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OHB/Cafe2forty2 Beer Dinner

April, 2000

By Bobby Bush

Beer and pretzels. Beer and peanuts. Beer and popcorn. And sometimes, for oh-so special occasions, beer and pizza. Unlike wine, generic beer does not typically inspire creativity in the kitchen. There’s obviously more to beer than budmillercoors, just as there’s more to food than Doritos. In fact, the food-beer marriage can be quite harmonious.

With culinary license, craft brewed beer, in all its stylistic glory, plays perfect accompaniment to practically any food. And so it was on Wednesday, March 29 that about 40 beer-curious folks gathered at Hickory, NC’s fine Cafe 2 forty 2 to enjoy a well planned pairing of beer, brewed by Olde Hickory Brewery, and a four course meal of Asian intrigue.

Waiting in the bar area for the dinner bell to ring, arrivals were greeted with a small, straight glass of Brown Mountain Light. Conversational chit-chat centered, of course, on beer and the feast at hand as brewers Jamie Bartholomaus and August Lightfoot welcomed the reservations-required diners, many of whom are regulars at the west Hickory OHB brewpub and/or downtown Olde Hickory Taproom. The group was ushered in the private backroom, just off the Cafe 2 forty 2 kitchen, by restaurant manager Debbie Groover.

Following salutations by brewery owners Jason Yates and Steven Lyerly, the now-seated participants received short dissertations from Jamie and August about the beers at hand. At 5.2% alcohol, Brown Mountain Light is an unfiltered wheat beer. Its straw-gold color held hints of apricot and grape flavor with just a slight bitter finish, albeit short.

From a menu designed by Executive Chef Tim McElrath and prepared by Chef Danny Arnold, the evening’s first course was an ample appetizer of Jumbo Lump Crabmeat wrapped in a Somen Noodle Spring Roll with Nouc Cham and Paw Paw Salad. Loaded with tasty white morsels of crab, this plate was served with OHB’s Piedmont Ale. A thin American-style ale, designed to simulate commercial lagers, Piedmont includes rice extract in its grain bill. Its berry-like body and quick, dry finish did little to detract from the crab roll’s spicy sauce.

The very popular Table Rock Pale Ale introduced the second course. Hops flavor and bitterness, both proper traits of this English India Pale Ale, held their own against the savory Asian Style Hot-n-Sour Mushroom Soup with Shrimp and Pork Dumplings. In fact this medium-bodied IPA’s tangy hoppiness added zest of its own.

The main course was a work of gastronomical beauty. Far East Barbeque of Lamb with Green Basamati Rice and Vegetable Stir Fry consisted of three different renditions of lamb: shredded, grilled and barbecued. Each was mouth-watering delicious, as were the rice and vegetable sides. Quite appropriately, the entree was assisted by a beer that OHB had cellared away since last year. The last keg of Fall Back Bock, one of the few lagers that the brewery has produced, made its alcohol presence known immediately. Burgundy in color with medium body, caramel taste with little sign of bitterness prevailed. Its short finish coexisted in harmony with the meaty lamb flavor.

Nearly bloated from fine food and beer, dessert could not be overlooked. Originally scheduled to be served with cask-conditioned Hickory Stick Stout, Coconut Ice Cream with Crispy Mango and Pistachio Wantons was a confection of contrast. A chilling scoop of coconut ice cream rested upon a thick, crunchy, spicy cookie, fortified with Thai pepper flakes. Raspberry garnishment and crisp wantons with fruity raisin-ish filling completed this wonderful encore. Our partnering beer dessert was held within the contents of a wooden pin. After the splashy tapping of the small vessel, glasses of the cask-conditioned English Mild were distributed. Definitely woody, this thin, musty ale was not quite what the brewers’ expected. Without a whimper, our party switched back to the Table Rock and kept munching those pungent cookies, burning tongues checked by soothing ice cream.

Olde Hickory Brewery and Cafe 2 forty 2 should team up more often.

This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.

© Bobby Bush

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