The Weekly Banjo #22: On Food

In case you hadn’t seen the videos or are completely blind, you can see that I also eat while I drink.  The pairing is obvious: alcohol (in general) makes you hungry, and beer especially so.  I’ve never subscribed to the notion that beer is too filling to have with food–I think it’s a cruel, nonsensical (read: bullshit) conspiracy against real beer makers by the light macro factories and wine industries–and learning how (and especially when) to pair beer with meals can make you a culinary genius.

This isn’t to say that beer can be paired with EVERYTHING.  This goes for any clash of flavors: lemon vs. chocolate, mint vs. orange, or the especially vexing philistine choice of red wine vs. nachos (or nearly any Mexican cuisine, for that matter).

You thought this was a good idea? How about I re-arrange your face, shithead?

Great chefs have adhered to wine pairings due to two distinct factors: tradition and ease (due mostly to tradition).  It is up to you, therefore, to make a conscious decision to first drink beer with your finer foods, and develop your palate to the point where you can order intelligently without being a snob.

The (loose) rules are fairly simple:

1. Just about any beer goes with (real) breakfast.  Test me.  Have eggs benedict with Guinness if you want to test this idea.  Fake breakfasts include shit like this:

Fake breakfast. Awesome in its own right, but FAKE.

Look, if you like this kind of sugar-laden garbage, I’ll suggest that real beer isn’t really for you.  The only cereal that lends itself to beer-drinking is Grape Nuts, and you don’t want Grape-Nut-Beer-Shits; while you may think your little book of matches can knock down the disgusting aroma, you’re wrong.  Real breakfasts usually hold something fried, salty, meaty–ALL beer friendly traits.

2.  Keep it light at lunch unless you *want* to have an ass the size of a ferry boat.

The animal on the left has stout with lunch.

Most unsuccessful drinkers knock themselves completely out of the game by ordering some belgian, opaque, wake-granddad-from-the-dead stout which not only makes their turkey sandwich meaningless, it also plows straight through their face before drinking time actually starts.  Have some dignity, man up and have a pilsener, you over-enthusiastic moron.

3.  Dinner is a warm-up, dessert is *supposed* to be bite-sized.

You need to have some room to enjoy your beer instead of pissing your face off.  Nobody likes to see you close the bar and leave a steamy trail of vomit on your way out the door and into the middle of the street, so do everybody a favor: drink like you are trying to close the bar, leave two hours early, and finish your debauch at your house.  Barfing on your stupid Bob Marley poster isn’t going to piss me off.  Cutting loose on my table brings out my inner Sam Elliott.

You better start showing a little class, you pussy.

Drink Successfully.

RBjo

The Weekly Banjo #21: In Defense Of My Corner, I Step Into Yours.

Although I am a devout reader of Food And Wine magazine, I read a disturbing article recently lauding the pairing of Belgian beer–yes, that sweet, fruity, flocculant style of beer–with dishes from Asia.  Do I remember what issue of F&W it was?  I might, if I hadn’t been so vexed at the article in question that I tore the magazine in half and fed it to the bears.

This, dear reader, was over the damned line, and I think it’s up to me to set the record straight.

The flavors of Asian cuisine are as diverse as the populations of the Asian continent; this is why we don’t see many Russian/Chinese restaurants.  For the purposes of my argument, however, we will confine the scope of cuisine to the sub-continent, specifically Thailand, Vietnam, and a little bit of Japan.

Let’s start with Japan, where the chief diet comes from the sea, and is accentuated with rice, vegetables, and sauces.

Ebi Tempura

Adding a robust (say, overwhelming) Belgian trappist-style ale to this meal may prove disastrous.  Belgian beers are (while light in color, mostly) sledgehammer-flavored mouth-bombs with benefits: that is to say that they get you incredibly drunk incredibly fast.  What, then, would the Banjo suggest you drink with your Japanese meal?  This is a tricky one to answer, although the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT a Belgian beer.  This may surprise you, but the point with Japanese cuisine is to get out of the food’s way, so I give you:

Spaten Lager

It’s a strange pairing, but a German-style lager complements almost any Japanese meal without overwhelming the subtle flavors on your plate.

Vietnam

Vietnamese is another enigmatic cuisine with French and Cambodian influences, so let’s take a sample Vietnamese dish (my favorite) and pair it appropriately:

Bun-Cha (Open-Barbecued Pork)

There’s hardly anything I can say here that can describe how wonderful Bun-Cha is when prepared correctly.  Let’s say it’s served this way:

I'm Hungry.

I’d serve a red ale without question.  Reds are less snarky than pale ales, and usually hold greater depth–perfect for putting out the hallmark fire of these dishes while leaving you hungrier and hungrier.

Thailand

Thai is all the rage now in America, and for good reason:  it’s delicious, complex, [somewhat] accessible, and (like many types of Asian food) now ubiquitous in North America, although the best Thai, like anything, is very rare.

Okay, let’s start with the one you all want to know: Phat Thai.

You've Never Had It?! SERIOUSLY?!

Although this is a dish enjoyed daily by millions (if not billions), it is a serious, serious bastard to pair with beer.  In fact, Thai cuisine, by its very hallmark traits of light, aromatic preparation, is fairly beer-hostile.

Don’t fret, of course.  With the rare exceptions of Satay or the heavier red curries, simply follow a similar track as you would with Japanese, although Thai lends itself to some more diverse beer pairings, such a a good Pilsner:

Get the good stuff.

Or, if you can’t visit Manny and Roger, get a bottle of one of the originals.

Good Job.

Either way, you are selling each of these essential Asian cuisines short by brow-beating them with some over-the-top Belgian beer.  These are beers much more suited to pairing with French or English fare.  Asian food is like a delicate flower, and this is one successful drinker who intends to give it the respect it deserves.

Come ON, F&W.

RBjo

NYT Reports On Beer Mecca Start-ups

From the travel section of the New York Times, a glistening account of where we should all be RIGHT NOW.

Aside

If you haven’t seen it, it contains everything you need to know about me:

I like to be happy.

Aside

Many of you will think that I just didn’t go out and ask to talk to anyone.  You will be wrong.

I live in a beer diaspora; here’s hoping I come home soon.

Aside

Yeah, I swore.  The beer is damned fine, and it gets better as it gets hotter outside.

A great lager is tough to find.

Aside

Thanks , buddy.

What a great beer.