Until recently, most chefs reached for a bottle of wine when they wanted to give recipes a booze lift. But with beer sommeliers (and more than 1,600 craft breweries nationwide) touting the versatility of a good cold one, wine’s grain-based cousin is just as welcome at the kitchen table. “Even if you evaporate all the alcohol off like in stew,” says Claudio Pirollo, the chef and part-owner of Et Voila, a Belgian bistro in the Palisades, “beer’s taste is more powerful than wine.” Drink in these suds-soaked eats and you too may believe that anything wine can do, beer can do better.
Pretzel and Beer Pasta
Chef Tony Conte of the Oval Room knocks the ball out of the park with his unique use of porter in his pretzel and beer pasta ($16). Whereas most chefs add brew to their recipes near the end of the cooking process (to avoid bitterness), Conte begins his dish by mixing the dark ale with the pretzel dough. He churns out cylindrical bites of beer-infused pasta and adds mustard, crème fraîche, chilies, pickles, tiny squares of potato warmed in bacon fat, pork belly cooked in root beer, bacon bits, chives and parsley. “I like this shape of pasta because as you glaze it, it soaks up all the flavors inside,” says Conte. “It’s like being at a ball game and getting all those things you like — the pretzel and the hot dog — in one bite.”
Oval Room, 800 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-463-8700. (Farragut West)
Stout-Braised Pork Belly
In a recent menu overhaul, chef Tom Hall enlivened 901 Restaurant’s American fare with Asian flair. And the stout-braised pork belly ($6 for two, $12 for four) is a one-stop shop for beer and Asian barbecue hogs. The meat’s fat is rendered down until almost gone. Then it’s braised in a combination of 901’s own oatmeal stout, garlic, cilantro, pepper, molasses and hoisin, a Chinese dipping sauce. “We cook the pork belly in that stout for three hours,” says Hall. “It’s a heartier beer so the belly is more true to the actual flavor of the beer after it’s cooked.” Topped with pickled red onions, chilies and arugula to offset the pork’s richness, it makes change taste good at 901.
901 Restaurant, 901 9th St. NW; 202-524-4433. (Gallery Place)
Lost Society chef Joseph Evans “wanted to pack as much flavor as possible” into his collard greens side dish ($6). So after sautéing shallots, chilies, garlic and bacon, he deglazes the pan with Fat Tire beer. “I didn’t want to use wine or a light beer that wouldn’t hold up.” says Evans” “Fat Tire has the hoppiness and all that.” To avoid overpowering the vegetable, the collards are added to the mix after they’ve softened in water for 30 minutes. Evans then adds rice vinegar infused with habaneros “for a little spice” and cooks the greens until tender (usually another 35-45 minutes).
Lost Society, 2001 14th St. NW; 202-618-8868. (U Street)
Hoegaarden Beer Ice Cream
If you’re 30 or older, your gut reaction may be to stay far away from any combination of beer and ice cream. Don’t play it safe. The Hoegaarden beer ice cream at Et Voila is worth the risk. “Hoegaarden works because it is a white beer,” says Pirollo. “It also has notes of lemon and cloves.” He combines the light Belgian brew with egg yolks, sugar, honey, milk and cream. The result has a mild hint of hops and taste “similar to a French vanilla because the base is the same but without the vanilla beans,” says Pirollo. It’s good alone but even better when served with Grandma’s Almond Cream Pear Tart ($8). Try it and your daydream of a lazy summer in Paris may suddenly be set in Brussels.
Et Voila, 5120 MacArthur Blvd. NW; 202-237-2300.
Take-Home Taste: Beer Mustard Butter from Chef Jeff Tunks, District Commons
1 cup black mustard seeds
1 cup yellow mustard seeds
3 cups malt vinegar
1 1/3 quarts dark beer
1 quart honey
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons salt
4 tablespoons ground allspice
1 1/2 tablespoons turmeric
2 cups dry mustard
Combine mustard seeds and vinegar with ¾ of the beer and refrigerate overnight. In a saucepan combine beer with honey, brown sugar, salt, allspice and turmeric and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Transfer to blender. Add ground mustard and soaked mustard seeds with their liquids and puree in blender until smooth.
Whip 1 part mustard mixture to 6 parts softened butter and season to taste with salt. Serve with pretzel baguette or other breads.