Nancy asked me to recap last night’s most excellent Supper Club dinner at Meddlesome Moth, as far as I can tell, for two reasons: 1) She has the mistaken impression that I know something about beer because I like really hoppy IPAs and because I belong to a beer club, which means that once a month I get 12 exotic beers delivered to the office, giving me an opportunity to bloviate to my co-workers about how much I like hoppy IPAs. And 2) because she is afraid that her longtime friendship with Moth co-owner Shannon Wynne, made all the more problematic by what I assume is a red-hot jealousy harbored by Wynne’s new bride, Kimm (avec the double “m”), would make an unbiased recounting of the evening impossible. Me, I’ve got no such qualms. Wynne hates me. I’m unconflicted.
The big draw last night, over and above the beer paired with six courses of executive chef Chad Kelley’s vittles, was a gentleman by name of Garrett Oliver, whom the program called “the foremost authority in the United States on the subject of traditional beer.” He is also the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery and was clearly separated at birth from Herschel Walker (in person, he looks related to Neil deGrasse Tyson, too). Oliver told us last night that he has emceed 700 beer dinners in 10 countries. I was unimpressed. Only 10 countries? Meh.
Before we get to the grub and suds, a word about the scene last night: with the temperature in the mid-70s, the patio doors at the Moth were swung wide, making the 130 or so diners forget the horrible summer they’d just survived. The crowd was delightfully eclectic. I saw one guy with a fearsome goatee o’er topped by a ball cap (beer nerd). He was seated cheek by jowl with some folks from the Mansion, a table of Ben E. Keith big wheels, and those unmistakable hipsters (of all ages) from Oak Cliff. Then, of course, there was our own adorable Nancy Nichols, dressed in a beer wench costume so as to preserve, as much as possible, her anonymity on future dining missions. Totally hot.
Round one was an amuse bouche, chicken liver pate with a white port gelee, paired with Sorachi Ace, a saison farmhouse ale. Oliver called the Sorachi “sunshine in a bottle,” and it danced well with the rich pate.
The second course was cauliflower soup (brown butter, sage, hazelnuts) paired with a very special version of Brooklyn’s Local One. It was an unreleased 2006 original test bottling of the beer. “Cauliflower,” Oliver noted, “is one of those things that they say ruins wine.” Not beer, he noted. It was a privilege to hear him talk about some of the more nuanced attributes of what we were drinking. I did my level best to pay attention, but at this point, I was greatly distracted by the interaction between my wife and our own Sarah Reiss, who was way more sympathetic than I thought was good for her career to my missus’s complaints about the lack of a dog in the Rogers house. Murmur.
Third course was root vegetable “angel hair” (pancetta, rosemary, quail egg) paired with Local Two, a dark Belgian-style ale. I put everything set in front of me into my mouth because it seemed the polite thing to do. Also, because I’d never had root veggies made to look like angle hair pasta, which confused me a bit, and my strategy with unfamiliar foodstuffs is to devour them, own them, not back down.
Fourth course was boudin blanc stuffed quail (with collard greens prepared with a toasted garlic Tabasco emulsion) paired with Wild One 2008, a barrel-aged Belgian ale. There are only about 50 remaining cases of this Wild One, which uses wild yeast and is another unreleased brew. In other words: are you jealous yet? Oliver told us about how, when they ordered the yeast, it accidentally sat for three days in less than ideal conditions, so the brewers at Brooklyn weren’t quite sure what they were working with when they made the beer — which is what led them to age it in old bourbon barrels. I happen to be fond of bourbon. Not surprisingly, I liked this beer. The quail? I could have eaten two more of the birds. And the spicy greens are something I want to try in my own kitchen. The only thing left on my plate when the server removed it was a pile of tiny bones.
At this point in the evening, I was eating only because it was my duty to do so. Before coming to the dinner, which started at 4, I’d gone to a Cowboys watching party, where I’d eaten a bowl of chili and about a quart of French onion dip, so I wasn’t exactly famished back when the chicken liver pate was set before me. Lesson for all you kids thinking about a career in journalism: it’s hard work.
The fifth course brought us pork jowl schnitzel (with Brussels sprouts leaves and spicy mustard) paired with Blast, an imperial IPA. If you’ve been paying attention to this recap, you know how I feel about IPAs. Blast is made with eight varieties of hops, and this was the first time the beer had been served in the great state of Texas. It’s now on tap at Meddlesome Moth. I will be back to help float this keg. Blast is my new favorite beer. If I had to choose between a growler of Blast and a wicker basket full of the cutest golden retriever puppies on the planet, I would go for the growler. And that’s even without the pork jowl schnitzel, which was moist and tender and would make a decent name for a band. Chef Kelley ought to consider putting the schnitzel on the regular Moth menu. If he considers it and then decides not to, he’s made the wrong decision.
The evening wrapped up with dessert, a tres leches cake (with a horchata shooter and Brunello “cracklins”) paired with a 2007 Black Chocolate Stout. The stout, Oliver told us, was essentially his job application to work at Brooklyn. That’s all well and fine. I suppose if you like stouts, this one was good. Sarah, who knows more about beer than I do, proclaimed that its sourness was true to the style. I’m really not the right person to judge. I hate all porters and stouts. This one tasted to me like it had been strained through a Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker worn on a hike through a tropical jungle by someone with gout. I took a sip because I’m a journalist, and, again, it was my duty to put all this stuff in my mouth so I could tell you about it, but I did not finish the beer. I ordered another Blast to rinse out my mouth. And the cake? It was fine, as far as cake goes. You know: moist, sweet, cakey. But I would have traded it for more jowl schnitzel. That’s probably just me.
All in all, the evening was an unqualified success. I know I speak for my fellow diners when I say that the $75 price of admission (which included gratuity) was money well spent. We all had a Blast. (See what I did there? Beer pun!)
–all photos by Matthew Shelley