Spirited Dinner at Feast


So, my internet at the Hotel decided to take a nosedive and stop working on the evening of my second day at Tales.  As such, this post is after the fact, but I have to say that I still wanted to talk about the drinks and dishes at Feast, for the Spirited Dinner, “A Taste of Europe,” sponsored by Anchor Distilling with Jackson Cannon behind the stick.

At Tales of the Cocktail, tradition includes dinners on Thursday which are pairing of food with cocktails, providing a way to showcase different themes and food.  This year I chose to go to Feast, one because I am aware at how well Feast can execute food, and two because I am quite excited to see what Jackson Cannon and the tastes of Boston are like.  Feast specializes in European style cuisine, with a lot of country, home-style cooking such as Fish Pies and Bubble and Squeak, but also drawing heavily upon offal.  The restaurant originated in Houston, and had opened a year ago a location in New Orleans, which unfortunately closed a couple weeks before Tales, but it opened for a final evening for the already planned Spirited Dinner. 

Sponsored by Anchor Distilling Company, which merged with Preiss Imports, the drinks were showcasing different elements in their lineup, and the ways in which they can be use to create a wide diversity of cocktails.  Anchor has an extensive lineup, which does allow for quite a few different cocktails to be created, including herbal and sweet, with base spirits of brandy, calvados, gin, rum, as well as the use of more classic ingredients and liqueurs such as luxardo maraschino or curacao de curacao.

The evening began with a brief tasting of a punch, which quickly retired to three tables, for a communal dining experience, meeting new friends and seeing old faces.  It was an excellent evening with quite a few representatives from Anchor, Colin Kimball, Simon Difford and Paul Clarke, to name a few; yet compared to many of the other Spirited Dinners, because this one was so small, it allowed for an extremely intimate evening, in which introductions were made by everyone prior to the final course.  Besides Jackson behind the bar, we also had Naomi Levy, from Eastern Standard as well, and Devon Tarby, from the Varnish.

To start off, the first entree was a chilled almond soup with grapes, done in a Spanish style, paired with a light sparkling fruit driven cocktail called Apertivo Verano.  The soup, with the savory component and texture coming from the almond, as well as the light floral notes from the grapes, was fantastic and paired exceptionally well with the Aperitivo Verano, which emphasized Verveine do Velay, Soberano Brandy, and a touch of Regan’s Bitters.  The fruit and tart notes from the apertif worked exceptionally well to cut back on the richness of the soup, and the difference in texture proved to have a good effect on the palate. 

Following that, we had Scallops St. Jacques, paired with Belle Normandie.  This was a weaker pairing, but still quite good none the less, and like the previous one, emphasized supplementing the flavors between drink and food rather than producing a firm marriage.  The Normandie was made with Calvados and Eastern Standard Rose Vermouth (fantastic stuff), and a touch of pastis.  The Scallops, were a rich brandy cream mushroom sauce, which worked well being cutback by the savory components of the drink drawn from the pastis and vermouth.

Third, we had L’alto Stalone, a gin based libation, with a bit of Maraschino and grapefruit juice, paired with a Parsley and Pancetta Salad with Grapefruit and Parmasan.  This was exceptional, both the drink, which was a great riff on more classic gin drinks such as the Aviation, but also inclusion of the grapefruit juice and the Regan’s bitters, helped to bring the drink and the food together, in a marriage between ingredients and flavors.

For the main, nothing less than braised pork cheeks, with garlic rutabaga and kale, twists on classic comfort foods of the English isles, but demonstrating exactly what Feast specializes in.  The Storm Port Old Fashioned, an English Harbor 5 year old rum, alongside some curacao and Luxardo Fernet, touched up and finished the overall main course.

To conclude the evening, we had the magnificent triumph, which I heard several people claiming was better than coffee with dessert, which was a Flip Royal, paired with traditional English bread pudding.  I will admit, I am extremely partial to this drink, since the overall flavors were fantastic, and the food with which it was paired played extremely nice with the King’s Ginger that was the base of the Flip Royal, giving it a wonderful spice note that complimented very well the dessert.  The use of the salted rooibos syrup also lent a savory component to the cocktail, preventing it from being too sweet, and drying out the overall drink so that it would be a lovely juxtaposition to the bread pudding.  And when I say I am extremely partial to this drink, I must clarify, this was quite easily one of the best drinks I imbibed at Tales. 

So overall, the evening was a great one, with lots of socializing, an easy going attitude, and fantastic company, as well as excellent potations and fare.  As soon as I can clarify and assure that I have the correct recipes for all the drinks, from Cannon, I will post them on my blog.  What is going on in Boston may not be ground breaking when thought about in the grand scheme of things, and this dinner might not be the best representation of the overall joy of Boston (for that I was blessed by the Boston Cocktail Experience at the Anchor tasting room) but the execution is fantastic, and represents the level of quality that comes into play from Boston, which quite easily explains why they won awards at both the Spirited Awards for Drink, and Bar Room Brawl, for Eastern Standard.