Well I’m back. I know a few people have been waiting for this post so I managed to cobble something together for everyone. All it took to get me writing again was a delicious meal planned by head chef Scott at Lockhart’s BBQ. John informed me a few weeks back that Lockhart’s was once again having a Pitmaster’s Dinner – of course I was in. The theme for this round was Wild Game with Frankenmuth Brewery providing the libations. This time the tickets were $75 a person, slightly more than last time, but definitely worth the experience and the food. I even managed to convince Latonya and Sarah to come out.
It was great getting to talk to Frankenmuth’s Brewmaster (Jeff) and their representative (Chuck). It was rather flattering to see that despite only being at one Pitmaster’s Dinner, Head Chef Scott remembered me. The only thing that was unfortunate was that I lost my camera at Somerset, so some of the pictures may not be up to par compared to the last review. Luckily my cousin Sarah had a comparable camera that I helped her pick out, so I’m glad I forced her to come out.
The appetizer was Smoked Duck Sausage with wilted spinach greens. Much like the last Pitmaster’s Dinner, I’d probably say this was my favorite dish. I think I just love the appetizers that Chef Scott comes up with for these. The sausage had no casing, and was very juicy and tender. But to our surprise, the sausage had a nice citrus finish. To wrap it all together, the Ancho Pepper Aioli balanced everything perfectly. After talking to Scott, we learned that the citrus bite comes from the sausage being infused with Triple Sec.
The Oktoberfest that Frankenmuth brought to pair with the sausage was probably one of the best Oktoberfest beers I’ve ever ingested. It was so smooth and tasty, I wish I had a keg of it in my basement always. Chuck came by and informed us that the brewmaster has been making Oktoberfest since he was 13! It’s really no surprise that this Oktoberfest is so great. LaTonya has never been to Frankenmuth at all, whereas I’ve never been since I have been of age to drink so we may wander up there sometime this month or next month.
The second dish was a traditional german dish – Hasenpfeffer. I work with some Germans, so when I showed them what I had, they were like “oh! It’s rabbit!” I was the only one at my table that had consumed rabbit prior to this event. I mainly remember the rabbit I had previously as being a little stringy and gamey. This was not the case with this dish, however, and I was the only person at my table to finish their entire plate. At first bite we all thought the dish was a little salty, but we hadn’t properly mixed it with the rice. After we did, the Hasenpfeffer seemed to mellow out. When Chef Scott came over, and we relayed out initial impressions to him about how it seemed salty at first, he told us that he barely added any salt. It was mostly from the smoking the rabbit for four hours before creating the stew. The rabbit was extremely tender, and ultimately the dish was very smooth and creamy. It was a nice contrast to the duck that had come before it.
When the dish was paired with the Frankenmuth Pilsener, there was a slight sweetness at the front. The Pilsener was a great lighter pairing to the creamy rich dish. Though it was surprising how much the dish sweetened up the beer, for when the rabbit was gone and I was finishing up my beer it was a completely different flavor profile. Ahh the joys of food. By the time we were done eating what we could (I managed to finish all of my delicious hare), most of our table was stuffed. In fact Scott had told us that other pitmaster patrons were requesting a slight break before the Elk Rack came out. This gave us a lot of time to talk to Chuck and Bubba, while also giving Brewmaster Jeff to arrive.
By the time the main course came, most of us were pretty full. But we had to eat what we could! It looked and smelled too great to just box it up. I made sure as Scott came around to grab a photo with him and his creation. As the servers finished distributing the main courses, brewmaster Jeff had arrived. He gave a nice speech about all the beers, and how the New Years Stout wasn’t even on tap at the brewery. It was specially made for this event and so we were getting a nice preview of what was in store. He also let us know about a pet project he has going, where he will release New Year’s Stouts from 2010, 2011, 2012, etc. until he deems fit to release a New Years Stout pack. I am excited for whenever this gets released.
The New Year Stout 2013 was a nice 10% ABV. And yet it tasted very sweet and smooth. A great beer to choose if you want to get a nice buzz going! As Jeff explained, the New Year Stout 2013 was brewed as a Lager and not an Ale as most stouts are brewed and that most people would say “you can’t do that”, but Jeff is the Brewmaster so he “can do whatever he wants.” And what a great decision he made. Usually I am not a fan of stouts, but this one was delicious. I could drink it all night.
I wish I could speak more about the pairing of the food and the beer, but at this point I was so full that I had about 1/3 of my elk before boxing it. I finished the panko encrusted zucchini because I surmised it would not reheat well. So I suppose I will start with those. The zucchini was amazing, and I am going to recreate them if its the last thing I do. The zucchini provided a nice contrast to the crunchy panko with its soft and moist flesh. The best part, however, was the black peppercorns that would pop right at the end of the flavor journey and leave you wondering, “did that really just happen?” Yes, yes it did. The Risotto was delicious, but I only had a bite so I can’t recall too much about it as it wasn’t in my tasting notes. The Elk was very lean and very tender. Almost buttery as it melted in my mouth. The cabernet sauce that was drizzled on top of the elk enhanced the flavor of the elk and just made for a memorable dish, despite only eating a third of it. I reheated it for lunch the next day, being careful not to overheat it and dry it out; it was just as delicious the next day, in case you were wondering.
After we had some time to try the main course we beckoned the brewmaster over so we could pick his brain. We talked to him for quite a while, and he regaled us with tales about how he got into beer-making and other exploits in his life. The best part of these dinners has been being able to talk to the head chef, and the pitmaster, as well as meeting people from the brewery on a more personal level. We had a great time talking to Chuck and Jeff and I hope when we visit Frankenmuth Brewery later this fall we’ll be able to see them there!
The final course was German Chocolate Cake. I’m not a huge chocolate cake fan, but this one was delicious. It was not too sweet, and the pecans and coconuts in the frosting (which was infused with the Dunkel) was great. Most of us at the table couldn’t finish the whole cake in this sitting, but the frosting was gone so that only the cake remained for another day. The cake was very rich and cut the bitterness of the dunkel.
The last time I had Frankenmuth dunkel was at the Heidelberg in a 1L boot. It remains as delicious as I remember. It has a nice sweet beginning and a slight bitterness to finish, which, as most people know, is something I enjoy in beers. I only wish we were able to get seconds of the Dunkel, but alas I suppose we will have to just go to Frankenmuth to get some more.
Afterwards there was a raffle to give away some Frankenmuth swag. My cousin was the first winner and ended up choosing a very fine looking pint glass. I am extremely jealous. John also ended up winning, and went with a slightly less awesome pint glass. 50% win rate at our table, can’t go wrong with that – though it was almost 75%.
Overall this was another great Pitmaster’s Dinner experience at Lockhart’s and you can bet I’ll be at the next one with my camera and appetite at the ready.