Master Cicerone Neil Witte and I traded wines and beers at Celina Tio’s new Belfry last week.
While he’s run a few thousand beer dinners and I don’t care to admit how long I’ve been conducting wine dinners, Celina flipped the field and let Neil pick the wines while I picked the beers.
I should also admit that both of us probably look forward to getting back to what we usually do next time — Celina has invited us back so I guess it wasn’t a failure. Still, I’d like a chance to use more extreme beers; I regret that I was conservative in my choices for the dinner. My selections reflected the menu — first, it has to go with the food; second, Neil was there, so it seemed silly not to pour Boulevard beers.
The first course of runny egg, mushrooms and crouton was simple from the wine side: rose wines work prettily with egg dishes — all else being equal. Eggs want a bit of tannin (Mulderbosch rose of Cabernet from South Africa in this case), but not too much tannin, so both red and white wines can seem off-kilter.
Eggs can suck the fruit out of a wine, so you need a lot of fruit. Voila: dry and fruity rose. Neil steered me towards New Belgium Snapshot; its citric, lactic acid-based tartness cleaned up the rich character of the egg surprisingly well.
Salad was wackier: root vegetables and seared Brussels sprouts leaves were the dominant flavors. Domaine Wachau Gruener Veltliner from Austria loved the root vegetables; Avery Ellie’s Brown loved the seared leaves — it’s a brown with a good chunk of roasted malt to it.
The entrée was paired with Boulevard’s Grainstorm, a black (darkly colored but not so roasted) IPA, and the hop character is what stands out. It functioned alongside the richness of the Short Ribs but did even better with the roasted, honeyed carrots.
The wine choice was a tart and somewhat tannic ruffian: Ceretto Barbaresco; it handled the food better, I must admit. I’ll also confess that I hoped the early appearance of Grainstorm might overcome the more exciting food and wine match. But there I was wrong.
It will always remain a mystery with food and beverage: when it comes to entrees, people have an expectation of wine, rather than beer or cocktails. You can find a perfectly nice beer, spirit or cocktail match, but the wine usually wins over the crowd. Is it because it’s a better match or is it cultural conditioning?
Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.