This is an article in the Pints and Plates series, bringing you mouthwateringly close to Chicago’s best craft beer food. This time, we met up with Courtney Baldy, head pastry chef at Revolution Brewing. Check out past articles in the series featuring the Owen & Engine Burger and the City Provisions beer and brat special.
We have this problem at Chitown On Tap every time we go to Revolution Brewing. Problem is, we never make it past the Hombre Burger. It’s so damn good and filling, there’s never room for dessert. If you’re faced with the same affliction, here’s our advice: split the damn burger, and double up on dessert.
Are you incredulous that we’re recommending cutting back on your red meat consumption? There’s a damn good reason for it. Two damn good reasons, actually. One: Revolution’s Eugene Porter is the best dessert beer there is. Period. Two: head pastry chef Courtney Baldy. Between her training at the French Pastry School in Chicago, a stint at Three Floyds brewpub, and her recent tenure at Revolution, she has developed a knack for cooking with and for beer. And she says shit like this:
Cooking with beer is a healthy way to exercise my inner drunkard.
- Courtney Baldy, head pastry chef, Revolution Brewing
…and means it.
Eugene Porter is a robust chocolatey dream in a glass. It pours near-black with a persistent, frothy sepia head. The aroma is rich with milk chocolate and a distinctive roasted, nutty character. Up front, the flavor is all baker’s chocolate, followed by a gentle back-and-forth between char, coffee, and caramel, ending slightly sweet. Carbonated with restraint, in deference to the beer’s creamy texture. Smooth and silky like a glass of 2% chocolate milk without the mouth-coating weight. Full-bodied without any alcohol heat, which is a pleasant surprise for a 7% beer. We asked Baldy what she would change about Eugene to make it a better dessert. “Nothing,” she scoffed. “It’s perfect.”
Eugene chocolate cake is layer-upon-layer of beer-laced dessert. The ice cream is made with your typical ingredients-cream, sugar, eggs–but with one important addition: Eugene. The roasty, coffee-like complexity of the ice cream prompted brewer Jim Cibak to ask Baldy if she was sure there were no other additives. Nope, just Eugene. The cake itself is a Eugene-spiked slab of super-rich chocolate goodness. The dish is topped with crumbled chocolate streusel and drizzled with chocolate sauce.
The pecan tart with zucchini bread ice cream is a more delicate affair. The pecan tart is a warm, soft, gooey blend of baked pecans and molasses on a crumbly pastry crust, drizzled with Eugene hot fudge. The ice cream incorporates pureed zucchini, brown sugar, and cinnamon to mimic the flavor profile of zucchini bread. It’s light and has a really bright character from the zucchini. To tie it all together, the ice cream is served on crumbled pecans.
Eugene chocolate cake with Eugene Porter is all about harmonies. The chocolate, coffee, and roasted flavors resonate with every taste. But it goes a step farther: the richness of the cake brings out an effervescence in the beer that doesn’t appear on its own. The light carbonation washes away the richness of the cake, leaving a milky, roasty aftertaste. The next sip of Eugene sends the coffee and chocolate flavors soaring with a more distinctly pronounced bitterness.
The pecan tart with zucchini bread ice cream is all about its contrast with Eugene. The light, fluffy mouthfeel and bright, almost fruity flavor of the ice cream stand out starkly against Eugene’s dark backdrop. The contrasts are even more pronounced with a harmonizing swipe of the Eugene hot fudge. It all comes together with a bite of the pecan tart, pulling out a nuttiness in the beer that was barely perceptible in its aroma apart from this dish. The molasses picks up on the rich caramel notes in the beer and even hints at some vanilla you didn’t realize was there before.
So, are you hungry yet?
Next time you head to Revolution, you can count on some kind of beer-infused ice cream. “I like to put beer in ice cream,” Baldy told us. “It’s the best way to show off the flavor. Other processes can destroy or hide it.”
Currently on the menu: a smokey chocolate custard made with Bandit Smoked Stout served with maple whipped cream and a pecan-candied bacon streusel. Holy smoky goodness. “The streusel is like sweet, baconey crack,” Baldy said.
Baldy has also been tasked with making magic shell–you know, the liquid coating that hardens on contact with ice cream–out of sweet wort. All good things.
Dessert doesn’t have to be all chocolate, all the time. Also check out the Citra hop ice cream. Of course, pair it with a suitable IPA.
Keep an eye out for Revolution’s beer dinners. The next one is a Low Country dinner on January 16 featuring suckling pig and a shrimp boil. In February, Baldy will head up a Valentine’s beer dinner that will exclusively serve desserts.