Sunday, November 29, 2015

Fork - Beer Dinner Benefiting LLS

Fork is rapidly becoming one of my favorite neighborhood dinners.  There normal menu is pretty good, but the chef here is also very creative and is able to come up with a menu that is both local, seasonal, and pairs well with what the diners are drinking.  I recently attended a benefit dinner for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society that Fork held with several local and regional breweries.  The dinner was held in the side dining room where I had previously dined.  We were seated this time at a long table in the middle of the room and has been the case in many instances, we were seated with industry people.  After seeing the number of industry people at the dinner though, it really wasn't a huge surprise.  We were served a six or seven course meal (depending on whether you counted the food or beer courses) and five of the seven breweries sent representatives and we were seated with two of them (as well as a wine distributor that was just there to enjoy the dinner).  As I said depending if you counted the beer or the food, we were served a six or seven course meal.  We were served one more beer than food course although the first beer served, Half Acre Golden Tuna Pale Ale, very definitely has a food name.  It is a sessionable American Pale Ale at 4.7% ABV with a clear golden color and flavors of citrus, pineapple, floral, and pine.  It was light, crisp, something you could drink all day, and a nice start.
Our first food course was a Roasted Scallop served with Banana Aioli and topped with Sesame Seeds.  While I have little issue with trying anything, I might question how something might work in my head before trying it.  I like scallops and this one was perfectly roasted, but I was puzzled about the Banana Aioli.  While it did sound like an unusual combination, it actually worked well and actually had flavors of a Big Mac, especially with the sesame seeds.  The Big Mac scallop was paired with Revolution Bottom Up Wit, a local Belgian-style Wit with flavors of orange and coriander, which went well with both scallops and burgers.

While it did have a very complex name, the next course wasn't as complex as it sounded.  We were served a Delice de Bourgogne and Caramelized Onion Tart with Basil Pistou.  The caramelized onions were served on a layered pastry shell with the pistou, a sauce similar to pesto, but without nuts that combined the basil with the Delice de Bourgogne.  The pastry was crisp and very flaky and the onions were sweet and tender.  Delice de Bourgogne is a French cow's milk cheese from the Burgundy region of France that is soft and very creamy with an aroma of mushrooms near the rind.  Over the onions and the pistou, the tart was topped with microgreens that added to the vegetal flavor of the dish.  It was paired with 10-Ninety Pink Tie Saison, a golden Belgian-Style Farmhouse Ale with part of the proceeds already going for cancer research.
The next course was surprisingly one of my favorite courses.  It was a Rye Crusted Salmon with a California Bay Leaf Gastrique that was paired with Atlas Rookery Rye IPA.  The salmon filet was pressed into the rye and pan fried until crisp.  Salmon, Rye, and Gastriques all have strong flavors, but while they were all there, they played together nicely.  The salmon was distinctively salmon, but without a fishy flavor.  The gastrique provided some tartness with the bay leaf adding some herbal flavoring that paired well with the rye and the rye provided some sweetness without the typical rye bitterness.  The Atlas Rye IPA was bitter as an IPA will be with citrus and floral hop flavors and a dry finish.
The next course, while I liked it, seemed to split the crowd.  It was a Wild Mushroom Flan with Arugula, Fennel, and Pistachio Pesto.  The flavors were very fresh and distinctive, but from what I understood, the problem was not precisely a flavor issue, but a textural one.  Admittedly, there were a few people who didn't like mushrooms, for whom this was a lost dish.  Other people couldn't get past a savory flan.  I like mushrooms and I have no problem with savory flans, so this was not an issue at all.  The flan was creamy and had a nice and strong mushroom flavor, that went well with the fresh arugula, fennel, and pistachios.  The beer served with it, New Holland Carhartt Woodsman Barrel Aged Pale Ale, a sessionable (4.4% ABV) Pale Ale made with Michigan Cascade Hops with a malt sweetness and a nice oak flavor.  
Our last savory course was a Coffee Rubbed Brisket with a Puffed Farro Salad and Mole Sauce.  This was probably one of the room favorite dishes.  The brisket, cooked 12 hours, was very tender and flavorful.  The farro was light and crispy and served with arugula and a light vinaigrette and the mole had a sweet and spicy flavor that went well with the brisket.  The beer, Arcade Brewery Mega Milk Stout an oatmeal milk stout with creamy chocolate and coffee flavors that amazingly well with everything.
Most of the time dessert is a win and this time was no exception.  We were served a Honey Brioche Bread Pudding which just sounds ridiculous by itself.  The bread pudding was topped with a Hop Caramel and a Grapefruit Gelato.  Brioche is a rich bread that is brushed with an egg wash before it's baked.  Add honey to that, and it's dessert by itself.  The hop caramel was sweet with a bitter hop aftertaste that brought the bread pudding and the bitter citrus flavor of the grapefruit together.  With the flavors here, I could see this pairing very well with an IPA which is what was done.  The beer pairing was Tyranena Balling the Queen Honey IPA, an seasonal Imperial IPA (9% ABV, 100 IBU) with a citrus flavor and a very bitter finish.  It was a great finish to a very good dinner for a very good cause.  I enjoyed the food, beer, and company and will happily return for their next beer dinner.

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