Sunday, April 3, 2011

What a Week! Jousting with the PLCB and a Bourbon Dinner

Posts have been thin again, but it's been a wild week. As I posted on the PLCB blog (and here, briefly), I was on WHYY's Radio Times call-in show with PLCB Chairman PJ Stapleton this past Monday. That went well -- and substantially increased my Twitter following, and got me some interest from pro-privatization groups; maybe more on that -- and got my week off to a good start.

Yes, that's Casey Hughes...
Tuesday was my bourbon dinner at Percy Street Barbecue. All you barbecue freak haters who can't wait to jump on the comments to bitch about their barbecue -- because no matter what a place is like, I know you're out there -- don't bother: we didn't have any barbecue. What we did have was a full menu informed and inspired by chef Erin O'Shea's barbecue experience and Southern roots. The place was sold out: 100 people (including some brewer friends, some writer friends, and my own wonderful wife) all ready for bourbon and food. We clustered around the bar for beers near the beginning (I had a 21st Amendment Bitter American (Percy St. only has draft beer and what might be the best craft can selection in the city)), then got down to business -- or bidness, I suppose.

First course: three different country hams, cut thin (proper), with rolls. Rolls maybe could have been softer to be traditional, but they were good. The hams were well-differentiated: rich, smokey, and delicate. The bourbon I paired (1792) as a "Kentucky tea," about 2 parts bourbon and three parts spring water over ice in a tall glass. It's an old distiller's favorite: you still taste the bourbon (which is why I chose the flavorful 1792), but with enough volume from the water and ice that you can easily drink it with your meal...and it's perfect for the salty ham.

Next two courses -- a delicious sweet potato soup (and I hate sweet potatoes!) with some deliciously fatty pork good on crisps; and smoked trout on a salad of apples, onions, and fingerling spuds -- were terribly good, the smoked trout especially. They got whiskeyed by Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey (a malt whiskey aged like bourbon; chose it to stand right up to the rich sweet potato soup) and Four Roses Yellow Label  on the rocks (chose it for the opposite reason; a great-tasting table bourbon that didn't overwhelm the trout). The whole time, of course, I was telling them about bourbon, and rye, and distillation, and some stories about distillers...you know, working the dinner and the room.

Fourth course was the big one: smoked whole quail, stuffed with cornbread and house-smoked sausage, on a bed of brussels sprouts with a side of beets. This was extremely popular at our table full of brewers, for a good reason: it was fabulous. It was semi-boned, with only the wings and legs left intact; you know, the parts you want to gnaw off the bone! I decided to let the bar show off their stuff this round, and we did a Rittenhouse Rye Manhattan, perfect in the city of Rittenhouse. (We will have rye whiskey made in PA again; soon. Trust me.)

Things wound up with something Erin called "Cracker Jack," which was grits (cooked in milk, I think), with caramel, nuts, and a raisin puree made with whiskey. It was way more yummy than something made with grits and raisins ever deserved to be. I paired it with Rowan's Creek, which may have been my one duff move of the evening; Rowan's is pretty sweet stuff (at least, this batch was), and the dessert really over-accentuated that. We live, we learn.

A great time, and a very impressive first special dinner for Percy Street. Things came out hot (when appropriate!), service was steady and friendly, and the drinks were dead on the money. Be happy to work with these folks again.

Still, like I said...this was the start of my week. Another post to come on the rest of it: a trip to NERAX, another lunch with Thomas at Deep Ellum, Will Meyers's barrel room marvels, arguing session beer with BeerAdvocate's Alström Brothers (now posted at the SBP blog), a great dinner at Hungry Mother, and I touch down at Zeppelin Hall. Stay tuned...

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