Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Post 390: Pigs, Bourbon & Beer

Heritage Pork? Check! Bourbon? Check! Beer? Well.....

Each month, Chef Eric Brennan of Post 390 hosts a special Farm to Post dinner. This is a three-course Prix Fixe menu, offered all month, which showcases local ingredients from one specific farm, fishery or similar producer. I was invited as a media guest to a special event to check out their latest menu, a "Pig Out" showcasing the products of Brambly Farms. I did not see a menu beforehand so it was all going to be a surprise for me.

The new Brambly Farms "Farm to Post" Menu offers 3 courses for $48, or $65 with wine pairings. You get a choice for each course from 2 different selections for Appetizer, Entree and Dessert. The special event I attended was different from the usual Farm to Post menu, though some of the same dishes and items are on both menus.

This was my first time dining at Post 390 and I was impressed with its decor and ambiance. The first floor is their Tavern, which has a more casual menu and feel while the second floor is the main dining room, with an open kitchen, private dining areas, and more. The upstairs area is more elegant, a great place for a romantic date or a business dinner.

I enjoy open kitchens, which I have always said show confidence in the cooking staff.

The dinner event presented the bounty of Brambly Farms, located in Norfolk, and the owners, Ted and Sandra O'Harte, were present at the dinner. They operate a pasture raised farm and raise 5 heritage breeds of pig, including Berkshire, Large Blacks, Tamworth, Red Wattle, and Gloucestershire Old Spots (like Dalmatians with lots of spots). They have maybe 100-150 pigs on their farm, and they also raise chickens and have had other animals as well at times, though some were killed by fisher cats.

Prior to the dinner, we watched a brief video about the farm, plenty of photos of the operation and animals. It is worthwhile to understand where your food comes from and knowing the pork was from a local farm is another benefit. The O'Hartes, who seemed very personable and down to earth, also answered our questions during the course of the dinner. Our meal featured the meat from Berkshire and Large Blacks pigs, as well as eggs from their chickens.

Initially, as we mingled before the dinner began, there were some passed hors d'oeuvres, including a Pate and a Lobster BLT (with a nice chunk of fried lobster). In addition, we began with a delicious cocktail, the Peach n' Pig Bacon Infused, which is made with house-smoked Bulleit Bourbon, Punt E Mes, homemade peach simple syrup, homemade bitters, and a grilled peach garnish. It was smoky with a mild sweetness and nice vanilla and peach flavors. It was a well balanced drink and I ended up drinking them throughout the meal as its flavors went well with our various pork dishes.

After that cocktail, the rest of the courses were paired with various beers, mostly local, and though I tasted all of the beers, none of them really appealed to me. The beers included: Pretty Things Jack D'Or, High & Might Purity of Essence, Jack's Abby Smoke & Dagger, Berkshire Brewing Co. Octoberfest and North Coast Old Rasputin. The beer lovers at the table all seemed to enjoy the pairings and I do give them credit for using mostly local brews.

Our first course was Egg Drop Soup with Crab and a Pork & Florida shrimp potsticker (which is on the the current Farm To Post menu). The soup, which uses farm eggs from Brambly, is very flavorful, better than many of the egg drop soups you find at inexpensive Chinese restaurants. The potsticker sits atop charred scallion aoili with aged mushroom soy sauce. The shrimp is Fedexed directly from a fisherman in Florida, and is never frozen, which is certainly very unusual and compelling. A nice, firm pasta held a burst of shrimp flavor with hints of pork. A tasty addition to this Asian inspired dish.

Next up was the Roast Thai Cured Pork Belly with Mango, Jicama and Scituate Lobster (which is on the the current Farm To Post menu). The pork belly was prepared in a similar manner to Pekin duck, marinated and later hung to dry. A nice blend of Asian spices complemented the juicy, tender pork. Heritage pork has such flavor that standard pork can never match. There was plenty of sweet lobster in the crisp, acidic and refreshing mango and jicama salad.

The Maple-Rosemary Bacon Wrapped Scallop came with succotash, tasso, and liquid corn on the cob. The large, tender scallops were complemented by the salty bacon as well as the sweet, buttery corn. As I have said before, I think scallops and corn is a killer combination. The tasso also added a little smoky edge to the dish.

The Grilled Spice Rubbed Pork of Loin was accompanied by a pulled pork & pear fritter with a prune plum-ginger pork jus. The fritter was absolutely killer and it is an accompaniment to one of the entrees on the current Farm To Post menu. The fritter had a delightful crisp coating with lots of moist, flavorful pork and accents of pear. I could have eaten a plate just of these fritters. The loin was also excellent, with tasty spices complementing the savory pork. But the fritter stole the show in this dish.

For dessert, we ended with Apple Pie with vanilla ice cream (which is on the the current Farm To Post menu). Though it seemed like there was no pork in this dish, not even bacon, there actually was pork fat used in the pie crust. The thin, crisp apple slice atop the ice cream was addictive and the ice cream was creamy and delicious. Though the pie was good, I think it would have been much better if served warm rather than cold. As we left, we received some chocolate covered bacon as a parting gift. Superb!

Service was excellent, and the food was impressive. It is great see to Post 390 showcasing local farmers, and exposing their customers to the local bounty. The Peach n 'Pig was a delightful choice to accompany each dish. Check out the Brambly Farms menu this month, and Post 390's future Farm to Post dinners as well. I am going to have to return now to check out their regular menu, and also see what other interesting cocktails they have concocted.

Who doesn't love pork?

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