Sunday, March 6, 2011

Union Bar and Grille + Harpoon = Great Beer Dinner

I follow Union Bar and Grille on Twitter and randomly noticed that they had the best deal going for a beer dinner!  The deal was a four-course meal paired with different Harpoon Beers, all for $55 ($45 if you are a friend of Harpoon.)  Having had a great experience at Union before, I jumped at this opportunity. 

Upon arrival, we were seated at a large table with other couples in order to make sure they could maximize the space.  Sometimes these set-ups can be a bit awkward, but we lucked out by having nice people at our table.  To start off the evening there were a variety of passed appetizers, which included a salt cured ham biscuit with orange marmalade.  Normally I am not a jam or jelly person but this added some nice flavor, and the jelly texture (thankfully) did not really come across.  The biscuit was well cooked and did not overwhelm the ham.  Hush puppies with cheddar and scallions were also passed around.  I liked these, but Nick loved them.  The dipping sauce had a good "zip" to it.  Finally, there was smoked salmon on brioche with citrus creme fraiche, but unfortunately it never made its way to our table, which was fine with Nick since he doesn't care for salmon.  To accompany these great appetizers, we were given pints of Harpoon's UFO White.  It was fun to see the difference in tastes of the beer when it is properly matched with food - much like wine.  Nick doesn't always care for white beers, but he really did like this one when it was served with the food.

For our official first course we were poured some Harpoon Belgian Style Pale Ale.

Belgian Beer

Having been to the brewery a few times, I knew I was a fan of this beer regardless of the pairing!  The first course was a chilled New England Seafood terrine with lobster, scallops, leeks and tarragon aioli.

The Terrine
I will admit, having seen the terrine at Pigalle, I was nervous - describing something to be like pate does NOT make me want it more.  This, however, was fantastic!  The combination of flavors worked really well together.  The aioli sauce just added a great finishing touch to the bite.  I may be making this up, but the terrine looked to be surrounded with bacon.  With all of that combined, I am not sure I really had anything to be nervous about.

For the main course, we were given a small glass of the Leviathan Imperial IPA, which is Harpoon's answer to the BIG, bold IPAs saying their traditional IPA was not big enough.

Needless to say, this beer packs a punch - literally, it has 10% alcohol by volume!  As our Harpoon representatives explained, however, this type of beer pairs really well with heavier foods, a lot of the time better than most wines.  I will agree, this beer did not get lost, even when paired with our main course, which was an IPA braised beef cheek with parsnip gnocchi, collard greens, and orange supremes.

Beef Cheek
My picture does not do this plate justice.  It was amazing!  Seeing it on the menu, this was another one of the dishes that made me nervous - beef cheek?  That is something they can only get away with on "Top Chef!"  After this meal I am now officially a beef cheek convert.  The meat was so tender and delicious - no knife needed.  The gnocchi paired really well with the beef cheek, and again was something I would not normally think of but really worked well.  The gnocchi were nice and light - definitely needed with all the food going around.   This dish was something I would have NEVER ordered on my own but I am so happy it was put in front of me because it was so tasty and I would readily order it or any of its parts again.

Finally, they passed out the dessert beer!  Again, it was from the Leviathan series, but this time it was the Barleywine. 

Again, this beer has some big bold flavors, but like the brew master said, when it is snowy and cold, this the beer you want to be drinking.

For dessert we were served an espresso semifredo with pistachio praline and barleywine gastrique.

This dessert was refreshing after the heavier main course.  The semifredo was cooler in temperature and actually more so as you made your way towards the center of the dish.  The flavors were great and the praline pistachio crumble on top was my favorite part.  The sauce drizzled on the outside hardened very quickly, so you could not use it to add anymore flavor to the dessert, though I am not sure it really needed it.

After the satisfying meal, the chef and the brew masters actually walked around to each of the tables, asking us about the meal and answering any of our questions.  This was a great added element to the evening that I wasn't expecting.  You could tell that they all put in some effort to come up with a great meal and thought about which beers to offer with them to make both shine.  Also, one thing we did confirm from Harpoon is that their 100 barrel series Oyster Stout is actually making a comeback - and soon, too!  We were really excited to hear about this and will be heading down to the brewery ASAP.

So, another trip to Union Bar and Grill and once again a fantastic meal.  The fixed menu offered some options that I was totally skeptical of but so happy I tried - I'm learning a lot about some new foods that I do not think I am brave enough to cook on my own but would readily order again.  I cannot wait for the next beer night, or even just another dining experience at Union!

Union Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon


  1. Sounds like a great dinner! The beef cheeks and dessert look especially good to me!

  2. Looks like an awesome meal! I haven't been to Union Bar in a while and you reminded me that I want to go back soon. I love beef cheeks - it's one of the most tender cuts of beef. And I want some of the semifredo!


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