On Wednesday, December 3rd I attended a beer dinner at Blaze in Bangor with my wife. It’s an odd feeling, hopping in the car and heading off to Bangor without the kids but we’ve been looking forward to this dinner for a while. The dinner was 5 courses each paired with a different Allagash beer and then a dessert course. We have both attended beer dinners before but never a “snout to tail” dinner, Pork is the main theme and each course incorporates a variety of selections from the pig.
I’m not a food critic by any means but I’ll detail out each course with a few of my thoughts on the food and the pairing that went along with it.
Course 1: All Over – Canape, blood orange gastrique, queso fresco, 16-hour braised pork butt, smoked sage chips. Paired with 16 Counties Wet Hop Ale
Nice presentation, looks a bit like pulled pork on bread and the smell was amazing. I found the pork to be a bit dry but great flavor. The blood orange gastrique was delicious and was a nice flavor addition to the pork, I just wish there was a bit more of it. 16 Counties Wet Hop Ale paired nicely with this dish, the hoppiness and dry finish made an excellent palate cleanser between bites.
Course 2: Head – pork head torchon, toast points, house-made IPA mustard, red pepper gelee, microgreen salad. Paired with Session Brett
I’ve never had torchon before, it looked a bit like meatloaf but much more flavorful with a texture closer to pâté, the IPA mustard was nice addition but I was really impressed with the red pepper gelee that added a spicy kick. The microgreen salad added a nice fresh element to the dish. Session Brett once again was a nice pairing, a pleasant hop bitterness and just a touch of tartness that kept the heat from the red pepper and the rich flavor of the torchon in check.
Course 3: Shoulder/Neck – slow braised pork shoulder crepinette, arugula, lemon-thyme vinaigrette, shredded manchego, pig ear cracklings, smoked salt. Paired with Allagash Pale Ale
Course 3 was the least visually appealing, a meat disk on bed of green but what it lacked in looks it made up for in flavor. Crumbly, crunchy and full of flavor the pork crepinette was excellent. The salad was equally tasty, fresh and green, topped with shitake mushroom slices and pigs ear crackling for texture and flavor, the star of the salad show was the lemon-thyme vinaigrette though, thats where I found my connection between the food and the beer. Allagash Pale Ale is an experimental small batch and will most likely never be seen as this same beer again, it was clean and easy drinking with just a kiss of lemon from the hops that made this pairing perfect.
Course 4: Belly 2-ways – confit pork belly fried in duck fat, house-made pork rillette, roasted parsnip puree, butter braised swiss chard, fried leeks. Paired with Nancy
This was the course that my wife and I agree was our least favorite. The confit pork belly fried in duck fat was not for us, gristly, tough, most of this stayed right on the plate. The pork rillette however was great, but we again agreed that it would have been better served like course 2 with toast points. Parsnip puree was good but cold I think served warmer it would have been better and the braised swiss chard was perfect. This was also the worst pairing of the night, Nancy is a beautiful beer, tart, flavorful, delicious but the food took away from the beer, the fattiness maybe, seemed to dull the beer flavor, I think Nancy would have been better served as a course by itself.
Course 5: Loin – brined loin chop, fire roasted butternut squash, wilted baby spinach, fig & mustard trotter jus. Paired with Interlude
The main course, perfect in my opinion. The chop was very flavorful and so juicy, done just right it could have stood alone but it was accompanied by baby spinach and a simple but delicious butternut squash and the final touch a gravy made from bits and pieces of the pig including the feet, hence trotter jus, that I would have drank from a glass had they served it that way. Interlude is a big flavorful beer that pairs well with a big flavorful dish, and course 5 had the chops (pun intended) to stand its ground, nice pairing.
Dessert course: brandy poached pear, frozen mascarpone cake, house-made bourbon caramel, bacon dust
At this point I was pretty stuffed but I had to give it a try. The brandy poached pear was excellent, cooked to the point that it was softened but still had nice texture, the mascarpone cake was a nice compliment to the pear but I didn’t care for it, cold would have been fine but I found it difficult to break apart with it being frozen. The house-made bourbon caramel was great with the pear and the bacon dust rounded out the pork theme and was a nice touch to this dish. No beer paired with dessert, which was fine, no complaints about that but if they had decided to go with one more pairing I think Allagash Bourbon Black would have been a nice choice.
I’d like to thank Matt Haskell, owner of Blaze for inviting my wife and I out for a date night and a big thanks to Josh and Mike from Allagash and of course the chef and his crew for preparing an interesting and flavorful menu.