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Tournament of Champions Pairing Dinner
Over the past year we have had a monthly poker game with the family. Every player put $5 dollars in the prize pool per game. At the end of each game $10 was taken from the prize pool and banked. That allowed for a single, winner take all, tournament of champions for $120.

All of the poker games throughout the year had a food theme associated with them. Themes ranged from Italian to Mardi Gras. We wanted to do something special for the final tournament. Inspired by great food and beer pairings at Tap and Mallet and Rohrbach, we set out to create our own.

At first we thought about theming the entire night, but in the end we just chose dishes and beers that we thought sounded good. The menu is as follows.

-First Course-
Polenta Squares with Red Pepper Relish and Jalape?o Dip
Inspiration Recipe

Belgian Strong Ale
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For this course we wanted to go with appetizers as they are at most of our family functions; community dishes that everyone can gather around and dig into. So we went with a jalape?o dip. We blanched the jalape?os beforehand in order to cut down on the heat, which was pretty successful. Everyone loved the dip. The polenta squares were done so that everyone would have something new and different to try. Several of our family members hadn't had polenta before. We really liked how these came out. They were especially good after being warmed up in the oven for just a little bit.

We decided to go with a classic Belgian beer in Duvel. We thought its clean and precise flavors would kick the event off nicely.

-Second Course-
Whole Wheat Crepes Stuffed with Risotto and Peas, Smothered in a Bacon Vodka Sauce
Inspiration Recipe

Dogfish Head My Antonia
Imperial Pilsner
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We made the permanent switch to individually plating the food for this course. Heather had the idea of doing a savory crepe course and this is its manifestation. The crepes were stuffed with an Italian style risotto with peas mixed in. They were covered in a vodka sauce and some crispy bacon (that easily left off for the vegetarian sister).

Our research for the pairing for this course pointed us in the direction of a pilsner. We didn't end up having an IPA in our lineup for the day, so we decided to run with the nicely hoppy My Antonia from Dogfish Head. It's a bit of an off-centered pilsner.

-Third Course-
Beet, Strawberry, and Lemon Sorbet Palette Cleanser

Ommegang Zuur
Sour Ale
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This course took advantage of two relatively new kitchen gadgets in our arsenal here, an ice cream machine that Heather received for her birthday this year and a juicer that Heather received as an early Christmas present. The sorbet was designed to be a tart palette cleanser to come before the main course. It was garnished with a slice of kiwi and a bit whipped cream. It ended up being one of my favorite courses on the night.

We decided to pick a beer that matched the dish as much as possible, so we went with Ommegang?s Zuur. It's a Flemish sour ale and is one of my favorites, another reason why this course was one of the highlights of the night for me.

-Fourth Course-
Beef and Pork Stuffed Cabbages alongside a Pierogi Casserole
Inspiration Recipe

Oskar Blues Ten Fidy
Imperial Stout
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This dish was inspired by the great German food we've gotten at Rohrbach here in Rochester. The cabbage rolls were stuffed with a mix of grass fed beef and pork polish sausage (with the casing removed). A green bean pierogi casserole was served alongside the cabbage and acted as the entire dish for my vegetarian sister. Overall, this was a hearty dish that felt perfect for a main course.

We paired the dish with an equally hearty imperial stout from Oskar Blues. Ten Fidy is the winter seasonal from the brewery. It's everything an imperial stout should be and did a great job introducing the style to the non beer drinkers in the crowd. It also had the highest alcohol content of the night at 10.5%.

-Fifth Course-
Old Chub Cr?me Brulee
Affectionately Borrowed from Tap and Mallet
Inspiration Recipe

Saranac Caramel Porter
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For the dessert course we wanted to try and recreate the signature dessert from Tap and Mallet's menu. It's an extremely creamy cr?me brulee made with one of our absolute favorite beers, Oskar Blues Old Chub. Old Chub is an incredibly malty scotch ale. I've yet to find a person that doesn't like it. To hopefully emulate the creaminess of the inspiration dish, we went with a recipe that used a lot of heavy cream. It also called for Guiness, which we simply substituted for the much better Old Chub. Everyone on hand quickly gobbled this one up.

We could have just simply paired this one with the beer that was inside it, but we already had an Oskar Blues beer on the menu and wanted to do something different. We went with the winter seasonal from Saranac; their Caramel Porter. The caramel in the beer tends to taste more like a dessert caramel topping than the traditional caramel you taste in other porters and stouts. Heather and I loved it, but this was probably the least favorite beer of our family.

-Sixth Course-
Cheese and Fruit Plate

Brooklyn Sorachi Ace
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With dessert done, we wanted to finish the night with a cheese and fruit plate. To pick the cheeses we simply went to the cheese section of our Wegman?s and had some fun. The cheeses were a sharp cheddar, Havarti caraway, Dubliner irish stout, blue stilton, and smoked provolone. The fruits were just a good pear and green grapes.

For the beer, we knew we wanted to go with a saison so that people would get some of the herbiness to go with the cheese and fruit. Our first idea was to find some Saison Du Buff but we came up short as it is incredibly hard to find at this point. After some additional research we discovered Brooklyn's Sorachi Ace. It was perfect. Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout is one of our favorite beers so we know we love the brewery. The label on the beer is a playing card, so it fit with our poker game perfectly. It was also nice to finish the night with a beer none of us had ever had. The result was great! Everyone liked it and it complimented the cheese wonderfully.

And that's the end of our six course pairing. The courses weren?t done back to back. We opted to instead spread them out throughout the entire day, running from noon to about 8:30, during breaks in the poker match. Heather ended up winning it all in poker. She went into the game tied for the chip lead based on her victories throughout the year and maintained that throughout with some great play.

Everything really came off without a hitch, but it sure was a lot of work. The food took the better part of two days to prep, but that allowed for smooth sailing on the day of. Take a look at the pictures in the gallery below to see each course. If you'd like to see even more shots of the process, hit up our Flickr set.
By Mike on January 2, 2011 at 6:20pm EST Topic(s): beer pairing home cooking

Starfish My favorite was decidedly the dessert (5th) course with the creme brulee and caramel porter, but then again I'm a sucker for desserts!

I also really really enjoyed courses 1 and 2. The pepper dip went so well with the cold, refreshing ale. Also, crepes filled with risotto are probably one of my new favorite things, YUMMM.
1/2/2011 at 7:46pm EST

i liked the cheese and Saison a lot! wish i had been less full and drowsy at that point so i could pay attention more. i plan on repeating that one though. and the stuffed cabbage with the ten fidy was a great idea. nom nom.
1/3/2011 at 1:57pm EST

also, kinda weird to note that i tend to think IIPAs are my favorite, yet my 2 favorite pairings were an imperial stout and a saison. :)
1/3/2011 at 1:59pm EST
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