Sunday night was spent in NYC at a wonderful new Italian restaurant called Lusso in SoHo. They describe themselves as serving Italian comfort food, and that is a great description. A bunch of great people running the restaurant too. We were lucky enough to join a beer tasting with some of the folks who actually make the beer we were trying. Doesn’t happen too often at a beer tasting, but this was a small, intimate affair.
So the idea of great Italian beers may seem like an oxymoron if you go by what most restaurants are serving these days. Peroni, Moretti…stuff like that. Decent enough beers, but nothing to write home about. Well, I am going to tell you about some Italian beers that you must immediately write home about! They are that good. I’ll go course by course along with the beer pairing and give my rating for the beer after each item.
This dish was served over a truffle-artichoke puree with dried artichoke chips strewn on top. I’m normally not a fan of either the flavor of truffle or the consistency of scallops, but this dish was superb. The truffle flavor was very understated and the scallops were delicious.
Beer Pairing – Birra del Borgo Genziana (6.1% ABV) This was a great beer to start off with. A Belgian-style Saison with a very flowery nose. I thought it paired wonderfully with the scallops. Nothing too similar in taste to the dish, but a nice complement. I could see sitting down and enjoying a couple of these at a nice dinner.
My Rating – 8 out of 10
I was told that Branzino would be similar to striped bass here in the States. It’s a briny, delicious fish from the Mediterranean, and it was prepared with lemon, caper berries and olives. A wonderfully salty, vibrant dish. And the fish was cooked with a bit of a char so it had some of that smokiness to boot. Easily my favorite dish of the night!
Beer Pairing – Baladin Wayan (5.8% ABV) This was a really cool beer to look at. It looked…chewy. That was because of all the yeast that was floating around in it. They call it a Belgian-style Saison as well, but it was nothing like the first one we had. I really liked this beer, and it complimented the Branzino perfectly.
My Rating – 9 out of 10
This tender sliced pork chop was prepared with a delicious pepper, onion and mushroom stew and green beans. While it was delicious, it was also probably the most mundane dish on the menu. It was solid, even if it didn’t blow our minds.
Beer Pairing – Birra del Borgo Re Ale Extra (6.4% ABV) The style of this one is described more as an American Pale Ale, but I found it to be extremely unique in that arena. A little more hoppy than the Saisons we began the tasting with, but it certainly held it’s own. In fact, I would have guessed that it was a Saison as well. All I know is that it was delicious.
My Rating – 9 out of 10
The lamb was prepared with some of the most wonderful cous-cous I have ever had along with some lemon and garlic. There was a white foam served under the chops that I couldn’t place my finger on. I asked the chef and he produced a root that looked like a piece of ginger. Told me the foam was made from that. I forget the name of it, but it was interesting. A really lovely main dish.
Beer Pairing – Baladin Nora (6.8% ABV) This one was more of a spiced beer than the earlier entries. And it was the only one that I had tried before. I tasted clove, ginger and orange peel, but there is so much more going on with this beer with every mouthful. The brewers say it is inspired by Egyptian lore. Kamut wheat, Ethiopian resin and myrrh are all used. I couldn’t tell you what myrrh tastes like, but the beer tasted like another. Too bad we had to move on.
My Rating – 9 out of 10
I was beginning to lose my interest in the meal after that last dish. Very full and very satisfied. But we still had a cheese plate to go along with the craziest beer I have tried in a very long time. I won’t go into detail on the cheese, but we had a Parmegiano-Reggiano, a real pungent goat cheese and a Buffalo Bleu. All were tasty and all were from Italy. But the beer…oh, the beer!
Beer Pairing – Baladin Xyauyù (13.0% ABV) This was perhaps the most delicious dessert beer I have ever tried! It poured, smelled and looked like a nice tawny Port wine. The website describes it as a barley wine, but I have never had a barley wine like this. It even had the sugary “legs” of a nice Porto when you twirled it in your glass. Fruits, raisins and hazelnut were all on the scene in perfect balance with the sherry-like alcohol nose. If you can find it (and you can afford it), this one is a keeper.
My Rating – 10 out of 10!
All in all I would highly recommend any of these premium Italian brews. They don’t come cheap, but sometimes you need to splurge a little to live a little.