One of the highlights of Arizona Cocktail Week are the Imbibe 'N Dine Dinners featuring special tasting menus paired with cocktails, spirits, and in this case, beer and cocktails as a tie-in to Arizona's simultaneous Beer Week. On February 16th, a pairing dinner at the historic Hermosa Inn, teaming up Chef Jeremy Pacheco of Lon's with Caskwerks, an Arizona distillery of artisan spirits, and the craft brews of Sonoran Brewing Company, resulted in a winning trifecta.
On a beautiful Arizona evening, guests gathered on an intimate patio to enjoy Travis' Welcome Punch, a refreshing blend of Caskwerks Gin, oleo-saccareum, lemon juice, earl grey tea, Sonoran dfrnt IPA, and Boy Drinks World Serrano Cocktail Spice.
We mingled and sipped (with generous refills) and before we knew it, it was time to retire to the Library, a cozy room decorated with Lon Megargee illustrations and lined with bookshelves stacked with limited-edition art books.
Chef Jeremy Pacheco described what he had planned for the evening and we learned that we were in for a one-of-a-kind pairing. Each dish was designed to be paired with a beer, a cocktail, and then a combination of the two.
Our talented group of tablemates included Travis' wife Chianne and a friend, Layrd Mahler, co-owner of Sonoran Brewing, and his wife Dana, John Miller of Caskwerks, and Ram Udwin of Boy Drinks World.
Travis described his pairing for the first course. "This is the most traditional of the cocktails tonight. We're doing a boilermaker with Apple Pie Liqueur from Caskwerks. It's one of John’s family recipes, like liquid apple pie. When you try it, you’ll see. It has apple pie, honey, brown sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s super-delicious." Both the liqueur and the White Chocolate Ale were wonderful with Chef Jeremy's roasted beets with creamy Crow's Dairy goat cheese, candied pecans, slices of Fuji apples, mache, and Sonoran Brew IPA vinaigrette, but we were all pleasantly surprised how brilliantly the boilermaker combining the two paired with the dish.
The next course was a true collaboration as the Seven Wives Saison is part of Sonoran Brew's Chef Series with Chef Pacheco. The name is a nod to Lon's namesake Lon Megargee, who had been married seven times, and ingredients include wheat from the Pacheco family farm, orange, coriander, peppercorns, and fennel. These nuanced flavors were mirrored in the second course of silky hamachi crudo with pink peppercorn, fennel pollen, bright Meyer lemon and microgreens. Travis' cocktail combined Caskwerks Gin with Lillet Rose and aromatic Hum Botanical. Lovely on its own, combined with the Saison, it was another revelation into the thought that had gone into these outstanding pairings.
The main course brought tender braised Wagyu shortribs napped in a glaze of Inebriator stout and served with balsamic cipollini onions, parsnip puree, and grilled king oyster mushrooms. Zach Schroeder, brewmaster of Sonoran Brewing, introduced the stout. "This is probably my favorite beer I brew. Let it get a little air and let it get a little warmth. You get a lot of roasty, toasty notes, a lot of toffee, chocolate, and dark fruit. Make sure you savor it." Travis described his cocktail as a Jack Rose variation, made with Caskwerks Apple Pie Liqueur, grenadine, and lemon juice. Both were so delicious on their own that more than one at our table hesitated to combine the two. But Travis knows best. Somehow this unlikely duo combined into a genius beer cocktail that underlined the savoriness of the dish yet also provided a perfect acidic foil to cut its richness.
The evening ended with a sweet finale and a pairing of Sonoran's Smooth Rebel IPA with a cocktail of Caskwerks Gin, Fernet Branca, Yellow Chartreuse, and PX Sherry. Once again, this was a creative, innovative pairing, with the double IPA's malty sweetness and the herbal notes of chartreuse and Fernet marrying perfectly with bitter caramel date bread pudding topped with caramel ice cream and orange zest.
Kudos to the collective array of passionate craftsmen in the room. Not only was this another stellar meal at the hands of talented Chef Jeremy Pacheco, but it was also a wonderful introduction to the quality of our local beverages and Arizona-grown ingredients, and an eye-opening experience into what such a collaboration can achieve.
I was hosted by Lon's as a media guest.