Monday night Kieran’s Irish Pub played host to a sumptuous, 7-course, cider-pairing dinner featuring Crispin Ciders and Fox Barrel ciders. Kieran’s chef James Kelly and his staff whipped up some apple-tastic delights that were prepared and paired with cider. Attendees were treated to a taste of 2-Gingers Irish Whiskey, a brand commissioned by Kieran’s along with a few other local eateries for in-house sale. The menu also featured the charcuterie of Green Ox meats, a local purveyor of artisan sausages and cured meats, as well as a couple of new-ish treats from Crispin; “cream cider” and a new version of the Fox Barrel Pear Cider.
Until now the popular (at least in our house) Fox Barrel Pear Cider has been an apple cider flavored with pear juice. The new version is a true perry, made from 100% pear juice. Unaware that we had this new version in front of us, the first thing we noticed was an extraordinary aroma of flowers, honey, and pears. Thinking this aromatic explosion was due to the glassware, we started planning a trip to the kitchen store. It wasn’t until Crispin CEO Joe Heron let us in on the secret that we realized it was actually the cider. Besides the intensified aromas, the new recipe has a richer, fruitier flavor with interesting woody background notes. It’s a nice change.
Cream cider is actually Crispin Original served on nitrogen gas like Guinness. The problem with nitrogen gas is that is lightens the flavor of whatever it’s pushing. That doesn’t matter so much with the intense roastiness of a Guinness Stout, but with a lighter drink like cider it leads to a fairly bland experience on its own. It looks pretty though; bright golden color with a huge, cascading, white head.
We were served the cream cider in one of two cider/whiskey cocktails featuring 2 Gingers whiskey. I’m not a whiskey drinker. I’ve never been able to tolerate even the smell of it. However, the cocktails disguised the flavor enough that they weren’t too bad. The first of them was a Crispin Spritzer with Crispin Original, 2 Gingers, and seltzer. A wedge of lime added a nice tart citrus touch. The second, Ginger Cream, consisted of the cream cider with 2 Gingers whiskey and Canton ginger liquor.
The food and the pairings were fantastic. The first course, an Amuse Bouche consisting of warm Green Ox pork rillettes and wild mushroom 2 gingers fricassee piled on top of a chicharon chip and surrounded by caramelized-Crispin apples, was fantastic. It was like apple-cinnamon bacon. Amuse bouche means amusing bite, and this really was just a bite. It left me wanting more.
The second course was a butternut squash and pear cider soup. The cider flavor came through clearly in the soup and was a wonderful sweet/tart match to the squash. It made for a great pairing with the new Fox Barrel pear cider. Bleu cheese crusted walnuts and fried herbs added a savory touch.
The fourth course was another stand-out to me; seared sea scallops wrapped in Green Ox cured loin over a roasted tomato puree. It was infused with just a touch of chili oil that gave it some zip. The tomato puree was to die for and really set off the sweetness of the scallop and the saltiness of the cured loin. It was a little too salty for my dining partner, but I didn’t mind that. Paired with Crispin brut it was excellent.
The star of the meal was desert (no surprise there, really); crème de banana crepes. The banana crème stuffed crepes were had a dollop of semi-fredo made with Crispin’s the Saint cider. I had to ask the chef what a semi-fredo was. Seems it’s one of those high-tech, cooking-with-science creations made with liquid nitrogen; something about the intense cold coagulating the cream and other stuff that I only barely understood. Anyway, it was like cider ice cream and it was good. There was a drizzling of cider glaze, basically a Saint Cider reduction. The reduction process intensified the flavors, bringing delicious caramel-apple flavor and a bright, contrasting bit of acidity. The pairing with the Saint cider was fantastic. Fermented with Belgian ale yeast, the Saint has unique banana and spice flavors that perfectly complemented the dish.
A warm fennel-sausage and potato salad with arugula and Browns Lane cider vinaigrette was nice, but would have been better had it actually arrive warm. The main course was a cider marinated brisket served with root vegetables roasted in honey and Honey Crisp cider with a whiskey and cider demi-glace. The flavor was very nice, especially the vegetables, but the brisket was a bit overdone; easy to do with brisket.
All in all it was a fun evening. I’m all about beer and food pairing, but I’m starting to see the potential of partnering cider with food as well. I might have to expand my pairing vocabulary for my clients’ private beer dinner parties.