@GRMAGAZINE: Beer vs Wine Dinner

(Grand Rapids, MI) — For our November 2012 two-page spread in Grand Rapids Magazine (on sale now!), we decided to try an experiment by pairing both a beer and a wine with each of five dinner courses. Subscribe to the magazine or pick up a copy at local newsstands to read the whole story, then continue below for more insight and advice about throwing your own Beer vs. Wine dinner party...

He Fed:

Since I’m the beer-lover in our house, I’m given the task of pairing brews for each course. I focus on the dessert course first, since I’m actually making a cheesecake (my one contribution to the food). Guinness has that creamy, nutty flavor I’m positive will work with the graham cracker and hazelnut crust, but I’m not certain if it’ll go with lemon. I prep the crust, then mix up the filling. There’s a little left over after I pop the cake into the oven, so I crack open a bottle of the Guinness and taste-test with a dollop of the filling. Eureka! Who knew lemon would actually go with a stout? The cheesecake comes out almost perfect, with just a tiny crack in the middle. We garnish with a lemon slice and some mint leaves before delivering to the table. I’m geeked to find out if my beer pairing will win over the other diners, but curious to discover how it fares against wine!
She Fed:

I am pleasantly surprised how significantly the flavor profile of a dish can be altered by its pairing. The beer match-up with popovers amplifies the yeasty tang of Danish bleu cheese but the rose champagne mutes it. Cotes du Rhone Blanc coaxes grassy, verdant notes from the shaved salad while Short’s Bellaire Brown intensifies the earthy walnuts. On the flip side, food can affect how beer or wine ordinarily tastes. My “Aha!” moment during tonight’s gastronomic experiment is the Sauternes. Never a fan of sweet wine, I find myself barely tolerating them during a multi-course meal. Most often, I give my glass to someone else, which is also my inclination after my first sip tonight. But once I take a bite of creamy cheesecake, the Sauternes is somehow less syrupy, becoming full-bodied and amplifying the wine’s innate citrus qualities.

Thinking about hosting your own beer and/or wine dinner? For starters, it's never a bad idea to hook up with a sommelier for the wine pairing suggestions. Whenever we're dining at Reserve, for instance, we'll generally defer to Peter Marantette's advice on what might best go with rabbit gnocchi, for instance. So it is, Juliet's acquaintance and Certified Specialist of Wine, Jeffrey Mar (West Bloomfield, Michigan) offered us the following suggestions which helped guide us toward our choices:
  • Blue Cheese Popovers: "Pink Bubbly is the way to go, the little bit of strawberry tartness will play nicely with the tang of the blue cheese, there are several options but I say splurge on the first wine of the dinner and spend less on a few other courses - Billecarte Salmon, Veuve Rose, Duval Leroy Rose $75."
  • Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad with Walnuts and Pecorino: "One of my favorite white wine categories is a Cotes du Rhone Blanc, a blend of various white wine grapes from the Rhone Valley in France - a bit of Chardonnay weight and richness with interesting aromas and usually very affordable options - Domain Saint-Ann is particularly nice and just under $20 (Chablis will be great if you don't find a CdR Blanc, look for a 2008 vintage pick)."
  • Pumpkin Soup with Red Pepper Mousse: "I like the idea of Spanish grenache (Garnacha) with this course - preferrably something from importer Jorge Ordonez and old vines should be on the label, older vines add to the character and depth of the wine - $20 or less."
  • Roasted Pork with Apple-Fennel Chutney: "Lots of great wines to pair with this dish, but I would suggest finding a Pinot Noir from Oregon and specifically looking for the 2008 Vintage here, they are almost all really good - splurge a bit here as well, Archery Summit, R. Stuart, Adelsheim $45-$60."
  • Lemon Hazelnut Cheesecake: "A fun exploration of a sweet wine is required here, expand your horizons and give a glass a try! French is probably a good direction, options are Pineau des Charantes (Chateau D'Orignac is a great option) for a nutty tone, $25; Loupiac is a golden straw colored wine made from shriveled grapes and more affordable than Sauternes at $25."

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