Beam Suntory Challenge Coin Dinners at Okra and Crudo
With co-owners Chef Cullen Campbell and award-winning mixologist Micah Olson in charge, Crudo and Okra Cookhouse & Cocktails are well known for both superlative dining and stellar cocktails. Thus, it's no surprise that these restaurants have teamed up with Beam Suntory and their extensive portfolio to host a series of special three-course cocktail dinners. I attended the first dinner on October 25th at Okra with delicious southern-inspired pairings featuring Maker's Mark such as chicken-fried steak with butter beans and collard greens partnered with a King Palmer (Maker's Mark 46, black tea, lemon and Lillet Rouge). At each event, guests receive a Challenge Coin which is good for a 25% discount at both establishments for that brand for 2017.
On November 16th, I attended the second in the series at Crudo, the Beam Small Batch Dinner, and added a Basil Hayden's coin to my collection. Each of these fun and lively events are led by Beam spirit expert Anthony DeSantis who shares his wealth of knowledge with the attendees, introducing the spirits, educating the guests on history and characteristics, and answering questions. Multi-talented Anthony also designed each Challenge Coin.
We started with a stand-out take on mint juleps by Micah called Old Dog, New Tricks using Basil Hayden's bourbon. Micah's "new trick" involved a technique which infuses this traditional libation with all the freshness of mint without the muddled-leaf bitterness. "Instead of muddling the mint, I threw it all in a blender with bourbon and sugar and pulsed it on high. It's probably my favorite julep I've ever made." I agree.
It was the perfect foil for our first course of a dip with a celeriac and cauliflower cream, salsa della herbe and a baked Two Wash Ranch pullet egg served in a cast iron dish with grilled Noble Bread.
For our next cocktail, Micah shook up a play on a New York Sour that he called a City Slicker. Baker's 107 bourbon was complemented by Sangiovese wine, lemon juice, Peychaud's bitters and a foamy head of aquafaba, a vegan-friendly alternative to egg white using the brine from canned chickpeas. "I'm a huge fan of Baker's ," said Anthony. "It's 107 proof and done with jug corn yeast, so it has a little bit of a sweeter tendency to it." To pair, Chef Cullen served lamb fries to the adventurous crowd, with his preparation coating them in a crunchy batter glazed with the sweet and vinegary tang of agrodolce with peppers. New to lamb fries? You may want to Google!
Next up was the Honi-Honi. Booker's 2016-03 (third batch of 2016) barrel-strength, uncut and unfiltered bourbon was the star for this cocktail. Once again, Micah created another winner, with a supporting cast of Mandarine Napoléon's orange-scented brandy, orange flower water, lime juice, orgeat almond syrup, and Angostura bitters.
It was partnered with rosy slices of Sicilian-style duck breast and duck crépinette (a seasoned sausage wrapped in caul fat) with beets, orange, and fennel pollen.
Since this particular dinner involved three wonderful savory courses, those with a sweet tooth could add an optional dessert course. Because we had friendly tablemates who were willing to share, we were able to try all three decadent treats: Pumpkin tiramisu, butternut squash crostada with cinnamon-pecan streusel, and chocolate ricotta cake with salted caramel sauce and toffee crunch.
These events are a can't-miss night out for $55 per person, and the next dinner takes place at Crudo on Wednesday, December 7th, featuring Knob Creek. For more details, visit this link.