There was a trickle of bourbon and rye at Yardbird Friday night as Montreal's David McMillan and Frédéric Morin took over the popular friend chicken spot with southern culinary troubadour Sean Brock riding shotgun.
But, given the reputation of these three, the expectation was that there would've been an all out deluge of booze flooding in from every direction like a submarine taking on water at 1,000 feet. Instead, each of the four courses during the sit down dinner was accompanied by a small shot of bourbon pulled from a handful of Jim Beam's brands.
The night started off well enough with servers distributing Seelbach cocktails that could also be described as man-mosas. A champagne flute was spiked with Knob Creek bourbon, Cointreau, and angostura and Peychaud's bitters. Yardbird's bar could've impressed by keeping the cocktails rolling.
Sure it was a packed house, and it would've been a logistical nightmare, but there are ways around it. Massive bowls of punch would've been one. A splash of some kind of artisanal ginger beer could have sufficed. Jim Beam probably forked out some serious cash to get its name on such an event. Handing out lukewarm shots of stiff booze didn't put its fine wares in the best light.
Yet the kitchen left no one wanting. Kunkel and 50 Eggs chef Cristian Cuevas started the night off by distributing a retrospective of Yardbird's greatest hits: Deviled quail eggs dotted with fantastically salty salmon roe swirled around with meaty suckling pig rillettes topped with a bitter, vinegary salad. Mini chicken biscuits were the night's hot commodity, natch.
Cuevas continued with a winter vegetable escabeche knotted with charred octopus, sea urchin, and Miami Smoker's guanciale. The combination of acid, crisp root vegetables, and all of the proteins' meaty brine made for a startling combination.
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Brock was up next and opted to go classic southern with shrimp and grits built on his beloved Jimmy Red corn. Brock has spent the last few years working with farmers and seedsman to bring this one almost extinct heirloom grain back to life. It's worth it. These aren't the mealy, sugary grits you pour out of a box. They're speckled with chocolate-colored blips and laced with a deep flavor and aroma akin to toasted nuts. The accompanying deep fried pig ear strips gave each bite a popping crunch.
True to form Morin and McMillan presented an impressive terrine of succulent guinea hen dashed through with strips of tender meat. On top, savoy cabbage leaves served as cups for a flurry of black truffle. The precious fungus also fortified the rich sauce dribbled onto the plate.
The one good thing about all that straight booze? It became a kind of de fact intermezzo, washing away your palate after every bite in preparation for the next.