Melissa Monosoff is a Master Sommelier who moved to Dallas in January to become the Director of Wine and Education for Pioneer Beverage Company. She is the 17th woman in the world to gain MS status. Before coming to Dallas, Melissa created the largest wine list in Pennsylvania, and was a multi-year recipient of Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence, both at Savona Restaurant in Philadelphia. Her presence in Dallas brings our female Master Sommelier population up to two: Barbara Werley, of Pappas Bros. is also a MS. Only San Francisco has more: three. And we are tied at two with Southgate, Michigan. For those of you scoring at home, Texas now has seven Master Sommeliers. (Wine sabermetricians will enjoy this site.)
James Tidwell, the MS at the Four Season’s Resort and Spa and co-founder of TexSom, knows Melissa. “She has a palate that is scary sensitive and accurate; much better than mine,” Tidwell says. “In short, she’s a badass.”
Which is why I am pleased to announce that Melissa and James have teamed up to write together. I hope to make them the new “Dottie and John,” the duo who, for 12 years, wrote a tasting column for the Wall Street Journal. Their first column is a review of the recent Victory Brewing Company dinner at the Meddlesome Moth.
Bill Covaleski, co-founder of Victory Brewing Company, was in town on Monday evening to host a beer dinner at Meddlesome Moth. Bill was a homebrewer who went on to complete beer studies at the Doemens Institute in Munich. Despite his vast technical knowledge, Bill relays information in a way that even non-hopheads can understand and he is entertaining in front of a group. He has grown Victory to become a leader of the craft brewing movement, and a staple of the Pennsylvania brewing culture. Pennsylvania native and the Moth’s new executive chef Nick Amoriello provided the food pairings. Based on this dinner, we have to say Amoriello is a talent to watch for food and beer pairings. His grasp of flavors and textures between the food and beer was remarkable.
We started the evening with a welcome beer, Helios Farmhouse Ale, a refreshing Belgian ale with a hoppy-earthy back bone and a fun hint of lemony brett sourness that kept things interesting.
The first course matched Braumeister Harvest Czech Pils, a beer that is normally only on tap at the brewery, with a hoagie-style chopped salad. What seemed a minor ingredient became the star of this pairing. An abundance of oregano accentuated the floral and herbal character of this 100% Tettnang hopped beer. The quenching crispness played well with red wine vinegar dressing, and the salumi and cheeses tamed the hoppy bitterness perfectly! This pairing was a revelation to James, who admitted he could not think of a wine that could surpass the beer with this pairing. It was a Philly Hoagie in a salad, after all.
Scarlet Fire Rauchbier was matched with what Bill called “pig in a blender”: scrapple. Again, the main item was upstaged in the pairing. While the scrapple was delicious (not at all the dreaded dish of legend), James was impressed that the smoked apple butter was the ingredient that brought out the light smokiness of the beer. Rauchbier is a traditional style of Bamberg, Germany, where the malts are smoked or fire roasted giving the beer a smoky, roasted, almost meaty flavor. Many can be extremely smoky and pungent. For Scarlet Fire, Victory uses beechwood to smoke their malts. Melissa enjoyed that it was a more restrained version and “super drinkable”; the smoky aromas on the nose translated into a soft caramel malty character on the palate.
The third course was V-12 Belgian Strong Ale with Philadelphia Pepper Pot, a traditional stew from the Caribbean that migrated to Philadelphia. Instead of a stew, Chef Amoriello deconstructed the dish to fried tripe, grilled flank steak, pepper purée, and fried onion. Melissa remarked that the implicit sweetness of the beer’s higher alcohol (over 12% abv) and the richness of the heavily malted barley toned down the spice of the pepper purée.
The final course of the evening was a soft pretzel with banana pudding, Nutella, and salted peanuts. Victory’s second most popular beer, Golden Monkey Tripel, was paired with dessert. Golden Monkey is one of their most popular beers for a reason. It has a tasty dried fruit sweetness backed up with good hop presence. It is deceivingly potent, ringing in at 9.5%. A couple of those will definitely take you to a Happy Monkey place. The rich sweetness of the beer lends itself easily to dessert especially those with bananas…pun totally intended.
The final beer of the night was Storm King, a Russian Imperial Stout easily found in the Dallas area. When you see the word imperial you know it will be strong and usually high octane. This beer is true to the style; a warming full-bodied stout with roasted coffee, toffee, and chocolate flavors that would have been perfect with the dessert as well!
Victory beers are well worth seeking. The brews are available in Whole Foods and various liquor stores in Dallas. If you are in Philadelphia, visit the brewery where you can dine at the popular family-style restaurant on site. And, watch for the next beer dinner at Meddlesome Moth. Melissa and James plan to attend more of Chef Amoriello’s exceptional pairings. Or we might go back to wine. We just roll at the drop of a hat.