Thursday, July 31, 2014

Belgian Dinner and Beer Tasting at Brickell's Bistro BE

Last night, my wife and I attended a private party to celebrate the recent opening of Bistro BE in Brickell (Miami). The restaurant has only been opened a week and is touting itself as "100% Belgian". Everything in the place is Belgian: from the owners to the chef to the menu to the Manneken Pis Peeing Boy painting above the kitchen. And most importantly, for me, the killer extensive beer list!

Our dinner was not just an opportunity to sample the restaurant's food. Oh, NO! This was organized by Digest Miami and SFL on Tap as a five-course dinner and beer tasting showcasing the beers in the Stella Artois portfolio. And to ramp that awesomeness up even more, they had Master Beer Sommelier Marc Stroobandt fly in from Europe in the morning to give a presentation during the evening.

Of course, just about the time I needed to drive and make my way to the restaurant, there was a massive and extensive rain storm. But that did NOT prevent me from keeping my perfect "on-time" streak alive. And you know what happens when you arrive on time in Miami? Well, yeah, sometimes you're pissed off because your idiot friends are so inconsiderate. But sometimes you're rewarded. Like when you walk into the restaurant, are greeted by Stella and Digest Miami All-Stars, and Marc grabs you a beer and gives you a personal tour of the restaurant. Followed by one-on-one beer chat time! Take that, Miami! Show up early next time.

There was plenty of time to take a bunch of pictures, including some of my favorites with the Stella models. Rollie Fingers was tending bar (knowledgeable, attentive cool guy with a handlebar mustache) and decided the order I was drinking in. Well, at least until I asked to break into the two Delirium beers on tap which weren't part of the Stella line. And I got to meet a bunch of new people.

As a good crowd started to arrive, some cheeses and bread and condiments were served. And that's when Marc started showing us some "magic tricks" with the different beers and food. He is well-known as a food and beer pairing expert, and demonstrated how beer and cheese and some of the spicy condiments compliment each other perfectly.

We then sat for dinner and the Stella Cidre started flowing! We sat at the "media" table which was cool. I finally met Daniella Veras who is also a contributor at And Paula Echevarria from Tasting Table and Digest Miami Editor Anita Roman were on the other side of my wife. And Eddy Leal from Anheuser-Busch was next to me at the adjoining table. Fun bunch!

Photo Op with Daniella Veras and Digest Miami President Jason Inasi (he said he like this website!)
Marc was awesome the whole evening, telling us about the food and history and Belgian traditions, and of course the beer. After he told us about the Stella Cidre hard apple cider and we toasted the recent opening of Bistro BE, he sat down for a minute next to me to chat. He noticed I was drinking the Delirium Tripel. He mentioned that he is a "Commander in the Order of the Pink Elephant," which earned him another sash and medal. That's about as far as the conversation went--something about secret society with secret rituals that can't be divulged. LOL.

OK. The Menu! After snacking on "Belgium's favorite drinking food" of curry sausage with raw onions, we were served a really nice salad that included Roquefort cheese and red apples. We were still drinking the Stella Cidre, which Marc compared to an additional dressing for the food. Between each course, Marc went table to table and continued his presentation.

The next course was my wife's favorite. Mussels with ginger and shallots cooked and served with Hoegaarden Witbier. And we learned how to properly eat them--first one with a fork and the rest using the shell of the first as a grabbing tool! We also had our first pouring demonstration and lesson.

Marc Stroobandt and Chef Gerald
Chef Gerald introduced himself to everyone as he delivered the next course of veal meatballs served in a tomato sauce and with Stella Artois. And another, yet different, pouring lesson. Marc was giving a strategy lesson! That may have been when he made the NASCAR joke which I thought was really funny but left Eddy chuckling that they sponsor those events too--was harmless enough.

After I ran to feed the meter, I returned to my favorite dish of the night. Beef stew served with Belgian fries and served with Leffe Brune. It's either Leff-A or Leff-uh, depending on the part of the country you are from. Regardless, we said "Cheers" by learning a Belgian expression that means the same thing. Everyone did the "I drink to your face" ritual with a few people, swapping glasses to each others' cheeks. And Leffe Brune is really a nice beer--nice coffee and toffee and chocolate flavors, extremely creamy and smooth, with zero harshness or bitter roast.

Many hours later, we were still being served food. Our dessert was a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream. We continued our conversations. As Marc personalized my menu, I asked him about some of the beers being made in the US, particularly the Belgian-inspired ones made by such breweries as Ommegang. And he admitted that the craft beer revolution in the US has certainly inspired the Belgian brewers to get innovative. They can no longer rest on only their current beers and history.

Nice menu, great beers, terrific company. I totally see why Marc is able to make a living flying around the world giving presentations and drinking beer while he's doing it. He told me that more people need to talk about beer, so I hope you enjoy this recap and pictures. And definitely look for Marc because it was a dynamic, educational, interesting and fun night!

Thanks to Bistro BE, Chef Gerald, and his very attentive staff. Thanks to Digest Miami for the invite. Special thanks to the Stella girls :) . And superb job, Marc! I did leave my umbrella there by mistake (Bistro BE, you keep it. Someone else will need it some day).

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