Jonathan Power, formerly of Root Down and one of the masterminds behind the Noble Swine Supper Club, is currently putting together a menu for Crema Coffee House, where he and owner Noah Price have some big plans in the works. After discussing those plans, though, we got to talking about food and beer pairings, and he asked me if I'd like to cook with him sometime and pair the dish with a beer of my choice. Needless to say, I was honored and immediately accepted the invite.
Seemingly off the top of his head, Power suggested we make some watermelon ceviche -- "the perfect summer food," he noted.
A few balmy days later, he emailed me the grocery list, which was simple enough and easily checked off at Marczyk Fine Foods. On the way to Crema, I stopped by Argonaut Liquors and picked up a bomber of Dry Dock Brewing's Apricot Blonde Ale, despite being a little apprehensive about the purchase. I know Jonathan to be a beer nerd in the truest sense, but wasn't sure if he was down with fruit beers. Males tend to dislike them, and I'll include myself in that stereotype for the most part. But they can be wonderful with food when done well, and I trust Dry Dock almost implicitly. Besides, I thought it would pair well with the watermelon in the ceviche.
I had never cooked with a professional before, and was somewhat nervous to do so, but Jonathan was a great tutor, totally laid back, and quickly eased my mind with his casual demeanor. As we were prepping the ingredients, he explained that the fish in ceviche isn't technically cooked. Rather, it is cured in the acidic lemon and lime juice. That process takes some time, however, so while the fish was soaking, we cracked some beers and headed out back to the employee patio to chat.
Power has a great culinary mind and happens to be a philosopher of sorts. It was just as interesting to get his take on food as it was to hear his thoughts on spirituality and life in general. He's undoubtedly a comforting presence in Denver's promising and progressive food scene.
We worked up quite an appetite in our discussions though, and I was relieved to learn all that was needed to finish the ceviche was to toss everything together, and season with salt and pepper to taste. And it tasted amazing. Power was absolutely right: it was the perfect summer food, so fresh and bright with just the right amount of heat from the pepper. The watermelon added a wonderful texture and color as well. I would have never thought of using it myself, but like everything Power does, it made total sense.
Thankfully, so did the apricot ale. It's a well executed fruit beer, with a nice balance of sweet to tart, and not too light in body. It complemented the delicately flavored ceviche perfectly, and was just as refreshing to boot.
Here's the recipe (courtesy of Jonathan Power):
1 small watermelon (3-4 lbs or so) diced into 1/2 inch cubes 1 cucumber diced 1 lb fish sliced into 1/2 inch cubes ("I like tilapia, it's fast frozen usually, so I feel like it's pretty clean, but any decent white fish works well, as do bay scallops. Again, as long as they're pretty fresh"). 1 serrano chili pepper, chopped 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped 1 bunch scallions, chopped the juice from 3 lemons and 3 limes 1/2 cup olive oil salt pepper and a bag of tortilla chips to eat it with 1. In a large mixing bowl, combine fish, lemon and lime juice. 2. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours. 3. Drain the juice, leaving a little for flavor. 4. In another mixing bowl, toss together watermelon, cucumber, chili pepper, cilantro, scallions and oil. 5. Gently fold in the fish and season with salt and pepper to taste.