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Kennett’s Roast Chicken Dinner (and a free surprise)

7 November 2011

Last Sunday at Kennett, the cozy bar/restaurant on South 2nd in Queen’s Village, chef Brian Ricci put on a special and very comforting Sunday supper.  For $28, a couple could share an entire roast chicken with carrots and barley—a comforting dinner that was sure to remind you of mom’s home cooking.  But this wasn’t any regular chicken dinner.  On hand throughout the night was Sean Mellody of Mellody Brewing to assist with beer pairings for the food as well as hand out free samples of his latest homebrewed beer.

Sean was sampling Queen’s Harvest, a cask-conditioned East Coast style IPA that clocks in at 5.8% ABV and was brewed with 10 ounces of wet Cascade hops grown by Chef Ricci and Jared of Philly Tap Finder in the Southwark/Queen Village Community Garden.  “The goal was to create a subtle, balanced harvest ale with fresh, local ingredients,” Sean said.  “Not the usual hob bomb harvest ales can be.”  The beer was subtle indeed, almost verging on regular pale ale rather than IPA.  It had a surprising caramel undertone that went perfectly with the smooth cask conditioning and paired well with the chicken.

The chicken, which came from Bell & Evans Farms, was moist and delicious.  Brined in a mixture containing YardsBrawler, it was then pan roasted in the oven and served with carrots from Headhouse Market, cooked in the same pan as the chicken, and toasted barley cooked in brown butter with vanilla bean and brown sugar, among other things.  The caramel flavors from the barley and the chicken went perfectly with Sean’s beer, and the subtlety helped to not overshadow the chicken, as normally-hoppy harvest ales usually would.

And how did this collaboration between a chef, a homebrewer, and Philly’s taplist expert come about? The same way most things do: “I was sitting at Kennett with Jared, talking about beer,” Sean says.  “He mentioned he and Brian, who are both homebrewers as well, grow hops and can never use them all.”  After Sean brewed his beer with the hops, he brought bottles to Kennett for Brian to taste, who said it would go well with roasted chicken and fall vegetables. Soon, there was the dinner inspired by the beer.  Being supportive of the homebrewing community, Kennett also let Sean come in to give out free samples of the beer so that those enjoying the chicken could also enjoy the pairing.

You don’t often find a quality $28 meal for two in the city, with free beer to boot. Many agreed, and it was no wonder the dinner turned out to be a success, with Kennett selling out of chicken and Sean emptying his firkin in only a few hours. The event worked out well enough that planning for a once-monthly Sunday dinner—complete with fresh cask-conditioned homebrew samples from Sean—is in the works.  Be sure to follow Kennett and Sean on Twitter to get any forthcoming details—but don’t wait just for a special dinner to go to Kennett.  The bar/restaurant was recently named to Foobooz’s Top 50 Bars of 2011 list, making it a requirement to stop by if you have yet to visit.

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