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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Great review of Horse & Hound Gastropub Beer Dinner

Editors note: This post is copied in its entirety from the blog Edible CVille, authored by a woman named Libby. It is such a fantastic assessment of the Horse and Hound Gastropub that it just had to make its way to Sports Chutney. One, just to get H&H some more pub, two because there has been a lot more sports and not enough chutney here for a good while. Just so you know, my brother-in-law if the Chef Luther mentioned in the piece and he owns the restaurant with my sister Brooke. Enjoy.

Horse and Hound Gastropub.

When Hubby and I lived in Pittsburgh, we used to attend the Sharp Edge Beer Festivalevery June. A beer tent full of over 100 different kinds, from lagers to pilsners, to Belgian ales and beyond. For three blissful hours distributors would offer you tastes of their wares then punch a hole in your "dance card" (the festival card ensuring you had no more than one taste of each beer offered). We'd compare beers and compete to see how many we could quaff in three hours, our cards resembling Swiss cheese by the end. Afterward, we'd stumble into the Sharp Edge Beer Emporium to scarf down pub grub and count the days until next year. Inevitably, we'd start talking with total strangers who'd just come from the festival as well, and end up staying long after closing, debating whether or not Duchess du Bourgogne was a gorgeous red ale, or simply vinegar (I'm a firm believer in the latter for the record, BLEH!)

Ever since we've been trying to recreate the festival experience by attending Cville beer dinners. Of course, you don't get the depth and breadth of beer styles (i.e., drunkenness) you do at a festival, but it's still a great way to sample while enjoying what we hope will be great food. We've had various levels of success with this experiment (I'm looking at you l'├ętoile), and it was with this in mind that we recently attended the Ommegang beer dinner at Horse and Hound Gastropub.

I'd not yet been to Horse and Hound, but the menu looked interesting, and I loveOmmegang beer. So much in fact for the longest time I thought they were a Belgian company, but no, they create their nectar in Cooperstown, NY of all places - lucky baseball hall of fame tourists!

I don't know what it is, but every time I go to a beer dinner I think it's going to be like a beer FESTIVAL. But it's not. Instead of conversation growing organically under the friendly beer tent, they sit you at this long table full of SOBER strangers, and instantly you feel like you're having dinner with the in-laws for the first time. You better be on your best behavior! Awkward conversation abounds. Inevitably, within 20 minutes I wish Hubby and I were at our own table where we can act like 12-year-olds without repercussion. But no, we stay at the big-people table and get what I imagine to be disapproving looks that only get worse as the night goes on and we get more silly.

This night was no exception. So, I put on my "Chatham face" (the term I used in my old job when I had to go to social functions and be nicey-nice) and do my best to make friends. It was fine. Not a beer festival, but fine.

As at any beer dinner (I talk like I'm an expert when I have been to only TWO) the distributor does his spiel about the roasting of the hops, the loving care taken in the creation of this nectar, the fabulous untouched by human hands spring water sprinkled lightly over the barley like a warm spring rain. Yadda Yadda Yadda. The poor guy. You could tell he adores his job, but this is usually where I tune out and start looking at what food is coming. Hoping for that first pour. Let ME be the judge as to whether the beer is good or not. It's the same when I visit wineries - you can ply me with reams of heritage and lineage and information and awards and medals, but the real story is the taste.

The TASTE of the beer which was superb, but in this case, the real story was in the food as well, and the presentation. Each course arrived quickly, but not too quickly, presented perfectly, and with a short explanation by Chef Luther as to how the dish was prepared. I started to feel a little like Padma Lakshmi, without the plunging cleavage or the attitude. Yes, it was a little "Top Chef" and you know what?.............I LOVED it. It made the dinner special. It made me FEEL special. Hearing the Chef's process, the way he chose the ingredients to complement the beer, then the way the course was prepared, made me excited to eat it. Even the diners around us, stuck with the regular menu of meat, chicken, and sandwiches, looked envious.

They should have been. The food was outstanding. Every course. So it surprised me later when I looked up Horse and Hound's regular menu and found it pretty pedestrian. But Chef Luther can create all these OTHER things, so why sell steak and sandwiches? Does the other not sell? I got the impression the regular menu was Chef Luther's 9-5 daily grind, and the beer dinner was his time to "play".

And play he did. What I love about his menu is not only were the offerings paired perfectly with the beer, but he USED the paired beer in each course. So simple. So genius. I will always remember March 4, 2010, as the day I first tasted Flemish Carbonnade. A hearty beef stew which is the Belgian national dish. Slow braised beef - and I mean slow. Chef Luther told us it took him THREE DAYS to prepare this dish in its entirety. Braised in the Ommegang 2009 Ale(of which we were told only 3 casks remain) with vegetables, prunes, and spices until everything is just falling apart the minute you touch it. I SWOONED on first taste. It was bliss. I may have gushed ever so slightly as I left the restaurant, shaking Chef Luther's hand, thanking him, lingering just a little longer than I should. In my heart I wanted to kiss his feet but restrained myself. It was a beer DINNER after all and not a beer festival.

The next beer dinner is April 22, 2010. The menu is here. I suggest you go. No, it's not a festival - there will be some awkward conversation. You will have to listen to some distributor wax poetic about how his ales can cure the common cold. But I can almost guaran-damn-tee you there will be great food. Oh, and good beer too. Now, where can I buy an "I heart Chef Luther" tee shirt?

Horse and Hound Gastropub / Ommegang Beer Dinner
March 4, 2010

First Course - Prince Edward Island Mussels
Steamed in Hennepin, red coconut curry cream
Hennepin Farmhouse Saison

Second Course - Zucchini, Corn, Herb, Conch & Crawdad Fritters
Horseradish-orange marmalade
Rare Vos Amber Ale

Third Course - Duck, Lamb, Beef & Irish Banger Cassoulet
Ommegang Abbey Ale

Fourth Course - Flemish Carbonnade
Slow-braised in "Obamagang" ale, smashed red bliss potatoes, roasted vegetables
2009 Ale "Obamagang"

Fifth Course - Chocolate Cherry Profiteroles
Three Philosophers Quadrupel

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