Monday, March 13, 2017

Sunday Dinner Club - Cassoulet

Most of my posts are about restaurants or events.  I will occasionally write a post about a specific food, but it is usually a single encounter or experience.  I will write today about a specific food item I had in two different contexts.  Every year, Sunday Dinner Club does a series of dinners featuring their Cassoulet, a hearty peasant stew with beans and 4 meats.  They also collaborate several times a year with Half Acre Brewing for a beer dinner.  One of these dinners featured their Cassoulet.  I actually went to both a Cassoulet Dinner in their space and the beer dinner at Half Acre Tap Room that featured their cassoulet.  The dinner in the SDC space featured an appetizer, salad, the cassoulet, and dessert.  The tap room just had the cassoulet and dessert, but everyone got four beers and it was at a lower price point.  The dinner at SDC space started with a Celery Root and Potato Pancake with Celery Leaf Creme Fraiche and Pickled Shrimp.  I really like Potato Pancakes and this was very good coming with a vegetal tang from the creme fraiche, celery root, and the pickled shrimp.  It was really good and I would have happily eaten one twice as large.  With the Half Acre Dinner we started with beer.  We were able to drink any of the beers featured on their tap list.  I started with a With With Belgian Single, but also tried the Pony Pilsener.  The Single was a little richer a little sweeter and had a better head than the Pilsener, but The Pony is a nice easy drinking beer that I would call a lawnmower beer, a nice relief on days when you are out doing lawn work.

The salad served at the SDC space was pretty complex and different.  It was an Endive Salad, (a bitter green in the lettuce family) with Dates, Citrus, Raddicchio, Fromage D'Affinois (a soft cow's milk cheese similar to Brie), and a Citrus Shallot Vinaigrette.  It was bitter, sweet, tart, cheesy, and had a wide variety of textures from the crunch of the lettuces, to the chew of the date, to the creaminess of the cheese, it was a very good salad.  At Half Acre, we picked up our second beers around the time that we went for our cassoulet.  I went with one of their Nitro beers, the Shrub Tundra Coffee Brown Ale, the other beer was a Cape Dune India Pale Lager (IPL).  Most nitro beers are of the heavier types, brown ales, porters, and stouts.  I didn't think about this when I ordered it, although I did drink it and enjoy it.  It was very smooth and soft with a nice coffee flavor.  The IPL was a hoppy lager and kind of had a sharp flavor, but it was also pretty good.  Considering the timing of when I picked it, I think I would have preferred Cape Dune as my primary beer.

And then came the Cassoulet.  The recipe was the same for both versions:  Garlic Sausage, Duck Confit, Leg of Lamb, Bacon Sausage, Slab Bacon, Duck Gelee, White Beans, Duck Fat Croutons, and some amazing Dijon Mustard.  The presentation was different in both places.  At SDC, it was presented in a large round ceramic bowl which was served to us with the mustard spread along one side.  At Half Acre, we stood in line and were served our cassoulet in a rectangular fiberboard "dish" with the mustard spread along one wall.  The presentation was better at the more permanent place, as might be expected, but at the tap room we were more easily able to get extra mustard, which is a part that greatly contributed to the dish (There was an eyeroll moment with the mustard on a piece of sausage).
The cassoulet was fantastic, but the dessert, was just as good.  It was an amazingly light Chocolate Mousse with Honeycomb Candy and Salted Honey Whipped Cream.  The mousse and the whipped cream had similar textures and it was like eating a sweet cloud (with a good serving of crunchy honeycomb candy).The presentation at the SDC space was again better, but we got beer at Half Acre, in my case a Nitro Chocolate Camaro Chocolate Milk Stout which went very well with the mousse.  We may have gotten a larger serving at SDC, but with the beer that we were served, we were amply full at the end of the night.
Having said that, I did have one more beer to drink after finishing the cassoulet and mousse.  I hadn't had an IPA up until this point because I think the bitterness of the hops could affect my sense of taste (he says after drinking a strong flavored brown ale and stout).  I do like IPAs and there were a few on the draft list, but I decided to go for one that I had not yet tried, the Wicca IPA.  It was hoppy bitter, but with a 6% ABV, it was on the lighter side IPAs and it actually kind of reminded me of Daisy Cutter, which while also hoppy, they do not consider an IPA.

Both dinners were very good in their own ways and I left both very satisfied.  While the presentations were different, the atmospheres at both places were very welcoming and the food itself was fantastic.  I will definitely do this again.


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