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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Social's Small Batch Bourbon Dinner: Whisk(e)y Wednesday presented by Calandro's Supermarket

Bourbon Menu at Social
Bourbon Menu at Social
Typically speaking, my Whisk(e)y Wednesday posts consist of reviews of bourbons, Scotches, Irish whiskey, and more whiskeys and whiskies from around the globe. Today, however, I'm going in a different direction. On Monday I had the pleasure of attending a Small Batch Bourbon Dinner at Social in Lafayette. The southern table and bar themed restaurant invited me to be their guest for the evening and experience chef Marc Krampe's creations as well as some world class whiskey.

The meal started with George T. Stagg and seared foie gras. A bourbon aged at least 15 years from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, the Stagg clocks in at a walloping 137 proof. This bad boy is tough to drink straight but if you do it'll put some hair on your chest. With a few dashes of water it really starts to open up with rich flavors of tobacco, cherries, and luscious charred oak. The seared foie gras with bourbon infused cherries proved to be an ideal counter to the strong whiskey which could cut through the fatty liver. Served with frisse, honey infused creme fraiche, and smoked trout roe, the dish got us off to a great start.

Our second course, came with the Black Maple Hill bourbon, which isn't actually a distillery itself. They instead source their whiskey from other distilleries and release a different batch each year under the Black Maple Hill label. This particular whiskey, rumored to be from the Heaven Hill distillery, did not come with anywhere near the firepower of the Stagg. A fair amount tamer, I could sip it straight and pick up some nice hints of honey and cloves. It worked very well with the Asian inspired seafood option of the night: filets of wood fired anago, which is actually eel, atop a puree and sprinkled with spiced hazelnut dust and puffed sushi rice. The textures took the dish to another level with sweet, smoky, smooth and crunchy all combined in every bite.

Seared Foie Gras, House Smoked Trout Roe, Honey Creme Fraiche, Bourbon Infused Cherries, Frisee
Seared Foie Gras, House Smoked Trout Roe, Honey Creme Fraiche, Bourbon Infused Cherries, Frisee
Brick Oven Anago, Spiced Hazelnut Dust, Puffed Sushi Rice, Kinome
Brick Oven Anago, Spiced Hazelnut Dust, Puffed Sushi Rice, Kinome
The real superstar of the evening came next. Well, the food version, anyway. And the whiskey wasn't bad either. The Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye is another whiskey out of Buffalo Trace's Antique Collection. The rye is bold and spicy with many of the cinnamon notes that you want in a rye. Apple pie on the nose and fire on the tongue, it is easy to see why the Handy is such a sought after bottle. To counter that spice, chef put together a very contemporary twist on a homestyle dish. The lamb neck bourguinon featured succulent and tender shredded lamb meat atop a puree of charred celery root. To add to the dish in the the very traditional way, chef threw in some fingerling potatoes that were wonderfully cooked in fat and dusted in salt, along with a mushroom oil and carrot foam. Yes, a carrot foam. Most likely a carrot infused cream that then went through an iSi whip. We'll be doing stuff like this at an upcoming Triumph Kitchen pop-up dinner, if you are interested. The flavors and again the textures all worked extremely well in the bowl of deliciousness. This is modern comfort food at its finest. I want more. Now.

Lamb Neck Bourguinon, Charred Celery Root Puree, Confit Fingerling Potatoes, Mushroom Oil, Carrot Foam
Lamb Neck Bourguinon, Charred Celery Root Puree, Confit Fingerling Potatoes, Mushroom Oil, Carrot Foam
Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year
Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year
The meal concluded with the real prize of the whiskey portfolio. The Pappy Van Winkle 23 Year Straight Kentucky Bourbon. This is pretty much the mecca of bourbon out there right now. Getting a bottle is like winning the lottery. Seriously, Calandro's Supermarket had a raffle to decided who got the right to purchase one of two (2) bottles they got allocated this year. And they were lucky to get the right to sell those two. Pappy 23 tastes like what a bourbon should taste like. Vanilla, oak, sweet corn, subtle spice, balance, complexity... it is all there. It is overproofed but it drinks fine neat. It isn't wound up too tight that you need to loosen it up before you can drink it. It is like driving a luxury car of the liquor world... you realize the hype when you get behind the wheel. When the whiskey hits your tongue, you know it is special. Sure, it is excessively hyped and there are other bourbon out there that are really good and not as hard to find. Some of that hype is worthy though. Most of it is due to scarcity and trendiness. But still, it is insanely good. As was the dessert, for the record. To compliment a lot of the tones of the whiskey, the sweet caramel dessert with fruity figs partnered wonderfully with the amaretti cookie crisps that provided a nice crunch. All in all, great whiskey, and a tremendous meal. Next time they do a dinner like this, you don't want to miss it!

Creme Caramel, Fig and Baby Walnut Compote, Amaretti Cookie Crisps
Creme Caramel, Fig and Baby Walnut Compote, Amaretti Cookie Crisps
Social Southern Table and Bar on Urbanspoon

Whisk(e)y Wednesday is a blog post series on Bite and Booze sponsored by Calandro's Supermarket. Calandro's has one of Baton Rouge's best selections of bourbon, Scotch, Irish, and other whisk(e)ys as well as wine and craft beer. This WW feature was scored by Jay DucoteEric Ducote, and Jeremy Spikes. Scores are marked for Nose, Taste, Finish, and Balance and Complexity using our own proprietary scoring system. Marks are then added and averaged, leaving us with a final score out of a 100 point scale. Our scale should be looked at on the full range of 0-100 rather than an academic range where 70 is passing and anything less is failing. A 50 should be considered a very mediocre whisk(e)y (though not undrinkable) while anything below 20 is absolute horse piss and anything above 80 is rather extraordinary and anything above 90 is world class.