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Food. Booze and Moo…

…Grass fed in particular, is seemingly to be the hot topic that circulates around the table this evening at the Beer Tasting Dinner at MUMU Grill, a preview event organised by owner and head chef Craig Macindoe, who is also an avid slow food advocate. After a few tweets away, Craig able to round up an eclectic group of food lovers including a handful of food bloggers to join him for the dinner in his new private dining room, with a massive custom-built woodfired oven as the main feature, which naturally can or will become the perfect heater for the chilly winter nights.

It is all about beer tonight. Self-claimed Beer Snobs, co-host Dan Hampton is going to take us on a wide ride in the luscious liquid gold, pairing with few signature dishes specially designed by Craig for this event. I am always in awe when I get to meet people that are so passionate about on what they are doing, Dan and Craig are two good examples. Dan is also the owner of Barzura in Coogee, his love for beer is obvious and his job is to introduce and encourage Australian drinkers to appreciate quality, one boutique beer at a time.

When I arrived at MUMU, the party has already started outside the restaurant. First we are introduced to the Hefeweizen, by Moo Brew in Tasmania served in champagne glass because of its crisp and bubbly characteristics. Craig has also prepared some beautiful grass fed Angus Pure beef tartare on cruets to accompany the beer. After a quick meet-and-greet with everyone while slowly warming up to some sweet beer, we proceed to the private dining room and ready to start our own AA session – ‘Appreciation Anonymous‘ that is.

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Tasting the 18-month aged Jamon Serrano at Mumu is always a highlight. I’ll be happily devouring all the velvety smooth cured pork shaves on its own, but tonight we are having it with some soft fresh house-made herb bread, served with some huge home-grown Ox heart tomatoes by Craig’s fresh produce supplier. The starter is paired with Murray’s Pilsner, with a sweet sensation of honey.

Dan advises us that we actually only get to taste 10% of the flavour of the beer by drinking it straight from the bottle. By pouring beer into glass, that way it releases even more flavour and we will be able to taste different ingredients that had been used in the process, especially in boutique beer. Most importantly, we are taught to remember the three important “C” words – Colour. Clarity. Carbonation. There are definitely a lot of swirling, sniffling and sipping, holding the glass of amber liquid against the light showing appreciation like a fine wine. Beer snobs are in the making.

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Next beer is a stout. Clarity? Zero. The Marston’s Oyster Stout is the only imported beer we will be tasting tonight, and naturally paired with our next course which is fresh Pacific oysters and Sydney Rock oysters. We all tend to agree that the Sydney rock oysters are creamier whereas the Pacific is more briney.

The oyster stout is just as creamy and bold, I also detected a hint of Vegemite aftertaste which is pleasant surprise and works really well with the fresh oysters.

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After some platter tasting, we move on to some heavy meat dishes, call it mains if you like. First up is the slow-cooked pork shoulder in beer served with bacon lardons, baked cannelini beans and deep-fried tempura battered sage leaves. The pork shoulder is so tender and succulent after being cooked for 11 hours in beer. Somehow I find the soft bacon and baked beans are moreish and comforting, beautifully soaked up all the beer juice.

Oyster stout for oysters; then slow-cooked pork shoulder will have to go with Pigs Fly Pale Ale. Tasted just like an apple sauce in a bottle.

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Then it’s the beef. Craig definitely knows his cows from the inside and will only uses grass-fed beef in his restaurant. Craig also advises us that not all Angus beef are the top quality beef as they are not grass-fed, but grain-fed stocks. A grass-fed Angus pure stock is hard to come by, but we are very lucky tonight and able to taste some of the Angus Pure T-bone cooked in Tagliata style.

The 1.2kg T-bone has been cooked to a juicy medium-rare in Taligata style, beautifully infused with garlic and rosemary. It is served with duck fat potatoes, something that you simply have to try it if you haven’t already. For the beef, we are pairing it with Knappstein Lager. It is a manly combination which I think most men will find themselves enjoying this, so as the lady who is sitting next to us claimed that it tasted like sex.

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I actually would prefer this next dish to be served before all the heavy meaty dishes. With an Asian fusion influence, we are presented with an unusual combination of braised cuttlefish and chorizo salad with shredded red cabbage and micro greens. I love the layers of texture in this dish and the seared chorizo is creeping on me with a subtle heat kick on the tongue while the cuttlefish is simply bounce off the teeth.

The dish is cleverly paired with Red Emperor Amber Ale, an aromatic fruity beer where the flavour of lychee is unmistakeably distinctive. I actually quite enjoy this clean refreshing beer with some spicy food.

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You might think it is crazy to have dessert with beer, but not when the beer tasted like chocolate?! Craig has fed us well and concluded the dinner with a sour cherry chocolate tart and hazelnut sorbet, magically paired with a Dark Ale that tasted like bitter chocolate by Moo Crew. The chocolate tart is so rich and soft like a mousse, with the occasional soury zing from the sour cherries hidden beneath, it is so good that we even hijacked the last two pieces from the other end of the table.

The Beer Tasting Dinner is informative, interesting and most importantly, I got to taste 7 different types of boutique beers that I’ve never even heard of and loving it. Would you like to be a beer snob? The Beer Tasting Dinner is $85 7-courses meal paired with 7 different handcrafted boutique beers. It it set to commence in March 2010, keep an eye on the MUMU website or blog for more event details.

[A Table For Two was invited to the Beer Tasting Dinner as a guest of MUMU head chef and owner Craig Macindoe.]

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MUMU Grill
70 Alexander Street, Crows Nest, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9460 6877

Business hours: Open 7 days
Lunch 12pm-3pm
Dinner 6pm-11pm

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