Earlier this year, I attended Cook Hall’s Beer vs. Whiskey Dinner, which was an experience to remember. (Though that’s tougher to do than you’d think … I refer you to the title.) So when I was invited to March’s beer dinner featuring Deschutes Brewery, I couldn’t resist. March’s beer dinner featuring Deschutes Brewery, teamed with dishes from local chef Nicholas Jimenez, was a match made in heaven.
Much like the craft brew scene is growing here in Texas, in Oregon craft beer is growing exponentially. In fact, Oregon is home to the most breweries per capita in the U.S. and Oregonians spending more money on craft beer than any other state.
Chef Nicholas Jimenez used his ingenuity to evoke the wild, adventurous spirit of Oregon in our meal. Our first course was a roasted fennel and sun choke soup garnished with crispy artichoke chips and topped with an orange oil. The flavorful and hearty soup was paired with Deschutes’ River Ale Golden Ale, and it was a great way to shake off the chill of early spring evening. To offset the heavier soup, this ale was crisp, light, and slightly hoppy with hints of fruit.
For our second course, Chef Jimenez created a beet-horseradish cured salmon gravlax served with a watercress salad, pickled radish and coriander. Colorful and a bit wild, everything in this dish came together to work really well. The beer of choice with this dish was the Fresh Squeezed IPA which has earned both national and international prizes … and for good reason. This IPA has a strong, crisp citrus smell with hints of malt which were perfectly paired with the dish. I can easily see smooth brew being a summer crowd pleaser.
The third course, and my personal favorite, was an espresso crusted lamb loin. The lamb was tender and juicy and cooked to absolute perfection. The espresso was an interesting (read: perfect) complement to the meat and was not overpowering as I thought it might have been with a delicate meat like lamb. Served with braised Belgian endive, English peas and a barley risotto, all were nice additions in both taste and texture, but the meat is really what wowed me. To wash it all down, Cook Hall introduced the only dark beer of the evening–Deschutes’ Obsidian Stout. I enjoyed the full bodied stout’s roasted coffee and chocolate notes which were echoed by the hint of espresso in the lamb. Considering how dark and heavy some stouts can be, Obsidian drinks easily and, unlike other stouts, doesn’t fill you up too much.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try the dessert. Damn peanut, almond, etc. allergy … so an almond cake dessert was not exactly in the cards for me. Our dessert was served with an eclectic variety including grilled pineapple, ginger ice cream, pineapple sorbet and extra virgin olive oil. My source (a.k.a. my beautiful wife) said it was a nice way to cap off the meal–sweet and refreshing without being too rich.
I did not, however, pass on the Zarabanda Farmhouse Saison, the brainchild of Deschutes and Chef José Andrés, who we can all thank for introducing America to the concept of tapas. (Bless you for bringing tiny dishes into my life, my friend.) This spiced pale ale has a dry, sweet taste with hints of lemon verbena, sumac and dried lime. Did you get all that? If not, just know this beer packs in a range of flavors, all notable from first sip. It was a great compliment to the tropical flavors of the dessert … so says my wife.
Whether your intrigued by the concept of beer dinners, looking to grab a meal before a Dallas Maverick or Stars game or just needing a drink, Cook Hall has you covered. (BONUS: they validate the W’s parking.)
Happy Hour (5pm to 7pm | Monday – Friday): 5 cocktails and 5 small plates each for $5
Check out their menu for more information.
*Cook Hall was kind enough to pick up my tab for the evening.*