By Lindsey Peterson
When I received an email a few weeks ago containing an invite to a night celebrating Prosciutto di Parma and Local Craft Beer, my first thought was “where do I sign up?” Picture me as the rabbit chasing a carrot. Or a pig in this case. These are two great things that can only be better together. As I dig into the event some, I see some of my favorite local brewers (612 Brew, Indeed, Bent Paddle, Dangerous Man, Fulton, etc.) and some of my favorite restaurants (Barbette, Terzo, Union). Was this event created specifically for me? Of course the line when we showed up told me that I was wrong once again. There was significant demand for this piece of hog heaven outide of the Muse Event Center in the North Loop neighborhood of Minneapolis.
Prosciutto di Parma is an interesting little piece of pork. The production of genuine “Parma Ham” goes back centuries, to the times of the Romans. The Parma region of Italy lies in the heart of Tuscany. There, they air dry these hams and the unique conditions in that part of the country create some of the most flavorful, delicate and intense slices of pork you’ve ever had. The traditional way of making Prosciutto (Prosciutto’ is from the Latin ‘perexsuctum’ meaning ‘dried’) has been passed down for 2,000 years and really hasn’t changed. The actual pigs must be of a certain breed, fed the correct diet and raised in only certain areas of Italy. This is serious business. So serious, that the Consorzio del Prosciutto manages the production and ensures that the quality, tradition and taste remain unchanged.
There has also been no shortage of praise for Minnesota’s Craft Beer scene (at this point it’s a downright Craft Beer Boom) and it’s truly deserved. From all over the Twin Cities to the furthest reaches of Minnesota, brewers are creating some fantastic small batch beers (or in the case of Surly, Summit, Schell’s some very large batches). If you’re a beer fan, this is a golden age. You can literally walk to 4 breweries in NE Minneapolis and sample a dozen or more beers and all you have to do is cross the street. It’s like Oktoberfest all year long.
So armed with a little background, we were ready to tackle an event Thursday night that took two great things and paired them together. Each restaurant was paired with a beer that was meant to compliment their dish. The dish was created using Prosciutto di Parma and from there, the sky’s the limit.
There were four local judges to choose the “King of Parma” plus each attendee could vote for the “People’s Choice”. Our colleague from WCCO TV, Jason DeRusha (@DeRushaeats) joined the fun as emcee of the night!
The pairings consisted of:
Barbette and Chef Sara Master with Boom Island Brewing Company’s Saison
Boneyard and Chef Jason Bush with 612Brew Gateway Park Lager
HauteDish and Chef Landon Schoenefeld with Bauhaus Brew Labs SkyFive Midwest Coast IPA
Porter & Frye and Chef Aaron Uban with Dangerous Man Brewing Company’s Belgian Tripel
Rinata and Chef Erik Weed with Fulton Brewing Company’s Sweet Child of Vine IPA
Union and Chef Stewart Woodman with Bent Paddle Brewing Company’s Venture Pils
Wise Acre Eatery and Chef Beth Fisher with Indeed Brewing Co. Day Tripper Pale Ale
Terzo Vino Bar and Chef Thomas Broder with Indeed Brewing Co. Shenanigans Summer Ale
Also there serving cocktails were two of the Twin Cities’ finest Bartenders, Johnny Michaels of Libertine and Tyler Kleinow of Marvel Bar. They had two beverages to sample using Gin and Vodka from Norseman Distillery. One was Rhubarb-Strawberry mixed with Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and Gin. It was slightly sweet without being overdone but with a wonderful tart finish that you expect with Rhubarb and Strawberry. The second cocktail paired Cantaloupe with Vodka and a Prosciutto stuffed Olive. Both unique and good compliments to the food. We enjoyed the Rhubarb cocktail a little more.
Now, onto the food. And beer!
Prosciutto di Parma-Wrapped Sweetbreads, Fava Bean Tabboulah and Charmoula Sauce
Chef Sarah Master
Boom Island Brewing Company Saison
To start with, we should tell you what “sweetbreads” are because they are neither sweet nor bread. Sweetbreads are in fact the thymus (throat) or the pancreas of a calf. In some cases other organs are used (heart being common). It’s usually soaked in water before being poached in milk then breaded and fried. It has the texture of a very soft bread and a delicate flavor. Yes, to some this is not exactly what you are looking for with dinner. It’s something that you need a slight touch of adventure to eat. If you do, you’ll likely find yourself loving it. I’m a fan of Sweetbread and was excited to try this one!
Barbette and Chef Sarah Master specialize in French cuisine but using Prosciutto takes them on a southerly course to the hills of Tuscany. She succeeds in pairing it with the Sweetbreads as the salty, crispy piece of pork really balanced out the sweetbread, giving it texture and flavor. The Charmoula Sauce on top added another layer of depth (a North African sauce usually using oil, lemon, herbs, cumin and garlic) and the Tabboulah gave a nice contrast with it’s cold “crunch”.
The Saison from local brewer Boom Island was citrusy and almost spicy with ginger flavors. A good compliment to the big flavors of the Prosciutto and Charmoula. A good combo.
Summer Shandy-Infused Compressed Watermelon with BBQ’ed Prosciutto di Parma Crisp
Chef Jason Bush
612 Brew Gateway Park Lager
Boneyard is the new southern BBQ joint located in the space previously occupied by Old Chicago on Hennepin and 28th in Uptown. It’s garnered some rave reviews for Chef Jason Bush’s southern style menu. He impresses with this dish as well which, for me, was the most unique way to use the Prosciutto.
Using 612 Brew’s Gateway Park Lager, he created a Summer Shandy with fresh squeezed lemon juice and lemon-infused vodka. That was used in the Compressed Watermelon (vacuum-compressed). The Watermelon was then paired with the “Prosciutto Crisp”. I used quotes there because that’s what it was called but in no way describes what came out. Somehow, he took the ultra-thin slices of prosciutto and barbecued them. Baked in the oven and tossed with his housemade BBQ sauce, the result he achieved was somewhere between and amazing pulled pork and a slightly soft beef jerky. At least that’s how I described it after my first bite. In fact, I thought it was pulled pork at first, before being informed that was the Prosciutto which kind of blew my mind. Delicious and super creative.
The 612 Brew Gateway Park Lager is a throwback beer, utilizing a beer recipe from a Pre-Prohibition recipe. It’s brewed with ingredients commonly used in this same style beer over a hundred years ago. The beer pays homage to the Gateway District or as it was known back then, Bridge Square, in Minneapolis. After the pop of the dish and the Summer Shandy that was created for it, the beer didn’t quite stand up to the flavors. A good and straight-forward lager on it’s own however.
Prosciutto Wrapped Smoked Pineapple, Aji Amarillo Mayo, Pickled Fresno, Cilantro, Farofa
Chef Landon Schoenefeld
Bauhaus Brewery’s SkyDive Midwest Coast IPA
Perhaps a great match for a place like Hautedish, a pairing of Prosciutto and Beer can certainly be called “comfort food”. Chef Landon Schoenefeld took a different approach however and came up with the recipe you see above. We’ll start with the smoked pineapple which was very different. Sweet and smoky, almost like a BBQ sauce, it was the star of the dish. Aji Amarillo gave it a touch of heat (it’s a Peruvian Pepper that’s similar in flavor to Habanero but more in line with the Jalapeno for heat). I found the Prociutto to be a bit hidden in flavor but overall, the dish was successful.
The beer was from a brand-new brewery in NE called Bauhaus and I came away impressed. I’m a lover of the big, hoppy, west-coast IPA’s and Bauhaus took a Midwestern Hop and created Skydive Midwest Coast IPA. Hoppy and big without the bitter finish, it was as good an IPA as I’ve had. The big flavor also paired nicely with the the Prosciutto-Wrapped Pineapple from HautDish.
Porter & Frye
Crab Cakes with a Roasted Fennel Yukon Hash and Prosciutto Olive Sofrito
Chef Aaron Uban
Dangerous Man Brewing Company Belgian Tripel
Porter & Frye created a terrific little dish with crab cakes and a Yukon potato hash that we loved. Very delicate, the crab cake and potatoes complimented each other perfectly. The salty Prosciutto and Olive Sofrito added a good bite to it and cut through the richness of the cakes. A winner of a dish even if, again, the Prosciutto didn’t have a starring role.
This was the beer of the night for me. Dangerous Man Brewing is known for big flavored beers. Being a Belgian Tripel (which many beer lovers say is the best beer in the world to begin with), it already comes packed with flavor. But with a high-alcohol beer that typically has such sweet maltiness, this beer was extraordinarily balanced. Loved, loved, loved it. This is one to look for.
Bruschetta with Prosciutto di Parma, Spicy Beer Mustard, Arugula, Peaches, House-made Sausage and Tuscan Bread
Chef Erik Weed
Fulton Brewing Company Sweet Child of Vine IPA
When it came time to vote for my favorite, this one got my token. All were outstanding. But this was my winner. I had to admit, I was unfamiliar with Rinata. A little taste of Italy is how they describe their place near 24th and Hennepin in Uptown. What they came up with was intriguing but I wondered how on earth all of it would work together.
Not only did it work but they should consider adding this one to the menu! The first thing that hits you is the sweetness of the peach. It’s quickly replaced by the spicy mustard and the fattiness of the sausage and the salty bite of Prosciutto. The bread was soft while still holding up against the rest of the ingredients. It was a winner all around.
And only adding to it was the fantastic Sweet Child of Vine (cue Axl Rose). A staple in the local beer community the last few years, Sweet Child of Vine is one of the easiest drinking IPA’s you can find and it was a perfect compliment to the dish. All in all, fantastic.
Saffron Corn Pudding Agnolotti, Heirloom Tomato Smoked Jam, Thyme Powder, Crispy Prosciutto
Chef Stewart Woodman
Bent Paddle Brewing Company Venture Pils
I was really looking forward to this one as Stewart Woodman, now with Union, has had such amazing success with Heidi’s Restaurant and the criminally overlooked Birdhouse which lasted a short time in Uptown. Corn Pudding is music to my ears (tastebuds?).
Unfortunately for Stewart and the gang, it seemed they were held back all night by trouble with their on-site kitchen equipment. From what I could see, they couldn’t get the water hot enough to simmer the agnolotti pasta. It led to a long time between servings and probably didn’t give them the chance to compete they deserved.
When finally they had a batch made, it was easy to see why Chef Stewart has had so much success. Delicate is the word to use. The Agnolotti with a lightly flavored saffron corn pudding was almost like a cloud. The tomato jam and thyme powder adding subtle flavor and the crunch of the crispy Prosciutto only making it that much better. Such a shame they struggled like they did. A subtle and good dish.
Bent Paddle Beer out of Duluth has been a real up and comer in the local beer scene. They’re doing some really great beers up on the North Shore. The Venture Pils was no exception. Light, refreshing and a terrific summer Pilsner.
Wise Acre Eatery
Minnesota Sushi – Proscuitto Wrapped Tater Dots with Wise Acre Eatery Rhubarb Ketchup
Chef Beth Fisher
Indeed Day Tripper Pale Ale
Points for creativity in naming here. Minnesota Sushi is fun. The appearance of the Proscuitto-wrapped tater tot did appear somewhat like a sushi roll. Of course that’s where the similarities end!
It was a big hit with many in the crowd. Potato and Prosciutto is certainly a winning combo. The crunchiness of the ham and the crispiness of the fried tot was terrific. I found the two I ate a touch too salty. But all in all very good. The real surprise for me was the Rhubarb Ketchup. That’s a bottle I’d keep in the fridge! You can have the Heinz.
Indeed Day Tripper is another popular beer on the craft beer scene. It’s just a great beer. Citrusy and hoppy without overpowering you, it’s a great easy drinker. Definitely a good match to the powerful flavor-punch of the Prosciutto tots.
Terzo Vino Bar
Prosciutto Mousse with Pineapple Mostarda, Grissini Breadsticks
Chef Thomas Broder
Indeed Shenanigans Summer Ale
Finally we come to Terzo (from the Broders Family) and Chef Thomas Broder’s Prosciutto Mousse. My love for Broders and now Terzo are well earned. I’ve spent my time in both. The dishes they’re creating at Terzo are nothing short of spectacular and if you ever go, get the Prosciutto tasting and a cheese tasting. Mix that in with their amazing basket of bread and your Italian vacation just came to 50th and Penn. It’s outstanding. So, needless to say, expectations had to be high for Terzo.
Not disappointing at all in the creativity department, the mousse was a big hit. Whipped Prosciutto was mixed with a slightly sweet Pineapple Mostarda. You picked it all up with an amazingly good Grissini Breadstick that was thin and almost cracker-like in it’s consistency. You could eat anything with these breadsticks and find yourself happy, no joke. The first few bites were fantastic. But then I found myself really missing the pineapple after that was gone and the mousse was alone. There was something just a little too overpowering about the mousse without the sweet to go with it. I could picture it all on a bruschetta working well since the mix would be better? But this is me nitpicking which is a luxury considering the amazing food talents in the building.
For a beer, they used Indeed Brewing again but went with the Shenanigans Summer Ale, one I was unfamiliar with. Which is too bad because it’s another winner from Indeed. Not a big fan of Summer Ales (generally too sweet or too much citrus/lemon flavor for my taste), this was a great, balanced beer. Light drinking yet still very flavorful, it’s a brew almost any beer drinker would enjoy.
It was up to the judges to pick the “King of Parma” and that was no easy job. Stephanie March of Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine, local food writer and WCCO Radio alum Sue Zelickson, Jeremy Iggers of Twin Cities Media Alliance and Michael Agnew, Author of “Perfect Pint” had the tough gig of choosing the winner.
They chose Terzo’s Prosciutto Mousse with Pineapple Mostarda, Grissini Breadsticks. While not my personal favorite, it’s easy to see why they chose it. Creative and paired with a beautiful beer, Thomas Broder’s creation was worthy of the crown, “King of Parma”.
I mentioned a “People’s Choice” award. Upon entrance we were given a token to drop into a bowl of our favorite. My token went to Rinata and their Prosciutto Bruschetta with Spicy Beer Mustard, Arugula and Peaches. I was blown away by the combination of flavors and the magic that the beer pairing gave to it (props to Fulton for a great, cold, fresh keg of Sweet Child of Vine). I wasn’t alone as Rinata and Chef Erik Weed walked away with the “People’s Choice”!
I doubt you’ll find any of these dishes making the menus of said restaurant anytime soon as these creations were special to the event. But it’s easy to see why their restaurants are popular places! Taking such a unique ingredient, finding 8 great chefs to all come up with something different and then finding a great local beer to pair with it only showcases the immense talent of these men and women have in kitchen.
As we walked out last night, we took a photo of the Minneapolis skyline and shared it on Facebook saying how much we love our city. It’s a city full of great restaurants and chefs, great beers and great people who enjoy sharing these things with friends and neighbors. Glad we could be a part of the fun last night and I hope you’ll take time to visit these places next time you’re looking for a great meal!
View a slideshow of the entire evening here!