I just love spring in Chicago! Now that the school semester is finally over and the days are longer and warmer, I want to put all the stress behind me and to enjoy life, as we all should. I want to get out of the house and be gone for hours, to wander the streets downtown in search for the next big culinary discovery, and to enjoy the refreshing beauty of Chicago, the city of my heart. What a great city, what a blessed life 🙂
Of course, no culinary adventure is complete without an appropriate drink pairing – which brings me to the trendiest subject to write about these days: Chicago Craft Beer Week, which started today. A must-do for anyone who loves quality beer and late spring in Chicago, Craft Beer Week is celebrated in hundreds of restaurants across Chicagoland, which mark the occasion by offering quality pints at promotional prices. Gino’s East is one of the Craft Beer Week participating restaurants, and last week I was invited along with other local food bloggers to get a taste of some of their signature beers which are on offer during Craft Beer Week.
After a light beer and fresh soft pretzels “to get things started,” I was offered Mason jar caprese, which was paired with an unusually named beer: Witte Chicks Dig Me. The cherry tomatoes were a bit too tart for my liking – but maybe that was the point, since the mozzarella came in and gently took over where the tartness had left off, providing layer upon layer of wholesome milk deliciousness. Moreover, the fresh basil and the homemade aged balsamic vinaigrette provided robust flavors, which made the caprese whole. As for the beer, it was light and slightly citrusy, and it went really well with the rustic caprese. I must make a special note on the presentation, which was spot on:
No visit to Gino’s East is complete without trying out their pizza, and this beer pairing dinner event made no exception. For the main course, I tried Gino’s pizza al pastor, which was paired with a beer called Pineapple Imposter. This was by far my favorite pairing of the evening: the pastor marinated pork and sauce provided just the right amount of heat, which was counterbalanced by the sweetness of the pineapple in the pizza and the pineapple flavor of the beer. Usually I am not a fan of sweet & savory combinations, but this flavor combo did the trick in my book. I could have definitely eaten and drunk more of this, but I had to exercise restraint 🙂
For dessert, I had chocolate cake which was paired with an Irish-inspired brew called Killarney Connection. Named after the Irish town where Gino’s brewmaster’s family comes from, this award- winning stout exhibited dark confidence and complemented the rich chocolate cake beautifully. It was a fitting ending to a persuasive story – a story about the meaningful marriage between food and drink, about exotic flavor combinations, about celebrating food, beer, and belonging.
The evening I spent at Gino’s East provided me with a fresh perspective on the world of beers. I thought their brews were high quality, and I appreciated the thought process which went behind the food and drink pairings. Now that I know how hard it is to come up with innovative beers, I can appreciate the brewmasters’ hard work even more – especially now, during Chicago Craft Beer Week.
*Disclaimer: I was not financially compensated by Gino’s East for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.