Every six weeks or so, I take a picture like the one below. Every time I do, Chris Funnell dies a little inside.
Chris Funnell is the manager of the Kooner Hospitality Group’s 16th Street Liquor Store in West Vancouver. Every time I see him, he has a new suggestion about a great new dish he discovered at a new eatery somewhere and exactly what beer or wine one should pair with it. Then, I’ll invariably make him cringe by telling him about the brawl I won to drink the last room temperature Pilsner at a house party I’d just returned from without my head ever hitting a pillow.
With this being the case, it seemed fitting that, when I arrived at The Pumphouse last Friday, he should be the first person I recognized. I’d never been to The Pumphouse before and I’d made the trip out to Richmond to attend a beer tasting hosted by Beerthirst and KHG. Beerthirst is the Jerry Maguire of the beer world; they’re agents for beer, a “conduit from the beer craftsman to the beer connoisseur.” Good people to know in my book. Chris sits with Rob Angus, Massey Tanaka (from Beerthirst), and company president, Norman Eng. They talk shop. We talk beer.
Chris has to leave early but before he goes, he looks me right in the eye, takes me by the shoulders, and says, “keep an open mind and enjoy the beer.” Shortly thereafter, Tony Iaci, the manager of The Pumphouse, arrives with an armload of beer which Rob and Massey start doling out to the group assembled.
The food dish follows shortly, distributed by Tony and the charming serving staff of The Pumphouse. The first course is a charred romaine salad with candied pecans in an asiago dressing paired with a glass of Moylan’s Extra Special Bitter. The salad is very simple but very good. Whoever originally dreamt up the idea of putting romaine hearts on a open flame was a genius. Usually when lettuce gets warm it’s all limp and slimy because it’s on some half ass burger that’s been sitting under a heat lamp while the waitress finished her phone call. But this is very different. The charring brings out a sweetness in the lettuce I never knew existed and the Extra Special Bitter washes it down nicely.
The third course is as simple as the first: prawns biryani with sauteed garlic spinach. It is almost a perfect curry. Just the right level of spice with large, perfectly cooked prawns and it all goes wonderfully with the Moylan’s India Pale Ale. The Pale Ale, on it’s own, was a little strong to my taste (PBR and Pilsner) but combines very well with the dish.
The dishes were prepared in The Pumphouse’s kitchen by Daniella Iaci (whom I believe to be Tony’s cousin). I don’t get a chance to meet her (she did come out to great the customers at the tasting later) as I was unable to stay for the last three courses The first three were enough to convince me that this is something I would certainly do again.
I thought of tastings as being a snobby affair with pretentious people telling you why your taste was “wrong”, etc; however, this experience was a friendly, casual one. The staff at The Pumphouse are a friendly bunch and the people I met from Beerthirst all seemed to be perfectly suited to an awesome job.
Both The Pumphouse and Beerthirst have coming events listings on their webpages and I recommend you attend a tasting. You’ll be glad you did. In the end, I certainly was. Like Chris said, “keep an open mind and enjoy the beer.”