The Matchmakers Series: C&S Seafood and Abita
When the state of Louisiana is mentioned, I’d bet thoughts of food pop up in an overwhelming majority of minds. But what about beer? Well, Rich Clark, co-owner of the consistently classy (and delicious) C&S Seafood and Oyster Bar in north Atlanta, Ga., decided to marry his delectable “Cajun Land” cuisine with numerous beers from the award-winning, Louisiana-based Abita Brewery, which has been brewing top-notch craft brews since 1986.
Beer pairing is certainly a burgeoning fad in the world of gastronomy, so Rich and his C&S staff took the palate-pleasing trend to new dimensions by paying homage to the Bayou. The result? There wasn’t an empty seat – and for good reason. The pairing featured everything from Blackened Trout Pontchartrain to housemade bread pudding smothered in spirit-lifting bourbon sauce served warm with a half-dozen Abita brews, including the hoppy Jockamo IPA, the benevolent Restoration Pale Ale (where proceeds were donated to Katrina relief) and the somewhat sweet yet potent Andygator Helles Doppelbock.
“I went to my first beer dinner two years ago and had a blast,” Rich said, regarding his newfound love for pairing beer and cuisine. “I had always kind of turned my nose up at [dinner pairings]. The food and the beers were fantastic and most importantly, the guests had a great time. Beer dinners are much more casual than wine dinners and the guests are more comfortable and loose. Also, with the economy being what it is today, I feel that you can offer beer dinners at a more approachable cost without sacrificing quality.”
And for $45 a seat compared to some beer dinners exceeding $100, Rich is a man of his word. He summed up the festive gathering by saying, “Abita goes hand- in- hand with seafood, and with New Orleans being on everyone’s mind, it was a no-brainer.” To truly give us a sense of what he planned for the evening, Rich took it a step further and commented on each pairing he served the dinner guests, who left glowing with an aura of pure satisfaction.
Here’s a rundown of the night’s pairings, with notes on each:
Seafood Gumbo paired with Abita Jockamo India Pale Ale (6.5% ABV): The spice of the gumbo and the hoppiness of the Jockamo IPA were perfect compliments to each other.
Oysters “3 Ways” (andouille and Tabasco; Rockefeller; and broiled with garlic) with Abita Amber Ale (4.5%): This was a tough one! The oysters were Rockefeller, Tabasco-andouille, and broiled with garlic. These were three different flavors so I chose the most neutral beer, that being the Amber Ale.
Blackened Trout Pontchartrain, shrimp, crab and dirty rice paired with Abita Restoration Pale Ale (5%): I could have used Jockamo again because the hoppiness and the spices go very well together. However, there is a lot going on with the Pontchartrain dish, i.e. blackened spices, trout, dirty rice with chicken livers, shrimp, crab and cream. It is heavy so I didn't want a heavy beer. The Restoration is the lightest Pale Ale I've ever had. It isn't a rich, heavy beer; it is light and easy to drink.
Veal Sardu, creamed spinach and artichokes, paired with Abita Andygator Helles Doppelbock (8%): The Sardu is rich and creamy with the creamed spinach and Hollandaise sauce. I chose a complementing comparison. The Andygator is a Helles Doppelbock and it is heavy and malty with an alcohol content of 8%. It worked!
Bread Pudding with bourbon sauce paired with the Turbodog Dark Brown Ale: Turbodog is a heavy, dark brown ale with a lot of chocolate undertones. It makes the perfect beer for dessert. It was the perfect conclusion to the C&S beer dinner.”
In the end, the servings were plentiful, the food was delicious and the variety of beers from the great brewery of Abita made every course a new experience. Lucky for us, Rich plans on doing beer dinners throughout the year. In fact, his latest demonstration of brew love on April 15th was called the “Tax Relief” beer dinner to celebrate the end of the grueling annual process. C&S featured Warsteiner Classic Pilsner and König Weissbier from Germany (the latter was a table favorite!); Belgium’s crisp Duvel Green which is making its way to all the leading pubs around the Southeast; the traditional Guinness Stout; and a return to Abita with their refreshing Strawberry Harvest Lager! Slivers of Black Bass, steamed Littleneck Clams, poached organic Salmon, grilled Hanger Steak and “Frozen Wild Strawberry Soufflé” completed the extensive list of courses.
Rich’s dinners fill every seat so make sure to inquire about future beer and food pairings at C&S. You will surely appreciate the personal feel of one of Georgia’s finest seafood restaurants that strives to educate their guests on the all the complementary characteristics of ales and lagers.
-- by Ale Sharpton
Follow Ale Sharpton on Twitter @ www.twitter.com/alesharpton.