Last weekend marked our fourth year attending the Oregon Garden Brewfest and its night-before event, the Brewer's Tasting Dinner (now in its fifth year as part of the festivities). The six-course dinner is an interesting mix of industry folks (brewers, bar/restaurant/business owners and media) and people who may or may not be attending the festival as well. One of the couples at our table this year had only heard about the dinner the morning prior on their local news of choice and although they had other plans preventing them from attending the festival they jumped on tickets to the dinner, driving down from Portland for the evening.
The first year the dinner was great, the second not quite as good and last year, well let's just say that if it had been the only year I'd attended I might not have gone again. But this year, wow!, a redemption in the food and the beers and even the service was a bit more coordinated. Grab a napkin for your drool, here's a recap of the meal.
Arugula and tangerine salad with toasted almonds and poppy seed dressing, fontina crostini
Worthy Brewing Coeur de la Peche
The beer, part of their Saison program and made with peaches and apricots, was something I was looking forward to but the Saison characteristics were a bit too pronounced for me to enjoy much of it on its own. The food however, especially the fontina crostini but also the poppy seed dressing, made a fantastic paring. Light and balanced in intensity, the meal was off to a promising start.
Thai-style coconut and lemongrass soup with crab and chili
Fremont Brewing Interurban IPA infused with basil and lemongrass
The soup, similar to something I make at home, had amazing aroma and flavor with the only detraction being that unchewable portions of the lemongrass had not been strained out of the soup (something my dining companions commented on as well). The infusion of the beer was something done especially for this festival and in my view could have been done with a heavier hand as the flavor was mostly from the hop profile. No problem though, the beer was tasty and a great counterpoint to the soup, neither overpowering the other, instead complimenting and amplifying the spiciness of the other with each sip and slurp.
Bacon and brisket hush puppies, Terry's BBQ sauce and tangy slaw
Silver Falls Brewery NW Red Ale
Here the food was the dish I was most excited about. I mean bacon and brisket? Yeah. Fresh out of the kitchen the aroma left my mouth watering and they were perfectly cooked, remaining moist and not at all greasy. The beer, heavy on the malt aroma and flavor, I wasn't a fan of on its own but it paired exceptionally well with the cornmeal in the hush puppies. More of the BBQ sauce would have been great as there was only enough for my hush puppies and I would have liked a bit more to drizzle over the slaw.
Papparadelle with prosciutto, asparagus, hazelnuts and lemon
Ordnance Brewing Garden Beer
Pasta can be done well or pasta can be uninspired and forgettable. This was most definitely the former, being buttery and lemony (although it needed pepper). The pale ale was said to have been infused with spruce tips from the Oregon Garden and although I wasn't getting any spruce it was delicious and amazing for being a pale ale. In addition its brightness provided a compliment to the lemony pasta and balanced the rich butteriness.
<<<Here the dinner took a slight intermission while Gale Goschie, of Goschie Farms, came to the front to talk. She was a delight to listen to, talking about hop farming and being part of the next generation of this family-owned farm. As good as the food and beer had been she was definitely the highlight of the evening.>>>
Herbed ricotta and spinach stuffed chicken breast and herbed potatoes white balsamic and plum sauce
Nectar Creek Cluster
Mag was correct in his observation that this was dish was comfort food all the way. The chicken, another potential hit or miss item, was very tender and although a bit over salted, was nicely balanced by the sweet, vinegary sauce and the mead. Speaking of Cluster, it was beautiful to look at but to drink on its own, is reminiscent of Kool-aid. Another successful pairing and a good thing there was only one more course to go as my belly was filling up.
Tuxedo Mousse and cherry truffles
Three Creeks Brewing Stampede NW Strong Ale
Dessert was a beautiful presentation of a towering mousse creation with cherry-goodness truffles. The beer being a strong ale was expectedly malty, hoppy and big. Perhaps a bit strong for the mousse, even as full as I was I would have eaten a table's worth of the cherry truffles and drank a pitcher of the beer the pairing was so good. A perfect ending to dinner.