James Squire Food & Beer Chef’s Match

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For quite some time now wine has held a monopoly on ‘degustation’ events, careful tasting of precisely crafted foods with equally crafted wines. One may ask where does beer fit into this equation?

Enter James Squire

Cleverly orchestrated over the entire nation, James Squire has put together a ‘exceptional food with first-class beer’ event. The deal is, Chefs are given 5 different beers namely: Amber Ale, Pilsener, Golden Ale, IPA (Indian Pale Ale) and Porter. Each Chef willing to put their hand up to create a diverse course of meals to match the beers will be judged upon by ‘mystery judges’ under the guise of normal customers at each Chef’s restaurant. Today was just an example of what can be done at Origins restaurant (Sherton Hotel- Perth).

 

Below are the reviews of the food and beer ‘matches’

 

Golden Ale matched with; Pancetta wrapped banana prawn with picked apple sauce.

 

The pancetta carrying the fat and flavour of this dish perfectly complimented the prawn flavour and texture. It may have been too much by it self being overtly salty, however the pickled apple sauce with a certain spicy character (cinnamon, clove?) and tartness completely ‘brought back to ground’ the intenseness of the prawn. Golden Ale matched probably the least best amongst the line-up, however light tropical character and nuttyness on the finish was a pleasant contrast.

 

Pilsener matched with; Salt and Pepper squid with lime wasabi mayonnaise.

 

Presented in cute little Chinese take-away boxes, this was distinct Asian themed dish. Not only the influence of lime wedges, but also the use of rice flour, Sichuan pepper and wasabi, I thought it was a bit too much for the poor little slivers of squid to handle. Saltiness was the dominant player in this scene, so much so you could get that funny sensation on your tongue desiccating. Lime was needed, and did fit in well cutting back the saltiness; however the saviour was the Pilsener, refreshing, tart and carrying bitterness needed to combat the salt. It was an intense ride.

 

Amber Ale matched with; Lamb Backstrap on chrisp potato and shallot puree.

 

Fragrant lamb perfectly cooked medium in a natural jus was instant hit with the Amber Ale. In many ways more simplistic of the line up, there was a potato wafer (akin to a potato crisp) affixed with a dollop of alliaceous (garlicky) puree. Contrasted well with the meaty lamb really coming through towards the end, the garlic/onion characters really rising to the forefront. The Amber Ale carried a certain breadyness not dissimilar to wholemeal bread, which in a strange way gave an impression of a fuller tasting lamb sandwich. Primal.

 

IPA matched with; Peking Duck with cucumber noodles and nam jim.

 

Another Asian contender in the line-up, it’s hot and spicy, with sour notes too. The duck sat atop a beansprout salad with chilli, shallots and cucumber and under nam jim. This was a spicy little sucker, hot garlic and onion with chilli and fish sauce. Being packed between the two I feel as though the flavour of duck was dragged back too far with the nam jim dominating the palate. Not that that was a bad thing because the IPA with its aromatic hops and feisty bitter finish ‘rounds off’ the dish into complete unity. By far my personal preference, perhaps for the interplay of flavours, between the IPA and Duck. Spirited.

 

Porter matched with; Margaret River Venison skewers with chocolate oil.

 

A rich dark porter matched with a rich gamey meat. Delish! Venison being one of my favourite meats, really did ‘come to life’ with the combination of Spinach Spätzle, Chinese Wood-ear mushrooms and apple, drenched in dark chocolate oil. It’s strange mixture when one thinks of it separately, but the rubbery texture of Spätzle and the rehydrated earthy mushrooms and rich dark chocolate marries finely with the earthy wild gamey characters of Venison. The Porter was finely matched in my opinion, carrying though the characters of the dish, changing, forming their own on a ‘Porter Palate’. There is earth, game, sweet chocolate and apple immixed with creamy maltyness of the Porter. Wintery.

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