Tim Anderson x Melissa Cole // Food & Beer Pairing, Ghost Whale, London
Not so long ago, I'd been lamenting my recent lack in attending any beer events in London. Not for the lack of them but largely due to my own general laziness and incompetence. Since Beavertown Extravaganza back at the start of September, I realised I hadn't done anything beery in the capital city. Step forward Friend of the Voyage and all-round hero, Chris, who, as if reading my mind, managed to snap up tickets for a food and beer pairing event at excellent Brixton bottleshop, Ghost Whale. It is exactly the type of place I'd love to own one day. It's a very chilled environment and the staff are always on hand to chat or recommend new beers with no air of pretence.
The event was set to be a cracker - drinks curated by beer writer/judge/champion Melissa Cole and food prepared by 2011 Masterchef winner Tim Anderson (who now owns and runs Brixton-based Japanese restaurant, Nanban). The ticket price included a copy of each of the hosts' new books (Japaneasy and Little Book of Beer), a free beer on arrival, a Ghost Whale tote bag, a free takeaway bottle of beer and some miscellaneous beery treats (stickers and beer mats aplenty).
There were only 20 or so tickets available which made for a very intimate atmosphere as Tim and Melissa took turns to introduce each dish and beer as well as generally chatting and taking questions throughout the evening which was really interesting and informative. It was fun to hear that Tim used to work at Euston Tap before he became a chef and he and Melissa traded working in pub stories (though saved the toilet based ones for after we'd eaten, thankfully).
Onto the main event: the food and beer! We were served 4 different dishes paired with 4 different beers. I was really looking forward to this as I've only done a few food and beer pairings before so was excited to see what was being served up. WIthout further ado...
Cured mackerel pressed sushi w/ Marble - Prime Time
First up came some oshizushi - or pressed sushi. Basically, fish added to sushi rice and pressed together. I am a total newcomer to sushi and am not really a huge fish fan in general so was a little apprehensive as these were handed out. I'm pleased to report that despite my reservations, this was lovely. The cured mackerel wasn't overpoweringly fishy and the addition of the ginger and soy dipping sauce worked well.
The sushi was paired with Marble's Prime Time, a Kölsch lager brewed with Premiant and Motueka hops as well as a ton of lime peels! Melissa was actually involved in creating this brew and it went very well with the mackerel. The lime really helped to balance the flavours of the food and was a fine, light start to proceedings.
Beef tataki w/ Arbor Ales - Boomtown Brown
Next came the meat - this wonderful beef tataki. Essentially, lightly seared beef in a sake and soy sauce topped with roasted garlic, sesame seeds, shallots, chives and rocket. This was more on my level and was super tasty. The beef is cooked via the 'hit the pan' method which is pretty self-explanatory and made for a great texture and flavour. My favourite thing about this dish was the roasted garlic slices sprinkled on top which really elevated the dish and worked perfectly with the vinegary sauce.
The beer this time was Boomtown Brown from Arbor Ales. Brown ales and beef is a no-brainer and I was a big fan of this matchup. The rye really complimented the beef here. This reminded me I don't drink brown ales as often as I should and is something I need to rectify immediately.
This was the second best pairing of the night.
Heritage tomato salad with spicy ponzu w/ Pressure Drop - Wu Gang Chops the Tree
Dish numero tres was a vegetable number - heritage tomatoes served with a spicy ponzu sauce with basil and sesame seeds. When these got handed around I was impressed with how colourful a tomato salad could look! Umami flavours were the order of the day here and I wasn't really expecting anything mind blowing but I was pleasantly surprised. Tomato and basil make perfect bedfellows but it was the sauce that made the dish - sweet, sour and just the right amount of spice worked really well against the fruity tomatoes and the peppery basil.
The beer for this round was Pressure Drop's Wu Gang Chops the Tree and was the only beer of the night I'd had before (mainly due to how cool the bottle art is). This is a hefeweisse beer but probably the only one I've tried that is made with foraged leaves. It's a great beer and you get the usual clove and banana notes but the foraged leaves give it a more herby finish which obviously went well with a tomato based dish.
Matcha mascarpone pots w/ Põhjala - Prenzlauer Berg
The final dish of the evening was, of course, dessert! Three ingredients: matcha powder (green tea), mascarpone and sugar to make a light pudding pot. Tim stressed how simple this was to make and it's definitely something I'll be making in future because, for so little effort, you get a really tasty dessert. Over the past few years, matcha has gained a lot of popularity and is now widely available in most supermarkets. Despite that, I've only had it a handful of times so was happy to have a dessert based on it. Basically, if you like green tea then you will love this. It was like grown-up Angel Delight and a fine end to the evening.
Prenzlauer Berg from Estonian's Põhjala, a raspberry berlinerweisse, was the final beer pairing of the evening. I'm a big fan of this brewery and they rarely disappoint. This beer was no exception - a lovely sweet, fruity beer with a sharp, tart finish.
I had a mouthful of dessert which was pleasant enough, then a sip of the beer. Again, pleasant enough. I went back for another spoonful of pudding and something bizarre happened. A eureka moment, if you will. The beer did crazy things to my taste buds and elevated the dessert to another level. This was, without a doubt, the best pairing of the evening. It was the perfect marriage of sweet and sour which opened up my palette and made me almost involuntarily fist pump. Top work to all involved.
We finished the evening with a couple of beers and chatted with the other guests, the Ghost Whale staff and the two hosts before retiring home with goodies in hand and our bellies swishing around with delicious food and excellent beer. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for more events like this.