By The PubScout—Kurt Epps
Melissa Hudasko, Beer Event Coordinator at the Trap Rock Restaurant, admitted that last night's knockout dinner was originally supposed to coincide with Mardi Gras, but a misreading of the Gregorian calendar—perhaps initiated by an occasional Kestrel IPA during the planning-- slotted the event for last night.
In which case it earned the title "Tardi-Gras" or Late Fat. (The Tuesday part is understood.)
The name is appropriate also because of the sheer amount of food, none of it exactly on Jenny Craig's menu. Nearly everyone in attendance had to push themselves away from the table, unable to finish many of the culinary delights Chef Phillippe and his staff presented.
As guest brewer, Charlie Schroeder brought in Chris Walsh of River Horse, and together, they paired Trap Rock's always superb food with beers from both brewhouses.
The first course was atypical in terms of beer dinner "rules" regarding the light beer to dark beer mantra. A Sweet Potato and Andouille Sausage Soup was well-matched with TR's Theobroma Stout, as the Mexican chocolate and coffee flavors in the beer augmented nicely the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, while still allowing the zing of the sausage to make its presence known.
The next course was Hot Smoked Salmon and Fried Green Tomato Salad with Roasted Beets and Corn Cake. It was paired with River Horse's Hopalotamus. The name tells you all you need to know about this "cousin" of River Horse's previous Hop Hazard. Pam, sitting at my table, allowed that she can't stand hops (Simcoe, Chinook and Centennial in this case)—in fact is sometimes allergic to them. "But I love this beer," she admitted. So did everyone else.
J.P. Pilsner, one of a number of Trap Rock's beers named after a customer, complemented a Fluke en Papilotte dish. The fish was both delicate and sweet, kind of like J.P.'s wife Trudi who sat with J.P himself at the next table.
An Acadian Seafood Gumbo (it was Tardi Gras, remember?) came out next and it was a fabulous mix of huge tender shrimp, delectable crab and oysters. The dish was matched with River Horse's Triple Horse, a 10.3% Belgian Triple that Chris Walsh twice blamed for helping to produce at least three children that he knew of. (That must have been why the oysters were in the mix.)
A succulently tender and flavorful Smoked Beef Brisket was accompanied by not one, but two beers: Trap Rock's Brian's Big Ego Bock and River Horse's Special Ale. Both worked well with the brisket that would fall apart under fork pressure alone. It was accompanied by Braised Collard Greens and Bacon.
The dessert course was a Cinnamon Apple Beignet with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla ice cream (with real flecks of vanilla bean!). It was quite sinful, not unlike the partiers on Bourbon Street who toss beads to the gentlewomen on the balcony. The River Horse Milk Stout was not naughty, but superb. I sampled it repeatedly and came to the conclusion that I might not have to go to Lancaster, PA all the time for a good Milk Stout.
A special Birthday cake surprise presented to Brewer Charlie Schroeder added to the caloric overload, but, in the spirit of good will, one was, I suppose, obligated to partake.
A good number of the forty or so folks I spoke with admitted to being repeat customers and loving Trap Rock's beer dinners. It's easy to see why. Superb food superbly prepared, quality beers from two quality breweries to accompany it, a gracious, efficient and hospitable staff led by Kevin Lynn and the delightful, warm ambience of an English Country inn—especially inviting with a blazing fireplace and heavy February snow falling outside—that's a tough-to-beat combination.
As long as you understand that, late or not, Fat Tuesday comes with a caloric price.
Hence, I'm off to the gym.