It is eye-popping.
Push open the doors of the Ilani Casino in Ridgefield, Wash. Walk under the five giant, multi-colored chandeliers shaped like traditional Cowlitz Tribal hats. Take a lap around a gaming room housing a couple thousand slot machines along with dozens of card, craps and roulette tables. The lights, the sounds make it feel like George Clooney and the cast of another “Oceans” heist movie could come bursting through at any moment.
But we’re not here for gambling. In fact, we’re after a sure thing.
Chef Ryan Ziegler runs the kitchen in the casino’s Line & Lure restaurant. He planned a recent dinner with Burnside Brewing. “It’s spring. I want to do something on the lighter side,” Ziegler tells me as we stand by the floor-to-ceiling windows that face Mount St. Helens. “Something that complements their beer, their seasonal beers, and that also showcases the great seafood we have here.”
As Burnside co-founder Jason McAdam notes, beer is great with fish and chips, but this is different, “I would definitely say, yes. It’s more delicate.”
The first beer comes to the table before the first course. It’s called Sweet Heat, a wheat ale made using apricot puree and imported Jamaican Scotch bonnet peppers. Head brewer Chip Conlon says it’s tricky to get consistency in such a concoction. “You never know because of the nature of a pepper — how hot it’s going to be or how long the beer should sit and condition on top of that.”
Sipping the Sweet Heat I can feel the cool across my tongue turn into a warm tickle at the back of my throat. It makes me wonder what will happen when I gobble up the Ahi Poke Bites appetizer spiced with Sriracha aioli, wasabi cream and togarashi. Ziegler assures me, “It’s got a little bit of spice, it’s well rounded. It’s not blow-your-face-off. It’s got some crunchy elements. I thought it would pair well with the Sweet Heat. The poke bites have a lot of Sriracha notes with it, so that one’s going to be a little bit on the spicy side.”
And there it is, balance. Each of the spices, a different one on each wonton, plays with the spice in the beer. Just as they try to overpower the Sweet Heat, the cool texture of the tuna gently pushes them aside. “Tuna is kind of fatty and oily and the Sweet Heat has a lot of wheat in it, so the viscosity of the beer, it might play well together. And the spices, the spice is there, it kind of hits you in the back of the throat, but you’re not gonna breathe flames or fire.”
An Asian Shrimp Chopped Salad is the second course. It features two types of lettuce, soy sauce dressing, red bell pepper and crispy rice sticks that was paired with Burnside’s East Meets West IPA. The crispness of the salad worked well with the light sweetness of the beer achieving Ziegler’s goal of offering a springy Asian-fusion experience that also looks good on the plate.
Course three is a Soy-Ginger Marinated Swordfish, grilled and plated with cilantro rice, baby bok choy and stir-fried veggies, which is like a sudden thunderstorm on a peaceful spring day. It wallops you. But the Burnside IPA quickly quiets the storm. It’s obvious Ziegler is deft at pairing food and beer.
“It starts with doing the dirty work: go and taste the beer and think about what we want to do,” Ziegler explains. “So this is more Asian fusion. With Burnside, I think a lot of their beers hold up to it well.”
The brewer’s dinner is an example of the synergy between chefs and beer makers. “I always equate brewing to making a giant soup, in a sense,” says Conlon. “It’s really about learning the differences between the ingredients. When you understand how hops affect how a beer tastes or how malt affects the taste, or yeast, I think you eventually get to a place where you are comfortable pairing this or that.”
McAdam agrees. “I’ve been doing it for some time and once you use an ingredient and you understand how it plays with other ingredients, it is like cooking. Once you learn an ingredient you can know where it’s going to fit into the next recipe.”
If the night’s first course was conflicting spiciness, the fourth and final course is a sweet collaboration. Ziegler offers up Passion Fruit Mango Tres Leches Cake, the warm-weather fruits enriched by Burnside’s Free the Juice. The pale ale brewed with orange zest and blood orange is made even more spring-like with Citra and Ekuanot hops.
Conlon, sounding a bit uncertain, opened the dinner with a caveat saying such events are “more challenging when you’re working with someone else’s food.” He need not have worried. In a place where the odds favor the house, this event was a jackpot for food and beer lovers. •
Ahi Poke Bites
Paired With Burnside Brewing Sweet Heat
By Chef Ryan Ziegler
12 ounces ahi tuna poke mix (see recipe that follows)
6 wonton skins, cut in half diagonally and fried crisp
3 ounces Sriracha aioli (see recipe that follows)
2 ounces wasabi cream sauce (see recipe that follows)
2 teaspoons togarashi (Chinese seven spice)
1/2 ounce green onions, cut on bias
FOR AHI POKE MIX:
12 ounces ahi tuna, sushi grade, 3/4-inch dice
3 teaspoons Sriracha sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce, low sodium
1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
2 teaspoons green onions, thin sliced
1 teaspoon togarashi
-In bowl, combine all ingredients and gently fold together. Reserve.
FOR SRIRACHA AIOLI:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce, low sodium
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon lime zest, from microplane zester
-Combine all ingredients in bowl and whisk together thoroughly. Reserve.
FOR WASABI CREAM SAUCE:
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon wasabi powder
1/2 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1 teaspoon cilantro, freshly chopped
-Mix wasabi powder with water in bowl until it’s a smooth consistency.
-Add the remaining ingredients until everything is incorporated. Reserve.
-Place crispy wonton onto serving plate.
-Add 2 tablespoons of ahi poke mix on top of each wonton.
-Drizzle 1 teaspoon of Sriracha aioli and 1 teaspoon of wasabi cream over each poke bite.
-Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of togarashi over entire plate. Garnish with green onions.
Passion Fruit Mango Tres Leches Cake
Paired With Burnside Brewing Free the Juice
By Chef Ryan Ziegler
FOR THE CAKE:
160 grams all-purpose flour
10 grams cornstarch
100 grams sugar
3 grams salt
9 grams baking powder
85 grams vegetable or canola oil
4 egg yolks
125 grams coconut milk
6 egg whites
85 grams sugar
120 grams ground coconut
-Whisk together flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt and baking powder in large bowl.
-In separate bowl, whisk together oil, yolks and coconut milk.
-Slowly add liquid into dry ingredients while whisking.
-In mixer with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and sugar to firm peaks.
-Fold half of egg whites into flour mixture, followed by half of coconut.
-Fold remaining egg whites and then remaining coconut.
-Divide evenly between two 9-inch cake pans that have been coated with non-stick spray.
-Bake at 325 F until cake springs back when touched or toothpick comes out clean, approximately 25 minutes.
FOR PASSION FRUIT MANGO CURD:
2 sheets gelatin or 2 teaspoons powdered gelatin
250 grams sugar
125 grams passion fruit puree
125 grams mango puree
325 grams butter
-Bloom gelatin in cold water.
-Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar and purees in saucepan. Bring to simmer while whisking continuously.
-Simmer 3-5 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat and whisk in gelatin.
-Strain into bowl and add butter using immersion blender.
-Cover surface with plastic wrap and let cool.
FOR ITALIAN MERINGUE:
5 egg whites
250 grams sugar
50 grams corn syrup
-Put sugar and corn syrup into saucepan with enough water to cover sugar, being careful not to leave sugar sticking to sides of pan.
-Use wet brush to remove any crystals on sides.
-Boil sugar mixture. Once mixture reaches 240 F, begin whipping egg whites on high speed in mixer.
-When mixture reaches 250 F, turn mixer to low speed and carefully pour sugar syrup down side of mixing bowl into egg whites.
-Return mixer to high speed and whip until meringue is stiff and shiny.
-Split each cake into two layers, so you have four separate cake layers.
-Assemble cake, spreading 1/3 of curd between each layer.
-Frost cake with meringue and top with toasted coconut.