By Sylvie Bigar
The original Oktoberfest in Munich closed its doors for 2006, but for many beer lovers around the city, it’s always time to drink beer with a meal.
Kelly Taylor, the director of brewing operations for The Heartland Brewery, offers a beer dinner each month at the Chophouse location on West 43rd Street. He works with Rich Pietromonaco, the executive chef, to create a seasonal menu. This month Taylor has brewed a special Oktoberfest Lager to pair with an appetizer of grilled sausages.
“The beer is made German style with a malty, caramelized nutty taste,” Taylor said. “The finish is crisp and clean to complement the taste of the meat.” Stuffed pork loin with mushrooms and leeks is the featured entrée, paired with a Red Rooster Ale. The beer is fruity, full and smooth, giving the dish a creamy sensation. Taylor also recommends an Oatmeal Stout, with hints of espresso and mocha, to stand up to the sweetness of a Black Forest cake at the end of the meal.
At the new East Side Belgian bistro, B. Café, on East 75th Street, co-owner and Belgian expat Skel Islamaj knows about pairing beer and food. “In Belgium, we drink beer with our meals all year long,” he said. “Beer is deeply rooted in our cuisine, so much so that many dishes are cooked with beer.” Islamaj recommends the carbonade flamande, an earthy beef stew made with brown beer and left to simmer for hours. With it, he often serves Chimay, an authentic local beer brewed under the supervision of the Trappist monks. With mussels and fries, a Belgian specialty, he often pairs Grimbergen Blonde or Stella Artois to combine lighter brews with the intensity of shellfish.
A wine sommelier turned beer expert, Aviram Turgeman rules at Café d’Alsace, a brasserie on Second Avenue with more than 100 beers on the menu. Turgeman combines foie gras terrine with fleur de sel and Sauternes gelée, with the EKU 28, Doppelbock.
“It speaks of aromatic ripe tangerine and vanilla and has a sweet fruity taste on the finish,” Turgeman said. To accompany the traditional Alsatian choucroute, he prefers a draft beer, the Hacker-Pschorr Dunkel Weisse from Germany, for its hints of nutmeg, pear and bananas. With another typical Alsatian dish, the baeckoffe—a stew made with oxtail, lamb shoulder and pork belly—Turgeman recommends the Ayinger Jahrhundert, Munich Helles Lager. It has a sharp, clean taste to cut through the textures of the meat. Feel like apple for dessert? How about a thin crust apple tart served with homemade vanilla ice cream and a glass of Pomme Lambic flavored with apple. It brings out an elegant effervescent tingle, reminiscent of a sophisticated apple cider.
Rolf’s on Third Avenue and 22nd Street, in business since 1968, is known for authentic German fare, great beer and a profusion of Christmas lights. Owner Bob Maisano favors the Hofbrau Oktoberfest, a dark heavy brew, with the roasted suckling pig or the beef goulash,. He matches a wheat-based Hofbrau Weissbeer served with lemon, with a wiener schnitzel also served with lemon. If you crave your Mutter’s sauerbraten —a red wine or vinegar marinated pot roast—Maisano recommends Dortmunder, a pale malty lager.
After 26 years as a chef it was time for James Yacyshyn to find the bar. The beverage director for the Alicart Group (Carmine’s, Virgil’s, Artie’s and Gabriela’s), now proposes some unusual pairings at Virgil’s, a favorite haunt for authentic BBQ. With the Savannah salad, Yacyshyn chooses an Abita Amber from New Orleans for its caramel flavor and vanilla finish. It complements the salad’s mount of mesclun, blue cheese, caramelized toasted pecans, red onions and lardoons. For a slightly more indulgent dish, try hush puppies and a tap beer named Circus Boy from the Magic Hat Brewery in Vermont. Virgil’s is known for its ribs, so combine the Memphis Pork Ribs rolled in a dry rub of garlic, onions, paprika and Texas chili, with a Duvel from Belgium. It’s a nicely balance, golden beer and will allow for a side of Memphis barbecue beans.
If you still have room for dessert, try the banana pudding with a glass of JW Dundee’s Honey Brown, a rich chocolate toffee flavored beer.
Where To Eat for Oktoberfest:
Heartland Brewery & Chophouse
127 W. 43rd St.
New York, NY 10036
240 E. 75th St.
New York, NY 10021
1695 Second Ave.
New York, NY 10128
281 Third Ave.
New York, NY 10010
152 W. 44th St.
New York, NY 10036