When Chow, Baby’s appetite returned after nearly two weeks of the taste-buds-disabling cold from hell, it returned with a vengeance.
And with perfect timing. Last Friday, the Covey (3010 S. Hulen, in the Trinity Commons strip) celebrated its first anniversary with one of those gourmet “pairing” dinners ($49.95) – except that since the Covey is also a microbrewery, each course would be matched not with the perfect wine but with the perfect beer. This was such a neat idea that Chow, Baby temporarily forgot it doesn’t care for beer all that much and immediately made an 8 p.m. reservation.
Hulen Hostess Syndrome strikes again; there was just one seating, at 7 p.m., for which we were nearly an hour late. No matter; efficient waiter Adam and charismatic owner/brewmaster/emcee Jamie Fulton quickly caught us up with the other diners. First with a small house salad (menu price $4.50) paired with Texas Wheat – amazing. The sweet nuttiness of the field greens, cayenne-candied almond bits, and kiwi-pomegranate vinaigrette was perfectly underscored by the refreshing tartness of the beer. And the surprise at the bottom of the salad plate, a swath of spicy goat cheese on toast, seemed to make the Texas Wheat even more bubbly. This was fun! Chow, Baby got over being offended by all the inoffensive art – the place looks like a corporate dining room for mid-level executives – and began to appreciate the Covey as a serious restaurant.
In the next course, the too-sweet fig-apricot chutney topping the too-rich foie gras crème brûlée (menu $15) would have been too much for Chow, Baby’s tastes, but the delicate Vienna Lager reined it all in with a touch of earthy, lightly roasted malt. (Note: Most of these drink descriptions are lifted from Jamie’s introductions. Chow, Baby’s two main beer descriptors are “bleh” and “I guess that one’s not too bad, for beer,” which cover most occasions. Though now it has to add, “That’s … actually pretty good.”) Chow, Baby’s next beer was a bock, one that according to Jamie is a luscious amber lager with notes of sweet malts, caramel, and tangy hops. And a good match with our bold entrée of elk chop, deep-fried to a gorgeous ruby inside and topped with gorgonzola and a rosemary demi-glace; bacon-chive mashed potatoes; and sautéed baby spinach (closest menu match $28). The plate was darn near overpowering, but the bock stood up to it. To the beloved’s chagrin, Chow, Baby finished its whole glass by itself.
The Dunkelweizen made a fine dessert beer; though mahogany brown and thick-headed, it had an effervescent mouthfeel with hints of banana and vanilla. (That’s not Jamie. Chow, Baby was really getting into this by now.) Executive chef Sean Merchant also used the Dunkelweizen for the flaming portion of the Bananas Foster (not on the menu, but Chow, Baby is thinking of starting a petition), and the result was just stunning. Sure, it’s easy to harmonize a beer and a dish when the dish is made with that beer, but this went beyond, to the goosebump level. What a fabulous ending to a great meal.
Jamie said he hopes to have these evenings every couple of months or so. Grand idea. Back at home, PB&J with Abita Turbodog seemed like a natural match, but it turns out Chow, Baby has a lot more to learn about beer-pairing. Hic.
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