Respect to the Rainier: Seasonal Cherry Desserts at BierBeisl
Been to BierBeisl yet? With all the current rage for flavors from Asia and Latin countries, it's impressive to see chef Bernhard Mairinger (ex-Patina) buck trends and forge his own path--in Beverly Hills, no less--with a cozy but modern open-kitchen spot paying respect to the cuisine of his home Austria. I'll get to the menu tasting that Mairinger was kind enough to offer me (and don't think I got special treatment--every other diner bent over backwards to thank him on the way out) in a moment.
But, because life is short, first dessert:
What brought me to BierBeisl was a little campaign by those clever folks up in Washington State to celebrate National Rainier Cherry Day (July 11--who knew?) by shipping 40 pounds of the rare juicy fruit--available for only six weeks a year--to one chef in each US state, for them to create unique desserts.
Mairinger was the one chef selected for all of California, which is pretty impressive when you note that BeirBeisl has only been open since April. "I love the product," he told me last night, noting its similiarity to Austria's Weichsel variety. "I like that they're not so sweet--you can work with them. When you put them in compotes and marinades, they get better and better."
The Chef created three desserts (yes, I got to try them all) with the Rainiers, all of which will be available throughout July--or, I suppose, until his supply runs out:
•Simple, Cabernet and spice-marinated Rainier Cherries with house made vanilla ice cream (see gallery below)
• Vanilla Infused Goat Cheese with homemade Rainier Cherry compote, toasted pistachios, green peppercorns and frisee salad
• A Cherry-Chocolate Strudel with homemade pistachio ice cream
[CLICK BELOW FOR THE RECIPE]
The latter was so wondrous, so seductively understated in its melange of flavor, subtle sweetness and velvety texture, that I can't say enough good things. I know that you dessert lovers flock to that block of Little SM for Sprinkles (yeah yeah, the cupcake ATM, whatev) and Menchies, but let me advise you to stop next door instead. You will come home and kiss your computer screen, I promise.
Now, as for the meal that led up to this jubilee of cherries (sorry, couldn't resist), one wouldn't call it slavishly traditional, but with an emphasis on schnitzel and locally-made sausages, combined with a variety of creative Austrian and local ingredients, certainly authentic.* In a way that reminded me of Cantonese, Mairinger's Austrian seemed to emphasize textures as much as flavors--the latter, subtle in almost all cases, except for the sausage. It does take a bit of adjustment for a "foodie" used to being hit over the head, so to speak, with spice and heat and salt. This food has something of a zen effect (even if it's not vegetarian), urging you to slow down, seek within, and savor.
BierBeisl offers a select menu of uncommon Austrian beers, both on tap and in bottle, as well as a judicious wine list (don't be boring, get the Blaufränkisch) and multiple schnapps. For most, I'd recommend starting with the beer and sausage pairing menu, if you think you can stand that much fun
By the way, I'm told: "Washington State alone produces 12 varieties of cherries, which make up 60 percent of sweet cherries in the country. The Northwest cherry season lasts from the first week of June until the end of August..."
And here are the other Southwest restaurants/chefs featuring Rainier Cherries this month:
Beckett’s Table, Phoenix, AZ., Executive Chef/Owner: Justin Beckett
Flagstaff House, Boulder, CO., Executive Chef: Mark Monette
Forte, Las Vegas, NV., Executive Chef: Nina Manchev
La Plazuela, Sante Fe, NM, Executive Chef: Lane Warner
Driskill Grill, Austin, TX, Executive Chef: Jonathan Gelman
Log Haven, Salt Lake City, UT, Executive Chef: David Jones
*"Authentic" is a word I usually hate to use, but when you sit at Mairinger's kitchen bar and see all the Austrian ingredients he's using, and talk about schnapps and vinegars and salts and black walnuts... I bet there are few restaurant in Wien itself more authentic than BierBeisl.