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A quirky approach to classic pizza and beer

Nicli Antica Pizzeria and Strange Fellows Brewing threw a peculiar summer farewell dinner party 

Pizza caprese. Photo by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud.

Beer and pizza can summon reminiscences of summer evenings, sitting on a Vancouver patio. But now the leaves are turning red, pumpkins are orange, and the autumn breezes are putting a chill on patio seating.

Instead of mourning the disappearance of the warm days, two local businesses decided to say farewell to summer with a dinner that welcomed the new season and let people know that they're now pairing their products. 

Nicli Antica Pizzeria and Strange Fellows Brewing chose the autumnal equinox, September 23, to host the event. Strange Fellows founder Aaron Jonkheere likes quirky celebrations: in July they threw a fiesta in honour of Pamplona's Running of the Bulls ("We assure you that no bulls were harmed in the making of our beer," read the event listing) complete with Spanish guitar music and a piñata.  

As the name suggests, quirkiness is part of the Strange Fellows brand, and on September 23 that quality was highlighted by pairing their beers with a surprising five-course menu created by Nicli’s chef David Tozer.

The first course was a pizza tartiflette. Who knew that you could turn a rustic French dish into pizza and combine it with Swiss raclette? The richness and sweetness of the dish—which includes potato, bacon, and caramelized onions—was nicely balanced with the orange notes of the Jongleur Belgian Wit that the bar manager, Christopher Allen, chose to pair it with.

Then the roles were reversed: the food was lighter than the beer.

A classic pizza caprese with fresh basil and mozzarella di bufala matched nicely with the scent of apricot and bitter aftertaste of the Guardian White IPA that was poured into the glasses. The combination seemed like something you would bring to a sports night with foodie friends.

Next course: B.C. terroir, via cedar plank salmon pizza. Offsetting the wild fish was a sweet and spicy mostarda di frutta, sungold tomato, corn and crema 

This was complemented by a decidedly non-B.C. pairing: the passionfruit notes of Strange Fellows Talisman West Coast Pale Ale, a more delicate and less intense brew than the two prior offerings.

The final course was created to amaze. Named “Nocturnum Nightmare,” it was a sort of autumnal stew placed on top of pizza dough.

Instead of tomato or white sauce, there was squash puree with smoked cheddar, while the usual thin meats were replaced by generous chunks of braised Pemberton beef short rib, dressed with black garlic jus.

It was delicious, and well-paired with the malty bitterness of a Nocturnum Dark IPA. In this case, there was no need for one to cut the flavours of the other. Both were robust, creamy and rounded.

Finally, the sweet arrived. A moist, spicy, decadent chocolate olive oil cake, with honey and hop gelato, black huckleberry and chantilly.

It was paired with an almost-sparkling Roxane Framboise Noir sour grisette that was also delicious on its own— but that didn’t add anything to the dessert. Better to try them separately.

In all, a memorable, eclectic feast. Goodbye summer, and hello to a strange and wonderful autumn. 


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