There was a rowdy, raucous, all-out rumble at NYC’s Tabla on Sunday, March 4, 2007. Over 100 people
He Said, She Said Menu
Tabla’s Crab Cake: Papadum, Avocado Salad & Tamarind Chutney
Rice Flaked Snapper: Gingered Taro Purée, Fava Beans, Mustard Jus
Tapioca Crusted Shrimp & Scallops: Long Squash, Silk Squash, Crab Curry
Sweet Spice Braised Oxtail: Tapioca Pilaf, Peanuts, Leeks & Pea Shoots
Chocolate & Coconut Two Ways: Napoleon & Ice Cream
Executive Chef Floyd Cardoz Chef de Cuisine Ty Kotz Pastry Chef Melissa Walnock
answered the call to help resolve an age-old dispute that has been disrupting these mean streets and countless eateries for centuries now. People of all ages and walks of life were encouraged to lend a hand, from the cop in uniform top and kilt bottom to the hip couple with their lime green sweaters and thickly rimmed black glasses. Some seemed confident and sure while others wondered what the outcome of the night would bring, whether they would remain true to their corner or run to the other side of the ring mid match. The battle lines were drawn, the sexes took their sides, and the reinforcements were prepared for the evening to come. It was time for a smackdown… an onslaught of culinary rounds in an effort to determine once and for all the superior beverage pairing choice: beer or wine.
The evening pitted Sam Caglagione, founder and Brewmaster of Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware, against Marnie Old, sommelier and wine educator from Philadelphia, in a competition to pick the best beverage accompaniment within their category to Executive Chef Floyd Cardoz, Chef de Cuisine Ty Kotz and Pastry Chef Melissa Walnock’s culinary creations. All diners would sample both a wine and a beer with each of five dishes, make a selection as to which choice was better, and turn in a ballot voting for their preference. The winner for the evening would be the beverage catagory that was the preferred choice for the most dishes.
Before beginning, Marnie happily reminded the crowd that, “the expert is not telling you which is better—the expert is asking you to tell us.” With this one sentence, Marnie had set the mood for the entire evening as well as the tone of what the event is and has always been about.
While this was the eighth time Sam and Marnie had gotten together for their “He Said Beer, She Said Wine” Event, the outcomes have always been quite similar. “It always seems to come down to the last match,” Marnie notes, “but our main goal is to get wine lovers to appreciate good beer and beer lovers to appreciate good wine.” With the vast assortment of Dogfish Head brews and fine wine selections chosen by Old, that did not seem to be too difficult of a task.
The five courses were served, each with their accompanying beer and wine selection. While some of the matches were closer calls than others, the event inevitably came down to a tie by the fifth and final course. With two wins each, beer and wine went head to head one last time on the dessert course with Dogfish Head’s World Wide Stout, the world’s strongest stout at 18% abv, taking the win over Old’s selection of the Banfi 2006 Rosa Regale Brachetto D’Acqui, 82 votes to 40.
Though beer was triumphant in the battle of the beverages, everyone in attendance was clearly a winner. “There needs to be more of an awareness of the diversity of people’s palettes,” Old had mentioned to our table during one of the courses. That seemed to be the main thing that everyone learned that evening; there’s not just one thing to drink with one type of food, and anything else is wrong or strange. The possibilities are endless in the world of food and beverage; choosing what works best for you is all that matters.
Proceeds from the event benefited the Food Bank’s Time Out for Hunger initiative, as Tabla joined other NYC restaurants in donating 10% of the day’s proceeds to the Food Bank. The Food Bank uses the funds to help feed the hungry in New York City.
Marnie Old and Sam Caglagione are co-authors of the forthcoming book, He Said Beer, She Said Wine (Penguin/DK, Spring 2008).