The traveling celebration of food, drink, art, and culture that is the Brooklyn Brewery Mash came to Chicago last week. Among the series of events was Friday’s slow supper, “an 1893-inspired feast.” This was the year that the World’s Columbia Exposition opened in Chicago. It was the city’s much-publicized rebirth after the Great Fire nearly wiped Chicago off the map only 22 years earlier.
Author Paul Durica and historian Bill Savage, annotators and editors of the highly entertaining republication of 1892’s Chicago By Day and Night: The Pleasure Seeker’s Guide to the Paris of America, hosted the festivities, offering fascinating (and funny) insight into Chicago at the turn of the century. (Did you know that carousels were once a great place to meet women?) They also confirmed that what’s old is new again — local food was consumed (out of necessity), bicycles were an extremely popular leisure activity, and, of course, mustaches were definitely in style. Likewise, pre-Prohibition Chicago offered a wide variety of beers. There may not have been double IPAs, but there was certainly a good selection ales and lagers. (It wasn’t all Pabst, Schlitz, and Hamm’s.)
The evening started with a choice of an ale or lager from Brooklyn Brewery, and a refreshing gin-based cocktail consisting of Letherbee gin, “Local 1” re-fermented ale, lime juice, honey and basil. A brass band got the party hopping, playing the bangers of the day. Durica and Savage welcomed the guests and gave their first reading.
Following that, we were led into the dining room for the feast. Found’s Nicole Pederson and Brooklyn Brewery’s house chef Andrew Gerson prepared a dinner inspired by Midwestern menus of the time. Each of the five courses was paired with a Brooklyn Brewery selection, a couple of which were special releases that are difficult, if not impossible, to get outside of special events such as this. While all of the courses succeeded, the pickled goat sausage with rabbit rillettes and goat terrine was a highlight, even if it veered from the historic dish's original recipe, which called for raccoon meat. Gerson and Pederson wisely opted for goat instead.) And this course’s pairing, the rare Crochet Rouge (a strong ale that’s been aged in Riesling barrels) was exquisite.
Other favorites included the smoked lake trout with crème fraiche and roe (paired with Sorachi Ace) and an aesthetically astute dish of red kuri, delicata and butternut squash served with a poached duck egg and pepitas (paired with Carnegie Porter).
Dessert was a chocolate stout–poached pear and custard, accompanied by another reading. As the night ended, the band played a final number while guests finished the last of the black chocolate stout, readying themselves for the jump back into 21st century Chicago.