Pairing Dinner at the Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer and Food Festival
Each November, the Grand Rapids, International Wine, Beer and Food Festival ushers in the winter holiday season. The Thursday, Friday and Saturday event is West Michigan’s version of Friendsgiving, showcasing hospitality though a plethora of food and beverage offerings, classes and seated food and beverage pairings.
Last week, I had the opportunity to preview the pairing dinner from The Candied Yam. Up until my invitation, I am sorry to say, I had not heard of the restaurant. The beauty of my ignorance? I harbored zero expectations. Well, that isn’t completely accurate. As a fan of Paw Paw Brewing Company (their beverage partner for the event), pairing their beer with southern cuisine would be a fantastic match. It was the food I had little expectation of.
The short of it? I was blown away.
The initial salad course was good, but it was the fried green beans and okra with homemade ranch dipping sauce that made me an instant customer. Owner, Jessica Ann, described her restaurant’s dedication to creating homemade food, with simple ingredients while serving our group family style. She had me at fried okra, but the third course of fried chicken, mac & cheese, greens and black eyed peas was amazing. Saying anything else does not do it justice.
I appreciated the decision to include such solid beer styles with food that transported one guest to his grandmother’s kitchen. Less traditional beer styles would have been out of place.
Jessica Ann, and her staff, capped our night off with the choice of pecan chocolate or sweet potato tartlets paired with the vanilla bean porter. Not one of us left hungry, or disappointed.
As a matter of fact, I was so happy with dinner, that I ordered enough takeout to share with my coworker for lunch the next day. Unfortunately, it is against hospital rules, or I would have picked up a few Paw Paw beers too.
There are a number of different pairing dinners this weekend, but this is the only one featuring beer. A variety of seating times are available, but are going to go fast.
A few tasting tips? Remember that pairings are suggestions. This is a great opportunity to see what IPAs, Ambers and Pilsners bring to different flavor profiles. I really enjoyed the Weekend Away IPA with the okra and green beans. Saint James Mild Amber Ale also pairs really well with the main course as a compliment for the rich mac & cheese as well as the fried chicken.