Shame on me. I made the mistake of going to Touch for brunch. Not once, not twice, but three times this year alone. And I’ve encouraged others to do the same thing. What was I thinking by just limiting Touch Supper Club to Sunday brunch? Yes – it’s a damn good brunch (and incredibly reasonable), but last night I had dinner for the first time at this Ohio City dance club turned foodie haven, and was smiling all the way home.
Goose Island is out of Chicago and has been around for 21 years. The original brew pub is still there (apparently there’s a great gastropub) and now a second location in Wrigleyville that serves more deluxe sports food. Their best seller is 312, a personal favorite of Jamie’s, but this dinner focused on their Belgian-style ales.
Before we began, Eddie, the regional sales director, taught us the proper way to taste beer. Under no circumstances, he explained, should you tilt the glass to pour your beer – aka the sorority pour. Speaking of college, salting and putting your finger in the beer are also big no-no’s because head on a beer is actually good. Instead he offered, patience is the key as the head is what releases the aroma.
To properly taste a beer, first look at the color: crystal (Bud Light), cloudy, hazy (like a German Hefeweizen), or opaque. Next look at the color of the head and the bubbles. Then smell and finally taste.
Course 1– Lobster mascarpone ravioli, roasted Ohio corn, lobster jus and cognac cream paired with Sofie. I wish everyone could have sampled these ravioli. Big chunks of lobster, sweet corn, micro greens from the chef’s personal garden – this dish was absolutely perfect. We were all wowed. I knew from the first bite that I’ve been missing out by just limiting my exposure to brunch. The chef apparently grew up on the east coast and has a real love for seafood, especially lobster. // Sofie just became available in Ohio after an April release. In fact, locally (for now) Heinen’s is the only place carrying it. It’s a bright and refreshing beer with champagne qualities, like little bubbles. At almost 7% alcohol, it can be aged for 5 years. The beer is aged in French oak wine barrels and is 20% aged, 80% fresh. It’s a good beer, really good. I put it atop our grocery list.
Course 2– Smoked suckling pig, shallot confit, pan sauce, grained fingerling potatoes paired with Matilda. This course wins for presentation and comes in second for favorite overall. It was wonderfully savory and interesting, a dish I’d happily order off the menu (along with the ravioli). // Matilda, a pale ale with slightly fruity aroma, also has a 5 year shelf life. This was my favorite beer of the night. Great spice and a really great compliment to the pork. In fact, we learned that any dish that pairs well with chardonnay would pair well with Matilda. I also enjoyed the story of its name. The beer itself is inspired by Orval and named after an Italian countess named Matilda, a strong woman who was having relations with the pope. Because of this, she was forced to go on the run. She eventually fell in love with someone else and married. Her husband was shipped off to war. She stopped at a pond (in what is now Belgium) by a church to pray for his safe return. While praying, her wedding ring fell in. She says to God, ‘come on, you took my husband at least give me back my ring.’ She pledged that if her ring were brought back, she would thank God by building an abbey. Legend has it a trout arose from the pond with the ring on his nose. She thanked God by endowing a monastery and thus earns the distinct honor of having the beer named after her.
Course 3– Corn flake crusted chicken livers, buttermilk squash ragout, Christmas Ale sauce, toasted pumpkin seed oil paired with Christmas Ale. This dish was inspired by a meal chef Jeff Fisher had at Luxe and thought this dinner was a great excuse to try to recreate it. I was mixed on this dish. I really enjoyed the butternut squash ragout and use of the beer in the sauce, but wasn’t necessarily wowed with the livers. They weren’t bad and to be fair, I’m not one to order chicken livers (I blame my mom and her forcing us to eat this as kids; I now have an aversion to liver). // There aren’t any spices added to the beer, all the flavor comes from the yeast. And it’s a lot of flavor. Perhaps some of that flavor is also due to the candy sugar added in the brewing process. Either way, it’s a good, strong beer but not over powering.
Course 4– Molten bitter sweet chocolate cake with a bourbon caramel and cheesecake ice cream paired with Pere Jacques. Another beautifully presented dish. Props to the chef for creative presentations all around – and even more so for the wonderfully richness of this dessert. You can now count me among chef Fisher fans. We’ll be back – for brunch and then some (I’m told he makes killer beer-braised short ribs). // Pere Jacques is named after a monk who gave the Goose Island brewmaster a tour, which included the first woman ever inside the monastery in over 500 years. The beer, served in a large, heavy challis, was a good contrast with the chocolate.
If you haven’t yet participated in any of the events surrounding Cleveland Beer Week, you still have time (though not much). Click here to learn more about this week’s remaining events, including Brewzilla. There are a number of great tastings, dinners and pairings happening. We were really impressed with this event – it was informative, tasty, fun and introduced us to some new craft brews that we’re eager to buy for home.