Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chef Moe Mathieu, White Birch Catering Dinner Club

Changing Saskatoon’s culinary landscape: education and entertainment

Chef Moe Mathieu is an influential player in Saskatchewan’s developing food culture. As owner and executive chef at The Willow on Wascana, Regina, he promoted local, seasonal food, and he played a key role in opening Beer Bros. Bakery & Cuisine, which focuses on pairing beer and food. He is now the Head Chef Instructor for SIAST’s Journeymen Cooking Program.

But Chef Moe hasn’t stopped there. With the help of his students, he ran a successful pop-up restaurant at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market this past summer, and he has now established White Birch Catering and Dinner Club. At the moment, the dinner club is very informal. Put your name on the email list (moeandree@hotmail.com) and Chef Moe and his wife Reola will keep you informed about upcoming events. If you’re interested and available, you can sign up for individual events.

The first dinner club event was held on Saturday evening at the Forestry Farm House. Approximately 22 of us enjoyed six courses, each of which was paired with a different beer. Two brewmasters were on hand to introduce the beers, and Chef Moe joined us at the start of each course to explain how he had incorporated the beer and its flavours into the dish.

I was super impressed because Chef Moe planned a vegetarian menu just for me, taking care to match the dishes as carefully as possible to the beers and to the meat dishes.

Creative Combinations
My absolute favourites were the first and last courses. The first course was a layered soup – pureed potato chowder with a layer of orange saffron sauce with a trio of small potato dumplings and citrus crackers. The spices matched the coriander seed and orange peel in the Blanche de Chambly beer. I was intrigued by the combination of sweet and salty flavours, and I enjoyed scooping up the different layers, letting the flavours mix in my mouth.

Dessert was a chocolate lover’s delight with both chocolate mousse and chocolate ice cream on top of bread pudding. Chef Moe had incorporated Paddock Wood’s Heartstopper Hot Chocolate Stout, with its notes of chocolate, vanilla, and cayenne pepper, into the ice cream, and the jalapeno jelly on the side was the perfect fruity complement to the deep rich chocolate flavour.

Cooking Lessons
One of the pleasures of fine dining is eating dishes that you would never take the trouble or be able to make at home. But I did pick up some ideas to incorporate into my home cooking:
     - A touch of hot mustard is the perfect complement to a poached egg;
     - Cornbread made with a dark, hoppy, malty beer is delicious;
     - Layer your flavours – you don’t have to blend them; and
     - Mushrooms have so much meaty flavour and texture – use them more often.

Shiny Penny Brewery
Chef Moe had invited two young brewers to introduce each of the six beers served over the course of the evening. Chloe Smith and Cedric Dauchot have recently incorporated Shiny Penny Brewery (great name!) and plan to open a brewpub in Saskatoon with an emphasis on craft beer and beer-themed food.

Chloe is from Saskatchewan and says she has an inventive approach to beer-making and will try adding anything to the brew. Cedric, who has an engineering and brewing degree from a Belgian university, said he is more precise and more inclined to follow a recipe. They met while working at breweries in Montreal.

We tried Red Tractor, which is one of their beers. This is an English special bitter, a dark, strongly-flavoured beer with lots of malt and hops. Chloe explained that Red Tractor is one of four beers that will always be on tap at their brewpub. They’ll also have two rotating, seasonal beers.

You can follow Shiny Penny Brewery on Facebook.

The Beer
My favourite beers were Blanche de Chambly, a Belgian white ale from Unibroue in Quebec and the London Porter and Czech Mate from Saskatoon's own Paddock Wood Brewery. The Blanche de Chambly is light with citrus notes, but not watery. I’m always surprised that I enjoy Porter as it’s such a dark beer, but the sweetness and mellow flavours are really attractive.

We tried Maudite, also from Unibroue, a strong beer with a fascinating legend attached to its name. Hobgoblin is from the Wychwood Brewery in England (the graphics and guerrilla marketing on this site are awesome).

White Birch Catering and Dinner Club
I had a lot of fun as the evening was both entertaining and educational. The dinner club is the perfect setting for groups of friends who enjoy food and drink and light-hearted conversation.

Chef Moe says that future Dinner Club events will include a hors d’oeuvre lesson and tasting as well as a anti-valentine event. White Birch is also available for catering private parties. For more information, contact Moe and Reola Mathieu at moeandree@hotmail.com.

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