A while back I teamed up with my good friend sommelier Leslee Miller of Amusée to create some super pairings for the summer issue of Cambria Style Magazine. Outside, the gray and snowy day hardly made one think of summer, but inside Kitchen Window in Uptown things were warm and glowing. We shot several videos that day to accompany our written pieces about pairing beer and wine with food. The only down side was that the food and drink were being photographed for the issue, so very little sampling was done. Nonetheless it was a great day. The videos came out beautifully. Be sure to check out the magazine spread as well.
Now that I’m back I’m hitting the ground running. I have a bevy of public events and classes coming up that I want to let you know about. Check these out.
Beer & Cheese Pairing at Midwest Supply June 23, 6-8 PM, FREE
People usually talk about pairing wine and cheese, but beer is a much better companion. In fact, they are sort of the same thing (learn why by coming to the event). In the class we’ll talk about some basic principles of pairing beer and cheese while sampling the wares of some of Minnesota and Wisconsin’s best cheese makers and brewers. Midwest Supply is going to stay open later than normal so you can stock up on your brewing supplies while you’re there.
Summer Fresh Beer Pairing Dinner at Cooks of Crocus Hill June 24, 6-9 PM, $75
With Chef Jeremy Reinicke
Fresh, light, easy. These are all the words that spring to mind when we think of summer food. But summer beers are no different! They’re fresh, light and easy to drink. Join Cicerone Michael Agnew and Chef Jeremy Reinicke for the perfect pairing of yummy warm-weather favorite foods and summery suds. Menu: Assorted Fresh Cheeses; Summer Harvest Salad with Honey Basil Vinaigrette; Tuna Tartare with Dill on Toasted Baguette; Roasted Leg of Lamb with “Flanders Red” Marinade; Summer Berries with Puff Pastry and Aged Balsamic; a Selection of Summery Craft Beers.
Beer, Wine & BBQ at Cooks of Crocus Hill July 29, 6-9 PM, $75, SOLD OUT get on the waiting list.
With Chef Mike Shannon and Sommelier Leslee Miller
Smoky. Sweet. We’re not just talking about the food either! Chef Mike, Sommelier Leslee and Cicerone Michael are back together again, this time pairing grapes and grains with the great summer flavors of the grill. Join them as Mike fires up the grill and Michael and Leslee throw down the pairings. There’s no better way to beat the heat this summer. Menu: Grilled Tomatoes with Mozzarella; Grilled Romaine with Blue Cheese Vinaigrette; Coconut Shrimp with Vanilla Gastrique; Knife and Fork Manchego Burger; Grilled Peaches with Grand Marnier Cream.
Last night the tastebud-teasing trio of Sommelier Leslee Miller, Chef Mike Shannon, and Cicerone Michael Agnew (that’s me) came together at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul for another beer, wine, and food pairing experience. This one, called Cozy Comforts, focused on the kind of foods that Minnesotans need to help them through January’s deep-freeze. As temperatures routinely drop well below zero, we crave rich and wholesome foods like pot roast and mac & cheese; the kind of food that your grandma used to make (only a lot fancier). During the three-hour class, guests tasted their way through five courses, each paired with a beer, a wine, or both.
I started the night off with a welcome beer, Schell’s Snowstorm. Snowstorm is the annual winter seasonal release from New Ulm’s August Schell Brewing. Every year it is brewed to a different style. This year’s version is a dark wheat doppelbock (just try saying that three times fast). This is a fantastic beer to warm the soul, combining the familiar banana and clove flavors of a German Hefeweizen with the rich, sweet, caramel maltiness of a doppelbock. Several people told me that they typically don’t like wheat beers, but that this one made them reconsider.
The first course was braised winter greens with bacon. Imagine kale (I love kale) braised in cider and topped off with cranberries and bacon; bitter, sweet, tart, and salty/savory all in one place. Leslee paired this with Helfrich Riesling from Alsace. The wine had earthy aromas of wet stone and a bright acidic tartness. It really spoke to the cranberries in the dish and made them absolutely pop.
For the second course Chef Mike whipped up four-cheese macaroni and cheese with gruyere, white cheddar, parmesan, and just a touch of gorgonzola. I paired this with Isolation Ale from Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado. Isolation Ale is a traditional English winter warmer, malt-forward with a bit of bitterness to balance and light orangey citrus notes. It paired well, but I think I could have gone even maltier with something like an English barleywine.
Next on the menu was ginger orange Cornish hens with sweet potatoes and green apples. Leslee made an unexpected pairing to this dish, choosing a bigger Spanish red, Caliza Syrah from Marqués de Griñón. The wine had strong peppery flavors that spoke to the ginger in the dish, while the citrusy sauce and sweet potato/apple side-dish pulled out nice fruity notes from the wine.
The pairings with the fourth and fifth courses were the best of the night. The fourth course was a very traditional pot roast with carrots and shallots. Leslee focused on the sweetness of the carrots and onions, choosing Root: 1 Carmenere, a red from Chile. It featured juicy plum and berry flavors with light tannins on the finish. The wine went perfectly with the veggies and also pulled some sweetness from the meat. I went with Meantime London Porter, a medium-bodied, moderately-roasty porter from England. The roastiness of the beer was perfect with the meat and the light caramel sweetness also spoke to the carrots and onions.
Desert was S ‘more Pot De Crème, an original creation of Chef Mike. Rich chocolate custard was topped with crumbled graham-cracker and torch-toasted marshmallow cream. The drink pairings offered a lesson in both complementary and contrasting flavors. I chose Rogue Chocolate Stout, rich, sweet, and chocolaty. I was going for chocolate overload. The flavors melded perfectly as one disappeared into the other. Leslee went with Astoria Lounge Sweet a tasty sparkling wine from Italy. It’s deep honeycomb and fruit flavors countered the rich chocolate/marshmallow of the desert and the light sparkle cleansed the palate for the next bite. It reminded me of the way a tart raspberry sauce enhances a dark chocolate cake.
Our next Cooks of Crocus Hill beer/wine pairing event is on April 15th. The theme is “the Big Thaw”; food, beer, and wine to bring us out of hibernation.
ABCs of Beer
Monday, December 20th, 6-8 PM
What’s the difference between ale and lager? What’s the best glass for my favorite beer? Which beers can I cellar and which ones should I drink young? Join Certified Cicerone (the beer expert equivalent of a sommelier) Michael Agnew as he shows you all the basics and then some. You’ll learn how to taste, select and care for beers of all types and styles. Includes a selection of Craft Beers from around the world representing basic styles and light snacks.
Cozy Comforts Wine & Beer Pairing Dinner
With Sommelier Leslee Miller and Chef Mike Shannon
Thursday, January 6th, 6-9 PM
The weather outside is still frightful, but the wine, beer and tasty comfort food at Cooks are totally delightful! Snuggle up with Sommelier Leslee, Cicerone Michael and Chef Mike for a fun-filled new take on Minnesotan winter comforts. Menu: Braised Winter Greens; Four-Cheese Macaroni and Cheese; Cornish Hens with Ginger-Apple Sweet Potatoes, Smore Pot de Creme.
Friday night I co-taught a wonderful class at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul. My co-presenters for the class were Chef Mike Shannon and Level III Sommelier Leslee Miller. Thirty-six guests were treated to a five-course meal of grilled and smoked delights each paired with either a beer or a wine. The final two courses were paired with both. As we ate and drank our way through the deliciousness the three of us traded off explaining the pairings, offering up knowledge, and weaving tales about our respective passions.
As we offered our introductions, guests enjoyed a light, sparkling, wine from Portugal. Famega Vinho Verde was a delicious white with a gentle touch of spritz and fantastic strawberry and pear fruit. I had to comment when Leslee mentioned that its 9.5% ABV made it a “low-alcohol wine that you could drink quite a bit of in an evening.” Coming from the world of beer, when we get above 8% we start talking about strong beers that have to be consumed in moderation.
The first dish that Chef Mike offered up was a twist on the traditional Cobb salad with lightly sauced pulled pork in place of the chicken. I paired this with Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier. Hefewizen pairs well with egg and cured meats, so it was a natural with the boiled egg and bacon on the salad. My main concern was that it wouldn’t stand up to the pulled pork. Guests however commented that the spicy yeast character of the beer really pulled out the flavors of the pork while the full wheaty/yeasty mouthfeel was able to hold its own against it.
The next course was a smoked salmon pizza with Asiago cheese. Leslee paired this with Croatian Korta Katarina Plavac Mali Rosé. This was another light, fruity wine with strawberry and rhubarb notes. It managed to stand up well to the assertive Asiago cheese and the smoked salmon brought out smoky notes in the wine that were not there when tasted alone.
The next course was mine to pair, a grilled Jamaican jerk chicken with a fruity/spicy Caribbean slaw. I paired this with Meantime IPA. The citrus and stone fruit flavors played well with the fruit of the slaw while the hops brought out the spice. This is a balanced English IPA with enough malt to knock heat back again on the way down.
After a short break we returned for the dish that I was really anticipating, a middle-eastern seasoned lamb chop with tomatoes and chick peas. Both Leslee and I took this one on and both pairings were possibly the best of the night. Leslee poured 2004 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino. This big, Italian red made with 100% Sangiovese grapes had intense dark fruity flavors and spice notes that stood up to the well-seasoned lamb, while tannins in the finish swept away the fat. I paired this dish with Ovni Ale Biére de Garde from Flat Earth Brewing in St. Paul. Caramel, toast, and spicy hops in this beer was another perfect match with the similar flavors in the lamb. Both the wine and the beer were perfect with the dish.
The desert was cheesecake with a sour cherry sauce. I went for Lindemans Kriek with this one. The sweet and sour cherry beer matched the cheesecake flavor for flavor. Leslee chose Schlink Haus Dornfelder, German Sweet Wine. Sweet, but not too sweet, and loaded with cherry fruit notes, this was another great match.
Three hours, five courses, and eight pours after we began a satisfied crowd filtered out of the upstairs kitchen space at Cooks. I had a blast and I believe the guests did as well. I hope to teach another course with Leslee and Mike soon. Thanks to all who came.