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Belgium Comes to Cooperstown Dinner
We were extremely lucky to get VIP tickets to BCTC. They sold out in 11 seconds this year! This was our first time to this beer festival. We?ve heard really good things about it and couldn't wait!

We got to the camp grounds around 4pm and our dinner started at 6pm. It didn't take long to set up even with carrying all our gear from one field to another in the humid, rainy weather. If you don't mind camping in really close quarters with loads of beer fans, then it won't be as unusual for you. The shade canopy was a must and made for a relaxing time despite our crazy neighbors.

After setting up we were ready for good beer and food! The massive white tent was simple but beautifully decorated with a wood sculpture that meandered above our heads. The music was charmingly fitting with the Horseshoe Lounge Playboys playing blue grass. We really appreciated the Menu?s at our tables so that we could look at it at each course in anticipation; check it out in the photo section.

We were greeted with the Duvel Single cocktail hour with a central food display of shrimp cocktail, variety of cheeses, bread, fruit, veggies, olives, and dips. All matched well with Duvel Single. Nice way to start things off.

First course was Belgian Pale Ale poached seafood. Menu didn't say what types but to my knowledge it was all petite: scallops, shrimp and squid. It was quite cute and delicate. The flavors were also subtle and maybe could have been seasoned more with acid/salt for our taste. My favorite part was probably the peppery micro greens. This was served with BPA and De Koninck. I liked the De Koninck more as a pairing because it had a honey finish.

The second "game" course was boneless quail and fig skewer with a light gastrique of honey, ginger and cumin. I love, love, love fresh figs so I found this divine. I could have eaten three more! Look at that empty plate! It was paired with Hennepin and Maredsous Blonde.

We waited forever for the third course. The beers kept coming in the form of roughly three bombers per table per beer, but the food was behind, so the ratio of beer to food was way out of wack. When the salad finally came, we enjoyed delicious peppery greens, sweet grapes/apples and YUMMY gouda. I had a hard time trying to keep up with the beers that were supposed to be paired with food. Here I should have tried the Witte and the Houblon Chouffe with the salad. Not sure if I did.

At this point we had the Duvel Golden and Ommegang Abbey flowing at our table and no main entr?e. It was impossible to keep up, so the people next to us started to horde bottles under the table. Not sure how I felt about this but my tummy just needed sustenance at this point. The fire roasted rosemary tenderloin was tender, flavorful, and cold. The caramelized fennel with the beef was soooo good. The purple potatoes side looked beautiful but was under seasoned on top of being stone cold. The menu said roasted garlic fingerling potatoes with shallot confit. Garlic? Shallot? Salt? Yay for salt shakers at our table! Every morsel was devoured despite it all.

The fifth course was a cheese plate that was passed around. We got a bread/cracker basket first that was consumed before the cheese plate came. We were at a table with eight other people. Passing around the plate was not very easy. The small wedges of cheese centered on a mixture of nuts/dried fruit looked fantastic but since I was at a table with nine males, it was gone in seconds. Local artisan cheeses were also unnamed. The slivers were good but I can?t tell you what they were. La Chouffe beer also never made it to our table, probably because our table was so cluttered with bottles and it was hard for the servers to tell what we had.

Dessert! We were so excited because it was all CHOCOLATE! Again it was an awkward plate to pass and divvy. The little Belgian stout chocolate brownie was amazingly gooey and decadent. I broke off a tiny piece of the chocolate guitar which was yummy Belgium style chocolate and had a bite of Mike?s chocolate mousse cup. My forgettable cookie was split with Mike and I ate a rock candy that was pure sugar with no flavorings. Beside the negative point of adequate portions, the other problem with the plate passing is the fact that if someone got up from the table to use the bathroom or check out the band, the food was gone when they got back. On the plus side, the beer pairings went wonderful with the sweets. Leifmans Fruitesse is a berry sparkler that was super refreshing to end with. Ommegang's Three Philosophers is also one of our favorites because it's a malty, fruity quadrupel. Both are great dessert beers and therefore taste pleasant with chocolate. I just needed MORE CHOCOLATE!
All in all, this was an interesting experience. I know it had to be a big job to plan and orchestrate getting all the goodies out, so I give them a lot of credit for doing a beautiful dinner with tons of awesome beer in the middle of a field for 300 people. It was more like a six course meal with a ton of beer; not really a pairing.

I would love to hear about your experience if you attended the VIP Dinner. I?m sure every table was different. We waited a long time to attend this dinner and I think our expectations might have been too high. Now it?s time to replicate some of those dishes in my own kitchen, especially those stout brownies! It definitely gave me inspiration!
By Heather on August 4, 2011 at 10:33pm EDT Topic(s): beer events belgium comes to cooperstown ommegang duvel pairing

Mike The dinner was definitely a bit hit or miss, but the constant flow of great beers still made for quite the fun time.

We had an interesting and personable crew at our table, but we couldn't help but wish for some of our friends.

I'll have a post about the second day of the event up tomorrow night.
8/4/2011 at 11:15pm EDT
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