If you read last month’s issue of Bon Appetit, you know that it is the new dawn of the neighborhood joint. The starched table cloths, gleaming bone china and leather-bound wine lists as thick as Vogue’s September Issue that were once prerequisites for restaurant greatness are no more. Nowadays the no-reservations pizza place or the seafood shack down the street from your house has just as good a chance at a feature in The New York Times.
One of the best places to watch the casual come-up, in my opinion, is Green Truck Pub, here in Savannah, Georgia. Their grass-fed burgers with locally grown toppings, fries that put all others to shame and rotating craft beer selections have become something of legend around these parts, including the sometimes 30+ minute wait to enjoy them.
So when owners Josh and Whitney Yates told me about their idea for a Monday-night prix fixe dinner with beer pairings from the infamous Bell’s Brewery out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, I wrote down the tentative date on my Barack Obama calendar and counted down the days like a third grader in a Spiderman costume for Halloween.
That night has come and all-too-quickly gone, but let’s wistfully reminisce about it, shall we?
The first course was a pork belly belonging to an Ossabaw Island Hog raised by Revival Foods nestled in a hill of pink-eyed peas from Walker Organic Farm with a house- made BBQ sauce. Like Fall in the Low Country on a plate or the ultimate ham and beans, I could have walked away ridiculously happy having just had this and a Bell’s Amber Ale.
I wish I could go back to Minneapolis with this in hand and say to all the city’s meat-centric dude chefs, as if I were Moses come down from the mount, “Lo! This is pork belly!”
The salad course was mixed arugula and buckwheat greens with fingerling potatoes, a hard boiled egg and red onion pickled in Bell’s Oarsman with a lemon vinaigrette based on Julia Child’s famous version. Bell’s Oarsman is a tart session ale brewed with sour mash, and when it’s paired with that pickled onion, it’s like watching Kirani James and Oscar Pistorius trade tags at the Olympic Men’s 400 meter.
It’s what they do best: the burger. This time it was a cheeseburger with “Heat” cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy, which features Pasilla, Ancho and Chipotle peppers. Then there are the sweet potato fries and the spicy mustard made with dry mustard, brown sugar and Bell’s Two Hearted Ale. I like to think if John Mellencamp had been at this dinner and had the mustard, he would have instantaneously jumped on top of his table and started singing “Hurts So Good.” This is the meal that Bell’s Two Hearted was meant for.
Finally, there was this small but mighty truffle created by local chocolate rock star Adam Turoni — a 72% dark chocolate ganache, part butter and part cream, infused with tobacco. The unexpected spice of the truffle combined with the much-anticipated sampling of Bell’s mythical Black Note, was to use the parlance of our times, crazy delicious. Black Note, like Paul Simon’s Graceland or Arrested Development, completely lives up to the immense hype surrounding it.
An enormous thank you to Josh, Whitney and all the wonderful people of Green Truck, Matt Wells from Bell’s Brewery and all the folks who provided the ingredients that made the evening possible.
And never fear, now deeply, deeply depressed friends who couldn’t attend — I hear there’s another Monday Dinner in the works.