HoDo menu pairs food with beers from Fargo Brewing Co.
FARGO, N.D. - The Fargo Brewing Co. is getting ready to crack open a whole new experience.
The malt men will step away from their north Fargo brewery on Jan. 21 and tap into the menu at the Hotel Donaldson for the brewery's first beer dinner.
"I like food as much as I like beer and we like pairing food and beer," says brewmaster Chris Anderson. "Doing our first beer dinner at the HoDo is really great. It's where we launched our beer."
HoDo co-chefs Ryan Nitschke and Nick Weinhandl say pairing their foods with Fargo Brews has been something both parties have been looking forward to for years.
While the chefs already have a taste for the Iron Horse Pale Ale, they're looking forward to sampling some of the newer brews, like Anderson's take on a Belgium saison, and a twist on the Sodbuster Porter, adding a touch of toasted coconut and aged in a wooden rum barrel.
"It's nice to get creative with some things we can put on this one-time event," Nitschke says.
The chefs and the brewmaster talked about why certain beers are paired with particular plates in the five-course dinner.
(If you're interested in trying some of the new suds but not ready to dive into the whole dinner, Fargo Brewing will take over the taps that night at the HoDo Lounge.)
• Cracker crusted crappie and popcorn polenta with preserved lemon and arugula pesto paired with a kolsch or a pilsner
As of this writing, Anderson was still waiting to see if the kolsch (a clear, crisp, German brew) would be ready, or if he would serve a pilsner.
Weinhandl said the cracker crust on the fish needed a light, bright beer.
"Those light, crisp beers, like pilsner and kolsch, work well with light beginner courses, Anderson says. "They highlight the lighter notes and bring out the preserved lemons."
• Black pepper venison sausage with sweet pepper sauce and basil slaw and picnic stix served with a Saison beer
The saison uses yeast that is specific to the beer, giving it a unique taste, of fruit, cloves, bananas and earthy undertones with notes of black pepper, says Anderson.
The Belgian beer was developed by farmers and lends itself pastoral dining.
"They pair well with rustic foods," Anderson says of matching it with the pepper venison sausage.
• Pretzel spaetzle and crab with bandaged cheddar and beer béchamel, paired with Iron Horse Pale Ale
Anderson says hoppy beers are often served with rich, fatty foods. The light crisp, tropical fruit and citrus flavors and aromas of the American ale will balance against the pretzel spaetzle.
"Pale ale paired with cheese will help cut the fattiness and richness of the dish," he says. "It's more of a counterpoint than a pairing."
• Fried sweetbreads with abalone and cremini mushrooms, curry celery root puree and watercress paired with Woodchipper India Pale Ale
Despite being their oldest brew, the Woodchipper was the hardest drink for the chefs to wrap a dish around.
"Their flagship beer and it was one of the toughest to pair with. That was the last dish that came together," Nitschke says with a laugh.
In the end, they went with a standard restaurant practice - IPAs play nice with Asian flavors.
"Woodchipper pairs well with the heat of curry," Anderson says.
• Chocolate hazelnut tart with coconut topping and a banana cream pie ice cream paired with a the Sodbuster Porter with a touch of toasted coconut and aged in a wooden rum barrel
The final dish was actually the first one to come together. Both sides knew right away the twist on the Sodbuster would make for a delicious final course.
Anderson says the wood flavors absorbed in the aging process marry well with a darker beer like a porter. The added coconut gives it an almost macaroon taste, he says.
"That was the first course we had no question about," Nitschke says.
It also helps Weinhandl is fond of the straight Sodbuster and his favorite dessert is banana cream pie, which suggests they may be saving the best for last.
If You Go
WHAT: Fargo Brewing Company Beer Dinner
WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Jan 21
where: Hotel Donaldson restaurant, 101 Broadway, N., Fargo
Info: Dinner is $66 per person. (701) 478-8888.
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533