It was Good Friday and having been raised Catholic I was hell-bent on steering clear of the consumption of meat. You know, in religious observance and such. Breakfast went off without a hitch with a pretty innocuous combo of banana and yogurt. Lunch, on the other hand, proved to be more challenging with a platter of Arrachera tacos eyeing me lasciviously from across the table. But, refrain I did, with barely the slimmest of margins.
As is often the case in biblical stories, temptation did not end there. I received an invitation for the Grits + The Bruery extravaganza for that very night. Soaking in the beer-inspired menu, my “no meat” resolve began crumbling like the most desiccant vegan cookie. Rather than deal with the devil/angel shoulder battle, I compromised to relish in the experience looming before me and conveniently rescheduled my non-carnivorous meals to the following day.
Played like a heathen.
It’s basically a bad case of FOMO when not being able to attend any of Chef Cody Storts’ special events. Time and again they’ve been uproarious, unconventional, and spiced with surprises. There were dinners that featured the most sumptuous cherry-steeped Elk Medallions; surprisingly addictive strips of Crackling Honeycomb Tripe; Tempura Tomatoes that exploded in your mouth; and Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull’s testicles) paired with Creamed Lengua (fondly named “Lick My Balls”) — to name but a few!
It’s a little known fact that Chef Cody studied theater during his days at Fullerton College. It becomes evident in his showmanship where he brings big, bold, and beautiful unapologetically to his culinary stage. His confidence and “no rules” chutzpah inspires a certain type of awe.
Ostensibly, The Grits + The Bruery dinner proved to be just as spectacular as ever. Sharing the spotlight with Master Cicerone Patrick Rue of the aforementioned brewery and the upcoming Bruery Terreux, the eatery was buzzing with throngs of beer geeks teeming with famished anticipation.
Here’s a recap of the menu:
This was the point of no return. I thought I might refrain from cutting into this luscious hunk of pork belly, but the feels did me in. It was the scent of Easter, a childhood family affair — only, two days early. The Riesling sour notes of Confessions cut through the richness of the slab with just the right amount of acidity. It was a lovely balance between a sour ale and a refined wine; a smooth transition for those being indoctrinated into the world of brew pairing dinners.
- Confessions – A variation of the Bruery’s Sour Blonde Ale was blended and fermented with juice pressed from Parker’s Riesling grapes.
- Juniper cured pork belly, cilantro and celery root puree
This was my favorite course of the evening and it was virtually Good Friday guilt-free. The creamy bivalves bathing in a seductive broth of what I thought to only be coconut milk steeped with lemongrass and some other aromatics. Alas, there was bacon. Because bacon makes everything better. The Sourrento, a bright and tart ale inspired by limoncello, the famous lemon liqueur of Sorrento, Italy, was crisp and light. Notes of vanilla and lemon zest complemented the milkiness of the broth as well as the citrusy herbaceous-ness of the lemongrass.
- Sourento – Sourrento is a sour ale inspired by the lemon flavored spirit, Limoncello.
- Black mussels, creamed coconut lemongrass, bacon broth and chili threads
This magnificent plating of venison alone was enough to justify the price of the pairing dinner. Prepared perfectly to a medium rare — bordering on black & blue — its manliness was further enhanced by the funky, earthy brawn of Batch 1731. As delicate as the savory bread pudding was, the utilization of rye was decidedly masculine. Think huntsman wandering off into a ski chalet being served a most exquisite meal made up of his trophy conquest of the day.
- Batch 1731 – 100% brettanomyces-fermented hoppy session ale.
- Duck fat injected venison loin, apricot key lime bourbon glaze and savory rye bread pudding
Finally, another seafood dish and it didn’t have bacon. It did however come with a demi-glacé rendered from duck. Drats. We were forewarned that Escolar, also known as Butter Fish, can be tricky if not cooked properly. The tricky part relating to how well your digestive system handles the unctuous quality of the fish. As good luck and skill would have it, there was no evidence of any of us having to make a mad dash for the facilities. The Escolar itself was delicate, yet firm and, of course, buttery. The sweet potato hash, creamed cippolinis, and duck demi-glacé all contributed to a very elegant lake-inspired entrée, hitting all the notes of sweet, savory, tart and slight bitterness. For me, So Happens It’s Tuesday was a tad too overwhelming as its buddy with its big, robust aromas of bourbon and oak. The full-bodied stout with flavors of chocolate, molasses, and caramel was sweet, sweet, and sweet.
- So It Happens to Be Tuesday – A slightly-less intense incarnation of Black Tuesday.
- Escolar almandine, sweet potato thyme hash, creamed cippolinis and tangerine duck demi glace
If everything appeared fairly straightforward up to this point, it was time to bring in the showstopper: The Roast Beast. The Steamship Round was brought out onto the kitchen counter for carving and the crowd went wild. Achieving instant celebrity status, selfies abounded. After indulging the carnivorous fans, the hulk was duly carved and prettified with simple, yet delicious roasted veggies on the side. Wineification #III (because there were two before it) made nice with this particular course because of its red wine blend of grenache grapes and chocolatey stout. I’d say Family Sunday Supper at its best.
- Wineification #III – A blend of grenache grapes from Rodney’s Vineyard and Black Tuesday. Matured in a combination of bourbon and French Oak barrels.
- Duck fat injected steam ship round of beef and roasted red potatoes
This was the dreaded course, because, honestly, after the third we were all pretty much ready to let loose our belts and sashes and push back on our chairs. When the plates arrived, everyone breathed a collective sigh of relief. A brilliant way to end a stellar pairing dinner were teaspoon dollops of blackberry cheesecake embellished with bourbon-soaked currants. The Cinnamonk, with its hints of cinnamon and ripe berries provided a fabulous flair to punctuate the last course.
- Cinnamunk – A dark, imperial, Belgian-style sour brown ale.
- Blackberry cheesecake, Thai basil, bourbon sweetened currants and sweetened cream sauce
Before the night’s end, coffee mugs (because heaven knows Grits had probably utilized all of their glassware for the beers) were passed, each with a shot of super smooth bourbon to cap off the event. With no regrets or guilt, I raised my mug high in unison, in full admission of my hedonistic ways.
Grits hosts pairing dinners approximately every other month. Indulge yourself and make sure you don’t miss out on the next one. A collaboration with Brewmaster Evan Price of Noble Ale Works, the Friday the 13th event this May is not one for the squeamish. If you’re as hardcore as I am, click on the image for more info on how to reserve your seats quickly.
Photography: Brian Feinzimer
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Corky Nepomuceno has 62 post(s) on Fullerton Foundry