Laura and I have been following Chef Anthony Polito culinary exploits for a few years now through various restaurants and communities for a few years now. The community Chef Anthony currently calls home is Downtown Stuart and the name of his restaurant is still the aptly named B. Merry Gastro Pub. Nestled in the Old Post Office arcade at 23 SW Osceola St., their new digs ooze eclectic funk and old fashioned charm which is a perfect fit for Chef Anthony and his staff. Pouring flavorful craft beers to match his flavorful Avant Garde dishes, B. Merry has also added a liquor license to their repertoire of innovation and customer satisfaction. Having opened a few months ago, I had yet to make the trek south to visit so when they announced a Cigar City Beer Dinner, this Beer Ambassador didn’t think twice about placing herself in Chef Anthony’s capable hands for an evening of burgundian delights.
Starting at 6:30pm on Tuesday May 14th, the Cigar City Beer Dinner was purposely planned during American Craft Beer Week. A nationwide celebration of great craft beer and all things craft beer related, it was fitting that Chef Anthony chose this very special week to host his first beer dinner in their new location. Upon arriving at the old Post Office Arcade, I walked inside to find Mr. Phil Palmisano of Cigar City, Brian Carbone of Vine & Barley Palm City, Larry Ledina and Mike Lixie of JJ Taylor Distributing, Nancy Turrell of Brewing Tools, and an array of familiar faces and new ones too. It was certainly looking to be a fun filled evening and as we prepared to take our seats, I was invited to join Phil’s auspicious table. Honored to be amongst esteemed colleagues and friends, it wasn’t long before Phil took to the stage to talk a little bit about the upcoming beers. Following Phil’s introduction, Chef Anthony welcomed everyone to their first craft beer dinner at the new B. Merry Gastro Pub. Included in their greetings, both evoked their honest joy to be a part of this week’s celebration of great craft beer, the people who brew them, the people who savor them, and the community within which it thrives and grows.
Introductions made, it was time to move onto the good stuff, specifically the upcoming 5 courses paired with 5 beers. Two new beers that made their grand entrance on the Treasure Coast this special evening were Cigar City’s Invasion Pale Ale and Pacific Jade Saison. Of course, all of Cigar City’s beers were deliciously unique, but it was personally exciting to try a new beer for the first time at a beer dinner. Beer and food are made for each other; there truly is no more perfect communion of sensorial visceral delights. Let us explain:
First Course: A spring green salad topped with applewood smoked bacon, caramelized onion, poached egg & chives, and served with a broken bacon honey beer mustard paired with the Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale.
Chef Anthony has paired salad with beer before, but hands down this is my new favorite beer + salad pairing. Let’s start with the broken bacon honey beer mustard which Chef Anthony needs to bottle so we can have it at home to use as often as possible. The salty savory sweet spicy caramelized goodness of the mustard and caramelized onions balanced the crisp bitter crunch of the spring greens and when you took a sip of the Maduro – seamless. Chef Anthony’s poached eggs had just the right amount of firmness when bitten into while its soft yolk melted in the mouth. The already delicious Maduro Oatmeal Brown Ale soared to new heights with this pairing. The brown ales smooth mouthfeel and caramelized malts were in step with the caramelized onions, broken bacon honey mustard, and poached egg while the beer’s nutty earthiness found companionship in the nutty spring greens. With this pairing, Chef Anthony proved that a salad can be so much more than just a salad.
Second Course: Smoked Salmon Nicoise served alongside crisp green beans, al dente boiled red potatoes, bright cherry tomatoes, sweet cucumber, and a caper deviled egg paired with the Invasion Pale Ale.
I have a particular soft spot for deviled eggs and I quite like capers and within this simple unassuming pairing I found unexpected flavor fusion harmony – the creaminess of the deviled egg and the creaminess of the beer, the briny spicy bite of the caper and the spicy bite of the pale ale. A bite of the deviled egg and capers followed by a sip of Invasion Pale Ale, followed by another bite of the deviled egg and capers and my tastebuds were smiling. Alas, my deviled egg didn’t last long but two generous slices of delicately smoked salmon awaited my eager tastebuds. The salmon was smoky and savory while the sweet cherry tomatoes and cucumber walked hand in hand with the sweet undercurrent of malt in the Invasion Pale Ale.
Third Course: Mussels & Frites starring Prince Edward Mussels steamed in a broth of Florida Cracker along with temple oranges, coriander, fresh thyme and garlic served along with hand cut frites drizzled with white truffle oil and paired with the Florida Cracker Belgian Style White Ale.
Fourth Course: Tobacco Wood Plank Pork Shank smoked on cedar planks with tobacco leaves and served with smoked Gouda infused mashed red potatoes and finished with a cognac Demi-glace paired with Humidor India Pale Ale.
First off we were served to Flintstone sized pork shanks which, after the previous three courses, was quite intimidating to our full bellies. But! Persevere I shall and persevere I did as two pork shanks fell off the bone and proceeded to make sweet love to my tastebuds. The spicy cedar notes in the Humidor India Pale Ale perfectly complemented the cedar notes in the pork shank while the beers crisp body and vibrant carbonation carried me from bite to bite.
Fifth Course: Ginger Snap Carrot Cake served rustic style and topped with a ginger beer infused cream cheese icing, ginger snap crumble, and a sprig of fresh mint paired with the Pacific Jade Saison.
After ogling the giant pork shanks before us, many of my tablemates were worried that they didn’t have enough room for dessert. But as the perfectly proportioned bite-size Ginger Snap Carrot Cake came out, previous thoughts of To-Go boxes were abandoned for one last moment of burgundian indulgence. I took my time with each fantastic bite of ginger and carrot harmony in-between savoring the spicy sip of the Pacific Jade Saison while her floral esters mingled with the fresh mint aromatics.
The rustic style ginger carrot cake was the perfect way to end an evening of slow indulgence, if I do say so myself. Chef Anthony is no stranger to craft beer dinners, and he has pretty much mastered the flow of courses to allow for rest and digestion but not so much as to bore the awaiting audience. It really is a show and Phil Palmisano and Chef Anthony were wonderful hosts. Phil is always quick with the jokes and full of fun Cigar City Brewery facts and insider tidbits. Chef Anthony infuses his boundless energy into everyone lucky to attend one of his beer dinners. As hard as it always is to pick a favorite or favorites of the evening, I would have to list in order of preference the Spring Green Salad, Tobacco Wood Plank Pork Shank, and Ginger Snap Carrot Cake. These three courses were in my humble opinion the full package with exquisite visual aesthetics, synergy and contrast, ingenuity and originality.
With my plate cleared and the last few sips of the Pacific Jade Saison’s savored, it was time to head home. Who knows when B. Merry Gastro Pub’s next beer dinner adventure will be, but rest assured we will be there. Until then, Slainte.
(An original written work by Beer Ambassador, LLC. Plagiarism is not tolerated.)