Friday, November 20, 2009

The Animal/Samuel Adams Taste Test

The scene inside Animal on Tuesday night.

When you get an invite for dinner at Animal -- the Fairfax meat-centric eatery that I hadn't yet tried -- along with promises of sampling an extra strong beer, you don't say no.

And indeed, the invite came from Samuel Adams, which was interested in touting its 2009 Samuel Adams Utopias -- a dark beer that actually looks, smells and tastes much more like a port. Guinness Book of World Records calls the Utopias -- with 25 percent alcohol by volume -- the strongest beer in the world.

Animal chefs Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo came up with the menu to pair with a range of Samuel Adams beers. Here were the highlights (and yes, we were stuffed):

First course: Crispy hominy and lime (left) and lettuce/beets/avocado/pita/feta/creamy sumac. (Not pictured: Fluke, grape & yuzu granita, apple, orange, serrano, mint.) Paired with the Samuel Adams Coastal Wheat.

The Fluke/grape/yuzu granita combo was fascinating, and one of my favorite dishes of the night. The icy yet crunchy texture of the granita fit well with the raw fish. Extremely refreshing. The crispy hominy, meanwhile, was a guiltly pleasure. No interest in the lettuce though -- feta's a deal breaker for me.

Second course: Melted petit basque, chorizo, grilled bread. Paired with Samuel Adams Cranberry Lambic.

In small doses, great. But don't want to overdo this one.

Second course, continued: Poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar.

This was unlike any poutine I've ever encountered. If poutine normally looked like this, I'd be a fan.

Second course, continued: Barbecue pork belly sandwiches, slaw.

The winner of the night, of course. Can't go wrong with pork belly sandwiches. Could have kept eating this.

Main course: Ribeye roast, escargot butter, mash, brussel sprouts. Paired with Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

Steak was a little too red for my taste. And the brussel sprouts were ordinary.

Dessert: Panna cotta, saba (left); bacon chocolate crunch barm s&p anglaise. Paired with Samuel Adams Holiday Porter.

I think the edge went to the panna cotta; was intrigued by the bacon chocolate -- one of their signature items -- and thought it was fine.

Joe's doughnuts -- cinnamon sugar, caramel; paired here with the Samuel Adams Triple Bock (1994)

How could this be anything but fantastic. And it was. The triple bock, meanwhile, is a bit too bitter.

The Samuel Adams Utopias (2009)

Gotta say, did like the Utopias; it was like a nice port, but didn't taste as strong -- even with the high alcoholic content.

I'll be interested to try Animal again in a normal dining situation. But definitely a pretty nice meal.

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