Last week was American Craft Beer Week and so the Dogfish Head Alehouse in Fairfax had a special beer dinner for the occasion. It was a five-course dinner, each one paired with a beer, and each pairing off-centered. What does that mean? It means that the food was a little off the wall and the beer pairings were not quite what you would expect for the dish. Here’s a quick review of each of the five courses.
First Course: The Great Grapefruit Salad with Aprihop
The Great Grapefruit Salad consisted of fresh spinach, chopped grapefruit, walnuts, sliced radish, and feta cheese, tossed with a grapefruit vinaigrette. The salad was actually served in half grapefruit rind. The salad had a nice subtle citrus flavor, slightly bitter but not overwhelming. The subtle citrus brought out a citrus in Aprihop that usually isn’t there. The feta offset the bitterness of the citrus and sweetness of walnuts really well.
Second Course: Everybody Loves Ramen with Kvasir
The Everybody Loves Ramen dish was a combination of traditional ramen with enoki mushrooms and pickled ginger in a miso broth with sake braised pork belly. If that sounds like a lot of different flavors all at once, you’re right. I foolishly tasted the pickled ginger first and had a bad first impression of the dish and pairing. Then I mixed in some ramen and enoki mushroom with the broth and started to warm to it. Once I tasted the pork I was sold. This was one of the best braises I have ever tasted. The sweet and salty of the pork paired perfectly with the sour from the Kvasir. The ramen noodles and miso broth provided the savory to compliment everything else and the enokis were just there to provide some crunch. Overall, this was a fantastic dish, although I could have done without the pickled ginger altogether.
Third Course: Nacho Momma’s Lobster Burrito with Bitches Brew
Nacho Momma’s Lobster Burrito featured chunk lobster, melted pepperjack, and white chili sauce wrapped in a flour tortilla. This was maybe the most off-the-wall pairing of the night. Seafood with a stout? Shellfish with a big dark beer? The burrito itself was amazing. Big chunks of lobster combined with loads of melted pepperjack and a delicious white chili sauce made this a surprisingly heavy dish. The white chili sauce provided a bit of spice that was dulled nicely by the pico de gallo on the outside of the burrito, but also by the Bitches Brew. The dark chocolatey flavor combined with the honey in the Bitches Brew took the spicy edge off of the burrito and cleaned the palate surprisingly for the next bite. I was skeptical at first, but this ended up being one of my favorite pairings.
Fourth Course: Purple Haze Filet with Raison D’Extra
The Purple Haze Filet was an 8 oz. filet topped with a bacon burgundy sauce (with bacon pieces) and sauteed fiddleheads, complimented by purple mashed potatoes. When my brother-in-law saw this pairing on my Untappd account, he asked why I didn’t text everyone I know about it. That’s a good question because this dish was amazing. The filet was juicy and tender and the bacon burgundy sauce was not overwhelming but delicious nonetheless. There were actual pieces of bacon in the sauce as well. The fiddleheads were a little weird and didn’t add a whole lot to the dish, but were enjoyable enough. The purple mashed potatoes tasted pretty much like regular mashed potatoes but with maybe a slightly drier texture. If any of you have had Raison D’Extra, the pairing should speak for itself. For those of you who haven’t, this is the perfect beer for a nice juicy steak. The Raison features a huge malt backbone with huge dark fruit and raisin flavor and a slight sweetness. The dark malty fruit flavors pair perfectly with the bold, heavy, juiciness of the steak and accentuated the smokiness of the steak very well.
Fifth Course: Taste the Rainbow Skittle Cheesecake with Black and Blue
This was the most insane cheesecake I have ever tasted. When I say Skittle-infused cheesecake, I mean it. Each band tasted exactly like a flavor of Skittles – lemon, strawberry, lime, and orange. The yellow band – lemon; the red – strawberry (or whatever the Skittles flavor is for “red”); green – lime; and orange – orange (duh). Black and Blue on its own is a very good beer. It is a big Belgian-style ale fermented with blueberries and blackberries. It’s slightly different every year but this year’s version is a little more bitter than in other years. As a result, I was not crazy about this pairing. The cheesecake was so sweet and rich and the bitterness of the beer clashed with the taste of the cake. I understand the rationale: the sour should cancel out the sweet and cleanse the palate, but I don’t think this quite worked in this case. The cheesecake was one of the best desserts I have ever tasted, but the pairing fell a bit short.
Overall, I was quite impressed with this whole beer dinner. I had previously done their New Year’s Eve dinner a few years back and it was also well done (and came with extra Fort). They are expensive, but if the menu lends itself well to your tastes, they are worth it.
Cost: $60/person (tax + tip included)
Dogfish Head Alehouse | 13041 Lee Jackson Memorial Hwy, Fairfax, VA 22033 | (703) 961-1140