Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Perfect Pair: Crabs and Beer

By: Laurie Wallin
Capital Cooking Contributor

Summer brings sunshine, warm temperatures, and beloved traditions enjoyed during this carefree, lively season.

Wildfire Restaurant, in Tysons Corner, VA, celebrated the summer tradition of crabs and beer by hosting John Shields, author, TV show host, Chef, restaurateur, and to many known as “The Culinary Ambassador of the Chesapeake Bay” on Wednesday, July 30 for their Crab and Oskar Blues Brewery Beer Dinner, featuring three different crab dishes and one dessert, all paired with beers from Oskar Blues Brewery in North Carolina. John brought his passion and expertise of sustainable seafood and the Chesapeake Bay and led a lively evening educating guests on how to properly crack, disassemble, and eat a Chesapeake Bay Blue crab as well as informing attendees about current trends and information about the Chesapeake Bay.

The evening began with a beach theme, and guests started with a can of Oskar Blues Mama’s Little Yella Pils and a lesson on how to properly disassemble and crack and Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab. These crabs were fresh, sweet, and delicious. John also taught us how to properly identify a male crab and female crab (on the bottom, male crabs feature the “Washington Monument” while female crabs feature “a little apron”). John recommends seeking out male crabs when possible – they are heavier, and for conservation, it’s best to keep the females in the water so they can reproduce. It was a fun and messy way to start the dinner – luckily, Wildfire was prepared and provided bibs and plenty of wet towels! 


John was an excellent host, providing guests with a lot of information about his background and the Chesapeake Bay. He grew up in the Baltimore area and his Great Uncle ran the Tilghman Island seafood packing company, which really fostered his love for seafood and the Chesapeake Bay where it was abundant and local. He started cooking at Cape Cod and then moved to California; realizing soon after that he wanted to return to his roots, he moved back to Baltimore and opened Gertrude’s, a restaurant named after his grandmother and located in the Baltimore Museum of Art. He’s authored several cookbooks (the next scheduled for release in 2015) and is the host of “Coastal Cooking with John Sheilds” that airs on PBS. In John’s opinion, ‘Chesapeake Bay Cooking’ is the best that there is from the bay, treating it very simply and letting the flavors shine through. Cheers to that!

Once we were through with the Blue Crabs, it was time for the dining room to be transformed. Servers quickly whisked away the beach theme, dressing the tables with white tablecloths and place settings and pouring the next beer – the Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale – into a glass. After settling back into our seats, we were treated to the next course, which was the Crab Stuffed Manicotti with ricotta, backfill crab meat, and a four-cheese blend. Being a pasta lover, this was my favorite dish of the night. The sweet crab provided a nice balance for the sharper cheeses and the Pale Ale provided a hoppy balance to the rich dish.

The next course was a Grilled “Oscar Style” Filet Mignon topped with lump crab meat, asparagus, and béarnaise sauce paired with an Oskar Blues Gubna Imperial IPA. I’m not generally a big fan of IPAs, but the hoppiness of this one again, balanced the richness of the steak and crab, which was prepared beautifully. 

The evening ended on a sweet note, with a Blueberry Tart with fresh local blueberries and cream cheese filling, paired with an Oskar Blues Old Chub Scottish Strong Ale. Although I was stuffed, I just couldn’t stop eating this tart. The fresh, juicy blueberries were absolutely delicious and paired nicely with the flaky tart crust. The beer added a nice, rich balance to the sweet dessert. There’s no doubt that Chefs Edwin Amaya and Eddie Ishaq pulled out all the stops for this dinner!

An evening that’s informative and delicious – what more could you ask for? For more information about John, please visit www.johnshields.com. For more information on Wildfire Restaurant, please visit www.wildfirerestaurant.com

Wildfire - Tysons Galleria on Urbanspoon

No comments: