A few weeks ago, Stock & Barrel Kitchen Americana in Bishop Arts District hosted its first spirited dinner with Don Julio, aptly named An Evening of Agave. I happily attended, albeit slightly worse for the wear since I had just returned from my first ever Tales of the Cocktail experience a few days prior, but hey … tequila. ‘Nuff said. The dinner was an intimate affair offering only 15 seats, at the bar and involved not only a four-course dinner paired with cocktails highlighting the Don Julio line of tequilas, but also an interactive educational experience led by none other than Senior Don Julio brand ambassador, the ever delightful and engaging Jorge Raptis.
The dinner experience opened with introductions from Stock & Barrel Chef/owner Jon Stevens and Bar Manager Jeremy Koeninger before they gave Jorge the floor to tell us more about the history behind Don Julio as well as the thoughtful process that turned agave into the tequila that was before us. He spoke about the philosophy behind Don Julio that drives the manner in which they cultivate, harvest, and cook the agave, as well as distill, bottle, and age the tequila, and why production volume should never compromise the level of product quality.
The ambiance of the event was very casual and interactive, so the guests were encouraged to ask questions and have an open dialogue about the food and cocktail courses, as well as the Don Julio tequila itself. There were tasters of different tequilas for each guest, in addition to the cocktail pairings, so needless to say (but I’m going to say it anyway), our intimate group of bar guests became very fast friends.
Now of course, while the tequila was very smooth and enjoyable, Chef Jon Stevens was not about to let it overshadow the food courses. He made this clear by simply bringing out the first course: Wild Salmon Tartare with avocado cream, grapefruit segments, Yukon potato crisp, and lemon verbena. It was a bright flavor punch to my palate, tempered very well by the subtle fattiness of the salmon. The course was complemented by Jeremy’s cocktail creation dubbed Electric Love, which featured Don Julio Blanco, verbena, and Cocchi Americano, an Italian aperitif wine. The Blanco’s crisp, citrusy flavor paired with the tartare dish and its accouterments beautifully.
Chef Stevens’ second course (my favorite of the meal, without a doubt) was Mediterranean Octopus Carpaccio with tangerine, radish, and honey pimento. The thinly sliced octopus had hints of smoky char that I loved, but by its very nature of being carpaccio, it was an ethereal deliciousness that I kept chasing. The next thing I knew, I had devoured my second course, wishing I could have a second helping, maybe even a third. My friend Paige expressed a similar sentiment, with a wistful face when she found her plate empty as well.
The cocktail pairing for the octopus course was an Ancho Bravo, made with Don Julio Reposado, demerara syrup, and Ancho Reyes. The Reposado coupled with the demerara brought a slightly cinnamon-y warmth that lent itself well with the smoky, meaty octopus, and the Ancho Reyes provided a welcome spicy kick. It was pretty boozy, so I took my time to sip and savor it.
We bounced back pretty well though when the third course arrived: Braised Berkshire Pork Belly with creamy Brussels sprouts and preserved cherries. Chef Stevens had prepared us well by having the first two courses whet our palates, leading us to this wholly satisfying and deliciously unctuous pork belly dish. The creamy Brussels and dark berry tartness of the cherries ensured that the dish would satiate our taste buds without being too heavy.
The third course paired with The Oleroso Agave, a cocktail with Don Julio Añejo, Oleroso sherry, and Luxardo syrup served up in a coupe glass. It was a spirit-forward concoction that accentuated the savory notes of the pork belly, and the sherry played well with the preserved cherry sauce. I especially enjoyed this pairing as Añejo is typically my favorite tequila expression, with the extra time the tequila spends aging in barrels. The flavor comes out with honey and caramel notes that I just love.
Our fourth and final course was the Butterscotch Pot de Creme, served with vanilla cream, sourdough crisp, and sea salt. This dreamy and delectable dish was served with a taster of Don Julio 1942. The butterscotch pot de creme was silky and light, and the sprinkle of sea salt elevated the dessert to another level of deliciousness. The sourdough crisp offered a welcome crunchy texture to the dinner’s velvety finale, and the deeply caramel and chocolate notes of the Don Julio 1942 brought this particular Night of Agave to a definitively beautiful conclusion.
Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback from guests after the Don Julio dinner, Stock & Barrel hopes to keep the spirited dinner series going every other month, with each one featuring a unique spirit. For more information, check out stockandbarreldallas.com or follow Chef Stevens (@stockbarreltx) and Jeremy Koeninger (@jeremykoeninger) on Instagram for any event announcements and updates.
STOCK & BARREL
316 W. Davis St. (Dallas)