Food: Hopvine Brewing offers Beer Maker’s Dinners

Judy Buchenot
For Sun-Times Media
Aug. 7 11:59 a.m.
Raw Smoked Hamachi Appetizer

1 pound Hamachi fillet
Juice of two lemons
1 tablespoon poppyseed
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 shallot
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Julienned purple basil
Parsley sprig
Cherry-wood smoke

Skin Hamachi and trim away bloodline. Cut Hamachi into a small dice (1/8-by-1/8-by-1/8 inch). Set aside.

To make lemon poppyseed dressing, mix together lemon juice, poppyseed, egg yolk, vinegar, olive oil and sugar. Place over a double boiler over low heat and gently cook until the mixture adheres to the back over a spoon. Cool over an ice bath. Set aside.

To make buttermilk shallots, cut shallot into 1/8-inch thick rings. Season buttermilk with a small amount of salt and soak shallot rings for at least four hours or longer. Mix flour with parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the shallots in the flour and deep fry at 350 degrees until golden brown. Set aside.

To assemble, spoon a small amount of lemon poppyseed dressing into the bottom of a miniature latching jar to form a thin layer. Top with a thin layer of diced Hamachi. Place a shallot ring on top of the Hamachi. Lightly sprinkle with basil and parsley. Fill the jar with cherry-wood smoke and close the top to seal it. Allow the guest to open table side allowing the trapped smoke to escape.

The dinners

The Beer Maker’s Dinner is a monthly event at Hopvine Brewing Co. The next dinner will be Aug. 24. As with all of the Beer Maker’s Dinners, there will be six courses each paired with a different beer. The meal in August will feature ingredients native to North America. To make reservations, visit www.hopvinebrewingcompany.com or call 630-229-6030.

If you are still pairing pretzels with your beer, chef Tom Eckert says it’s time to expand your flavor palate.

Eckert is general manager of Hopvine Brewing Co., a restaurant and brewery owned by Naperville residents Doug and Jan Isley. Eckert hosts a monthly Beer Maker’s Dinner at the restaurant just outside Westfield Fox Valley mall to showcase its craft beers. In late July, he put on his chef’s hat and invited two other chefs to join him in pairing Hopvine brews with a six-course meal.

In a manner similar to pairing wine with food, Eckert looks to the complex flavors of craft beer for inspiration for new dishes. He notes that developing an ability to taste beer flavors takes some practice.

“In order to find the flavors, you have to develop a taste memory,” he says. “You have to recall what coriander or citrus tastes like to find it in the beer. The more focused you become on what you are tasting, the more flavors you can recognize.”

Eckert says there are two basic methods to pairing.

“One approach is to find a flavor and copy it in the food; so if the beer has a citrus flavor, pair it with a lemon-infused fish,” he explains. “The other approach is to contrast the flavor or complement it. A sweet-flavored beer might pair nicely with an entrée that is salty.”

In addition to Hopvine’s craft beers, Eckert has been offering what he calls “Randalled beer.” A Randall is a double-chamber device that can be connected directly to a beer tap. It can be filled with a variety of flavor enhancers that are infused into the beer.

At the recent Beer Maker’s Dinner, Eckert infused lemon zest into Hopvine’s Brewdacious Blonde Ale and then served the brew in a smoked, sugar-rimmed glass.

This flavor-enhanced beer was paired with the meal’s first course prepared by Eckert.

Using miniature latching glass jars, Eckert first carefully spooned in a thin layer of light lemon poppy seed dressing. He then added a layer of raw Hamachi, a delicate fish also known as yellow tail. The chef then headed out to a small garden behind the restaurant to pull a handful of fragrant purple basil, which he cut into thin strips to go on top of the fish.

For the next layer, Eckert used deep-fried shallot rings. After a sprinkling of parsley, the jars were taken to the restaurant’s smoker. A tube attached to it allowed the chef to fill each jar with cherry-wood smoke before quickly latching the jar shut. This action dry-smoked the Hamachi as well as the other contents of the jar.

When the jars were opened by guests, they were surprised by a small cloud of cherry-wood smoke wafting out of the jar. Guests agreed that this elaborate appetizer paired well with the Randalled beer.

Each course was executed with the same meticulous attention to flavor, texture and appearance.

Amaury Rosado, a guest chef from 33 West in Aurora, offered his appetizer next.

“I am pairing with the Urban Tumbleweed beer that has buttery and citrus flavors,” Rosado explained.

He chose to serve pan-roasted scallops nestled on corn custard and topped with a sauce of browned butter, lime juice and chopped pineapple and mango. A delicate topping of cubed cucumber finished off the dish.

“The acidity of the sauce will complement the beer,” the chef noted.

Katie DeStefano, Hopvine’s chef, took on the next appetizer paired with Brew Monkey, a beer brewed with three grains, giving it a full spice and fruit notes. She started building her dish with a corn puree and a daikon slaw. A chunk of roasted pork belly was then placed on top with some pickled okra on the side. A splash of barbecue sauce completed the dish.

“The sweet corn puree and the five spice in the barbecue can really stand up to the complex Brew Monkey,” DeStefano said.

Three courses followed paired with three more brews. Eckert provided the finale to the meal by making spent grain waffles.

“We took the leftover grain from brewing beer, dehydrated it, put it in the blender to make flour, which we used to make the waffles,” he said.

The waffle was topped with coffee ice cream. Eckert created a caramel and a hot fudge sauce using Hopvine’s Ukrainian Krusher, a strong, dark brew.

Ross and Sarah Zachwieja, of Aurora, were among the guests at the dinner. Ross is an experienced craft beer drinker, and he is happily introducing his wife to new brews.

“I used to just drink light beer,” Sarah said. “But I am finding there are really a lot of interesting craft beers.”

Introducing others like Sarah to craft beer is one of the goals of the Beer Maker’s Dinner, Eckert says.

“Each beer is unique with different profiles,” he says. “Today’s beer goes beyond just being sweet, sour or hoppy. There is so much more to enjoy.”

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Raw Smoked Hamachi Appetizer

1 pound Hamachi fillet
Juice of two lemons
1 tablespoon poppyseed
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 shallot
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper
Julienned purple basil
Parsley sprig
Cherry-wood smoke

Skin Hamachi and trim away bloodline. Cut Hamachi into a small dice (1/8-by-1/8-by-1/8 inch). Set aside.

To make lemon poppyseed dressing, mix together lemon juice, poppyseed, egg yolk, vinegar, olive oil and sugar. Place over a double boiler over low heat and gently cook until the mixture adheres to the back over a spoon. Cool over an ice bath. Set aside.

To make buttermilk shallots, cut shallot into 1/8-inch thick rings. Season buttermilk with a small amount of salt and soak shallot rings for at least four hours or longer. Mix flour with parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Dredge the shallots in the flour and deep fry at 350 degrees until golden brown. Set aside.

To assemble, spoon a small amount of lemon poppyseed dressing into the bottom of a miniature latching jar to form a thin layer. Top with a thin layer of diced Hamachi. Place a shallot ring on top of the Hamachi. Lightly sprinkle with basil and parsley. Fill the jar with cherry-wood smoke and close the top to seal it. Allow the guest to open table side allowing the trapped smoke to escape.

The dinners

The Beer Maker’s Dinner is a monthly event at Hopvine Brewing Co. The next dinner will be Aug. 24. As with all of the Beer Maker’s Dinners, there will be six courses each paired with a different beer. The meal in August will feature ingredients native to North America. To make reservations, visit www.hopvinebrewingcompany.com or call 630-229-6030.

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