Home » Red Lotus and Formoli’s Bistro Slow Beer Movement Dinner No. 4
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Red Lotus and Formoli’s Bistro Slow Beer Movement Dinner No. 4

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Monday evening, 40 guests were welcomed into Red Lotus Kitchen and Bar by friendly staff and the smell of hops-smoked chicken wafting through the restaurant. These individuals gathered together for the fourth in a series of ongoing dinners known as the Slow Beer Movement. Hosted by Red Lotus and Formoli’s Bistro, the dinners are meant to highlight local food and, of course, beer.

The chickens cooking on the smoker.
In the past, foreign beer, such as the Belgian brew Duvel Green, had been featured, but recently the event founders felt that finding a place closer to home would coincide better with their practice of supporting local food. That evening, each of the five courses and even the dessert was paired with a beer from Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco.

The menu included a baby arugula salad with fried pork belly in a horse radish/chive sauce with Anchor Summer Beer, the lightest beer. Together they would help to start up each diner’s stomach for the night. The asparagus soup seasoned with 7-spice was matched with the spice of the original Christmas beer, Liberty Ale. The udon noodles with Shimeji mushrooms and pickled ramp was paired with the Anchor Steam. The grilled monkfish cheek with poached monkfish liver was served with Brekle’s Brown and the hops-smoked chicken with the Anchor Porter. Lastly, a fruity dessert of peaches and berries was macerated in a sweeter brew, Anchor’s Old Foghorn Beer.

The beer dinners were a collaborative project between the owners of each restaurant, Aimal Formoli and wife Suzanne Ricci, Billy Ngo and Red Lotus Bar Manager Mark Neuhauser.

According to Formoli, he and Ngo, both chefs and restaurant owners, had been wanting to do something together for a long time. They found that wine dinners were popular, but they wanted to do something different. With Neuhauser’s passion for beer and years of previous bar work at Outback Steakhouse and Suzanne Ricci’s direction, it all just came together.

Chefs Formoli and Ngo with some of their staff.
Kane Kunst, sales manager at Anchor Brewing Company, represented the company and educated the guests on what they were drinking.

“I’ve been to and a part of a lot of beer dinners elsewhere, but this one is definitely unique. They actually close down the restaurant for the event, which really creates a much more intimate setting for people to share their knowledge and experience in a sort of open forum,” Kunst said.

Formoli and Ngo both said they wanted this to be a fun and educational experience for the guests.

Formoli said, “The idea and name for these dinners stemmed from the concept of the slow food movement, where there is a focus on local products and slowing the pace of dining to heighten the experience and enjoyment of the food and drinks.”

“Of course, we want people to love everything they eat, but we also really want to change people’s minds about what they eat and how they eat it,” he added.

Adam Saake, who does social media marketing for Red Lotus and the beer dinners, said sometimes people expressed concern over how much food and alcohol they’d be consuming.

“While each dish is paired with a beer, it’s not a full-size dish and pint,” he said. “Each person gets a good serving of food and about four ounces of beer served in a wine glass, that complement each other. It’s not about getting drunk; these are very hand-crafted artisan beers that have very intelligent, complex flavor profiles and rather than stuffed, people should walk away satisfied.”

That was a point reiterated by all parties involved.

“Beer is so much more complex than people think, and it’s made up of so many more components than they realize,” Neuhauser said. “With wine, you pair with pretty specific types of food or cheese, but at these dinners, the chefs work hard to make something different that really brings out the flavors of both the dish and the beer.”

As tables of guests waited for each dish to be served, the food was definitely a point of discussion.

Malea Heim, a hairstylist in East Sacramento, came with her husband Toby Heim, who services a lot of the restaurant equipment at Formoli’s.

“Honestly, when Toby said he was taking me to a beer dinner, I hesitated because I’m not a big fan of beer. But really, you don’t have to be to come. The food is great and the environment is really fun because everyone is able to mix and mingle,” Malea Heim said.

While a number of attendees and the chefs themselves were most excited about the hops-smoked chicken, Malea Heim said she was really interested in the dressing on the salad. She said she was pleasantly surprised by how tasty the horse radish/chive sauce ended up being.

Toby Heim though, said he was especially impressed with the asparagus soup,which had a spice that matched that of the Liberty Ale, his favorite beer, perfectly.

Asparagus soup with asparagus tempura, creme fraiche and 7-spice.
At the other end of the table, diners were talking about a dish at the last Slow Beer Movement dinner, which involved baby octopus in black ink noodles.

Scott Anderson, MC of the dinner and deputy sheriff in Sacramento County, talked about why he came.

“Sacramento has great food scene that a lot of people don’t know about or realize,” he said. “This is my fourth dinner, and it is a great thing. The dishes are truly memorable, and it’s made to be about the experience…We’re encouraged to take our time and enjoy the food and beer. I don’t plan on missing a single dinner unless I happen to be out of town.”

Adam Pechal, chef and co-owner of Tuli’s Bistro and RESTAURANT THIR13EN, was also present and said he was most excited about the collaboration between two great local chefs.

“That these two phenomenal chefs, who I would also love to work with, are working together is what really drew me in. You know that the food will be amazing.”

Formoli said that they plan to keep the dinners going indefinitely. The dinners are scheduled to occur the third Monday of every month with the location alternating between the two restaurants.

Both Formoli and Neuhauser said they are trying to stay as local as they can, so next month’s event will be held at the new location of Formoli’s Bistro, 3839 J St., in conjunction with another local brewery and restaurant, Brew It Up!, 801 14th St.

Owner/founder of Brew It Up! Michael Costello, who was present, said the co-founders of the beer dinners have already brewed their own Japanese-style pilsner with a special twist to be served on that evening’s menu. Costello said three of the five featured beers, will be specially brewed for the event.

For more information on the dinners, check out their Facebook page.

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