Denton County Brewing Company's Valentine's Beer Dinner
This Valentine’s Day, I went on a date, like anyone else - a date with beer, food, and flavor.
Now, not many Dentonites have seen or been to a beer dinner. It’s quaint - a smattering of unique dishes, paired well with favorite craft brews. There’s fun, there’s flavor, attendees' wallets take a bit of a hit, but maybe they get a nice little buzz going. We know the drill.
See, this beer dinner is centered around one single beer - Tulsa-based brewery Prairie Artisan Ales’ BOMB! Just one beer? For three courses? While that might seem boring, this beer is actually comprised of four adjunct ingredients (ingredients beyond the standard water, malt, yeast and hops) all of which play a prominent role in the decadent beer they comprise. Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, and ancho chilis are all thrown into the BOMB!
The dinner, then, deconstructs these four components. Literally - they acquired variants of the beer formed of each single ingredient and introduced a combination of two of the four for each of the three courses - preceded, however, by a cheese board.
Pre-course: Cheese Board
The cheeseboard was hand-selected, as with the rest of this meal, by chef Jennifer Dahlen. She chose each of the four following cheeses to reflect one of the components of the Prairie BOMB! - chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and ancho chili. This created a wonderfully immersive experience that allowed one to dip their flavor-detecting toes in the waters before diving in fully with the three course dinner. Every cheese was pleasantly piquant, but the real pleasure was in the sometimes unexpected flavors that were brought forward or isolated by eating the cheese and then taking a sip of the normal, all-inclusive Prairie BOMB! Here they all were:
Herve Mons, Fourme D’Ambert - I've learned that soft blue cheeses like this one, when paired with beers or dishes, they act just like cream cheese in a cake. In a dish, the funkiness surprisingly fades and leaves the sharp-flavored cheese feeling more like a mascarpone or a sour cream. When in the context of a beer, like this Prairie BOMB!, it becomes like a milkshake, the sharp creamy cheese bringing forward the sweet, chocolate flavors inherent in this beer.
Yancy’s Fancy Horseradish Cheddar - Coarse, tangy, and very wasabi tasting. This sinus-clearing sensation, when paired with the beer, reminds me of the sharp bitter tang of a cup of midnight black coffee. The caffeine is sharp and bitterly astringent which a bite of the cheese helped pull out.
Sartori, Rum Runner Bellavitano - Buttery, crumbly, round and smooth overall, like a dessert cheese, almost. The rum adds a coffee creamer, or butter beer, tasting effect when paired with the beer. Vanilla notes shine through as the buttery cream accentuates the similar tastes in the beer.
Emmi Roth, Pavino - This rich, creamy treat melds with and cancels out the similar flavors in the beer, removing the sensation of chocolate or vanilla and isolating the chili flavor. I’m not going to lie, I expected the horseradish cheddar to be the one to highlight the chili flavor and I didn’t believe it when someone mentioned this pairing. I had to see to believe - or taste rather - but I’m a born-again believer.
Now, for the main courses, I’ve broken down my experience in the same way it was broken down for the dinner. Everything will be divided four ways: the dish itself; the dish with one of two pairings; the dish with the other of the two deconstructions; the two beers mixed together, with the dish.
Course the First: Vanilla Miso Soup with Chili Roasted Prawn
Dish: The broth has a rich, velvety character not often found in miso. It's slightly warm with an umami/buttery feeling which tastes like dipping crab in butter sauce. The prawn is rich with spice, giving a nice zest to the very comforting, homely soup.
Chili: Paired with the Chili Bomb!, it really enhances the spices of the prawn. It adds a Cajun zing to the entire dish, while still remaining cathartically spicy without overwhelming completely.
Vanilla: Where the Chili Bomb! accentuated the spice of the prawn, the Vanilla Bomb! makes it all very creamy and decadent. The broth seems a little thicker and the spices a little more distant, cooling things down after the prior spiciness.
Together, it’s like looking through a pair of 3D glasses that so far, was only seen through one eye at a time. This dish comes into full dimension when viewed through the lenses of each deconstructed bomb together - elevating both the sweet decadence of the vanilla broth and the energetic zest of the spices on the prawn.
Course the Second: Coffee Roasted Pork Tenderloin w/ Root Veggies and Bechamel
Dish: The bechamel is a perfectly cheesy, peppery cream, with a nice fatty opening and a lingering savory undertone from the pepper. The pork loin melts richly, silky smooth with a nice peppered spice on the tongue which works well with the peppered bechamel. All together, it's a symphonic retinue of crunchy herbal essence, decadent cream, peppery umami and homespun goodness. If someonedeconstructed then recombined a Deep South comfort food plate - protein, sauce, starch and veggies - the result would be something like this.
Chili: The chili elevates the otherwise earthiness of the dish, taking a homely base and upping the flavor ante in a perfect harmony. It combines with the pepper of the loin and bechamel in a manner similar to horseradish, overwhelming the senses just enough.
Coffee: the Coffee Bomb! highlights the basic, smokey notes in the pork bringing out the char of the crust, the salt, the spices and the acidity. Where bitterness can often dull the other flavors, the coffee actually makes divinity out of the seemingly mundanity of the bitter notes in the pork and veggies.
Together, it's really a bitter-sweet (bitter-spicy?) symphony, with movements of spice and pepper making rich melody with bitter black coffee and smoky roast.
Course the Third - Beeramisu
Dish: There is a little bit of everything in this spin on a classic dessert: sweet, chocolatey, slightly bitter, creamy with the coffee, bready in the ladyfingers, and above all - boozy. A lot of the bitter aftertaste of the beer is present in this tiramisu, with a bright, almost effervescent lift when eating a big bite of this luxurious dessert.
Coffee: The Coffee Bomb! pulls out the "tiramisu” tastes one would think of with the dessert, and, in a way, cancels out the booziness that’s tasted in the dish by itself. It isolates the gorgeous flavors of a normal, well-done tiramisu - bitter coffee blended with sweet cream and fluffy breads.
Chocolate: Of course, the chocolate pulls out the creamy cake and the general stoutness of the beer. The chocolate really vamps the vanilla and cream flavors, accentuating that bright vanilla bean, while also evoking a greater awareness of the stout it was made with.
Together, It’s the perfect boozy nightcap for a flavor-filled night. Hats off to Denton County Brewing Company, Seth Morgan, Bryan Schulze, the general staff of DCBC, and Jennifer Dahlen, with her kitchen staff. A unique, life-enriching event was created, only imitable here, in words and images. Those who experienced it would all have the same thing to say:
This Valentine's Day was the Bomb.
Photos by Garrett Smith.
Header image layout design by Christopher Rodgers.