It’s about damn time I ate some of Alex Pope’s food again.
As a few friends and I sat around my living room sipping a bottle of Boulevard Saison Brett in preparation for the Alex Pope beer dinner hosted at Beer Kitchen in Westport on Monday September 17, I reminisced about all of the different Alex Pope dishes I ate back when Emily and I used to frequent the R Bar. He just has a way with ingredients; he manipulates them in a way that creates all-new flavor experiences, yet I can still recognize each individual component.
Think I’m exaggerating? You should have been at Beer Kitchen on Monday.
But we’ll get back to the food in a minute. This was a beer dinner, after all.
I have been a fan of Beer Kitchen ever since it opened and knew that the beer pairings chosen to compliment Alex’s meat-centric menu would be perfect. The beer pairing were spot-on. There were beers imported from Germany and Belgium as well as a dessert beer that is made about 50 yards away across the street at McCoy’s.
Every beer played an important role in each course, but two beers stood out above the rest. McCoy’s Monsoon Indian Malabar Brown, an intense beer made with two-year-aged coffee (aged in monsoon conditions, no less!) from the Broadway Cafe supported the dessert course. The staff at Beer Kitchen even added a little maple syrup to sweeten it up a bit. This hyper-local beer came two courses after a German beer, a stein beer called Hofstetten Granitbock that’s flavor benefits from a process where the brewers use white hot granite rocks to caramelize the mash. An amazingly intense malty flavor complimented every element of the pork chop dish. Two beers I have never tried before and two beers that I believe made my life better.
Okay, now I can talk about food.
The first course, an amazing aged-beef tartare that melted in my mouth, set the tone for the night. Gaufrettes, a fancy word for potato chips, sat on the side of the plate that had a mound of steak, roasted tomatoes and (I think) basil. Next to the tartare sat a pillow of whipped Green Dirt Farm cheese. It’s like chips and dip if I lived in the Romney house.
The second course was my favorite of the night. A housemade coppa was the star of the dish. Alex and the boys take hunks of pork and roll them into a tube shape, creating a forcemeat full of both meaty and fatty pork flavors. The result is a salty, chunky ham that sat on top of a bed of shiitake mushrooms, an onion and fennel slaw, and a fried cube of cornbread. Underneath it all was a creamy red pepper custard sauce that had the slightest kick. The beer served with this course was the Crabtree Ginger Bee, a beer with strong ginger and lavender notes. I didn’t love the beer alone, but when sipped after a taste of the coppa it added the perfect ending to each bite.
At this point in the night we were two courses into a six course dinner and I already had a huge smile on my face.
The third course was a phyllo crust pastry that was stuffed with chorizo verde, grilled scallions and almonds. There was also a sauteed kale with a berber vinaigrette. Berber is an Ethiopian spice mixture that made the dish spicy. It was like an empanada on crack (and kale).
Next came a manchego stuffed pork chop. Alex owns a butcher shop, he was serving us a pork chop, and he said he was really excited for us to try his smoked kraut. Focused on the meat, I was baffled by this statement — at least baffled until I tried the kraut. With the pork being cooked in the oven, the smoky flavors of the kraut cut through the pork nicely. Drizzled on the plate was something I have never heard of: dry-hopped honey. They simply took honey and added hops to alter the flavor just a little. There was also a little apple and both pickled and roasted butternut squash. I wish I could order this on a menu somewhere.
The next course was a palate cleanser that I was pretty sure would be my least favorite. Beet pie, blue cheese whip (with Hawaiian pink salt sprinkle), pickled melon rind relish and a balsamic drizzle. Very few foods are on my bad side, but beets are one of them. However, I loved this pie. This could have been my dessert (I can’t believe I’m saying I could’ve ended dinner with a beet pie) but lucky for us, there was one dish left.
I am an unabashed fan of ice cream in all it’s forms. This dessert had a morita pepper and white chocolate ice cream. Spicy, creamy, and sweet, the perfect centerpiece for a dessert that contained Farm to Market pretzel bread pudding, roasted pear, and rosemary pecans. The flavors were so over the top, so robust, that they easily matched the coffee aromas and thickness of the McCoy’s Brown that was served alongside.
I’ve been to a few beer dinners in my day, but this was by far the best I have ever been to. Kudos to Alex Pope, the rest of the kitchen, and the staff at the Beer Kitchen.