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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wanted: Good Food

It's a note I've sounded on this blog many a time, but it's worth seeing the NY Times play the full tune with their very big orchestra:
More and more bars are taking a great deal of care to make new beers available while presenting the old classics. But too many bars think the job stops with the beer. Instead of serving food worthy of these great brews, many bars offer throwaway versions of clichéd pub grub.

Good beer deserves better than fried mozzarella sticks, dried-out burgers, chicken fingers and greasy wings. American beer culture has progressed to the point where it offers wonderful, civilized beverages rather than the infantilizing mass-market brews, yet many beer bars offer grownups these reprehensible kids’ foods. I mean, chicken fingers?
My idea: a joint that fuses the best of slow-food, organic Portland dining, with all its rich seasonal freshness, with a flight of beers that are designed to work perfectly with those dishes--which means a mostly-seasonal line-up of beers, too. Hardcore foodies know a little bit about beer, just not enough. Hardcore beer geeks know a bit about food, just not enough. Can we put these two on a blind date and see if they will bear us a wee brewpub worthy of both Portland's food and beer? I'm happy to play matchmaker--email me and we'll set something up.

18 comments:

toast said...

Mmmm, what a great idea.. I don't think things are as bad here as the NYT article suggests.. Rogue's kobe beef burger sure ain't dried out.

Still, having first-rate food to go along with first-rate beer makes a lot of sense. I love beer and I love to eat, sadly I'm only an amateur at making either. I wish I was awesome at either one so I could help get this off the ground.

Mark said...

No question that bars and taverns are more focused on the alcohol than the food. There are exceptions everywhere and certainly Portland's brewery taverns show a more deft hand with food. However, and I know that beer-and-food aficionados may disagree, but I don't think that doing multi-course food pairings with beer is a way to improve food quality in pubs. Besides, I think a trip to Higgins would probably result in some fairly good pairings of their preparations and the many beers on tap and in bottles.
I see nothing wrong with emulating Germany, where rather simple meals--sausages, pork knuckles, fresh-baked pretzels--share the table with great beer. Sure, that's better than chicken fingers, but it is not at the elevated level implied here.
I know I will be dinged for this statement, especially on a beer blog, but wine makes a better pairing than beer for many of the sorts of dishes you seem to suggest. Now, that's my opinion only, but I think it is much easier to match good foods with wines.
I would certainly support any effort to create something like the sort of food experience I had in Munich where delicious weisswurst were accompanied by local wheat beers.

Bill said...

Jeff: There's also a question of pricing. Would you pay $18-20 for entrees? That's quite a difference from the more typical $8-12 pub fare?

I was really impressed recently by the food at Faultline in the Silicon Valley, but it was a step up in price.

Bill said...

BTW, aren't you a vegetarian? The pork-happy foodies would laugh your menu off of the table :-).

Anonymous said...

I think it's some more of the NYT's snobbery. If the food's done right (and I do not agree that the Rogue 'kobe'* burger is done right), it doesn't matter if it's fancy or not. I love drinking Terminal Gravity with wings at Fire on the Mountain. You cannot tell me that those are 'typical' wings.

*By definition, kobe beef is only from Japan (much like champagnes are only from France). So Rogue's insistence that they serve American 'kobe' gets right up my left nostril.

Mary Sue said...

I think it's some more of the NYT's snobbery. If the food's done right (and I do not agree that the Rogue 'kobe'* burger is done right), it doesn't matter if it's fancy or not. I love drinking Terminal Gravity with wings at Fire on the Mountain. You cannot tell me that those are 'typical' wings.

*By definition, kobe beef is only from Japan (much like champagnes are only from France). So Rogue's insistence that they serve American 'kobe' gets right up my left nostril.

Jeff Alworth said...

Mark:

I know I will be dinged for this statement, especially on a beer blog, but wine makes a better pairing than beer for many of the sorts of dishes you seem to suggest. Now, that's my opinion only, but I think it is much easier to match good foods with wines.

You will definitely get dinged. I don't doubt that there are a few rare dishes for which no style of beer can match wine, but they are vanishingly few--and the same thing could be said in reverse. In fact, given all the styles of beer one has at her disposal, it's hard to imagine a dish requiring a tart, sour, sweet, light, dry (you get the idea, pick your adjective) beverage that couldn't be served by a beer.

It is true that some people enjoy wines more than beer, but that is another matter altogether. Beer makes a lovely pairing.

Bill:
I don't think that's necessarily the case. It's quite possible to have a menu with a median price of $14 (that may include a $20 entree). The Farm Cafe is an example of the kind of menu you can offer. Their entree prices: $10, $13, $14, $14, $19, $20. That's pretty competitive with Laurelwood.

But yeah, I'd pay $18 ... on special occasions.

Jeff Alworth said...

BTW, aren't you a vegetarian? The pork-happy foodies would laugh your menu off of the table :-).

Umm...yeah...a poor vegetarian!

Jared said...

I have to side more with Mary Sue. When I go to the pub I usually order tots or fries to go with my beers. If it's a special occasion, or a special beer I'll have something more appropriatly paired.

Generally when I go out for a pint or two I'm not actually craving real food, or lots of it. Usually a friend and I can't even finish an order of fries during a session.

When I'm drinking at home though (90% of the time I'm drinking) I generally do pair my beers better with meals.

DOSiR said...

The places I frequent have some of the best foods available.. I eat a lot of vegetarian plates for calorie reduction and not... I try and make room for more beer. I don't like the limited veggie selections at a lot...

But for two brew pubs, I really love Laurelwoods food selection as well as Hopworks menu...

... for a standard Tavern selection of foods and beer... Ol' Sinnotts or now known as Lil' Cooperstown on about 58th and NE Halsey has some very good grub... so wherever the crap food is.. I am not I guess.. because the places I pick always seem to have great food. Especially in NE Portland. Alameda etc...

dr wort said...

The Doctor finds great humor in this post! Dr Wort has been barking about poor quality food being served with quality beer for quite awhile...in fact....numerous times! So, of course, we have an opinion.

First: "I know I will be dinged for this statement, especially on a beer blog, but wine makes a better pairing than beer for many of the sorts of dishes you seem to suggest."

This person probably has no experience with proper food and beer pairing, so I won't lay into this ridiculous statement.

This has nothing to do with snobbery either. Historically, quality beverages are accompanied by quality food. Whether it be wine, champange, Scotch, etc. Beer is no exception! Quality beer should be paired with quality food or at least have SOME proper venues for such enjoyment.

If some uncultured putz wants to eat Tater Tots with a Shakepear Stout or an Upright Brewing #4... What do I care? But, I do think if we are going to foster a quality beer culture in the NW, we should be building equal gastronomic accompaniments.

There are people who enjoy a higher quality of cuisine and DO enjoy the gastronomic pleasures of beer and food pairing.

Don't want to go there? Fine, don't! Just don't judge things you don't understand and leave room for others to expand their horizons.

Cost? Did I here cost? If someone is worried about cost, I'm sure there will still be plenty of dives willing serve up some slop with a decent beer... You'll have places too.

We kind of live by the concept, "If ya have to ask, you can't afford it." That doesn't mean quality has to cost more, but there are people who'll except the quality at a higher cost.

Now lets just hope we don't end up with 30 pubs trying to pair 40 IPA's with different cuisines!

Dr Wort says, "Here! Here!" Lets' bump up the quality to match the quality of beer! Progress! Lets move forward!

jake said...

Hey Jeff (and others), I know you frequent Eastburn; I'm pretty sure they're onto this. When I was there, one of the owners was working the bar and he told my wife and I that they're actually trying to arrange the occasional food and beer pairing nights (invitation only, apparently). Still, nice to know some folks are feelin' it...

dr wort said...

Eastburn is already doing beer pairing dinners with different local breweries.

Oh, BTW, Jeff.... we know quite a few foodies who know quite a bit about beer.... and visa versa, but of course, we're just snobs. ;-}

I never can figure out how increased knowledge on food, beer or like makes someone a snob. Maybe a little knowledge scares some people... ??

Jeff Alworth said...

There are a few good restaurants that have a decent selection of beer. That's good: for years and years and years, Higgins was the only one. But what I'd really love to see is a brewpub that did it all. Making the beer that accompanies the menu would be exceptional.

We're getting there, though.

Bill said...

Deschutes' Portland place could have been your "brewpub that did it all". Why didn't it happen?

Anonymous said...

Asimov is a NYC honk with a regionally-skewed perspective on craft beer. And he was talking about NYC pubs.

Meanwhile, in the PacNW...money talks and bullshit walks. Brewpubs need to move product to survive. Fine dining does not encourage the movement of product. There's just not enough of a market for what you're suggesting. Believe me, brewers would go there if they thought they had a chance in hell of making it work.

There are a few brewpubs with decent food, but it'll take a special kind of circumstance for us to see a real gastro-brewpub take hold. There are several restaurants around the country which are upping the ante when it comes to food and beer. But here in PDX, we are so spoiled that I don't think the average foodie is going to be all that compelled by the beer-geek foodie-geek focus. We take it for granted as it is.

But it is a meritocracy, and any place that is good on all fronts will succeed, same as always.

Jonas said...

What Portland beerbar/brewpub would you say have the best food?

I havn't been to pdx for a couple of years now,but i remember the burgers at Rogue was to die for.

The other Bill said...

Shall I point out the one big glaring absence here? Remember that place called Higgins? You know, house made charcuterie, incredibly amazing food, great beer list, an owner who cares so much about beer that he actualy hired a beer steward?

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