Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Brooklyn Beer Experiment

The First Annual Brooklyn Beer Experiment, which was organized by cook-off masters Nick and Theo, was held this past Sunday at the gorgeous Bell House in, of course, Brooklyn. And, of course, I was one of the participants.

There were two contests, home brewing and a cook-off. Since I know absolutely nothing about brewing beer (I’m only good at drinking it), I decided to conjure up a sweet treat infused with beer. Before I delve into that, let me give you my little recap. (Theo’s recap is here, followed by a list of those on other blogs.)

With sore arms (from rolling out an absurd amount of pastry dough the day before), my friend N and I trekked over to The Bell House via the trusty F train carrying 400+ mini tarts and everything I needed to make my station look fab. Keep in mind I was wearing a silk dress and it was over 80 degrees outside and you will quickly realize that this was a bad idea. Thankfully we (and the tarts) made it there in one piece, albeit a few minutes late.

When we got there, almost all the competitors were there, and there were 27 of us in total. That’s not including the home brew entries, of which I believe there were 10, but don’t quote me on that..

Shortly after we got our station set up, the crowds poured in. There was already a line of people outside when I arrived at 12:15, so I can’t even imagine how much longer it was at 1 pm. Unfortunately, the throngs of people meant that I wasn’t able to leave my station, so I didn’t get to sample anyone else’s creations or beers (although I did steal a cherry beer tart from my friend Juliana, who also spent her weekend in the kitchen rolling out pastry dough – perhaps this is one of the reasons we’re friends – we like to torture ourselves). Since I didn’t sample anything, you’ll have to check out one of the other blogs for the scoop on what other people made.

So what was my entry? I had a few ideas (which I’ll get into in my next post), but I finally settled on something that was inspired by my blueberry-loving fiancĂ©: ultra blueberry ricotta tarts. How are they ultra? Check out the components:

• Lemon and wheat beer pastry crust (Sixpoint Eight Days O’ Wheat)
• Baked blueberries
• Blueberry honey-sweetened fresh ricotta
• Glaze of blueberry honey and blonde ale wort (Sixpoint Sweet Action)
• Shard of blueberry paper

That’s a whole lotta blueberry going on there. Blueberry honey, by the way, has no blueberries in it, but is rather the honey from bees that have fed exclusively on the pollen of blueberry bushes. And wort, for those of you who are not beer aficionados, is the liquid to which the yeast is added to make beer. So it’s basically a tea of barley, malt, and hops. It was provided to me by the awesome and very kind Shane of Sixpoint Craft Ales.

Around 1:45, I saw a familiar face walking by. OK, not really familiar, more like a famous face. It was Johnny Iuzzini, the badass pastry chef at Jean-Georges. So of course I proceeded to hyperventilate. I mean, this is one of my favorite pastry chefs, so therefore I spazzed out.. Johnny Iuzzini was going to eat my measly tartlet? Breathe, Roopa, breathe. I served him a tart, and his comment (after some thoughtful chewing, during which I was freaking out internally), was “Great. Tasty.” Better than no comment, or, worse, “That sucks” so I was happy with it. He came back to all the dessert tables for seconds, at which point he inquired about the blueberry paper; I told him what it was and that, unfortunately, it had gotten soggy because it was sitting on the tart for too long. He gave me a look that said “You shouldn’t have put it on so long ago, dumbass” and I felt like just that – a dumbass. And then he walked away. Way to go, me!

Shortly thereafter, I presented my tarts to the judges, who seemed to like them, which made me feel better after the whole JI debacle (really not a debacle, I just inflated in my head to be one).

Many hours later, the votes were tallied and the contestants were called on stage. No prizes for me, either from the judges or the voting public, but none of the desserts won, so that made us all feel better, I think. (Why are people dessert haters?)

But who needs a prize? I had a ton of fun. Would I want to bake 400 mini tarts again? Probably not, but, knowing me, I totally will for the next cook-off that Nick and Theo dream up.


N said...

Having tried this tart, I can say it's one of the best tarts I've ever had. The blueberry and ricotta work very well together, and it's fruity without being sweet. Everything balances really well, and the blueberry paper adds a nice touch.

Hungry Bear said...

Is that my friend Domo I see on the table?

M^2 said...

I really can't wait to try one of these. Nice presentation and table layout by the way.

malini said...

You didn't let me taste this :(

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