Friday, July 1, 2011

Recapping the Arbor Brewing Beer Dinner at Terry B's

Guests enjoying Bavarian Bliss Hefeweizen appetizer
at Terry B's Arbor Brewing beer dinner.
More and more restaurants are getting into the beer dinner concept, and the undeservedly little-known Terry B's Restaurant & Bar in Dexter has been into it for a while now. The Arbor Brewing dinner of June 22 was the fourth or fifth such dinner they've done, estimates Executive Chef Doug Hewitt.

"Wine dinners are relatively easy," he says, "but beer dinners are a lot of fun because the many different flavors present much more of a challenge for pairing."

How did Chef handle the challenge? Read this long-overdue post with grainy, badly lit photos to find out.

Course 1: Shrimp Corndog w/ strawberry jam, mint mustard, avocado puree
Strawberry Blonde Ale
Shrimp corndog? I was a bit skeptical when I first read it, too, but even before we were served, word was Chef Doug considered this his best creation of the whole dinner. And as a bona fide shrimpophile from way back, I found it hard to argue that the fried but surprisingly light batter (which also made use of the Strawberry Blonde) and ground shrimp "dog" inside were not supremely delicious, particularly when dipped in the strawberry jam or mint mustard drizzles on the plate. (Confession: I tried the avocado, but as always, found it to be blah -- simply not a taste yours truly particularly enjoys.) Of course, the fruity notes of the beer went well with the jam and mustard-dipped "dog," as might be expected. What else to say? I wish I could order a dozen of these off the menu all the time.

Course 2a: Cedar Plank Walleye w/ grilled watermelon and cucumber salad
Dark Corner Imperial Brown Ale (Dark Horse Brewing)
Course 2b: Walleye "Po' Boy" w/ arugula, smoked onion, mushroom confit, pistachio aioli
Dark Corner Imperial Brown Ale (Corner Brewery)
If you've tried both versions of Dark Corner, the collaboration beer from Dark Horse and Corner Brewery, you know that despite sharing the same recipe, the two different batches -- brewed separately at the two breweries -- are markedly different in taste. As a result, Chef Doug approached each version with a different preparation of walleye. Let's cut to the chase: The Corner/walleye "po' boy" pairing blew the Dark Horse/planked walleye off the dish. As Doug remarked, the Corner version of the beer has a maltier taste and mouthfeel than the Dark Horse version, so he upped the savory factor in the dish. The toasted bread of the "po' boy" also picked up the slightly roasty notes of the beer. The planked walleye with the watermelon and cucumber had enough taste to take on the distinctively hoppier notes of the Dark Horse beer, but, to my palate, was largely unremarkable.

Intermezzo: Raspberry Sorbet in Framboozled Barrel Aged Raspberry Ale
What a great idea! Float raspberry sorbet in a raspberry beer; in this case, the Framboozled Barrel Aged Ale. This was a nice touch to refresh and cleanse our palates in anticipation of the heavier courses to follow.

Course 3: Barbequed Pork Belly w/ German potato salad, pickled cabbage, sweet corn salad
Arborealis Double IPA
Big beers need big flavors to stand up to them, and pork belly was up to the task, with its mouthwatering, Homer-Simpson-drool-noise-inducing, savory, fatty goodness taming the Arborealis's aggressively hopped and heavily malted flavors. The warm starchiness of the potato salad and, well, pickledness of the cabbage both lent a hand in the effort to make this pairing such a palate-pleasing, if gut-busting, effort.

Course 4: Roast Amish Chicken w/ grilled sweet corn polenta, stewed squash,
smoked tomato sesame jus
Red Snapper Ale
A bit anti-climactic coming after the last course, the roast of chicken, along with the tomato sesame jus notes, nevertheless were a great foil for the roastiness of the Red Snapper, a hard-to-categorize ale, as Corner Brewery owner Rene Greff informed the diners. It has at times been referred to as a pale ale or an amber, she said, but in truth it doesn't fit into either of those categories, arising as it did from husband Matt's days of homebrewing experimentation. The sweetness of the squash and polenta also provided a good counterpoint to all the roastiness. Like the others, this was a well executed pairing, but my experience thus far with beer dinners is you can usually choose one course that could have been eliminated without really detracting from the event, and this is the one I would have been fine doing without.

Dessert: Pecan Caramel Fritter w/ Irish cream and raspberry cheesecake
Espresso Love Breakfast Stout
Espresso Love, despite its "breakfast" designation, is a natural for dessert pairings, with its lush, slightly sweet, chocolatey, oaty notes. It matched up well with a delicious pecan fritter and cheesecake treat that, despite its deliciousness, I was hard-pressed to finish owing to being stuffed with so much other good food. But in the interest of complete and comprehensive reportage, finish it I did! One aims to be thorough.

If you've never been, Terry B's is ensconced in a big house in the old downtown area of Dexter, with an inviting adjoining deck area for outdoor dining when the weather cooperates. Although the bar has just four taps, Chef Doug is committed to keeping all of them devoted to Michigan beers only. He also said plans are underway to expand the taps to "at least eight." In the meantime, they have a nice bottle selection to complement the taps and, of course, if wine is your thing, an extensive wine list. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not note they make their own charcuterie, and if you're like this sausage-and-smoked-meat-loving dude (no gay jokes, please), this is a big deal. Doug's duck prosciutto, to take just one example, is to die for. They also select a lot of great cheeses to go with.

So if you're in or around Dexter or just looking to take a nice day trip from points further away, you can take this as a recommendation. I don't think you'll be disappointed.  And keep your eyes and ears open for the next big event in August, a beer vs. wine dinner!

No comments:

Post a Comment