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Feast: Paul Kahan at No. 9 Park

October 21, 2010
Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to an Autumn Beer Dinner at No. 9 Park, one of Barbara Lynch’s venues. No. 9 hosted James Beard Award-winning Chef Paul Kahan, as well as his Beer Director Michael McAvena and Chef de Cuisine David Posey, and it was a pleasure to be at the hands of all three of them. Mr. Kahan, the chef of four restaurants in Chicago (Blackbird, avec, The Publican, and Big Star), is – according to the menu that someone thoughtfully snagged for me last night – regarded as one of the architects of Chicago’s current culinary scene and a leading restaurateur in the US.  His brief talk after the meal about the state of craft beers and how they fit so well with excellent food was understated yet thrilling, and illustrated his passion for his craft.

dean martin.

I could go on and on about the food, venue, and beer, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just hit the highest points. The evening opened with a cocktail hour rife with fantastic cheese and charcuterie, and of course, beer.  To start, we were given a choice between two beers, both from Pretty Things Brewery.  Based in Cambridge and brewed in Westport,  Pretty Things (named for the 1960’s rock band) is a small-scale company owned by brewer Dann Paquette and his wife Martha, who have created some excellent craft beers with great label artwork. For my first, I chose their American Darling, a filtered lager that had notes of lemon and grass (they call it the “un-lawnmower” beer). While I wouldn’t call the beer light, it had a summery appeal to it and was a good start to the evening.

The dinner consisted of three courses with pairings in the main dining room, the most original of which I thought was the Roasted Black Cod with applewood broth, delicata squash, caramelized egg yolk, sesame, and woodsorrel. It was gorgeous.

roasted black cod

The cod was tender and the broth was mild but aromatic. and the sesame added a sweetness to the whole thing that was tempered by the dish’s beer pairing.  My glass of La Grande Blanche by De Proef, one of Belgium’s leading breweries, was fruity with just a little hoppiness and spice.

By far my favorite part of the meal was the last course, entitled “Ham Chop in Hay.” Tender pork with sprouted granola, black mission figs, matsutake, and cassia was perfectly complimented by a smoky beer that smelled of bacon: Brauerei  Heller- Trum  Aecht  Schlenkerla  Rauchbier  Urbock (say that five times fast). I almost never choose dark, bitter beers, but this one was a perfect match to the dish. It is actually referred to as a SmokeBeer, and is tapped from oakwood casks.

ham chop in hay

There was a lovely selection of desserts (flourless chocolate torte with bacon ganache!) and of course, more beer after dinner. But by the time the sweets were offered I had one bite and was immediately too full. Fortunately the staff at No. 9 was more than happy to host us for as long as we wanted, and their bar area is perfect for lounging and chatting. All in all, it was a fantastic evening with great company and amazing food. Thank you!

hated every last bite.

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