I’ve been to many wine pairing and cocktail pairing dinners over the years, but I’ve never experienced both intentionally wrapped into a single evening.
As the saying goes, and as I echo here with great anticipation, there’s a first time for everything.
On August 11 at the Good Oak Bar, 316 E. Congress Street, executive chef Nico Rodriguez and beverage director Tim Walsh will host a five-course event that signals to me they weren’t able to make up their minds on wine or cocktails or there truly is a method to their madness. After spending some time with chef Rodriguez, it became crystal clear it’s the latter.
“The Good Oak is built on a curated list of wines, whiskies, and other spirits, and creating a menu for this dinner means showcasing who we are in every way,” said Rodriguez. “We’ll have some wonderful wines and cocktails specially designed to match the flavors of the dishes.”
The evening will commence with a summer berry salad with arugula, toasted almonds, whipped feta cheese, and an orange honey vinaigrette.
“This bright starter is really like a charcuterie board without the meat, in a refined sort of way,” he said.
Don’t expect a light Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio to complement the salad. Walsh will take a deep dive right away with a cocktail that he calls “Leap of Faith.” It’s made with a peach-infused Arizona Commerce Gin, orange brandy, sparkling Rose, cacao bitters, creosote and shaved ice.
This, my friends, is vintage Tim Walsh, and it’s only the salad course.
The second course will feature a crudo of mahi mahi, apple ginger juice, radishes and lemon zest.
“Flavor-wise, I was after a ‘hot toddy’ kind of feel with this one and it should pair nicely with the next cocktail,” said Rodriguez.
Walsh’s Del Bac Boulevard should deliver, with Whiskey Del Bac Frontera, a limited-edition expression of the local single malt whiskey that was aged in Spanish sherry casks, premium amaro liqueur and vermouth, smoked maple syrup and smoke bitters.
The courses get richer as the night gets darker, like Rodriguez’s house-made pappardelle pasta with roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh herbs, and garlic butter, brightened up a bit with a glass of Merkin Chupacabra Blanca, a white blend from Arizona’s Caduceus Cellars.
The penultimate pairing will feature bourbon-glazed pork belly with pecorino polenta, pickled onions, and fresh herbs.
“This is what we get when we think about whiskey food,” said Rodriguez. “The garnish is truly a highlight of the dish, not just something we do to pretty-up the plate.”
The pork belly’s sexy companion will be an Old Pueblo Sour, with Whiskey Del Bac, grapefruit juice, simple syrup, orgeat, egg white and a finishing pour of a popular red blend from Caduceus Cellars, the Merkin Shinola.
If you’re keeping count, the fifth and final course will pair Hub Ice Cream, mesquite-agave syrup, and candied pecans with Walsh’s The Sweetest Taboo. Arizona Commerce Gin will take a curtain call in the final cocktail with supplemental splashes of Italian and Portuguese wines.
Good Oak Bar
This five-course evening is $80 per person, which includes the dinner, paired drinks, gratuity, and parking at the nearby AC Hotel. Check the bar’s social media, @GoodOakBar, for a reservations link.