Earlier this month, I was invited to the Wolfgang Puck Pizza Bar in Greensboro for their beer dinner with Foothills Brewing. I’d not heard of the Pizza Bar until this NC Beer Month event popped up, but I learned that they have been doing various pairing dinners with beer, wine and liquors for the past 5 or 6 months.
The dinner was held on their outside patio, which was perfect in the cool spring evening, and there were about 20 guests around a single, long table. My girlfriend and I sat between two doctors and an off-duty WPPB bartender with his date, along with a couple of his regulars. Foothills’ rep Dave was on hand to talk about the four beers we would be sampling and the Bar’s sous chef Andy came out between courses to talk about each dish.
First course was a quinoa and strawberry stuffed quail, with watercress, frisee and a rhubarb vinaigrette, paired with a Carolina Strawberry Ale. I had actually never had the Strawberry Ale because I’d assumed that it was a sweet, alcopop-type beer, but in fact it’s a pretty standard golden ale with just a hint of tart strawberry. It was refreshing and paired nicely with the quail with it’s nice crisp skin, the bitter greens and the vinaigrette. A very nice appetizer and start to our meal.
Next up was a spec and white asparagus pizza, with aged gouda and garlic cream, paired with a Torch Pilsner. Spec is a type of prosciutto, and the salty meat went well with the tangy cheese. The real highlight, however, was the crust! A wonderful blend of crispness and chewiness, the edges were just slightly burnt in spots, lending some char to the yeasty bread. The Pilsner did a good job of highlighting the crust, with it’s crisp finish over a touch of it’s own yeasty bread notes and of course the characteristic Saaz hop spiciness.
Third course was a pepperoncini dusted grilled shrimp over garganelli pasta, pancetta, tomatoes and olives, paired with a Hoppyum IPA. Since I’m allergic to shellfish, they prepared mine with grilled black bass instead. The Hoppyum was a great counterpoint to the rich creaminess of the pasta, which was very good. I thought the bass was a little heavy for the dish, but my girlfriend had no such problems with the shrimp, which she said were “delicious.”
We finished with an espresso pot de crème, with chocolate and toffee bark, hazelnut crème anglaise and chocolate covered espresso beans, paired with a People’s Porter. What a way to finish! The pot de creme was incredibly dense and rich, and was lovely mixed with the anglaise. Sips of the coffee, chocolate and toffee notes of the beer swirled together with the flavors of the pot de creme for a very nice dessert experience. The chocolate and toffee bark was especially delicious, just a little chewy and rich, without being overly sweet.
We ended up talking until nearly 11 with some of the other guests, enjoying the cool night air and the plentiful drinks.
The only criticism I have with the dinner was that alternating beers were served in brown glasses, which takes away the visual aspects of enjoying a beer. For example, they started with the Strawberry Blonde in a brown glass. Since I’d never had it before, I still don’t know what it looks like, how golden it is, or whether it has any pink tinges from the strawberries. Just as presentation of your food is important, presentation of the beer being paired with it is equally important, and I’d like to have seen some clear tulips in use instead.
The Pizza Bar also has a full bar and 8 draft lines, which were all NC beers except for a lone Magic Hat #9. They have several more upcoming dinners, and on June 19th, they’ll be hosting a Mystery Brewing dinner. Mystery is also brewing a special house beer for them to have exclusively on tap! Besides the beer dinner, they also have events coming up featuring Sauza tequila and North Carolina wines. Call them at 336-854-0301 for more details.