Craft beer dinners and food pairings are increasingly common in today's interconnected culinary world, but combining the nuances in a beer with flavors in a dish usually is something left to the suds-loving chefs at casual, tap-centric restaurants like Mohawk Bend and Beachwood BBQ.
This summer, however, a brewery dinner series put on by Cooks County has officially brought Los Angeles' newfound craft beer love into a modern foodist world usually reserved for wine lists and farmers market obsessives.
Every Tuesday night through the end of September, Cooks County chef Daniel Mattern and pastry chef Roxana Jullapat will host a four- to five-course prix fixe menu in their typical rustic style, borne out of a collaboration with a local brewery and its favorite beers. Dubbed the California Craft Beer & Food Festival, it might be the first project of its kind to be undertaken by this new breed of L.A. restaurant that puts ingredients (not pretension) first.
Last week's Cismontane Brewing dinner, for example, included beer in wine glasses and plates like the shrimp and melon salad — which found pickled chili and a tart vinaigrette bringing out the sweet pucker of a young sour blond ale — and an ale-soaked rabbit leg, the richness of which seeped into French lentils below and prepared diners' palates for the bitter Coulter IPA.
The setting is not nearly as casual as the beer dinners we're used to attending — despite concrete floors and butcher's-apron uniforms, Cooks County looks like an upscale wine bar and serves a mean menu of rotating seasonal food and vino — but that just makes Mattern's beer combinations that much more intriguing.
And the beer thing isn't just a ploy to get people in the door on a slow dinner day. Turns out that the Campanile veteran, who together with Jullapat also ran the kitchen at Ammo, is a longtime regular at Koreatown staple Beer Belly and has always wanted an excuse to bring more beer into his professional cooking. Understand Mattern's deep-rooted interests in the farmers and wineries that have contributed to the success of his daily menus over the last few years, and looping in local brewers seems only the next logical next leap, another way to provide conscious diners a connection to what they consume.
With upcoming dinners featuring Eagle Rock Brewery, the Bruery and Ladyface Ale Companie (tonight's dinner will be with Craftsman Brewing), Cooks County's dinner series is only the start of local craft beer's growing acceptance in L.A.'s cutthroat culinary scene.
Upcoming California Craft Beer & Food Festival dinners:
Aug. 13: Craftsman Brewing Company
Aug. 20: The Bruery
Aug. 27: Eagle Rock Brewery
Sept. 10: Almanac Beer Co.
Sept. 17: Strand Brewing Co.
Sept. 24: Ladyface Ale Companie
To preview the menu for this week's dinner, visit cookscountyrestaurant.com, reservations recommended, $48.
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