Pairing Tsingtao with Chinatown
The waiter frowned at me in disappointment — a sure sign that I was another annoying yuppie from uptown high off of watching too many episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s “No Reservations” to really know what the hell I was ordering.
“It’s one size,” he said, cupping his hands sideways like a bowl. “It’s $160.”
He flipped over his notepad and wrote the numbers — 160 — on the cardboard back and circled it.
OK, so I passed on the shark fin soup — but I wasn’t leaving until I had drained a few Tsingtaos with my entourage. It was Tuesday night, and we were lucky to even get a table at New Golden Gate. The place was booming with foot traffic, huge bowls full of lobster and shellfish floated past us on trays, with the smell of ginger trailing behind.
We came to Chinatown because Sned flew up from New York City for a night. He wanted Chinese. He wanted good beer. And he wanted to dodge the fitful thought of trying to sleep at his crash pad in Queens on the bed that is too short for his legs, a place where his bunkmates don’t give a second thought to waking him up at 4 a.m. to help move in a poker table so they can get a game started with 8 or 10 guys. Thus, Tuesday became my weekend.
Sned is a Corona man. But the 6-pack I bought for him was back in my beer fridge, so I found something that appealed to his lighter-beer-tasting sensibility in a bottle of Tsingtao.
I had forgotten how good this beer tasted. The five of us were quaffing them while we figured out what to order. A couple things struck me as I came to the end of my second beer; people talk big about ingredients these days during this craft beer revolution that’s underway in the Hub.
What magic ingredient got me with Tsingtao? The water. Maybe I’m a little whacky, but this pilsner doesn’t taste like a pilsner. And it’s because of the water. The Tsingtao went great with our food. That said, I don’t really buy into this cottage industry of food-and-beer pairing that is flowering into a regular event around Boston.
One night at New Golden Gate made me call it: This pairing business is a largely overpriced shell game with small portions served as courses — it’s a short con for nerds who have money to blow. Why does an entree suddenly double in price because you served with it a craft beer that usually costs me $5 or $6 at the bar? Oh, oh wait! It’s a beer pairing!
My impromptu meal for five people with a few rounds of beers was $122. Can you beat that, Mr. Beer Pairer?
Here’s my idea — find a restaurant you like that has a good beer selection. Put your savings toward a growler or two for the fridge.
Sned was onto bigger thoughts. His assignment for us: Use an animal as a verb to form a sentence. Example: B-Lo snaked through the plates to get at my black pepper veal ribs. He cowed anyone who came near him.
I didn’t have to horse my beer because it was so smooth — after all, it’s a Tsingtao. Plus, it was downright affordable.
The Beer Drinker is a writer and creator of the Beer Drinking Report. He left that waiter a big tip for warning him about the soup.