In the nearly 10 years I’ve been writing this column, I have attended my fair share of pairing dinners – usually wine and beer-oriented.
I always enjoy these dinners because I love seeing how chefs match courses with each beer or wine. It’s a chance for them to demonstrate creativity and educate diners about craft brewing or winemaking.
But what if you could have all of this in the intimacy of your own home, with handpicked guests and a menu designed to cater to your culinary preferences? It turns out you can.
The Dashing Rogue consists of Shannon Jones and Ian McCafferty, and they — among other talents — create custom beer dinners right in your own home. The two are passionate about beer, and their goal is to help spread the love of craft brews through intimate, personalized pairing events.
The process was simple: I contacted The Dashing Rogue via their website and talked with Jones, a.k.a., The Beer Mistress, about what I had in mind for the event. She prefers to sit down face-to-face with the hosts, but because it was around the holidays, we spoke via phone.
She sent me sample menus to look over and asked about specific beers I love and what I would be disappointed not to have — as well as the desired formality of the event, a four-course meal for friends through a six-plus course elegant dinner.
My friends and I have few limitations in what we like, both beer- and food-wise, so we were a blank slate. I made just two requests: I was interested in a saison, also known as the farmhouse ale, a style of beer becoming more popular but that I personally have little experience with; and a lower-ABV IPA, my favorite beer style.
At this stage, the options are endless. You can choose a multi-course dinner or tapas, you can request specific beers (so long as they are available), or desired entrees to base the pairings around. Should you or your guests have any food allergies or other limitations, the menu can be customized to fit those needs as well.
Within a week or so, Jones replied to me with a proposed menu. I had no changes, and I was excited about the beer selections, as they were all new to me. I basically left it up to The Dashing Rogue to show up and surprise us.
About a week before our dinner, Jones contacted me with her planned time of arrival at my home — just two hours prior to when my guests would arrive. I cleaned my kitchen, cleared off the countertops as best I could (unfortunately, I have limited counter space in my small kitchen) and readied the dining room table. The Dashing Rogue provides literally everything you need, so I didn’t have to worry about napkins, placemats, having enough glassware, etc.
Dashing Rogue set-up in my kitchen while I readied myself for my guests. Much of the prep work is done in advance, and I hardly even noticed they were there.
Once my guests arrived, we were all served a “welcome” beer, a Weyerbacher Winter Ale. This was the lowest-ABV beer of the night and therefore the only one served to us in full. This was accompanied by an amuse bouche of scallop with jalapeno cream sauce.
Dinner began with a mesclun salad with candied walnuts, gorgonzola, dried cherries in a champagne vinaigrette. This was paired with The Bruery Saison Rue, which we found to play nicely against the gorgonzola and dried cherries.
Our second course paired a cauliflower cheddar soup and pulled pork panini with the Ballast Point Sculpin IPA. Sculpin is a highly rated beer and was easily my favorite of the evening. My guests raved about the soup and panini, which complemented the IPA well.
The main dish was roasted venison in a Troegs’ Mad Elf reduction alongside wild mushrooms and asparagus. To match this, we sipped a Unibroue La Fin Du Monde. The venison was cooked to perfection, and the world-class tripel was pleasing to all.
Finally, dessert featured a citrus panna cotta in a blood orange raspberry drizzle, paired with Allagash Black. This dessert was out of this world, though at this point we were all bursting at the seams. Many people are familiar with the Allagash White, and the Black is a Belgian-style stout, notably dark and yet another great pairing.
As each course was served, the Dashing Rogue announced both the food and beer and explained the purpose behind each pairing. If we had questions, we were able to ask and discuss our thoughts. They provided outstanding service, clearing plates as we finished and filling water glasses before we had a chance to even ask.
Jones and McCafferty are not culinary trained chefs; however, the food they prepared us was as good if not better than any meal I’ve had in a restaurant. They are truly talented.
What’s better is that come the conclusion of dinner, I had nothing to do but wish my guests well. My kitchen was sparkling, and there was nary a dish in the sink.
For a dinner like this, the cost is around $65/person, which includes the food, beer, set-up and clean-up. The host (you) simply adds on sales tax to your guests. For larger, more formal events, prices average around $85/person. Dashing Rogue customizes meals and menus to each host’s tastes and budget.
In addition to beer-pairing dinners, Dashing Rogue also has a weekly podcast, where they discuss and review beers, and written beer reviews. You can find more information and contact them via their website, www.dashingrogue.com, or follow them on Facebook and Twitter.
To hear and see more about this event, visit www.sarabozich.com for a video featuring my guests’ reactions to the dinner.