For as long as I can remember, pierogies have been a part of my life. When my sister and I were wee little tikes, our grandmother used to babysit us daily while Mom and Dad were off at work. We always had fun and, looking back, maybe were a little more hell-raising than we should’ve been (Grandma’s weapon of choice to keep things under control was the wooden spoon). But without question, it was nice to have Grandma around for so much of our early lives.
She always cooked for us. And one of her favorites to prepare, and mine to consume, was pierogies. My connection to these potato-filled dumplings goes back to a point when I couldn’t even pronounce the word correctly and affectionately referred to them as “pedoggies.” The fact I’m able to retrieve that from memory ultimately speaks to this obsession with food 30+ years later.
To my knowledge, Grandma’s pierogies were of the Mrs. T’s frozen variety…boiled, then sauteed to perfection with a little seasoning and sliced onion. They weren’t prepared fresh, but they were prepared with love. And what 6-year old is going to complain that his pierogies came from a box?
Fast-forward to life in Pittsburgh, where all evidence of this affection for cheese and potatoes stuffed inside a chewy, doughy shell seemed even more real. I mean, for God’s sake, pierogies run around the baseball field at PNC Park! There’s an entire festival devoted to the piergoi! There’s a food truck that specializes in nothing but!
Pierogies rule the realm…and I just have to sit here and take it. Life is just rough sometimes.
Obviously I don’t have to explain that my obsessions include craft beer (you know, because blog), but lately I’ve been getting into the culinary connections good beer have with good food. After all, brewing a creative beer is not unlike cooking up something innovative in the kitchen. Plus, the pairing element that combines plating the perfect dish and putting it next to the perfect pint can take your dining experience to extraordinary heights.
So with all that said, when Matt Katase, co-founder of The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company, emailed me and said they were hosting a Pierogi and Beer Dinner, I couldn’t reserve my seat fast enough. The Brew Gentlemen joined forces with Casey Barber, author behind the new book Pierogi Love: New Takes on an Old-World Comfort Food, to present a stunning five-course meal all centered around the pierogi! This was one of the more unique dinners I’ve attended in that it showcased just a small sampling of how many different spins you can put on a simple delicacy dating back hundreds of years.
Pierogi Love is a must-have for any dumpling fan. Casey has taken what you’ve come to know as a “traditional” pierogi and brought it into a whole new light. This book runs the spectrum from the sweetest of the sweet like the Lemon-Ricotta Pierogies pictured below, to the most savory style of pierogi, including the Mushroom, Goat Cheese, and Chive Pierogi we all raved about during Course Three. The consensus at our end of the table mirrored a Forrest Gump quote when the Mushroom pierogies hit our mouths: “I could eat about a million and a half of these!”
Casey is a freelance food writer and photographer and editor of the online magazine Good. Food. Stories. She is also the author of Classic Snacks Made From Scratch: 70 Homemade Versions of Your Favorite Brand-Name Treats. And, as of right now, I’m officially dubbing her the ‘Queen of the Pierogi.’ Sorry, Grandma.
You can get to know Casey a little better by checking out her website, caseybarber.com. And, it goes without saying, pre-order yourself a copy of Pierogi Love and discover a world of dumplings on performance enhancers!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t sing my praises for The Brew Gentlemen, too. These guys consistently put together some of the most innovative, unique, classy, and fun events you’ll ever attend. From Beer Dinners to Halloween parties, there’s no denying Matt and co-founder Asa Foster know how to show you a good time. This Beer & Pierogi pairing was their third Taproom Dinner event and truly exemplifies their cunning ability to throw a party with all the elements of “upscale” sans pretentiousness. The beer was spot-on and paired incredibly well with each plate, once again bringing together the perfect union of craft beer and culinary excellence.
Oh, and Mexican Coffee is back. Hashtag HELL YES.
If you’ve never attended a Pittsburgh beer dinner of any kind, you’re missing out. These events serve as the ultimate feast of food, drink, and, most importantly, camaraderie. If you’ve followed my writing for the past two years, you know my love of craft beer doesn’t just exist for what’s in the glass. It’s all about the experiences, memories, and relationships that are forged because of these products we are most enthusiastic about. In the end, we don’t just remember the food and the beer…we remember the people we shared it with.
I sat down next to four strangers last night and, by the end of the night, made four new friends. This is what the craft beer community is all about: bringing people together. This pierogi and beer dinner served as the perfect platform for great beer, great food, and great people…all together under one roof.
And what’s not to love about that?
A special thanks to Casey, Matt, and the rest of the crew who hustled all night long to ensure beer glasses where never empty and food was plentiful!
I could go on and on about each dish, but I’ll let the pictures below do the talking. Buon appetit and cheers!