When Husband asked if Neighbor and I would like to join him for an Ommegang Beer Dinner at Local Chop & Grill House in Harrisonburg, we of course said yes and heck yes. Not only did Ommegang brewery rep, Steven Cardello bring some amazing new beers, but Chef Ryan Zale never fails to impress, if not stun his diners. So on Thursday, April 7th, Neighbor and I walked (a half mile) to the Local to get our appetites going. I will attempt to describe the five course meal, please do not read if hungry.
A banana caramelized with vanilla and sugar, topped with a thyme foam and an edible violet, then bathed in bacon consommé and nestled beside a frozen orange. Now why did Chef Zale pick such a lovely fruit dish for the first course? Because it was paired with the new collaboration from Ommegang and Brasserie d’Achouffe: Gnomegang. With all Belgian style beers, it is the yeast that is the backbone of the brew and gives you the flavors of fruit, citrus and clove. The Chouffe and Ommegang yeasts combined create a smooth and delicious blend that went down great with this dish. And the bacon consommé grounded the whole thing. Why did the collaborators select the name Gnomegang? If you are familiar with Achouffe you’ll note that their bottles are adorned with a red capped garden gnome. The Gnomegang is a Belgian Blonde Ale and runs at 9.5% ABV.
Ommegang’s new Belgian Pale Ale or BPA has been making huge waves with this unique brew. It has the malty roots of a traditional Belgian, but according to www.ommegang.com, it is then hopped with Columbus (for bitter), Celia (for aroma) and then is dry hopped with Cascades. Chef Zale perfectly steamed mussels in the BPA and they were sooooo good! He served them with shaved asparagus and brussel sprout leaves over crispy pancetta (aka pork belly) with apple and tarragon vinaigrette. Neighbor said simply, “divine.”
What a pairing!!! Orange, coriander, fennel, toffee, and cinnamon blended in a mouth watering combination of Abbey Ale and house made goat sausage. This was one of the most fantastic beer and food combos I’ve ever had (and I have gone to a lot of beer dinners). Chef Zale is a great local chef in that he knows his area farmers, how they raise their livestock, and he plays a role in hand selecting the foods served at the Local Chop. The same goes for tonight’s goat which came from a farm in Waynesboro. The spicy goat sausage was served with nontraditional sauerkraut of pear and fennel and brushed with an emulsion of toffee and locally made honey. The fennel and coriander of the sausage and the sweet toffee emulsion with the caramel of the Abbey Ale was so elegantly blended. This was truly an epicurean masterpiece.
Most chefs will save a chocolate beer for dessert. Chef Zale, recognizing that as well traversed highway, made a move off the beaten path and paired Ommegang’s Chocolate Indulgence Stout with a spicy mole dish. Again in another feat of unholy pagan pork worship, Zale served up chili braised pork belly drenched in a rich mole of coffee and a 65% Belgian chocolate and garnished with pumpkins seed and crispy straws of squash. Additionally the mole was prepared with 8 cups of Chocolate Indulgence Stout and duck stock. I’m not going to lie: things were getting groggy at this point. I was definitely going into a deeply entrenched food coma, aided by the 7% ABV on the Indulgence. But that bit of chili spice gave me enough of a kick for one more round.
So if you serve the chocolate beer with dinner… what do you serve for dessert? The answer is definitely: cherries! The Three Philosophers Quadruple is a dense combo of malty chocolate and cherry lambic and was served with three equally wise dessert choices. A cherry and chocolate truffle, marshmallow brûlée and a rich goat cheese square. The flavors melded perfectly. And as this Belgian Kriek had the highest ABV of the night at 9.8%, it was time to end the fun.
Overall it was a wonderful night with great company, around 35 attendees most of them local beer fans we know from around town. Chef Zale proved ever creative, even preparing some special courses for a vegan guest. Cheers to the Local and Brewery Ommegang, I can’t wait for your next event!