Probably my favorite restaurant in the Twin Cities is the Happy Gnome in St. Paul. We tried this place out for the first time several years ago when they had a special mead dinner featuring the meadmaker from White Winter and Ken Schramm the author of The Compleat Meadmaker. The food and the pairings with the meads blew me away, and my wife and I have continued to go to most of the beer dinners they have. There is a dinner nearly every month and they try to have a brewer present for the event. There is something about sharing tables with strangers, excellent food, and hearing a brewer talk lovingly about their beer that elevates this experience beyond the sum of its parts. Over the years we have met several sets of good friends at these events and grown to really love the staff here.
The most recent dinner featured two newer Minnesota breweries, Harriet and Lucid. Neither have quite the portfolio to do this alone, but paired together they did a great job. At the meet and greet before the meal, they served us up some Lucid Air, a nice light summery beer that is my favorite of theirs. While sipping this brew, I was able to talk for some time with Jason Sowards of Harriet. I've heard a lot about this guy, and it was a great time getting to finally meet him and talk brewing. I can really get on board with his philosophy and how he has embraced art and social media to further his brewery.
First course was a freaking amazing lamb carpaccio paired with the Harriet Wodan Weizen. And excellent course and a very good pairing. Following this was a roasted halibut served over green curry barley floating in a lake of flavorful tomato bisque with mussels. I'm neither a fish nor a mussel fan, but this was one of the best dishes I've ever had. Every ingredient shone alone and in combination with the other flavors. This was paired with the Harriet East Side IPA which is brewed every 100 batches. Belgian IPA is not my favorite style, but this one is a bit maltier and uses European hops instead of the citrusy American hops, leading to a smoother mix of hop and yeast esters.
Next up was a truffle cheese (yum!) and the Lucid Saison. This was the first time I had tried this beer and I think they hit the style spot on. An excellent way to clear the palate after this creamy pungent cheese.
And last but not least was a butterscotch panna cotta with hazelnut crunch and spoon shaped tuille. Wow! I was very full by this time, but it was so good! Also, the edible spoon was for looks only...do not try to scoop panna cotta with it!