Chef Liz Huff of Catalpa in Arrow Rock, Missouri, spent six weeks preparing for last night's private seven-course beer-pairing dinner with Columbia's Logboat Brewing Co. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that, because she's been alcohol-free for about 10 years, she did all the pairings by smell.
“People think that because I don’t drink, it would be difficult to be in this business," Huff says. "I smell alcohol here. I can make sangria, I just have to have one of the girls try it and make sure it doesn't need more sugar or something. It’s been so long that it’s just kind of a way of life for me."
That way of life began when Huff checked into rehab for substance abuse back in 2006. Yet her culinary education trained her to decipher flavors based on smell. So, after deciding that her life was much more manageable without any substances, she opened Catalpa under a new mindset. And though her restaurant still serves alcohol, she says she can always bounce ideas off of co-workers and friends if need be.
Huff's collaboration with Logboat stemmed from a mutual friend, Mike Wolf, who does all the brewery's label-work. For this collaboration, she crafted a brand-new menu specifically around Logboat's arsenal. She even hand-wrote the menu during her visit to the brewery.
“I just wrote the menu sitting right there at the bar, [it] took about an hour I guess,” Huff says. "I made little scribbly notes, and put circles and arrows and everything."
Her finished menu focused heavily on local ingredients, and even uses a few of the beers during the cooking process. Courses ranged from a light opener of baby arugula salad, to main dishes of lobster tail and quarter duckling. But Huff wanted to start out strong on the beer side of the dinner. Her first dish of carrot and ginger juice soup was paired with Logboat's "Jupiter's Moons," an 8 percent ABV double red ale.
"This [dinner is] so great because there are absolutely no limits," Huff says. "Seeing as how we’re going to be getting some restaurant people coming to this thing, I feel like it’s pretty safe to just go out on a limb and do things that are a little unexpected with the pairings.”
To make things even more unexpected, Huff hosted the dinner on a Monday night. While that may seem odd to most, she says it's because those attending are normally working when these dinners happen.
"We get a different crowd of people that couldn't normally come to something like this because they’re open," Huff says. "Monday is kind of the universal restaurant-and-bar-people-off day, if there is one.”
Although this particular dinner was a private event, Huff says that she's already planning future beer-pairings with Logboat that will be open to the public.
“We’re thinking four a year, once a season," Huff says. "In retrospect, you do [the dinner] and think, ‘I can think of five or six other things I’d like to do with that beer. So why don’t we?”
Catalpa, 510 High St., Arrow Rock, Missouri, 660.837.3324, catalparestaurant.com
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