Thursday, September 26, 2013
Terra Waconia's Enki Beer Dinner 2013
The other night I was fortunate enough to take part in Enki Brewing's first official beer dinner. Our local fine dining establishment, Terra Waconia, has done several beer dinners over the past 2 years, most notably a dress-up Halloween dinner and a 21st Amendment dinner that I presented at. They do a fair number of wine dinners, but they are clearly getting the hang of the beer side.
Upon arriving in quaint downtown Waconia, Sj and I discovered our friend and fellow Jack Of All Brews alumni, Jon Baldwin sitting out in front of Frost & Steam getting caffeinated. He was kind enough to give me bunch of his home grown Honeycrisp apples for later devouring. Apparently he had also supplied the restaurant with fresh hops from his enormous Jack & The Beanstalk sized hop bine. Soon we were also greeted by Jeff Capiello, another JAB member and husband of one of the wonderful chefs (Kim).
Karie Menser McDougall and Dan Norton from Enki were there, put to work pouring beers and presenting on them between courses. Poor John and Jason missed out on this one! At this point the brewery has only been open for 12 weeks. Currently Enki has four beers in their line-up, so we had a four course paired menu to go with those beers. Now is the part where I'll make you readers drool. Oh, and it was fairly dark in the restaurant so my pictures don't do the food justice!
The first course was a sweet corn chowder with red, white, and blue potatoes. The dish was topped with fried corn silk and one of Jon's deep fried cascade hops. A beautiful dish that tasted of the fall harvest. I'll admit I was hesitant to eat a whole hop--those suckers can be horribly astringent--but I was willing to take the gamble. The frying process must have tempered the bitterness, because it was actually quite good and very unique. The bitterness from the hop and the corn silk actually worked well with the sweet chowder, making the entire dish have a nice balance. The soup was served with Enki's Victoria Gold, (the new version using American ale yeast), that is a pleasant and very easy drinking beer. I think this beer will appeal to the locals who may not be ready for a pale ale, but is still a clean beer than a craft guy like me can still handle. The pairing was spot on.
The second course of awesome was a salmon fillet atop a fresh salad of fall greens. This dish was served with my new favorite pale ale: the Enki Citric Journey. I love the mix of English malt, and bitter, but restrained American hops in this beer. The beer cut the richness of the fish quite nicely and complemented the light dressing on the salad.
Third course arrived next: a crisp philo dough wrapped around a flavorful cabbage roll, filled with barley and locally sourced beef. I could have eaten 10 of these. The crispy outer shell of the roll took the traditionally soggy cabbage roll to new heights. This was paired with the Auburn Kolsch, the maltiness of the red ale working in harmony with the earthy delights of the dish.
And of course desert! This was my favorite dish of the night--a light apple soufflé made with corn flour and topped with cream. So airy and delicious. And so small. Again--wanted many more to throw down my voracious gullet! This one was paired with the first iteration of Victoria Gold, made with a Belgian yeast. This has been my least favorite beer by Enki so far, and I think it is starting to get some more unusual flavors over time. The apple notes in the beer, while not thrilling on its own, did pair well with the desert dish.
I really enjoyed this meal a lot. Tracy and Craig run a tight ship at Terra, putting out amazing dishes made with locally sourced ingredients and a ever changing menu. Paired with beers made by new local brewery, this made for a fun and relaxing evening with friends. We love the rest of the staff at Terra, (shout out to Nikki and Kim), as well. It was also great to hang out with Dan and Karie. I feel that this was a great start to hopefully many more beer dinners for Enki in the future, especially as they expand their portfolio of beers.