It’s been a week since I attended the “Friends & Farmers Dinner” at Big Grove. My lack of writing shouldn’t be an indication of how amazing the meal was, it was just the hectic pace of life. A week later, what still sticks with me, was how they created an experience that felt like I was eating with friends and family, while sitting at a table with strangers.
Sitting down to a six course meal with drink pairings at a community table with strangers can seem daunting. But, surrounded in fresh flowers and candlelight, an intimate dinner of artistic presentations of vegetables, delicious drinks and a basket of bread I wanted to steal, unfolded. If you’ve never eaten at Big Grove Brewery in Solon, don’t let the inclusion of “brewery” in the name throw you off. What was once synonymous with cold tap beer and bar snacks is no longer. You are in for an amazing dining experience.
The first course was a Coriander Crusted Albacore Confit that came with dollops of fermented black bean puree that I want to see on a daily basis for the rest of my life. It was a beautiful kick off to the evening, picturesque even. The paired cocktail of the Kefir Lime Syrup and Que Sera Berliner Weisse remained one of my favorite drinks of the night.
Whenever I attend special dinners, or try a new dish, my measure of great preparation and combination of flavors is “eating and enjoying ingredients I would never touch on a daily basis”. While I won’t disclose the list of foods, I’ll say at least one would strip me of my Czech-Slovak heritage, forever banned from Houby Days. However, the next dish Local Mushrooms’ promise of mushroom butter peaked my excitement. In trusted hands, I cleaned my plate of parsley Cavatelli paired with king trumpet, oyster, shiitake, egg yolks and kale.
My favorite course of the evening was the Spring Picnic. Served family style we received bowls of brown butter roasted chicken, buttermilk fried chicken with Aleppo Chile honey, and a smoked beet and potato salad. While I chased the bowl of fried chicken and chile honey around the table for more, my date stocked up on smoked beets and goat cheese from the conveniently never-too-far salad plate. I mean, we were polite about it, but just barely. We ended the course with an experiment, combining as many of my favorite ingredients within reach- fried chicken, honey, and Swedish milk roll sandwich washed down with the Compadres cocktail. Panting like I was nine-months pregnant trying to put on my skinny jeans, I was starting to give up just five courses in.
The next course was the Pavelka Point Lamb paired with a Nitro Coffee Stout. The lavender rubbed chop with stinging nettle chimichurri rounded out the menu, completing the circle of life/flavors/proteins/everything. It pushed us right over the edge, onto a bright pink pile of “Strawberry Cheesecake”. The final course of “Strawberry Cheesecake” had a hidden pocket of strawberry jam, basil buds and 25 year balsamic vinegar, as if the white chocolate shortbread and strawberry sorbet wasn’t enough. No matter how you cut through the dessert, everything paired into a delicious combination.
We were the last few to leave the space, in full disclosure because I was so full I could barely stand up (and maybe because I was hoping they’d hand out doggie bags). Chef Benjamin Smart and his team of culinary artists prepared a menu to truly treat their family, and dazzle their friends. My visual scrapbook of the evening is slim, I was concentrating on the experience, plus shoving booze and bread in my face with both picture-taking hands. My date for the evening was as dialed-in to his task as well, seeing if my blabbering about these chefs and long dinners would hold up. And in the end, I think we all succeeded. Would I be the first in line to buy the next BGB Dinner ticket? Absolutely. Would I wear stretchy pants and bring a bigger purse? Please go back and read from the top if you don’t know that answer.
Easy Recipe to take home? Compadres Cocktail!
- Cedar Ridge Malted Rye
- Housemade lemonade- fresh squeezed lemons, sugar and water, like your dad used to make (*cue heart-warming story by managing partner, Doug Goettsch)
- Workman’s Comp from Lion Bridge Brewing Company
Although I don’t know the ratios, I’m confident throwing all of these ingredients together in a glass will make something magical. Oh, and it’s also on their menu for the summer.