City Beer Hall's Maize and Mussel Stew
Corn was first domesticated in prehistoric times about 10,000 years ago, and it has been running the world ever since. Cultivated, cherished and even worshipped in indigenous cultures of Central and North America, corn was responsible for sustaining hungry settlers in the New World and then sent around the globe to be planted as a life-sus- taining, affordable cash crop.
The adulation for all things corn is understandable. That moment when you discover yourself sitting outside on the porch on a sunny afternoon, passing a freshly picked cob dripping with butter and sprinkled with salt to a wee smiling loved one at your side feels like so much more than the sum of its parts; it harks back to your own childhood, free-spirited summers past, present and future, all enriched by meals centered around the sweet grain.
But corn, like carefree childhood summers, is more complicated than it seems at first glance. Genetically engineered corn comprises about 89% of U.S. corn acreage, according to the USDA. It doesn’t take more than a few swipes at Google to uncover all manner of opinion and emotions about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and many large companies, like General Mills and Campbell Soup, in the face of shifting public opinion have decided to label which products of theirs contain GMOs and which do not. Much of the corn grown in America is also not sweet, edible, field corn—it’s industrial corn grown with chemical fertilizers. Sometimes it seems like this corn is used to do everything but feed people, from making biofuels like ethanol to bio-based plastic.
But Dimitrios Menagias, chef at City Beer Hall in Albany, believes that corn’s culinary potential is not only still worth exploring but can be utilized as the star ingredient on an epic journey through dishes, flavors and cul- tural influences that populate the past, present and future of American cookery.
The City Beer Hall, a sprawling gastropub that punches well above its weight class in terms of sophistication, sourcing and community engagement, while still staying in the welter-weight entrée price category, frequently hosts seasonal and beer-pairing dinners in partnership with Capital Region producers, brewers and farmers. Dimitrios shared with us a Maize and Mussel Stew that is perfect for a communal meal with friends.
Cheers to America!
City Beer Hall is located at 42 Howard Street in Albany. TheCityBeerHall.com