This post is a bit of an indulgence regarding my relationship to a particular beer, a particular restaurant, some fine people and the passing of time.
The beer is Harpoon India Pale Ale. It began in the fall of 1999 when I sent a copy of my then just published book Cooking & Eating with Beer to Rich Doyle at The Mass Bay Brewing Company as thanks for his help with the book. At that time the restaurants of Boston were becoming popular destinations for tourists and locals as well. To encourage this development a “Boston Dine Around” was begun. It was a week or so of restaurant event-dinners featuring cookbook authors hosting the dinner of a menu of dishes from their book. The restaurant provided the space and the price fixed menu. A sponsor, who footed the bill, provided the author. The author was fed and lodged and given an opportunity to sell inscribed books in exchange for hosting two dinners. I was lucky enough to be sponsored by the Harpoon folks at “Upstairs at The Pudding.” The restaurant, owned by Mary Catherine Deibel & Deborah Hughes, was upstairs from the Harvard Hasty Pudding Club, naturally the name of the place was “Upstairs at The Pudding.”
Pictured below are, from left to right: Rich Doyle, Mary Catherine Deibel, and myself.
The menu both nights (25-26 January 2000) featured Harpoon I.P.A. with an Arugula Salad with shaved Fennel, Cremini mushrooms and Asiago. It was a chance for the tang of the hops to refresh the bitter greens and accent the Fennel. The mushrooms and cheese added a feeling of body to the flavors.
A spinach risotto with a mushroom ragout, roasted red peppers and truffle butter was served next with the Harpoon I.P.A. as well. It was a chance to show the malt flavors as they complemented the mushroom and truffle flavors.
An additional highlight was a “pot luck” luncheon catered by the chefs at the various restaurants for the assembled authors. The chance to meet some of the top writers in that field is something I will fondly remember.
Fast forward thirteen years and once again I find that same Harpoon I.P.A. is beverage of choice at a table.
This time it was just a few days ago. The event was a “Beefsteak” dinner. Based on a style of dining enjoyed at the turn of the 19th Century when diners in their finery stuffed themselves, by hand, with roasted, grilled, sautéed, and fried beefsteaks. This “Beefsteak” included various steak cuts and preparations but included cutlery. The occasion was my wife being on a business trip and two good friends finding themselves in Brooklyn. Pictured below is the essence of the menu.
Why choose Harpoon I.P.A.? First of all is the way the hop tang keeps the rich flavors of the beef from greasy. The malt flavors enhance the nutmeg in the creamed spinach and the refreshing chill of the beverage gives the taste receptors a chance to relax. (Wine on the other hand has a tendency to constantly demand attention.)
What brought on this sense of ennui?
A few days ago I received a sample of Harpoon I.P.A. with a printed reminder that it was celebrating its 25th anniversary of going on the market. That afternoon I also received an e-mail telling me that what went from “Upstairs at The Pudding” to “Upstairs on The Square” was closing at the end of this year.
And so the beginnings of my relationships with Harpoon I.P.A. and “Upstairs” have gone from a beginning to an ending. In the near future I’ll stop in and bid the place adieu and hoist a Harpoon I.P.A. in celebration of all the truly enjoyable times spent there.