This past Sunday, The Wookie, our friend Mike (an honorary Booze Dancer), and I attended Fair Food Philly’s annual Brewer’s Plate event at the National Constitution Center. This would be The Wookie’s second time attending this event (click here to read his review of last year’s event), and a first time visit for Mike and I.
Before I get into my event review, here is a bit of information about the Brewer’s Plate taken directly from a Fair Food Philly press release:
Fair Food, a nonprofit organization uniting local farmers, business and consumers, presents The Brewers Plate at National Constitution Center Sunday, March 10, 2013 from 5:30-9:00 PM. The organization’s largest, most popular and well-established fundraiser is truly a unique event uniting more than 50 local culinary outlets with an expected thousand attendees.
Outlet and beer pairings in the General Admission area are as follows:
- Brauhaus Schmidt/Street Food Philly and Neshaminy
- City Tap House and Troegs
- Fair Food Farmstand with McKenzie
- Iron Hill and Iron Hill
- Kennett Restaurant and Yards
- Khyber Pub Pass and Sly Fox
- London Grill and Desiato Cider
- Varga Bar and Brooklyn Brewery
- SPTR and Philly Brewing Co.
- Southwark and Nodding Head
- The Belgian Café and Fegleys
- Tria and Victory
- White Dog Café and Dogfish
- Alla Spina and Stoudt’s
- Keatings and Cricket Hill
- Guerrilla Ultima BBQ and Dock Street
- Field House and River Horse
- Bard Ferdinand and Lancaster
- El Camino Real and Weyerbacher
- Cedar Point Bar and Kitchen and Boxcat
- McCrossens and Prism
- Triumph and Triumph
Each restaurant has a little over a week to get creative with local dish ideas. Many of the restaurants and breweries are keeping their serving items under wraps as a surprise for attendants, but some interestingly imaginative dish ideas include Alla Spina’s mortadella hot dogs with red cabbage and pickles paired with Stoudt’s Karnival Kolsch; Cedar Point’s grilled cheese stuffed with BBQ portabella and apple slaw and Boxcar’s Mango Ginger IPA; and White Dog Café’s house-made scrapple sliders with Dogfish’s Chicory Stoudt. Additionally, lucky VIPrs will sample Victory’s newest not yet on the market creation and Weckerly’s Ice Cream ‘Man Full of Trouble’ flavor (porter with chocolate covered shortbread) created specifically for the event.
Keeping in mind that the list above does NOT include the food and beer pairings that were going on in the VIP area, and the desserts and spirits that were being served in the Speakeasy area, there is only one way to describe my experience at this year’s Brewer’s Plate: overwhelming, but in a very very good way! There was so much food and drink available, and I tried so many different things in such a short period of time, that by 7PM (90 minutes into the event with 120 minutes to go), I was really wishing that I owned a pair of Sansabelt pants.
While I would love to talk about every Craft Beer and food thingy that I consumed during this event, the truth is that we were moving so fast that I didn’t have time to take notes (I was also trying to get some decent photos AND socialize a bit, so multitasking was becoming increasingly difficult as I ate and drank my way through the evening. I know, I know. Poor me! ). Whether it was one of the casked Ales from Forest & Main, the Eclat Hop Wallop Infused Chocolate Truffles, the Duck Confit-Foie Gras Banh Mi (try saying THAT three times fast after having a few beers) from London Grill, the always superb Capogiro gelato, or even the beer-cured salmon from Bar Ferdinand, I can honestly say that everything which I consumed throughout the course of this 3.5 hour eating and drinking extravaganza was excellent.
One of the most interesting parts of the evening occurred at 7:15 when we took part in a beer and cheese pairing session which was led by Aimee Olexy of Talula’s Table in Kennett Square and Talula’s Garden in Philadelphia. Once again, I can’t remember the names of all the cheeses and beers we consumed, but I do remember the first beer/cheese pairing which I thought was particularly interesting…
On the morning of the event, Aimee whipped up a batch of fresh ricotta (which was of course made from locally sourced and uber fresh milk) that she planned to serve at these tastings. The ricotta was layered atop some home made granola, and we were instructed to try it with a wee sample of Troegs JavaHead Stout. I was truly blown away by this combination because the creaminess of the ricotta, the crunchiness and mild sweetness of the granola, and the boldness of the Stout all played together so beautifully that I can totally imagine having something like this for dessert. All of the other beers and cheeses were also outstanding, but once again, I can’t remember any other details. My only complaint about this portion of the evening has more to do with my approach to all of the eating and drinking than with the beer/cheese tasting itself. When you plan to consume vast amounts of food and drink at an event like this, the key to survival is constant movement (and Sansabelt pants!). As I told The Wookie at the beginning of the beer/cheese pairing, I liken what I was feeling when I first sat down at the table to fresh mixed concrete, i.e. as long as the concrete mixer keeps moving you’re fine, but once you pour it, it will start to set. Again, my fault, not theirs.
In addition to Craft Beer and fantastic food, there were also a bit of high test libations on hand to sample in The Speakeasy and VIP areas. The Philadelphia area is home to some outstanding brewers, but there is also a bit of a distilling Renaissance going on as well. Philadelphia Distilling brought their Bluecoat Gin and Vieux Carre Absinthe, Art in the Age brought their Root, Snap, Rhubarb, and Sage, and Dad’s Hat brought their White Rye and Rye Whiskey. I never made it to the Art in the Age table, but I did get to try the Vieux Carre Absinthe and Dad’s Hat Rye Whiskey. Both were highly enjoyable and served as a fine intermezzo as we took a small break from all of the Craft Beer and fine food.
While the food and drink were wonderful, what really made this event truly special were the people. From the volunteers and security people, to the people working at the tables pouring our drinks and serving our food, to all of those in attendance, the National Constitution Center was overflowing with enthusiasm and good cheer! Brewer’s Plate 2013 was an evening that I will talk about often. I can’t wait to see what they (literally) cook and brew up for next year’s 10th Anniversary event!
Just two more things…
#1 – In between all of the eating and drinking, I tried my best to do a bit of socializing as well, because as I said just one paragraph ago, it’s the people that made this event truly special. During the event we ran into Mr. and Mrs. Miracle Max, Pete LaVerghetta and his wife, Ryan Hudak of the In Search of Beer blog who was there with his wife Leanne, Sean Mellody of Mellody Brewing, Ethan (thank you for not sporting the mankini!) of the Brewniversal blog, Dorrie of the Food Muses blog, Michele of the Stouts and Stilettos blog, and the Official Unofficial Photographer of all things Philly Beer, Stephen Lyford. It was a pleasure to share a drink with all of you!
#2 – Below are some photos that I took throughout the event. Hope you enjoy them!
Eclat Hop Wallop Chocolate Truffles
Aimee Olexy of Talula’s Garden
Hoppin John Orchestra
Vieux Carre Absinthe by Philadelphia Distilling
Cheese and Beer Pairing
Spanish Cured Ham Tease courtesy of Bar Ferdinand
Many thanks to the good people at Fair Food Philly for inviting us to this outstanding event!