as part of the 2009 philly beer week, the belgian cafe hosted a 4 course vegan dinner, paired with beers from high & mighty beer company. being healthy young people who love beer almost as much as we love vegan food, we called the belgian cafe last week to RSVP and were like "we're so there!" this event, which we'd been psyching ourselves up for for many days, was last night. team VR (including our esteemed friend and long time veeg queen halimah) arrived to the bustling cafe with parched throats and rumbling bellies, ready to be wowed.
not to be total ingrates, but wowed we were not. the beer was pretty solid across the board, though the high & mighty brew master will shelton, who introduced each of his beers throughout the meal, had a weird chip on his shoulder about how "big" (read: high alcohol content) american craft brews are. get this: part of his mission is to make beer with super low alcohol content. yaaaaaawn. i say, if you can sip slowly on only one or two beers and get a decent buzz going, right on! people in my position (low on cash), want awesome tasting beers to be extra boozy because we can only afford a few at a time! anyway, maybe it's just generation gap or something; it doesn't really matter, it just rubbed me the wrong way.
regardless, the beer was miles ahead of the food offerings, but let's take a look course by course:
the drink: beer of the gods, a light, floral beer made with german yeast. it was a nice, drinkable beverage to start with.
the food: white bean and sage dip with pita. a safe standard, but touted robust flavors. the presentation, on the other hand, was on a 5th grade level. who wants to eat off dirty, wilted lettuce?
the drink: novar red, a hoppy sour beer. the brewman said it was an "american twist on a flemish sour." the first whiff was reminiscent of cherries. the first hit of the sip had an almond extract feel, followed by a deep, malty, almost vinegar-y strangeness. i rather enjoyed it but i think my compatriots did not. a direct quote from halimah - "this is what the salad would taste like if it was juiced and turned into beer."
the food: spinach salad with roasted grapes (in my opinion, they were wrinkled but had no roast-y flavor), black olives, and balsamic shallots. this was a really boring salad. maybe i'm just spoiled, but there was nothing fun going on on the plate. presentation wise, it looked like someone had literally flung a handful on the plate and sent it out of the kitchen. it wasn't even worth photographing.
the drink: st. hubbins abbey. this was my favorite beer of the night! it seemed pretty loyal to other dubbels i've had, but had these cool notes of cantelope. i could've drank many, many glasses of this.
the food: indian spiced tomato vegetable soup. this was also my favorite of the night! delicate spiced tomato broth with lots of chickpeas and vegetables, it reminded me of a soup-y version of chana masala. delicious!
the drink: home for the holidays. this was a dark, syrupy ale. i wasn't crazy about it, but rich, ultra malty beers aren't usually my go-to.
the food: tempeh mushroom stew with roasted brussel sprouts over basmatic rice pilaf. this was the biggest disappointment of all. i'd really hoped that the entree would blow it out of the water, but instead, it just blew. i've had better food from lunch carts, and i'm not just being a brat. the tempeh was in tasteless cubes, there was no seasoning on the vegetables. i feel like i might cry a little just thinking about it. i've had some incredible food from the belgian cafe kitchen, but this, my friends, was a resounding C-...and not worth wasting the battery power of my digital camera to document.
a beer float! vegan vanilla ice in two headed beast beer. the beer was super dark chocolate-y and bitter, and a bit hard to stomach after all the other food and beer we'd ingested. but it was good.
and that was it. the plates were cleared, we each pitched in $45, and i think we all felt a little lost. on the one hand, we had a lovely three way friend date, and it was fun being exposed to some new beers. it's so awesome for a restaurant to have a vegan dinner as part of beer week, and i don't want to slam it too hard but on the other hand, the food was not special, or even really that good.
should we have just gotten a PBC mixed case and whipped up an infinitely better 4 course meal at home? i hate to say it, but maybe so.