By: Tobias Coughlin-Bogue

 

Writer Tobias Coughlin-Bogue takes us through the last part of his trip to France as he continues a dinner at restaurant La Fine Mousse with proprietor of French craft beer emporiums, Simon Thillon.

Thankfully, I had one more evening in France. I enlisted my father to aid me in tasting as much of their menu as possible, and returned the following day for round two. This meal began with a plate of assorted spreads and snacks—perfect panisses with tangy aoili, lemony hummus, and grennailles—a smoked, whipped cheese that was easily one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. It all played well with the lush, raisiny Naparbier Avant Garde dubbel our waiter—the same as the night prior—suggested. The noshes were followed quickly by a heaping bowl of small, perfectly cooked mussels, served with coriander flowers and steamed in chorizo broth. The Dubbel, which was hearty enough to last two courses, also worked well with the mussels, accentuating perfectly the subtle smokiness from the foamy remnants of chorizo broth.

Following this excellent introduction was a seared cut of chuck, cooked blue, sliced into medallions, and served with an impossibly creamy burrata and salicorne—a marsh plant whose aggressively briny, vegetal flavor served to balance out the richness of the burrata. For the meat, I decided to splurge on a bottle of something interesting. I settled on Black Jacques, an Imperial Black India Saison from Brewdog, a British brewery known for extreme experiments. They’ve been consistent contenders for the world’s highest ABV beer, laying claim to the title for large portions of the last decade or so. As if being an Imperial Black India Saison wasn’t enough, it’s also aged in red wine barrels for nine months, which was my motivation for ordering it with steak. Naturally, it was an excellent combination. The smokey, winey, ripe cherry flavor of the beer was the perfect accompaniment to red meat.

Having already enjoyed the restaurant’s excellent cheese selection, my choice for the final course was already made. In an attempt to be moderate, we decided to share a dessert rather than ordering both. Another choice to be made. We opted for strawberries and cream, layered with thin wafers of nougatine and paired with Magic Stone Dog, a collaboration between California’s Stone brewing and Magic Rock and Brewdog, both from England.

Our waiter, caring little for our planned moderation, also surprised us with their lemon meringue on the house. The French cannot make a bad dessert, but the meringue was certainly a standout. Paired with the light, floral Magic Stone Dog, it was the perfect culmination of two nights of fabulous culinary adventure.

Any beer-lover’s trip to France would be incomplete without a visit to La Fine Mousse. The French may be lagging a few years behind us in cultural appreciation of craft beer, but they have wasted no time incorporating it into the realm of fine dining. In the US, it is common to find at least a few microbrews on tap anywhere you go these days, but it is, unfortunately, a rare thing to find craft beer paired with such elegant food. Though beer pairing is, of course, popular in our beer-obsessed country, the French, of all the world’s cultures, can be depended upon to take it to its most over-the-top delicious extreme. Which is a good thing for everyone, as far as I’m concerned. America has long taken its culinary cues from France, and it certainly wouldn’t hurt to take this one!