by Dave Nelson
This Thursday, April 22, at 7 p.m., you can sample Ayers' hard work at a dinner featuring the beers of the Avery Brewing Company of Boulder, Colorado. Ayers spoke with Gut Check about how she creates tasting dinners, as well as some of the unique dishes she'll offer on Thursday.
Ayers says she began the process by "gathering together a body of dishes and the body of beers" the brewery has to offer. As Riddle's has for decades, Ayers' search for dishes begins with local, seasonal produce and meat. About two weeks before the event, Ayers cooks up the dishes and "we have a big feast to see what goes with what."
The initial staff tasting took place after Saturday-night service, at about 12:30 a.m., when a half-dozen members of the staff sat down with nine dishes and just about every beer Avery brews. They then "tried almost every dish with almost every beer," says Ayers, who eliminated four of the contenders and made mental tweaks to the rest in order to maximize the pairings.
The result is this menu:
Gut Check was particularly intrigued by the ceviche made and served with Avery's Maharaja Imperial IPA -- a big, bold, hoppy beer that checks in at over 10 percent alcohol and carries a massive load of piny hop aromas and flavors. Ayers says the citrusy hops were a natural match with the lime juice that provides the acidity to "cook" the fish, but that she was pleasantly surprised at how the beer's "contribution of some malty, caramely notes" rounded out the taste of the dish.
And what, pray tell, are Brazilian-style collard greens?
"A tweaked recipe from a beer and food cookbook I got a long time ago," Ayers replies. "I chiffonade [that's culinary-ese for "cut into thin strips"] the collard greens, add an onion-curry combo and then steam them in beer to soften." Rather than the traditional long-cooking process for collard greens, the result is a fresher, livelier flavor and texture.
Riddle's approach creates the opportunity for real learning about the art of matching food and beer. Instead of relying on standard or "classic" matches, Ayers and her crew go the extra mile and actually taste the beers in combination with the food to be served, and do so with an open mind and a single goal -- finding the pairings they think get the most out of the food and the beer. You can sample their work Thursday evening at 7. The price is $38 per person (plus tax and gratuity). Interested? Hurry! Only a few spots remain!
Riddle's Penultimate Café and Wine Bar
6307 Delmar Boulevard, University City