On October 10, as part of L.A. Beer Week, Gev Kazanchyan and his band of beer-fueled cohorts staged Dionicess VII, the seventh installment of the beer-and-food pairing series from the risk manager, college professor and beer enthusiast. This time, he teamed with The Foundry chef-owner Eric Greenspan, cookbook author Randy Clemens and Bryant Goulding of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery on a “five-course” meal. The collaboration resulted in my favorite Foundry experience yet and increased my respect for Dogfish Head.
Clemens worked for Greenspan at Patina, so the well-regarded chef was receptive when he and Kazanchyan broached the idea. Greenspan was also inspired by the thought of revisiting his craft beer roots. Greenspan was a longtime home brewer and even placed twelfth in a national homebrew competition in the mid ’90s. He said that in The Foundry’s early days, he featured some great beers, but the neighborhood didn’t respond, so he abandoned his efforts. He went so far as to “apologize for the beer program we have at The Foundry on Melrose.” He said this process “reaffirmed my love for beer” and “reminded me how sophisticated and special” beer can be.
Bryant Goulding, Dogfish Head West Coast Regional Sales Manager, flew down from San Francisco to represent the Delaware brewery, which touts “off centered ales for off centered people.”
Beer #1: Midas Touch, the result of Dogfish Head’s initial collaboration with Dr. Patrick McGovern, a Molecular Archeologist and ancient beverage expert at the University of Pennsylvania. The beer is based on a 2700-year-old recipe. The “golden elixir” is a hybrid of mead, beer and wine and incorporates honey, saffron and muscat grapes, leading to a sweet result. 9% ABV.
Greenspan presented an amuse bouche, so I guess his brioche bread bowl with saffron clam chowder, peppers and currants would qualify as a pre-amuse. Whatever the case, it was a winner, featuring a single plump clam and saffron that accentuated the saffron in the Midas Touch.
Beer #2: Chateau Jiahu, brewed using a recipe adapted from 9000-year-old residue, which was found the northern Chinese province of Henan. Jiahu is brewed with honey, hawthorn fruit, pre-gelatinized rice flakes, muscat grapes, barley malt and chrysanthemum flowers, fermented with sake lees. The malty, sweet brew clocked 9% ABV.
Greenspan paired the Jiahu with albacore tartare, which he dressed with tart green apple, fennel, crispy puffed rice to pick up on rice and yeast in the beer, and black peppercorn for kick.
Beer #3: Sah’tea. In Finland, it was too cold to grow hops, so they brewed using rye and juniper berries. Traditionally, hot rocks caramelize the sugars in the wort, and Dogfish Head’s beer is then fermented with German Weizen yeast. Dogfish Head also incorporates a chai-like black tea spiced with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and black pepper. 9% ABV.
“When I think of Norway, I think of creamed fish,” said Greenspan. He created a killer cod brandade featuring fish cured in smoked salt, cooked in a garlic cream infused with chai tea and plated. He plated the salty brandade with cubed potatoes and smoky eggplant puree seasoned with coriander, cumin and other spices.
Beer #4: Burton Baton, named for Burton on Trent, a town in the U.K. where the water naturally accentuated the IPA’s hop bitterness. In this case, Dogfish Head blended an oak barrel-aged Belgian style old ale with a hyped-up 90 Minute IPA. 10% ABV.
Goulding must have been inspired by the Burton Baton because he said “It’s a fraternal order, that if you’re drinking good beers, you’re doing what’s right.”
Greenspan said that when it came to pairing the Burton Baton, “It had to be a bird.” And a gamy bird at that. This prompted him to create one of the night’s best dishes, crispy gnocchi and Gruyere gratin with duck confit, pears and roasted chestnuts.
Beer #5: 90 Minute IPA, a double IPA with dialed-up malt to balance sweetness and bitterness. He described the origins of India Pale Ale, that hops helped to preserve the beer on its colonial era voyage to India, but Goulding made it clear that America’s helped to advance IPAs cause since then. He said, “America’s a place where you can do something that’s been happening around the world for thousands of years, turn it on its head and do it much more impactfully.” 90 Minute IPA is continually hopped for 90 minutes, rocks 90 IBUs and 9% ABV.
The fifth course from The Foundry chef-owner Eric Greenspan may have been my favorite of the eight. His meaty pork belly square featured a chile glaze that combined honey, red chile flake and Sriracha. Co-organizer Randy Clemens literally wrote the (cook)book on Sriracha, so that last inclusion didn’t come as a surprise, but it still packed a lingering kick. The plate also hosted butternut squash puree for sweetness’ sake and pumpkin seed brittle for crunch. Best of all, Greenspan decided to go “old school,” cooking the pork belly in pork fat, which added killer richness and allowed the exterior to caramelize. The dish isn’t currently on The Foundry’s menu, but it should be.
Beer #6: Festina Peche, a refreshing Berliner Weisse brewed with peaches for sweet tartness. 4.5% ABV.
The intermezzo consisted of a scoop of Scoops Festina Peche sorbet with diced heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers, peaches and lemon verbena.
Beer #7: Palo Santo Marron, a malty beer aged in 30-barrel Paraguayan hardwood tanks that are so dense, they’re bulletproof. The beer ages for 2-3 months, developing a molasses intensity. Palo Santo Marron sported the highest ABV of any beer we drank at Dionicess VII, at 12%.
Another excellent course, and a dish that held up to the Marron, involved slices of rosy roasted hanger steak with Romesco (flavored with bitter chocolate and spicy chipotle) that Greenspan plated with cubed sweet potatoes.
Beer #8: Bitches Brew, a nod to Miles Davis to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his seminal jazz album. The blend incorporated 75% roasty black Russian Imperial Stout blended with 25% golden ale brewed with honey and gesho, an African root. 9% ABV.
A jazz duo played their interpretation of Miles Davis’ landmark album as a second “pairing” for Greenspan’s dessert.
Greenspan said, “We thought it was kind of trite to pair a chocolate dessert” with such a chocolaty beer. Given that, he prepared crisp-edged slabs of walnut brioche French toast with, a spreadable banana mash flavored with sarsaparilla and spiced mascarpone ice cream. He grated on Thai long peppers for a spicy finish.
Kazanchyan said his goal with the Dionicess series is to “underpromise and overdeliver.” Considering everybody expected five courses for our $79, mission accomplished.
Dionicess VII also prompted a shift in the way that Greenspan is approaching his beer program at The Foundry. From now own, the restaurant will feature a Featured Craft Beer of the Month, with the bottle chosen by Randy Clemens. Greenspan will then pair a special appetizer and entree with the beer for the entire month. As Greenspan said, “Hopefully that helps restore your faith.”
If you’re interested in finding Dogfish Head beers in Los Angeles, they’re available at Whole Foods, Wally’s Wines and Vendome, to name just three retailers suggested by Goulding.