The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian Christmas Eve Tradition, got creative and boozy in NYC this year! Manchester Pub put its own spin on the tradition, featuring a Hanukah-inspired menu complete with beer pairings from Founders Brewing Company.
A sparkling menorah glimmered at the head of a long table, filled with diners anxious to indulge in the seven courses listed on a neatly printed menu.
We first were treated to a large platter full of 7 fish antipasti: gefilte fish, sole, calamari, crispy skate wing, baked mussels, sardine pizza, and a salt cod flauta. The Founder Centennial IPA was a light, citrusy pairing for these bites of seafood. Before we dug in, Chef Matthew Garelick came out to tell us a little bit about his inspiration for each dish, from the specialty of the Brooklyn gefilte fish to the fresh bread on which the sardine pizza was based. This brief narration became the highlight of each course, as we learned what tastes to look out for and why exactly each beer was paired with a particular food.
The next course was a Hanukah favorite: the potato latke. The deep fried potato pancake was topped with Zabar’s smoked sable, tiny chopped apple cubes, and a dollop of crème fraiche. This modern take on the classic was savored around the table, and paired well with Founders Pale Ale, a crisp light beer that helped chase the fattiness of the latke dish.
After the doubly crisp combination, the first main dish was served. A juicy filet of monkfish dusted with rye crumbs paired up nicely with a side of bitter cabbage and chopped pastrami. A dab of rutabaga mustard on the plate gave the cabbage some very welcome spice which was easily dealt with by taking a swig of the Founders Dirty Bastard brought in with the course. While I’m not a fan of dark beer by itself, this pairing made the most sense to me- the beer had a bready, sweet flavor that cut down the saltiness of the pastrami and the heat in the mustard beautifully. There was nothing left on my plate at the end of the third course.
The closest thing this otherwise well-composed meal had to a “miss” was the barbequed eel rice. Now, I like eel. I like to think that eel likes me. However, in this case the fishy taste of the eel’s sauce dominated everything else on the plate in a way that made this course seem flat. The rice had the texture of risotto and a strong fishy flavor that was exciting for the first few bites but made the dish difficult to finish. I was fond of the duck fat crisper that perched on top of the rice- crunchy like a rice cake, but much more substantial. The Founders Porter that was paired with the course was also dark, but was creamy and bitter by way of dark chocolate- and it smelled like it too!
We thought we had exhausted every fishy possibility by the time dessert came around, but when our plate piled with sugar plums and soofganiyot (doughnuts) came around it was garnished with two very appropriate Swedish Fish. It turns out that sugar plums taste a lot like Fig Netwons all balled up and rolled in massive, crunchy sugar crystals. As for soofganiyot, these warm balls of sugared dough were stuffed with warm gooey Nutella- there was no possible way anyone could go wrong with that!
And even as we said goodbye with a simple but deliciously sweet dessert course, the Founders breakfast Stout came in at the last minute to say hello! We’d never had a beer that actually tasted like coffee before! The dark, rich Breakfast Stout sealed the deal. Coffee beer: brilliant. We’re not not alone in thinking this drink was fantastic; it’s one of the top ten highest rated on BeerAdvocate.
Keep Machester Pub on your radar for their beer dinners about every 6 weeks; the first event of 2013 plans to have a Mardi Gras Theme!
-Melissa Kravitz and Alexis Nedd