On Sunday, February 25, Willows Bistro‘s Chef Travis Myers and his fantastic crew and staff provided guests an opportunity to pair their culinary delights with the liquid gold that is Wise Man Brewing‘s beer.
Chef Travis wanted to showcase the quality of beer that is made here in Winston-Salem and what better way to do that than with one of the top chefs in the area? And, he delivered. He delivered big. What diners were treated with was a ten-course (which turned into around 12 courses) pairing with five Wise Man brews.
There was no one who left out of there not satisfied. I know of no one complaining they didn’t get enough food.
Let’s talk about the courses.
Starting off the shindig was the pork rinds from Harmony Ridge Farms. Willows do them in-house but the skins come from the hog that they butcher. It’s deep-fried and spiced with scallion ash and micro shungiku from Fair Share Farms. When you bite into it, it’s crispy but then it melts in your mouth – and I mean melts. Delicious.
Mountain Calling ‘Beer Cheese’ Chowder
Beautiful pancetta, monkfish from Low Country Shellfish, fingerling potatoes, micro ruby streaks and scallion ash from Fair Share Farms and this was paired with the Wise Man Dance in the Sun Kölsch and the Mountain Calling West Coast IPA. The idea was to have both beers and see which one you thought paired better with the dish. The beer cheese chowder was creamy and delicious. The monkfish, which Chef Travis calls the “poor man’s lobster,” was tender and perfectly cooked, it also nicely complemented the salty pancetta. And, since it has been a while since I have written a pairing review, let me state, right off the bat that I love any micro-green that comes from Fair Share Farms. Eliot and Em create tiny green miracles in their greenhouses. I am not the world’s biggest IPA fan so the Dance in the Sun Kölsch wins that contest.
Coconut Fried NC Shrimp & Mountain Calling Beer Battered Onion Rings
Coconut Fried NC Shrimp & Mountain Calling Beer Battered Onion Rings, Dance in the Sun-wasabi aïoli, Plum Granny Farm‘s ginger glaze, NC shrimp powder mad in-house by the Willows folk from all the leftover shells that don’t get used for stocks and other cooking needs (I think that’s clever), topped with orange zest. This too was paired with both the Dance in the Sun and Mountain Calling IPA. Again, the Kölsh wins that battle. I love when chefs take beer and incorporate it into other things like batter for the onion rings (and possibly the shrimp) and creating a wasabi aïoli. I especially like it when it’s done with the beer that you’re tasting. That’s keeping the theme. The shrimp wasn’t overcooked. Chef Travis told the secret to great shrimp during his introductions. He knows what he’s doing.
Harmony Ridge Farms Crispy Duck
Crispy Duck from Isaac at Harmony Ridge Farms with Alt Acquaintance fermented mustard seeds, Fair Share Farms’ ruby streaks, fermented green tomato from Gnomestead Hollow – pickled and jus vinaigrette, pickled seed powder. This was paired w/ Alt Acquaintance – Altbier from Wise Man. I could have eaten a whole plate of the duck. That was delicious. Duck sometimes can be gamey but these ducks are exercised and allowed to roam the property at Harmony Ridge, it was tender and not at all gamey with a nice crispy shell, done to the perfect temperature. This matched perfectly with the malty Alt Acquaintance. More on that beer later. One of my favorite dishes of the evening.
Harmony Ridge Farms Pork Belly Croquette
Ever since Stephanie and I spent time in Europe and fell in love with croquettes, we have wanted to try to make our own and we try to eat them anywhere we can find them. This pork belly and smoked risotto version of it was amazing. The risotto was creamy and the pork belly rich in flavor. The pickled mustard seed, confit pearl onion, pot likker, as well as the nasturtium & micro chard from Fair Share Farms were an ideal accompaniment. It was creamy and savory and the onions were very tender, too. This was once again paired w/ Mountain Calling IPA and that made for a fine dish. Another of my faves.
Plum Granny Farm Cajun Jewel Pickled Okra
The Cajun Jewel from the great folks at Plum Granny Farms pickled in brine, with extra virgin olive oil from Olinda Olives with micro shungiku from Fair Share Farms. I don’t like okra and I ate every bit of it. So that is telling you something, right?
Roasted Local Carrot Variations
As the name implies, this is a group of roasted local carrot variations. I saw them peeling and prepping them earlier in the day. Take those carrots, roast them and top them with Fair Share Farms’ micro carrot tops, Bertie County Peanuts, red curry, seed oil and Sea Love Sea Salt‘s garlic salt, then shave a bit of Goat Lady Dairy‘s Providence cheese and you have some flavor bursts here. If you’ve not had Goat Lady Dairy’s Providence, it’s earthy, nutty, creamy and a little bit umami. I can eat that on its own. This course was paired with the Alt Acquaintance and the malty altbier mixed fabulously with that Providence cheese.
Joyce Farms Hen Roulade
Hen from Joyce Farms with a Shiitake soubise from Myers Mushroom with Harmony Ridge Farms celery root and Fair Share Farms pea shoots all in a broth made from Miso Master miso and Plum Granny Farms’ ginger. This is paired with Noble Alchemy, Farmhouse/Saison. Rolled and filled hen was earthy and meaty. Doused in the miso-ginger broth, the savory saltiness lends a good dichotomy to the earthiness of the mushrooms and micro greens.
Southern Food’s bone marrow (in-bone) with Myers Mushrooms’ shiitake mushrooms fried in pork fat from Yellow Wolf Farm, creole-miso aïoli from Miso Master, ponzu, zest, Fair Share Farm’s micro cilantro and Sea Love’s citrus salt. This, too, was paired with Noble Alchemy Farmhouse/Saison. Perhaps the scariest plate of the night. Really, it was just imposing. It was a half bone with the marrow right in there. Chef Travis had us scoop it out with a spoon. This was a bit pasty but that was just how you wanted it. Chef Travis loves charred bread and he highly recommended that you put the marrow on the bread. When you spread it and tasted it, it was kind of like butter. Earthy, umami-like which was very nice with the shiitake. I heard some people around me moaning; that’s how well it was liked. I preferred it without the bread because I don’t like hard bread. It tears up the roof of my mouth. The high malt/low hop profile of the Noble Alchemy was good with the buttery umami of the marrow. I also know that several folks took the bones home to their dogs.
Yellow Wolf Farms Porchetta
Kune Kune Porchetta from Yellow Wolf Farms with Moss Farms‘ Mutsu apple mostarda, Lusty Munk Mustard‘s Original Sin, Mountain Foods‘ butternut squash, golden beet from Harmony Ridge Farms, Fair Share Farms’ micro beet, seed & pancetta powder, apple cider and 3-day pork demi. This was paired with Dancing Problems English Brown from Wise Man. Absolutely my favorite dish of the night. I love porchetta. I love the top cut with the belly rolled up into a delicious bundle just waiting for me to bite into it. And, what goes better with pork but apples and mustard, right? Man, this was the pièce de résistance. The English Brown and its chocolatey maltiness also lent to this dish being so fantastic. That porchetta, though…
Satisfy My Soul Beer Float
Wise Man’s Satisfy My Soul Stout with salted caramel, vanilla ice cream, nuts turtle style! Scott from Wise Man said, “just stir it all up and drink it!” The salted caramel with the salty nuts and this chocolatey stout, well, that’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. You needed a spoon and then you just chugged it, nuts and all. Rich and creamy but delicious.
The Humblebee German Chocolate Macaroon
The Man Who Ate the Town official sponsor, The Humblebee Shoppe, and our dear friend Brittany McGee, created a magical cookie sandwich with a ganache that makes you say “oh my gosh.” Yeah, that’s cheesy, but it’s true. I can’t tell you or describe in words how good this was. This is paired w/ Alt Acquaintance – Altbier and Satisfy My Soul Stout. Macaroons aren’t easy to make and Brittany is a macaroon maven. I loved both the altbier and the stout but the stout won the contest.
In probably the absolute most perfect beer pairing of the night, in my opinion, this apple tart, made with custard, spiced crumb, a variety of apples from Moss Farms and cheddar cheese-laced crust, was paired with the Mountain Calling – West Coast IPA. I know I talk that I don’t really care for IPAs but, wow. In this case, however, the spices and the cheddar cheese were made to marry the flavors in this IPA. I was darn-near stuffed when I had this put in front of me. I am not a fan of apples, either, but the flavors in this dessert popped and popped hard. The porchetta was my favorite dish but this was my favorite pairing.
Wise Man, since arriving on the scene just over a year ago, has taken this town by storm with their flavors and their mastery of the brew. Sam Victory, the head brewer, is the Wizard of Hops if you ask me.
Mountain Calling West Coast IPA – Dry-hopped with a pound and a half per barrel of Citra, this clean and crisp IPA resonates with strong citrus and floral qualities. It’s hoppy but it’s not offensive to the tongue. It’s pretty easy to drink, especially with its pairings (and extra especially with the apple tart).
Dance In the Sun Kölsch – The Kolsch is a delicate and elegant, crisp and quaffable brew originating in the city of Cologne. A tantalizing touch of sweet apple on the front leads into a light base of German pilsner malt, with Noble Saaz overtones. I love when I can taste “hay” in the beer. That crispness, especially with the apple notes, that’s just splendid and I preferred it with its pairings over the IPA.
Alt Acquaintance Altbier – A rich and clean malt profile is balanced with wonderful German hop character. Toast, nuttiness, and a hint of cherry mark the palate, while a smooth finish concludes this cup of kindness. The nuttiness and hints of cherry were fantastic and, again, paired perfectly with that crispy duck!
Noble Alchemy Saison / Farmhouse Ale – Dry-hopping adds a blast of orange to a rustic base of fruit, herbs, and spice. The beer transcends its roots, awash with gold and nutmeg spice, and presents a mid-palate pop of bubblegum ester, banana, and a dozen other impressions. Low impact but formidable in flavor, nonetheless. Sam and pals did a good job with this one.
Dancing Problems English Brown Ale – Get on the good foot with this Northern English brown ale. Rich mocha and brown sugar slide in with each sip, while almonds and spice linger to dance on your tongue. Put that with the porchetta and you have a dream in your mouth and in your belly!
Satisfy My Soul Stout – A less-attenuative English ale yeast allows the beer to keep a hint of residual sweetness that expresses bready, chocolatey, and lightly roasted notes from the complex malt bill. I think it was like a roasted marshmallow and was perfect with the ice cream float.
Of course, the food offerings were special but you can find culinary delights at Willows Bistro in form of daily specials or even on their everyday menu. You can find them at 300 S Liberty Street.
Wise Man produces beer year-round and their taproom is open 7 days a week.
I highly recommend you try both of them because it will certainly be worth your time.
Thank you to Chef Travis, Chef Brent, Chef Terrell, the rest of the kitchen staff, Lele, Erica, Jamie and, of course, Ryan for all you always do at Willows and thank you Scott for bring the beer to us and making us happy!