It wasn’t long ago that when (or if) you thought of pairing food and beer, what came to mind was nachos, buffalo wings or salt-and-vinegar crisps. Then came gastro pubs, where the food was just as important as the beer, although served in a casual setting.
Food & Beer takes these pairings up several notches, matching fine-dining with craft beers. It’s the work of two obsessives: Daniel Burns, a Canadian mathematician-turned-chef who has worked at restaurants including The Fat Duck and Noma, and Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, a Danish middle-distance runner-turned-brewer. Their restaurants, Luksus and Tørst, share the same address in Brooklyn, New York, and the emphasis at both is on food and beer pairings.
In the book’s introduction, they write, “Because Tørst’s proposition is so unique, we don’t get a lot of apathetic bartenders – and we wouldn’t hire them anyway. Most of our staff is made up of avid homebrewers, and if they aren’t, they are steeped in beer and breweriana. They can geek out on beer if needed, but generally are pretty modulated in their geekery ... Behind the bar is a large mirror where we write the twenty-one beers we have on tap in white marker. Once a week, when we change over our beers, we wipe it entirely clean and scrawl, hopefully legibly, what’s on tap for the upcoming week ... By 11am, there’s a long line of thirsty beer lovers waiting for our doors to open.
“Meanwhile, down a steep flight of stairs – but a world away – five cooks crowd into a workspace no larger than 225 square feet ... With so little space, the men must move as octopus tentacles: independent but well-coordinated ... On any given night, there are fifteen courses on the Luksus menu, each consisting of eight to twelve elements, each with its own prep ...
“Meanwhile, upstairs, it’s already a party by 1pm. Beer bars have a bad reputation for being sausage fests, but that’s not the case for us, perhaps because Tørst has done away with the traditional trappings of a testosterone-soaked bar ... There’s no neon; no sports; little shouting.”
With many of the cookbooks reviewed here, the main problem is trying to find the right ingredients in Hong Kong. This one is quite accessible in that respect; the main issue is finding the right beers to pair with the dishes, because many of those they suggest are made in the United States by Jarnit-Bjergsø’s company, Evil Twin Brewing. Fortunately, the book tells us what flavour profiles and beer styles to look for.
The recipes sound hearty and tempting and include spicy nachos (not the ones you’re likely to find at most pubs; these include home-made chorizo and refried beans cooked with roasted chicken stock and lard); fried oyster with cauliflower and cabbage; beef tartare with razor clams; chicken with watercress and cured yolk; pork neck with scrapple and millet; braised squab leg with puy lentils; and macerated strawberries with rosehip vinegar meringue.