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Friday, March 25, 2016

Great Raft Brewing + Restaurant Calla: A Flavorful Balancing Act

by Blair Loup

Southwest Louisiana is the place I call home. I grew up in the small city of Sulphur near what some might call the “main drag,” in this case the street with the most chain restaurants. We had to go across the bridge to Lake Charles to go to a mall or see a movie; you know, the fun stuff.

While it was a great place to grow up, I’ll admit throughout college I didn’t find myself itching to leave Baton Rouge to go home for a visit, but that’s changing.

Lake Charles is booming, and there are some cool people working hard to showcase what the area has to offer. One of those shining stars is Chef David Sorrells at Restaurant Calla.

The relatively new restaurant is one of the first businesses to open in a sparkly new development, Walnut Grove. Chef David has a long history of restaurant experience, but perhaps the most notable is his time at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry.

So what’s he doing in Lake Charles? He’s plating up some of the tastiest and creative bites I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in the region.

Recently, Jay teamed up with Restaurant Calla and Great Raft Brewing to kick off our Louisiana Winter Beer Festival weekend. Great Raft's Chief Brewer Harvey Kenney claimed it was easily the best Great Raft Beer pairing dinner he’s experienced.

Blue Crab Beignet + Southern Drawl Pale Lager

blue crab beignet
Blue crab beignet, malt vinegar aioli, red pepper confit.

What I imagined would be a bready fritter with a few chunks of crab turned out to be this magical delicately fried ball stuffed to the gills with blue crab. The subtle sweetness of the crab met with a malt vinegar aioli to give it a tinge of acidity that set off the flavors. This lovely, bright but sweet red pepper confit added a necessary savory element. Pair that with a crisp, clean lager and the first course was set.

Red Snapper Ceviche + At Arm’s Length India Pale Lager

red snapper ceviche
Red Snapper ceviche, tropical fruit, coconut cream.

Easily one of the best ceviches I’ve eaten, Chef David’s balance of flavors in this dish was spot on. Ceviche is the art of curing fish or other seafood in citrus juices. The tango of that popping citrus with tropical fruit and a coconut cream set off the hop-forward lager in a way that will stay with me.

Grilled Octopus + Commotion American Pale Ale

Grilled octopus, avocado, chipotle, barley, cilantro, grapefruit, Commotion vinaigrette.
This is not your mom’s grilled octopus dish. Super tender grilled octopus sprinkled with accoutrements like creamy avocado, smoky chipotle, cilantro, barley, and juicy grapefruit tossed in Commotion vinaigrette had my taste buds partying like it was 1999. Those flavors combined with the relaxed hoppy Commotion were money. Commotion is one of those hoppy beers that even even a Coors Light drinker can get behind. It’s easy to drink and refreshing.

Coffee & Cocoa Rubbed Tenderloin + Reasonably Corrupt Black Lager

Coffee and cocoa rubbed tenderloin, creamed yucca, charred leeks, ancho hollandaise.
This dish spoke to me on levels I didn’t know beef tenderloin could speak on. The bitter but savory rub on the beef married with the ancho hollandaise seamlessly. Drag that buttery soft bite through the thick creamed yucca, and it’s on. The toasty notes you get in the Reasonably Corrupt from the roasted paired perfectly with the chocolate-peppery notes in the dish.

Chocolate Short Bread Cookies + Provisions and Traditions Vol. 3 Oak Aged Oktoberfest with Louisiana Cane Syrup

cookies calla
Chocolate short bread cookies, banana sorbet, dulce de leche, peanut butter powder.
Chocolate short bread cookies with a banana sorbet drizzled with dulce de leche and peanut butter powder is never a bad decision. What I love about flavored powders like peanut butter, strawberry, green tea, etc. is that you get the entirety of the flavor full on, but not the substance. It’s a very cool way to accentuate dishes. This Oak Aged Oktoberfest is slightly sweet from the malt with a bittersweet cane syrup taste…now if only dipping the cookies in beer were a good idea!