Red Cedar Grille’s chef and co-owner Theo Charitos is a beer pairing expert, constantly dreaming up new ways to enhance the food and drink experience.
We recently picked the chef’s beer-loving brain on the art of marrying liquid hops with hearty dishes, uncovering why he’s attracted to beer, rather than wine, pairings, what combinations he’s dreamed up and much more.
AS: Can you give me some background on why you’re keen on pairing food with beer?
TC: Back in the ‘90s, I always wondered why beer and food pairing wasn’t bigger. I always liked doing it and devising off-the-path combinations. Food was always important to be, but adding beer allowed the experience to be a bit more special and more interesting.
AS: It’s evident that you have a strong grasp on the craft beer culture and ever-changing options of beer styles and flavors. Where did that spawn from?
TC: For 13 years, I worked at the Drafting Room Taproom & Grille with knowledgeable beer guys who taught me a lot, including Pat Mullin, formerly of Sierra Nevada and now of Sly Fox.
AS: You recently participated in the Annual Lansdale Beer Festival. Tell me about your involvement with this beer fest.
TC: I was asked to be the featured chef at the Brewmaster’s Table, a special section at the festival that featured food and beer pairing and hosted two brewmasters of the beer fest. The two brewmasters were Troegs and Evolution Brewing. It was really cool because I like both of those breweries and am familiar with both of their stuff—so, that was really nice.
AS: What was your culinary assignment at the Brewmaster’s Table?
TC: I paired a couple small bites with some of the breweries special beers to show people how you pair something like a Chardonnay barrel-aged beer, understanding the flavor profiles and what would work.
AS: Care to share an example of a pairing?
TC: The first beer we paired with was Troegs’ Naked Elf, and what I did was I took a brioche crostini with bleu cheese, a cider-poached pear and a spiced pecan. This combination works very well with their spiced Belgian “Elf” line.
AS: How do you approach pairing beer with food?
TC: When I pair beer and food, I don’t like to just sit there and follow the ground rules like pair dark [beer] with dark [food], light with light. I get the basics of what the beer is, and what works in the food—salts, fats, butter. Then, I match flavor profiles from there.
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