Friday, February 1, 2008

Rogue Beer Dinner at Lola's on Harrison

Thanks to Sara at allpurposedark for posting about the Rogue Charity Beer Dinner at Lola’s on Harrison yesterday which, with my lapsing memory, I had totally forgotten about after hearing of it just two weeks ago.

I’d been meaning to go to Lola’s for a while and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to schlep past the county line. After turning onto Dixie highway and waiting at a light which never changed (literally, I never got a green light), we saw Lola’s on a pretty desolate Harrison St. I’m not sure why the area isn’t more developed. Lots of shuttered storefronts dotted the street with a few occasional signs of life (basically Lola’s and the wine shop across the street, Hollywood Vine).

Parking was easy and after picking up a few bottles at Hollywood Vine (small store, great prices) we went to Lola’s. The restaurant is fairly small but they’ve done a great job with space. Bright white tabletops set off against dark fabric on the chairs and banquettes. There’s a small bar where our hostess/waitress/bartender (and probably valet if we needed it) Rachel held court. We were offered menus but said we were here for the Rogue beer dinner. [For those of you not familiar with Rogue beers, it began as a small operation in Ashland, Oregon and has grown to become won of the most well-known specialty beer brewers in the US. Our favorites include the American Amber and Chipotle Ale (which has disappeared off the shelves of all shops in South Florida it seems).] Seeing as we were just sitting down and everyone was on dessert and coffee we knew we’d close the place (10:00, which by our Miami training, is still early).

Prior to receiving our first course we were given some literature on Rogue (history, philosophy, etc.) and a description of the beers being served. A good time killer until the first course arrived, coriander crusted scallops with a ginger butter sauce paired with a wheat beer (Half-e-Weizen). Great pairing of sweet scallops, rich sauce and a light, refreshing wheat beer. Personally I like my scallops a little raw in the middle but these were cooked through without being overdone. Great presentation and a great way to start the meal.

The second course was a juniper brined pork loin with a raspberry chipotle sauce and a mango and arugula salad paired with a Juniper Pale Ale. When I saw we’d have pork followed by beef I figured we’d be in for a heavy meal. But the pork was sliced thin and dollopped with the sauce which, even though I’m a fan of heat, was a little too spicy and took away from being able to taste the juniper in the pork. The mango and arugula salad was good enough to make my girlfriend like mangoes again. The pork and salad went well together and the beer was used more as something to cool our tongues than to bring out the juniper in it and the pork. The third course came soon after, a buffalo short rib with hazelnut gremolata and smashed fingerlings paired with the Hazelnut Brown Nectar. This was probably the most successful pairing thus far of dish and beer. The rib was beefier than any I’d tasted (maybe due to it being buffalo) and the gravy and gremolata were excellent. Where the dish failed was with the potatoes. The entrée came in a bowl to hold the sauce/gravy and hidden in there were some fingerling potatoes, some smashed, some not, some underdone, some done just right. It seems as if they’d been roasted and then tossed into the short rib braising liquid. I figured the potatoes would come a little more smashed to soak up the liquid but we actually had to use knives to cut through them. Even though the dish was not the prettiest the flavors worked and my homemade short ribs will be forever compared to this dish.

We were given a few minutes to rest before the dessert course, a stout chocolate cake with chocolate stout frosting paired with, well, Chocolate Stout. By far the best pairing. The cake was moist and dense, somewhere between my preferred Latin-style, rum-soaked cake and my girlfriend’s drier, Anglo-style marble cake. The frosting probably contained cream cheese and some stout to give it a tannish color. The cake and frosting worked great and the beer was like an adult chocolate milk. We must’ve had that look of glee on our faces because Rachel gave us another round of stout on the house.

Our experience at Lola’s was great. We’ll definitely be back to try the regular menu. The beer dinner has turned into a monthly event (last Thursday of each month) and February brings Dogfish Head to town. Even thought it’s a haul to get to Hollywood, the food and service at Lola’s is definitely worth it.

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