Archives for posts with tag: Beer

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Recently, I received an intriguing invitation to have dinner on the Eighth Floor of the Anheuser-Busch brewery. Four past winners of Budweiser Taste of St. Louis Chef Battle Royal would be making dinner for me. A brewmaster would be pairing my courses with interesting beer.

Really? Moi? Hanging out with the “fooderati”* and beer barons of St. Louis? But of course! I was tickled pink and happily accepted.

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The Farm-to-Brewery Chef Battle Royale Champions’ Event was a wonderful way for Budweiser to celebrate its commitment to Taste of St. Louis** as the event’s lead sponsor; to bring together past Chef Battle Royale winners; and to illuminate what’s great about our region’s culinary scene.  Our hosts for the evening were Anheuser-Busch Executive Chef Sam Niemann and Brewmaster George Reisch. Together they created four beautiful courses paired with four styles of beer. What’s more, each of the courses featured deluxe ingredients from some of our region’s genius craft producers.

Vito Racanelli, chef-owner of Mad Tomato and executive chef of the Budweiser Taste of St. Louis for the past five years, and Chef Neimann conceived and presented the evening’s first course: Ravioli tossed with shiitake mushrooms and walnuts. The shiitakes were sourced from Ozark Forest Mushrooms, where Nicola MacPherson lovingly grows her meaty, heirloom mushrooms on white oak logs***. This lovely little pillow of pure love featured a delicate egg yolk (from Shiloh Hill Hens) nestled inside, and the cream sauce was blended with brown butter and Budweiser Black Crown.

Ravioli tossed with Ozark Forest Shiitake Mushrooms & Walnuts

Ravioli tossed with Ozark Forest Shiitake Mushrooms & Walnuts

Brewmaster Reisch – who suggested small sips before and after every bite to allow the flavors to burst with the beer’s carbonation – paired the ravioli with Black Crown. A new entry to the Budweiser portfolio of beers, it is brewed with toasted caramel malt and various American hops and then finished over beechwood to produce a nuanced golden amber lager.

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Chef Lee, Chef Racanelli, and Brewmaster Reisch

The course was terrific, and everyone at my table was primed for what came next!

The second pairing featured balls, fabulous balls, made of locally sourced pork. Chef Wes Johnson of Metropolitan Farmer in Springfield, Missouri, created pork and fennel meatballs. The juicy, flavorful meat came directly from Circle B Ranch. Marina and John Backes, proprietors of Circle B Ranch, like to say, “A happy hog is a tasty hog.” Take note: Their hogs must be simply giddy, because those pork meatballs were delicious! UUUMMMM, pooorrrrk!

Chef Johnson dressed the porky good meatballs with blackberry sofie jam, for which Goose Island Sofie provided the base. Really, who doesn’t love a beer-y jam?

Pork and fennel meatballs with blackberry Sofie jam

Pork and fennel meatballs with blackberry Sofie jam

As you may have guessed, Brewmaster Reisch paired the dish with the Goose Island Sofie. A little peppery, a little citrusy, in my opinion**** this is the kind of beer I’d like to have on a hot summer’s day hanging out on a patio somewhere. And yes, I remembered to sip-taste-sip to get the full zip-a-dee-do-dah of flavors.  (It works, folks!)

Course three, how I loved thee. Let’s just start by saying Chef Jack W. MacMurray III of Jack Mac’s Distinctive Taste served up lamb; beautiful, tender, juicy lamb from Jones Heritage Farms. I’m still crushing on this lamb chop, which was served on a sweet potato, vegetable, and gruyere hash and included a dash of Beck’s Sapphire for depth. Good God, I’m still giggling like a love-sick school girl when  I think about it. How did chef know to include all of my favorite flavors on one plate? However he did it, thank you!

Lamb rack with sweet potato, vegetable, & gruyere hash

Lamb rack with sweet potato, vegetable, & gruyere hash

The dish’s Beck’s Sapphire beer pairing really stood up to the lamb. As Brewmaster Reisch explained, the beer is brewed with German Sephir hops and includes just four ingredients. This is a beer-lover’s beer with its edge of bitter and really smooth finish. Sip-taste-sip … it was magic.

Then there was dessert. It featured Stella Artois Cidre ice cream – yeah, that’s a real thing – atop an apple and cornmeal cake with a divine dollop of apple butter on the side. Chef Christopher Lee from the River City Event Center brought this perfectly sweet (which for me means it wasn’t cloying) finish to the party. He tapped Justin Leszcz from Yellow Tree Farm for the apples. Bite after bite was fresh and sparkling and satisfying.

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Stella Artois Cidre ice cream with apple cornmeal cake and applebutter

Clearly, to complement the dish, Brewmaster Reisch introduced a tasting of the Stella Artois Cidre, which my cider-loving husband has been dying to try. It truly delivered a crispness that reminded me of crunching into apple. It was tart and fizzy and a wonderful way to close out a wonderful experience.

It was a terrific night full of friends, food, and beer. I had a great night out with my sweet hubs, Mark; we mingled with St. Louis’ super-successful blogger, Stefani Pollack (check out The Cupcake Project); we laughed with George Mahe, Dining Editor for St. Louis Magazine and his effervescent wife, Suzi; and rubbed shoulders with Sauce Magazine publisher, Allyson Mace (not pictured, because I’m lame).

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Stefani Pollack and me.

Suzi & George Mahe.

And the chefs seemed to have as much fun as the guests!

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Chefs wrapping up the evening. Sorry, Chef Rancanelli, for cutting you out.

We St. Louisans take our food and drink seriously. When a powerhouse like Anheuser-Busch brings the local chefs together, who in turn bring the local producers together, it’s quite the collaboration. I was honored to be invited to share the evening; rest assured, it was my pleasure to Eat It, St. Louis!

* Fooderati: My own made-up word. We eat better than the glitterati and look just as good!

** Budweiser Taste of St.Louis, Sept 27 – 29, Soldiers Memorial. Be there.

*** Fun Fact: Commercially grown shiitake mushrooms are grown in sawdust.

**** That and $2.40 will buy you a venti coffee — nothin’ fancy, mind you — at Starbucks.

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Actually, smoking is heavenly, and the best way to pick up the habit is to order the Smoked Chicken Wings at The Shaved Duck. Dark and lovely, smoky and spicy, these wings are the casually sophisticated and elegantly complicated counterpart to the commonly available, hot-with-vinegar-heat, neon orange variety.

Low and slow is the key to infusing the wings with more flavor than you ever imagined could be concentrated in these meaty morsels. Chef Kat Kobylarek treats the wings with a special rub of between 15 and 17 spices (yeah, it’s a secret!), and then smokes them for three hours at approximately 220 degrees. Her wood mix is 75% hickory and 25% oak. The result is 100% perfection.

Now, for any of you who have tried to smoke skin-on meat, you know that it never really crisps up to its full potential. The meat is, of course, juicy, tender and full of flavor, but you just don’t get that divine texture that crispy skin can deliver. Chef Kobylarek has solved that problem.

That’s right … she pops them in the fryer to get them crispy. So now you get spicy, tender, juicy, flavorful, and crunchy all in one deeply satisfying, I-can’t-talk-I’m-eating bite.

But what’s this beautiful, sienna* -colored sauce on the side of your plate? Why, it’s the boom boom pow that will knock your socks off. Chef Kobylarek has devised a fabulously flavor-layered mango-ginger-habanero sauce that brings the heat in the most vibrant way possible. At once sweet and savory, the heat builds as you add it – carefully at first, then with wild abandon by the end – and you’re addicted.

No order of wings is totally complete without a great beer. While I would love to talk up the crazy-good Left Hand Stranger** I recently fell in love with at The Shaved Duck, I can’t. Bar Manager Matt Fournier keeps his four taps and eclectic bottle selection constantly changing. No matter when you go, you’ll find fun, funky, palette-pleasing, experience-broadening brew choices that will enhance your experience.

Chat up Matt a little bit. Ask him what’s new. Let him know what you generally like. He’ll guide to you to the exact right selection. This definitely is the place to push your beer boundaries!

Now you know what NOT to miss at The Shaved Duck. You’re biggest decision will be whether to insist on your own plate of Smoked Chicken Wings, or play nice and share with your dining companions.

Note to file: If you and I ever hit up “The Duck” together, you’re on your own!

Thank you, Chef Kobylarek, for smoking. You’ve elevated the humble – and often pedestrian – chicken wing to a new level.  The cravings between visits can be excruciating, but the soulful satisfaction that sets in when the wings hit my lips is bliss.

Take it from me: Head to The Shaved Duck, breathe in the smoke, order the Smoked Chicken Wings, and Eat It, St. Louis!

* If you don’t have the big box of 64, the color is like a shade of burnt orange.

** Pale Ale brewed in Longmont, Colorado. Not the Heathcliff-ish fellow in the corner.

The Shaved Duck
2900 Virginia Avenue
Saint Louis, MO 63118-1227
(314) 776-1407

Shaved Duck on Urbanspoon

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