I went with a group of guys to Brewers Dinner at Reading Terminal on Sunday. For $45 (if you pay early, $55 day of) you got to taste 15 restaurants and 15 breweries offer 2 items each, so roughly 30 different beers paired with 30 different small plates.
I will be doing this again next year. And likely the year after that.
It was set up in the larger seating area in the middle of the Terminal in a horseshoe shape and the idea, it seems, is to eat/drink as you go. This was madness. As the line moved you along you had to scramble to finish your plate and your glass as you moved forward. Sure, later we realized that its probably ok to let them dump out some of your beer before refilling with a new beer, but any logical adherence to common sense or satiety signals was out the door early on.
Lots of restaurants showed up making lots of tasty snacks. Heres what I can recall:
Black sheep making honest-to-goodness crabcakes with crab and without a whisper of filler, just crab, B-More style, with a tasty fruity aioli of some sort, went back twice for this goodness. They were paired with I believe a Dogfish Head 60 minute IPA and/or one of the Victory Beers (not Hopdevil or Golden Monkey, a different one I hadnt had before). They also had some seared tuna that I missed.
The geniuses at Rx (which Ive never been to) paired a milk stout (or maybe Independence Brew Pubs Imperial Stout, not sure) with gingerbread MADE from that same stout (perhaps a bit of cheating with regards to pairing) with lemon curd. Hell yes. This was a big hit among our group and yes, for those who might have arrived late, we ate more than our share. Sorry. Also, they had these mushroom tarts w/tarragon. Mmm. Tasty.
Ive never heard of Iron Hill but its a restaurant that did a fine job of selling me on their cuisine based on this event. They served a trio of smoked duck breast, a scallop w/a saffron citrusy aioli, and some kind of chocolate torte. Theyre beer was fine, but their food is what really stood out.
Apparently, theres a place in Philly that makes pulled pork the correct and delicious way. This place is called Down Home Diner and they even have an outlet in RTM. Now, if what they serve in their restaurant is anything like what they had at this event, I will be back, and I will eat swine. Wow. My complaint thus far of Philly BBQ is that Ive yet to have decent pulled pork anywhere, until yesterday. We have a winner. They also had some sort of eggplant salad, which, frankly, just got in my pork-eating way. Paired with a beer from Appalachian.
Tria paired cheese with beer. Duh. Of course they did. They had a Humboldt fog and some other, creamier cheeses, paired w/the Heavyweight Lunacy, or maybe it was the Heresy, or both. I clearly began losing track. Heresy was aged in Bourbon barrels, which might have been overkill. There was a very young girl pouring the Heresy and Lunacy and she was doling out heavy pours with little foam. She has a bright future ahead of her.
Had a really tasty beer from Weyerbacher brewery. Forget which one. Maybe it was a doppelback
Triumphs rye beer was paired w/bbqd pastrami on rye. Very interesting. Some fondue was adjacent but Im not sure what was supposed to be paired with. I am, however, certain one of my friends was incorrect in dipping the bbq pastrami in the fondue, but hey, these are my people.
General Lafayette paired some duck confit on little chips and I think they also had some heirloom tomato canapés with their Triple Bock. So-so. Confit is always good.
London Grill paired octopus w/white bean puree and some green-something or other was also a standout. Paired with the Prima Pils from Victory. They also had a Banh Mi Vietnamese Hoagie they were pairing with something, didnt try the hoagie, figured I eat enough regularly and I needed to conserve belly room.
Probably the best beer there was the Aprihop from Dogfish Head. The only hoppy, fruity beer Ive ever had. The woman working the table said that fruit and hops are a great combo in terms of food-pairing and Im inclined to believe her.
I lost track of some of the pairings. Fork was there but I forget what they made. Formica was there also. Fork might have made this roast pork dish w/asparagus and stonefruit macerated in beer but Im not sure. Standard Tap had some puff pastry stuffed with lamb that I was too full to try. A menu would have really been helpful, particularly for a group like ours where everyone was relatively new to the city. We all felt like we were learning about restaurants where we would potentially go and spend money. Other than that, the event was really well run. Its hard to say if some of the things we tasted were necessarily indicative of the restaurant as a whole. For example, Ive eaten at Black Sheep and had decent pub food, but they really brought their A-game to the event so it might be a let down if you went their looking for something on par with what they offered yesterday. I wonder the same thing about Down Home Diner, if this pulled pork was an aberration from their norm. I certainly hope it wasnt.
We all got astonishly full. All the food prevented us from getting completely sauced. It started at 4pm and by 5:45 wed felt like wed been there for weeks. The proceeds went to charity, the Fair Food project, so that was good too. There was info about it on the RTM website as well as on the Victory Brewery website, I also think White dog café in University City had some sort of coordinating role.