Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stone Beer Pairing Dinner at Sammy's Woodfired Pizza and Grill

It was only a few years ago that I started getting into beer, and I'm still not one for IPAs. Still, I know that Stone beers are supposed to be great. Not long ago, Sammy's Woodfired Pizza and Grill in El Segundo sent out a dinner invitation, paired with Stone beers. I figured I would probably enjoy IPAs much better when it's paired with proper food, especially when the promised food included lobster mac and cheese.

Sammy's Woodfired Pizza has many locations in California (and some in Nevada), but the newest El Segundo location is the first one that also has a grill. This makes it the best location, since it has awesome, inexpensive grilled lamb chops! More on that later.

Our dinner started with the Ahi Poki [sic] with Chukka, soy sauce, green onion, sesame oil ($11)

Ahi Poke
It's a pretty nice poke dominated by the flavors of the sesame oil (no complaint). I like the unusually puffy wonton crisp.

Lobster Mac and Cheese with Tillamook® cheddar cheese ($9), made with real lobster chunks, and lobster bisque as a base.
Lobster Mac n Cheese
Real lobster chunks for a hot, cheesy, $9 bowl? Yep, and it's a good sized bowl, too! The added lobster bisque made for a nice flavor base, as well.

Joining us for dinner was Stone's sales rep for the LA region who explained to us the reasoning behind each pairing.
Stone Cali Belgique
The above two dishes were paired with Stone Cali-Belgique IPA, 6.9% ABV. This was a beer made using Stone IPA as a starter and Belgian yeast. It was not too bitter and well balanced. It brings out the spiciness of the poke. For the mac and cheese, the hops and the cheese balance each other nicely and the dry finish cuts the richness. As far as IPAs go, I can easily drink this even without food.

For the next beer pairing we had the salad and pizza:
Balsamic Grilled Chicken Mixed greens, walnuts, gorgonzola, Balsamic Basil dressing ($10)

Sammy's offers different types of crust. The one we had that night was the Artisan Thin Crust Pizzas ("Freshly baked crispy French-style dough"). We had the Brie Cheese and Truffle Oil  w/ sautéed wild mushrooms pizza ($12)
Brie Pizza
Instead of the truffle oil, I would've liked it better if they had put more (many more) mushrooms on the pie. As it was, I mainly tasted the brie - which kind of worked for me but not entirely. The thin crust is also rather cracker-like giving it the overall impression of eating melted brie on crackers. I would like to try their other crusts someday.

These two were paired with the Stone Ruination Double IPA. This has 50% more malt than their standard IPA and double the hops. He chose this pairing to pair with the pungency of the truffle and the citrus from the balsamic vinegar in the salad. Both the food pairing and the malt takes away some of the bitterness.
Ruination IPA

Our main course:
Grilled Lamb Chops Marinated in fresh organic herbs, with roasted fingerling potatoes, green beans sautéed with mushroom and roasted garlic ($18)
Lamb Chops
$18 for four pieces of lamb chops? That's a pretty good deal. The lamb was cooked just right, too, medium rare and tender. Definitely a winner. If this place was closer to me, it would be my neighborhood go-to spot for these lamb chops.

This dish was paired with what is perhaps Stone's most famous beer: the Arrogant Bastard.
Arrogant Bastard
Co founder Steve Wagner was trying to make the Stone Pale Ale but had forgotten to scale the recipe to the new brewing system they had which was half the size. He decided to finish brewing it anyway (supposedly named it after what he thought the other co-founder was *Arrogant bastard* *cough*). Little did they expect, the beer sold out immediately.

The logic behind the pairing was to pair the caramelized sugar that's in both the beer and the meat. Again, it worked well for me as I normally cannot drink too much of this beer.

We ended with two desserts, both paired with the Stone Self Righteous Ale, including their popular Messy Sundae® made with  Vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce,
walnuts, whipped cream ($8.50)
Messy Sundae

I don't know if I manage to capture the size of it, but it's huge. It's a big glass filled to the brim with ice cream and chocolate/caramel sauces that drip all the way down to the plate. Remember when you were kids and your mouth and fingers were covered in ice cream and chocolate from eating sundae? (come on, I know you've done it). Just like that.

For a less messy dessert, opt for the Salted Butterscotch Pudding
with orange whipped cream ($ 7.50)
This Sammy's location seems to do pretty good business, and I can see why. The ambiance is pretty nice yet the prices are quite reasonable.
I need to try the different pizza crusts they have here to decide whether or not I like the pizza, but if you live nearby, you should certainly try their lobster mac and cheese and grilled lamb chops! Naturally, they serve Stone beers as well as beers from other breweries here.

Sammy's Woodfired Pizza and Grill
780-B South Sepulveda
El Segundo, CA 90245
Sammy's Woodfired Pizza and Grill on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: this meal was hosted


Nosh Gnostic

Stone's beers are all far to out of balance with their over-the-top hop program. I can't imagine pairing their beers with anything other than a piece of burnt pine wood.
I noticed that you really had very liitle good to say about them either.


I'm not much for IPAs in general, Stone or no Stone, so I'm not one to judge (though I liked their Cali Belgique).

I did think the pairings at this dinner worked quite well though. The creamy lobster mac and cheese worked well to counter the hops.

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