Saturday, May 24, 2014

SAVORing DC 2014

I've been exploring craft beer for the past year, trying different styles, countries of origin, flavors, glassware, processes, etc.  It started with admiring the beauty of the glassware, where brewers would stamp their logos with pride, and where the markings indicating volume indicated a love of precision and fine craft.  A tour of the Heineken museum taught me about the brewing process.  I loved watching Brewmasters, which followed the brewing adventures of Sam Calagione as he tried re-creating beers of ancient civilizations and followed wherever his creativity led.  I visited the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, DE, to see where the magic was made.  On one of the Brewmasters episodes, they featured Savor, a premier craft beer and food experience held in DC, and I added that to my bucket list.  It was also a great excuse to visit a friend.

The flight in to DCA is always very special, because you feel like you're landing right in the middle of all the monuments.

Spent the next morning exploring the Botanical Gardens, which has way more than I thought it did.  I had only been to the outside portion in the past, but inside the greenhouses, they have different sections for different ecosystems, and it was cool.

(the Orchids are my favorite)

 (Baby pineapple - so cute!  And so odd, how you plant a pineapple, and another one grows on top of it)

Next, we enjoyed lunch at the Bluejacket/Arsenal brewpub, which has an impressive array of styles.  I tried a cask-aged Pyro, which is a "sour saison with subtle smoke, a zesty farmhouse ale boasting piquant acidity and a touch of smoke, fermented with a blend of saison ale yeast and brettanomyces claussenii for a beguiling nose of mango, tangerine, and perfumed spice, gently nuanced with oak and beechwood smoked malt, and chinook and citra hops."  Lots going on.  Not something I'd drink a lot of, but it was quite an experience.

(Veggie burger)

Then, we went back to the apt to do some watercolor & colored penciling, inspired by what we saw in the gardens (that was the plan all along).

Watched some fencing in the evening.

Next day, went out for a walk, followed by a run to the mall and then the East Potomac golf course.

It was super slow (couldn't get my speed up for some reason... maybe still recovering from Spartan?), but I got in 7.3 in 1:16:28, 10:28 ave.  It was cloudy.

That evening, we went to Savor 2014.  It was awesome.  

Here was my initial approach:
- Try a variety of dishes (bison with mole, veggies, desserts), to get a feel for how beer can go with a variety of foods
- Start with lighter beers, then move to darker beers
- Try some of the dishes multiple times, to see how different brewers approached the pairing
- In pairings, I would look for beers that would complement and contrast.

Well, that went out the window a little bit, because there was just so much there to take in.  I wish I had prepped a bit more, by printing out records of what I wanted to try.  Looking back, I also wish that I had maybe taken a bit more time to savor the beer and the food and the beer and the food together.  It was maybe a bit rushed... there was so much to try, though.

Turkey Braised in Mole
Turkey breast braised in a fragrant mole of dried chiles, tomato, almonds, Mexican chocolate and toasted pumpkin seeds.
- Good with light, not-too-hoppy beers, so that you can still notice the complexities of mole.
- Also good with dark roasty beers, where the roast enhances the chocolate and spieces of the mole.

Espresso-Crusted Bison on Black BreadBison loin crusted in espresso and seared. Served on a very thin black bread crisp with plum chutney.
- It tasted like BBQ, and the meat was not what I thought bison tasted like.  Not bad, but surprising, so the pairing kind of got lost in the surprise.

Charred Masala Cauliflower with DatesCauliflower florets seasoned with masala and charred. Served with dates and Greek yogurt.
- Very creamy, because of the Greek yogurt.  That's mostly what I got out of the food itself.   Something that creamy... maybe a bit hard to pair with.   Or, I just haven't found a good one yet.  I normally wouldn't eat something so creamy, anyway.

Broccoli Rabe and Pancetta Stuffed MushroomsOven roasted mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of broccoli rabe, pancetta, mushrooms and shallot.
- Delicious.  Don't remember much about the beer.

Hamachi CrudoThin slices of Hamachi with finely diced cucumber, radish and bok choy. Finished with a black pepper vinaigrette.

Salmon CevicheChilled, lime-marinated salmon ceviche served with crème fraiche.
- Seafood, especially the raw ones, just weren't really doing it for me, pairing-wise that night.  Had lots of IPAs with it.  I'm not a big fan of the super-resinous and piney IPAs, in general.  I'm the odd one out, since the rest of the world loves IPAs.
Dark Chocolate BudinoConfection of creamy dark chocolate with a pinch of fleur de sel, covered in dark chocolate ganache.
- Amazing.  So amanzing, any beer will go well with it.

Pecan HushpuppiesFinely textured cornmeal studded with pecans and lightly fried.
- The hushpuppy was somehow oily yet dry, at the same time. No beer could fix that.

Strawberry Rhubarb PieTart shells filled with poached rhubarb and fresh strawberries.
- Nice, especially with a not-too-sweet strawberry beer, so that one wouldn't overpower the other.

Dark Chocolate and FeuilletineDense dark chocolate layered with crispy feuilletine and covered in chocolate ganache.
- Was "eh".  Deceivingly not very sweet. What does one do with that?

We also attended a salon, where we learned about the impact that glassware can have on the beer tasting/sensing experience.

It was hosted by Lefthand Brewing, as well as Dogfish Head!  The discussion was really good... tons of things about the design of the glass you wouldn't even have thought of.  There's so much to recap, that I'll just let you listen to it at, where they have all of the salons available in podcast form.

Got to meet Sam!

‘PHOTO © 2014 Eddie Arrossi’.

It was an awesome event.  Even though it's spendy and this was just meant to be a bucket list item, I think I may have to go again some time.

Last day, did some touring in DC, then walked around the National Arboretum.

Great weekend.

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