Some cuisines are easier to pair with beers than others. Mom's brisket, for instance, works really well with a big stout, while a platter of garlicky mussels is going to play nicely off a Belgian saison. IPAs work with fried pub fare, like onion rings and fish 'n' chips, while spicy Mexican food is best washed down with a wheat beer or a cool, crisp lager.
But Asian food? "It doesn't really pair well with most beer styles," says Tommy Lee, who opened Uncle, an Asian noodle bar, last August. Asian dishes are typically eaten with pilsners and other easy-drinking lagers that complement the spice or spices, not to mention the lighter style of the cuisine.
Which means that Lee and his head chef, Travis Masar, have a challenge ahead of them at next Thursday's Chef & Brew Festival at the Oriental Theater, where they'll join eleven other Denver chefs pairing a dish from a local eatery with a beer from a local brewery. (Guests will be voting on the best pairing overall; see them all below.)
This is the first time Lee has participated in an event like this, so when he was talking with Chef & Brew organizer (and former Aria chef) Michael Long, he suggested teaming up with Hogshead Brewery, since it is located not far from Uncle. But Hogshead specializes is English-style bitters, pales and cask ales.
"I was just thinking that they were close, not really about the beer style," Lee says. Still, Lee and Masar got a few ideas after they tasted Lake Lightning, a lighter pale ale. But their initial attempt, a kimchi version of a traditional braised soy sauce egg, didn't work.
"The egg was going to have a really cool, marbled red look that would have been visually appealing, but it wasn't quite the right match for that beer," Lee says. "The kimchi overwhelmed it.
"Now we are leaning toward something that is more traditionally eaten in England, curry," he continues. "So our dish may not be Asian in the traditional sense. It will have little elements of Asian cooking, but the final flavor profile may be based on the kinds of things they eat in England."
Or not. But whatever Lee and his team come up with, they are going to have to be creative, he says, since nothing can be cooked at the festival itself.
The Chef & Brew festival takes place on Thursday, November 15 at the Oriental, 4335 West 44th Avenue. Tickets are $39 in advance and $49 at the door; attendees will try two-ounce pours paired with an appetizer from each chef.
In addition to Uncle and Hogshead, the other participants are:
Elise Wiggins - Panzano, paired with Prost Brewing
Troy Guard/Steve Jones- TAG Menage a Trois Burge (a beef slider with Grey Poupon, sliced Gruyere, French onions and Kirby pickles); paired with Wit's End Green Man Ale
Sheila Lucero - Jax Denver, paired with Funkwerks
Jensen Cummings - Row14, paired with Caution: Brewing
Chris Cina - Ghost Plate and Tap (Himalayan Salt and Pepper Crusted Lamb Loin Carpaccio, Sherried Bell Pepper Relish, Haystack Farms Queso de Mano; Breckenridge Brewery Christmas Ale
Brendon Doyle - City, O'City, paired with River North Brewing
Jay Leandro - Pub 17, paired with Crooked Stave
Victoria Vittori - Crock Spot, paired with Strange Brewing
Sean McGaughey - Aria/Opus, paired with West Flanders Brewing
Taylor Drew - Russel's Smokehouse (Smoked Lamb Neck Shepherds Pie w/ Goat Cheese whipped potatoes in a "Beeyond the Hive" honey whole wheat crust); Elevation Beer Company "Apis IV" QuadruppelSpiced Carrot Cake with "First Cast" macerated golden raisins and cream cheese frostingPairing: "First Cast" IPA
Cory Treadway - Wynkoop, paired with Wynkoop Brewing
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