Dishes 'kissed by the smoker' and by the beer, too

HAPPY EATER

September 07, 1994|By ROB KASPER

It was a night of smoke and fine suds. Beer and barbecue were served up at Hampton's restaurant in Harbor Court, normally a restaurant devoted to fine wines and delicate sauces.

Holly Forbes put the event together both as a way of announcing to area eaters that she had become the executive chef at Harbor Court Hotel, and as a way of using the big, new smoker she and her husband had hauled back to Baltimore after a recent trip to Texas.

Each dish of the feast, the chef said, "had been kissed by the smoker."

When I arrived at the hotel, folks were in the appetizer phase of the evening. They were standing in a second floor gallery, sipping a raspberry-flavored Belgian wheat beer, Lindemans Framboise Lambic, eating smoked mussels and staring through the windows down at the first floor courtyard. Sitting in the courtyard were a shiny, white limousine and the dark smoker. I thought everybody was looking at the smoker, the source of our supper.

But everybody was gazing at the limo, the carriage of Frank Sinatra. The singer was about to get in and ride to his scheduled performance at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia. I have never been fond of waiting around to see a celebrity. But if you have to do it, sipping Lindeman Framboise Lambic will make the time go much faster. It was fruit-flavored without being too sweet. It went very well with the smoked seafood appetizers. I had two glasses of it before Frank finally made it to the limo. I can report that the top of his head looked good.

We sat down in the dining room for soup and more Belgian beer. The soup, a gazpacho made from barbecued yellow tomatoes and with grilled vegetables and chipotle cream floating in it, was quite good and quite fiery. The beer Saison Dupont Farmhouse Ale from Belgium, was almost overpowered.

The next course featured homemade sausages and homemade beer. The sausages -- boar, antelope and emu -- were made by the Harbor Court kitchen chefs and covered with a smoked pecan vinaigrette. Emu is a bird similar to an ostrich. A waiter told me that. He also told me the way to distinguish emu sausage from boar and antelope sausage. Emu sausage, he said, was darker than antelope or boar sausage.

The beer served with these sausages, DeGroen's Marzen, was a malty lager made at the Baltimore Brewing Company. Theo DeGroen, the proprietor of the brewery, told the assembled diners that the brew was an Octoberfest beer that Germans traditionally rolled out of storage in March. Marzen, means March.

Another local brewer, Hugh Sisson, introduced his brew, an India Pale Ale. It accompanied the leg of lamb roasted over mesquite wood and covered with a sauce made from San Francisco's Anchor Steam beer. Glasses of the Anchor Steam were served along with Sisson's India Pale Ale.

India Pale Ale was first made years ago, Sisson said, when the British presided over India. Unhappily, the British discovered that their usual ale couldn't survive the voyage from England to India. So they began making a version of the beer that could survive the passage. The result is an ale still around today, with a high amount of hops, called India Pale Ale.

The final course was a blast of color. First the beer, New Amsterdam's Black and Tan from Utica, N.Y., was a blend of the dark stout and pale amber. The dessert consisted of a basket fashioned from dark chocolate and filled with sorbet made of the Belgian Lambic beer. There were also multi-colored berries covered with sugar. The basket and the berries sat on plates decorated with sugar arranged in red-and-white squares so the plate resembled a red-and-white checkered table cloth.

I went home smelling of smoke, with the taste of beer on my tongue and with sugar sprinkled on my clothes.

Before I left, Sisson and DeGroen told me about the next sudsy feed, the Mid-Atlantic Beer and Food Festival Sept. 17 and 18 in Washington at the Capitol City Brewing Company at 1100 New York Ave. N.W.

Sisson and DeGroen said they will be among the 12 micro-breweries from Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia which will bring some 35 brews to the street festival. The beers -- including about a half dozen brewed for the festival -- will be sold in small cups from noon to 6 p.m. Proceeds of the event benefit the Mid-Atlantic Association of Small Brewers and the Anacostia Watershed Society.

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