Before you winos get up in arms, a bit of a disclaimer - I love wine. I love wine with my food. In fact, I prefer wine with food. Taking two different components, seemingly disparate, and pairing them together to create a third, mind-blowing flavor. It's not a compromise of two tastes so much as the birth of a new star. A supernova flavor bomb that makes you go "wow, that's what food is all about."
But it's not wine alone that can create such an experience. Here's where the wino rage might come in. Beer is unbelievably good with food, too. I'm not talking post-hike thirst-quenching PBR-reaching moments. We are talking beer made as expertly as the most prize bottle of wine by people who can wax poetic about microbes, yeasts, and fermentation.
Beer and food pairings are brilliant. Beer + Cheese = Liquid bread to meld with the kaleidoscope of flavors to be gotten from goat's, sheep's, and cow's milk. Beer + Chocolate = Another reason to chuck overpowering red wines, especially with good dark chocolate. Beer + Food in general = A revelation.
Quality matters here. (Quantity is another discussion to be had since beer is equated with frat house decadence and mind erasing shenanigans.) The beer whether you call it craft brew, microbrew, home brew - it's made because it tastes good (and yes, it sells) and is awesome by its lonesome and magically wondrous with food.
Same goes for the food. Granted, a good drink can even turn a greasy spoon burger into a milestone meal (cue that scene from "Sideways" where Miles ditches his bestie's wedding reception to crack open his cherished bottle of red to drink from a styrofoam cup with a diner burger) but good food and good drink make for foolproof good times.
Some restaurants are getting into this notion, even in Utah (home of great craft brewers, FYI). Even in Utah County. Communal Restaurant hosted quite possibly the city of Provo's very first beer pairing dinner. Epic Brewing Company was along to pair with dishes and in some cases (as with a stour jam for a meltingly good pork belly) be the ingredients in the dishes themselves.
The pairings were stellar, subtle, and complex. The crowd dug it. As should you. Catch a beer pairing dinner in your neck of the woods or try that Schneider Weisse Hefeweizen with some Thai take out or curry made from scratch. Or an Epic Pumpkin Stout with a spice cake. If you've taken wine pairing courses, the fundamentals are the same.
One caveat: Just as the wine world has the wine douche that can irritate a crowd like a corn flake caught in your throat, the craft beer world is full of them, too. If you think wine snobs are insufferable, just brace yourself for the craft beer douche as he talks about his own "phenomenal" home brewing experiments, his favorite breweries you've never heard of and yet manages to order an oatmeal stout before A BEER PAIRING DINNER wherein the first course is a beautiful light pickled peach salad with candied mustard paired perfectly with a saison.
He's a connoisseur don't you know? Nothing to do but shrug and sip the saison and take another bite of peach.
One of my favorite food books is Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin. Not so much a cookbook versus a collection of essays that serves as a salve for anyone who feels alone in a plethora of recipes, entertaining tips and other general advice on tablewear and decor you'll never use.
Laurie Colwin talks to you and with you about cooking. Successes and failures. Foolproof, straightforward dishes and ways to elevate them depending on who's coming over for dinner. Some of her recipes didn't turn out well, but I can't hold it against her. The accompanying essay nourished me enough. The title of this post is also the title of one of my favorite chapters in the book and more recently, the title for another modern cookbook. In honor of Ms. Colwin, her writing and her recipes with varying degrees of success, I played alone in the kitchen with an eggplant. This is what happened.
There are those with their secret paths, their weather pattern forecasts, their barometers AKA bad knees, and secret language of trees.
And there is me who cares not for mountain biking, skiing, snowboarding, and the like. I still have yet to grasp why I would pay hundreds (or thousands) of dollars to go through terrain I can damn well travel through on my own two feet. With shoes. It makes me go slow. It doesn't make feel like an awkward, uncoordinated git which I usually am. (True story, I recently rolled my ankle walking down my STAIRS).
And it allows me to pay attention to the leaves, the dirt, the sky, and sometimes I see things that I like to eat. Sometimes I bring them home. Other times I just gather them because they are gorgeous and mysterious.
Some people call this foraging. I call it walking with benefits. Someone asked me how I forage. My answer: "Fuck if I know. I just go for a walk."