The Setting: An elevated culinary experience took place within The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon’s sixth-floor Hospitality Suite in Anaheim.

The Players: Executive Chef Michael Rossi and his team from The Ranch, along with Brewmaster Victor Novak and his Golden Road Brewing crew. 

The Collaboration: Six-course dinner featuring masterful gastronomic creations paired with remarkable beer formulations.

An elevated culinary experience took place within The Ranch Restaurant & Saloon’s sixth-floor Hospitality Suite in Anaheim, as Executive Chef Michael Rossi and his team from The Ranch, along with Brewmaster Victor Novak and his Golden Road Brewing crew, presented a six-course dinner featuring masterful gastronomic creations paired with remarkable beer formulations.

Amuse-bouches

It began with tray-passed bites, an octopus ceviche cocktail and Baja-style fish tacos paired with K-38 Clara, whetting one’s appetite for what would follow. K-38 is one of two Mexican-style lagers brewed at Golden Road Anaheim. Brewed with 2-row malts and toasted flaked rice, it incorporates Bravo, Crystal, and Pacifica hops and is fermented with Modelo yeast. The result: a 4.8% ABV crushable quenching lager imparting a hint of citrus on the finish. 

Once everyone was seated, Chef Rossi gave some welcoming and opening remarks, sharing his excitement with finally getting to work with Victor Novak, a good friend for close to 20 years and a brewer that, in his opinion, makes better beer than anyone. Chef also shared that, while his experience in cooking with beers was limited, he thought that pairing beer with food he loves to prepare (and normally does with wine) would be a fun challenge. His goal was to pull out all the flavors in each beer and match it with the food. 

After introducing Novak, Victor conveyed how very happy and honored he was to be a part of the first-ever beer dinner at The Ranch. He introduced the Golden Road contingent in attendance, which included his wife Sara and his head brewer, Steven Torres. Prior to his current position at Golden Road, Novak was the original Brewmaster at Taps Fish House and Brewery for 15 years, having brewed at the original Dock Street in Philadelphia prior to that. Both a student and mentor of the classic beer styles and all things beer, Novak has been brewing in brewpubs (also doing beer dinners) for 25 years. “Tonight takes it to another level in terms of the cuisine,” Novak remarked as he spoke about the meal to follow. “You are going to see all of these beautiful flavors and aromas come out of the beer and pair with the cuisine…” 

George’s Bank Scallop 

Steven Torres described the accompanying beer for the first sit down course. Lonely Tarts Club Band was described as a Catharina-style guava sour. In part due to their German immigrant roots dating back to colonial times, brewers in the southern Brazilian state of Santa Catarina developed a beer style that has become known as Catharina Sour. These are kettle-soured beers that incorporate local fresh tropical fruits into the mix. They are higher in ABV than the similar, more-traditional Berliner Weiss beers from Germany. For Lonely Tarts, a two-day souring process via the addition of yogurt allows its Lactobacillus culture to sour the mash and produce its tartness. 1.3 pounds of local guava per gallon of beer was then added, resulting in guava fruit aroma and flavor that tended to temper the tartness in the beer. 

In presenting the course, Chef Rossi stated that he sought to complement the beer with other flavors that go really well with guava. The George’s Bank sea scallop, from off the coast of Maine, definitely lived up to its reputation as one of the best scallops in the world: super-fresh, mild, sweet and melt-in-your mouth tender. It was served with a guava aguichile, a sauce made with guava, strawberry juice, cilantro, Serrano chile, a hint of ginger and juice. The top of the scallop was seasoned with a bit of pink peppercorn and strawberry powder. Flavor-filled Harry’s Berry strawberries (which also tempered the tart) also accompanied the dish. 

Baja Bass

Baja Striped Bass steamed in banana leaf with lemongrass, coconut, shrimp and pineapple fried rice was next, attended by Fields of Gold Saison. Brewed in the style of a Northeast French Farmhouse Saison, the brew was dry, spicy and fruity. Food friendly, it complemented the delicate flavors from the bass and its fruit accompaniments.

Muscovy Duck 

Striving for a perfect pairing with the Muscovy duck breast course, Victor changed up the planned beer pairing the night before this event. In Bruges, Belgian-style dark strong ale was originally to be paired. In tasting it and the dish the day before, he felt that Thomas Jefferson Ale would pair much better. This replacement pairing was remarkable. Just a sip of the beer served to pull all of the components together whilst adding an extra depth of flavor. The ale was a very interesting rendition of this old-style ale; concentrated, rich and decadent.

Red Deer 

Chef Rossi informed that the main course was a fun preparation. He felt that the World Beer Cup/GABF medal-winner Get Up off of that Brown (with hazelnut and chocolate hints) would go very well with the cool nuances in the dish, a Red Deer venison chop. The rub for the venison contained a combination of tamarind and tamarind powder, ground with mortar and pestle, espresso and a bit of cocoa. Purees on the plate consisted of caramelized carrot puree and a mole with hazelnut, chocolate, dried fruit, plus about 17 other ingredients. These in-depth constituents combined well with the beer, an English-style brown that was awarded gold at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. Malty, toasty and smooth, it married with the tender mouthwatering venison.

Dessert & Finish

Entitled Irish Car Bomb, a delectable Irish stout spice cake that incorporated Bailey’s Semifreddo and Jameson sabayon was paired with Eye for an Irish, an Irish-style dry stout, light and quenching of the intense flavors incorporated within the dessert.

A couple of big guns were brought out at the end of the meal to accompany petit fours. From the Anaheim Golden Road barrel project, a Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrel-aged (over 2-yrs) Imperial Russian-style stout, at 14% ABV, possessed dark chocolate ganache and fudge that melded with rich bourbon essences. And Kentucky Nightcap, a Kentucky Peerless Rye Whiskey barrel-aged barley-wine, at 12-13% ABV, presented with notes of toffee, caramel raisin and dark fruits, along with some wood tannins and vanilla.

The Chef brought out his kitchen staff at the end of the meal to thank them for their integral part in the night’s amazing meal. He closed with a few words, “…cuisine normally meant for wine, but hopefully you could see how seamlessly really nice beers pair with this incredible cuisine. That was our goal and hopefully we succeeded.” In this reporter’s opinion, success was definitely achieved.