Monday, March 02, 2009

The Perfect Couple

Some pairings are meant to be. And I'm not talking about Brangelina or Bennifer or whatever poor devil might be Madonna's catch of the day.

I'm talking about the cuisine of India and beer, a pair that was meant to make beautiful music together, or at least some downright memorable meals. Most people automatically think of India Pale Ale when the subject comes up—the British did ship highly hopped IPAs to their colony because the strong ale could withstand the five-month journey—but this complex cuisine deserves better than tastebud-dulling hops or too-pallid lagers.

So when David Anderson, chef at Vindalho in Portland, and Beer NW magazine publisher Megan Flynn put their heads together to come up with a three-course dinner featuring Vindalho's spice route cuisine and (mostly) Northwest craft beers, they looked way outside the box in their quest to find innovative matches.

My brother and I walked in with the other guests to find champagne flutes filled with a light and delightfully bubbly libation, a Krait Prestige Champagne Lager, that accompanied Mr. Anderson's spicy samosas (above left), along with tender and juicy lamb meatballs and his justly famous masala chicken wings. (Read my brother's review of the evening here.) Though it was almost impossible, I tried my hardest not to chow down on too many of these lovelies since I knew there were three courses yet to come.

And come they did, with an appetizer of black pepper and curry leaf prawns paired with Laughing Buddha Mango-weizen (above) the light and slightly sweet-tasting beer accentuating the richness of the crustaceans. It was followed by the oh-my-god richness of the dish I can't seem to not order, the pork Vindalho accompanied by saffron pullao and crispy shoestring potatoes (top photo). It was backed up by the smokiness of Southern Oregon Brewing's porter, a match made in heaven if ever there was one.

By now our heads were swimming from flavor overload, but our intrepid hosts weren't done with us by a long shot. Before we could protest that we really needed to be going, they slipped onto the table a miniature plate of orange-spiced chocolate mousse with a crisp coconut tuile that looked to my addled senses like a scorpion about to sting. Fresh glasses were filled with Cuvée du Jongleur from Cascade Brewing, a Belgian-style brew that has more similarity to wine than what is normally thought of as craft beer here in the NW. Fine, slightly sour and with notes of citrus peel and wood, it was the perfect accompaniment to the dessert and probably my favorite pairing of the evening.

Megan dropped by as we were sliding under the table to let us know that the magazine will be hosting more of these dinners in the future, so stay tuned. If they're anything like the evening of deliciousness this one was, even you non-beer drinkers out there may find yourselves converted to the malty side of the street.

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