It seems that all across the country, we had a mild winter. Blame La Niña or Global Warming or the beginning of the 2012 Mayan apocalypse. My favorite explanation for the unusually pleasant weather is that it’s a precursor to a zombie breakout. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Either way, get your survival plans on lockdown and start stockpiling. Soon, either barricaded in my zombie proof compound or otherwise dealing with this year’s multitude of insects (we’ll see come warm weather), I’ll think back to a time when Winter meant cold temperatures, strong beer and hot food.
Certain things go well together. Chocolate and peanut butter, whisky and my mouth, and Rustico’s meatballs and Nøgne Ø Winter Ale. For months, I thought that I was enjoying Nøgne Ø Winter Stout! I researched, but didn’t find any such beer! Racking my brain I realized that menus had only referred to it as Nøgne Ø Winter.
Rustico’s winter menu included the ability to order individual breaded fried devil eggs, sweet potato skins and meatballs, available two ways. (1) in tomato gravy on top of Parmesan polenta and (2) in a lettuce wrap with seaweed octopus eyes and dill pickles. Ok, that’s not what’s in the lettuce wrap, which was actually quite good, but we’re focusing on the winner. Out of the 2 meatball dishes, one was clearly a favorite. When I would ask, “So about the meatballs…” the response was always, “Ohhhhh tomato gravy. Issss soo goooooooood.”
Meatballs and Nøgne Ø Yes, it is every bit as delicious as this picture is frightening. Although my cellphone pic looks like a still from from the 80’s movie The Thing, I still can’t look at them without drooling. Sweet tomato gravy. It is light enough to let the basil and succulence of the meat stand out. Nogne O Winter has a toasty, roasted oat flavor. The meatballs seared, coarse exterior provide just the right texture of resistance to the interior’s just right gristle goodness. It’s a freshly ground, old world butcher, lasting taste too. Like freshly fallen snow, a beautiful blanket of polenta is the foundation for this dish. I’ve had waxy, boring porridge-like polenta before. This dish’s polenta has a creamy cheesy texture from reggiano parmesan. It pairs perfectly with the tomato gravy which includes crushed tomatoes that have a soft, delicate texture. Piercing them with my fork then smothering them under cheesy polenta is rewarding. The Nogne-o Winter delivers earthy bark flavors (if you’ve ever hiked or snowboarded through back country, you know what I mean as you’re gonna get a few branches to the face), chicory with pine needles on the front of my tongue.
As you’ve been reading this, I’m curious how you’ve been pronouncing Nøgne Ø. I’ve heard the beer pronounced a number of different ways. [Noj-nee, nuug-ne, nawg-nee] I even looked it up on Youtube to see the correct pronunciation, which reminded me of this SNL skit
nuni. no, nuni. no, it’s nun-ni. If you REALLY want to hear the correct pronunciation, just listen to brewmaster guy Kjetil.