Apr 4, 2012

Long Valley Pub's @BrewPubNJ Inaugural Beer Dinner

Let me start by saying that the Long Valley Pub, in scenic Long Valley, NJ, is my local brew pub.  They're small; producing not much more than 800 bbl a year, but they're not more than a few miles from my home so I find myself there, often with my wife and daughter, regularly enjoying their in-house crafted beer and tasty food menu.  With that out of the way, I can tell you that what you're about to read was not tainted by their "home field advantage".

Having frequented the Pub since moving to the area in 2005, I wondered why they hadn't held a dinner to showcase their beers.  That all changed on March 29, 2012 when they hosted their first-ever beer dinner!
The menu was cooperatively developed in-house by Andrea Maletta and chef Juan Mujica.  That menu was then reviewed with head brewer Joe Saia who provided beer pairing suggestions before the menu was tweaked with its final touches.


Before the first course, we were treated to pizza topped with East Kent Golding hops. Yes. Hops!  As you know, hops can easily be overpowering, but the culinary crew paid special attention to creating a unique but balanced flavor.  It was paired with their American Pale Ale.  The beer and pizza played off each other in total harmony.  The subdued hop flavors in each made for a very pleasant effect when combined.  What a great start!


The American Pale Ale kept on flowing with the first course which was a pistachio crusted scallop expertly prepared and served with grilled bok choy, roasted red pepper and a Pale Ale whole grain mustard.  Again, the pairing was spot on.  The freshness of the scallop was the perfect mate for the APA's clean, mildly hop-forward flavors.  I've always thought of this beer as a great "gateway" beer to get your macro-drinking friends to make the switch to craft beer.


As the second course arrived my wife turned to me and said, "I don't want this meal to end".  It had only just begun!  The salad was served with peaches poached and paired with their Hookerman's Light, an extremely crisp and light American wheat ale, baby arugula, toasted pecans and gorgonzola dressing.  Wow.  The second course was an even more perfect pairing of food and beer than the first...so refreshing and a great way to clean our palates in preparation for the third course!


In short, the third course stole the show.  I should probably note that the menu was completely new and consisted of items not normally found on their regular menu.   That should change.  This third course should become a part of their everyday menu.  The short rib tomato ragout was roasted with roma tomatoes, caramelized onions, wilted spinach and rested in a Lazy Jake Porter demi glaze topped with parmesan.  It was an amazing sparring match between sweetness and tang that I didn't want to end.


It was paired with the Lazy Jake Porter; a well regarded craft beer with five varieties of malted barley, having captured Bronze, Silver & Gold at the Great American Beer Festival throughout the years.  So now you know what you're dealing with.  Oddly enough, this was probably the weakest food/beer pairing.  The flavors of each were so unique and so bold that they were competing for my taste buds' attention.  With each bite and sip, Lazy Jake jumped out ahead of the amazing short rib tomato ragout.  
Separately, these were the two best things on the menu that night.  Together, they both fought for the lead role during that third course.  We remedied that by saving our Lazy Jake for when we finished the ribs.


Next came the German Valley Amber with its Willamette hops and malt varieties.  This deep red ale was paired with a cedar plank game hen with venison loin served with truffle oil green beans and amber mashed potatoes.  This beer's friendliness and very well balanced flavors were very well matched by the sweet and tender meats.  I kept finding myself reaching for the amber to wash down each bite.  It just seemed right.


Fifth, and finally, came dessert!  The course my wife had been waiting for, and luckily she's got that "extra little compartment" in her stomach which always seems to have room for dessert!  We were presented with a straightforward "Irish brownie" served ala mode with vanilla ice cream.

Paired with the seasonal Dry Irish Stout, it was exactly how we hoped to end the meal.  A deliciously sweet dessert with an equally dark and malty stout; a pairing dreampt up on Mt. Olympus by the gods.

All in all it was a great first showing for this small craft beer brew pub at the base of Schooley's Mountain.  They've certainly put local restaurants on notice that they've got something extra to offer...a talented culinary team and a stable of great craft beers that are unique to them.  The good news for you is that I've gotten word that they're planning another dinner in late August which will feature one of their seasonal brews.  So stay tuned for more!

With Spring now in full swing and Summer just around the corner, it's a great time to visit the Pub and enjoy their 30-seat outdoor bar and patio dining area.  Food and local craft beer al fresco!  Need I say more?  I think not.  Next time you're in the area, be sure to drop by for a pint, and if you're not in the area make a point to make the trip.  You can thank me later.