Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Friday, February 26, 2016

Guest Blog: Dan Schneider of The Stirling Hotel

I've already written extensively about the gem of a pub up in Stirling, NJ called the Stirling Hotel. Deceptive in its small front facade, but big "out back" and very big inside when it comes to beer and food, this place is a craft beer and good food lover's dream. Dan Schneider is the manager of the place, and last month he hosted the first ever beer dinner at the hotel, a Colorado Beer and Game Dinner. It was so wildly successful, he decided to do another in less than a month, a risky move in most venues.
But not here. That's because "Hoss" Schneider follows a simple principle: If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail. At a Schneider beer dinner, therefore, there is no chance of failure, at least with things over which the hotel has control. Food prep and presentation, beer pairings, service and decor are all meticulously planned. 

Inclement weather, for example, would not be one of those "planned for" things. Or tornados. Neither are previously scheduled responsibilities  for those, like me, who would have loved to attend, but could not.

So the day after the dinner, I (as the millennials would say) "hit up" Dan for a summary of the dinner. Always a gentleman, and ever-dedicated to the cause of good beer and good food, he provided the account below.
If you, like me, couldn't make this event, you, like me, will wish you could have. Here's Dan's account:

We hosted about 40 people for our New England Craft Beer Dinner. The theme was not only New England craft beer, but the dishes were all playful renditions inspired by classic New England cuisine.

The heated tent was tastefully decorated by Meghan Bury in a nautical theme, with buckets and seashells adorning each table. Among the forty guests I'd estimate that only five or so were repeats from the first dinner. (Apparently, word gets out.)

Brewery reps in attendance included John Kleinchester (Two Roads Brewery), Pat Fondiller & Joe Garcia (Smuttynose Brewing Co), and JJ Fitzgerald & Seth Osten (Hunterdon Distributors).  Each was kind enough to take part once again, giving us background info about their respective breweries and expert descriptions of the beers.

Cape Cod Oyster with Cucumber Rice
Our welcome cocktail, crafted by our resident mixologist Danny Moeri, consisted of Barr Hill Gin with honey-horseradish simple syrup, cucumber water, and fresh lemon paired with a Cape Cod Oyster with cucumber ice & horseradish foam. (I never even heard of horseradish foam!)

First Course was a play on the lobster roll, with toasted brioche, brown-butter poached lobster, scallion aioli, and frisee. It was a huge hit paired with Maine Beer Co.'s Peeper, an American pale ale, light bodied with bright citrus notes and hints of lemon.

Lobster roll
Second Course was inspired by Boston baked beans. Chefs Ryan Chatfield & Brandon Campney made their own pork sausage, accompanied by a white bean puree and a smoked molasses sauce. Allagash Saison, with its spicy Belgian yeast character and dry finish served as a counterpoint to the house-made sausage and creamy bean puree.

House made pork sausage 

Third Course was Ryan & Brandon's take on New England Clam Chowder. Seared Halibut rested atop potatoes & celery root in a silky clam veloute with bacon lardons and herb oil. 
( Veloute? Lardons? Who knows these things?)

John Kleinchester from Two Roads gave a little background about the Connecticut brewery and explained that the tart wheat beer Geyser Gose was a collaborative effort with Evil Twin that utilized ingredients of Icelandic origin, including moss, herbs, sea kelp, skyr, and birch smoked sea salt. Together, the dish and the beer had a beautiful interplay of briny flavors reminiscent of New England's rich nautical history.
Seared Halibut atop Potatoes and Celery Root

Thanksgiving dinner was our inspiration for the Fourth Course. Smoked Duck Breast was served with cranberry glaze, apple-walnut bread pudding, and parsnip puree. Instead of beer, we opted to go with Downeast Cider House Maple Blend from Massachusetts. This unfiltered cider, fermented with ale yeast and brewed with a hint of maple syrup and roasted pecans, was a great accompaniment to a wonderfully prepared dish. The fruity and nutty aspects of both the dish and the cider worked together in a way that brought each to another level. (Cider? At a beer dinner? with a main course? Talk about pushing the envelope...)

Smoked Duck Breast--paired with cider!
Our good friends at Smuttynose were kind enough to provide us with the only keg in New Jersey of their marvelous dessert beer, Rocky Road Stout. Pat shared a few words about the brewery, which after more than twenty years in the business is continually expanding and currently working on becoming a certified "green" brewery. (I'm already green...with envy.)

Fluffernutter Whoopee Pie
The beer is brewed with Marshmallow Fluff (a New England creation, who knew?) as well as cacao nibs and is then aged on amaretto soaked oak chips. Once we procured a beer with Fluff in it, we knew that Fluffernutter whoopie pies were the only way to go for dessert. They served as a light-hearted end to what we hope was another great food and beer experience for our guests. We want to thank our chefs, management team, and most importantly, all who attended for making our New England Craft Beer Dinner such a memorable night.

Brewery reps hoist a glass to The Stirling Hotel
Photo credit: Pat Fondiller
 Man, this guy has skills! He not only manages, he can write! In the interests of full disclosure, Dan (via John Baldassarre except for the one at left) provided all the pictures as well. And those pictures were superbly shot, making The PubScout wish he had altered his schedule to attend. (Did you see that Duck?) The Stirling Hotel leaves no detail to chance as the picture below of a typical table setting will attest.
Photo credit John Baldassarre

In any event, Schneider and company will take some time off before presenting another beer dinner, and if Winter's expected early exit occurs, the next one could take place in the outdoor Biergarten. As soon as "Hoss" sends me the date, I'll share it with you.

We'll need to clear our schedules.

The PubScout

1 comment:

Rosa Agency Moderator said...

I was there, and as always, the "hotel" did a great job, with perfect pairings and offerings that are rarely seen in New Jersey.