Dining with Dave

Dining with Dave

One good turn follows another at Haven Gastropub

By Dan O'Heron 10/04/2012

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Church it’s not, but for beer lovers and fussy eaters, Sunday “Dining with Dave” promises to turn the Haven Gastropub into a home for the blest. 
 
Hosted by Haven’s brewmaster, David Larsen, the gift — Italian sausage sandwiches mated with four “very hoppy” house-brewed beers — is conferred this Sunday for $25 per person. Held in a private dining room, reservations are recommended. It concludes, said Larsen, “with a shot of Jameson Irish” to keep beer talk flowing well into the evening. 
 
In the main dining room, and at the bar, Executive Chef Greg Daniels’ regular menu will prevail. His development of American twists on classic dishes complement Larsen’s beers, ales and stouts. From time to time, Brewmaster Larsen will pop out of the private room to engage guests with beer blarney and telling words about the brews in general.
Sunday’s event, complete with salad, pasta and dessert, “reminds me of how my grandmother always served us Italian sausage on New Year’s Eve,” said Larsen.
 
Larsen’s sausages will be stuffed with pork, fennel (a flavor enhancer sweeter and more delicate than anise) and “secret spices.” But he can’t hide pork sausage stuffings under his mattress — my professional guess is that spices include green peppercorn, paprika and a nick of thyme. So there! 
 
But I am impressed that “Dining with Dave” is personal. He’s there in person, and his name is on the product. When you put your name of something, you’ve got to do yourself proud.
 
At last month’s inaugural Sunday dinner, Larsen’s pride in his work helped make Old Pasadena a better place in which to dine. Guests were crowing over free-range, hormone-free Mary’s chicken, oven-baked with lemon, soy, garlic, Dijon mustard, plus many side etceteras. It was married with four house-brewed tap beers running the courses: 
 
1) Gross National Happiness cream ale, 5.0 percent alcohol, with light body and creamy finish.
2) Haven-Hefe, 5.0 percent alcohol, a Bavarian-style easy to drink wheat beer.
3) Hello World American pale ale, 6.3 percent alcohol, very spicy, hoppy mad.
4) upRYEsing Indian pale ale, 6.5 percent alcohol. 
 
A storied beer, upRYEsing is fashioned after the beer that England shipped to its troops in British-occupied India. Through the hot waters of the Indian Ocean, beer came with lots of hops, whose acid helped preserve it. This didn’t bother the troops. Like good soldiers, they just wanted to drink — even if the stuff was warm.
 
To best avoid the sun, well-to-do civilians, in sailing to the subcontinent, bought tickets that entitled them to cabins that were “port side out, starboard home,” hence the acronym “POSH.” 
 
Returning to Pasadena at Haven’s main dining room, Larsen said his favorite all-purpose brew “that goes great with most anything Chef Daniels creates,” is the 7.5 percent alcohol Brew master’s Breakfast. No, the restaurant doesn’t open early enough for you to pour this on your cereal. The name comes from its bacon and chocolate chip hotcakes aroma. 
 
You must try this full-bodied breakfast stout. With multi-dimensional flavors, it tantalizes the palate. It compares more like cognac than Coors, or even Dom Perignon as opposed to Diet Pepsi.
 
Like wine tasters, said Larsen, expert beer tasters go through the ablution ritual of swirling, smelling, rinsing and inhaling — an exercise made simpler if you think of it as “whistling backwards.” Larsen’s specialty is what he calls a “drive-by” smell. This involves a continuous movement to and from, laterally under the nose. 
 
Whatever one’s method, Larsen assures us that one following sip of beer will change the taste of a morsel of food for the better. In turn, the bite of food will make the beer taste better. 
 
I like to think of Larsen’s pairings as sexy. It’s like a carousel of taste carousal — one leaves and another enters, merry-go-rounds for all.
 
With 40 craft beers on tap at Haven — at least eight concocted in tanks by Larsen — and around 150 crafted bottles from specialty brewers the world over, this is a huge, exclusive varietal pour.
 
Yet, you won’t hear any of that wine connoisseur’s prissy carpings or flower-pedaled recitals over nuances of taste. Concerning the 16.8 percent alcohol content of bottled Belgium Beast Grand Cru, you won’t hear a beer person declare that “It gallops with aplomb.” Likely you’ll hear, “It has a kick.” And as smart as wine people, beer persons will identify the wine ritual in scientific terms: osmosis by design.
 
Not to get into gender issues, but do women take to beer as they do wine? Or does the very notion that women might not generate a backlash? Larsen said he appreciates the trajectory of the women’s movement toward beer. “We have many women brewmasters now?” But do women chug-a-lug? “You bet,” he said. But do women prefer fruited beers? “Some do. I’m about to brew a ‘passion fruit’ for women and men,” said Larsen. “OK,” I replied. “I’ve ordered fruited beers, but only when I’m ordering for someone else.”
 
Yet, for a good night for all, but especially for savvy wine and food pairings — either with Dave Larsen on Sundays, or fare from Chef Daniels’ daily menu — one good turn keeps following another. 

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