I have a good friend who is a fantastic chef at a small cafe in Mount Vernon. This is a New York Times-reviewed restaurant that people come from hours around to eat at, and Matt is on the short list for a James Beard Award this year. Now, the restaurant is not necessarily veggie friendly (as he says, “well I thought about making more vegetarian food, but then I thought, ‘fuck it’.”–I respect honesty after all) so I don’t necessarily eat there as often as many locals do (though all visiting writers I bring to campus go to the cafe), but I really respect his sensibility. He works with organic and free range meats, supports the local, organic farming industry as much as possible and is the kind of conscientious entrepreneur that I really appreciate. Besides that, he’s just a great guy.
He has never been able to sell alcohol at the restaurant which is unfortunate for both his customers and himself, but relatively recently he managed to buy a wine bar just two doors down. It’s a nice, comfortable place to get a good bottle of wine and take it to the restaurant. Wine is big in these parts: many foodies who love a good bottle of wine in the area. And don’t get me wrong, I love a good bottle of wine myself. But where, I ask, are all the beer fanatics? I know they’re around, (I mean this is the land of John’s Groceries after all) and I know they would probably love to have a good beer at the wine bar/restaurant as well. So, I took it upon myself to try to open up the door to good beer drinking to my friend Matt. I figured a foodie such as himself would really appreciate a good Belgian beer.
We had Matt and his partner and our good friends Tony and Sarah over to sample some Belgians. This is a much more daunting task than I imagined (at least if the goal is ultimately to have someone leave really wanting to sell some good beer at his bar). You want to pick good beer that will intrigue someone, but you don’t necessarily overwhelm them. I’m not going to spring a real sour Flemish red on someone necessarily unless they’ve already developed an interest/taste, yes? So many to choose from but the tastes are so different it’s difficult to know what someone will respond to. So, I picked a variety in what I think of as the classic strains: golden, double, triple, quadrupel, and a couple biere de garde /farmhouse style beers.
Definitely a fun evening and, if nothing else, I think I got people interested in the idea of a beer session. People in general liked the Piraat. We had a couple St. Bernardus with dinner and I think we lost touch with actually tasting by that point, so while generally enjoyed I’m not sure we fully appreciated them. Matt did not really go for any of the darker beers, but he was certainly interested in the lighter styles, the farmhouse and the golden. My friend Tony and I agreed on the St. Feuillien–a really nice mustiness to the rich yeast flavor. Great stuff. I’m not sure I have Matt convinced to become a Belgian haven, but I’ll keep working on it. In the meantime, visit the cafe, enjoy the meal, and mention how good his exotic food would be with a really fine beer.