Dining Review: Beer Dinner at The Red Avocado

I attended The Red Avocado’s second beer dinner on Wednesday, March 23. Served to a soundtrack of blues played by guitarist Dustin Busch (who fittingly told me his last name is spelled “like the beer”), the beer dinner presented five courses worth of expertly chosen food and beer pairings. Co-owner David Burt introduced each course by outlining the flavors and how the food and beer would interact, something I found very helpful when I dug in.

Burt thinks beer is “Red Avocado friendly.” He said his restaurant’s use of certain herbs, Indian spices and curry lends itself to pairings with the grapefruit citrus of pale ale and the coffee, chocolate and caramel of dark ale and stout. This serendipitous collaboration of flavor and texture is something he is eager to showcase in the Beer Dinners he plans to host four times a year, seasonally.

The pairings delivered just as he said they would. Point Special Lager doused the sharpness of spicy mustard served with tempura vegetables in the first course and the grapefruit citrus and bitterness of Pastime Pale Ale complimented the curried black-eyed pea soup of course number two. Burt’s preface, and the way it matched my flavor experience, impressed me, and I had no doubt he and his staff knew what they were doing when making each culinary couple.

Point Special Lager (Stevens Point Brewery of Stevens Point, Wisconsin) with tempura vegetables and English mustard dipping sauce.

Course three flipped the pairing roles. The plate of marinated tempeh, apple-daikon slaw, sweet-potato chips and snow pea shoots enhanced the gentle bitterness and grapefruit citrus of Sheephead Ale, a pale ale from Minnesota. As a fan of mushrooms and bread, the fourth course was my favorite: the dark grains of Traquair Jacobite, a Scotch ale, paired perfectly with the buckwheat batter used for three small pancakes topped with curry-spiced mushrooms. It was finger lickin’ good despite the fact I used a folk.

The triple ginger cake served for dessert was incredible, but I did not care for its pairing with Whole Hog Russian Imperial Stout. The stout enhanced the cake’s already powerful ginger and cinnamon spice, making the pairing too astringent for my taste. However, after a couple mouthfuls of cake and beer, my palette adjusted and the dark fruit and chocolate of the stout complimented the cake, which was like eating a high-quality gingerbread man.

Overall, I was very impressed not only by the choices of food and beer, but also the professionalism and knowledge of the staff. Each was evident in the careful planning and crafting of the meal. Striking for a beer nut like myself was the fact Burt said he chose the food courses first, then paired them with appropriate beer later. I would do the complete opposite (beer first, then food), or simply cut out the food altogether.

My only picky complaint: each beer was served in an oversized wine glass. Though decent glassware for pale ale and imperial stout, it is not ideal, and a little too classy, for lager.

All is forgiven, however. Even as some of the beers had me so enthralled that I doubted any meal could possibly share the stage, The Red Avocado continually delivered with plates that renewed my enthusiasm for the perfect pairing. The next Beer Dinner is slated for mid-to-late June 2011.