A Food and Drink Pairing Competition
by Bob Barnes
“The filet mignon will go very well with a dry Cabernet or a spicy Belgian saison.” Until recently you would not have heard a sommelier make the latter part of that statement, but times are changing. Proof of the leveled playing field for beer and wine was the “Beer vs. Wine Pairing Smackdown” held on May 21 at miX amidst the stunning views from the 64th floor of THEHotel at Mandalay Bay. The event pitted beer against wine in a five-course pairing dinner, each dish served with a beer and wine selected by the respective teams. Audience participation involved voting for the libation that paired best with each course; and selecting “Team Beer” or “Team Wine” buttons to wear, some choosing to don both out of a fear of commitment.
The leaders of both teams were seated on a raised dais, which consisted of the Beer Team’s Mandalay Bay Director of Food and Beverage/Certified Cicerone Sarah Johnson and Firestone Walker Brewmaster Matthew Brynildson; and the Wine Team’s Mandalay Bay Director of Wine/Sommelier Harley Carbery and Herman Story Winemaker/Proprietor Russell From. As both the beers and wines would be provided by establishments from Paso Robles, the San Luis Obispo County, California community was given a win-win proposition.
After Sarah introduced her partner, Harley cockily began, “I let beer go first since it’ll be the only time tonight beer is first.” This was not to be the case, as a seesaw battle would ensue. The following is the fight score card:
1. Bigeye Tuna Tartare with peanut satay sauce/Session IPA Easy Jack and Viognier Roussanne Tomboy 2009 (won by beer).
2. Seared Duck Foie Gras with pineapple chutney/9.5% Double Jack IPA and Viognier Whitehawk 2007 (won by wine).
3. Cod Brandade with lemon, capers and brown butter/French Saison Opal and Rhône Blend Casual Encounters 2011 (won by beer).
4. Filet Mignon with shiitake gratin and stuffed piquillos/Belgian Quad Stickee Monkee and California Syrah Nuts & Bolts 2012 (won by wine).
With the score notched at 2-2, the dessert finale turned out to be a tie breaker. Team Wine made a bonehead move (though some at my table certainly would not concur) by pairing the miX chocolaty Candy Bar with On the Road 2102 — a dry red Grenache; the Beer Team chose to pour Parabajava — a Coffee Imperial Stout with notes of sweet malt, roast and coffee mirroring those in the dessert. Needless to say, beer edged out wine for the second consecutive time since this competition was instituted a year ago.
With the attention on the competition between the liquid competitors, it would be a shame not to recognize the excellence of the culinary fare that provided the platform for the contest. Each dish was exemplary and the staff of miX is entitled to well-deserved accolades.
After a practice run of this event a year ago, at which only invited media were present, this time around it was open to the public, and was enthusiastically embraced by a full house of more than 100 participants. With such a positive turnout, MGM Resorts plans to continue this friendly rivalry, but there’s no guarantee that wine will ever be victorious against beer.
You can click on each photo to enlarge. Photos by Bill Bokelmann.