Monday, October 17, 2011

5 Napkin Burger – Kelso Tasting Event

I’m sure you remember me mentioning 5 Napkin Burger’s Beer & Bourbon Series, staring with the Kelso Brewery event, held on October 6th. So excited for this to take place, I ran a promotion through the help of my friends at 5 Napkin to send a lucky Fooditka reader and their guest to the event au gratis. That lucky winner happened to be Diane and her husband who I was lucky to meet at the event and even have dinner with. Needless to say, it turned out to be a spectacular night of indulging, making new friends and learning some neat things about beer and food.

The Set-Up:
As is the case with all 5 Napkin Burger run events, the Kelso dinner was nicely organized and went off without a hitch.

It began in 5 Napkin’s private party room (the same one I had my Fooditka re-launch celebration). There, we gathered as a group of food and brew lovers, got to meet Kelly and Sonya, Kelso’s brewers and tasted Chef Andy’s “beer tailored” menu.

I liked the intimacy and the insider feel of the private room. And even though we moved into the main dining room for the actual dinner and dessert, we were still treated like exclusive guests—approached by Kelly who engaged us in fruitful conversation about the beer, food or anything we felt like chatting about.

Beer & Food:

The beginning of the evening started with passed hors d’oeuvres and beer, while the middle-end of the event involved table-side service. It was the perfect mix, in my opinion, letting us warm up to our fellow party-goers and then officially breaking bread with them.

Beer & App Hour – This was my favorite part of the event, when we got to taste Chef Andy’s uniquely constructed apps, all including Kelso’s beer as an ingredient. The addition of beer in the Crispy Chicken Nuggets, the pulled pork sliders and the beer/cheddar soup was evident but in a subtle, intelligent way. It was clear that the beer was added, but it was done in a way that brought out the best in each dish and accentuated its other components.

The chicken nuggets to start were (as its name foreshadowed) amazingly crispy, flavored by a smoky bbq sauce that had a hint of Kelso’s lager. Each bite was intensely addicting and I appreciated the mix of dark and white meat that went into this. This was no engineered meat concoction, as I often picture when I think of a mass-produced nugget.

My other close favorite was the pulled pork slider, which was slow cooked for 18 hours in a beer reduction. The end result was tender, juicy and nicely spiced meat, its hearty taste cut by the refreshing carrot and jicama slaw and cilantro on top. If they haven’t thought of this already, I’d highly recommend putting this baby on the regular menu – or at least their happy hour menu. Please…?

A third app served during the beer & app hour was an aged cheddar and beer soup – the perfect accoutrement to beer, I think. The flavors were strong and tickled the back of your throat in a comforting way. Pieces of smoky, thick-cut bacon peered through the pumpkin-colored liquid, which were a lovely surprise that made this soup an even greater treat.

For the entrees, we were graced with 5 Napkin Burger’s signature burger (with their rosemary aioli), which I’ve had many times and always enjoy. For more info about this burger, you can see my previous reviews.

Whoopie Pie
– Dessert is my favorite aspect of any meal, and this one absolutely sealed the deal for me. And as everything else on the menu that night, it was accentuated with Kelso’s brew - the Flemish Red Ale, which is known for being sour. Overall, the taste was spectacular – a little spicy, a bit nutty with deep flavors of maple.

The Beer – We had the pleasure of tasting 7 different Kelso ales that night, and I sure learned a lot. For one – I didn’t know there were this many varieties, a lot of them being very rich in flavor, ingredients and taste. Something else I learned, which made a whole lot of sense in retrospect is that 5 Napkin’s Signature Ale is actually Kelso’s Nut Brown Lager, except under a different name. It’s no wonder that Dan and I are constantly impressed by it, ordering it time and again when we come here for dinner or for their Happy Hour offering.

So besides the 5 Napkin Lager, which is a dark, full-bodied malt, my other favorites included the Recessionator, the Pilsner, and the Flemish Red Ale. All three beers are very distinct, the Recessionator, a thick, malty, nutty brew with rum toffee flavorings; the Pilsner a drier, European-style beer that reminds me of the beers I have when visiting family in Slovakia; and finally the Flemish Red Ale, which is Kelso’ rendition of a sour beer that’s aged for 6 months. I first tasted the latter at 5 Napkin’s Captain Lawrence event last year, and it was a bit much for me to take – good but very, very strong. Kelso’s version however, was a lot lighter, slightly sweet and paired really well with the Whoopie Pie.

Service and Cost:
As is customary for 5 Napkin, the service was outstanding and always on point. The pacing of each course was just right, in that we didn’t feel rushed but at the same time we didn’t find ourselves waiting for anything too long. I really liked the special attention we got from the brewers, which is the real value of attending something like this. It would make for a really nice gift for an uber savvy (or curious) beer lover.

The cost of the dinner is $60 per person and includes tax and gratuity – really not bad for all the special attention and the ample food and drink you’re getting.

3 Mmmms

5 Napkin Burger - 35-01 36th Street, Astoria, NY 11106
N/Q Train to Steinway Street, R/V/G Train to Steinway Street

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