Coffee beer brunch? Check. Gluten-free beer dinner? Check.
Deciding which beer or wine to order with dinner is often the most difficult decision you have to make over the course of a meal. But as long as you enjoy what’s in your glass and on your plate, the intricacies of the pairing aren’t all that important. Still, a great food-and-drink combination has the ability to lift each bite, and every sip, into the realm of the magical.
Over the course of the next few months, restaurants all over the city will be hosting special meals that have been constructed with carefully chosen pairings in mind. And then, of course, there’s the annual beerchanal (it’s the completely made-up linguistic equivalent of a bacchanal, but with beer) known as Philly Beer Week (May 31-June 9), during which some of the top beers in the country and beyond are featured at restaurants and bars all over town.
Before then, however, there’s plenty to take advantage of, like Davio’s gluten-free beer dinners. During the entire month of May, Davio’s, the standout Northern Italian steakhouse on 17th Street, will be offering a $55 three-course seasonal menu, each dish paired with a different selection from Magners and Redbridge. Start with a Caprese salad alongside Redbridge, move on to a seared jumbo sea scallop with Magners Original Apple, and finish up with a peach tarte Tatin and a Magners Pear.
The Penfolds wine dinner at Del Frisco’s promises to be one of the great grape-based events of the year. Penfolds, one of Australia’s top wine producers, recently released its 2008 Grange Shiraz, an epic red that received 100 points in the Wine Advocate and will become available on May 2. One day before that, Del Frisco’s will host a $250 Penfolds dinner featuring this already legendary wine, in addition to other great bottlings from the producer, paired with an equally accomplished menu. If you attend, my recommendation is to not brush your teeth afterward: You’ll want to keep tasting that wine for as long as possible.
Talula’s Garden on Washington Square will be continuing its stellar series of wine, beer and cheese producer dinners all spring and summer, and the lineup is fantastic. On June 4, Jean Broillet of Ardmore-based Tired Hands Brewing Company and owner Aimee Olexy will co-host a $125 dinner with a specially created menu by Chef Sean McPaul. There will also be dinners featuring cheese producers and winemakers, including a locavore wine dinner in July with Galer Estate and VaLa Vineyards, two of the best wine producers in the region. And keep an eye out for special wine happy hours and pairing dinners at Talula’s Daily when it opens in mid-July.
Then there’s Philly Beer Week. After Mayor Nutter taps the inaugural keg on Friday, May 31, get ready for some epic pairing opportunities—starting that very night. Around 10 p.m., stop by Growlers on 8th and Fitzwater streets for tastings of cask, vintage and other special brew-tastic treats, many of them paired with food chosen specifically for the occasion. If you can’t wait that long, pre-game at Old City’s Victoria Freehouse starting at 4 p.m. with British beer tastings, each of them built on four imperial half-pints and paired with food.
For some hair of the dog, start off your Saturday, June 1, in Fishtown at Johnny Brenda’s magnificently named “It’s a Firkin Riot” at noon, featuring a half-dozen firkins, meat pies and fish and chips. If that doesn’t cure your hangover, then stay in bed until the next morning, Sunday, and head on over to Eulogy in Old City at 11 a.m. for a coffee beer brunch. Frankly, this is a great way to start the weekend even if you’re not hungover. Just save room for the beer and sausage pairing by Chef Sean Magee at Center City’s Time later that night at 7:30 p.m., featuring the always excellent brews of Allagash. And, of course, there’s more—infinitely more—throughout the week.
Details are starting to be filled in at a number of key venues around town and beyond. Keep checking phillybeerweek.org as the celebration draws closer. And maybe start running a few miles each day in preparation: The quicker your metabolism, the more beer and food you’ll be able to ingest. Which is a goal we all should share this time of year.
Dinner with Luke Palladino