Local Farms Shine at N.C. Beer Dinner

Harker Island (NC) Oysters Rockefeller with crispy pork belly, sautéed onions, kale, and cholula cream served as the second course of the night.
Harker Island (NC) Oysters Rockefeller with crispy pork belly, sautéed onions, kale, and cholula cream served as the second course of the night. Erica Naftolowitz

The applause rang out after each farm was announced.

"Walk Ahead Farms in Youngsville." Enthusiastic claps. "Endless Sun Produce in Raleigh." Raucous ovation. "Old Milburnie Farm in Raleigh, as well." The crowd of about 45 put its hand together once more.

Local farms and local beers were on mighty display at Cameron Bar & Grill in Raleigh, North Carolina, on April 7, as the restaurant shut its doors that night for a ticket-only beer dinner that toasted spring. In attendance were enthusiasts of pairing fine foods with fine beers, and each entry in the four-course menu elicited "oohs" and "aahs" as Executive Chef John Ford celebrated his first beer dinner at Cameron.

"It's been an amazing experience," he told the diners at the start of the evening. "A lot of companies buy things from 500 miles away, but we're doing everything here today locally bought. It's a great thing to get to meet the farmers and have respect for what they do. And they have great respect of what we do; it's a terrific partnership."

Cameron's partner in the dinner was Deep River Brewing, a brewery based 25 minutes away in Clayton, North Carolina, that is celebratating its two-year anniversary this month. Lynn Auclair, who owns the brewery with her husband, Paul, was on-hand to explain the aromas and tastes in each beer while telling the stories behind them.

Also present was Chase Werner, a farmer at Endless Sun Produce. He stood up and spoke to the crowd about upcoming events at Endless Sun, including workshops and a beer dinner around Earth Day, and thanked the guests for their ongoing support of local farms.

The first beer guests drank, served as a cocktail welcome, was Deep River's White Lies IPA.

"That was a one-off beer we did that almost didn't exist," said Auclair, noting it was made with rare Mosaic hops and North Carolina malt. She explained that when North Carolina was pounded by snow in February, workers showed up to the brewery and, trapped inside by snow squalls, they used the time to brew a new beer. They took inventory of what they had on hand—mostly—and quickly came up with the IPA.

"The reason we called it White Lies is because everyone was saying they couldn't get to work that day, but the roads were actually super clear," Auclair said as the diners laughed.

Next, a course of goat sliders was passed around and paired with Cottontown Lager, a crisp lager with a fruity finish that serves as Deep River’s spring seasonal lager. The first course of the dinner menu, a Butterhead Lettuce Salad with goat cheese, strawberries, almonds, and strawberry vinaigrette, paired with Deep River's Belgian wit beer, the Twisted River Wit.

The second course of Harker Island Oysters Rockefeller dovetailed nicely with the Riverbank Rye-It Pale Ale, though the highlight of the night was the Coq Au Vin Chicken, which Chef Ford braised in Deep River's Backcountry Black IPA and cooked to tender perfection.

By the time the fourth and final course of Brownie a la Mode came out, satisfied diners were eating slower, now full of delicious food and beer. Still, no one passed on the brownie, which was made with Deep River's 40/42 Stout, topped with vanilla ice cream, and finished with stout-infused chocolate ganache whipped cream and, of course, a cherry.

By Sonya Chudgar 

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