The secret ingredient? Just add beer!

  • November 2nd, 2016
  • By Dale Dolson and Rob McGregor

As former faculty at Fanshawe College and owners of Robindale's Fine Dining Ltd., Rob and I are veterans of the hospitality industry. We have over 40 years of experience and were finally enjoying retirement! When we were asked by Steven Sparling to spearhead the food and beverage service at Cowbell we were, to say the least, excited and eager to see where this project was going. We met, over lunch of course, and the ideas were flowing - we immediately found ourselves immersed in the Cowbell project! We agreed to ponder the process and get together again. Steven walked out of the meeting like a successful candidate on a fishing trip... the bait had been taken!

We wanted to put this new brewery to the test and set about planning a multi-course lunch where every dish had one ingredient in common - Cowbell Beer! The menu had to involve the bounty of Huron County – fresh area fruits and vegetables so abundant and readily available. Just like Cowbell itself, we wanted to use everything possible from this wonderful County.

Cooking with Beer - A recipe for success!

We started this experiment with a rich corn chowder of locally grown sweet

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corn and new potatoes simmered with Cowbell's Absent Landlord Beer. The richness of the beer was a perfect compliment to the sweetness of the corn. Rob and I both agreed that this would be a perfect soup to be savoured on its own, on a Huron County winter's night. Of course there needs to be generous chunks of homemade bread for sopping and we answered that need with an oatmeal loaf, fresh from the oven, again made with a savoury hint of Cowbell beer. The soup, in our minds, was a winner!

We then moved on to a main course of Braised Chicken. This recipe was based on a simple rustic dish that my mom used to make. It was simple but delicious, allowing the flavours of chunky cut fresh vegetables to marry with the chicken, creating a rich "to die for" gravy. I used her technique but changed out the chicken stock for the braising liquid with two cans of Cowbell beer. I hate to say it mom, but the gravy was even better, with a bed of long grain rice also steeped in the Absent Landlord brew. What a treat! Tender carrots, celery, mushrooms and green and yellow beans, all local of course, rounded out the dish. "Yummy" was the comment and everyone agreed that a subtle hint of beer could be tasted behind all the combined flavours. It was, literally, a taste of Huron! Homey but decadent!

Beer lovers get their just desserts

And finally, what we first considered might be a problem, turned out to be

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the star of the show! Dessert! Most of us would presume that beer would marry well with savoury dishes but would be more of a challenge in a dessert - we were wrong! Because of the time of the year, we felt that a rich bread pudding was in order. The creation contained cranberries, raisins, apples, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts and of course bread, eggs, cream, sugar and all the appropriate seasonings that go with it. The beer was in the sauce! A rich combination of butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and Cowbell beer turned out to be outstanding! We knew it was good as "take out" containers were asked for...everyone was full and happy.

The lesson here is that this company, as a destination brewery with full food and beverage service, is sure to please. The beer is wonderful and the dishes you can create or pair with it will be simply delicious.

Our message after this experiment... buy some Cowbell beer and get cooking. You won't regret it!

We are proud to be Food and Beverage Service Excellence Strategy Advisers for Cowbell Brewing Company's bold future!

Onward with an extremely exciting adventure!