In The Foodie’s Beer Book, Horse & Hound co-owners Brooke and Luther Fedora say that when you’re cooking with beer, remember the rule, “one for you, one for the pot.” This is not meant to be taken literally, unless you want to be face down on the travertine when the oven timer goes ding.
Turns out, the quip means you shouldn’t cook with any beer you wouldn’t drink. It’s one of many helpful tips the Fedoras offer up about cooking with beer and pairing it with food in their extensive party-focused cookbook slated to hit stands August 5.
Fittingly, the book will be available on the heels of Charlottesville’s Restaurant Week. The Fedoras started creating beer-inspired menus with pairings for the annual event in January 2011, and in the spring of 2012, they began transforming the idea into a 320-page guide to entertaining.
“We have really been inspired by beer when it comes to our cooking, and with a lot of our menus, we start with the beer and make food around that,” Brooke said. “It has helped us to be more creative.”
A classically trained pastry chef, Brooke developed the dessert recipes and handled most of the writing for The Foodie’s Beer Book, which starts with a primer on the history of beer and its uses in the culinary arts before launching into seasonal menus structured around dinner parties of all types. Luther contributed equally to the tome through his savory recipes and culinary expertise, not to mention his recipe for a Belgian tripel ale.
Luther said beer has become more and more a part of what he and his wife do at Horse & Hound, and the book comes at a time when restaurants and brewers around the country are likewise increasingly beer crazed.
“You look across Charlottesville and see how many new breweries have opened,” he said. “Everybody is coming up with new, different, off-the-wall flavors, and if you take those and put them in your food, you find new things as well.”
The book’s arrival also comes at a time when a number of similar titles have entrenched themselves on craft beer and food lovers’ bookshelves. Brooklyn Brewery kingpin Garrett Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table has been a standard of the genre since 2005, and dozens of others have been published since. So what does The Foodie’s Beer Book add to the conversation?
“We really combined it with that seasonality, the fresh ingredients, and we’ve taken the food up a notch,” Brooke said. “We’ve also been a little more specific with the beer.”
Indeed, craft beer geeks will be delighted with some of the more interesting selections in the book—Mikkeller’s Milk Stout, Stillwater’s Cellar Door Farmhouse Ale, Founders’ Double Trouble IPA—and Brooke and Luther’s knowledge of Belgian beers and other old world styles is impressive. The downside for some will be tracking down the suggested brews. (If anyone has a line on some Russian River Brewing Pliny the Elder, let me know.)
The authors say different beers of the same style can be substituted, though, and it’s that feeling of exploration and openness that makes The Foodie’s Beer Book tick. The recipes by and large seem from the heart, rather than coming off as having beer forced on them. Brooke’s use of beer in desserts is especially unique.
“I find craft beers pair insanely well with dessert,” she said. “The hoppy bitterness balances with the sweetness of desserts, and it creates a complexity that you wouldn’t otherwise get.”
The book’s missteps are a few organizational issues (it can be difficult to figure out which style of beer is intended for which dish, for example), the cursory discussion of beer styles and history, a handful of less-than-appetizing photographs, and the occasional typo.
But even with its faults, The Foodie’s Beer Book is a solid addition to the libraries of local gastronomes that also happen to be craft beer enthusiasts. The recipes range from quick and easy (e.g. roasted chicken with tomatoes, eggplant, summer squash, and fresh herbs) to long and complex (like confit of chicken with chestnut and smoked bacon stuffing, brussels sprouts and thyme-curieux jus), making it suitable for cooks of all skill levels. And, in addition to being organized by party types, the book is separated into four sections, one for each season, allowing it to serve as a veritable chef’s shopping list throughout the year.
“One thing we definitely want to come across is the fun of it,” Brooke said. “Our book is about parties, themes, and drinking and eating with friends. That’s what we’re all about. We love to throw a party, and we love great food and great beer.”