Allagash; Oh My Gosh!
by Chris West
The only thing better than sitting down to a themed beer dinner is sitting down to a beer dinner and not knowing what the theme is.
Such was the case when 17 North Roadside Kitchen Chef Brannon Florie teamed with Allagash Brewing a
nd decided to celebrate his first Father’s Day for one more day. Chef Florie unabashedly admitted that in lieu of the holiday, the dinner theme would be a selection of his favorite dishes. And while congratulations are certainly in order for the new father; the treat of the extended celebration was all ours.
As usual, the event was held on the back patio of 17 North. The proximity to the restaurant’s side garden had the familiar smell of rosemary wafting with the breeze. As we made our way to our assigned seats, we were greeted by full bottles of the Allagash White, their flagship wheat beer. The brew has a slight unfiltered haze to it and the flavors imparted by the Belgian yeast strain are paired with the ubiquitous coriander and orange peel. This Belgian interpretation holds up in that it is much less perfumey than many of its American-made contemporaries. The reception offerings consisted of Lowcountry staple, boiled peanuts; sea salted pretzels and truffled popcorn.
The first course was a trio of Chef Florie’s favorite sandwiches. A proper Philly cheese steak with shaved ribeye, caramelized onions and Cheez Whiz sauce; Cuban with house cured ham and roasted pork and a traditional New England style Lobster Roll. The salad consisted of chunk lobster meat, crisp celery and dill and was bound by a bacon mayonnaise. The roll was even slit atop in keeping with traditional presentation. The first course was paired with Allagash Dubbel, a roasty, malty brown Belgian. The caramel flavor outweighed the Belgian yeast and helped cut the richer components of the sandwiches. Noticeably, the hop profile is quite subdued in the Dubbel allowing the malt to come through to the foreground.
The second course again harkened to New England with fish and chips. The beer offering for the course was the brewery’s Tripel and was used in the beer batter for the flakey cod. The batter proved strong enough to hold the fish together but not overly fried. The chips were actually crisp fries cooked in duck fat and finished with a bit of truffle oil. The rich fat and oil of the fries was a nice complement to the mild whitefish. The dish was tied together with a malt vinegar tartar sauce (because can there be fish and chips without malt vinegar?) that was strong on the vinegar, and less on the mayonnaise. The Tripel is a nine percent, honey-colored ale rife with flavors of tropical fruit and bubble gum. Surprisingly, the ale drinks easily considering the alcohol level and the body is purposefully light in comparison.
Course three—simply, “pork”—was the one we all saw coming. I am fairly sure I can say that Chef Florie and I agree on the premise that the pig is the most perfect animal on Earth so in keeping with the dinner theme, Brannon was naturally going to serve it. The two-fold approach saw a crispy belly slab and twin ribs, with the belly having been brined for 10 days and finished by being braised in the paired beer, Allagash’s Four, a 10-percent quad style beer appropriately named for the four malts, yeasts, hops and sugars used in the brewing. Crispy and fatty, the belly was served with an over easy local quail egg atop. The ribs were prepped with the house dry rub and smoked four five hours. They were served with a peach BBQ sauce. The smoky rib meat fell away from the bone and the sweet sauce complimented the rich, fruit flavors within the beer. The Four is similar in style to the Dubbel only with a stronger flavor profile that almost imparts a barrel-aged flavor to the brew.
The fourth beer offering was from the Tribute line of beers. The nine-percent Victor is a unique beer that is brewed with more than 100 pounds of cabernet franc grapes and is fermented with a wine yeast strain. The wine facets shine through in the beer via tart notes and paired well with the fourth course of the night, steak and potatoes. Strips of Kobe beef were seared to medium rare and served alongside lobster mashed potatoes and grilled asparagus. Steak, potatoes, a grilled vegetable and a beer with tinges of red wine…is there a more appropriate pairing?
Wrapping up the courses, Chef
Florie allowed the final beer to shine on its own merit with a whimsical beer float. The Allagash Curieux is a batch of their Tripel aged for two months in Jim Beam Bourbon barrels and marks their first foray into barrel aging. Upon completion of the aging process, the brew weighs in at a lofty 14-15 percent, but is then blended with a dose of the regular Tripel to get the ABV down to a still heavy-hitting 11-percent. The barrel notes shine through the ale with hints of bourbon and creamy vanilla and paired well with Chef Floie’s Jim Beam gelato. The ice cream was delicate with a rich bourbon and honey flavor that complemented to bourbon notes of the beer.
It goes without saying that Florie is an over-the-top, progressively thinking chef. But to be served personal dishes that he personally likes eating, made the dinner an above average themed beer dinner. Collaborating with an upper echelon brewery the likes of Allagash and the quality of their beers brought a depth of appreciation to the food and dinner as a whole. And in lieu of the day and the celebration associated with it, fathers and non-fathers alike were given something special.
Photos by Ian Hurlock