Wildfire at Tysons Galleria


June 8, 2011 By The Foodies


JUNE 2011 ISSUE – foodie, foody [‘fu-di] n.
An aficionado with a special interest in the preparation and consumption of gourmet food

Magic Hat Brewery kicked off American Craft Beer Week festivities in Virginia with a beer dinner at Wildfire, a 1940s style supper club located on the upper level of Tysons Galleria. Wildfire is no ordinary restaurant and Magic Hat is no ordinary beer.

Wildfire offers familiar comfort food favorites with a gourmet twist. Food and beverage options include nightly plate specials, family-style club menus for groups of six or more, a martini menu, an expansive wine list, cooking classes and wine and beer dinners. And one of the many surprises of the experience is that the expansive, wood-paneled dining room is actually inside a shopping mall.

Magic Hat is a 19 year old Vermont-based brewery that very much embodies its unique, quirky surroundings. Our Magic Hat tour guide, Katie McLaughlin, at first describes the brewery as a haunted house but quickly adds that Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory is also an accurate description. The creative atmosphere, McLaughlin says, might resemble the brewery that Ben and Jerry would have created if they had chosen hops over ice cream.

The beer dinner opened with a sweet, savory, fresh-off-the-grill crispy skin honey BBQ glazed smoked chicken wings and Magic Hat’s quintessential #9. At first, the sweetness of this ale is difficult to identify. It is close to, but not quite, the tang of hops. Katie explains that it is apricot that fools the palate but lends itself to the sweetness of the BBQ glaze.

It was also with #9 in our mugs that we took the Magic Hat pledge: “I toast my glass to the taps, of the United Tastes of beer. And to the pub, from which it pours, one pint, chaotically crafted, with libation and jodhpurs for all. Amen and Ahwomen.”

Much like the beer, Magic Hat enthusiasts are cut from a different cloth. The dinner’s 30 participants are a mix of home brewers and beer lovers; they are lively and ready to see what Chef Eddie Ishaq has cooked up to pair with their favorite beers.

The first course was Fresh Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad, with mixed micro greens and Magic Hat’s Wacko vinaigrette, paired with a wine glass of ice cold Wacko, ‘the liquid song of summer.’ At first glance, this English ale looks more like a White Zinfandel than a beer, but Katie reveals that it is brewed with Belgian beet sugars with a little beet juice added at the end to give it a rosy color. The beets, she says, have very little impact on the flavor. Instead of syrupy sweet, Wacko is just a crisp, refreshing, colorful beer that could very easily become an added ingredient in a chicken or fish marinade.

The second course was Grilled Open Faced Skirt Steak Sandwich on asiago ciabatta, topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms and garlic fries on the side, paired with Magic Hat Blind Faith, an IPA that Magic Hat was brewing long before the IPA explosion on the beer market. Blind Faith does not overwhelm the taste buds with that typical strong, floral nose or bitter aftertaste, but ends with a malty balance that cleanses and refreshes between bites of tender, juicy skirt steak and garlic fries so powerful they would make a vampire cry. It would have been interesting to try the onions caramelized in Blind Faith.

Dessert was a Pineapple Upside-Down Cake drowning in a melting puddle of house-made vanilla bean gelato paired perfectly with the medium bodied and ideally balanced Magic Hat Single Chair Ale. The generous serving of pineapple upside-down cake was crisp on the outside, warm, tender and sweet on the inside.

Be sure to catch Magic Hat during SAVOR Beer Week DC at Atomic Billiards. Magic Hat invites you to buy a pint of its finest ale and take the glass home with you! Why do they do it? Because they love you. For realsies. Enjoy their featured brews all week long, but the pint party starts at 9 pm.

Wildfire, Tysons Galleria, 3rd floor, Mclean, VA; 703-442-9110; www.wildfirerestaurant.com.
Atomic Billiards: 3427 Connecticut Ave. NW, DC; 202-363-7665; www.atomicbilliards.com.