Spirits Inspire Colgate Inn Chefs

May 5, 2012
Restaurant News & Reviews

I’m a Scotch drinker.  It was introduced to me about a year ago and I’ve fallen in love with it.  I’ve never been a bourbon drinker, but I could not pass up the opportunity to  learn more about bourbons and to taste an incredible menu prepared by one of the best young chefs in Central New York.

We have some wonderful chefs in Madfoods country, and many of them are doing fantastic things.  Last night at the Colgate Inn, Executive Chef Kris Angle set the bar pretty high for the rest of the area with his five course bourbon pairing dinner.

The dinner was held in the Library Room of the inn, the perfect setting for an small intimate gathering of about 15 people who were ready and willing to enjoy a variety of bourbons and some outstanding food over five courses.

The evening began with Muddled Old Fashions made with Wild Turkey 101.  The Old Fashions were a perfect accompaniment to a selection of appetizers which were highlighted in my mind by the 4-year aged cheddar cheese from Jewett’s Cheese House in Earlville.  Also on tap for appetizers were baby spinach and local cherve stuffed crimini mushrooms, sweet corn fritters with spicy siracha aioli, petit pear and blue cheese turnovers and pecan crusted chicken sate with peach and honey dipping sauce.  The appetizer course was a great introduction to the night and really set the tone for what was to be a fantastic dinner.

After the apps had run their course, we were seated around a large table that fit the 15 of us perfectly.  Our host for the evening was Forest Harper, who might just have the best job in the world.  He is the director of education for Southern Wine and Spirits.  His job, his mission in life is to host wine, bourbon, vodka and beer dinners.  Explaining the ins and outs of the manufacture process and why different brands of the same spirit taste completely different.  He also threw in tidbits and history lessons that made this dinner more than just a drinking and eating event.

As Forest explained what we were tasting, the first course came along.  It was a bourbon and sweet potato bisque with apple wood smoked bacon and creme fraiche.  The soup was creamy, full of flavor and paired excellently with our bourbon choice of an 8-year old Basil Hayden.

The next course was a prosciutto wrapped wild salmon.  It was garnished with a bourbon and tarragon hollandaise and a local mushroom and Swiss chard saute.  This course was paired with a Blanton’s Single Barrel.  The fish was cooked perfectly.  It was flaky, moist and the proscuitto added a nice touch to the salmon.  The bourbon worked well especially since it was used in making the hollandaise sauce.

The tone had been set with the apps, the soup and the salmon course, so everyone was waiting to see what the next course would bring, and we were not disappointed.

The third course was a Pork Tenderloin Au Poivre.  It was  encrusted with salt and peppercorns and finished with a bourbon and shallot jus.  On the plate was a whole grain mustard which complemented the pork and a potato puree which was topped with a local micro radish garnish.  The woman sitting next to me fell in love with the potatoes and I thought the pork was perfectly cooked.  It was tender and juicy and really was a hit.  The bourbon that we drank with the pork was and Eagle Rare 10 year old.  Again, executive chef Chris Angle was right on in his selection of this bourbon for both the jus and our drinking pleasure.

The fourth course was a real treat as well.  A sliced dry aged NY Strip steak which was garnished with a fabulous roasted root vegetable hash.  I love steak, but the star of this dish was the roasted root vegetables.  They were perfectly caramelized, tender and had a nice roasted crust on them.  My mouth waters just thinking about it now.  The steak was topped with crispy onions and paired with a Jefferson 15-year old reserve bourbon.  This bourbon was easily my favorite one of the evening.  It is a smooth easy drinking whiskey and I will be purchasing a bottle to add to my collection of liquor.

The evening meal was finished off with a dessert course that was well thought out.  A bread pudding with a homemade honey ice cream topped with a bourbon sauce brought the evening to an end.  It was paired with a Maker’s Mark 46.  The vanilla undertones in the bourbon played well to the flavors in the bread pudding and ice cream.

The dinner was an excellent experience in food and bourbon.  Chef Angle along with his crew in the kitchen really put forth a well thought out, perfectly paired dinner for those of us brave enough to take on five courses and six flights of bourbon.

I had two concerns going into the dinner.  #1 was that there was going to be too much food.  #2 was that there was going to be too much bourbon.  Both fears were overrated as the portion sizes were perfect.  They offered more than a taste, but did not stuff you.  I did not walk away from the table feeling that I had over eaten.  The time between courses, the information given us and the overall camaraderie helped the dinner last about two hours, rendering my fear of too much bourbon moot.

I did take a room at the inn to avoid driving home after drinking too much and that was well worth it.  The newly renovated inn did not disappoint as the king room I was given was very nice and well appointed.

The Colgate Inn has a few more paired dinners coming up over the next couple of months including a French Wine dinner. We will be sure to let you know when they are happening.  The cost for the evening was a touch steep, but the overall experience was worth every penny.

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