Beer on its own is usually good enough for me, and in some cases can be a meal in and of itself. But when it comes to picking out and preparing food to accentuate and compliment an already stellar brew, I jump at the chance to see what people come up with, especially if it’s one of the best restaurants in the city working with one of the best breweries in the state.
Last Tuesday, my wife and I headed to our usual haunt – Columbia’s World of Beer – for a pairing dinner prepared by the Motor Supply Co. Bistro, which is right down the road from the bar, and the always stellar Westbrook. It followed up an Allagash dinner the bar hosted last year.
Motor Supply is regarded as one of the best and most inventive restaurants in the city, with a different hand-written menu created for each meal each day. They’re much like Westbrook in the sense that they’re always switching things up, and whatever new product they put out is different from the last. It’s a seemingly perfect match, and that became even more apparent during the meal. Brewery owners Edward and Morgan Westbrook provided commentary throughout the night about the history of the particular beers and what went into brewing them, and Motor Supply Chef Tim Peters detailed why he created a particular dish and how he thought it complimented the beer it was paired with.
We started with the White Thai paired with Thai boiled peanuts. While I generally hate boiled peanuts – what kind of Southerner am I? – the sweetness and slight spice was a perfect complement to the rich yeasty sweetness from the beer. The second course was the Citra Rye Pale Ale and a vegetable samosa with mango puree and curry oil. Again, the hop bitterness of the beer worked well with the spicy curry flavors, and the big, juicy fruit flavors were made even bigger thanks to the mango.
From there we moved on to the always enjoyable IPA, which Tim paired with an open face duck wonton with tamari and a chili emulsion. The wonton was one of the best courses of the evening. Maybe because it was basically duck confit with cream cheese in a crispy shell, but the rich, fatty flavor was cut perfectly by one of the best IPAs in the state. That was followed by the main course: milk-fried pork belly with spiced sour kraut and apple demi glace. Having a gigantic plate of meat, potatoes and sour kraut dropped right in front of you is nice enough, but we were just as excited to have it with the Gratzer, a German-style smoked wheat beer and one of Westbrook’s more under-appreciated brews. The smokiness of the beer and the sweetness of the wheat melded perfectly with the big vinegar and sweet but tart apple flavors.
And then we got to dessert (in more ways than one). Tim brought out sweet roasted garlic covered in chocolate, sea salt and Basque pepper. It was interesting – the garlic wasn’t too garlic-y, and the salt and chocolate were good contrasts – but you could pair anything with Mexican Cake and it would be good. As I’ve said many times before, the beer is phenomenal, even with a year of age on it. And while the pepper heat is just barely there, it was brought out more by the pepper from the dessert.
Following the dinner, we had time to talk with Ed and Morgan about what they had in the works as well as the bombs they dropped throughout the evening. And, of course, we drank a few more beers, cracking open bottles of the Apple Brand Barrel-Aged Tripel, which has a wealth of smooth, sweet fruit flavors throughout, and the 100% Brett Lichtenhainer, a version of their smoked sour made richer and more flavorful thanks to the Brett. Two incredibly unique and enjoyable brews to cap off a night of equally enjoyable brews and foods.
TL;DR – Westbrook’s great, flavorful beers and Motor Supply’s inventive and unique dishes made for a perfect pair of like-minded artisans, with the results being delicious and quenching.