Friday, October 22, 2010

Is this Heaven? No, it's The Turtle.

This is a review I wrote for my station's dining blog. It's less of a "review" and more of an "ode to my favorite beer." I may be a journalist, but my tastebuds are biased.

It's no secret I'm a huge fan of Rahr & Sons beer. We first discovered it when we moved (back) to Fort Worth in 2006 and our friends led us to this dream world where an unmarked brewery in a sketchy urban neighborhood opens its taps every Saturday afternoon and serves free beer to TCU frat boys, bikers, homeless men, gals like me, and the occasional dude dressed like Jesus.

Rahr has come a long way since then, while its grass roots marketing (free beer every weekend creates a fiercely loyal customer) and local sustainability keep it from expanding faster than it can pour.

I could go on, but this blog is called Dining Out in the Big Country, so let's get back to business!

Last night, The Turtle Restaurant in Brownwood hosted an Octoberfest paired beer dinner, featuring German cuisine by Chef Curt Sassak and four of Rahr's brews (my favorite four, mind you!).
I've only been fortunate enough to eat at The Turtle once before, so I'm not sure what the regular Thursday crowd size is, but last night nearly every table in the small, brightly colored, eclectic eatery was filled.
Let's get to the food, shall we? Course #1 (pictured above) was a large portion of a mild Camembert cheese served with a pear and dried cranberry chutney, arugula, and a buttery baguette toast with a sweet balsamic drizzle. This course was paired with a 6 oz. serving of Rahr's Blonde Lager. The Blonde is a very tasty but light golden beer, malty and sweet. It went very well with the likewise mild and sweet first course. The food was delicious, although the portion was too large, considering we had three more courses to go!
Beer No. 2 was what made the 90-minute drive worth it: our only taste of Rahr's delicious Oktoberfest this year. Fritz Rahr (Rahr rhymes with bar) was there and visited our tables during each paired course to talk to us about the beers. We were very familiar with the tastes and with the brewing process, having toured the brewery more than once, but talking to the owner one-on-one was great.

Everyboy's doing an Octoberfest these days, and they're doing it earlier and earlier each year, Fritz said. So Rahr had to ramp up its recipe this year by increasing the alcohol content from 5.5 percent to ?? percent. I can't remember. Ha. The beer was a classic Oktoberfest, not too heavy, with its amber color and sweet, bready taste. Isn't it amazing when you don't know what you're tasting, then someone puts it into words for you, and "Aha..."? That's what happened when Fritz told me he couldn't overemphasize the breadiness of this brew. I got it.

The course was a Pederson-brand bison Polish smoked sausage with a warm, buttery potato salad. It was delish!
Course No. 3: A pork schnitzel served over braised red cabbage with spatzel. New word for me! It was a tender pasta with a bit of a mac-and-cheese nod. If I'm somehow defiling it with that description, please forgive me. And forgive the fact that I kept tearing into the food before remembering to take a photo!

This course was paired with Buffalo Butt, a red beer that compliments meats. "A burger and a Butt is what we always recommend," Fritz told a nearby table. Buffalo Butt is a dark amber, caramel-y beer that I like with spicy foods. The schnitzel, while very tasty, wasn't spicy. I actually don't know that I've ever eaten spicy German food. Oh, the epiphanies.
Hello, Gorgeous. Here, my friends, you have my favorite beer of all time, Ugly Pug. It's dark, somewhat sweet, chocolaty, with a bit of coffee. It's not as heavy as a lot of black lagers, but if I'm not careful I can accidentally make a meal out of this beer. And apparently it's great served over vanilla ice cream. YES, please.

The fourth course here is probably the most beautiful cupcake I've ever eaten, called a Macho Chocolate Cupcake, which is very cute considering a leopard-print chocolate medallion is far from macho. This doozie had a truffle baked inside and was swirled with a layer of buttercream icing. Tiny bites and tiny sips allowed this course to last a good half hour. My mouth said thank you.

And I say thank you to The Turtle and to Rahr & Sons for an amazing paired beer meal, which may have been my first ever! It was definitely my first Rahr pairing.

Turtle, I will return.

PS - Rahr is available at Brookshires grocery stores in the Central Texas area, at many locations in North Texas, and I believe at all Central Markets in the state. And apparently, it may be sold in Abilene and Lubbock sooner than later, but not all distributors live up to the standards Rahr & Sons holds for itself... so for now we'll continue to stop at World Market in west Fort Worth to stock up.

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