all words: Jeb Gavin
I feel obligated to admit, Fat Tire is my favorite beer. So much so that forced to choose between Fat Tire and air, it would be a difficult decision… right up until I pass out due to a lack of oxygen. So when Columbia Heights restaurant The Heights started their tasting dinner this past Tuesday evening with Fat Tire Amber Ale paired with spiced, mixed nuts, I was already inclined to love it. Fat Tire is produced by New Belgium Brewing out of Fort Collins, Colorado, and only recently began distribution in the DC area. Each course of dinner was accompanied by a New Belgium beer, selected by bar manager Stephan Antoniewicz.
Dinner was narrated by the DC Area New Belgium representative John Gartner, and orchestrated by Chef Cameron Cousin. We began with a salad that was composed of an applewood-smoked trout filet, marinated in coriander, lemon peel and garlic, served with lovage, pickled radishes, and segments of blood orange and grapefruit. The Ranger IPA paired with the salad cut right through the luxe smoked fish, and picked up the citrus and vinegar notes.
Much as I enjoyed the trout, the next two dishes really made the night for me. First was the braised pork cheek pierogi with wild mushrooms and a horseradish crème fraiche. The wrapper was denser than an ordinary wonton wrapper and the pierogi were sautéed after first being boiled and baked through. The process resulted in a texture of thin, golden-brown puff pastry wrapped around juicy bits of pork. The Belgo IPA served with the dish was peppery and yeasty- a perfect compliment. Next, a deceptively simple plate of seared scallops, served over purple potatoes with charred cauliflower and romesco. The Trippel Belgian style ale served with the course was fine, but the dish itself was so well constructed and balanced, I could not stop eating it. The balance and pairing of each element, so simple, yet cleverly employed; crisp bits of cauliflower similar to the sear of the scallops, and the sweetness of the scallops against the spice of the romesco sauce (accentuated by similar spice notes in the beer.) And the potatoes, described as a risotto, were actually a brunoise of Peruvian fingerlings, steamed and cooked through with cream, bridging the texture gap between the soft but dense seafood and the hearty but thinner sauce.
This was followed by a duo of braised beef short rib and roast strip loin with baby carrots, cipollini onions and Brussels sprouts (two of my personal favorites) along with New Belgium’s 1554 Enlightened, a chocolaty black ale. Then there was the cheese board comprised of three local cheeses, an addictive bacon and blackberry jam, pumpernickel crostini, and a saison tasting of pears and passion fruit. The meal ended with the Snow Day Winter ale, and assorted chocolate truffles from EatWell, the organic farm from which The Heights sources much of their food. My favorite was the dark chocolate peppermint patty made with fresh mint, though the ersatz Snickers bar picked up the toffee notes in the beer.
I had not eaten at The Heights until that night. The classy yet relaxed atmosphere of the eatery served as a quiet and hospitable respite from the crowd milling outside along 14th street. With the installation of a tap for New Belgium’s spring seasonal pale ale Dig, and provided Chef Cousin considers adding the pierogi and scallop dishes to his regular menu, I look forward to eating at The Heights again, though likely with less pomp and circumstance.