The beer dinners that Joe Apa stages at Rudyard's Pub the last Thursday of every month have been around for a few years, in fact, the one held last night was the 69th one, or at least so he can recall. So why is it that Google was of no help when trying to get more information about what was in store for the evening?
The only few things mentioned about it were the dates for some past dinners and the word "epic." And "epic" just isn't a word you can throw around. What is known is that the neighborhood bar is a favorite amongst locals and the food is some of the best pub grub in the city thanks to Apa. That knowledge and the mystery behind it made it all the more intriguing walking into Rudyard's.
Upstairs at Rudyard's you'll normally find the second bar, the pool tables, and the stage, during the beer dinners Apa sets up his prep area on one of the pool tables and the tables are draped with tablecloths, silverware and fancily folded napkins, but nothing can mask the divey, homey feel, the faint cigarette smell and the graffiti walls of the bathroom. This is all a very good thing by the way -- it's informal and open and just like being at a dinner party with 39 of your closest friends.The dinners are generally five courses for $45 and features a different brewery. The brewery that night was Sixpoint out of Brooklyn.
The first course was a German potato salad with lentils, pickles, and pickled pearl onions. Sixpoint's Apollo Hefeweizen went well with the pickled elements. The next course was a late summer corn soup. The soup had an earthy element and a beautiful, light yellow color thanks to the saffron. A dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of summer basil finished it off, but the kicker was the slice of spicy candied bacon that garnished the top of the soup, adding spice and sweetness all at once. Sixpoint's Sweet Action is a light ale with a creamy finish that went perfectly with the texture and flavors of the soup. The next beer was a lager appropriately named The Crisp, as it has a very clean finish. This is one beer you can keep on hand for a backyard BBQ, and Apa paired this with a grilled chicken sandwich, but not just any sandwich, one flavored with paprika and wasabi mustard and avocado and on Slow Dough pretzel bun.
The main event was the eight-hour habanero smoked pork loin, served with a habanero, garlic aioli coleslaw. The flavors punch you in the mouth, the initial heat from the habanero hits you first, and then the sweetness of the slaw, the savoriness of the garlic, and the smokiness of the pork triple team you. You're left with a lingering heat that burns so good. Sixpoint's Righteous Ale complemented this perfectly. The full body and bitterness of the Rye IPA cooled down all the strong flavors of the dish, cleaning out your palate with a slight sweetness. Dessert was a ricotta cheesecake with a salted caramel sauce and a gingersnap crust partnered with Sixpoint's Bengali malty IPA.
As it turns out, there really isn't any mystery about Joe Apa's beer dinner. It's about eating great food, discovering new favorite craft beers and seeing old favorites in a new light.