Jeremiah Bacon is a beer-loving chef. He brews it in his kitchen. He puts together monthly beer dinners. And he showed off his beer-and-food pairing talents for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival Saturday night.
Tim Cognata from the Craft Brewers Alliance brought the beers to the party, while Bacon and his crew matched them up with five, well-planned courses.
The Craft Brewers Alliance includes four legendary breweries: Widmer in Portland, Red Hook in Seattle, Goose Island in Chicago, and Kona in Hawaii. On Saturday, diners got to sample Widmer's Hefeweizen, the granddaddy of the form in America, along with Red Hook's classic ESB, Goose Island's rare and delicious Matilda, a Belgian-style ale, and Kona Brewing's Pipeline Porter, made with 100 percent Kona coffee from Hawaii.
But, before we got to the food and the beer, we were given a choice of the Red Hook's spring ale, a refreshing seasonal, or Widmer's Drifter Pale Ale, a citrusy brew that uses Summit hops. I chose the spring ale and liked it, but had to have a taste of the Drifter after hearing Tim's description. I plan to stop by Charleston Beer Exchange for a six pack as soon as I can. It's a very nice brew with a balance of interesting flavors —not too bitter, not too citrusy.
As we talked about the beers, Tim gave us a lesson in tasting that has changed the game for me. Here's how it goes: sniff, sniff, sniff. Take a big sip. Hold on tongue for three seconds. Swallow. Breathe out your nose. And never spit beer out, as you would wine, because the bitterness of the hops is a very important part of any beer's flavor profile. A good lesson to learn.
For the first course, Chef Bacon treated us to a remarkably fresh, expertly cooked triggerfish on a bed of greens paired with the Widmer Hefeweizen. A light beginning to a meal that would build to a hearty crescendo.
Quail came next. My little guy (I named him Jeremiah in honor of Chef Bacon) was kicked back with his legs crossed lying on a thin sheet of creamed hominy, a corny version of mashed potatoes that was addictively tasty.
A huge slab of housemade champagne pâté showed up next with the Red Hook ESB. I like pâté, but at this point, I decided to dial back on my portions because I was filling up fast.
My plan was to take some ladylike bites of the next course — roasted monkfish and veal cheeks perfectly paired with the Matilda — but the dish proved too tasty to be denied. I scraped up every last bit of fish, meat, and mashed potato that was on the plate. So much for moderation.
The final course was a hunk of rich chocolate sprinkled with pistachio nuts and coupled with the Kona Pipeline Porter. The beer by itself was too much, and the dessert by itself was ho hum. But together, these two sang a beautiful duet and proved to me that Bacon really knows his stuff.
All in all, I'm glad our resident beer guy Ballard Lesemann encouraged me to attend this dinner. He's been singing Bacon's praises for a long time, and now I know why, firsthand.