In Brooklyn, New York, tucked behind a cozy, wood-festooned beer bar called Tørst, is the 16-seat Michelin-starred restaurant Luksus. It is the brainchild of Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, best known as the gypsy brewer of Evil Twin beers, and Daniel Burns, a well-known chef with experience at some of the world’s greatest restaurants.
Luksus isn’t just any Michelin-starred joint; it’s the only one in the world that pairs beer exclusively with each course of every meal. The prix-fixe menu changes weekly along with the pairings, based on what’s fresh and in season.
Simply put, Luksus elevates the marriage of beer and food to a level rarely seen outside the wine world. “Food & Beer,” a new book from the duo, attempts to bring that mindset from the hipster hotspot in Brooklyn to your dinner table at home.
“As a companion, wine is ideally suited for fine dining, one assumes, because of its indisputable complexity and the constellation of exclusivity that surrounds it,” writes editor Joshua David Stone in the book’s introduction. “What Daniel and Jeppe do at Luksus is to force one to ask why we associate affordability and accessibility with inferior quality.”
While they may work well at Luksus, where Burns is manning the cramped, open kitchen, the recipes in “Food & Beer” tend to be so high-minded that they feel out of reach for many amateur at-home cooks.
Take the recipe for “Skate, stinging nettle, peppermint,” for instance. A quick Google search assures me skate is a fish I’ve never heard of and that stinging nettles are plants that rarely find their way onto dinner tables. Other ingredients and processes remind the reader that for three years Burns ran the research kitchen at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group in New York City. There, he had unfettered access to ingredients and equipment, allowing him to hone his skills with unconventional foods and methods and elevating his cooking to the level now found at Luksus.
Most of us, however, don’t have that luxury, and the results can be frustrating. A seemingly approachable recipe such as dry-aged ribeye and pickled ramps requires a working knowledge of sous-vide cooking, a method of slow-cooking meat in vacuum-sealed bags immersed in hot water. It demands precision and, oftentimes, special equipment to achieve desired results, so I ended up turning to my trusty Weber grill to cook the dry-aged ribeye and it still paired beautifully with the suggested Belgian strong ale, Trappist Rochefort 8.
Not all of the recipes in “Food & Beer” are as difficult to source or achieve, and there’s an invaluable section at the back of the book simply titled Pantry. Here, recipes for broths, pickles and condiments, which are used in recipes throughout the book, are broken down into their own recipes. Sure, it’s more time-consuming to make your own chicken stock than to swing down to Winn-Dixie and pick up a quart, but I can attest that the results are worth the effort.
There’s some great pairing information throughout the book, especially in the first section, which details general flavors found in beer — bitter, sour, funky, sweet, among others — and the thought process Burns and Jarnit-Bjergsø employ to create their world-renowned pairings.
Admittedly, you’ve got to delve through some pretty thick hipsterness to get to the heart of this book, and even then, home cooks might find themselves overwhelmed by the content, but there are indeed methods and pairings that are both approachable and can elevate your knowledge of both beer and food.
Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone® and the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.