Things I Learned at Savoy Taproom
Never stop learning. The world is bigger than it has ever been. There is too much for any person to ever experience everything, and more to know than one could ever possibly learn. Yes, you can read books, but I think some of the most powerful learning is experiential.
Today part of my job is to work with local business to plan Official Yelp Events. One thing that I try to do is make these fun, educational experiences for the community. And while I can’t speak for everyone who attends these soirees, I know for sure that I learn something at every event.
I mention this because Saturday’s OYE at the Savoy Taproom filled the restaurant’s dining room with 48 people for a tasting from the bar and kitchen. And like always, I walked out a bit smarter than I walked in. Here were my four big takeaways.
Some of the best pairings are totally unexpected
For a long time I’ve been searching for a beer pairing that would knock my socks off. I’ve gone to special beer dinners. I’ve worked closely with The Cheese Traveler pairing beers with cheeses. And I’ve been doing my own experimentation at home. But sometimes when you are trying to find something, it’s evasive.
On some level, I think this was a bit of good fortune, but I finally found what I was looking for when chef Riyonna Caswell’s brussel sprouts were paired with a Chatham Brewing India Pale Ale. I have in my notes that it was called “Citricot” but I can’t seem to find that anywhere else on the interwebs. Perhaps I misheard, and it was really a “Citra hop” IPA.
Regardless, the bitterness from the charred outer leaves of the sprouts was totally in phase with the bitterness of the hops. And the fruitiness of the grilled apple vinaigrette was echoed in the glass as well.
Sometimes it’s the simple, unexpected things that really catch you off guard.
The Old Fashioned Cocktail can take many forms
Local barman extraordinaire George Fiorini, explained that the classic cocktail has a few key components. And those are strong, sweet, bitter, and aromatic. And it was great to see how both he and Savoy’s chef played with these components to make other things using the same building blocks.
The bar riffed on this to make something called the Ol’ Woody, which features Woodford Reserve, The Hudson Standard apple coriander maple shrub, and root beer bitters, with a squeeze of lemon zest.
This paired well with a seared pork belly made with bourbon, orange, bing cherry, and fennel, which is as close to a cocktail on a plate as I can imagine. Those bites of tender pork fat, by the way, were one of the highlights of my night. There’s nothing more pleasurable than when you are on a diet than being given a treat like that.
Trust the professionals
George’s final drink of the night was called the Stag Sour, which is made with Jagermeister — the thought of which made most people in the room cringe. Which I think is a fair reaction considering that most people experience Jagermeister in college as a late-night feat of strength.
But what he explained to everyone in the room, is that really the spirit behaves in cocktails much like an Italian amaro. This one just happens to be from Germany instead. And that made a ton of sense. Consider my eyes opened.
My eyes are also open to crispy gnocchi made from root vegetables other than potatoes. When thinking of the dishes that she was the most proud of, chef Riyonna mentioned her parsnip gnocchi. These are crisped in a sage brown butter, and served with kale and caramelized onions.
Parsnips are awesome. I haven’t had nearly enough of them this winter.
This has been on my radar for awhile, and I can’t remember if I knew that Savoy Taproom employed this very on-trend ingredient in its cocktail program. Part of me thinks I had been told. But Saturday I got to experience it first hand, and I’m not just a fan, but I’m a convert.
If you are unfamiliar, aquafaba is the fancy name for chickpea water. After cooking chickpeas, the cooking liquid has remarkable properties, and can be whipped up like egg whites. And so it’s being used to produce vegan mayo, and it is also replacing egg whites in classic cocktails.
I do love drinks that call for a robustly shaken egg white. The Ramos gin fizz is a silky, sultry, drink that everyone should experience at some point. But the egg sometimes freaks people out. And I can understand that. Drinking raw egg isn’t everyone’s idea of a good time.
As much as I enjoy the creaminess of cocktails made with fresh egg whites, sometimes there’s a bit of an aftertaste that doesn’t thrill me. However, the aquafaba froth that topped the Stag Sour was totally clean and delightful.
Now I’ll have to go back and taste George’s version of a Ramos gin fizz. I really want to go back for more of those brussel sprouts to pair with that beer too. But it feels like such a shame to go to Savoy and not take full advantage of the cocktail program.
I’m really glad to read that other people liked the event as well. Thanks again to Savoy Taproom for hosting. And I can’t wait to see what I learn at the next one.