Last week, Adam and I were invited to an experimental event Stella Artois hosted in Philadelphia. Liberate Your Senses was a complete body experience – in three courses with 5 kinds of beer.
We walked into the Paris ballroom at the Sofitel Philadelphia to a gorgeous spread and the sights and sounds of Belgium on every wall. The idea behind Liberate Your Senses is first bout beer (yes!). Engaging every sense, the event took us throughout Belgium to see the breweries and meet local food artisans. Through sight, sound, taste, touch, and even smell you felt transported.
Most people would think that when preparing a meal or putting together a dinner party you pick a wine to accompany it. Sommolier Marc Stroobant along with the Sofitel’s executive chef M. Jim Coleman created a meal based around – and using – different beers in Stella’s Belgium line to prove that beer was just as tasty of a pairing with the right foods.
You could tell just how passionate Marc was about beer.
The first course was my favorite. I love shrimp and zucchini, and the creamy cheeses paired really nicely with a fresh Hoegarden. I’m also a huge wheat beer drinker, so I might have been a little biased!
The second course was a creamy bed of mussels with a crisp Stella Artois. This is where things got exciting: I had never eaten a mussel before. Ever.
I’m a picky seafood eater, but I just couldn’t say no to try these mussels. I mean they were steamed in beer. Adam was in heaven, and I thought they were pretty good. Alright, I wouldn’t eat a whole plate, but I ate TWO. That is one past my “try anything once” rule. So yes, I’m going to be proud of myself.
Next we sampled two types of desserts to go with Leffe’s Blonde and Brune beers. The Blonde was not quite the same as a typical blonde ale, it was a little more bitter. And the Brune was not heavy at all, but rather tasty. Leffe beers are one of the oldest in the world. They have been brewed for 9 centuries using the same recipe. Unfortunately the monks lost their brewery in WWII, so Stella Artois brews it for them. If you want to try the magnums that the Father Abbot keeps, you have to be invited by him. Personally. Hey, I’m good at making friends!
Both of these desserts were delicious and went really well with the Leffe beers. I am embarrassed to admit I did not finish that cheesecake. I was so stuffed with beer that I just didn’t want to push it. The espresso creme brulee was good with a bitter European chocolate.
Chef told us about creating these masterpieces and mentioned that in the kitchen they used the left over creme to create ice cream. Beer creme brulee ice cream. And you didn’t bring any to share?!
I love listening to people talk about their true passions, and Chef was so excited about our meal that it made you want to eat it even more than you already did. If that was even possible.
We were really lucky and sat with empty chairs near us, so Marc came and chatted with us during each course. It was really such a great experience and felt so intimate getting to speak with him.
We also got to try Stella’s new Cidre cider. It’s nice and crisp with a touch of dryness that American ciders just don’t have. I actually tried this in the Hamptons when we picked up a pack for giggles and discovered how yummy it was. I finished that glass. The others I sadly had to leave on the table. You try drinking 5 beers and eating all that food in an hour and a half!
As a token we got inscribed Stella Artois glasses. The food was plenty, but this was such a sweet surprise!
We caught up for another beer (I know) at the Sofitel’s bar and chatted more with Marc. He really made us want to go and visit Belgium.
We really had such a great time. And we actually learned something! Now all I need to do is convince Chef to give me that beer creme brulee ice cream recipe.
If you’re looking for something to drink this weekend, try one of these beers and let me know what you think! Happy Friday friends!