FEATURE: An Interview with Stephen La Salle from The Albion Rooms

Using ingredients from local farmers, artisans and suppliers,  Chef Stephen La Salle  of The Albion Rooms will be celebrating harvest flavours with a 6 course meal paired with beer from Muskoka Brewery.

We recently had the chance to interview Stephen regarding the October 24th's event and beer pairing in general. 

Ottawa Beer Events: How long have you been
pairing food and beer and what has changed since you first started?

Stephan La Salle (Chef at The Albion Rooms): This will be my first
official food and beer pairing menu, but as a chef when working on a plate
you’re always thinking of flavours both contrasting and complimenting so to
jump into matching great craft beers I actually drink and enjoy myself isn’t a
big leap. I’m really involved in the wine and beer lists at The Albion Rooms, I
like to make sure they complement the whole experience.

How does pairing beer
with food and wine with food differ?

I think the fundamentals
of pairing are the same; you want the food to elevate the drink and the drink
to do the same to the food. The concepts that apply to pairing wine also apply
to beer pairing. For example thinking regionally, a German Kolch goes well with
Bratwurst just like an Italian Chianti goes well with a rich tomato meaty
bolognaise.

I think beers are
definitely more versatile and easier on the palate, the carbonation of the beer
can almost act like a palate cleanser in some cases. Pairing beer with food is
also a lot of fun because you can pull inspiration from hearty pub and tavern
classics that have been traditionally paired with beers for generations.

Do you start with a dish
first and then match the beer or vice versa?

The pairing is kind of
almost hand in hand. For our upcoming Harvest Dinner with Muskoka we’re doing 6
courses and 6 beers and they almost dictate the flow themselves. For the beers
you want to start off with something crisp and refreshing, then move into
something more creamy, then perhaps into some beers with fuller flavour and then
you can get going into some stronger or hoppier beer and then something really
full and heavy to finish. You wouldn’t start with the most bitter beer and
wouldn’t end with the lightest, your pallet wouldn’t be able to taste every
beer’s fullest potential.

In almost the same way a multi-course menu is built.
You start with something to tease the palate, with an amuse bouche, something
crispy and refreshing like a salad is next and then your fuller more robust
main plates and something sweet to finish. So I had each course paired up right
at the start, some courses were written for the beers they are paired with and
some courses were matched up with a great Muskoka beer to compliment them.

Which Muskoka beer was
the easiest to pair? 

Mad Tom IPA. The hops
really pairs well to fatty foods, the bitterness almost cuts through the fat.
We’ll be pairing it with some local pig’s cheeks from Living Pastures Farm.

What would be one
of your favorite pairings?

I would say the dinner’s
namesake, the Harvest Ale, one of my favourite beers from Muskoka was my
favourite beer to pair on the menu. It’s really well rounded with some malt and
a slight grassy flavour that would go well with some big herbs and some smoke.
Since it is named after the harvest, I really wanted to highlight some fall
vegetables with the dish.

Can you give us a hint
at what the menu & pairings may look like?

They’re going to be a
lot of fun, we’re going to be do ceviche with Cream Ale, Pig’s Cheek with Mad
Tom IPA, Smoked Ling Cod with Harvest Ale, Muskoka’s Legendary Oddity will be
making an appearance and I will be finishing it off with a food/beer pairing combo.

You can follow The Albion Rooms on Twitter (@TheAlbionRooms) or Facebook (The Albion Rooms).

The Muskoka Harvest Ale Dinner at The Albion Rooms will be held on October 24, 2013 (7:30pm). Tickets are $60.00 and include 6 courses paired with 6 Muskoka beers – tickets are available by phone at 613-760-4771.

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