(not so long ago)
As fall creeps through the air, leaves rustle in colorful gossip and a chill knocks on your door, there exists a moment of breathless wonder at the unfolding beauty. Florida may lack the foliage but that just means less raking and more time to savor the flavors. One beer in particular exemplifies the harmony of Mother Nature and Humankind.
Seasonal she is not thanks to year-round availability, but seasonal she is in the richness of harvest, tested by time, nurtured in patience, and relished with hushed reverence. If perfection is a myth, a transience of time, place, and person, than Orval is my perfection. Every time, every place I am humbled from the moment our eyes meet within her gilded chalice to the moment she crosses these lips in silent singular solace.
If I may be more exact, the most recent time and place was at The French Quarter in downtown Vero Beach on the 19th of September, 2010. The persons were yours beerly, the fabulously fantastic staff, my lovely Laura, and the beer curious souls who have generously embraced these beer dinners with open arms and a hearty appetite. If one hasn’t figured yet that Orval was one of the three stars to shine that night, consider this your illuminatory moment as I reveal the other two stars: Brooklyn Lager of Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn, New York and Midas Touch of Dogfish Head Brewery currently brewing in Milton, Delaware.
As for Orval, she is brewed at Abbaye D’Orval by and for the Trappist monks of Orval and for those outside of Belgium lucky enough to live where Orval is distributed and sold. The only Trappist ale to be the only Trappist ale, secular brewers toil alongside monks to brew true ‘God is good’ under the watchful eye of their head brewmaster of over 20 years, Jean-Marie Rock. For our dinner at French Quarter, harmony permeated all my senses as Orval’s idiosyncratic palate of rustic earthen tones, herbs, harvested sweet grains, citrus zip, and dry hoppy bitterness sung a chorus of flavor sensations alongside grilled wild steelhead salmon and gulf shrimp topped with an earthy fig balsamic drizzle. In accompaniment were fresh haricots verts (green beans for the culinary challenged) and just spicy enough horseradish mash. Together they were perfection realized and relished. The Trappist monks of Abbaye D’Orval and Jean-Marie Rock would approve.
But before the main course one needs an opening act to properly set the stage, a role the Brooklyn Lager performed admirably. Her partner-in-flavor was chicken and andouille spring rolls with sweet-spicy chili drizzles and a cool Asian slaw. After the main course must follow dessert, a temptress of indulgence the Midas Touch was reborn to do. Literally liquid history, Midas Touch was truly worthy of kings when paired with Ed’s homemade saffron ice cream with a side of moist lemon poppy seed cake.
Wow and yum thrice times over with an extra special moment of burgundian nirvana with my Orval inspired main course.
I’ve been to quite a few beer dinners in the last couple years, more than I ever thought possible based on the then meager beerscape of Florida and the Treasure Coast. Times, tastes, and appreciations are growing and though we are still very young, very fresh, there is a bright future of artisanal beer and food building and guiding us to tastetacular horizons. That being said, each and every dinner is integral to mine, yours, and our passion for continued flavorful diversity. I am proud to have French Quarter and her wonderful staff as a part of our taste revelation now and tomorrow. Goosebumps shiver at the thought of it and the heart races at the realization of it.
Just as another set of cherishable memories has passed, another beer dinner is cresting. I look forward to seeing many a friendly face and sharing many a priceless memory when our time comes once more. Cheers!
(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)