Its Belgian beer month at Toronado and the festivities were kicked off with the traditional beer tasting lunch on Sunday. This event which sells out almost immediately is arguably the finest feast ever served on plastic and paper plates. This year, chefs Peg Davis and Marc Dym (of Stevenswood Lodge in Mendocino, out did themselves with some of their best offerings yet, driven down to SF on Sunday morning.
The beers 15 in all were also exceptional, with the majority of the tasting focused on Saisons. These are farmhouse ales, pale and hoppy, although the styles varied widely. Many of these beers are fairly rare, and kudos to Dave Keane who has been able to have them shipped in just for this annual event (the month, not just the dinner). He says there will be some 59 Belgian draught beers this year, with of course, more available in the bottle.
The first course consisted of bite-sized buckwheat blinis with cherry wood smoked sturgeon (especially smoked by Peg and Marc for this event), crème fraiche and golden caviar. These were served with the first 3 beers, the standout for me being the draught Du Pont Moinette. Another beer, A Vapeur Saison Pipaix 1995 was the most controversial at our table. Quite cidery, the two women in our group liked it; the guys did not.
The second course was a wonderful caramelized and Maytag blue cheese tart on house-made puff pastry with crispy leeks, microgreens and a balsamic vinegar reduction. Yum.
The beers for this flight included a good, sour Girardin Gueze, De Proef Flemish Primitive Ale (with a great label with Bosch-like figures including a pig dressed as a nun) and the extremely good, extremely interesting Fantome La Gourmande. The latter was made with spelt rather than barley and was more wine-like than beer-like.
This was followed by Duck Prepared Two Ways: a roast duck breast and a duck leg confit hash, served with sweet and sour red cabbage and a roast red bell pepper puree. Beers included a very traditional (quite sour) kriek (cherry beer) that was nice with the duck, the Blaugies Saison dEpautre, and the wonderful Du Pont Avec les Bons Voeux Christmas ale on draught.
Dessert was a truly incredible malted white chocolate parfait with toasted almonds and dark chocolate-caramel sauce. Im not usually a big dessert fan, but I definitely would have eaten a second of these despite its richness had it been available. This matched beautifully with a De Rocs Imperial Triple also served on draught, with its coffee and caramel overtones. The resident beer geek says it is not a traditional triple, as this wasnt the usual alcoholic monster that those beers can be. The Dubuisson Scaldis Noel was one of those monster beers, and not to my taste so I passed.
The meal ended with a selection of four cheeses, three of which were new to me: Oud Brugge, Pere Joseph, Passendale and the Chimay Grand Cru. The first two were made favorites, both flavorful hard cheeses.These were served with the Liefmans Goudenband 2000 from 1.5 liter bottles, the Saison Du Pont, and Chimay Grande Reserve 2000, also from the large bottles.