Lagunitas Night

Have you ever seen the movie "Big Night"? In it a pair of brothers (Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub) own a little Italian restaurant in 1950's America. The restaurant struggles because the brothers (immigrants from Italy) are trying to be true to their Italian heritage. To create buzz for the restaurant they invite Louie Prima for an evening, they shut down the restaurant and have the greatest meal and party they can throw. It's a tremendous movie, you'll end up really craving wine and Italian food.

Sean talking about Lagunitas
Last night's Lagunitas beer dinner at Blanc was just like "Big Night" only with Lagunitas as Louie Prima (who actually showed up in the Blanc version) and Tom Selleck as the chef and a much better looking group of people dining (this is not hyperbole, with the exception of Nate and myself, this was an astoundingly good looking group of people).

We started out in the bar area at Blanc with some Lagunitas IPA and hors d'oeuvre of a slice of cucumber with some sort of peppadew aoili or jam on it. This was the only thing the entire evening I didn't eat. The IPA, of course, was wonderful. I talked with Nate from KC Brew Review and his sweaty friend and met Sean the Lagunitas rep who served as our host for the night as well as some other beer industry folk from around town.

Then we were seated in 2 long rows in the little special events room at the back of the Plaza Blanc. The table was decorated with malt and hops as well as Lagunitas bottle caps. I sat with one of the Gents, Andy and his wife to my left and the KC rep for Sam Adams, Louis, to my right. Sean from Lagunitas across from Louis with Chris, Shannon and Cassie (ex Flying Saucer waitress who holds the distinction of being the only person to ever quote me to me before) to Sean's right, with JB from Firestone Walker sitting next to Cassie. I only mention these people because we had a good time together. I didn't know any of these people besides Andy and JB when we sat down and now I feel like these people are my friends.

Cured salmon with a pineapple chip
Sean got us started by introducing himself and telling us a little bit about Lagunitas. My favorite part was when he told us that Lagunitas (with the exception of IPA, Pils and Pale Ale) doesn't brew category beers, they just brew beers, meaning, they're not striving for a particular style with anything they brew. I like this attitude, which one of my other favorite breweries, Surly, kind of shares. Then Selleck, aka Josh Eans, introduced our first dish, salmon cured with hops and grapefruit with a little mache (or lamb's lettuce) and grapefruit a pineapple chip and Maximus IPA vinaigrette.

Every time I see salmon cured in something from now on on a menu, I'm going to order it. If I ever receive salmon that tasted as good as this was again I'll be surprised. With each bite I tried to get a piece of all the components and it worked so wonderfully together. The pineapple chip made me wonder where I can get more pineapple chips. This was paired with Little Sumpin' Sumpin'. I'd like to say that it paired up great with the dish, but the food was so good I forgot to take a drink of Sumpin' Sumpin' while I was eating.

Lamb and couscous
Next up was Lucky 13.alt served with Moroccan spiced grilled lamb, candied black olives, mint chimichurri, dry hopped couscous with pine nuts, apricot and rosemary. I think I'm on the record as saying that I hate apricots, but this is the first time I've actually enjoyed them in the couscous. When I told Sean and Louis that I didn't really like apricots but I loved them in the couscous, Sean said that I must really love Pyramid beer, to which I replied with a curt "F*** them". I told Andy in the bathroom (yes we went to the bathroom together, leave me alone) I never knew couscous could be great, I thought it was always just something to have. The lamb was good, but sadly, probably the worst dish of the night which isn't really an insult, but something has to come in last. The Lucky 13.alt worked well with the spiciness of the couscous and lamb, this was very nearly a perfect pairing.

Humboldt Fog with not enough hoppy honey and almonds
The third course was a traditional cheese course with Humboldt Fog, marcona almonds and hoppy honey with some Censored Ale flatbread with rosemary paired with crowd favorite Hop Stoopid. I learned from Sean that Hop Stoopid is crazy stupid priced around here. In California it's about $5, when you find it for $3.49 around here, you should buy it and continue going to that store to buy it. I don't know much about cheese and had to Google Humboldt Fog yesterday to find out what it was, I'm going to be going to Whole Foods very soon to get some. It's a cheese made from goats milk and separated with a vegetable ash, Eans told us that legend has it that the top portion is from the morning goat's milk and the bottom portion is from the evening goat's milk. He didn't really believe that but thought it sounded romantic enough to just go with it. Everything on this dish was perfect especially the hoppy honey which I couldn't get enough of. Most everyone was pretty full around this point and some people left some of their cheese. Everyone ate all of the honey. Andy said that we got a huge chunk of Humboldt Fog, at least $5 worth, it looked like a pretty big slice of wedding cake. Working with the Hop Stoopid, this was the best course of the night.

My table had some rumbles at this point, not knowing how we could get down the dessert. We were looking at our little menu cards and could see it was tiramisu and an Imperial Stout float made with Foo's custard. Cassie and Shannon maybe weigh 250 between them, it was amazing they were still able to sit. Sean was barely prepared for the dinner, thinking he was going to some run of the mill burger place and at this point was very nearly calling this the best beer dinner he'd ever been to but didn't think he could get another bite down. We were all full and very nearly miserable. Then the tiramisu came.

Gallon o'tiramisu with Imperial Stout float
I'm not sure why Eans felt it necessary to give us each a 1 gallon tub of tiramisu but he did. Tiramisu is not my favorite dessert, I rarely ever have it. The coffee flavor usually overpowers or something, I'm more of a fruit dessert person. But, this tiramisu was fabulous. The homemade ladyfingers were wonderfully soft and decadent. The mascarpone was really rich and the Imperial Stout it was served with worked wonderfully together like a dessert and cup of coffee would. The Imperial Stout float that was also included seemed to be a little bit of overkill or a bridge too far. I was only able to eat about half of the tiramisu, if I had room, I would have eaten it all. Truth be told I'm a little mad at Eans for giving me so much food earlier that I couldn't eat all of the tiramisu.

When I saw "Big Night" in 1997 I always wondered if I could have an evening equivalent to the one featured in the movie. I did last night, the food was great, the beer wonderful but most of all it was just really really fun. I don't know if the fun was a function of the food, Blanc, Lagunitas or the people I was sitting with, I imagine it was a combination of the 4. I've always thought beer dinners were rather expensive and while the ones I've gone too have all featured really good food, the value didn't seem to be there. But for this one at Blanc, the fun portion really added so much that it wouldn't seem expensive in any way. Louie Prima's got nothing on Lagunitas and Stanley Tucci's got nothing Josh Eans.

Blanc will be having beer dinners every month featuring a different brewery. It will be worth your time to find out when the next one is and decide if it's worth it to you to attend.

Disclosure: I received a free ticket to the beer dinner from a party interested in selling more tickets to beer dinners. This did not affect my review but you can be the judge of that.

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