March 23, 2015

An evening at the Frieds -- delicious food, excellent beer

By day, Dr. Levi Fried is a medical intern doing research on drug discovery.

By night, he turns into an driven home-brewer, pushing the envelope into strong flavors and little-known beer styles not attempted by more timid souls.

I've met Levi Fried once or twice before, but I've never had the chance to visit him in his home in Modi'in and try his beer, which he bottles under the Righteous Brew label.  He is an excellent brewer: knowledgeable, curious and adventurous.
Dr. Levi and Harmony Fried in Modi'in:
our hosts for the beer-and-food pairing dinner.

So I was extraordinarily pleased to receive his invitation to a six-course beer-and-food pairing dinner at his home.  I was also pleased to learn that it would be a meatless dinner, since Levi's wife Harmony, who will be preparing the courses, is a vegetarian, as I am.  She is also, I learned, a professional chef who once worked in the Ritz Carlton Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia.

This evening had definite possibilities.

I arrived at the Fried home on time -- which is actually early by Israeli standards.  While we waited for the other guests, Levi asked me if I would like to try his new Bourbon Barrel Stout, made with a few shots of American bourbon whiskey.  Would I?

Levi Fried introduces his guests to the
world of beer-and-food pairing.
The BB Stout was almost black with a roasty aroma.  It had a wonderful creamy smoothness and the rich, complex taste was fortified by the bourbon.  Levi said that he prepares all of his stouts by adding the liquid of cold-soaked roasted malt.  "This is what helps achieve the creaminess and avoids the 'soy-sauce taste' that many stouts have," he added.

It was certainly true.  This was a real "sipping beer" and made a perfect aperitif to our meal.

Before Harmony began arranging and serving the courses, Levi briefly explained to the guests the principles of beer-and-food pairing.

"Beer is a better partner for food than wine," he declared, "because its range of flavors is wider and more complex than wine.  What we're looking for are flavors that support each other because of their similarities, or complement each other because they are different -- like, for example, sweet and sour or sweet and salty."

All interesting stuff, I'm sure, but I was getting hungry.

First course.
The first course was served not a minute too soon.  It was a piece of brie cheese with tomato chutney and a homemade black sesame seed cracker, paired with a very pale blonde lager, also known as helles in German.

Levi brews the beer with Hallertau hops from Germany and Carlsberg yeast, and then ages it for four months.  The beer had pleasant floral aromas and notes of caramel and cherries in the taste.  Levi explained that the mild taste and low alcoholic content (4.5%) go well with the delicate flavors of the course.  A stronger beer would have overwhelmed them.

Second course.
Our second beer was a French biere de garde, a 7.5% ABV farmhouse-style ale.  The name alludes to the fact that these beers were brewed in the winter and then "guarded" until the spring, when they were enjoyed.  It was served to us fresh.

The biere de garde was paired with grilled zucchini with Swiss cheese and a spicy roasted red pepper relish with a Swiss cheese tuile (a crisp, thin wafer).  The note of fresh pepper in the beer was a beautiful complement to the cheese in the dish, once again without overpowering it.

Third course.
The third course was fresh fettuccine with Thai basil pesto and an egg yolk in the middle.  Sounds strange, but it was truly delicious, with the yolk adding both smoothness and flavor.

This was paired with a French saison beer, a lighter version (6.5% ABV) of biere de garde. This beer also had a peppery tang, but was maltier than the biere de garde and more aged.




Fourth course.


A curried arancini (rice ball) stuffed with mild goat cheese in a coconut cream infused sauce was the fourth course.  Levi paired it with his German maibock, a very strong lager (9% ABV) which held its own against the rich flavors of the food.  Like the previous two beer styles, maibock has also traditionally been brewed in the winter months for springtime drinking (hence its name!).

It poured a middle amber color and had a yeasty aroma which, Levi explained, was the lager (bottom fermenting) yeast coming through.  The beer's powerful sweetness complemented the rich, acidic flavors of the food.  Added CO2 refreshes your taste buds from the strong cheese and curry.

Fifth course.
For the next course, dessert number one, we went in a completely different direction -- a sour lambic beer which Levi had brewed together with his friend Noam Shalev.

"Actually, this is a pseudo-lambic," Levi explained to us, "since true lambic beer can only come from Belgium."  Similarly, only sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France can be called "champagne," and only whisky from Kentucky can be labeled "bourbon."

We poured this very sour beer to accompany sweet lemon cake with a soft meringue and tart cherries.  It was an intriguing choice, with  the sourness of the beer cutting the extreme sweetness of the dessert.  Alcohol was a low 4%.  The beer was accompanied by a jigger of cherry syrup, which is often added to lambic beers in Belgium to cut the sourness and add a different taste.  I found this tasty, but actually preferred the "raw" lambic with our cake.

Beers are rarely paired with sweet desserts, and this bold move by Levi and Harmony demonstrated the reservoir of possibilities involving food-and-beer pairings.

Sixth course.
Our last course was homemade vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce and salty pecans.  It was delicious, but the flavor was heightened even more by the paired beer: an English spiced barley wine, 18% alcohol, brewed with silan (date honey) and pumpkin spice (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves).  It had strong notes of what I describe as chocolate and prunes.

Barley wines are strong ales, so called because the alcoholic content is similar to wine.  This was another courageous pairing that succeeded in ending the meal with exquisite, complex flavors.

A wonderful evening at the Frieds came to an end, an evening for people who appreciate delicious food and great beer -- and what connects them.  I hope the Frieds do it again sometime.  Hell, I hope every home-brewer does it sometime.  What a great way to introduce neighbors and friends to craft beer's contribution to our quality of life.        

9 comments:

  1. Absolutely amazing experience.
    I am looking forward to enjoying my Kosher Le Pessach ginger ale - ABV around 10%

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  2. Sounds delicious and interesting!

    Now how can I get some of the Ginger Ale mentioned in the above comment?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Fun Joel,
      I have no idea. Never heard of it. Maybe Diamond Finance will read your comment and answer.

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  3. Hi Doug thanks for this write up. I'm glad you had fun. We will be doing other tastings starting after pesach. As for the ginger beer, we do make a very special and spicy one but it is not kosher for pesach because it is based with actual beer.

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  4. Doug, in your last blog I wrote that I would like to read more about beer and food combinations. Here is a great example. Unfortunately, reading about it is not the same as tasting it. The food and various beer combinations "sound" scrumptious. More of this is needed, but also with regular foods. As I am a dairy\meat\fish\vegetarian (omnivorous) person and beers certainly go very well with a lot of dishes, I personally would like to read about more variety.
    By the way, how did you drive home after all that wonderful sounding beer?

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    Replies
    1. We will be doing meat pairings as well, you can sign up for a pairing on our website

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    2. As I read this blog, my taste buds went on a journey of their own. Thank you Doug for such descriptive journalism.

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    3. And thank you, Song. Such compliments are always welcome!

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Thanks for your comment. L'chayim!