06 April, 2009

Vintage Beer Brunch @ Memphis Taproom

This is way, way late but I've been meaning to write about the highlight of my Philly Beer Week 2009, the Memphis Taproom's Vintage Beer Brunch.

The day's moving had worked up the thirsts and appetites of your humble Broggers and the MTR did not disappoint. The concept for the brunch was to serve two vintages of a particular beer, paired with a dish from Chef Jesse Kimball.

I've always enjoyed eating at Memphis - the kitchen turns out some great comfort food. But for this brunch, Kimball really stepped up in a big way and delivered a killer 5-course tasting menu to complement owner Brendan Hartranft's beer selections.

1. Orval. Mini pancakes with speck, maple syrup and crumbled cheddar.

2. Cantillon Gueze. Smoked salmon terrine with red onion compote, fried capers and tomatoes.

3. Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter & Stone Oatmeal Stout. Shirred egg with braised beef short rib.

4. Rochefort 10, 2004 & 2008. Asparagus salad with goat cheese and blood orange.

All the beers were excellent (sadly I neglected to write down the vintages of the first two courses). The Rochefort course stood out in particular; the older 2004 bottling had an appealing roundness and deep malt character that the newer bottle only hinted at, its alcohol heat overshadowing more delicate flavors. The Flying Dog Imperial Porter was also fantastic; if I remember correctly that bottle was also from 2004. The 3rd and 5th courses paired two different beers rather than a true vintage tasting, though they were similar in style.

As I mentioned above, the food was great -- showing not only a knack for creative flavor combinations, but also an eye for visually appealing dishes. (And naturally I forgot my camera.) The second course, smoked salmon terrine, was the most visually dramatic and also the most surprisingly tasty dish for me. I'm not normally a fan of smoked salmon, but in chef Kimball's hands, the fishiness of the salmon blended with creamy goat cheese, fried capers and sweet onion compote to create a harmonious whole. The Cantillon paired well, with its bracingly sour notes.

While the terrine was my favorite individual dish, the best pairing of the afternoon was the third course: the dark, velvety Flying Dog Gonzo with luxurious braised short rib and shirred egg. After such a rich course, the asparagus salad refreshed us with its bright goat cheese and vibrant blood orange. A cheese plate rounded out the meal with three generous cuts of artisanal goat, sheep and cow cheese and tasty house-made condiments.

The brunch was so good that Mal and I will be attending chef Kimball's upcoming gastropub cooking class at Fosters. Maybe we'll see you there.
Thanks to MTR co-owner Leigh Maida for helping me out with the menu information.

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