I’ve been to many a beer dinner over the years, but never to one of the monthly soirees at Long Island’s The Good Life, which are well-regarded among beer aficionados on Long Island and typically sell out well in advance.
I was overjoyed at the opportunity to attend one recently. Though I’ve enjoyed many a fine beer and pimped up pub grub at The Good Life, a comfortable gastro pub in Massapequa Park with 24 taps and 65 bottled beers, but never before could I secure a seating at one of these monthly themed dinners.
The theme for this dinner was Belgian beer, specifically, four of the many imported by Middleton, MA-based Global Beer Network.
A near-sellout crowd filled the pub’s private dining room as The Good Life’s staff efficiently delivered trays of each beer and each of the four eclectic dinner courses. The flat-panel TVs, ordinarily filled with sports, showed a video of our beers for the night and Dan Leeman, the importer’s Mid-Atlantic sales director, offered a commentary on each of the brews. Meanwhile, host Peter Mangouranes popped over to my table as each course was delivered to explain its makeup.
The foods, complex and inventive, were mostly delicious and the beers quite good with one exception. The matches, however, didn’t always seem felicitous.
We started with what was called moules frites, but not the traditionally beer-stewed mollusks and fried taters. The mussels were incorporated into ribbons of pasta, sauced with a potato cream and garnished with corn kernels, chives and crispy potatoes. I found one whole mussel in the dish and the crispy spuds escaped me. Though tasty, the potato cream turned the dish into a gloppy affair. A resiny, unpasteurized Bavik Pilsner, better than most Euro-lagers, served as a fine palate cleanser.
Next up was the evening’s best dish, a pressed duck sandwich, essentially a grilled cheese sandwich made with duck confit, brie, truffle aioli, arugula and a accompaniment of sliced roasted potatoes. To wash it down, we were served Cherish Kriek, a cherry-flavored Lambic from Browerij Van Steenberger NV whose taste suggested a cherry Tootsie Roll lollypop and reminded me more of cherry soda. This rich sandwich cried out for a more acidic brew, but the Cherish had just a hint of sour in its finish.
The meat course, a juicy, rare, well-trimmed Colorado lamb chop, was accompanied by a mélange of French lentils, preserved lemon and charred tomato gastrique. Alas, the brew accompanying this — Gulden Draak 9000 with 10.7 percent alcohol — tasted better alone and turned amazingly complex as it warmed up, long after my last bite of lamb. This richly flavored, fruity beer, a deep-gold quadruple from Steenberger, Leeman explained, gets a dose of caramelized candy sugar in the fermenter.
To finish, a plate filled with sweets and an equally sweet brew, Petrus Dubbel Bruin, from Browerij Bavik. The beer, made in part with Petrus Ale aged in Calvados casks, was reddish brown, rich and
brimming with chocolate notes. No other dessert was necessary, but Mangouranes was in overkill mode with a Belgian chocolate, raspberry filled cupcake topped with buttermilk frosting. Also on the plate, blackberry semifreddo, a cross between a pudding and ice cream.
Despite a few missteps, you have to give The Good Life credit for putting on an adventurous evening and offering its patrons quite a deal for just $40. I’m hoping Mangouranes has room for me at future dinners.