Taste of Vail: Beer is a chef’s great, adoring companion | VailDaily.com

Taste of Vail: Beer is a chef’s great, adoring companion

Krista Driscoll
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailySteve Holland takes a sip of Stella Artois beer after tasting the sharp cheddar cheese beer soup that it was paired with Thursday during the Taste of Vail Belgium Beer Luncheon at the Lodge at Vail .

VAIL, Colorado –Beer is an amazing thing at the Taste of Vail. It can be light or dark, crisp or bitter, heavy or mellow. It is equally welcome in celebration and sorrow and has the capacity to bring people together socially in a way that neither wine nor spirits can emulate.

Hoppy love affairs aside, beer also has a secret versatility that few people get the chance to explore. Beer adores food. And why not? As Chef Daniel Joly pointed out, beer is 80 percent water and 20 percent spice. And since it comes in six-packs, you can cook with one and still enjoy the other five.

Joly, the owner and executive chef of Mirabelle Restaurant in Beaver Creek, hosted the Belgian beer luncheon at the Lodge at Vail on Thursday afternoon. The luncheon, part of the Taste of Vail, featured four local chefs and a mouthwatering menu that flaunted the full potential of each beer pairing.

The first offering was Hoegaarden. Unfiltered and bright, this beer is brewed with coriander and orange peel for a fragrant, citrus flavor. Hoegaarden, Joly said, is like kissing a pretty girl. And this pretty girl was paired with a coriander-crusted scallop and white asparagus, courtesy of Chef Dustin Aipperspach, of Cafe Milano. The scallop’s crust brought out the citrus notes of the beer, and the raw, white asparagus added a crunchy texture that rounded out the dish.

Second on the menu was the Stella Artois. The key to enjoying a Stella, Joly said, is the glassware. More than a clever marketing ploy, the Stella chalice was designed to bring out the best in this beer. The fluted, gold-rimmed glass focuses the aroma and enhances the beer-drinking experience. Stella can be paired with more robust fare, and chef Jane Russell, of the Lodge at Vail, chose a hearty, Midwestern dish to challenge the beer. The sharpness of the cheddar cheese in the Wisconsin beer soup was amplified by the slightly sweet, hoppy flavor of the beer.

Next on the list was a roasted duck breast, paired with a Leffe blonde. The description could command hundreds of words, so here’s a brief summary: heavenly. The Leffe, brewed with hints of vanilla and caramel, also proved to be the perfect companion to the final course, a selection of chocolates from chef Michele Huyke, of Rimini. Belgian beer not only goes well with chocolate – it also can be incorporated in the chocolate itself. Beer and chocolate, beer in chocolate, either way, it’s amazing and an incredible way to top off an otherwise spectacular lunch.

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