Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mission Gastroclub Session 17: Spice

It seems I've been running in to Eric all over the place lately. I first met him at the Simply Beer tasting at Elizabeth Street Brewery. Then I ran into him at Bender's when the twitsphere was competing to see who could kill their surprise keg of Younger. We ran into one another yet again that night at Pi Bar. In that hazy, hazy night (which my friend Jeff would describe the next day as "I don't feel any Younger..."), Eric told us about Mission Gastroclub. A week later, the invite popped up and Harry and I snagged four of the fourteen spots. The other ten were gone within seven minutes of the email going out. Then Jesse posted about them. The invite list is expanding by the day. I'm a little afraid I'll never be able to go to one again.

Mission Gastroclub is the type of place I'll be bragging to other people's grandchildren about fifty years from now when I'm trying to reclaim my youth. They won't understand twitter, and of course we won't have email anymore, but I have a feeling that the concept will still resonate and the kids will think their adopted great aunt was really cool. Eric maintains an email invite list, an email goes out, and you claim your spots. There are 14 seats per dinner, and trust me, they go quickly. A second session of last night's dinner will be happening tomorrow, and those 14 seats were gone within 5 minutes. Dinners are held in Eric's Mission District apartment, an unassuming ground floor space with a kitchen big enough to cook for and seat a large group of people. Dinners are shockingly inexpensive - last night's four paired courses cost $31 each. That's four pints of good (very good) beer and four courses of good (very good) food. I can't come up with this kind of food and beer for this kind of price at home. It's an absolute steal.

Apologies in advance for the cell phone photos - I had decided it would probably be too dark to take photos, and then learned that the light would have been perfect.

The theme for the night was Spice. The first course was a samosa, paired with Death and Taxes. If only all samosas were like this - fresh ingredients tumbling out of a light, flaky dough when you cut into it. Every ingredient stood well on its own, but the combination was lovely. Not terribly spicy, but a good introduction of things to come.

The second course was a small salad of sauteed bok choy with spicy, spicy, spicy squid. Whole thai chiles were abundant, but few people at my table were daring enough to eat them whole. I've been sick for a few days now, so I was grateful for the palate cleanser. The squid was fantastically seasoned.

The third course was the best fried chicken I've ever had, coupled with kimchi and delicata squash. Harry, who doesn't care for squash at all, nearly licked his plate, and while I rarely care for fried chicken, I did the same. This was far and away the best dish of the night for me - filling and balanced. The mildness of the squash offset the spice from the kimchi, and the fried chicken, while not "spicy", was seasoned very well.

It was paired with Eric's imperial red homebrew. My table got very, very excited about this beer. I'm not much for red beers, but imperials are a different story. Full without being heavy, it was a really nice pairing with the chicken in particular.

Smoked Porter. Beautifully smoked porter. I am a huge fan of this style of beer. It's not what I would sit around and drink every day, but sometimes the mood strikes and I have to have one. I love Alaskan's rendition, but it often comes off as too smoky. Eric's version is just right - there's no denying it's a smoked beer, but the smokiness just compliments everything else that's happening rather than knocking you over. Needless to say, I had a second one.

It was paired with a tres leches cake and Mexican chocolate ice cream. I missed a little bit of spice in the ice cream, and I wish the cake had been just a little lighter, but overall I was pleased.

Everyone left full, a little tipsy and happy. This is exactly what I'd like to see more of: events that bring people together (we made quick friends with our tablemates), get people excited about beer, and aren't afraid to try new things. I can't wait to see what this develops into. If it stays as it is, it'll still be just perfect, but I think they've got a concept really worth developing. Hopefully I'll make the five minute invite cutoff to jump in on another session soon!

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