Now We’re Cooking with Belgian Beer & Ale
by Dave Manzo
As La Trappe has made Draft Magazine’s 150 top beer bar list for two years running, you can imagine it is a true honor to have my mustard beer on their prolific menu. Beyond being in with owners Mike Azzalini and Mike Moore, however, I am impressed with how well the beer selections and food menu converge with one another.
The main person to carry out the dishes is Executive Chef Fai Visuthicho, who along with Azzalini, constantly keeps guests intrigued with the way he integrates beer into a variety of interesting and innovative food recipes. Azzalini’s influence, in turn, comes from his time in Europe working and going to school along the way picking up recipes in his travels to Belgium, France, Spain and Italy.
La Trappe’s Perfect Pairs
“Our general advice with beer and food pairing at home would be to make your pairing fun and interesting without trying to force it,” says Moore. “Some beers will have subtle taste differences and other extreme depending on what you are eating. A good rule of thumb is to start by making dishes after thinking about the beer we want to drink with it or use in the dish.”
Poultry: We tend to like brews that are lighter in body and color to complement the flavors of the chicken as most of the time we do items that are slow roasted or in a waterzooi dish.
Beef: We use several dark beers in our Beef Beer Stew to bring out sweetness and add moisture to the beef. The beer is completely cooked down, but when you pair it with another heavily malted beer it will make itself apparent.
Fish/Seafood: There is a number of ways to go with fish and seafood, depending on how it’s prepared. We like to get subtle sour beers or farmhouse style beers that will not only add to the flavor of the dish, but add as a great palate refresher between bites.
Dessert: We have a few desserts that we use fruit beers with to bring out the flavors of Cherry, Raspberry or Cassis. We also use Orval (Trappist beer) in a creme brulée, which has a huge amount of the beer flavor in the finished product.
MUSSELS IN A MUSTARD BEER SAUCE
by Executive Chef Fai Visuthicho La Trappe Cafe, San Francisco, CA
1/2 T butter 1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 c leeks, chopped
1/3 c tomatoes, diced
1/4 c white wine
1/2 c of Wostyntje Mustard beer let come to room temperature
1 T green peppercorn dijon mustard that can be found at a fine food store, or you can substitute high quality with fresh green peppercorn and blended.
3/4 lb. of mussels. (Note: La Trappe uses PEI (Prince Edward Island) mussels that are medium size)
In a large pan, melt butter and saute garlic. Add leeks and tomatoes. Once tender, add white wine, beer, mustard, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and add mussels. Once mussels open, remove onto plate one by one. Let sauce reduce and pour over mussels.
TASTING NOTES/Featured Beers:
Gulden Draak is a dark brown Triple Ale (or barley wine), that gets its signature flavor and body from a second fermentation that also imparts an alluring head and all the vitamins of the centuries-old brewers yeast. Flavor notes include natural malt toffee-like sweetness with a mellow happiness and some hoppy accents. The aroma is round and sweet, revealing its 10.5% ABV and rendering it a good dessert beer.
Stella Artois, you’ve got competition. Wittekerke Wit, the best selling “wit” beer in Belgium off-premise, is a crisp, refreshing 5% ABV beer that also happens to be food friendly, and for a variety of different meals and snacks. While it can take some of the heat out of a spicy Carpachio, it’s also nice with mild white fish, scallops or a fresh salad. It’s also a surprisingly good choice for brunch, as it works well with omelets and other egg dishes.