Beer: It’s What’s For Dinner
BY Lucy Gellman | NOV 24, 2014 3:02 PM | NEW HAVEN INDEPENDENT
Jason Sobocinski always has a good story up his sleeve. Sometimes, he’ll wax poetic on the unexpected tameness of Fourme d’Ambert, a French blue so mild it’s almost green. Or he’ll describe new beer he’s been working on, like a granola brown ale that integrates several of the same ingredients Chabaso bakery uses in its artisan spent grain bread.
Or you might hear about one of the Carolina-style pig roasts he throws for his son’s birthday each year—which led him to name his new brewing company after the Black Hog variety of pig.
Sobocinski (pictured) added another tale to his repertoire the other night, calling for a toast among the rising hum and clink of good conversation at Atticus Bookstore and Cafe on Chapel Street.
The subject this time? Atticus’ Black Hog Beer Dinner, which may go down as a historic New Haven partnership in the making.
“All of a sudden, I got a call [from Atticus], and they were like ‘Hey! We need some beer! … we serve beer!’” the self-proclaimed Big Cheese said. “And I was like: ‘Yeah! That’s a great idea!’”
“Ben [Gaffney, head chef and manager at Atticus] and I started talking, and we decided to do a dinner. One afternoon, I came here with a bunch of bottles of beer. We sat, we drank some beer, and we wrote down a ton of notes, and then … well Ben is an amazing chef, and I’m really honored to be here. Thank you for joining us.”
“The event is all about having fun with food and beer,” added Gaffney.
Subsidized by Chabaso’s Charles “Charlie” Negaro, who owns Atticus and has a long-term love affairwith bread, the meal last Thursday night paired five of Black Hog’s beers with appetizers by Caseus and four gourmet courses designed by Gaffney. While attendees had come largely for the menu, paying $50 for a meal that included braised oxtail (CT Love Bomb Wet Hopped Ale), bacon-wrapped lamb neck (Rosemary Dunkelweizen), and Ginger Root Pie (Ginga’ Ninja Red IPA), each plate was also served with heaping portions of community building, culinary partnerships, and lots of bubbly laughter.
“This is an adventure in lots of ways. And if we don’t do these kind of things, if we don’t embark on adventures, if we don’t try … then we’re just going to end up kind of with the status quo, which is frankly boring. It’s not gonna lead us the way we need to go,” said Bill Dennett (pictured above), cutting into homemade boudin sausage as he spoke.
Which points to the core of the event: collaboration at what Sobocinski calls “a local landmark,” a restaurant he grew up attending and is proud to partner with.
The gustatory adventure didn’t stop there, though. New Havener-via-Haiti Daphnee Nicolas (pictured above with Matt Feshler) was sold on the oxtail before walking through Atticus’ front door. She pointed to the dinner as a celebration of the Elm City’s culinary diversity.
“This whole menu brings me back to a Caribbean aspect. This is something I would like to eat every day. And this community aspect too…. We’re all sharing in the same meal. We’re all strangers bound by the same food and drink. And the food is really good.”
Friends Michelle Novacek and Iris Balodis, deep in conversation as they cut their lamb, agreed. “For me, it’s been about tasting different foods. It’s not something that you make on your own, this is not something you would go out to any other restaurant and actually order … it’s kind of a niche food with different flavors and different textures that you usually wouldn’t find,” said Novacek.
“It’s not something I would whip up at home … but it all sounds really good, and it’s thoughtful and well prepared. And the bread is really, really good. I would like to take a loaf home with me,” Balodis added.
Amanda Begley made it even simpler. “Anything to support local businesses and local products,” she said as her husband Niall (pictured below) dove into a heap of baked apple marscapone atop his pastry crust.
“Thank you guys so much. This was awesome,” Sobocinski said at the end of the evening, motioning to three post-dinner pitchers of beer out on the counter. “If you want to do this again sometime, clap.”
He didn’t need to add anything further. The applause, a mix of whoops, hollers, and stomping feet, could be heard out onto Chapel Street and beyond.
And he’lll drink to that.