Independence Beer Dinner at Grand Prize Bar

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Photos by Neil Dalal, Independence Brewing
Chef Philippe Gaston
This past Monday evening, I attended a beer dinner held in conjunction with this year's Texas Beer Fest, hosted by Grand Prize Bar and sponsored by Independence Brewing Company, with pairings created by Chef Philippe Gaston. As a wine-dinner girl, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. But having been apprised on very good authority that the dinner would be "wicked," my excitement mounted.

Wicked? It was mind-blowing. On all fronts. This was well-crafted beer and five courses featuring fresh Gulf seafood from a man who's worked at both Kata Robata and Reef. Here's the breakdown:

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Snapper Crudo.
The first course was Freestyle Wheat paired with a snapper crudo. The beer had a fresh, soft wheat taste and was crisp with a light clean finish. The snapper had been caught fresh the night before and was paired with blood orange segments and a strawberry vinaigrette. The snapper was delicate, with a barely detectable salt taste, sparked by the acid sweetness of the blood orange and strawberry.

The second course paired Independence Pale Ale with a beet "gazpacho" puree, graced with shaved celery and carrot and dotted with bits of prosecutor. The entire affair had a light dusting of sea salt. The pale ale was lightly floral with citrus undertones and finished with a gentle bite from the hops.

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Beet Gazpacho Puree.
It's an all around solid pale ale without the almost skunky hops finish other IPAs tend to have. The puree had a soft, slightly sweet, earthy taste, and the crunch of sweet carrot and green bite of the celery balanced the beet perfectly. A touch of prosciutto and sea salt were pleasant surprises.

Austin Amber began the crescendo into bolder flavors on both fronts in the third pairing. The beer is slightly malty, with a deep hops flavor and a heavier, albeit delightful, finish. The seafood bisque, a light consomme, was delicately rich from a light touch of cream and saffron. It was light with nice heat on the follow -- I'm guessing cayenne. Fortunately, this Gulf seafood "latte" was served in a cup, as most abandoned their spoons to sip the last drops.

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Dirty Shrimp and Grits.
Bootlegger Brown and dirty shrimp and grits climbed to bolder heights in the fourth pairing. The beer was malty with a slightly heavy chocolate finish -- very smooth and bold, but again, no hint of bitterness in the aftertaste. The dirty shrimp and grits were the best I have had, anywhere. I like my shrimp and grits like I like my martinis and men: dirty. Garlicky, creamy grits enhanced with a brown roux gravy and seafood stock made a bed for three perfect jumbo shrimp. Each bite had a deep flavor, not unlike a good gumbo, and finished with the delicate salty shrimp and a wonderfully sneaky after-heat.

Finally, sadly, we arrived at the fifth and final pairing and a bold and perfect finale to the experience: Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout paired with braised short ribs over a butternut squash silk with chocolate shortbread "dirt" and a side of thick, creamy navy beans. The Stout was rich with a creamy, roasted barley taste and a bold finish. The short ribs were braised in the stout and fork-tender. The butternut silk was the perfect complement to the richness of the ribs. The slight crunch of chocolate shortbread-based dirt added the perfect texture and warmth to each bite. The navy beans were rich, creamy and satisfying -- a delicate palate cleanser before the next perfect explosion of rich ribs and silk.

Every Monday should end on such a note, with excellent company, outstanding beer and an elegant meal. For other Texas Beer Festival events, visit the website.

Location Info

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Grand Prize Bar

1010 Banks, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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13 comments
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Steve - AllGoodBeer
Steve - AllGoodBeer

The food was outstanding! I've never liked grits but the grits he served were the first that I enjoyed and I practially licked the plate clean (although, I almost did that after every course).  He put a lot of thought into each pairing as the beer complimented the dish very well.  Hopefully we'll be able to enjoy more dinners from Chef Philippe very soon.

SirRon
SirRon

Nah, I'm pretty sure I saw you lick your plate.

Sister1_tj
Sister1_tj

This sounded like fun.  I would like to know when the next one is scheduled. 

SirRon
SirRon

If only there was an upcoming events post Shilcutt could add this stuff to... {\}

Jean-Philippe Gaston
Jean-Philippe Gaston

Thank you MJ for the great write up! It was a pleasure meeting you and hopefully I'll do another one soon! Also thank s to everyone that made it out on Monday and to all the people that helped me out!PS: Who told you it would be "wicked"? Just curious....

Katharine Shilcutt
Katharine Shilcutt

LOL. That would be me. I apparently talk like I'm from Boston when I'm excited about something.

Jean-Philippe Gaston
Jean-Philippe Gaston

well thank you for gracious words.... isay wicked all the time thats why I was asking!!!  I lived in Canada for a little while.. 

MJ
MJ

See..."good authority"!  

Morbidflop
Morbidflop

Thank you MJ for the great write up! It was a pleasure meeting you and hopefully will try to do another one  soon.Thanks to everyone who made it out, and to everyone who helped me aswell. 

SirRon
SirRon

This was an outstanding dinner. Props to Chef Philippe for the cooking and the friendly support staff. I liked that my beer glasses where somewhat bottomless as well. :)

Mary, great write-up.

nfabian
nfabian

Thanks, MJ and SirRon - thanks also to Paola Torres and Richard Greenleaf, who helped us greatly in the FOH!

MJ
MJ

Thank you! Fabulous experience. Many thanks to all who helped pull it off!

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