Recently I was invited to check out one of Ensemble Tap’s beer dinners that they put on in partnership with the great guys over at BeerThirst. The beer dinners at Ensemble Tap are a 4 course full menu paired with 4 different beers, in this case American brewed craft IPA’s. I’ve never had beers of one variety paired with an entire dinner let alone having 4 different dishes crafted around them. The IPA style of beers aren’t my favorite because of the heavy hop flavor but the first beer we tried ended up being my favorite because of the floral notes the jasmine added. All I can say with the other beers and food is that they went together including the dessert which really surprised me.
The Dungeness crab salad was light and refreshing. The zucchini was thinly sliced and formed the covering of the crab salad. They used a bit of molecular gastronomy in the form of pressing the melon, it was a jelly like piece on the bottom of the plate. Flavor wise the Lime Jasmine Cream added a nice tart creaminess to the salad. The Dungeness crab salad itself was a pleasure to eat, it was light and very refreshing.
The 2nd dish was a mix of 2 things I love-pork belly and Ensemble Taps Roasted Potato Gnocchi. They kicked up a great dish by adding the piece of Smoked Pork Belly. Roasted Mushrooms, tomato concasse and tarragon rounded out the dish. I was sitting with a great couple of people, one of which hated mushrooms-he cleaned his plate! The pork belly was nicely crisp on the outside while being nice and soft inside.
For our main Crispy Braised Pork Cheeks with pork-dashi broth, crispy tofu, green onion and confit ginger topped with a baked egg. When this was brought to the table they poured the broth table side, the richness of the dashi broth wafted up my nose and instantly made my mouth water.
The perfectly baked egg had a runny yolk that added a huge richness to the dish. All I can say is that I really loved this dish and it ranked up there as one of my favorites of the night. With the richness of the dashi, the crispy outside of the pork cheek combined with the lusciousness of the meat inside and crispy tofu underneath made this a pleasure to eat.
For dessert we had a Lemon Mousse with fresh raspberries, lemon zest and dusted with a Schezuan pepper sable. Let’s just say that I was really curious to see how they would pair a deep with a dessert and this pleasantly surprised me! The beer had a citrus quality to it and the dessert’s lemon flavor was so intense it completely complimented the IPA, the beer also helped cut the richness of the lemon mousse. The icing of the cake was the Schezuan pepper sable, it added a real zip.
This was an amazing experience from the hosting, choice of beers and delicious food served. I’d recommend checking out one of Ensemble Tap’s BeerThirst dinners, the price is around $50/person, a great value seeing you’re getting 4 full-sized beers with refills if you want and 4 great dishes that will knock your socks off.