If you ever come across a social media site advertisement consisting of any combination of these words: Beer Dinner, Big Grove, Pullman, Chef Smart, Kroul Farm….do yourself favor and get some tickets. For the 2nd straight year this combination of restaurateurs, chefs, farmers, and wait staff put on an amazing culinary experience highlighting fresh and local food and local beer.
Kroul Farms is about 2 minute drive from my town of Mount Vernon, IA just off of Highway 1. They grow and sell sustainable seasonal produce and for the second year in a row they have teamed with the fine folks from Big Grove + Pullman to bring us an amazing dining experience. There’s something to be said about enjoying a five course meal on a farm, sitting on seasonally decorated picnic tables and watching a chef and his staff cooking food over open flames. Onto the dinner:
**Tomato and Onion Confit Tart with Milton creamery white Cheddar
Paired with: Big Grove Sidehill Peach Sour
The perfect item to start off the dinner. Blistered tomatoes on top with the onions and cheddar gave you familiarity of an excellent slice of pizza and the sour from the Peach Sidehill cut through the richness of the tart. Many of these I could devour in a sitting.
Paired with: Big Grove Sidehill Peach Sour
I knew I was getting my first ever chilled soup but I wasn’t sure what the base of the soup was until after the fact. Ajo Blanco is a chilled soup with a bread, almonds, garlic, water, olive oil. I was very intrigued by this dish because of the melon and pickled grapes served with it. It was extremely refreshing and absolutely delicious. Getting the perfect bit of the base along with a pickled grape and a fresh cucumber was heavenly.
Course #3: Lamb and Garlic Sausage
Paired with: Bengoetxe, Txakolina 2015 (I think I spelled that right)
I’ll be the first to admit that lamb is not necessarily a food item that I crave. However, my apprehension and skepticism about this dish quickly disappeared after the first bite. This dish was served family style with a side of grilled pita and a dill yogurt. I piled the yogurt sauce as the aroma from that was intoxicating and when it mixed with the juice from the lamb sausages it was even better. It was paired with a white wine, I don’t know shit about wine so I won’t pretend that I do, let’s just say it was good:)This is a dish that would be perfect for a fall Saturday morning tailgate and couple of Boomtowns. (I ate it so fast I forgot a table picture, so here’s a picture of the Lamb Sausage being cooked).
Course #4: Smoked Trout with Melted Leeks and Horseradish Crema
Paired With: Big Grove Red Headed Stranger
I forgot to get a pic of this dish too but it was very campfire like. The smoked trout was served with a side of melted leeks (yum!) and a big dollop of horseradish cream, which I could eat on almost any dish. It also came with a campfire style potatoes and wild mushrooms wrapped in foil. All superb. I hadn’t had Red Headed Stranger for a while and I forgot how well-balanced it for a Red/Rye? IPA. Hops on the nose and flavor and then balanced perfectly by the malt. A really great and underrated Big Grove beer IMO.
Course #5: Wood Roasted Pork Chop
Paired With: Hedges Estates CMS Red 2015
I was very excited about getting to this dish especially when you actually go see the chefs and cooks cooking this on an open fire. It was served family style, cut into huge portions and also had some pork belly crisped up and served with it. The polenta was creamy and when the juices from the chop mixed with that polenta you had one hell of tasty bite of food. The succotash could be served all on its own and I would be perfectly happy with that too! The chop was tender and juicy and packed with flavor. Mouth watering and delicious! I finally took the time to take the fork out of my mouth and snap a picture.
Course #6: Caramel Apple Glazed Parsnip Cake
Paired With: Big Grove Brewery Jean Luc Richard
I’m not a big dessert kind of guy and I was really looking forward to just sipping on the glorious brew that accompanied the dish. A parsnip cake? No clue what this was going to be about but my god was this the best dessert I’ve ever had and I’ll have continued dreams about it. The cake was a cinnamon spiced cake that was made with, you guessed it, parsnips. It was delicious! Served with a mini caramel apple and also with the greatest ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Brown butter ice cream. A bit of cake with some caramel and some ice cream on the spoon was completely satisfying and beyond delicious. That was paired with Big Grove’s new Richard beer, Jean Luc Richard, which is described as a creme brulee tasting beer. The beer was exactly that; sweet, some barrel on it, chocolate, coffee, burnt caramel flavors. Simply awesome!
**With year two of this dinner in the books, it’s not too early to look forward to year 3. I know I am. How do the chefs top this though? The thing is, they will. Special thanks to the Kroul Family for hosting this event and Corey Kent, Ben Smart, Doug Goettsch and their hard-working staff. I will look forward to this every single year…it’s the event of the Fall!!