Okay, so I totally couldn’t resist a good “Stellaaaaa!” (go ahead, do your best Brando impression) when the opportunity called for it
On Monday, I had the extreme luck of discovering that St. Louis is, in fact, a foodie city. Longtime St. Louisians probably already knew this, but I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t initially disappointed about trading Chicago — and all of its gastronomic delights — for the hometown of slingers and Bud Light. Suffice it to say that I’ve been corrected, thanks to the lovely folks at Anheuser-Busch InBev and Sauce Magazine, and my pals at FoodBuzz.
This lucky girl got to attend the Belgian Beer & Food Pairing Dinner, hosted by Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt, at Luciano’s Trattoria in downtown Clayton. Big thanks to FoodBuzz for sending me to this event as a Foodie Correspondent. I got to chat with Marc before the dinner, and have a meet & greet/beer tutorial with fellow foodie Margaret.
I’m pretty sure Margaret and I were both thinking, “How do we get his job?”
The evening featured three Belgian beers — Hoegaarden, Stella Artois, and Leffe Blonde — and paired each with a course designed by chef Marc Del Pietro to highlight and complement the beer.
Beer and seafood? You bet. The scallops were to-die-for with the citrusy, light Hoegaarden. I was amazed at how much the coriander and orange came through — these flavors are used to spice Hoegaarden, and they noticeably enhance the beer without making it overly sweet.
The main event: veal and Stella. Stella Artois is a crisp, hoppy beer with just a bit of bitterness, and a sweet, malty aftertaste. This sweetness melts right into the veal, and every single flavor on the plate and in the glass just works.
And, of course, there was a sweet finish. Before the dinner, we sampled Leffe Blonde with chocolate and found it to be very enjoyable; paired with the creamy panna cotte and tart strawberries and rhubarb, it’s just plain marvelous.
Every detail, down to the whipped cream, either matches the beer or makes use of it.
Think that menu is fabulous? Here’s the best part: (chef) Marc & (sommelier) Marc met for the first time that morning. If that’s not a perfect case of being on the same gastronomic wavelength, I don’t know what is. How it happened: (sommelier) Marc called (chef) Marc, and simply instructed him to drink the beer. Not smell it, not pass it off to someone else to taste, not make guesses about flavor palettes and whatnot — just drink the beer, taste it, and build upon what’s already in the beer to create a dinner that matches perfectly. It worked, and dinner was absolutely delightful.
Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt
The other half of the Marc & Marc duo, Chef Marc Del Pietro
In addition to feasting on a beautifully selected menu, I learned quite a lot about beer.
The plastic spoon has a purpose. Taste the foam of your beer on the spoon first, then drink the beer through the foam. This is best done when others around you are also tasting foam from plastic spoons!
What I learned: In order to truly appreciate beer, you have to pay attention to it. It’s the details that make a great beer so delicious and refreshing. Pour it in the glass it was designed to be served in. Pour it the right way (more on that later!). Taste the foam. Pair it with foods that balance out its flavor — try to taste both the food and the beer. Take note of how the beer interacts with everything you’re eating, and experiment with different pairings to discover more about the beer and the food. Remember that there are no set rules about what beer can and cannot be paired with, and that creativity leads us to a little bit of magic. And, most importantly…enjoy your beer!
Compliments are owed to Marc & Marc, the team at FoodBuzz, Luciano’s Trattoria, Sauce Magazine*, and Anheuser-Busch InBev. Thanks again for a lovely evening!
* Which, by the way, is my guidebook to St. Louis. I could care less about the Arch…bring on the food!