Category Archives: beer and food

Food and Beer Matching, 1934

“About what should and should not be eaten with beer I would hesitate to lay down the law so forcibly and finally as do the writers upon wine. The writers on wine say that the correct procedure is the choose the wines first and then to arrange the dinner to accord with them. But here again it seems to me that the these wine connoisseurs move in a rarefied atmosphere which, if it is not unknown to the ordinary Drinker, is at least unfamiliar to him… Beer drinkers are not pernickety and Pecksniffian. They are ready to accept an ampler variety of tastes and customs.”

‘A. Drinker’, A Book About Beer, 1934

The Pub as Quasi-Happy Eater

Good George Pacific PearlOur local Wetherspoon’s isn’t a very good one. It rarely has anything other than Doom Bar, Ruddles or Greene King IPA on offer, usually a degree or two too warm, served in an ambience that brings to mind a faux-pub on a cross channel ferry. We pop in from time to time, though, just in case something exciting might be available and, yesterday, we were tempted to stop for a couple of pints from the international beer festival range.

Pacific Pearl, brewed by Good George of New Zealand (Kelly Ryan (PDF link)) was very good indeed though, yes, a bit warm. A sort of a black IPA or citrusy porter, like an oily Terry’s Chocolate Orange melted in a very posh coffee, it was certainly worth £2.15. Fly by Night, brewed by the chap from La Trappe in the Netherlands, on the other hand, was all sweaty socks and cardboard — bad rather than off, we think. Swings and roundabouts, eh?

As we drank, we talked about why, apart from the beer, we didn’t like the pub. Our conclusion: it feels like a fast food restaurant with some pub-like features — very convenient and obviously good value, but naff. Then, coincidentally, last night, we came across this passage in the 1985 CAMRA Good Beer Guide, on the subject of Host Group, Grand Met/Watney’s newly announced pub chain:

‘The Host packaged pub enterprise is as much of a threat to those who love individuality and consumer choice, as the packaged beer phenomenon was in the last two decades,’ says Peter Lerner of CAMRA’s Pub Preservation Group. ‘We cannot let our pubs decline to become chains of look-alike quasi-Happy Eater, Kentucky Fried Chicken bars or motorway service stations.’

A quasi-Happy Eater is a very good description of our local JDW.

Snacks to Beer: Pizza

Pizza with floury burned crust.

We’ve been making our own pizzas for a few years but have never really been happy with the results. We’ve tried pizza stones; posh mozzarella; tomato sauces from both fresh toms and tinned, cooked and uncooked.

Now, at last, we’ve settled on a recipe and an approach, and it’s one that illustrates the Premium Sausage Problem: the trick was using simpler, cheaper ingredients. It makes what we call upmarket takeaway’ pizza — cheesy and salty, but with a crisp crust; think Pizza Express. By popular demand (one person asked), here’s the recipe.

Dough (for two pizzas)

  • 300g plain white flour — we use the cheapest available.
  • 1 teaspoon dried, fast-acting yeast. (Or 4-5 grams.)
  • Half a teaspoon of salt (or to taste).
  • Optional: a pinch of dried basil, oregano or mixed Italian herbs.
  • 180ml of warm water.
  1. Bung all the above in a food processor with a dough hook and knead in the machine for five or so minutes, or until it comes together into a nice, shiny looking ball of dough. If it looks too dry after two minutes, add water a drop at a time. (You can also make the dough by hand, which will be messier and take longer, if you prefer.)
  2. Put a slug of olive oil in a large bowl.
  3. Shape the dough into a neat ball and turn it in the oil then leave the dough in the bowl covered with clingfilm for a couple of hours.
  4. Knock it back when it doubles in size and then leave for another hour or so.

Toppings

  • Can/pack of passata (sieved, uncooked tomatoes).
  • Pack of grated, hard mozzarella. (Not sloppy mozzarella balls.)
  • Salt, dried basil, black pepper.
  • Topping 1: anchovies and black olives. (TIP: crush the olives in your hand to help dry them out.)
  • Topping 2: 10-12 slices from a chorizo ring (per pizza).
  • Optional: basil leaves.

Pizza bases, one plain and one with passata.

Putting it together

  1. Get the oven on as hot as it will go.
  2. Divide your dough in two and, on a floured surface, make a ball. Flatten it out with the heel of your hand or a heavily floured rolling pin until it’s a neat circle 20cm across. Flour a non-stick pizza tin (ours cost £4 each) and then press the dough out to the edges. It should end up pretty thin all over. Leave it for 10 minutes.
  3. Take a ladle and spread a very thin layer of passata over each base — thin enough that you can see the dough through it in places — something like four or five tablespoons’ worth. Add salt, pepper and dried basil to taste. Leave for another 1o minutes.
  4. Sprinkle cheese all over, just enough to cover.
  5. Add other toppings in a way which pleases your eye. (But not basil leaves just yet!)
  6. Once the oven is at maximum temperature, put both pizzas in. Our oven cooks them in bang on 11 minutes. In case your oven is better, set a timer for 9-10 and keep an eye on them.
  7. When they’re done (crust beginning to blacken, cheese melted and darkening), take them out.
  8. Add more black pepper and fresh basil leaves, if you’re using them.

Tweaks and customisation

  • Other toppings that work well are pepper and sweetcorn (further cost-cutting: frozen work well); and small beef meatballs with cayenne and black pepper.
  • If you find the pizza too crisp this way and like it ‘bendier’, turn the oven down to c.200 degrees C and cook for a few minutes longer.
  • If you really want to use mozzarella balls, try slicing them and leaving them to drain on a cloth for a while before adding them.

Beer? Oh, yeah, this is a beer blog, isn’t it? Alright then: we find that pizza goes particularly well with Saison Dupont but, actually, pizza works with pretty much any beer you fancy.

Schnitzels We Have Known

Half-eaten schnitzel in a German brewpub

EXT. RESTAURANT TERRACE, PASSAU. DAY

AUSTRIAN TOURIST
Waiter — the ‘Wiener’ Schnitzel on your menu — is that really veal? [Sneering] Or just pork?

WAITER
[highly affronted]
Veal, sir. If it was merely in the Viennese style, we would certainly have said so.

We usually eat so many schnitzels on our trips to Germany that, by the time we leave, the mere thought of a buttery fried breadcrumb makes us feel sick.

We ordered and regretted the Käse Schnitzel at Brauerei Fässla in Bamberg — the size of a frisbee and with a kilo of Cheddar melted on top.

We wondered at a restaurant called Schnitzel Time! (in Augsburg, we think) which offered something like fifty variations, including a ‘Hawaiian’. (Yes, that’s right — with tinned pineapple.)

We scheduled our afternoon pauses to coincide with a TV show whose title we never worked out but the gist of which was: “It’s 10 AM and Fritz has arrived at the restaurant to prepare a hundred schnitzels for the lunch and evening service. Meanwhile, across town, staff at Die Goldene Gans are having a crisis — the daily delivery of breadcrumbs hasn’t arrived!”

We bought a schnitzel hammer at the Galeria Kaufhof in Cologne because, somehow, a German meat tenderiser just seemed more appropriate.

Last night, we had Schnitzel Wiener Art for tea. We butterflied and hammered flat pork tenderloin, dipped it first in flour, then in egg, and finally in Panko breadcrumbs, before frying in butter with a splash of sunflower oil. As we ate it, we wished, not for the first time, that a trip to Germany was on the cards in the foreseeable future

Dear Restaurateurs

We really enjoyed eating at your restaurant. We couldn’t fault the food, service or ambience. You have obviously put a lot of thought and care into every detail.

Oh, except the beer selection, obviously.

One of the beers you sell is undrinkably bad, despite the cute locally-themed label; another is pasteurised, filtered, packaged in clear bottles and stored in direct sunlight, and has thus also been rendered undrinkable; the rest of the list is made up of ‘international lagers’ brewed in Wales and England under license. You are selling bad, spoiled and fake beer.

You might not be at all interested in beer and that would be fine if you weren’t selling it. As it is, the careless way you go about it suggests a lack of taste and attention to detail.

You wouldn’t spend all that time, money and effort on the restaurant only to play nothing but Jive Bunny’s greatest hits on a loop over the stereo; or lay the tables with plastic cutlery; or decorate the walls with pictures cut from FHM.

What we’re saying is, your crappy beer list is not OK. It is a jarring note. It makes us wonder if you’ve also been careless in areas we know less about such as your wine selection or even the cooking.

Sort it out.

Love,

Boak & Bailey

PS. You could hire a member of the British Guild of Beer Writers to advise you, or read one of these books, or go on one of these courses.