The tuna nicoise crudo, the first course of Birch & Barley‘s beer dinner Monday with Brooklyn Brewery‘s Garrett Oliver, had a surprise hero ingredient: soy sauce. Not surprising that chef Kyle Bailey used a drop of soy to season the raw tuna, but surprising in how the blend of soy sauce, kalamata olive brine, aged balsamic vinegar, and olive oil paired with Brooklyn Cuvee de Cardoz, a strong Belgian-style wheat spiced with ginger, tamarind, mace, black pepper, coriander, fennel, fenugreek, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and chilies. The earthy sauce tasted like a black hole of umami, which in turn brought out sunny prickles of spice in the beer. The contrast was like exiting a matinee in a dark movie theater in July.
The dish was two jewels of raw tuna with hard-boiled quail egg and a split bean of haricots verts, sprinkled with fresh tomato and crunchy specks of dehydrated olive and fried potato. The dish was Bailey’s, but Garrett Oliver said he also pairs the Cuvee de Cardoz with tuna at home. He’s a serious home cook — serious enough that he mail-orders a specific French mayo, which he mixes with sriracha to garnish his seared tuna and crispy duck-fat-fried potatoes.
Cuvee de Cardoz, a limited beer from Brooklyn’s Brewmaster’s Reserve Series, is long gone, and the crudo dish is not on the Birch & Barley menu. But next time you find yourself in the presence of some diesel-black soy sauce, try pairing it with another Belgian-style wheat beer such as Allagash White, or with Bruery‘s spicy farmhouse seasonal, Saison de Lente.