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Who wants to cook? Let’s go out to eat. See where News-Herald staff members dined and where they go to unwind in our area. You might just find a new treasure in your own neighborhood.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Beer dinner at Ballantine in Willoughby

When I came across Ballantine's post on Facebook last week about the Stone Beer Dinner on Jan. 20, I immediately texted the menu to my boyfriend. The beer — all from Stone Brewing Company — didn't exactly sound like my style, but the food seemed too good to pass up at the $35-a-head price. And wow, that is one of the best meals I have ever had.

The menu and the dishes — with some fancy Instagram filtering.

Course by course

The Citrus Arugula Salad was perfectly balanced flavor and texture. I was scraping the plate with my fork to try to get every last bit of prosciutto and citrus vinaigrette.

The Braised Pork Sliders — wow. I am pretty sure I said "Oh my god, these are amazing" with my mouth full more than once while eating these. A big fan of onions, I would have preferred a bit more of the "cotton onion" on my sliders. Also probably a bit more of the cole slaw. But the serving size was big enough, given the amount of food we were served (and beer).

The Righteous Chili was exactly how I like chili made — hearty with a spice that you doesn't hit you immediately. I couldn't detect any of the chocolate (my boyfriend good), but still enjoyed it.

The Coffee Rubbed Duck came to the table when I started feeling full. I actually had to pause before finishing the duck — and skipped some of the veggies on the plate to ensure I had room for dessert. I do not ever see myself cooking duck, and am not sure if I would regularly order it in a restaurant, but I was definitely looking forward to this. The meat was a little raw for my liking; though it tasted fine, the texture took me a minute to adjust to. But the coffee rub on it was incredible. And the cranberry redux? I'm probably going to be dreaming about that. If this dish lands a spot on Ballantine's menu, I definitely will be ordering it on a future visit.

The Pecan Ball was tasty and light — which was good after finishing the previous four courses and their accompanying beers. But it also was the most ordinary dish of the five. I could make this at home, which may be why it initially jumped out at me on the menu. I didn't not enjoy any of the courses, but this one was my least favorite, probably because it was so simple.

The beer

As I said earlier, the beer wasn't exactly my style, but all of it was good. The Levitation Amber Ale is probably the only one I would order on its own in the future, but that's just my taste. The others went perfectly with the dishes and were, to me, enjoyable in that context. I think my boyfriend actually might have been a bit impressed that I drank some hoppy varieties, which normally I avoid or taste before quickly swigging my own beverage.

More, please!

Our server let us know that more beer dinners are planned in February, March and April:

I thought she had said the Jackie-O's dinner wasn't set yet, but I sure hope it is! They're brewing some good stuff in Athens, and I would love to see what Ballantine will cook up to pair with the beer.

Like Ballantine on Facebook to keep updated on future beer dinner plans. Maybe I will see you there!

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