By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Whether you’ve dined at Portland City Grill, popped in for their amazing happy hour or just heard about them, you know they have a great reputation for food, not to mention views from their 30th floor location inside the U.S. Bancorp Tower, aka Big Pink, in downtown Portland. In May they teamed up with brewing powerhouse, Breakside Brewery, for a six-course brew dinner.
Taking place in one of their private dining rooms with views of the West Hills that are nearly as stunning as the ones from the east-facing side of the restaurant, it was an intimate evening attended by Will Jaquiss of Breakside’s barrel program and Keith Vandervort, who is the cellar manager. The meal began with an amuse-bouche of pretzel bread, mustards and softened butter sprinkled with sea salt in the sun-soaked room. This first course was paired with the Amuse Farmhouse Ale. Beer and pretzels, be it a soft baked version like what was presented here or the shelf-stable kind that make for convenient, festival-friendly necklaces, are a standard pairing. What set this one apart was how well both the salted butter and the horseradish mustard paired with Amuse; instead of overwhelming the beer, the latter made for an unexpectedly complementary pairing.
The first course paired Lunch Break ISA -- which took a gold medal in the “American-Style Pale Ale” category at the Best of Craft Beer Awards earlier this year — with the best BLT I’ve ever eaten with a fork and knife. Not a sandwich in actuality, it was a salad of Little Gem lettuce, creamy blue cheese, smoked tomatoes and lardons. Chock full of rich ingredients, the clean, bright flavors of the beer worked well to balance the course out. Simple yet stunning, this is a pairing to remember throughout the summer and one that should be recreatable in your kitchen with a trip to the farmers market and favorite local beer store.
The second course topped the first by being the most beautiful of the evening as well as offering an unexpected combination of ingredients -- house-made traditional bratwurst served with a Sriracha gastrique and tzatziki, the light yogurt-based sauce that instinctively brings the thought of gyros to my mind. The bratwurst was flavorful and moist, lightened by both the tzatziki and the beer it was paired with, Liquid Sunshine Pils, a traditional German lager made with imported German malt. The beautiful presentation may have been fancier than what you’d prepare at home but like the first course, this combination is one to file away for summer grilling season.
Continuing to keep things light, the third course was a perfectly cooked, generous portion of Alaskan Halibut atop basil gnocchi, caramelized shallots, asparagus and kale pesto. Overall an herbal-influenced dish, it was mellowed by the slight tartness of Breakside’s Fortunella, a strong witbier made with kumquats, coriander and chamomile.
The fourth course presented a breakfast-for-dinner plate that was worthy of a leisurely weekend brunch. A slightly teetering tower of made up of a syrup-soaked waffle, crispy and spicy fried chicken, gravy and a sunny-side-up egg was paired with India Golden Ale, which although light in body and color was able to hold its own alongside the bold flavors of the food. Unlike the rest of the dishes during the dinner, this one is regularly available during Portland City Grill’s Sunday brunch.
Rounding the corner toward the home stretch, the fifth course was chosen by executive chef Amanda Sullivan, who has been with Portland City Grill for 11 years, because it’s both a staff and customer favorite. A wide, shallow bowl was filled with creamy Tillamook white cheddar mac and cheese and topped with slow-braised beef short ribs. The aromas of the cheese and the beef were heavenly and the combination of the two with Breakside’s export-style Stout was a comfort-food dream taken to the next level. Chef Sullivan added a little coffee to the braising liquid to enhance the coffee notes in the stout.
The final course of the night, croissant gorgonzola and fig bread pudding with thyme creme anglaise and balsamic ice cream, took hints from both a traditional dessert course and a cheese course, mixing sweet and savory notes. The beer offered was the most exclusive of the evening, Braggadocio, a one-off, bourbon barrel-aged imperial London porter that was released in April. A collaboration with Stone Brewing Company, the beer was a divine complement to the bread pudding, a lighter version than is often seen due to the use of croissants instead of more dense bread.
It’s hard to go wrong with Portland City Grill’s food or Breakside Brewery’s beer and it was illustrated by Will’s comment, “I feel like beer is best enjoyed with food.” There’s no doubt that was the case during this pairing dinner, something that we’ll hopefully see again in the future. In the meantime, chef Sullivan has shared her short ribs recipe for your home cooking enjoyment.
Braised Beef Short Ribs
Paired with Breakside Brewing export-style Stout
By Chef Amanda Sullivan
7 ounces beef short ribs, prepped
4 ounces braising liquid
2 ounces ginger hoisin sauce
½ ounce beurre blanc sauce
*Place ribs on the grill for 1 minute then turn and do the same for the other side.
*Put ribs into the braising liquid for 10 minutes.
*Coat ribs with ginger hoisin sauce.
*Drizzle the beurre blanc sauce over the ribs.
Makes up to 10 servings.
Serving suggestion: Place the ribs on top of a creamy, white cheddar mac and cheese.
Portland City Grill
[a] 111 SW 5th Ave. 30th Floor, Portland
5821 SE International Way, Milwaukie
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