From March 6th – 21st, I’m down in the bay area looking for work as a social interaction designer. I thought it would be fun way to meet people, while down here, to cook for a bunch of Hacker News folk. This is a recording of those dinners.
The 6th & final dinner was for Henry and some of his roommates and friends down in lovely Mountain View. After the last dinner, I was determined to redeem myself and go out with a bang. Henry is an ex-TechCruncher who is now working for a travel startup focusing on the Disney market.
After surveying Henry’s kitchen, he mentioned that he had plenty of great beer in the fridge and I spied some mushrooms & bacon so I decided that this dinner would be a very beer-focused menu that would also incorporate mushrooms & bacon. I know there’s a renaissance of beer friendly food menus over the last decade but I’ve always found it much easier to pair wine than beer and most of my attempts at pairing have not been as successful as I would have liked. The challenge of making a beer friendly menu made it a good challenge for me and allowed me to stretch my wings a little.
When we got to the market, there were some really great leeks which are unreasonably good with bacon & mushrooms and I’d been vaguely wanting to do a quiche for a while since I got down here so a mushroom & leek quiche with crumbled bacon would be the first course (one of the guests was vegetarian so all the dishes were vegetarian optional).
For the main course, I had already done beef, lamb, seafood & duck since I was down here so I wanted to finish with their pork or chicken to round out the range of meats. There were some gorgeous, center cut pork chops and one of the guests indicated that they really loved pasta so I wanted to do a dish with pasta that had a pork chop on top. From the pork, I spied some acorn squashes and pears also popped into my mind for some reason so the dish became spaghetti with a squash & pear sauce with a curry rubbed pork chop on top.
Finally, for the dessert, I had originally wanted to do a dish with port & dried figs but, since it was a beer menu, I used apple cider instead.
With all the elements in place, lets get to the food:
Mushroom & Leek Quiche, Crumbled Bacon, Garden Salad, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
The quiche was fairly standard, the salad cut the richness and the ale was light enough that it matched well with the quiche. One of the things I’m starting to appreciate about beer pairings is their ability to work very well with richness and using the bitterness to add backbone to what could be an overwhelmingly rich dish.
Curry Rubbed Pork Chop, Squash & Pear Pasta, Arrogant Bastard Oaked Ale
Henry & his roommates looked at me like I had 2 heads when I suggested that we put pear in the pasta sauce and, to be honest, I had no clue where that idea came from or if I could pull it off. I think, for the oaked ale, the woody flavors really drew me to ingredients from the fall and pork, squash & pears were all classic, late fall flavors. I sauteed the cut up squash in butter and oil until it was brown, nutty & sweet, added onions, garlic & beer, cooked until it was soft and sauce like and then added the pears and cooked just a little bit longer until the pears were tender and on the verge of falling apart.
This sauce is probably one I’ll have to add to my standard repertoire. The sweet & bitter flavors played off each other well and the squash & pear turned into a thick, creamy sauce with enough lumps to keep it interesting texturally. Without the pork, it’s a wonderfully satisfying vegetarian dish and with the pork, it’s robust enough to be a complete meal.
Cider Braised Figs, Yogurt, Wydmers Apple Cider
I love braising calymira figs since they suck up their braising liquid so well and also release just enough sugar & fig flavour to form an addictive, concentrated glaze. I’ve traditionally done them with port but this time I decided to use apple cider to keep with the beer theme. It was just figs, cider, honey & vanilla, boiled down into a glaze and topping some yogurt for a nice, healthy dessert.
After a whirlwind trip down to the Bay Area, I’m finally back in Seattle again and slowly recuperating. It’s definitely been a fun experience, meeting and cooking for a whole range of different people over the last 2 weeks and I’ve experienced some incredible generosity from hosts who have invited me into their homes. If you’ve been following along these posts, please post a comment and say hi.
The next few weeks are going to be an interesting time for me and this blog. There’s definitely another trip planned and a couple of essays I have brewing as a result of conversations I’ve had with people. If you are interested in keeping up with my thoughts, you should definitely subscribe to my RSS feed or follow me on twitter.