"The monks do not want this beer being sold outside of Belgium."
"People that pray and make beer know what they're doing," Christian Pappanicholas, owner of Resto said to the 30 or so people gathered for the restaurant's Trappist Grand Redux Dinner Monday night. The pious brewers who Pappanicholas praised are the monks who brew beer at seven Trappist monasteries (six in Belgium and one in The Netherlands). I couldn't agree with him more, Trappist beers are some of the most complex and interesting around.
The meal paired these seven Trappist beers with seven courses from chef Bobby Hellen. This cippolini onion and hens of the woods mushroom quiche certainly amused my bouche. It was paired with Rochefort 6 (7.5% ABV), a dark brew from the Abbey of Notre Dame de St. Remy. The savory quiche was a good match for this malty beer, which has plenty of ripe fruit flavor. A great way to start a mid-autumn dinner.
Toast cannibale is Belgium's version of steak tartare. Chef Bobby Hellen calls his twist on it steak cannibal. Traditionally served with capers, Hellen deep fries the pickled buds. The chopped beef combined with mustard and shallot was wonderful on its own. Eaten along with the crunchy capers and warm whipped Béarnaise sauce it was swoonworthy. It was paired with La Trappe Isid'or (7.5% ABV) a Belgian pale ale Pappanicholas likes to think of as a "session beer."
This thick, velvety smooth Flemish carrot soup with bay leaf cream and caviar was extraordinary. It was paired with Achel Blond 8˚ (8% ABV), a triple with a Belgian yeast character that balanced the rich soup.
Bits of house smoked bacon studded this endive gratin with rosemary bread crumbs. It was paired with Orval (6.9% ABV), made by monks from Abbaye of Notre Dame d'Orval. Orval is brewed with wild brettanomoyces yeast. If you're a home brewer take everything you've ever been told about cleanliness and throw it out the window. Better yet, open the window so the wild yeast can get in. Brettanomoyces imparts a grassy barnyard character that I personally don't dig.
A riff on the Belgian classic eel in green sauce: scallop with watercress and tiny purple cauliflower. Delicious on its own and even better paired with the malty Westmalle Dubbel (7% ABV).
Carbonnade with new potatoes, porcini, bacon, and a dollop of horseradish mayonnaise. This chunk of beef tail flap was stewed for hours in Maredsous Dubbel until it was fork tender.
"The monks do not want this beer being sold outside of Belgium," Pappanicholas said of Westvleteren 8 (8% ABV), which was paired with the carbonnade. Brewed in the dubbel style it was packed with toffee flavors. He also poured Westvleteren 12 (10% ABV). Surely this beer is the pride and joy of the monks of St. Sixtus. It tasted like a port, redolent of caramel, chocolate, and raisins, among other things. It was so good that dessert, a glass of Chimay Grand Reserve with caramel-filled stroop waffles paled in comparison.
Resto holds beer dinners every Monday. The next one will focus on Hellen's Old World French charcuterie.
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