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Baker Brandon Shank (left) and Certified Cicerone "Dr." Bill Sysak

Baker Brandon Shank (left) and Certified Cicerone "Dr." Bill Sysak

As a vegetarian I don’t attend many beer dinners due to the menu’s often being very meat driven, but every once in a while a beer dinner comes along that caters to vegetarians. Such was the case with For the Love of Carbs: Italy at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens last week. The dinner wasn’t 100% vegetarian, nor was it advertised as such, but a quick look at the menu showed that the only thing a vegetarian wouldn’t eat was the easily removable anchovy on the pizza.

As the name implies, the night’s bread focused menu highlighted the foods of baker Brandon Shank with beers paired by “Dr.” Bill Sysak. A five course dinner based around carbohydrates might seem like it would get boring by the end, but Shank’s dishes kept things interesting until the end and Sysak’s pairings were spot on each course.

Focaccia, oak-aged French Banyuls Wine Vinegar and Port Brewing Older Viscosity

Focaccia, oak-aged French Banyuls Wine Vinegar and Port Brewing Older Viscosity

The dinner started with a trio of bread: focaccia, ciabatta and sfilatino (a sourdough baguette) with Oro Bailen Spanish extra virgin olive oil and oak-aged French Banyuls wine vinegar. Paired with this opening course was the strongest beer of the night Port Brewing’s Older Viscosity. Dr. Bill said he likes to sometimes start a meal off with the strongest beer “to shock and awaken the palate.” The flavorful and strong beer wasn’t overpowered by the olive oil as many other beers could be. The sweet vanilla booziness of the beer cut through the acidic sourness of the vinegar and again wasn’t overpowered. It would have been easy for the bread to be overshadowed by the olive oil and vinegar, but it was good enough to have been enjoyed on it’s own if need be.

The second course might have been my favorite of the night, Dr Bill paired Fantôme’s  Magic Ghost with Shank’s ‘Deconstructed Pasta Salad.’ This pasta salad was like no other I had ever had before, large leafs of lettuce with watermelon, feta and olives on top of fried noodles. The cheese and olives seemed to pull the moisture out of the watermelon to help create it’s own sauce for the dish. As outlandish as it first sounded, the sweet watermelon went great with the salty feta and acidic olives. The Magic Ghost easily washed away the acidity and brought back just a bit of herbal sweetness. Both the dish and the beer would have been great on their own, but were amazing paired together.

Fantôme Magic Ghost with Deconstructed Pasta Salad

Fantôme Magic Ghost with Deconstructed Pasta Salad

The third course, the middle in this five course meal was pizza paired with Russian River’s Pliny the Elder. Pizza and Pliny is like a beer pairing match made in heaven. I’m guessing a lot of people reading this have had a Pliny while enjoying some pizza. Both were great and paired wonderfully.

The fourth course saw BrewDog/Stone bashah paired with a sandwich of sorts, fried Como bread stuffed with bufala mozzarella, red pepper flakes and fresh basil. Fun fact, Pliny the Elder was born in Como, the city which lends it’s name to the bread here. It seemed to be the general concensus that everyone was feeling pretty stuffed at this point (in the best way possible of course) but both the bread and the cheese here were so decadent and creamy that no one could resist. bashah’s malty and slightly roasty sweetness was perfect for the rich, melty and just a little spicy sandwich.

Mozzarella en Carrozza

Mozzarella en Carrozza

Even though everyone was completely filled up at this point, there’s always room for dessert as the saying goes. For the sweet finish to the meal Shank baked a dessert cake called Panettone that had orange and lemon peel, golden raisins, fresh vanilla with a limoncello and butter sauce. Paired with this Dr Bill selected a 2009 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale aged in Calvados (brand) Casks. The panettone was sweet with plenty of rich flavor from the raisins and vanilla, which paired well with the strong beer that had plenty of raisin, fig, and date flavors itself. Due to being aged in Calvados casks the beer also had an apple like brandy booziness to it, which seemed overpowering in the nose, but the flavor was much more mellow.

As a beer dinner rookie I can easily say this was the best I’ve ever been to. As much as I like the food at Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens, I had never pictured myself walking out feeling almost comatose from eating too much food rather thank drinking too much beer, but that’s exactly what happened here.

Photos by Kinsee Morlan

Note: Stone provided myself and a photographer with a press pass to this dinner.

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