As the sun set on a warm spring day, the main event for the evening was beginning. Just outside the doors of Cold Water Brewery, the crowd gathered for the five course food and beer pairing. From a distance this occasion seemed normal, but in true South Lake Tahoe fashion, you need to delve in deeper to see the importance of it.
With a big smile, Deb Brown opened the door and welcomed us in. She provided us a card with the word Cascade on it. What was this for? It signified where we would be sitting that night. There was a sense of excitement and nervousness that came with it. Who will you be seated with? Will they like you? While waiting for the dinner to start, everyone gathered around the bar to have a beer or glass of wine. The crowd began to mingle and introduce themselves. Looking around we could see that everyone had brought out their “Sunday best.” You continually overheard people saying things like “I haven’t worn this shirt since I moved here” or “I actually bought these shoes for this dinner”. It was thrilling seeing everyone so excited.
The Experience Begins
Over the crowd, Deb announces that everyone should find their seats. Quickly each person takes their card and finds their assigned table. Standing in the middle of the restaurant, she begins to speak and kicks things off. As she thanked everyone for coming, you could feel the emotion in the air. This wasn’t just about Cold Water Brewery; it was more than that. This was to celebrate the growth of South Lake Tahoe as a community. This was the first time a beer food pairing had ever happened here. And the support for it could be seen by it being sold out. Deb went on to introduce her staff and highlight this could have never happened without the great team surrounding her and Brewmaster Ryan Parker together with Chef Justin Kaplan.
The sense of Adventure
As the dinner service began, Ryan Parker introduced himself as our guide for tonight. He explained that the one thing we all had in common was our sense of adventure. This meal was going to be a journey into all of our senses, and of course, it would begin with their lightest beer – the Waterhouse Wheat. The first sense that we would use in the meal was our sight. In front of us two glasses contained the same beer, but one had been infused with blueberries which changed the color to almost a pinkish hue. Alongside the beer, a ceviche appetizer was served that made the beer seem to have a flavor of a sparkling wine. It was a great way to cleanse the palate before the main meal.
As the meal progressed, each course seemed to ratchet up the flavors. The second course contained the Echo Alt German Ale which balanced the light, refreshing Mizuna salad. The combination of blood oranges, Marcona almonds, and Mimollette cheese brought out the subtle flavor of the dressing. The cheese was definitely the star of the dish. Even though it was used sparingly, it was so rich in flavor that it could be tasted in every bite.
The Swordfish was the best meal of the evening
From there we progressed into the Swordfish that paired with Mr. Toad’s Wild Rye. This was by far my favorite dish of the evening. It was so tender and juicy that you couldn’t believe it was fish. Even my table-neighbor exclaimed, “This is like the steak of the sea!” Served with a tender charred carrot gnocchi bathed in a cumin butter sauce, it resembled something like a steak and potatoes dish but with a different twist.
Like any great story, the meal continued to get more intriguing. The “fowl” taco contained a juicy smoked duck which was slightly sweet combined with crunchy pickled red onions. It was all wrapped in a house made corn tortilla that left you wanting more. With such a fatty cut of meat it made sense to serve it with the Tahoe Cross IPA. The hoppiness plus the juicy piece of meat played well with each other. From there we went onto the Cervena venison from New Zealand. It’s considered one of the best cuts of game meat you can get. Justin made sure to cook it perfectly to the point it tasted like a high grade piece of sushi. The roasted barley it came with brought a hearty crunchy flavor you wouldn’t expect out of a grain. The deep, dark flavors of the Hall of the Gods Porter paired very well with the Venison and brought out all the flavors of the dish.
A Great Way to say Good Bye
To finish off the evening, the homemade ice cream sandwich was a pairing of warm freshly baked oatmeal cookies and Cold Water’s signature Stillwater Stout ice cream. The ice cream had a smoky and salty flavor that I’ve never experienced in an ice cream. You could really tell how much time and energy was put into every dish. It made sense that this evening was also to celebrate Sofie, the Sautee Queen, and Ricki, the inventor of the Stillwater Stout Ice Cream and Sous Chef, both cooking for their final night as they moved onto their next adventure. They were selling their school bus and going off the grid to experience nature at its best.
So, what was different about this event than others?
At the end of the night there was a feeling that this was more than just a nice dinner. Just like Deb said, “It was an opportunity to mingle, a time to get closer to your neighbors, and a way to celebrate Lake Tahoe.” Personally, I feel closer to this place I call home, and I truly hope Cold Water has another event like this. If they do, be sure to pick up a ticket as soon as possible because once people hear about it, it will sell out quick. My personal hope is that South Lake Tahoe remembers the energy of the outing and that it perhaps starts a new trend in our neighborhood that we all proudly call home.