After taking on the previous Triptych Brewing dinner a couple of winters ago, an invitation from the one and only Anthony Benjamin, Head Brewmaster of Triptych, came my way, which of course piqued my interest. My esteemed drinking pal Tom Pauly and I marked our calendars and were ready for the Big Grove and Triptych beer dinner — pairing foods and beers, as you might expect.
Basic, right? Well, not so fast. There’s plenty of planning that goes into something like this, as I learned last time I was invited to one of these things. Courses and beers balanced best they can, and all that good stuff. We were ready, and arrived to the restaurant last Thursday night ready to see what Benjamin and the Big Grove crew had planned for the roughly 40 seats that would be filled that evening. — Patrick Singer
This was my first Triptych Brewing dinner, and after having been to numerous special occassions at Big Grove, I’m glad I was able to spend the evening in the private dining room with some great beer. — Tom Pauly
Tom and I walked into the back room, typically reserved for special occasions, and tables set accordingly separate from the standard dining area at Big Grove. The crew was assembling for the patrons (well, the eaters and drinkers) of the evening to make their way in. Beckie Kane, the Events Planner at Big Grove, was at the top of her game — straight up cool as can be throughout, acting as one of the orchestraters of the event, no doubt. I was ready for everything, as I made my way to a position and scoped out the menu for a preview before this thing got started. (PS)
The first round consisted of a goat cheese flatbread and a savory egg custard, paired with Triptych’s (newly canned) Little Secret, which is a Session IPA and American Pale Ale. We were the first ones to be tasting this from a can (not we as in Tom and I, but the entire room), which Benjamin and his crew brought on-site — pretty awesome to be involved with that, cans sharply designed and in a row as you can see below.
In terms of the course, it’s easy to make a flatbread super boring — thankfully, with the goat cheese and pecan crumbs spread across, it countered your standard flatbread dish with a pairing like hummus or the like. Flatbread has the ability to be a very forgettable appetizer, but in this case, it was presented well and approached appropriately, so well done. This was served a la carte style, where we had to go up and grab as much or as little as you’d like as it was situated at the back of the room. Knowing what was ahead of me, a couple of pieces and one of the dishes of custard was more than enough to get things started, and both were enjoyable.
All the while, servers were making their rounds refilling and attending, as well as a couple of breaks to begin the explanation of the dishes by Benjamin and Big Grove chef Jessica Gorin. (PS)
I’m going to be completely honest here, after looking at the menu I had decided in my head that the seared scallop with rhubarb paste and a vanilla-carrot puree was going to be the star of the entire dinner. I was incorrect. And that’s not to say that this dish was anything other than stellar. Any restaurant in town would be lucky to have such a well-crafted plate. The flavors were outstanding, adding a bit of the paste and puree onto a fork with a bite of scallop was perfect for a sunshiney evening. The vanilla in the puree was not overwhelming and it blended with the tang of the rhubarb paste to accent the scallop perfectly. However, the main course, rightfully, was the undisputed champion of the night. (TP)
The main entrée was muse farm beef polpettone, with mixed mushrooms, arugula, creamy grits and tomato sauce. In several ways, I was blown away by the selection of a dish selection like this — mainly due to the fact that meatloaf is a very polarizing dish, and if done poorly, can be a very rapid downhill decent. Thankfully, Big Grove pulled it off, serving a very moist and family-style helping that was passed amongst the group sitting within the vicinity. I enjoyed that portion because it allowed even more interaction with the folks we were sitting with, whereas from time to time, a dinner has the capability to seclude the people that are engaging in the same meal with one another. We’re all in this together, right? Let’s share the dish, and say “Hey! You should eat more of this!” like we’re friends and all that good stuff. Though the family-style was an interesting approach, and one I thought could end up in a mess — it turned out nicely (though as you’ll see below, I caught a snapshot of the plated dish, which looked “pretty” as one might say). The arugula mixed within gave an extra crunch with mushrooms and grits mixed within.
The real highlight of this portion of the meal, for me at least, was the RedX (6% ABV) from Triptych. This being the first time that I’d ingested it — I was floored. And as Benjamin described it at one point, and as a simple Google search would show, it’s been reviewed as something better than “an oral sex act”. Hard to argue with that, considering how smooth it was with mixtures of fruit and an almost caramel flavor within it. Whoa.
One thing aside — sure, Benjamin is a friend, and all that good stuff — but I truly appreciated his spats between courses with humor splashed within. It really brought things down to earth and contributed to a very family-style vibe that was happening there. (PS)
I don’t have a whole lot to add to Patrick’s description of the main dish other than the fact that it took some serious guts to throw down on a traditional “big meatball” or meatloaf dish as the main entree during the springtime. My goodness did Chef Gorin make the right choice. The pairing with the RedX was outstanding, but honestly, I can’t get over the success of what was essentially a family style main course. Meatloaf and meatballs are dishes that need proper care when cooked, otherwise, well, they’re just dry hunks of meat. Instead, we were treated to thick slices of moist and flavorful blends of beef. The mushrooms were a perfect addition to the meat, providing a great texture and earthy flavor that helped make the RedX pop. Had I been eating this meal at home, I would’ve had about four slices of the polpettone and taken a monster nap afterwards. It was unreal. (TP)
The fourth course was, as a lactose-intolerant person, not something I was actually capable of going headfirst into. But, I did manage to get after a glass of the Wallace Mc’Gave Wee Heavy. So, the Scottish wee heavy that Triptych made was delicious and high in alcohol content — 9% ABV to be exact. But that’s a pretty boring description to give to a beer that was aged in Mezcal barrels from Mexico. The result was a beer that was little smokey and had just the right amount of vanilla and bitterness to have me trying to flag down a server for another glass. (TP)
As someone who could and was able to take charge of the cheese and bread course (admittedly, this is kind of the stuff I live for — simple is good) — the Shepherd’s Way Big Woods Blue cheese mixed with the rest was a good come-down from such a meaty entree round, though the beer pairing, as Benjamin pointed out, wasn’t exactly supposed to end up this way (a shortage of sorts with the original brew, of sorts). It makes more sense once you realize, “huh, that makes sense why it seemed a bit off-kilter”. No worries, though — even as a slight imbalance, the two separate were perfectly fine and stood well (the spiced walnuts were crunchy and delicious, moreover), but together, it didn’t make a lot of sense. If Benjamin and Gorin hadn’t explained such a thing, it might’ve been a bit more of a tussle. They provided the rationale, it was joked about, and everything moved on. All good, minor issue with an otherwise managable round.
The dessert stage was quite good, as I’m typically a sucker for lemon integrated into any form — and in this case with the tarragon sponge cake on the bed of lemon spread, alongside the delicious and refreshing blueberry sorbet, this was really a delight and a great cap to the meal. Paired with the hilariously titled These Aren’t The Blueberries You’re Looking For (at 3.5% ABV) — a brew that merely had a hint of blueberry (intentionally) and acted as an alternative to the ever popular Blueberry Blonde (more suited for the summer months), it was a perfect compliment in the closing stage of the fifth and final course. (PS)
When everything was said and done, the room was chattering with people discussing the dishes, talking with Benjamin about the pairings, and being generally enthused by the idea that these types of things are available to us in this community. Overall, at a pricetag of $60 per spot, between five dishes and beer pairings, and about as much food as you could stomach, the price point was well worth the admission, especially considering there were only a certain amount of seats allotted, the debut of a certain number and types of beers served, plus educational components provided by the chef and the brewmaster. It would make for any date — or even a good evening with a friend — worth the time. (PS)
Thanks again to the folks at Big Grove and Triptych for having us for their exclusive event. Check out more photos from the event in the gallery below.
All photos by Patrick Singer. Camera credit and editing skills to Justine Bursoni Photography.