As anyone who reads any food blogs in Los Angeles probably knows by now, Ludovic Lefebvre is in the midst of his fourth highly popular pop-up installation, LudoBites. This time around, the sold-out event is taking place downtown at Gram & Papa's, with the extra bonus of the entire evening being BYOB. Bringing wine would be an easy choice, and Ludo has joined with Domaine547 to give you a list of recommended wines to cart along for the journey. But with a menu so innovative and diverse, why not try a little something different yourself and go with beer? To help you, we've enlisted the help of Golden State owner and beer maestro Jason Bernstein.
Editor's Note: Squid Ink just learned that, as of today, 7 new dishes have been added to the menu, though most of the beer selections should still apply.
We sent the LudoBites menu to Bernstein, who took the time to email us back his recommendations just before 5 o'clock this morning, after a long night spent working and plastering up his restaurant. In his recommendations, he attempted to keep things from getting too esoteric, but also added “If you're only proximally near to a gas station convenience store, I don't really have any magical suggestions on what to bring.”
Here's what he had to say:
Looking at the appetizer section on the menu, I'd say there are two ways to go. Appetizers tend to be where most of the “creativity” of a meal is concentrated. You can go light and crisp – using your beverage to cleanse the palate in between bites. Or you can think of something a little more aromatic and floral and use the beer as a method to enhance some of the flavors. If you choose the former route, grab a bottle of Pilsner Urquell. I'm actually a fan of this beer with escargot and other such ingredients where garlic is used as a traditional flavor enhancer. In fact, you could do worse than just grabbing a six-er of Pilsner Urquell for this entire meal. There isn't really anything on the Appetizer or Main Course list where this beer wouldn't soar. If you want to bring out certain flavors, I would eschew the obvious Hefeweizen and bring some version of a witbier. While it's not a style that I drink frequently, The Bruery makes an excellent one – Orchard White. It's light and refreshing, to be sure, but it has some complex floral aromatics that I think would pair nicely with scallops, a carrot salad with a saffron anglaise cream or a potato mousseline.
I've had Lefebvre's Foie Gras Croque Monsieur before. It's rich and amazing. I don't think either the Pilsner Urquell or the Orchard White can effectively stand up to it. You want each bite of that thing to stand out as if you'd never tasted it before. Sometimes I like the idea of cleansing your palate mid-course. I'd probably get some large bodied American IPA and have a couple of sips in between bites to prepare myself for the next one. While I'm not a huge fan of “hop bombs” there are a few that stand out with food. Unfortunately most aren't bottled. If you're bringing something with you, see if you can track down Avery's Dugana, Russian River's Pliny the Elder, or Port Brewing's Wipeout IPA.
The main courses read as if they're a little more straight-forward. I would like to reiterate, Lefebvre is a creative chef, so while it looks like I'm reading “cod fish,” “chicken” and “beef” I'm sure there's a lot more going on. That said, you could probably do worse than just sticking to that Pilsner you brought with you for the appetizer course. It's light and easy and won't get in the way of anything going on here. Or you could bring a Firestone Union Jack to the table. Unlike most other West Coast styled IPAs out there, which tend to be extremely hop-forward, the Union Jack is one of the most balanced beers of its kind. It's probably what I would drink at the average dinner. It has a pleasant astringency, characteristic of the style but it has a rich malt backbone which provides it with a kind of body that most IPAs don't really have. I'm not sure that there's a wine out there that an enthusiast would recommend with fish, chicken and beef, but there's actually a beer out there that I would.
When it comes to a chocolate souffle dessert, I'm relatively at a loss. The good news is that I know that there's not a wine guy out there who could make a more concerted pairing than me. I myself have never had a wine that really accurately pairs up with chocolate. I'm not saying it's not out there, I'm just saying that I haven't had it. There are a ton of beers that would do well here. The bad news is that most of them are pretty esoteric. This is where you pull out those crazy bourbon-barrel aged stouts like Port's Old Viscosity or Rasputin XII or Stone's Imperial Russian Stout. I think you could probably only grab these bottles at a Whole Foods or Cap n' Cork or the like. Likewise my recommendations for a raspberry pastry. For that, I'd suggest a Belgian Tripel – either Westmalle Tripel or Tripel Karmeliet. Tripels are kind of the steroided big brother to witbiers. So if you started your adventure with The Bruery's Orchard White, you could end it with that style of beer turned up to 11. They pair nicely with fruit desserts as they usually smell of honey and lavender.
If you find yourself wanting to steer your palate away from a sweet zone and into sour territory, you'd do well to try out Jolly Pumpkin's La Roja or New Belgium's La Folie with the raspberry dessert. These beers are a great reminder that the natural sweetness of berries is enhanced by, and probably even created by, a juxtaposition to their endemic sourness. Wild ales, both American and Flemish, are like a beer digestif and I think they're a great way to end any meal.