Tables in Wonderland – Unibroue Dinner at The Wave

In mid-November we attended our first Tables in Wonderland event – the first beer pairing dinner (Unibroue) at the Wave inside the Contemporary Resort.

The lighting was atrocious for picture taking (and to some extent, it was pretty bad for even seeing what you were eating)… so apologies in advance for the photos.

When we arrived at the Wave, we were directed to the second lounge on the right to check in (this made nora think of the “Second Star to the Right” line from Peter Pan), the lounge was very blue and as we were early, the reception hadn’t begun yet. So we stepped over to the bar and each ordered a Samuel Adams Winter Lager, and then found seats in the “blue room.” The cast members checking us in for the event were very polite and efficient, they even asked us about nick’s black pepper issues.

Reception

Grilled Mini Sweet Bruchetta

Capri Style Mini Sweet Peppers, stuffed with Fresh Mozzarella Cheese, topped with Chiffonade of Basil

Mini Sweet Peppers, stuffed with Italian Sausage topped with Carmelized Onions

Unibroue Blonde De Chambly – Saison style with lemon grass on the nose, followed with citrus tasting notes

Comments on the food & ale…

  • Blonde de Chambly – nora notes that the flavors are very crisp and nick says the nose is herbaceous and the taste is between too floral and too herb-y, again, we prefer lagers over ales; in the end we agreed that this ale is better with food than on its own
  • nick didn’t partake of many of the appetizers, while he eats sweet peppers he isn’t a huge fan; nora nibbled on them, even though they were good, they just didn’t wow her
  • the ale paired well with the red pepper bruschetta
  • the cheese stuffed orange pepper was tasty, but seemed a bit weird with the ale
  • the red pepper stuffed with italian sausage was okay, not a huge fan of italian sausage with fennel seeds
General Comments…
  • Chef Frank came out to discuss the black pepper issues and make sure that he was fully aware of what the problems are and to reassure us that things would be handled properly
  • we may not have been the youngest couple at this particular event, but we were pretty doggoned close to the youngest
  • the reception area was a bit loud, partly because of it’s size and location but also because of the glass panel walls

After the reception, we were led into a private dining space. We noted that it is a “private” space created by modular panels, true, it was quieter and more intimate than sitting in the general dining room.

Centerpieces for the tables were made of vegetables

First we were introduced to the “guest farmers” (these Tables in Wonderland Dinners at the Wave typically feature local farmers and their produce)… Today’s guest farmers were from Perro Family Farms, Scott & Nick are the current generation spanning back to great-great-great-grandfather. The mini sweet peppers are their own varietals grown from their own seeds. Everything (they mentioned growing mini sweet peppers and green beans) is washed before packaging.

Sylvain Bouchard from Unibroue greeted everyone, he’s a beer sommelier who began his career as a historian (he writes a lot of the web content). He was very happy to be in Florida (because it was 26 F in Canada that night!). He was amusing and started off by asking if this was the first time for a beer dinner for any of the guests… then he said that if you hadn’t heard of beer dinners or attended a beer dinner, then you must be old because young people do it all the time these days. Then he chuckled and said that there is a transition occurring from wine to beer pairings with food, and it is relatively new. Keep in mind that beer has changed a lot in the last 15-30 years, it’s no longer just pilsner (yellow beer).

Beer is the most ancient food for humans, it consists of yeast, cereal, and water (just like bread) and Brian meant it when he said that beer was FOOD (it was thick and heavy and contained calories that early humans needed). About 170 years ago, things changed; blonde beer was created (we call it yellow beer); in 1842 pilsner was created in the Czech Republic – from there it moved to Germany and Poland etc… American beer drinkers have traditionally drank pilsners (Pabst Blue Ribbon, Miller, Budweiser). The beers we have tonight are Belgium beers.

Centerpiece and our table mates

First Course

Oysters Two Ways – Unibroue Chambly Mignonette and Beer Battered Oysters

Blanche De Chambly – Lots of fruit and hints of pepper on the nose, orange peel on the palate with light body and mild hops

Blanche De Chambly

The Blanche De Chambly is cloudy because of the yeast it contains, the yeast creates flavor and thus camouflages the alcohol in the beer. This particular brew is half wheat and half barley – the wheat adds lemon flavors. Blanche De Chambly was the first Belgium white beer brewed in North America (1992) before Blue Moon (1995). Unibroue beers are complex because they use fruit and herbs throughout the brewing process.

We asked about draft versus bottles (for instance, one of the very few places to get Unibroue on draft is Canada at Epcot). Sylvain pointed out that draft beers generally have less CO2, not because it’s always added to bottled beer (Unibroue doesn’t boost theirs, it’s natural carbonation). The carbonic acid adds flavors.

The beer is sweet, tart, and bitter. The oysters are sweet, tart, salty, and bitter. The hope is that the saltiness of the oysters and the lemon of the beer will create a good pairing.

Comments on the Blanche De Chambly…

  • nora detects light fruit on the nose
  • Sylvain suggests that we smell coriander and orange peel

Oysters on the half shell with UniBroue Chambly Mignonette

Chambly Beer Battered Oysters

Comments on the food…

  • nick was served 3 oysters on the half shell while everyone else received 2 oysters on the half shell and fried oysters (we think that’s because the batter contained black pepper) – one of his oysters contained broken shell (bad show!)
  • all in all these were good, not as fantastic as the raw oysters at bluezoo the other week
  • nora quite liked the slivered sweet peppers served with the fried oyster, the oyster itself wasn’t anything fantastic
  • overall, we liked the pairing

Second Course

Duo of Soup – Black Diamond Cheddar and Stout Onion Bisque

La Fin Du Monde – Spicy and earthy with small hints of fruit and moderate hops

Stout Onion Bisque, Mini Grilled Brie Sandwich and Bacon Crisp, Black Diamond Cheddar Soup

Sylvain says La Fin Du Monde means “End of the World” and since some say that December 21, 2012 will be the end of the world, drink lots of La Fin Du Monde and you’ll laugh a lot even if the world is ending. This is a Belgium Triple Ale, it has won 35 international awards, 25 gold medals, and 6 platinum medals. At 9% ABV it’s pretty strong (well, we don’t think so), the yeast again hides the alcohol. Made with dried orange peel and coriander seeds, it is sweet, sour, and tart. Sylvain says it’s the most balanced beer ever brewed anywhere in the world. La Fin Du Monde is best served at about 60 degrees F; the sweetness of this beer comes from the malt and the glasses have round bottoms so that the heat from your hands can warm up the beer. Beers with higher ABV and deeper color should be drank at warmer temperatures.  beer with little flavor should be drunk very cold (think about how good that cold yellow beer is when you’ve just finished mowing the grass in the summer).

Comments…

  • nora thought that La Fin Du Monde was bitter but not hoppy, it is sour, dry, saliva producing
  • nick thought that the taste was too sweet without food but it’s also dry… perhaps it is being served too cold (we noted that the open bottles of beer were sitting in ice water off to the side)
  • both of the soups were very good
  • the stout onion bisque was prepared using Unibroue 17 Grand Reserve – nora preferred this soup; nick found an herb in the soup to be off-putting
  • the black diamond cheddar soup was prepared using Ephemere (apple influenced) – nick preferred this soup; we could really taste the aged cheddar & the pancetta in the soup
  • the mini grilled cheese sandwich wasn’t listed on the menu, but we asked… of course… it was made with triple cream brie cheese which basically melted into the bread during grilling and the bacon round was actually pancetta
  • it was very nice to be able to dip the grilled cheese sandwich into the two soups
  • this was a good pairing, it all went together very smoothly – the fat/salt of the soups & the sandwich went well with the bitter/sour/dry aspects of the beer
  • that said, we preferred the first pairing over this pairing and nora prefers this beer solo

Entree

Trois Pistoles Marinated Filet Mignon Sous Vide Cooking Method, Carmelized Brussel Sprouts, Sweet Potato Puree, and Pero Farms Peperonata

Trois Pistoles – Notes of dark fruits and pears on the nose; tasting notes of raisins, caramel, and wheat

Tres Pistoles Marinated Filet Mignon Sous Vide, Carmelized Brussel Sprouts, Sweet Potato Puree, and Pero Farms Peperonata

The labels from Unibroue are very artistic, the founder of the brewery is not a brewmaster but a visionary. The first employee hired by the founder was an artist from Pakistan, Hassif Mirza. In 1953 the last white beer was brewed in Belgium… Hoegaarten. In the early 1970s there was a rebirth of white & Belgium ales and it was the beginning of the craft beer movement in Europe. Blanche De Chambly was the first North American craft beer, 1992. The first beer from Unibroue was Blanche De Chambly (the label features a castle). The second was Maudite, meaning “D*mned!” (1992), 5.9% ABV. This course not only uses Trois Pistoles in the food preparation, we will be drinking Trois Pistoles.

Trois Pistoles (served with the main course)

Comments…

  • nora likes this beer, not just because it tasted sweet without food – good memories of a pairing of Trois Pistoles and flourless chocolate cake at Le’Cellier on Epcot’s 25th Anniversary
  • nick’s comment was pretty succinct “yum, give me a chocolate & send me to bed!”
  • the filet mignon was cooked properly (medium rare) but it was DRY, nick didn’t even eat his (he pointed out to the chef that sous vide shouldn’t be served in that condition) – we can only guess that it was plated too far ahead of time and kept warm… since it was filet mignon, there wasn’t enough fat to keep it moist during the “keep warm” period

Nick’s Filet Mignon was very dried out, rather unusual for the sous vide cooking method — he couldn’t eat it

  • the brussel sprouts were charred not roasted – that was pretty yuck
  • the sweet potato puree was overly spiced, it looked black – overpoweringly spiced
  • nora thought that the red pepper sauce on the sides was quite good, and needed to moisten the beef

Entree course

  • the pairing wasn’t horrid but it wasn’t great; all in all it was a rather difficult pairing because the entree was very disappointing
  • nora will continue to like Trois Pistoles, but we’ll both be very hesitant to order beef at the Wave

Cheese Course

Point Reyes Bleu, Irish Cheddar, and Port Salut

Ephemere – Belgium white beer with green apple must

Irish Cheddar, Port Salut, and Point Reyes Bleu cheeses

Ephemere is a drinking beer. It’s one of nick’s favorites, he loves the bright apple flavor; it goes great with any cheese. The Irish Cheddar cheese was paired with wine poached pears; surprisingly, nick really liked the pears. The Port Salut was paired with a fruit cake/bread. The Point Reyes Blue cheese was paired with honey & honey comb (nick lucked out because nora can’t eat honey or honey comb).

Comments…

  • the apple in the Ephemere was fantastic with the cheddar – we agreed
  • this was our favorite course so far; nick felt that the pairing tied with the oysters and Blanche De Chambly and nora felt that this pairing was the best

Dessert Course

Served to other guests: Pero Farms Butternut Squash Panna Cotta, Fallen Chocolate Souffle with Pero Farms Sweet Red Pepper Foam, and Gingerbread Cupcake with
Unibroue 17 Grand Reserve Infused Chocolate Maple Butter Cream

Served to nora & nick (because of nick’s issues with black pepper): Chocolate Mousse, Creme Brûlée, Cheesecake with Spiced Fruit

Unibroue 17 Grand Reserve – Intensely malty, slightly sweet and hoppy with mocha and cocoa acc cents and oak finish

Special Desserts for us – Chocolate Mousse on a Sandy Cookie, Creme Brûlée with a miniature chocolate macaroon, and Cheesecake with spiced fruits

The Unibroue 17 Grand Reserve was 2010 Worlds Best Beer in all categories. It paired well with the desserts we were served, more details below. The others at our table were not impressed with their desserts, they wanted ours!

Comments…

  • nick found a hint of rich chocolate in the beer and thought that the texture resembled a stout
  • nora thought that the beer had a rich smell and a full/chewy taste; a sipping beer, not a drinking beer
  • the chocolate mousse was served atop a sandy cooky with a tiny bit of salted caramel, nick didn’t care for the cookie, it was gritty
  • the creme brulee was quite good, the little chocolate macaroon that came with it was very good
  • the cheesecake was not that remarkable by itself, but the spiced fruit on top elevated that dessert

Observations

  • all of the beers were served too cold
  • no re-pours in general (only at the reception, if you went and got another pour)
  • we were seated across from each other (didn’t like that, if there’s a next time we’ll make sure to not hang back as they lead everyone to the dining area)
  • it was quite noisy, but there were noise dampening devices in the room
  • these multi-course meals just last too long for the two of us, the quantity of food plus the noise plus lateness of these events may mean that they just don’t suit us…
  • all that said, we’d love to see a Unibroue and food pairing LUNCHEON at next year’s Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, other pavilions in the World Showcase have figured out how to make this work, would be nice if Canada joined in with a pairing before dinner time

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