Event Review – Fair Food Philly’s 10th Anniversary Brewer’s Plate Event 2014

Reflections of Brewers Plate

Reflections of Brewers Plate

So I’m minding my own business two weeks ago (something I do far more often than many are willing to believe) when G-LO lets me know that he’s been invited to attend Fair Food Philly’s gala 10th Anniversary Brewer’s Plate Event at the Kimmel Center.  He and Limpd attended and raved about it the last two years, but scheduling conflicts prevented either of them from taking advantage of this year’s invitation.  That was about to become a problem for me because I was being asked to pinch hit for the Booze Dancers by attending as a VIP to review the event.  Honored and intrigued by the prospect I gladly accepted the invitation … and the challenge.  You see, the last event of this type I attended was the Atlantic City Craft Beer Festival some years ago with Chef Robert Irvine of Dinner/Restaurant Impossible fame.  Let’s just say that spending a day with him sampling our way through various brewer’s and restaurant’s offerings was hysterical but not something I felt I needed to repeat.

And then there’s that cheese thing.  G-LO and virtually everyone who’s spent more than a few minutes with me is well aware of my issues with cheese (and with more than a handful of other supposedly edible foods – believe me, Rain Man and his eight fish sticks have nothing on me).  I wrote about my fatwa with all things cheese in Full Frontal Fromage so there’s no point in getting into it here other than to acknowledge that my pre-event research revealed that Brewer’s Plate would showcase many local artisinal cheeses.  Never fear.  On occasion, I’m modestly capable of exercising sound judgment in the face of a clear and present gouda and this was one of those times.  I’d enlisted the expert assistance of my lovely wife who, surprisingly, doesn’t share my fear or opinions regarding cheese.  Time to experience the Brewer’s Plate in all of its glory.

Beads of sweat began to form on my furrowed brow and I was starting to form complete thoughts in my mind that ended in prepositions.  A sure sign of an impending panic attack as I waited in line (first in line, actually) to enter the Kimmel Center.  Biej entertained the VIPs, including Epikur’s Writer of the Year, Tara Nurin, with some well executed acoustic tunes to set the mood before the doors opened.  Once inside it was wow at first sight!  The Kimmel Center is a stunning example of design and architecture.  A festival of Mexican hairless dogs and their owners (well some of them) would look great in this space.  Fortunately none of the attendees needed to negotiate any of those hideous canines because Fair Food Philly had something else to showcase. “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” is one of the the themes of the Brewer’s Plate and that theme was beautifully showcased throughout the evening.  In Fair Food Philly’s own words:

The Brewer’s Plate is the great-grand-pappy of the beer and food pairing movement in Philadelphia – one of the first to introduce the region’s blossoming throngs of foodies and beer geeks to the concept. And, like most things, we continue to get better with age.  No other annual event maintains an unwavering commitment to “buy fresh, buy local” while bringing together our region’s outstanding chefs, farmers, food artisans, brewers, distillers, and winemakers for the benefit of the most discerning critics, bloggers and guests.  Brewer’s Plate attendees enhance their knowledge of the local food scene by sampling, attending breakout sessions, and directly interacting with vendors and sponsors. Our 10th Anniversary (#BP10) Celebration will be the best yet, jam-packed with celebrity guests, exclusive beers, amazing pairings, and much more – located at one of the best venues in the city!

After three hours of sampling many of the offerings, covering every inch of all three levels, and chatting with like-minded local craft beer geeks, foodies, bloggers, and professional writers, I have to say the Fair Food Philly team nailed it.  Philadelphia has a long and enviable craft beer and fine food culture and many of the brewers, chefs, chocolatiers, and, yes, cheese maker/purveyors who contribute to that reputation were on hand.  Here’s a list of this year’s participants:

EATS

Abbaye, Alla Spina, Amada, Bar Ferdinand, Barren HIll Tavern, Birchrun Hill Farm, Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse, Brauhaus Schmitz, Capogiro Gelato, Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen, Cherry Grove Farm, Choptank Oyster Company, City Tap House, DiBruno Brothers, Distrito, Doe Run Farm, Donna & Company Artisanal Chocolates, El Camino Real, Eclat Chocolate, Epic Pickles, Fair Food Farmstand, Fette Sau, Field House, Franklin Fountain, Garces Catering, Garces Trading Company, Iron Hill Brewery, J.G. Domestic, John & Kira’s, Khyber Pass Pub, London Grill, Miss Rachel’s Pantry, Night Kitchen Bakery, Philly Bread, Rosa Blanca, Russet, South Philly Tap Room, Southwark, The Belgian Cafe, Tinto, Tria, Varga, Victory Brew Pub, Village Whiskey, Weckerly’s Ice Cream, White Dog Cafe & Wild Flour Bakery

DRINKS

Angry Orchard, Barren Hill, Boxcar Brewing, Brooklyn Brewery, Conshohocken Brewery, Dock Street Brewing ,Dogfish Head Brewery, Earth, Bread & Brewery, Evil Genius, Fegley’s Brew Works, Forest and Main Brewing Company, Frecon’s Cidery, Free Will Brewing, Iron Hill Brewery, Lancaster Brewing Company, Mugshots Coffeehouse, Neshaminy Creek, Nodding Head, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Philadelphia Distilling, Prism Beer, River Horse, Round Guys, Roy Pitz, Sam Adams, Saucony Creek, Shawnee Craft, Sly Fox Brewing Company, Stoudts Brewing Company, Subarashii Kudamono, Susquehanna Brewing Company, Troeg’s Brewing, Vault Brewing Company, Victory Brewing, Weyerbacher Brewing & Yards Brewing

With so many stations to hit and such a wide variety to chose from it was impossible to try and get to all of them but the well thought out layout made it easy to sample a representative cross section.  My wife was impressed with the overall quality of the food and was particularly impressed with the pommes puree by Garces Trading Co. I have to admit, calling mashed potatoes something frenchly exotic makes a difference.  Attempting to list and comment on everything we sampled would be a fool’s errand so I’ll simply note a few favorites.  White Dog Cafe’s BBQ pulled pork sliders were tangy, sweet, and tender and Weckerly’s toasted oat cinnamon Ice Cream float with Dock Street Cinnister Stout was a worthy adults only desert treat.  Speaking of desert treats, you can’t beat Capogiro for flat out world class gelato.  They whipped up several local craft beer flavored gelatos for Brewer’s Plate.  I went with the Weyerbacher Heresy and quickly discovered that heretics can be splendid indeed.  We were; however,  slightly puzzled at the number of items that required two hands to eat.  After all, this is food and craft beer pairing event and pairing is best facilitated by having a bite ready in one hand with a sip ready to go in he other.  Not really a major problem upstairs on the VIP level where there was plenty of room and cocktail tables but managing without a third hand was a bit more challenging elsewhere.

As for the craft brews, I was most impressed with Forest & Main’s Alopex Sour Lemongrass Saison, Brooklyn Brewery’s Swedish Strong Ale, Boxcar Brewing’s 1492 American Pale, andSam Adams Rebel IPA through a Simcoe packed Randall.  Victory Brewing teamed up with Sam Adams for a subtly complex Brewers Plate Stout that was a nice contrast to many of the more intense (though delicious) barrel aged ales performing elsewhere in the Kimmel Center.  Both my wife and I gave the best surprise beer of the night award to Sam Adams for their Spiced Peach Ale.  I was also pleasantly surprised by the Asian Pear Wines being poured by Subarashii Kudamono.  

About those cheeses.  They were abundant and the air was often redolent with their scent but that didn’t seem to bother any of the throngs of people constantly awaiting their turn to graze the spread laid out by DiBruno Brothers.  Again, I don’t get it.  What’s wrong with a display of matzo balls?  That said, my cheese sampling winglady enjoyed all but the Victory Storm King Soaked Cheddar.  Pretty clearly a gross violation and waste of a fine imperial stout but that’s just me.

Unfortunately, we missed one of the feature events, “Best of the Wurst” sausage showdown but we didn’t miss much else.  With such a large and diverse venue it was difficult to estimate the total attendance.  The main lobby and Locavore Lounge on the second level were crowded but not uncomfortably so.  From a third balcony view, I could occasionally make out small mobs of meerkats (nattily dressed hipsters) bounding from brewer to chef to brewer but always in a well mannered way.  This wasn’t one of those craft beer and food festivals that makes you feel like you’ve been dropped into a real life giant pachinko game.  Every element of the Brewers Plate was well conceived from the selection of the venue to the layout of the participants.  The Hoppin John Orchestra kept everyone pouring and sampling to a great groove and the mix of craft beer and foodie fans provided its own city suave energy.

Happy 10th Anniversary to the Brewers Plate! An all around great event flawlessly executed by great people showcasing some of the best Philadelphia has to offer.

Cheers!

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Guest Post: Ready, Set, Cook with Booze!

I came across a guest post of Jake’s on home brewing a while back while reading one of my favorite craft beer blogs, The ALEHEADS.  I added a comment to his post and a few days later Jake reached out and asked if I’d be interested in having him do a guest post over here.  Seems he’s been doing more than just brewing beer in his kitchen, he’s been cooking with it as well (not all that uncommon for many of us).  I’m infamous around here for my Unholy Hand Grenades – matzo balls cooked in Stone Smoked Porter then wrapped in bacon and roasted.  A favorite with my twisted friends but not so much with the rabbinical set.  When he mentioned that one of his recipes was called Mikes Hard Lime Pad Thai I was too intrigued to say anything other than “write it up and I’ll put it up” (or something like that).  Anyway, without further nonsense…..

Cooking with Booze

Author Bio: Jake Metzler spends his time at Midwest Supplies and writing about it to trying to make some money. He also enjoys learning about new and old brewing techniques.

I’ve been brewing my own beer for a couple of years, and I think the only reason I stuck with it is because I love to cook. Don’t get me wrong, I love beer. But my first foray into

When in doubt, pour

When in doubt, pour

making my own, well… it wasn’t great. It wasn’t terrible, but if I had thought that all my beers would taste like that, I wouldn’t have made any more.

But I like to think of myself as a kitchen scientist, so I continued to experiment until I got something that I was proud to share with buddies. Brewing is cooking in a sense; you just end up with a drink instead of food.

Besides cooking my alcohol, I like to cook with alcohol. I know that often the alcohol burns off, but it can add some great flavor. I’ve experimented with the usual; stout stews, beer batters, red wine spaghetti sauces. But there are a couple recipes I’ve played with that I’m pretty proud of.

Irish Cream Waffles

I’ve made beer batter pancakes before, but for some reason when I was out of milk and wanted to make waffles, I didn’t think of substituting beer. Instead, I scoured the house for any milk product I had. Baking cupboard: powdered milk? Nope. Evaporated milk: all gone. I had nothing.

But the cupboard I keep my baking supplies in has another very important item in it. Liquor. I had Bailey’s Irish Cream! That would substitute for milk, right?

Well, kind of. Cream is obviously thicker than milk so I had to add some water to the batter. But I loved the flavor and will definitely be experimenting with the recipe some more. Plus, it’s a great way to work a kick into a weekend breakfast.

Mike’s Hard Lime Pad Thai

I admit, when I came up with this idea, my whole goal was to find a new recipe with alcohol in it. I was being cheap and trying to use stuff I already had and wouldn’t mind pouring into my food instead of straight into my liver.

I had some vodka, but that didn’t really inspire any ideas. I looked in the fridge and saw a couple of stout beers and… Mike’s Hard Limeade (don’t judge).

I started to think of things that have lime in them. I considered a chicken marinade, but I wasn’t sure how the carbonation would do in a marinade. Then I thought of pad thai, which often has a peanut butter sauce with lime juice and sugar in it. I figured the Mike’s could substitute for the lime and the sugar. And since I was pretty sure none of that 6% alcohol content could stand up to any heat, I decided to soak some shrimp in it and throw those on at the last minute (so I did some marinating after all).

As much as I like to cook, I don’t really follow recipes (except when brewing) so my pad thai dishes are always a jumble of rice noodles and whatever veggies I have around – snap peas, mushrooms, bell peppers. Basically a random stirfry with a peanut butter sauce. I always throw the typical Asian flavors into the sauce as well: soy sauce, fish sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes.

It actually turned out really well! I threw some more of the Mike’s in at the very end just to make sure the lime flavor didn’t get lost. It came through wonderfully.

If you’re anything like Jake (or me) you’ve probably poured an adult beverage into the pan as well.  Chime in with your booze cooking adventures and misadventures.

Cheers!

Not Kosher For Passover

Not endorsed by Jewish Cardiologists.  Unholy Hand Grenades cooked in Stone Smoked Porter

Not endorsed by Jewish Cardiologists. Unholy Hand Grenades cooked in Stone Smoked Porter

I said it wasn’t Kosher for Passover, didn’t I?

Hello, my name is The Alemonger and I’m an irreverence addict.

Group response: “welcome, The Alemonger.  You have a great name.  Actually, it’s ridiculous but we’re supposed to make newcomers feel welcomed and comfortable so we say things we don’t really mean.  And we say them in unison.”

So what’s an irreverent Jew to do on Passover? Posting a picture of my Unholy Hand Grenades seemed a bit less problematic than actually making them for tonight’s Seder.  The heathens are coming over for the second Seder tomorrow night so I’ll wait 24 hours.  The extra day won’t kill me.  Better not, because if I go before I hit the reset button next Yom Kippur I’ve got less of chance of getting to Heaven than FGCU has of getting to the Final Four.  Hmm… Then again, maybe my chances are a bit better than I suspect.  For the record, an unnamed brother specifically asked me to make Unholy Hand Grenades (matzo balls cooked in Stone Smoked Porter and wrapped in bacon) for tonight’s Seder but I declined.

What's that smell??

SHOW US YOUR FINS!!

I also declined – no, refused – to serve Gefilte Fish.  That oily conglomerate of congealed “fish” loaf is possessed of a highly toxic and fetid stench.  No wonder we aren’t making enough Jewish babies.  The contact odor alone is enough to defeat even the most amorous of intentions.  And another thing: where are its fins? Yeah, yeah, yeah (not The Beatles version), straight to Hell.  I know.

What’s a Passover Seder without a traditional brisket and recitation of the 10 Plagues? Over the past several years it occurred to me that both the brisket and the plagues needed a little spicing up – one literally.  As for the plagues, well, let’s face it, they need a serious overhaul.  It is 5773 after all and frogs just aren’t all that relevant a plague these days.  More on that later.  Back to the brisket…

I didn’t exactly grow up in a house of cooks and I’ve yet to watch a real live Bubbie prepare a traditional brisket so I walk into the valley of stainless steel Vikings already lead by temptations no self-respecting Jewish cook would entertain.  I’m not out to win this season’s Food Network Top Chef so I’ll spare you the full recipe.  Suffice it to say that it’ll get my Rabbi’s attention – and not in a good way.  Mind you, I did use a healthy amount of Israeli cumin in the dry rub but the fact alone that I used dry rub at all is strike one.  Strike two is the coffee.  Howard Schultz, Starbucks President himself, wouldn’t even carve a brisket rubbed with their own Ethiopian Sidamo (neither will I – I used Peet’s Major Dickason’s but that’s besides the point).

I go down swinging with strike three by using Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout in my braising base.  You knew craft beer had to make an appearance somewhere.  Oddly (though not at all for anyone who knows me), I’ll use beer in the recipe but I won’t actually drink it at the Passover table.  Life is full of gerrymandered lines, rationalizations, and uncommon sense.  Remains to be seen if the line between beer and the Passover table will extend to the couch later in the evening.  In any event, I figure that actually cooking the brisket in beer – even a world class stout from America’s Torah Belt – is enough all by itself to assure me a long wait for that ferry across the Styx.  Maybe I can bribe Charon with a fresh Sculpin or two to show up a little early.

About those plagues…

I get it.  Back in the days when Charlton Heston’s ancestor was President of the NSA and defying Pharoah to take his slingshot from his cold dead hand, boils and frogs were probably legitimate plague-worthy inflictions.  Not so much anymore.  Slaying of the first born would still qualify as a top ten plague today but seems to me a bit extreme these days so let’s bench that one for a while.  The time has come to refresh the plagues.  Make them relevant again.

Thou Shalt Revise Thine Plagues

Thou Shalt Revise Thine Plagues

I propose we dip our pinky fingers into the Manischewitz for these Ten Plagues we can really get behind:

  1. Dial-up Internet Access
  2. The Honey Boo-Boo and it’s Posse
  3. Obamacare
  4. Bad Chinese Food
  5. The Twilight Werewolf Guy’s Pecs
  6. D List Reality TV (Duck Dynasty & Dancing With the Stars)
  7. Big Beer Pharoahs (ABInbev & MillerCoors)
  8. LiLo
  9. Weak 4G Cellular Coverage
  10. Chick Fil-A Closed on Sundays

Not a perfect list of modern plagues, I know.  I expect I’ll be criticized for leaving standard definition TV off the list but that’s not as egregious as the NCAA Tourney Committee’s giving Oregon a 12 seed.

Here’s to a Happy (and possibly Hoppy) Passover! I’d love to hear your suggestions for irreverent celebrations.  Let me know what you’re doing to stir things up while hiding the Afikoman.

L’Chaim!

Full Frontal Fromage

Not sure what to make of these guys but I like them

Not sure what to make of these guys but I like them

Offended yet?  Americans in particular seem offended by full frontal nudity.  Wardrobe malfunctions during Super Bowl half time shows and a fleeting glimpse of a blurred nipple is enough to send some of us into an irreversible state of shock.  Hide the children lest they be forever scarred by nightmares of a nearly fully exposed areola!  The entire adult populations of West Virginia and Mississippi driven to therapy.  Mass moronity at its pinnacle – or its nadir.

But I’m not offended by a surprise nipple or even a free range breast.  Even my holy roller Mormon legal education couldn’t put the fear of broadcast nudity into me.  I’m offended by cheese.  Hate it.  Completely.  All forms.  It’s vile and rancid.  Nothing redeeming about it.  Fetid, horrific, and toxic.  That’s right.  Deadly.  It’s a killer.  Ask any cardiologist or 7 year old with access to a TV and the attention span to pay attention to commercials.

Too harsh?  Nah.  OK, maybe not quite accurate.  I’m not offended by cheese, I’m offended that most everyone else seems to expect – practically demand – that I like it.  Pretty simple really, when milk goes bad (which it never does in a house with 3 young children) you throw it out.  That’s especially true when its bad enough to congeal into a solid or semi-solid mass.  You don’t rename it “cheese” and put it in your mouth.  If not for cheese I could be a proper Giada DeLaurentis stalker.

Giada photo courtesy of the Food Network

Giada photo courtesy of the Food Network

I hate cheese almost as much as I hate mayonnaise (amazed myself for even spelling it without passing out).  Mayonnaise people are completely insane.  Want me to bolt from a room? Put a tuna salad sub in plain sight.  Egg salad is even worse.  I’ll probably throw up in my mouth by the time I finish this sentence.

But I digress.  Cheese is the villain here.  Its bad enough when the stuff is in plain sight but when you people start hiding it in otherwise safe havens you’ve crossed the line.  I still have PTSD-like flashbacks of an early October 1980 lunch in the Sadler Hall Dining Hall at Syracuse when I bit into a hot dog only to come face to face with a beast so hideous as to forever shatter my sense of dining calm.  A cheese dog!? Innocence lost.

I get it. Many of my craft beer friends swear by beer & cheese pairings.  One of my favorite craft beer bars in Philly, Tria, is based upon a theme of offering the best of the three fermantables: beer, wine & cheese. Tria is a great bar.  Small but world class craft beer offerings and an excellent wine list but I have to ignore that third prong.  Full disclosure: not all cheese is bad.  This one used to be pretty good:

Now THIS is foodie quality stuff

Now THIS is foodie quality stuff

Yes, I really used to eat those.  Fresh from the vending machine they were hard to beat.  If I were to go completely mad and forsake my hatred for cheese, this is where I’d go:

I might even get a frequent shoppers club card from that joint.

On occasion I consort with the enemy.  I call some of them friends.  Frail and flawed as they are.  One in particular, G-LO of the It’s Just The Booze Dancing blog fancies himself a foodie and good cook (both true).  All around good guy but for his affection for cheese in all of its heinous forms.  I thought it only fair to ask him a few questions.  Know thine enemy (or something like that).  Anyway, here’s my brief interview with a friend and a friend of the fromage.  Draw your own conclusions but know that if you side with him I’m coming for you down the road……

The G-LO Interview:

1.   Explain yourself
Talk about an open ended question. For those that don’t know me, my name is G-LO, one of the writers for the “It’s just the booze dancing…” blog. Food and drink are what make me happy. The Alemonger, a man that lives in fear of the cheese, asked me to explain how I can eat the stuff. Although I live in fear of his questions (mostly because my Sicilian upbringing causes me to naturally fear anyone that has ever worked in any form of law enforcement. Fear of getting caught? You betcha.), he asked kinda nicely, so I agreed to the interview.
2.  When were you turned onto turned milk?
Again, I’m Sicilian. We go from drinking milk to eating cheese at a very young age. Ricotta, mozzarella, mascarpone, fontina, and pecorino. These are our gateways.
3.  How do you deal with the stench?
Stench? We cheese aficionados prefer to call them aromas. When the cheese is fresh and well crafted, the aromas are positively mouth watering. What he meant to say: “now that you mention it…”
4.  Favorite Cheese & craft beer pairing.
Much like my taste in Craft Beer (or pretty much anything else), I enjoy an incredibly wide variety of cheeses. While I have typically paired a bold red wine with most cheeses, I have really started to enjoy great Craft Beer alongside a well constructed cheese plate (Thank you Tria!). Since I really like big cheeses like Gorgonzola, Roquefort, or Stilton, they need to be enjoyed with a Craft Beer that can stand up to their bold flavors. A Saison Dupont is perfect for this, but I could also see something like a Rodenbach Grand Cru, or perhaps even a really good IPA like Ballast Point Sculpin or Green Flash Palate Wrecker.
5.  If you home churned, what would you make and what would you name it?
Several years ago, Mrs. G-LO and I spent an anniversary weekend in DC. We did the usual touristy stuff, i.e. walked many miles and went to many museums (this was before my Craft Beer fascination, so I was not aware of places like Church Key). One particular exhibit that completely enthralled me was Julia Child’s Kitchen which is located in the American History Museum. One of the walls in this exhibit featured Julia Child’s French Bread recipe. What I found most fascinating is what she said about the French and their bread baking habits. Essentially, most French people do NOT bake their own bread. Every town or neighborhood has a local bakery, and that’s where most French people get their bread. Making great bread is inexpensive, but it’s also very time consuming, so why do it on your own when you have access to a professional baker that turns out a consistently great product at an affordable price everyday? With all that in mind, I doubt very much that I would ever make my own cheese. Some things are best left to the professionals. Same goes for Craft Beer. Much respect for those that homebrew, but with so many great local beers, why would I ever want to go through the hassle of brewing my own?
Now if you put a gun to my head and forced me to make a decision, I would go with a fresh mozzarella or ricotta because you can pretty much make it and eat it the same day. As for the name, they already have names.
What that answer reveals:  G-LO has a fetish for Julia Child (not peeking through his bedroom window). The French are lazy and toss cows at proper Englishmen. He won’t allow a pet into his house because he won’t be able to name it.
6.  Cheese in 3 words:
Makes everything better!
7.  What is wrong with you people?
There is nothing wrong with us people. Cheese is an essential and delicious part of life. Great cheese has the ability to take something good and make it even better. A perfect;y cooked, medium rare, USDA Prime Porterhouse topped with melted Gorgonzola? Yes please! Wash that down with a glass of Russian River Consecration? Even better!
You need to get past your preconceived notions and free your mind. Take the red pill Neo!
What should I have asked? 
 
9. Let’s say I completely lost my mind and decided to finally try some cheese (never gonna happen). How would you ease me into it? (for the record, I’d have never asked that)
Would you give a person that hates beer an Imperial IPA and expect them to enjoy it? Would you pour a Laphroaig 10 for a non-whisky drinker and expect them to enjoy it? In both instances, the answer is no. You need to ease someone into it. Tantalize their palate. Pique their interest. What you need to do is find a gateway cheese. I would start very basic. A fine English Cheddar served with some sliced apple, dried fruit, perhaps a bit of honey. Maybe some young Pecorino on a slice of bread, topped with some roasted red pepper. Even better, have a hamburger with a slice of well aged swiss cheese! Ya gotta take it slowwwwwww….
Thanks G-LO
That’s it.  Now pass the cheese free pretzel dog.
Cheers!