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Thursday, November 11, 2010

From Classroom To Beer Dinner

I was sent away to Niagara-on-the-Lake this past weekend to attend a course offered by the fine folks at Magazines Canada, meaning I had to miss out on the Learn 2 Brew Day that took place at the Amsterdam Brewery in Toronto with the SOB's (Southern Ontario Brewers). Judging from the various bloggers who attended it seemed like a great experience and one that would have been fun to participate in.

No, I was tucked away in the sleepy village in courses for four straight days discussing the magazine industry and the advertising side of things. There were other representatives from independent Canadian magazines in attendance and we had a great old time in the hotel bar, drinking none other than Unibroue's Maudite. (People in the magazine business know how to drink...)

Anyways, I'm sure this isn't interesting for you to read, so I'll move on to what I took part in on Tuesday evening. After finishing the last seminar in Niagara I drove straight to Gravenhurst to host a four course beer dinner with 23 individuals from the pharmaceutical industry at North Restaurant and Catering, a truly local restaurant with a decent beer menu. They had contacted TAPS some time ago to put together a beer menu that would mesh well with the food they were preparing for the group and Tuesday night it all came together.

North was recently named one of the top ten best new restaurants in Canada by Where Magazine (in their awards edition) and is owned and operated by Chef Alain Irvine (a five-diamond award winning chef) who has started to take a great interest in beer alongside wine on the dinner table. It has the rustic feel of a log cabin the minute you enter, yet its complimented nicely with present day modern furniture. It really is a beautiful little restaurant.

Everyone settled in shortly after 7pm and I introduced myself and spoke about how beer and food goes so well together. The crowd, a mix of men and women in the 35-65 age bracket, were intent on listening for the most part and were active in asking questions. I've been to my share of beer dinners where no one other than the host talks, and it sometimes makes for a boring atmosphere. Not to mention making it more difficult for the host as they try to capture the audience's attention. So, what I'm trying to say is that their engagement helped with the flow of the evening and made it easier on me to stand and speak freely, offering tips on tasting as opposed to educating them on what they should be tasting.

Unfortunately I didn't have the time to stop and take any photograph's of the food, but everything was very well done and for the most part, went well with the beer I choose to match it with. I chose Ontario products, as the majority of the group operates in this province, and it didn't really surprise me that most had not heard of these particular brands. Because the dinner was being held in Gravenhurst, I felt it necessary to include two beers from the area, thus Lake of Bays Pale Ale and Muskoka Cottage's Dark Ale were used.

The main course and the dessert were the two best pairings in my opinion and the Mill Street Barley Wine with the cheese and tart tartan was incredible. Something that I'll be trying to replicate this holiday season.

It was a good night and I hope to be doing some more of these dinners with North in the upcoming months.

1st Course
Arugula Salad
With Roasted Beets and Balsamic Glaze

2nd Course
Chicken Wings
Stuffed with Wild Mushroom Farce, Salsa Verde, Arugula, Fennel and Pear Salad

Main Course
Roasted Beef Tenderloin
Hand Cut French Fries
Guinness Flavoured Jus

Tart Tartan and 5 Year Old Cheddar

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