Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ninkasi Beer Dinner

Last Friday night, Mike and I attended a 6-course dinner at one of our favorite restaurants here in town. It was a private event, featuring dishes chosen to complement specific Ninkasi beers. Ninkasi is located in Eugene, Oregon.

I skipped lunch so I would have a good appetite. I had seen the menu in advance and I wasn't too sure how I would react to duck egg or rabbit.

Here is the menu. You can click on the photo to make it larger.

We were seated outdoors on a tent-covered patio.  The dinner was for 40 but I only counted 34 diners.  The restaurant does these private dinners monthly, with a different bar host each time.  I had heard that last month's dinner was sold out and seated 50 (at a dinner for 40) with 10 more lined up outside.  I am not sure what to think about only 34 people showing up to the Ninkasi event, but at least it wasn't crowded.

We were served a tiny beer/watermelon juice cocktail to start.  It was delicious.

Each of the 6 courses was accompanied by an 8-12 oz glass of beer.  I had thought the beers would be smaller.  I certainly didn't drink all of them.

First course, a tuna tartare, with the only beer I enjoyed that night, the Helles Belles.  No offense to Ninkasi, but I'm just not a beer drinker.  Mike chose the event.  The tuna could have been slightly fresher, but hey, we're in Oregon.  I have had somewhat better tuna tartare in Long Beach, CA.  A poached duck egg was served on the side, luckily, so I could just set it aside and try not to look at it.

Next course was a stuffed squash blossom, with a teeny salad, very good to eat.

I couldn't eat the 3rd course very well, though I did try.  It was the rabbit galantine.  I'm completely desensitized when it comes to the subject of chicken, pork, or beef, but the thought of eating rabbit is troubling to me (I think of it as a rodent).  Unfortunately the chef made it worse by describing the galantine process in great detail just before the dish was served.  Then Mike invited the chef to join us at our table where they discussed it further and even the chef described the process as sounding "gross".  (Mike apologized to me later for leading the conversation.)  I ate 2 bites to be polite to the chef.  It tasted good.  But I couldn't get the kitchen images out of my mind.  Luckily, the course was small, only 2 little rabbit coins, so to speak.

The 4th course was a roasted butterfish, which was a meaty fish, and very good.

The 5th course was confusing.  It was maple pork jowl.  Before it was served, we were provided with huge steak knives.  The thing that was actually served did not require any kind of knife.  The pork had been slow roasted for 8 hours, so it was fall-off-the-bone tender, and if you are familiar with pork jowl then you will know it is primarily fat.  So, the thing that I was served was a thick slab of fat, in which I could only find 3 measly forkfuls of meat.  The meat that I did find was delicious.  But I found the whole presentation to be strange, especially with the big knife, and I told the chef so.  By now it was getting dark in the tent and I had to use the flash.

 Dessert was a chocolate cake.  Fair to good.

I enjoyed the food, but more enjoyed the fact that the dinner was 3.5 hours.  Being able to linger slowly over food that is being served slowly is pretty much the exact opposite of how I normally eat.  Which is:
a) eating crusts off of the kids' plates, or
b) shoveling food in my mouth as fast as I can like I've just been released from prison camp (think of Marion in Raiders of the Lost Ark), or
c) eating at a restaurant where they serve enough food for 6 courses but all on one plate.

For that reason I am looking forward to the next time we attend this event at Hall Street Grill.

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