Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gueuze, Shellfish, and Other Perfect Marriages.

Raw mussels.

That's what lambicmeister Frank Boon said when I asked what food he liked best with his gueuze. This was after a tour of his brewery in January, arranged thanks to Andy Niel at Bier-Mania tours. Until then I didn't know mussels could be eaten raw, like oysters. Indeed they can.

Lacking the gumption to try raw mussels at home, the notion camped in the back of my mind. It sounded like something best left to professionals. Later I learned that you can find such professionals running a top-notch raw bar at Belga Queen in Brussels. And what do you know? They also serve Boon lambics.

So that's where the Missus took me for my birthday, back before our summer vacation. We didn't confine ourselves to mussels, ordering a heaping platter of various mollusks and crustaceans. We took our sweet time about it too, cracking them open one-by-one and washing them down with bottles of Boon Mariage Parfait. The beer's name was apt for many reasons.

An aside: The climate in the Brussels region is mild thanks to the air sweeping over from the Atlantic. This is the case even in winter, when lambic brewers chill their wort under the open breeze to collect the wild yeasts that ferment the beer. Local legend holds that the Senne River makes it all possible.

Nonsense. I think it's the ocean, only because I can taste it when lambic and seafood come together. Something about a tart, funky gueuze brings out the best in those squishy critters, and vice versa. White wine can't even touch that marriage.

But whatever you do, don't take my word for it.

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