How to pair with your feelings, tackle SAVOR and create a great meal at home
Do you like hosting dinner parties? How about throwing a beer and food event for 2,000 of your closest friends, serving 152 different craft beer and food pairings? Oh, and did we mention it will be two nights in a row? Curating, coordinating and executing the SAVOR menu is a Herculean task, but Chef Adam Dulye, of The Monk’s Kettle and The Abbot’s Cellar, is up to the challenge. As he heads into his third year as SAVOR’s Beer and Pairing Chef Consultant, he isn’t slowing down or playing it safe.
Creating the Menu
Dulye’s approach to creating pairings is based on fundamentals, and it rarely strays into the realm of obscure technicalities like IBUs, alpha acids or mash pH. He keeps things simple but deliberate, starting with a beer, considering appearance and aroma, then asking a key question. What does the beer make you want? His test panel doesn’t usually get into specific beer-related descriptions. “I want people to approach the beer with general feelings and ideas,” explains Chef Adam, “Like a sunny afternoon in the park. We’re trying to relate to people.” For instance, when the panel tasted Ballast Point Brewing Company’s Toasted Coconut Victory at Sea Imperial Porter, everyone just wrote down one word: curry.
How to Approach SAVOR
Between his three years with SAVOR, four years organizing the Great American Beer Festival’s Farm to Table Pavilion and countless hours in his own kitchen and restaurants, Adam has good advice for attendees of all stripes. For experienced beer lovers, he suggests they look for unexpected and challenging pairings. “We’re pushing the envelope this year,” Adam says, “and the pairings aren’t all classic. Oftentimes, beers can do so much better than their stereotypical pairings. One example is Brooklyn Brewery’s Black Ops paired with chicken liver and chocolate. This pairing goes through four to five different changes on the palate when you go back and forth between beer and food. It’s a longer flavor conversation.”
Attendees that are new to beer are advised to keep an open mind and try new things—even beer styles they wouldn’t ordinarily choose. Dulye reminds attendees to resist the impulse to convince themselves they don’t like particular things. They may be wrong. “Take the opportunity to try a new beer, and if you don’t understand it, ask the brewer. The great thing about SAVOR is the people behind the beer are probably pouring your glass, and they’ll explain the philosophy behind whatever you’re tasting.”
Building Better Pairings at Home
Tickets are still available to attend SAVOR in New York City, but in case you can’t make it this year, Chef Adam has advice for better beer and food pairings in your own kitchen. He suggests picking a starting point—either the beer or the dish. Tasting as you cook is key, and having a beer in hand while you do it is not a bad idea in general. He recommends that you adjust the dish’s flavors as you go, focusing on three key components: salt, fat and acid. Dulye explains: “You need salt to hold flavors on your palate longer and fat to combat the effects of strong hops or alcohol. Lastly, you can lighten the dish with citrus or acid to improve how it finishes.” Should you cook with beer? Chef Adam suggests that you don’t necessarily need to cook with the beer you’re drinking, but the adventurous home cook is always welcome to try this technique.
See You in New York!
Chef Adam is looking forward to working SAVOR in New York, a city he considers to have one of the fastest growing beer scenes. He’s game for a challenge: “In New York, someone will always give you an opinion, and it’s good because they hold high standards.” Dulye’s parting advice for SAVOR attendees and beer lovers in general? “No matter what happens on your palate, the best beer or pairing is the one you’re enjoying right now. Don’t play the ‘what-if’ game, just enjoy what’s in front of you.”