Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sam Smith & Lindeman's Lambic Beer Dinner - Sal & Mookie's - Jackson

It’s been a while since my last beer dinner at Sal & Mookie’s, August 2009 to be exact. For that dinner Lazy Magnolia was the featured brewery, but it’s been a few cold, beer-less months since then. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Sal & Mookie’s did feature a Yazoo Brewing Company beer dinner last October, but I was unable to attend that feast. I was in Cleveland, Ohio and coincidentally had been invited to a beer dinner while I was there. Instead of the pizza parlor setting of Sal & Mookie’s I was used to, that dinner was put on by Michael Simon’s Lolita and featured a few beers of the Dogfish Head Brewing Company. Simply put that dinner was fantastic. While I enjoy each and every one of Jeff Good & Dan Blumenthal’s dinner, the selection of beers and the quality of the food at Lolita's was on a much higher level. Nevertheless, when I got the email from Jeff Good about a new Sal & Mookie’s beer dinner, I immediately called and booked a spot for the Samuel Smith and Lindeman’s Lambic beer dinner.

In the past, Sal & Mookie’s has focused on American breweries (Sam Adams/ Boston Brewing Company), especially those based in the South (Atlanta Brewing Company, Lazy Magnolia), but their patrons, myself included, wanting something a little different. So, with Rob Nelson, the Southeast Regional Manager of Merchant du Vin, leading the way, Sal & Mookie’s put on a Sam Smith and Lindeman’s Lambic beer dinner.

This beer dinner started like any other, with an introductory beer.
Served in a Sam Smith branded imperial pint glass, the Sam Smith India Pale Ale got the ball rolling.

After a little background on the Sam Smith brewery, the next beer was served.
Sam Smith Oatmeal Stout, one of the few quality stouts available in the state.

To compliment the stout, a serving platter of seared, Chinese five spice ahi tuna with sesame-mirin slaw was brought to each table.
The slaw was a very nice component of the dish, but the five spice and tuna didn’t seem to mesh very well.

Switching gears, a lager was our next beer.
Crisp and light, Sam Smith Lager is a fine choice.
I’m always skeptical about seafood on a pizza but this Sicilian style pizza with smoked salmon, mascarpone, capers, artichokes, spinach, and red onions was a winner.
This slices may look a little busy, but each component shone through, especially the creaminess of the mascarpone and the distinctive taste of smoked salmon. I’m hoping this pizza makes an appearance on the regular Sal & Mookie’s menu.

Taking a break from the Sam Smith catalogue, this salad course featured another Merchant du Vin client, Lindeman’s.
This is Lindeman’s Peche and if you’re going to drink this beer, you’d better like peaches. Rob Nelson explained that the fruit flavor comes through so prominently because of timing. Apparently the peach is added to the lambic just before bottling thus creating a heady peach flavor with each sip.
To go along with the Lindeman’s Peche, a salad of arugula, grilled peaches, toasted almonds, and gorgonzola in a champagne vinaigrette was concocted by the kitchen.
Once again, Sal & Mookie’s made an excellent salad that almost certainly won’t be a regular on the menu. With the acidity of the champagne vinaigrette and the forward flavors of gorgonzola cheese, this salad was a crowd favorite.

For the main course, the dinner was steered back to the darker beers.
Sam Smith Nut Brown Ale, always a contender in the realm of brown ales.
Braised short ribs over toasted Italian loaf slices?
Braised in Nut Brown Ale and Cocoa and topped with green onion & horseradish crema, these short ribs were perfect for the brown ale.
Anything tender and covered in gravy is always a crowd-pleaser.
The horseradish crema was not at all overpowering meaning the only downside to this dish was that there were only enough for two pieces per person.

Dessert was the final course and that meant a return to the fruitier side of beer.
Lindeman’s Frambroise makes for an excellent dessert beer.
What better way to end a meal of beer and food related excess than with a raspberry and white chocolate bread pudding with orange-scented whipped cream?
They may have gotten a little liberal with the drizzling on these plates.
When combined with the drizzles, the whipped cream, and the Lindeman’s Frambroise, this bread pudding was teetering on the edge of sugary overindulgence, but it ended up really showcasing the various takes on raspberries.

Judging by crowd response there was a group consensus about the worst part of the dinner; Rob Nelson is a tease. Each diner was given a pamphlet listing the qualities and characteristics of each beer that Merchant du Vin imports to this country. Of course, only a handful is available in Mississippi. Still, Rob Nelson was a wealth of information and gave an interesting perspective on the Sam Smith brewery, especially their approach to change and kegs. On the food end, Sal & Mookie’s delivered another quality product. The food was well thought out, well prepared, and complimented the respective beer nicely. As always, I’ll be waiting for an email from Jeff Good announcing the next beer dinner. Maybe these dinners will someday be free from the restraints of Baptists and bootleggers & timid state legislators; then we can see what Jeff Good, Dan Blumenthal, and company can really do with beer.

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