Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Battle of the sexes: Beer in his mug, wine in her glass

Sam Calagione is Beer Guy - a very trim and fit Beer Guy, seeing how he puts the suds away. Marnie Old is Wine Woman - also trim, delivering sonnets about chenin blanc and arias over rosé.

Sam Calagione is Beer Guy - a very trim and fit Beer Guy, seeing how he puts the suds away. Marnie Old is Wine Woman - also trim, delivering sonnets about chenin blanc and arias over rosé.

Calagione owns Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, Del. Old is a Center City sommelier, consultant and director of wine studies at Manhattan's French Culinary Institute.

"Beer is more primal," he says, between sips.

"With wine, it's all about the acidity," she says, expertly swishing her glass at Restaurant XIX atop the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue. "Nothing can compare to its taste and diversity."

It's a Dogfish and pinot show.

Their act, perfected over five years, 20 drink-off dinners, and now the book He Said Beer, She Said Wine (Dorling Kindersley, $25), is pairing wines and beers with specific foods and judging which beloved libation is the winner.

A hard choice, but someone has to make it.

"Once we turned it into a contest, where people scored their choices, a war of the sexes, it just worked," Calagione says.

For the record, there's little war: Both beverage connoisseurs are 38, married to their high school sweethearts, and get along swimmingly.

He Said, She Said, with zippy photographs, recipes and ballots, pairs beer and wine with everything: pot roast, salad, sushi, hoagies, ham, ribs, pecan pie and, yes, a tuna salad sandwich (Neil Ellis Sincerely Sauvignon Blanc or De Ranke XX Bitter, a Belgian golden ale).

Which means their lunches are more lively than most Americans' midday repasts.

Beer Guy and Wine Woman will stage one of their tonier contests in the jeweled XIX Restaurant next Thursday during Philly Beer Week.

Wine Woman realizes she's at a distinct disadvantage as the challenger, pushing grapes in the midst of so much hops. Then again, Beer Guy competed two years ago at the Pittsburgh Wine Festival.

"It was like bringing a knife to a gunfight," Calagione says.

"Everyone has these preconceived misconceptions about what drink goes with what dish," Beer Guy says. "We're trying to make people look at beer and wine differently but in a fun way."

Wine Woman is unafraid to declare that a wine tastes "leathery." Beer Guy fearlessly compares a lambic to a "horse blanket." Their point is to be less of a snob about wine, and more open about good beer.

Tragically, in an era of great handcrafted beer and variety, 90 percent of all global beer is one style, pale lager, and 85 percent of all domestic beer consumption is pale lager from three breweries: Coors, Miller and Anheuser-Busch.

"And America happens to be the best producer of beer in the world. Look at all the great beers we have in our area - Victory, Yards, Sly Fox, Stoudt's. This is a great beer-drinking town."

"We're trying to get people comfortable enough to trust their own palates," Calagione says. And to be adventurous when they sit down to the table.

Beer goes effortlessly with green salad. Asparagus and artichokes, the jewels of the vegetable kingdom, go poorly with both beer and wine.

"Best to go with water," Old shrugs.

No matter how much Old preaches, most people will not sip merlot with hoagies or pizza. And while the English may adore Italy, Newcastle Brown Ale will probably never be served with pasta and Marcella Hazan's four-hour Bolognese sauce.

At a recent meal, a rehearsal for the Beer Week event, J Brut Rosé and Sly Fox Saison proved winners with the Tasmanian ocean trout sashimi. This is unsurprising given that sushi patrons routinely drink beer or sake, though the sparkling wine was a revelation. (And we're not usually fans.)

The smashing roasted butternut squash pierogis with sage and butter worked equally well with the Ken Forrester South African Chenin Blanc and Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, though Old believed the wine, so to speak, kicked butt.

Frankly, we loved both.

We adore Belgian ale, and would gladly keep the industry afloat. But a grand cut of beef, like XIX's delectable 21-day aged rib eye (on the menu at next week's event), cries out for a stunning red, like the Chateau Coupe Roses Minervois La Bastide that Wine Woman selected, not Beer Guy's Chimay Blue, which was rendered too sweet by the entree.

Dessert proved the surprise. A milk-chocolate cream cake with chestnut ice cream was amazing with Dogfish Head's Palo Santo Marron, two years in the making and just delivered to stores last week. Aged in Paraguayan "holy wood" (palo santo), the brew has a caramel complexity that loved the dessert. Old selected a velvety Pedro Ximenez Gran Reserva 1971 sherry that delighted - though we could do without the molasses fragrance - but didn't rock the way the beer did.

Now, a confession: "The truth is that we both drink beer and wine," Beer Guy admits.

Sure enough, they both enjoy a Sly Fox Saison Vos beer before dinner, and Beer Guy is enjoying the J Brut Rosé ever so much.

The inspired devious nature of Beer Guy and Wine Woman's events, book and wisdom is to open consumers' minds and, more important, their mouths to new taste combinations such as beer with cake or brut rosé with sashimi.

The duo argue there is a proper beer or wine for every comestible, even chocolate chip cookies. Old advocates Taylor Fladgate 10-year-old Tawny Porto, while Calagione pushes Brazil's Eisenbahn Lust Bière de Champagne.

Which is nonsense. Everyone knows the ideal companion for chocolate-chip cookies is Laphroaig Islay Malt Whisky, the older, the better.

But that's another story.

Steamed Mussels With Red Sauce (Chef David Ansill, Ansill Restaurant)

Makes 6 servings

EndTextStartText

6 quarts fresh live mussels in the shell or frozen whole shell mussels

For the Red Sauce:

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

6 shallots or 1 medium

onion, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, minced

11/2 cups dry white wine

4 cups (32 ounces) canned tomato puree

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (rinsed, stems removed)

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Salt, to taste

EndTextStartText

1. Rinse the mussels well. If any shells are not tightly closed, tap the shell. Discard any that do not close within one minute. Thaw frozen mussels overnight in refrigerator.

2. Remove any beards or fibers from shells, pulling with a quick tug or cutting with scissors. Frozen mussels will have been cleaned and blanched.

3. In a large pot, melt the butter and saute the shallots until soft and translucent. Add garlic, wine, tomato puree and mussels. Cook, covered, on medium heat. Stir often until all shells open, 10 to 15 minutes. Avoid overcooking.

4. Using a slotted spoon, scoop the mussels into wide, shallow serving bowls.

5. Add the parsley and pepper flakes to the sauce and bring to a boil. Season to taste. Pour sauce over mussels.

Best Bet Beer: Birra Moretti La Rossa

Best Bet Wine: Banfi Centine Toscana Rosso

Per serving: 262 calories, 19 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams sugar, 8 grams fat, 50 milligrams cholesterol, 969 milligrams sodium, 2 grams dietary fiber.

EndText

Angel Hair Pasta Bolognese (Chef Marcel Lavalee, Dogfish Head)

Makes 8 servings

EndTextStartText

For the Bolognese sauce:

2 pounds ground beef

2 ounces (1/2 stick) butter

1 medium carrot, diced fine

1 large white onion, diced

2 celery ribs, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

8 large tomatoes, diced

2 cups tomato juice

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup chopped basil, thyme or oregano, or 3 crumbled bay leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

2 pounds angel hair pasta

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

EndTextStartText

1. In advance, brown the beef in a large saucepan on medium heat. Discard the fat; reserve the meat.

2. In the same pan, melt the butter on high heat. Saute the carrot, onion and celery until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and saute 2 to 3 minutes more.

3. Reduce heat to medium, add the tomatoes. Simmer until tomatoes break down, up to 45 minutes. Stir often.

4. Reduce to low heat. Add the tomato juice, sugar and herbs. Cook slowly for about 6 hours. Stir periodically. Add the reserved beef. Season to taste.

5. Cook the pasta just before serving, bringing water to a full boil in a large stockpot. Add the pasta and stir gently to prevent noodles from sticking. Cook al dente, about 3 minutes, and drain.

6. Divide pasta in serving bowls. Top with sauce and, if desired, grated cheese. Serve at once.

Best Bet Beer: Newcastle Brown Ale

Best Bet Wine: Secco-Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso

Per serving: 732 calories, 33 grams protein, 102 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams sugar, 25 grams fat, 103 milligrams cholesterol, 268 milligrams sodium, 4 grams dietary fiber.

EndText

Chocolate Pecan Upside-Down Cake (Chef Gale Gand, Tru Restaurant, Chicago)

Makes 10 servings

EndTextStartText

For the caramel topping:

6 tablespoons sweet butter, melted, and some for pan

3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

1/4 cup honey

11/4 cups shelled pecans, whole, lightly toasted

For the cake:

11/4 cups cake flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

(preferably Dutch process)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons (1 stick) sweet butter (room temperature)

11/2 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

extract

EndTextStartText

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. For the topping: Thickly butter the sides of a 10-inch round cake pan. Pour the melted butter into the pan and swirl to coat the bottom. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter. Evenly drizzle the honey and add the pecans.

2. For the cake: Sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt together three times to make the cake extra light.

3. Cream the butter in a mixer (using whisk attachment, if possible) until smooth and fluffy. Mix in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Beat until fluffy.

4. With the mixer at low speed, add a third of the flour mixture, then half of the buttermilk, and mix. Add another third of the flour and mix. Mix in the remaining buttermilk and vanilla extract. Mix in remaining flour until smooth.

5. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at 350 until set in the center and springy, 25 to 35 minutes. Let cool a little, then run a serrated knife around the edge of the pan. Turn out the cake, upside down, onto a serving platter.

6. Let stand, inverted, so the caramel can soak into the cake, about 5 minutes. Before it sets fully, score topping with a knife where it will be sliced. Serve warm.

Best Bet Beer: Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

Best Bet Wine: Dow's Late Bottled Vintage Porto

Per serving: 513 calories, 6 grams protein, 62 grams carbohydrates, 48 grams sugar, 29 grams fat, 109 milligrams cholesterol, 297 milligrams sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber.EndText

.