This post has been sitting as a draft for a while, but an invitation from the always gracious Troy Burtch of Great Lakes has given me the impetus – and accompanying photos – to finally post it. I joined Troy on Monday of the 2014 Toronto Beer wWek at Morgan’s on the Danforth for a meal featuring food by Anne Sorrenti and some of Etobicoke’s finest ales.
Lately, I’ve been on a real kick about beer dinners. I wrote a fairly detailed post that covered what I think makes them good or bad for craftbeer.ca and I also posted another fairly thorough story on a one-off dinner that Trou du Diable put on at Woodlot in June.
Why all the love? I guess it’s just that in the last nine months or so I’ve noticed a big quality gap between what can be had on a regular basis at beer-focused restaurants in Toronto and what the special events offer. Maybe it’s that demand just isn’t there yet for top-notch beer restaurants on a regular basis or maybe it’s that brewing capacity means there is only a small supply of the really exceptional beer that these dinners serve. Whatever the reason, point is that if you’re looking to blow seventy-five bucks (or so) on a special, beer-focused meal I think you should seek out one of these dinners.
If there is a downside to one-night-only, ticketed dinners it’s that they involve a lot of trust. Sure, some will be excellent, but I’ve also been to one or two in the past couple years that were downright mediocre. Sometimes these can be fairly easy to spot beforehand (usually because the beer sponsor is mainstream and macro) and sometimes not.
So, to help support an idea I really dig (beer dinners) and give customers a fighting chance of separating the great ones from the average before they buy ticket I’m adopting a new policy. I will post a listing of any and all beer dinners (starting with those in Toronto, possibly expanding further afield) with a preview post. The only caveat is that organizers must be willing/able to answer these questions:
- Roughly, how much of the beer menu is limited edition or one-off beers?
- Did the chef have the opportunity to taste the actual beer being served before designing the food menu or was she working from tasting notes?
- Will there be speeches? Will guests have the opportunity to ask questions of someone who knows how the beer was made?
The dinner itself was particularly enjoyable. The two noteworthy highlights were the all-seafood main course and the absolutely stunning Chardonnay barrel-aged Brett version of Maverick & Gose, which it was paired with. Many restaurants don’t like to put on beer dinners because of what it takes for the kitchen to serve so many portions all at once. That means that one or two courses often end up feeling phoned-in. That clearly was not what Chef Sorrenti was up to given that she chose to serve a take on Baked Alaska (called Toasted Yukon), which required a last-minute torching of every portion.
Not sure exactly what format the beer dinner listings will take, but if you’d like to have yours included please send me an email at email@example.com and I’ll send back the three-point questionnaire.