Because they largely serve a captive audience, suburban hotel restaurants get away with all manner of sins – unimaginative menus, dated cocktail programs, absurd prices. That’s exactly what I was expecting when I first visited CHOPPS, a steakhouse in the Burlington Marriott, in 2015.
Instead I was surprised by the restaurant’s elegantly presented dishes and evolving cocktail program, with its emphasis on bourbon.
CHOPPS continues to defy expectations with a monthly beer dinner that features seasonal dishes paired with craft beers from a New England brewery. The series got under way last Thursday with Somerville Brewing Company, best known as the makers of Slumbrew beer.
Keeping it Local
The evening served as an opportunity to learn about CHOPPS’s proclivity for working with local vendors. The restaurant team explained that many hotel guests are looking for a taste of Boston when they visit.
So CHOPPS sources nearly all of its food from New England farms and vendors, and dedicates all of its tap lines to regional brewers. (Don’t worry – they offer other beers in bottles and cans, so you can still get your stupid-ass Bud Light if that’s what you so desire.)
The beer dinner serves as a showcase for that concept. Executive chef Stefano Zimei prepared a series of seasonal dishes intended to complement the flavors in three Slumbrew beers.
As we ate and drank, Slumbrew owners Caitlin Jewell and Jeff Leiter talked about their brewery and each of the featured brews.
Following a reception featuring hors d’oeuvres and Slumbrew beer samples (including the recently released Big Kids Table, a New England IPA), dinner got under way with a wild boar sausage accompanied by Happy Sol. It was a smart pairing – Happy Sol is a bold, complex hefeweizen, with notes of citrus, banana, spices, and a little sourness.
The sausage dish was itself pretty complex. Wild boar is notable for its sweetness, which complemented the sour notes in the beer. Grilled onion chowchow, beets, and goat cheese added funk and earthiness, again making for a good match with the fruity Happy Sol.
The main course consisted of grass-fed hanger steak served with farro, sunchoke, and winter greens, topped with chimichurri. It paired with the limited-edition Luma Luma, a hazy, hoppy American IPA with floral and bitter notes.
With respect to the first two courses, CHOPPS truly saved the best for last – an ice cream sandwich made with Slumbrew’s Porter Square Porter, pretzel brittle, and bacon and bourbon gelato.
This was just as good as it sounds – gooey and crunchy, with sweet and smoky flavors in the gelato. A glass of Porter Square Porter was a natural companion.
A Shared Passion
If you’re a lover of local microbrews, Slumbrew might seem ubiquitous. It’s readily available at higher-end shops and can be found on draft at plenty of bars.
But while describing the realities of running a small brewery, Caitlin shared a startling fact: the volume of beer Slumbrew makes in a year is equivalent to what Sam Adams produces in about 40 minutes.
For me, that underscores the meaning of an event like this. It’s an opportunity to introduce out-of-town guests to a brand they might not otherwise encounter, and gives local beer lovers a chance to chat with the people who make such a great product.
Caitlin and Jeff fielded questions, talked about the composition of their beers, and shared some cool stories behind each brew. Their passion for their beer was evident, and matched by the genuine enthusiasm of the CHOPPS team.
The beer dinner series continues next month with Lynn’s Bent Water Brewing.
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