Acadiana, Mt. Vernon Square

(See the December 6, 2010 Review here.)

I was invited to a (Jim Beam) Bourbon Dinner at Acadiana with the extremely colorful Master Distiller from Jim Beam, Fred Noe (who was hilariously hurling the F-bomb around in front of about 200 people like he was doling out candy).

Chef Jeff Tunks himself teamed up with Chef Jonathan Lundy (from Jonathan’s in Gratz Park, KY), and each paired dishes to match the Bourbons with dessert made by Pastry Chef Chris Hutcheson.

With Jim Beam’s Bourbons, you’re better off mixing them (and no, that’s not a compliment), and the best two drinks of the night were the cocktails: Bourbon Vieux made with the extraordinarily nasty Jim Beam Red Stag, lime and watermelon juices, egg white, and house-made Grenadine; and the outstanding Boogalee Crush made with Jim Beam White Label, muddled blackberries, ginger simple syrup, and house-made sour mix.

Here are the dishes and pairings:

(Lundy) Sea Scallop Hot Browns – broiled sea scallops with Newsom’s country ham, Bourbon barrel-smoked bacon and tomatoes over brioche toast with white cheddar cream, paired with Jim Beam White Label 80p.

(Tunks) Grilled Rosemary Shrimp – with jambalaya arancine, fresh basil, and creole mustard and balsamic glaze, paired with Jim Beam Black Label 8 Year Old 86p.

(Tunks) Cherry Wood Smoked Quail – with Brabant sweet potatoes, Steen’s cane syrup, and BBQ sauce, paired with Jim Beam Red Stag 80p.

(Lundy) Roasted Domestic Lamb Rack Chop – with Old Kentucky Tomme aged goat cheese scalloped potatoes, sugar snap peas, and Mint Julep jelly, paired with Basil Hayden’s Small Batch 8 Year Old 80p.

(Hutcheson) Bookers Bourbon Chocolate Cake – with butter pecan ice cream and sea salt caramel, paired with Booker’s Barrel Proof Small Batch 7 Year Old 127.4p.

And then an after-dinner taste of Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve 9 Year Old 120p.

Some thoughts:

1) I was invited as a member of the press, so did not pay for my meal.

2) Jeff Tunks knows how to make outstanding quail.

3) Jonathan Lundy showed an extraordinary gift for pairing his dishes with the Bourbons themselves – both his courses achieved an eerily natural-seeming synergy.

4) Jim Beam Red Stag – a cherry-flavored aberration – is the single worst-tasting Bourbon I’ve ever had in my life.

5) You should not necessarily invite Fred Noe to be the guest speaker at your granddaughter’s graduation from Catholic High School.

6) The same company that owns Jim Beam also owns Booker’s and Knob Creek (do not be misled by the (unregulated) term “small batch” because these two are anything but – even Fred Noe was joking about the misuse of this common term as a marketing technique).

7) The private room at Acadiana (past the bar in the back) should be on your short list of places to reserve for large parties of diners.

I wanted to go back and give the restaurant my own business, so a week later, I went to the bar for a late dinner.

It bears repeating that, other than the bar Bourbon (and the soon-to-open Jack Rose which will eventually have the largest Bourbon list in the world), Acadiana easily has the strongest Bourbon list in the DC area.

I happily nursed a Van Winkle Family Reserve 12 Year Old 90.4p ($11) – it’s worth noting again that Acadiana lists the proofs of all their Bourbons, so you know when you’re getting a dilute blend (generally around 80p), or a real-McCoy cask-strength (120p and beyond). It’s around 90 or 100p when Bourbons begin to get interesting, from my experience, and this Van Winkle will not only get you Ripped, but is a good transition into cask strength (without having to dive right in).

Acadiana serves a gratis basket of addicting biscuits, with a dipping sauce of cream cheese and red pepper jelly.

“b.l.t.” Salad ($9) was ordered off the regular menu, and was a variation on a wedge salad, with half a head of mini-iceburg lettuce, topped with Maytag Blue Cheese dressing, Benton’s bacon, and cherry tomatoes. This is a fairly small (and tasty) salad with only a few tiny pieces of ultra-crisp bacon, so do not worry about over-ordering if you’re getting this as an appetizer.

I hadn’t had any alligator this week, so from the bar menu, I went with the Grilled Gator ($12) with west bank slaw, crushed peanuts, and pepper jelly glaze. I’ve had my gator blackened and fried, but never simply grilled, and this presentation really makes you understand what the (tail) meat is all about – everyone says “chicken,” but it’s much more like veal, except a bit gamier, tougher, and more fibrous to cut. Interestingly, this recipe is very Vietnamese in nature.

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