“You’re not worthy.”
Those three words form the tongue-in-cheek motto of Stone Brewing Co.’s Arrogant Bastard Ale, but it’s also the message many vegetarians have interpreted year after year when AVL Beer Week’s beer dinners are announced. While restaurants such as Sunny Point Café have prepared delicious meat-free courses to accommodate dietary restrictions, finding a dedicated menu in that style proved elusive until the evening of Tuesday, May 30.
Already closed to the public for its weekly day off, Laughing Seed Café teamed with Stone to host An Arrogant Vegetarian Collaboration, featuring a knockout selection of beers — some of them quite rare — chosen by Stone rep (and Asheville resident) Jason Brian. Laughing Seed’s chef, Parker Schultz, then used these impressive picks as inspiration for an original menu that equaled and arguably surpassed its liquid counterparts.
The gathering began with a meet-and-greet at the Laughing Seed bar where the accessible Who You Callin’ Wussie Pilsner (5.8 percent ABV) was paired with hors d’oeuvres. Led to the restaurant’s elevated rear dining space, participants were seated in a horseshoe-shaped configuration. Brian sat at the opening and introduced each beer as it was served, followed each time by Schultz, who popped out from the kitchen to discuss the food pairings.
Course number two consisted of the full-flavored Encore Sixth Anniversary Smoked Porter (8 percent ABV) and a pleasantly “meaty” Berber pie with smoked onions, gruyere cheese and carrot prosciutto, served with a somewhat spicy blackberry mustard. It then gave way to the meal’s biggest beer: Double Bastard Bigger Longer Uncut American Strong Ale (13 percent ABV), which upped its strength by aging in Laphroaig Scotch barrels for eight months. Looking to create a balance with this complex, peaty brew, Schultz found a fitting counterpoint in pimento beer-cheese soup with sweet cornbread crostini that maintained its subtle crunch to the last bite.
For the fourth course, Brian dialed back with Stone’s new year-round release, Tangerine Express IPA (6.7 percent ABV), noting that it was the menu’s first hoppy/bitter beer from a brewery known for those concoctions. As its match, Schultz turned to jackfruit — which he calls “a new discovery” for his staff — and its shredded barbecue-like texture to craft a crab cake with ramp kimchi. Its fried exterior and stringy white core convincingly resembling its seafood namesake, the crab cake was complemented by a fiery hot sauce made with Stone IPA and passionfruit.
As Encore Vertical Epic 02.02.02 Belgian-style Strong Ale (8.3 percent ABV) made its way to the tables, Brian referred to it as “a Thanksgiving beer.” Clearly in agreement, Schultz teamed it with a shepherd’s jar — a hearty stack of browned cauliflower, creamed peas and carrots topped with mashed potatoes and served in a Mason jar.
While those dishes were cleared, the announcement of the final course was met with cheerfully sarcastic booing from diners who didn’t want to meal to end. Their protests were soon answered with the refreshingly balanced Bitter Chocolate Oakmeal Bourbon Barrel Stout (11.4 percent ABV) and the vegan bourbon-cardomom-orange tiramisu, ending the experience on a richly satisfying note.