We did this event two years ago, during the first year of it’s existence… it wasn’t as impressive as our first Tequila Lunch, so we decided to give it a year or two to mature. This year, Calvin agreed to come with us – it was nice to have a friend sharing the experience.
We arrived a bit early and since it was HOT, we waited for a bit in the vestibule of Via Napoli
and we took the opportunity to visit the restrooms… the least themed bathrooms I’ve ever seen in World Showcase at Epcot, very bland and boring… they aren’t located in a very accessible area either… Nick says that the restrooms next to the Refreshment Port are even worse, barely above port-a-johns
okay, enough about restrooms!
A few minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, we went outside and stood in the shade and waited to be called to be seated…
Nick was able to get a few photos of the room set-up and the table settings before guests were seated…
After a brief wait, they began to seat guests… Interestingly, we had checked in first, and we were seated first…
After we were seated, Gabriele Uberti (GM for Via Napoli) gathered everyone’s attention and introduced us to Jackie, “the beer lady”… Time to begin…
All four of the beers today (from three breweries) are Italian Craft Beers. Since Italy doesn’t have a strong beer tradition, the craft brewers experiment with different styles from around the world. There are over 450 craft breweries in Italy, this year’s pairing and last year’s featured craft brews as opposed to beers from the big producers (the first year of the beer & food pairing).
There are four steps to tasting beer (very similar to the steps for tasting wine or spirits)…
- look at the color, is it clear or cloudy (if it’s cloudy, it’s the bottom of the bottle, best for beer nerds)
- open up the beer by swirling your glass (aerate)
- smell the beer, “nose” it (leave your mouth open so that your whole palate is exposed)
- taste the beer
Jackie said that it would pair well with the first course because it likes fried foods… the slight sweetness of the food would play off the bitter of the beer.
I was more impressed with the arancini than Nick or Calvin, I really liked the simple tomato sauce (Nick thought it was quite sweet).
We’ve never ordered arancini before – I mean “fried rice balls” don’t really fit into our usual eating scheme… This wasn’t anything so spectacular that I’d use the calories on it again.
Overall, the first pairing was pleasant… the beer and the food were better together than separately, as a good pairing should be.
We both thought this beer was very good without food (in fact, we discovered during the first tasting that refills were available if we asked… we definitely had refills of this one). Jackie said that the barley for this beer was roasted longer – yielding more sweetness. It is paired with…
The pizza dough is deep fried, then the toppings are added and it’s briefly baked (but not in the wood fired ovens, it would turn into a cinder in there because it’s already cooked). Jackie said that the slight oiliness of the fried dough would pair well with the beer.
We both really liked the mozzarella, it was the good stuff. The crust had a slightly different taste and texture, it was very very good.
All in all, Nick thought the beer was a bit too sweet, but the pairing worked well again. I really liked this beer, so did Calvin.
I thought it was citrusy, spicy, sour, and not at all hoppy… quite tasty. Nick also thought it was sour, but in a very good sort of way… he liked it and said it had a “neat flavor.”
I thought it was like eating macaroni and cheese on steroids (we RARELY eat pasta and cheese). Nick really liked the pairing. Calvin really liked the pairing. I thought it was the best pairing so far.
This beer (from Tuscany) has a neat story behind it… Present day Italians were excavating an Etruscan archeological site and found evidence of a fermented beverage (400 BC), so they tried to recreate it with indigenous grains, not malted, and local spices such as bitter orange, coriander, and honey.
I got a whiff of ammonia when nosing this beer, I even thought it tasted faintly of ammonia – I wasn’t sure that I liked it or that I would like it any better paired with dessert. Nick’s initial comment was “that’s different” and then he said he could see how I would get “cleaner” out of it – without food, his least favorite so far.
BUT the standout was the Limoncello cream… we would eat that with a spoon as pudding. The pairing turned out quite nice, the beer opened up some as it warmed.
A few final thoughts:
- Since 2012, this event has showcased craft beers – much more interesting and we’re more inclined to do this event every year as it will change AND there’s the opportunity to have some beers that we might never see otherwise
- All four beers were unfiltered and un-pasteurized – definitely affects flavor… One gentleman at our table didn’t care for the beers, when Jackie asked him why, he said “because they don’t taste like beer!”
- It was a little surprising that three of the four courses were deep fried, but I must confess that it was all prepared excellently
- Nick’s favorite beer was the Nuova Mattina – Calvin’s two favorites were the Runa Bianca and the Nuova Mattina – my favorites were also the Runa Bianca and the Nuova Mattina
- The service was much improved from two years ago, it was even an improvement over the service at Tutto Gusto last week
- I still say that this space was never intended to be enclosed, it is extremely loud with nothing in the space to soak up noise
Would we do this again? Yes 🙂
- Date: October 8, 2013 – 1:30 to 3:15-ish, we didn’t feel rushed, the pace was nice
- Cost: $55/person, again quite reasonable for the quantity and quality of food and beer
If you’ve made it this far, a quick story. First the backstory, Nick and Calvin go for a 10K walk once a week during cooler weather. Now Nick will avoid puddles or mud or even grass clippings when walking (especially if his shoes are relatively new, pfssst his shoes always look nice) AND so will Kate (Calvin’s wife) … actually Nick and Kate are alike in quite a few ways and Calvin and I have some similarities too (like we don’t intentionally walk in mud but we aren’t particular about it)… So that’s the backstory. Here’s the story. Calvin drove us all to this event, thus we had to walk in from the parking lot (obvious I know)… We’re walking along, me in the middle, all of the sudden, Calvin veers off to the right. I look over just as he’s STOMPING in a water puddle with a very mischievous grin on his face! It made us all laugh and it’s another example of why it’s fun to do things with Calvin. His sense of humor is very wry and somewhat dry… even if his shoes weren’t!!!!