Beer Appetit Challenge begins today

by Christiaan Mader

Local chef challenge puts beer in the ingredient spotlight with proceeds benefiting the American Red Cross.

If you’re unaware that beer is a fantastic braising liquid, then you’re probably not from around here. Deglazing a pan of deer backstrap with an amber lager or stout wakes up the inherent smokiness and depth of game proteins, and reduces into an ace gravy that makes rice a star. So it’s with that in mind that I file the August 18 roll out of the Beer Appetit Challenge under “what took you so long?” The month-long contest, sponsored by Liquid Finder (a mobile app by Schilling Distribution) and EatLafayette, pits chef against chef in a vote-with-your-feet (but mostly your wallet) competition that benefits the American Red Cross. Participating restaurants will feature a dish composed with a Schilling distributed beer and/or paired with that self-same serving of suds. Diners then vote with a one dollar contribution to the American Red Cross, culminating with a ticketed event after the challenge’s end on September 18.

While the contest doesn’t focus specifically on Louisiana craft beers, most of the 10 participating restaurants have opted to do so. Acadiana’s Parish and Bayou Teche brewing companies are prominently featured, the latter’s Biere Noire braising a pork jowl by Jolie’s Louisiana Bistro and pairing with a hamburger steak at Ground Pat’i.

We’re all familiar with beer-battered this and beer-battered that, and the crispy paradox of density and lightness will be on display care of Negro Modelo onion rings at 2 Paul’s Radically Urban BBQ and a Tin Roof Blonde Ale tempura-fried speckled trout at Bon Temps Grill.

Asian culinary acrobatics abound restaurant offerings at Social Southern Table and Jefferson Street Pub. I’m psyched to catch Social’s Canebrake lemongrass coconut curry mussels and frites and the Gnarly Barly hoisin sauce that will top the smoked duck breast on a lotus bun at JSP. Saint Street Inn’s honey-glazed chicken wings, made with Bayou Teche’s LA 31 Cocodrie, makes Eastern gestures as well, at least to my estimation.

Beer has a tendency to add weight and depth to a dish’s flavor profile, one that’s not so obviously beneficial to Asian flavors. Aside from tempura batters, you don’t necessarily associate the yeastiness of beer with the bright and zippy flavors of China and the South Pacific. Given their track record for adventurism, I have no doubt that the libertines at Social, Saint Street Inn, and JSP will deliver on their bold promises of delight.

After all, they say beer built the pyramids and advanced chemistry in Medieval universities. It’s the cause of and solution to all of life’s problems, sayeth Homer (Simpson). What can’t beer do?