September 15, 2010

Our Top Picks for Arizona Restaurant Week

This Sunday kicks off Arizona Restaurant Week (AZRW). Anyone who has been following this website is familiar with our view of the missed opportunity to involve craft beer and local breweries in this event detailed in our Open Letter to Restaurants. We are happy to report that some progress is being made and AZRW has opened a dialog with us to exchange ideas and information. We were recently informed that all four valley Rock Bottom restaurants are now participating in AZRW. Their fixed menu is now available and each course will come with a Rock Bottom beer. We would have loved to see recommended pairings accompanying the menu but it is great to see a local craft brewer contributing to this event. We would be remiss not to mention that SanTan Brewing in Chandler is also participating in AZRW. Their three-course menu features a specific SanTan beer paired with each dish.

See the BeerPHXation picks after the jump.

Pairing beer with food is a trend that is seeing more prominence in the craft beer community and we recommend beer drinkers try it out. It really helps you think about flavors and what complements and contrasts between a particular beer and its accompanying dish. Obviously there is no right or wrong answer but that is part of the fun of exploring new tastes and experiences. Two Phoenix restaurants, Coup des Tartes and Atlas Bistro, are BYOB. If you are planning to visit either during AZ Restaurant Week, how about building a flight of beers to bring along matching each dish. Take a few friends and talk about what beers work well and which don't. Taste each beer and dish individually, then taste them together and see how they complement each other. If you try something like this, please feel free to participate in the conversation by adding your experiences as a comment here. Let us know what worked and what didn't.

Working with the information available from the AZRW website and the beverage menus of the restaurants which list beer, Beer PHXation editors Rob Fullmer and David Schollmeyer choose the beer and course pairings that they found the most interesting. We hope these pairings will enable you to accentuate your dining experience with beer and we hope it will inspire restaurants improve their craft beer menus over the coming year before Restaurant Week 2011.

We'd love to hear comments on the dishes you're most excited about during Restaurant Week and let us know which beer you tried with it and if it paired well.

Rob's Recommendations:

Tarbell's offers a main course of Pan-Seared Halibut with olive-oil whipped potatoes and Tar's Ratatouille of pearl onions, Shishito peppers, squash, eggplant and basil oil. Though there are local and American craft beers available at Tarbels, your best choice for this dish is Saison DuPont. The lemon citrus bitterness, dry finish and high carbonation cut through and lift the fish off the tongue. The bitterness level in the Saison should stand up to the bitterness of the Kale lemon, hemp seed salad in the first course. Regrettably, the Saison style is a hot trending beer in American craft circles but it is not represented in Arizona breweries. The crisp dry finish is a natural in this dry climate and Saisons are the pre-eminent table beer. Local breweries should take note.

The Forbidden rice bowl at St. Francis , has seven vegetables, ginger, garlic, sweet & spicy dressing making it's natural craft beer mate Four Peaks Hefeweizen. The Hefe's cloves and slight citrus acidity will marry with the ginger and sweet dressing.

For the final course you have your choice of mocha and banana or mocha with toffee and cream when you pair Rogue Mocha Porter with either the wood-oven prepared Bananas Foster or the Sticky toffee pudding with sweet cream gelato.

With District American Kitchen & Wine Bar, one is able to make great pairing with local and American craft beers for all three courses. Order an Oak Creek Hefeweizen to pair with the 3rd Street Market Salad consisting of local greens, radish, pistachio, warm goat cheese and watermelon vinaigrette for course number one. The Hefe offers a balance of cloves, banana, citrus and spice that works well with this salad and the watermelon vinagrette. The acidity of the beer and the vinagrette should blend nicely.

For the second course, choose the Coca Cola Braised Short Rib with Yukon potato souffle and caramelized Brussels sprouts. There are 3 beers that District offers that can work with this mouthwatering dish. Both the Oak Creek Nut Brown Ale and Rogue Dead Guy have caramel malts that will work well with the Coca Cola. The Four Peaks Kiltlifter, however, will be the real star with its hints of malty sweetness. As a bonus, the malt will take any bitterness of the Brussels sprouts and will literally change how you perceive the beer

The dessert course of Banana S'more Griddle Cake will find nice partner in the Nimbus Oatmeal Stout. Caramelized banana, hazelnut graham crumble, banana bread pudding, marshmallow and Nutella will play on a the chewier mouthfeel of a stout. Roasty dry malt flavors will naturally contrast with the sweet nutty and caramel flavors. If you detected a pleasant amount of banana from the Hefe in the opening course, you could go back to it for this dessert as a bold pairing.

David's Recommendations:

Olive & Ivy - While their beer list is not very extensive and could use some good local craft beers, they do have a couple of options for the craft beer drinker. They currently list St. Lupulin on their menu, a dry-hopped extra pale ale summer seasonal from Odell's in Ft. Collins, Colorado. I would pair this with their first course of Crisp Calamari, Zuchini & Lemon-Garlic Aioli. The citrus hop character will balance well with the lemon in the dish and the crisp bitterness and carbonation will cut through the fat of the calamari & aioli.

Cork - This restaurant is offering the intriguing Maple Scented Berkshire Pork Tenderloin as one of their main courses. For a roasted pork tenderloin I would think a malty brown ale would work best - something like Oak Creek's Nut Brown Ale or Ellie's Brown Ale from Avery. The roasted malt character should complement the pork well and accentuate the maple flavor. Unfortunately neither of these beers are available at Cork so I would settle for the SanTan Epicenter - it is not quite as roasty but it's nut-like malt character would complement the roast pork.

Most people associate French food with wine, but beer can work well too. In fact, there is a growing craft beer movement in France as well as a traditional farmhouse style known as Bier de Garde. Metro Brasserie in Scottsdale has a good selection of beers, many of witch pair well with food. While there is no Bier de Garde (few examples of the style are imported), there is its Belgian cousin Saison DuPont, Chimay Grand Reserve, and Hoegaarden Wit. I think I would try the latter with Metro's Rainbow Trout dish. The more adventurous taster could pair the braised veal sweetbreads with the Chimay Grand Reserve. This beer has a complex flavor with notes of plums or dried fruit which would be an interesting pairing with the complex chasseur sauce of this dish. Just make sure you bring a friend to share the beer with as it comes in a 750 mL bottle.


  1. Awesome, awesome, awesome. Thank you guys for this great post! A lot of useful information here. I will use it as ammo when taking my beer-loving boyfriend out for Restaurant Week. (Will make me sound extra smart!)

    We really appreciate the post.

    Katarina on behalf of AZ Restaurant Week

    1. Things have become easy and superfast. All at your fingertips