Strange Brews

Beer mates, coffee crops, and baby prosciutto.

Library Bistro chef Ben Warner thinks that beer is just as refined and sophisticated as wine, thank you very much, so once a month he's pairing his often organic, always elegant plates with heady Belgian ales and local stouts instead of stuffy sauvignon blancs. Beer-pairing dinners, at a restaurant that doesn't even serve dinner? Yes, and just a few Thursdays ago, Warner's menu found wonderful accompaniment in the foreign and local beers proffered through Tukwila's Merchant du Vin, whose beer pro spoke briefly between courses just as a sommelier would. Citrus-smoked Copper River salmon, in saffron broth with pea sprouts and lemon oil, was wonderful hand in hand with an earthy dunkel hefeweizen from the Ayinger brewers in Germany to start things off; next came a double ale from Belgium's Duinen brewery, which, paired with a simple, tart organic baby arugula salad, rendered most of us downright tipsy. My friends had pan-roasted pork tenderloin with a bourbon vanilla demi-glace for their main course, while the kitchen accommodated my special request and prepared a wonderful halibut fillet with my favorite (how did they know?) morel mushrooms. Pike Brewing Company's hefty but smooth oatmeal stout washed it down, and we scarcely had room for the chef's strawberries, served with an eight-year-old balsamic and some brand-new cream in a crisp hazelnut cookie cup. The berries came with Lindemans' peach lambic, which I've often seen next to the Chimay in my grocer's beer section but I haven't known, until now, quite what to do with it. The Bistro's next event, on June 22, sounds even more enticing. A Jacobite ale from Scotland's Traquair House won Warner's heart with its heavy coriander overtones, and he reports that he ran right out to buy up all he could of his favorite buckwheat honey so he could pair the ale with his honey-lacquered duck breast. But dessert sounds even better: sweetened chevre fondue with mission figs and black pepper shortbread. Now, with all due respect to beer and wine, I don't care what kind of beverage you're getting with that. I also recently swirled and sniffed another beverage that was not wine: coffee. The local brewers at Fonté Roasters in Georgetown had me down for a cupping of their Ethiopian Harrar. The coffee, named for a small province in East Africa, is from an esteemed bean that routinely yields a cup of joe with blueberry hints and an incredibly smooth finish, but when Fonté's master roaster, Steve Smith, had a taste of this year's crop, he knew it was something special. Now, I've always been very happy with my French-pressed Torrefazione blends, but having tried the Harrar, well, it's all about the Harrar. The coffee retails at Uptown Espresso locations, but it probably won't last much longer than the summer, so don't sit on this for too long. Speaking of sniffing, Bandol, the underappreciated French bistro at the Smith Tower, is no more. To make matters worse, its sister restaurant in Capitol Hill, Cassis, isn't far behind—it'll say au revoir for good on June 20. Gene's Ristorante in Renton has disappeared as well, making trips to IKEA that much more difficult to talk oneself into. Now what do they say about every death making way for new life? Ask the folks at Salumi; they're offering ham for adoption. For 150 bucks, you can become the proud parent of a 20- to 24-pound leg of pork, and over 15 months, you'll have rubbing and visitation rights as you assist Armandino Batali and company in the curation process until your little bundle of joy is a full-grown prosciutto. lcassidy@seattleweekly.com

 
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