Armadillo Ale Works + Hannah's Off the Square Pair Up For Dinner

Armadillo Ale Works + Hannah’s Beer Pairing Dinner
@ Armadillo Brewery

Last week, we came at you with a delightful little pairing between Armadillo Ale Works and Kitty Bunny Bakery; now, just days later, we’ve got another pairing from Armadillo. In the course of one eventful week, we’ve been delighted to share so many courses with you; so today, we’ve got three more to tantalize you with. Hannah’s Off The Square jumped into the fray this past Thursday, offering up a three course dinner that was deftly paired to three beers from the taps at Armadillo, and we were there to delight in these divine dishes. The fire’s going, the aromas of the open oven are dancing in the air, the table is set–dinner is served, y’all. Take a seat, won’t you?

First Course: Pan Fried Salmon Belly with Julienne Vegetable Salad; Puffed Rice and Thai Red Curry + New England IPA

The salad is a cold salad, with uplifting tropical notes from the addition of pineapple, which is balanced perfectly with the slight bitterness and juicy citrus overtones of the beer. The Thai red curry adds a delightful, velvety mouthfeel replete with a sweet-tempered umami; with coconut, lime, and other flavors, it’s truly a delightful burst of sweet fruit. There's a lot of crunch here in both the puffed rice, the cabbage, carrots, and salmon skin, which complements the silken curry and buttery-smooth salmon. The peppers and curry add the slightest of spiciness to the dish, though nothing beyond an undertone that only serves to elevate the dish even further with its melange of flavors and textures. The bit of crispy skin contains a little extra dose of brine flavor which adds a nice seaweed crunch and fish flavored finish to any bite it occupies. It all brings out a little of the sweetness that's hiding behind the hops in the IPA, and the juiciness of the IPA really hammers home the light but impactful flavors of the whole pairing. It's a firecracker of an opening, y'all; a vibrant eye-catcher with flavors to match.

Second Course: Braised Beef Short Rib Au Jus with Manchego Polenta & Mushroom Bacon + Town Squared Belgian Ale

The polenta in this dish is a rich, smokey cheese flavor with a light, fluffy feel, which the brandy and garlic au jus complements very well, upping the ante on the decadent umami. Combine the two, and you’ve got fine dining’s answer to down-home mashed potatoes and gravy. Although at first glance, the mushroom bacon seems like a garnish, it’s actually one of the stars of the show. It’s a perfectly faithful rendition of bacon, having an initial crunch that gives way to a chewy resistance emblematic of tendons and fat; an amazing textural compliment to the soupy polenta and au jus, and the tender short rib. Speaking of which, the braised beef short ribs are the most tender, buttery smooth dishes, putting any slow-cooker holiday brisket to shame. The holidays are coming soon, so watch out, Grandma: you've got a hard act to follow.

The Town Squared is candy-sweet from the date sugar and sweet Belgian malts, with a nice boozy mouth up front and a tender finish on the back. The spices, sugars, and slight bubblegum notes add a festive flavor to the comforting, fireside tastes of the brisket and polenta - and that high alcohol content warms the insides more than any fireplace ever would. It's the ultimate comfort combination: while the polenta and brisket relent quickly to the desires of our awaiting mouths, the crunch of the bacon rounds out the textures in a familiar but novel way, and the dark Belgian ale washes it all down with roast-like notes matched divinely to the smokey, brisket-esque short ribs. Overall, it's a very earthy dish that this beer is perfectly sweet for: they go together like a dreamer and a pragmatist; one elevates in sweet idealism, the other grounds with familiar flavors pushed to the most comfortable of extremes.

Dessert: Chocolate Stout Cake with Malted Milk Whipped Cream and Brûléed Banana + Quakertown Stout

This chocolate cake is rich but clean; like a chocolate shortbread cookie, lingering in a subtle, bready aftertaste without being too sharp or cloying, making tempered but opulent use of the vanilla stout base and the chocolate ganache filling. It's an oat-like flavor that melds perfectly with the nutty oatmeal stout. Possibly the biggest triumph of this dish, brûléed banana provides a brightness to the otherwise dark, heavy dish, with a nice caramel crunch thanks to said brûlée. The banana and malted milk whipped cream is like the icing on the cake; or rather, like a dollop of ice cream that brightens and cools the fresh, hot cake. The brûléed crust is like the banana's wingman on a night out with chocolate cake; the caramel is a perfect segway from the brighter, tart notes of the banana into the more toasty, savory notes of the cake. To top it all off, the strawberry is, well, the “cherry” on top, adding a hint of tartness to the sugary treat. The whipped cream has a slightly bolder, richer, deeper flavor than some store-bought whip, lending itself to the nutty characteristics of the dish.

The Stout brings things into focus: it crystallizes the darker flavors of the chocolate while giving meaning to the sweetness via delectable contrast; a bite post-Stout brings us back to the world of opulence and dreams, where heavenly decadence rules the day and we cannot be bothered with intrusive thoughts of work or obligation. For a minute, our thoughts are like cake: light, sublimely floating, but slowly filling, returning us to the earth and to our grounding. A bite of every element is an explosion of sweet earthly delight; the tart strawberry gives way to the crunch of salty sweet caramel, which leads us to creamy banana and rich cream, and ends, triumphantly, on a truly divine bit of terra firma: chocolate, ganache, crumb and all.

And with that, we must return, bellies full, slightly buzzed, to our cars and our homes, but we bring with us a touch of that fireside delight that we experienced. Like a breadcrumb trail, our memory of these flavors will draw us back to the next pairing, ready for whatever novel delights and twists on the familiar that will find us there. In the meantime, we’ll be brunching at Hannah’s, and capping off the day with a drink–or several–at Armadillo.

Header design by Clarissa Baniecki