Today I’m going to try and point you in the right direction when it comes to food pairing events. There are an ever increasing number of them being announced for Toronto Beer Week and they run the gamut from the relatively simple to the extremely complex, but there are only a couple of things that you need to know in terms of deciding which ones to try out.
The first and potentially most important thing is that some of these events are going to involve cooks at local venues showing off. Picture being in charge of a pub menu on a day to day basis. At most places, the total amount of creative input is whether or not to put a garlic aioli on the sandwich of the day or whether the lunch crowd is going to be willing to drop fifteen bucks on a rib special. Beer pairing dinners are usually a chance for the cooks to design a menu and throw their skills at something. The quality of the food is likely to be pretty high because they’ll be trying to match dishes to beverages, and for that reason this is a good opportunity to go out to a new place and see what they’re capable of accomplishing beyond the poutine of the day.
Fair warning though: No matter how good the beer is likely to be, if you’re not a fan of the style of cuisine being served, you’re not going to enjoy yourself. Fortunately, there’s quite a variety on offer.
Monday, September 20th
The Monk’s Table
1276 Yonge Street – (416) 920-9074
Belgium Beer Fest with the White Knight – Please Reserve Seating Limited
Bill White Hosts a Five Course Extravaganza of Belgium Beer and Food Pairings
The Monk’s Table is doing beer and food pairing events all week long, but this is the one that I want to call your attention to, because it combines everything you could possibly want: Exceptionally high quality Belgian beers, with an imaginative menu and a guide to take you through the whole thing. Not just any guide, either. Bill White is a Knight of the Confederation of Belgian Brewers (the hazing process may have involved a mash paddle) and he’s able to tell you all about the things you’re drinking in a way that removes a lot of the mystery.
Newbie Accessibility: 3/5 (mostly because of the guidance)
Price: 2/5 (very good value for money, though)
Wednesday, September 22nd
1564 Queen Street West – (416) 849-1095
Muskoka Beer Dinner: A four course beer dinner featuring four beers from the Muskoka Cottage Brewery, including their new batch of Harvest Ale. Four courses, four beers, all paired for only $40. Call to make reservations.
I’ve got to say that I’ve never been to Cowbell, but if you hit up their website and take a look at their menu, it’s solid French bistro fare. They even do their own charcuterie, apparently. Veal sweetbreads are on the menu, for those of you who have watched No Reservations and wondered what Anthony Bourdain is going on about. Still, it’s a four course prix fixe with beverages included, and at forty bucks it sounds good to me. I only wonder whether they’ll have to dial the menu back a little to pair with some of the lighter Muskoka beers.
Newbie Accessibility: 3/5 (I bumped it up one because the Muskoka beers are largely accessible)
Saturday, September 25th
38 Wellington Street East
6 Course Dinner with Beers from Duggan’s Brewery – 6pm
A beer pairing dinner with Michael Duggan of Duggan’s Brewery. 6 courses paired around various beers produced by Duggan. Tickets are $79 and can be purchased by calling (416) 941 9410.
I’ll be honest with you: This sort of snuck up on me. Not only is Trevor doing a week of featured sandwich pairings at the bar (Salt Cured Foie Gras Club Sandwich. Sure it’s the moral equivalent of punching a gander in the face while his helpless goslings look on, but that don’t mean it ain’t tasty) but they’re also doing this dinner. I suspect the price is mostly because of the quality of the food, which in turn makes you wonder why Michael Duggan isn’t doing it at his own place. Sources suggest that it’s because the chef at Trevor is a long time beer nerd. If only for that reason, this has the potential to be a bit of a show stealer.
Newbie Accessibility: 2/5 (Some of the food pairings might get really elaborate.)
Price: 1/5 (Nearly as expensive as the dinner with a dude who came all the way from Scotland.)
ALL WEEK LONG
What’s that I hear you say? “But Jordan, I’m a total neophyte when it comes to beer and food pairing and I don’t want to risk spending a lot on something I might not like and besides I don’t want to punch a goose in the face.” Well, those are all valid concerns except for the last part. Here are a couple of events that are about as accessible as food pairing gets, and they cost less than twenty bucks.
600 King Street Wes & 58 The Esplanade
Big Bier & Ze Big Brat – $19 plus HST
Oktoberfest comes a little bit earlier – Enjoy a 10 inch Thüringer bratwurst with all ze trimmings (Bavarian bread dumplings, Weissbier kraut) paired to your choice of (22 oz) Erdinger Weissbier or (22 oz) Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier.
This is nicely accessible, unless you’re the type of guy who finds spaetzle challenging: A choice of two really nice wheat beers and a bratwurst with fixings for less than twenty bucks. Slip into your lederhosen and let your inner Bavarian out. Please refrain from annexing the Old Spaghetti Factory.
319 Augusta Ave – Kensington Market
Oktoberfest Celebration! We will be serving a variety of sausages, Marzen styled beers, and some freshly hopped beers made with local hops.
In the words of Tobias Funke, there’s nothing like a banger in the mouth. It’s a basic pairing, given that you get the sweet malty flavour of a Marzen and the salty, porky, fatty goodness of sausage. It’s a combination that has worked for ze Germans since time immemorial. It’s a good start if you don’t have any knowledge going in.
Join me next time as I’ll be looking at some of the more gimmicky events going on during beer week. If you’ll excuse me the Beau’s Sticke Alt is calling my name and I’ve got a 30th birthday to celebrate.