London-based, Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt collaborates with Chef de Cuisine Curtis Rhodes to delight us with traditions of Belgian food and beer.
Belgian Beer at Oak Tavern · Design District
Curtis Rhodes, originally from the island of Oahu, began his culinary career as a baker in Portland, Oregon at the age of 19 while attending culinary school at the Western Culinary Institute. After working with mentor Jean Marie Josselin, one of the founding members of Hawaiian Regional Cuisine, Curtis began to work in management with Kimpton hotels and Oceanaire, until meeting David Bracha, whose passion and talent reminded him of his first mentor. He joined the team at River Seafood & Oyster, where he worked for 2 years, before moving over to Oak Tavern in November 2012.
Marc Stroobandt is a Master Beer Sommelier and Belgian Beer Ambassador with The F&B Partnership in the United Kingdom. Stroobandt first became intrigued with the wide variety of specialty beers during his first year in law school in Belgium in 1982. He worked very closely with Belgian brewers and gained an unparalleled understanding of the Belgian beer landscape while working in some of the best Belgian beer bars. Currently director and master beer sommelier for the F&B Partnership, Stroobandt lives in London, England.
Oak Tavern hosted an elegant three course dinner featuring Belgian Beers curated by London's Master Beer Sommelier, Marc Stroobandt. Chef de Cuisine, Curtis Rhodes teamed up with Stroobrandt to develop a perfect pairing of beer and food or as they say in Belgium - "cuisine à la bière."
Belgium is known for excellent cheese, beer, and chocolate and so the evening began with a lovely cheese spread including Brechers Cheddar, Midnight Moon Goat, and Manchego Sheep. Stroobrandt insists that beer versus wine is a better pairing with cheese - and he was right! The chemical reaction took the flavor and texture of the cheese to a new dimension and equally enhanced the flavor of the beer.
Guests were introduced to the evening with a stunning bottle of Cidre. Soon to launch locally, Cidre is a refreshing recipe made with handpicked apples with full flavors of peach and apricot. It's a sophisticated, medium bodied alternative for summer enjoyment.
The first course, wood-grilled "Moules'Frites" with shaved fennel aioli, was paired with Stella Artois.
The crisp, dry flavor of Stella Artois makes an excellent accompaniment for shellfish without overwhelming the flavors of the dish. The mussels were deliciously sweet. Stroobrandt shared a Belgian technique for eating mussels. The first step is to use a seafood fork to remove the first mussel. Now, set the fork aside and use the empty shell to pluck out the next mussel.
Marc explains that the shape of the glass is important for each beer as it affects the aroma and carbonation. For Stella Artois, the "Chalice" is the ideal glass to allow the beer to flow, breathe and develop foam. The glass is held at a 45 degree angle while pouring the beer and then straightened and lowered to create the perfect frothy head. Guests were then instructed to use the plastic spoon provided (Yes, plastic) and taste a scoopful of the foam to experience the fullest flavor of the hops.
Our second course, Southern Fried Chicken Liver and sweet onion puree served with Hoegaarden. The chicken liver was full of flavor with a light seasoned crust and complemented with house made herbed sausages.
The award-winning brew was refreshing with spicy notes and a hint of coriander. A hexagonal glass was used to showcase the natural cloudiness and insulate against the warmness of a drinker's hands. The test for this beer was to place two fingers on one side of the glass and hold it up. If you can't see your fingers through the glass, then you know you have a perfect pour.
The third course, Guajillo BBQ Cobia and boniato-gratin paired with Leffe Blonde. The cobia was a generous, flaky portion with a balanced barbecue glaze.
The Belgian Abbey ale dates back to the 13th century and is served in a high-stemmed glass known as the Leffe Chalice which allows us to enjoy the delicate malt aroma. The secret to pouring into this shallow glass is to the hold the glass straight and pour the beer down the center of the glass. As you near the top, pour closer to the side of the glass to develop the desired foam.
Our evening ended with plates of chocolate truffles. Much like the pairing with cheese, beer is an exquisite match for chocolate, creating a delightful chemical reaction on the palate.
The evening was a perfect collaboration between Chef Rhodes Belgian-inspired cuisine and Stroobrandt's beer selection. Marc's deep understanding and passion of ingredients and the brewing process were clear during his witty curation of Belgian culinary traditions. He had guests laughing, gasping, and clapping throughout the evening. We hope Marc returns from London soon!