Wow. Just wow. Until last week, I thought my world of dual flavordom was already complete: Wine and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, bacon and chocolate, peaches and cream. But when I tried a flight of beers paired with sorbet and ice cream at Jimmy’s No. 43 last week (one of dozens of similar tastings the place hosts monthly) my eyes were opened to an untapped world of pairing possibilities. Pun intended.
Our charismatic hosts, Mary Izett and Chris Cuzme of The New York City Degustation Advisory Team, led us through six rounds of frosty pairings, starting with a fruity combination. There are several city shops pouring beer floats made with stout, but these were beyond that classic construction in sophistication: The first course featured mango sorbet from our Back of the House profilee this summer, il laboratorio del gelato – thick and rich, not too sweet — with a glass of Ommegang Witte, a mellow Belgian white beer that smelled faintly of banana and citrus. It was what Chris described as a harmonious pairing (as opposed to a contrast pairing), so you could go back and forth between the beer and the sorbet, each time savoring the fruity notes one brought out in the other.
I thought that was good, until I tried round two: coconut ice cream with chocolate-covered almonds from Ronnybrook Farm Dairy and Köstritzer Schwarzbier–a “black lager” from Germany. The super creamy ice cream melted on your tongue, leaving flakes of coconut to play on your tastebuds. The beer, which gets its deep color from the dark malt used in its production, was lighter than you would expect. But I loved the slightly malty aroma and how the carbonation and hops in the beer cut through the richness of the cream.
Some pairings, like that in round three, relied on the ice cream to shape the flavor of the beer. With the Rodenbach Classic, which is a Flanders Red ale from Belgium, the first sip tastes smooth, yet sour, but the palate is soon struck by an intense oakiness. If you take a sip of the beer and then a spoonful of Sweetart Strawberry Ice Cream from Blue Marble, the ice cream actually tames the oak. It was a truly lovely pairing.
Rounds four and five were equally fantastic. Our Gentle Ginger ice cream from Blue Marble danced with the hops of a Lagunita IPA. And Achel Bruin–a caramelly brown ale made by monks–jived with chocolate ice cream from il laboratorio del gelato that our hosts topped with homemade candied bacon.
But the last pairing, that’s where the magic happened for me, and as it happened, it was a new take on that beer float. The beer, Grado Plato Chocarrubica, is an oatmeal stout brewed with carob and cacao beans. The ice cream, Homemade Vanilla from Kelly Geary of Sweet Deliverance, was classic. Like a child, I plunged my spoon into the foam, hoping for the perfect bite. I was not disappointed. The sweet ice cream and intense stout came together in the glass like they were meant for each other. Every bite was heaven.
On a still-steamy late summer day like today, I find myself itching to get out from behind this desk and buy a quart of ice cream and a liter of beer. Summer’s almost gone and I have so many pairings yet to explore!