A leisurely occasion for culinary delights and hand-crafted beer tasting held Saturday at The Esplanade, overlooking Smokehouse Bay, by the creative people of CJ’s On The Bay featured six courses on an impressive menu.
“I thought the idea for Brews On The Bay sounded interesting,” said Uschi Seyler of Marco Island. “Being from Germany, which is known for great beer and food, I was looking forward to tonight, and I am very, very impressed.”
Benjamin Papendieck, sous chef at CJ’s On The Bay, came to Marco Island from Milwaukee. “Beer and food pairings are almost a lifestyle for many chefs in Milwaukee,” said Papendieck.
“It all came from one conversation, and evolved into what it has become right here, right now,” he said. “I’ve never done anything quite like this before.”
“Talking one-on-one, and seeing how each favor, each dish, each beer stirred something in that person; a memory, a taste, something that someone absolutely loved, is what makes tonight special for me.”
Award-winning, microbrewed craft beers by Blue Point Brewing Company of Long Island, N.Y. were paired with each food showcased at the event.
“The best thing about tonight is the beer,” said Ernie and Mary Martinez, of Naples.
Toasted lager, made from six unique malts, came first. The brewery’s flagship brew has a copper color and smooth, long-lasting finish.
Rastafarye ale was next. This hearty malt is brewed from West Coast hops with spicy and floral characteristics.
Thirst-quenching Summer Ale’s traditional tartness was perfect with the salmon.
Then, there was Blueberry Ale, an unusual brewing of fresh American blueberries.
Hoptical Illusion stole the show, a classic malt from hops grown only in Oregon.
Sour Cherry Imperial Stout was another favorite. It’s an extremely complex version of Russian-style beer, according to the brewer, loaded with chocolate malts that contain coffee, sherry and sour cherry notes.
The silky, rich Oatmeal Stout was a deeply malted final course.
“Ben and I collaborated on the seven beers to go with the menu,” said Rob Johnson, of Blue Point Brewing Company. “We had a lot of enthusiasm, and it resulted in what is probably the best pairing I’ve ever done.
“Blue Point Brewing Company isn’t about big marketing plans. We put our heart and soul into it, just like that guy rolling cigars by hand,” said Johnson.
After-dinner cigars were hand-rolled following the gourmet meal, accompanied by premium bourbon and scotch offerings.
Brothers Waldo and Nenne Laurencia make cigars by hand, in the tradition of the Laurencia family of Havana, Cuba.
Each cigar is measured and cut by hand. “We even light them for our customers,” said Laurencio. “We do everything for you, except smoke them.”
“I love watching them; I could stand here for hours,” said Marco Island cigar aficionado Jim Lane. “They are doing a great job, and I’m thinking they are from the Miami area. He has the technique, and the look to his work, that tells you he is very good. He can roll any size that you want, and knows, visually, what he is going to do, based on ring size, by his experience, alone.”
The Laurencio’s premium cigar company, “Magic City Cigars,” is located in Miami.
Curt and Jacquie Koon, owners of CJ’s On The Bay, came to Marco Island from New Jersey.
The Koons selected Marco Island from among seven cities under consideration for the restaurant, about two years ago.
“You just fall in love with this place,” said Jacquie Koon. “Marco Island has given us tremendous support. This was our long-term plan, and we feel very fortunate.”
Fun for our five senses is already brewing for next year. To find out more now, call CJ’s On The Bay, at 389-4511.
Brews on the Bay menu
– Toasted carpaccio glazed with garlic marinade and dry aged in house, was grilled over an open flame, its charred flavor enhanced by the selected toasted lager.
– Jamon serrano canapes, an earthy, German style, whole-grain rye bread topped with 18-month aged ham from Spain was served with micro greens and paired perfectly with a rye-flavored ale.
House-cured wild salmon, imported from Norway and served with a lemon-dill crème fraiche, accentuated the distinct tartness of an underlying citrus in another brew.
– Pork two ways, slow-roasted and dressed with apple-bacon marmalade, offered a cascade of flavors to compliment the body and color of a beer simply called IPA.
– Artesian cheeses including white Stilton with cranberries, Irish cheddar, and smoked blue complimented a barley malt.
– For dessert, a smooth chocolate crème brulee, infused with torched cherry rum and garnished with California cherries blended with the chocolate presentation in each sip of the beer that went with it.