, just thinking about it, I have a craving to cut it up and make buttery, crispy croutons out of it. If she decides to ever sell that bread, I will post about it for a week (I know, I know, this paragraph is basically a week long already).
The desserts were incredible and made me feel silly for never having used beer as a sweet ingredient before. The Black & Tan Bread Pudding by Rachel Crawford was unbelievably good. How good? My husband ate the entire sample that I brought back to the napkin-folding area to share and photograph. Usually my husband’s pretty considerate, but damn, he didn’t even pause to ask me if I wanted some. He just asked me after-the-fact: “oh… did you want any of that bread pudding?” He did run in and get me another sample after I stared at him like I was trying to light his hair on fire with my eyes for several minutes. I wasn’t disappointed – warm, perfectly balanced, not overly sweet, yummy yeastiness, incredibly tender, and topped with fresh whipped cream that was starting to melt down the sides of my delicious bite.
Rebecca Lando’s Beeramisu was also a smash hit. Not only was it creamy and made with FIVE different beers, but it won Johnny Iuzzini’s (the pastry chef from Jean Georges) pick for best dessert of the day. Rebecca – you can basically die a happy chef now.
Other notable confections:
Beer Smores (I *believe* it was a beer ganache that made this treat so crazy satisfying) by Mark Sopchak of Brooklyn’s Whimsy & Spice. Basically, he brought all the best parts of the campfire together without the bug bites or my cousin peeing on my tent in the middle of the night.
Milk Stout Ice Cream with chocolate-covered pretzels… Stout ice cream actually sounds pretty natural, doesn’t it? But what put it over the top were the crushed up chocolate pretzels inside. I loved the tiny little crunch of biting into cold chocolate and the surprise of salty pretzel. Yummm. Here’s the terrible part – I forgot who made it. I think she told me and then I wrote it down in my blackberry, but now it’s gone. No longer in the blackberry. I think both my blackberry and me were distracted with ice cream (lactardation be damned!) and all pertinent information fell out of our microchips. I also neglected to bring a spoon the first time (yes, I went back twice and still don’t have her information) and tried to squeeze ice cream out of the little plastic cup… which then cracked under the forced and ice cream dripped down my leg. Whatever, that’s why I wore shorts (black ones) and sneakers and at least I got ice cream!
Overall, great day, great event. Just makes it harder to leave the weekend behind…