Paige Latham Didora
Blood Sausage is coming.
I recently attended a Game of Thrones beer dinner at the Fulton neighborhood’s Pig and Fiddle. Chef Sephanie Kochlin prepared 5 incredible and unique courses to pair with Ommegang beers, the brewery that is responsible for the acclaimed Game of Thrones commissioned series. I agreed to go with someone without looking at the menu, I simply heard the words “Thrones”, “beer” and “Fiddle” and agreed.
Pairing beer and food is very fun. It is not always easy and sometimes it is quite arbitrary. But when it works, it works, and the synergistic effects are very satisfying.
Each of these courses was uniquely designed for this event with the beer in mind, and in some cases, contained the beer itself.
The meal opened with a head cheese created using the Ommegang Witte. Kochlin cooked the head cheese using juniper and coriander for a aromatic echo of the beer. The local pork lent a very distinctly fresh flavor and the citrus relish cut the heaviness creating a more appropriate first course.
pictured: owner Mark van Wie
Another success of this dish was the chunky texture of the pork. I was afraid of some sort of gummy-meets-paté like texture.
The Ommegang Witte is rather substantial for the Belgian white style. I failed to recognize its ability to stand up to rich pork before now and was impressed. The beer has a slightly sour-acidic aroma but the overwhelming taste is lemon and general citrus notes. The fresh citrus relish really tied it together.
The second course was almost as successful. Thinly sliced pickled beef tongue was dressed with a salad and stand-out-yum apricot reduction. The salad had radishes and other spicy notes which were echoed in the pairing, the Hennepin Saison.
pictured – Shawn Wolf of Duvel/Ommegang
The beer displayed a slightly phenolic aroma, appropriate for the style, and a markedly bitter aftertaste. Hoppier than the average saison, this was the only distracting flavor for me, otherwise this pair was harmonious. The high carbonation brightened the beef tongue and enhanced the spice notes of the radish, while the ginger and orange cut through the meat.
Next on the nontraditional menu was blood sausage atop an egg, potato, and rye bread. A sweet lingonberry compote added some sweetness and acidity while the beer pairing, the Fire and Blood Red Ale, also demonstrated balance. Hops and malt are showcased evenly in this most recent Game of Thrones beer. Considering its name and the use of Ancho chilies, I was disappointed that there was not any heat in the beer.
There was a distinct peppery note that mingled with some fruit character and mimicked the dish perfectly without being repetitive. The texture of the blood sausage in contrast to the toast and the berries was perfection.
The service was well done, but not perfect. I waited for the beef tongue to arrive while everyone else had theirs for several minutes. Maybe they thought I was a vegetarian (one woman in the room was). Fools. The most irksome part was reusing silverware through all of the courses, which normally I’m fine with doing, but my fork was covered in sticky apricot early on.
On the other hand the portion sizes were spot-on and the staff were friendly and seemed to enjoy the event.
The main course was a rare treat – lamb neck glazed in stout with jus.
This course was served family-style which felt very authentic to Game of Thrones. Call me a huge nerd, but I was envisioning the Men of the Night’s Watch passing plates of the less desireable meat parts down long, dark tables.
The root vegetables used were not overcooked or bland, either, and the fennel root was pleasantly unexpected.
To cap off the meal was an incredibly simple and delectably tart strawberry cake containing toffee and walnuts. A fellow diner commented that its rustic quality was very appropriate to the theme of the meal – many other possible sweets would have seemed out-of-place.
Served with the Three Philosophers Quadrupel, which is also fruit-forward, the cake was an interesting mix of sweet and tart, with each bite containing a new ratio of flavor. The beer has notes of dried fig and brown sugar, almost as deep as molasses. The fruit notes are not ones of fresh fruit; the cherry tastes distinctly fermented and complex, with characteristically less aroma as a result.
I was very impressed at the meal as a whole and genuinely blown away by this Kochlin’s ability to pair flavors with harmony, echo, contrast, and synergy.
As beer dinners go, I am no expert, as I am often more keen to go out at happy hour time or drink something fancy at home. The theme was mainly conveyed by the unusual and refined-rustic food along with a bit of decor – house sigils adorned the archways of the restaurant.
If I were the creative director, I may have added tablecloths and big, irregular, drippy candles to the mix. Coat should have probably been taken or stowed somewhere, I didn’t feel particularly posh with my damp raincoat on the back of my chair. But these are all minor details. The food was great. The beer was fantastic. But the food WITH the beer was superb, and that is the hallmark of a successful beer dinner!