Craft Brew Review: Citronnelle Belgian Beer Dinner

IMG_1349One of Mike’s favorite segments on the show is the Joy of Beer Cooking.  Mike has repeatedly shown that there is more to cooking with beer than spent grain dog treats.  There is a limitless word of combining your favorite foods with beer not as a pairing but as an ingredient to enhance the flavor of foods.

Lancaster, Pa recently saw the opening of a cute, new restaurant called Citronnelle.  It is looking to create a place to enjoy modern french cuisine in a medium-sized city that actually lacks that speciality.  While they are a BYOB location charging an almost criminal $5.00 per bottle they are an establishment that is attempting to create a great atmosphere and high quality French food for a reasonable price.  Missing out on the normally lucrative markup on alcohol it is perhaps understandable if not ideal to have a hefty uncorking fee.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to attend one of their Global Prix Fixe meals that was designed to highlight the versatility and taste of Belgium and its beers.  For only $39.00 a person you got to have three sizable courses of Belgian foods created with Belgian beers.  Seeing that we offer news, review, and all things involving brews it felt proper to write-up my thoughts on the evening.

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The first course was Moules Frites which of course is a traditional opening course in Belgian cuisine.  It was create with a Belgian Pale Ale, garlic, shallots, Butter, and herbed purple potato chips.  The mussels were amazing.  I am a fan of sea food but I find mussels when ill-prepared to be sort of bland when compared to other meats.  These were steeped in a deliciously salty, earthy broth that held a sense of the beach while added a hardier flavor to the mussels.

They were paired with french fries that were also quite good.  Personally I am quite biased toward liking the duck fat fries that Pour on Prince has on their menu.  There is just something amazing about deep-frying light, thin fries in duck fat that adds an element more than fries made in vegetable oil.  Yet I have had fries made in duck fat fries that I would claim were less tasty than these.  While I cannot claim they are the best in town I would be highly comfortable suggesting that they are a close contender.

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The second course was a Beer Braised Beef Stew which was created with a Belgian Chocolate Stout, market root vegetables, and a celeriac purée.  The beef was extremely tender to the point of nearly falling apart.  Without knowing that a Belgian Chocolate Stout had been used I don’t think you could have been able to tell but knowing the addition the stew did have a hint of sweetness that paired splendidly with the meat and vegetable flavors.  While I enjoyed this course I found it to be the least impressive of the three.  I don’t want to suggest that it was bad, because it was delicious, it just didn’t impart a wow factor that the mussels had in the first course or the light, sweetness of the dessert.  It was enjoyable and pared well with the Belgian Triple we brought to drink but it was understated when compared with the other dishes.

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For dessert they created Lambic Infused Belgian Waffle “Shortcake” that was phenomenal.  Made with fresh strawberry ice cream, amazing fresh mixed berries (especially for being out of season), lemon whipped cream, and a dark chocolate sauce.  I’m not normally a dessert person instead preferring to fill up on a main course and paired beer rather than indulging a sweet tooth.  Especially as I am already a hefty fellow to begin with.

This course was light, sweet, and the waffles were delicious by themselves.  They were sweeter than most waffles I’ve had with a lightness in the mouth that made them seem almost cloud-like.  They were well complimented by the rich tartness of the berries and sweet, wetness of the ice cream.  There was something that really played together between the sour of the fruits, the ice cream, and the waffles.  It was delicious.

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To drink I brought a bomber bottle of Adelbert’s Brewery’s Triple B.  This was a shockingly light in color and flavor Belgian Triple.  It was a light golden color with a thick head that lingered for almost our entire meal.  For being 9.3% ABV it had little to no alcoholic taste at all.  There was a thicker mouthfeel that I would expect from a heavier beer that kept me from immediately thinking it was a light pale ale but it certainly didn’t seem like something so strong.  It was a maltier offering with a bit of the typical Belgian, light sweetness to keep it from being to malty in flavor.

Adelbert’s describes it: “This complex, straw-colored ale has clove and pear aromas. A marriage of spicy and fruity flavors help perfectly balance its elegant malt profile. Pair with rich foods like steaks, roasts, earthy cheeses, and cheese cake.”  It paired very well with the stew and mussels.

The event itself was a success.  The restaurant was packed from our 6:30pm reservation until I left at nearly 8:30pm.  My favorite part was that my waiter was a beer enthusiast who was eager to share his knowledge and enthusiasm with me once he figured out I was a beer geek.  I offered him a taste of the Tripel B assuming that he would begrudgingly have a sample after much encouragement from me but instead he leapt on the opportunity, enjoyed the beer, remarked that he was shocked that a delicious, well-crafted Belgian beer was coming from Texas, and I later caught him reading the bottle in the back after he cleared the table.  It certainly added a little something to the experience to be served by a craft beer enthusiast.

Overall I really enjoyed the meal.  Citronnelle is a very cute, intimate restaurant with a very modern aesthetic and for the price a very reasonable quality and quantity of food.  It is a nicer experience that will merit a nicer clientele but the owners are the head chef Rafael and his wife who manages the restaurant.

While I’m not sure it will be necessarily a regular staple given I generally enjoy a more casual dining experience when I wish to indulge in a higher quality of food it will be in the short list of places to go.  I will also be on the lookout for their next prix fixe meal as they seem to have them every few weeks and who doesn’t love great food at a good price?