On Friday, February 26, starting at 7:30 p.m., prepare for New Orleans' very first Nuit Belge, an upscale beer and food pairing event that features high end Belgian and Belgian-style beer such as Cantillon, De La Senne, Jester King, and Blackberry Farms. These beers are paired with dishes that prominent New Orleans chefs created specifically for this event, held at Generations Hall in the Warehouse District.
Here are a half dozen of the pairings with remarks from six of the chefs:
Cantillon Pepe Lou Kriek & Shaya
One of the most eagerly awaited pairings of the night— due to the prestige of both the beer and the restaurant— this is a dessert pairing, although some beer lovers will want to try it first. The dish is called galaktoboureko, which Alon Shaya says is everywhere in Greece. Traditionally a semolina custard in filo dough, Shaya's version uses chocolate and Persian cherry, with sunflower seeds on top, to complement the beer's nuttiness, Shaya says.
Shaya, who had never tried the sour cherry kriek beer before, detected spice, caramel, and chocolate notes as well, and worked with the restaurant's pastry chef Erin Higgins to create the dessert.
"You just don't see this level of beer event in New Orleans very often," Shaya says.
Angeline & De Ranke Guldenberg
Angeline chef Alex Harrell is pretty pumped that an event of this caliber is coming to the city, and even more so that Angeline will be able to align itself with it. "We'll be able to get some exposure with what we can do with food and beer," Harrell says, noting that the restaurant is stepping up its beer program. "It just makes sense," he adds. "Beer is taking on a new role in the beverage world and that's what people tend to drink with our kind of neighborhood style food."
To create the pairing of the Belgian tripel with Angeline's fried quail, he solicited his entire kitchen staff's input and they collectively decided that beer and fried food were a perfect, classic pairing. "We tasted hops, spice, a little bit of sweetness, and some nuttiness," he notes.
Drie Fonteinin Oude Geuze & Boucherie
This blended sour is considered one of the best of its style in the world, and Boucherie owner/Avenue Pub kitchen consultant and beer lover Nathanial Zimet was "super thrilled" to take on the challenge of pairing it.
Zimet says of the beer, "It needed a sweetness [to balance], and I thought of the sweetness of seawater, like mussels. It also needed a dark, dark roux earthiness."
His dish is a scallop boudin noir, made with pureed scallops and the bloodline from tuna, mixed with a smoked pork roux and rice, served with a cracklin.
Blaugies Derbyste & Cochon Butcher
Butcher GM Matt Ghabrial discovered Nuit Belge through the restaurant's Nashville location, where the event originated. As a self professed beer geek, he was impressed that a respected brewery like Blackberry Farms was involved as well, creating a beer event he calls "a complete change of pace."
Upon sampling the fig saison, Ghabrial and Butcher chef de cuisine did some brainstorming and decided that the beer would pair well with bright, citrus flavors and decided to serve a braised short rib with gremolata and potato puree. The gremolata would provide that citrus note, according to Ghabrial.
De La Senne Taras Boulba & Restaurant NOLA
Chef de cuisine Brian Mottola says of the opportunity to participate in Nuit Belge, " As a chef, you love to do stuff like this. We all hope we're super creative."
To that end, Mottola and his team decided to anchor the lightly hopped Belgian ale with something a little fatty, gamy, and spicy. He'll be serving a curry roasted wild boar with sweet potato coconut soup. The soup, he says. "will mellow the boar and beer out with something sweet and earthy."
De La Senne Zwarte Piet & Balise
Balise owner Justin Deviller says that he's a huge fan of Belgian beers. "It's hard to find a style that goes better with beer." Balise's vibe as a modern tavern is what put it on event organizer Matt Leff's radar, and this is one of the first opportunities that Devillier has been able to present Balise's food in a large-scale event setting.
Zwarte Piet is a dark strong ale, and the roasted coffee and burnt sugar flavor notes made Devillier think of ancho, collards, and corn masa. So he'll be bringing a smothered chicken tamale with ancho pepper collard greens, and sesame.
"It's very much the same philosophy of pairing wine, except I think beer is more forgiving, Devillier says with a laugh. "If it's not perfect, just take another couple slugs of the beer, and it's all good.
Check out the Nuit Belge page to purchase tickets, including an exclusive, intimate VIP pre-party option. Use the code "nora" to get $10 off a general admission ticket.