Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Devil's Den Sour Beer Fest & Menu Revisited

A few weeks back Devil's Den hosted a week-long 'Sour Beer Fest' in which they had 8 different sour beers on tap that you could sample. Two of our favorites were the St. Louis Gueze and Ommegang's Zur, each one distinctly sour and puckery-pungent in their own way.

I won't go into too much detail, as most of the more interesting brews are pretty much non-available on draft throughout the rest of the year, but we did visit twice during the week and enjoyed some excellent small plates to go along with our beer tasting.

While Devil's Den has a good reputation for their taps, the kitchen was always hit-or-miss with me - this opinion was shared by most of the people I talked to when I mentioned going to D's Den for sours.  I'm glad to report that this is no longer the case with the 'small plates' we tried...they're serving up some great options like flatbreads (a new popular item on half the menus in town, along with sliders) shown here.

This one was called the Casino and was a riff on the traditional dish with seafood, bacon and a creamy white sauce. Garnished with frisee greens and served on a cracker-thin crust, this disappeared from the table.

Not quite as stunning was the BBQ braised pork flatbread, which we tried on another trip back. The structural weakness inherit in cracker-crust pizzas was apparent as the heaping dollops of tender pork became like tacos and threatened to bring the each piece to a messy ruin...however, the crust held out and allowed us to enjoy the flavor profile of spicy pork and a loose hash of cheese and salad.

 As wonderful as the surprise of good flatbreads was, this dish was the big winner - Chickpea Fries. The cubes of chickpea were flash fried, for a crispy shell encasing a soft and creamy chickpea custard.  The pickle, remoulade and a spicy oil that accompanied the fries gave a little bit of contrast to the texture, which reminded me of fresh-cooked corn bread straight from the oven.

You can see how light and airy these were, not a heavy, clunky blob of fried batter.  We went back a second time and ordered these, but they came out more like polenta or semolina 'fries' that I've had other places, where large blocks of polenta are allowed to set-up in a chiller before being sliced into slivers, coated and flash-fried. If I was going to order an entree, I'd make sure I had a few of those little squares on the side.

The bacon-wrapped balsamic dates were the only real disappointment of our trips during Sour Fest - the bacon wasn't fully rendered on a few dates and the glaze was so heavy handed and the char so overdone that this snack resembled charcoal candy more than a intensely sweet and rich bite-sized sack.

The slider trio was pretty good too - we didn't bother with a photo - if you've seen one slider like this, you've seen them all. The flavors were spot-on, with the meat cooked medium rare and the accompanying toppings, like caramelized onion and fresh pico di gallo, delicious.

So while I'm sad to see the sour beers fall off the tap list one at a time, I'm happy to see alot of what's coming out of the Kitchen at Devil's Den .  Elizabeth & I are already looking forward to enjoying dark beers and good food next to the fireplace.

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