Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Night to Remember

Tonight my wife and I officially celebrated our tenth anniversary, with dinner at Sacramento's semi-famous eatery, Biba's and beer from the legendary Lost Abbey. Started some years ago by a then famous TV chef, Biba Caggiano, Biba's is a fine place for great food. Unfortunately, they don't really have a beer menu to speak of, so we went prepared. I won't give the blow-by-blow of the meal, but need to at least share the basics.

Appetizer: Sweet Breads, followed by Blood Orange Salad, followed by Spinach Gnochi's in a smoked ham and butter sauce.

Appetizer Beer: Lost Abbey's Gift of the Magi

The Bier de Garde went shockingly well with the almost-fluffy sweet breads, slightly overpowered the salad and was sensational with the gnochi. With the gnochi, the beer seemed to simply enhance the savory flavors of the dish, allowing the aftertaste to flourish. We poured a glass with our server (a practice I highly recommend for those bringing fine beers to fine dining establishments) and he was impressed with the beer's overall complexity and wine-likeness (he didn't really have a good starting point to describe the beer). Astounding start.

Dinner: Lamb, cooked rare, with white beans and eggplant.

Dinner Beer: Lost Abbey's Amazing Grace

This is where the night got serious. Again, we poured a glass for our server and his eyes lit up once the red-wine aromas and surprising tart characters came through. In fact, we watched as he shared his glass with other servers, making the rest of the room seem to wish they had what we were having (oh, if they only knew). The lamb was savory, to be certain, tender and cooked to perfection. Shockingly, the beer just worked. If you're a fan of lamb, like we are, you'll know that pairing beer with lamb can be really tricky - especially those with herbal qualities that seem to dominate. However, with the mild wood, dry finish, red-wine aromas and perfect effervescence, Amazing Grace played nicely off the savory qualities of the dish and cleansed the palate between bits.

It's not very often a dinner goes quite so smooth, but tonight delivered like we'd hoped it would. If you've got a big dinner planned and you're unsure of the beer selection, you could go for wine (there's really nothing wrong with that - I love a good glass of wine now and then), or you can bring your own. Expect to pay the corkage fee, but don't be surprised if you don't - a few times now we haven't been charged for the 'service' because, well, they didn't quite seem to know what to do with a bottle of beer. Not only will great beer complete a great meal, you'll likely find yourself engaged in fun and lighthearted conversation with the staff and those around you, it's a great way to safely introduce people to just the idea of fine beer.

Ten years... I better buy some more beer to put in my cellar for the 20th.