Akasha has become a downtown Culver City staple for seasonal comfort food.
AKASHA Chef Akasha Richmond built on the success of her New Belgium Brewing Co. dinner by hosting a Unibroue dinner, pairing the Quebec brewery’s beer with five courses, some of which incorporated Unibroue beer as an ingredient. Akasha invited a small group of bloggers, including me, Caroline on Crack, e*starLA, and new-to-L.A. writer Anna Roth. It was a good opportunity to peel back the curtain, since Richmond explained the motivation behind each beer pairing. Michael Smith from Unibroue [U-knee-brew] was also in-house to discuss the brewery, which started in 1991 on the banks of Quebec’s Richelieu River.
We started with plates of Grilled Pizza Bread topped with Tumalo Farms Pondhopper, a microbrew-enhanced aged goat” and Blanche De Chambly White Ale, a refreshing citrus-y beer that Smith said was popular with French farmers in the summer. Unibroue brews white ale with orange peel and coriander.
Niman Ranch BaconWrapped Scallop was a strong dish, a single caramelized sea scallop plated on a chutney of Flora Bella Farm‘s Early Season Apple & Onion. Drizzled on the plate: Caramelized Beer Gastrique infused with the beer of choice:Ephemere Apple Ale. The pairing was great, with the sweetness of the scallop and chutney complementing the cider-like ale. Akasha appreciated how the “beer has the essence of apple, Fuji apple, candied ginger, raisins, pomegranate juice and cider.”
Smith said “ephemere” means short-lived in French. It’s made with fresh apple must, but wasn’t too sweet and tasted a little tart. It has a Blanche de Chambly base and clocks 6.2% ABV.
Duck Confit, Grilled Nectarines & Lolla Rossa was the night’s most disappointing dish due to the limp shreds of duck. It helped to have fresh crisp leaves of red lettuce, spiced walnuts, sweet nectarines and walnut citrus vinaigrette, but since duck was the central component, the salad was a letdown.
With the salad, we each received a taste of La Fin Du Monde – “The End of the World” – a robust Belgian-style beer that Smith revealed was flavored with orange peel, coriander, nutmeg, licorice, malted barley, malted wheat and unmalted wheat.
Akasha regularly serves short ribs at her restaurant, but tonight, the pepper-crusted beef was braised with beer, onions and fresh heirloom tomatoes. She paired the tender on-the-bone meat with poutine. Poutine is a traditional Quebecoise dish that uses residual duck fat from duck confit and involves French fries, gravy and mozzarella curds. Since Akasha had plenty of leftover fat from the duck confit salad, she made poutine. Her version was lighter since she didn’t use gravy and substituted aged cheddar and caramelized McGrath Farms carrots for curds.
Chambly Noire Black Ale is a 7% black beer that was brewed in honor of some fearsome fighters who wore black hats in 1812. The beer has a roasted coffee color, but wasn’t as caramel-y as I hoped given the rich aroma and color.
The final beer was the malty, rich Trois Pistoles – Three Coins – a 9% dark ale brewed with 5 different malts. Smith called Trois Pistoles a “Medieval meal – You can live off this beer for 40 days without food or water.” To punctuate his point, he added, “If you have 2 liters per day for 40 days, you will have a religious experience.”
Akasha tasted “lots of dark chocolate” in the Trois Pistoles Strong Dark Ale, so she created a hot fudge sauce for her ice cream sundae using two kinds of dark chocolate: Scharffen Berger chocolate and bittersweet chocolate. The creamy vanilla ice cream really went well with the rich sauce, tart Pudwill raspberries and crunchy bits of Goji berry chocolate biscotti.
After the meal, Akasha Richmond introduced Chef de Cuisine Greg Zanogi, crediting his contributions to the pairing dinner. She said she’s been influenced by these dinners and plans to cook with beer more often. This wasn’t the last of AKASHA’s beer dinners, so be on the lookout for the September pairing. Only three of the five dishes were successful, but the overall experience was fun, and it’s hard to find such a good learning experience when it comes to beer tasting and beer pairing.