C.R. Gibbs has the feel of a place that’s high end, but without pretense. It’s like dining at the home of a cattle rancher who loves to entertain. Pints on the Patio was no different, and paired their swank yet down-home experience with some of the best beer available: Fall River. Jazz set the mood, with low lighting and the perfect temperature of a late summer evening. All around the stone and plank patio, interesting architecture draws the eye, with beautiful mountains in the background.
The meal was a choose-your-own ingredient spread of creole delectables. There were three kinds of sausage, chicken, two interesting rice options, and multiple veggies including Okra! I dug in with too much garlic, and plenty of onion and peppers. Our chef then pan fried my self-crafted entrée with a Fall River brew-infused sauce (one could choose between three favorites), and a dash of Bacardi 151 for a flame effect. Seriously, seeing your dish on fire is a good way to know it’s going to be an amazing night.
I naturally paired my first attempt with Fall River’s signature IPA-the Hexagenia. In my mind, it’s the best ‘Single’ IPA between Petaluma and Eugene. Its burnt gold hue is lovely, and the light head sends out subtle notes of pineapple among pine. The brew is robust and full flavored, but drops off at the end, leaving you wanting for another sip. At the beer week opening ceremony, I obtained a heavy pour of Hex late in the evening. Ten minutes later, my buzzed brain forgot what I was drinking. I looked at it in amazement, wondering where I’d gotten such a delicious beer. Then I remembered, and smiled quietly to myself, since it’s my first choice nearly every place it’s on tap.
My second attempt at the custom creole fry was milder, I realized that this cuisine is going to be spicy, regardless of what I put in it, so a little balance on my part was helpful. This time I opted for less garlic (which had numbed my tongue on the first iteration) and the Hefeweizen infused sauce, which gave a sweet counterpoint to the explosion of other spices. It went well with my pint of Pacific Crest pale ale, a light brown/amber colored brew with big hops and a full bodied character.
The enigma of the evening was the crawdads. They stared at me accusingly, not so much out of resentment for being eaten, but for being eaten incorrectly by a West Coast Yankee. A friend kept mentioning, “pinch the tail, squeeze the head.” I analyzed these instructions over the course of several shellfish, and figured out the most efficient way to get what I want from these complex crustaceans.
First, pinch off the last two sections of the tail. Work your way forward, crimping along the tail-shell to loosen all connections. Then clamp down on the mid-body so as to just barely dent its hard sides. Next, wiggle and pull the tail armor off as smoothly as you can. This should leave the meat-like a medium shrimp-dangling from the rest of the body. Lastly, pull the meat out with a slight jerk, leaving behind all the entrails and providing you with a tasty morsel. Some folks suck the insides from the front part of the creature, but this leaves one with a briny taste that was not for me. Either way, my invented technique made the effort worthwhile, and I’ll dabble with these daddies again.
After teaching my methods to a few folks, I wandered back to the bar for a taste of the other two taps. Our gracious Fall River hosts lent me a taste of each so that I can briefly review them for you here. First, I flirted with the Hefeweizen. I’m not much of a wheat beer drinker, but this one is true to the style. It reminds me of the best of Bavaria, where I have sampled many a brew. Fall River’s Hat Creek Hef is bright and refreshing, with notes of lemon and allspice that dance on the tongue.
Later, I tried the Hoppy Mother Frogger, a rich double IPA that weighs in at 8.8 ABV. It’s an aromatic beast that smacks of pine forest. The malt base easily supports its grassy, smooth overtones that finish with a hoppy bite. Unfortunately, I’m a bit of a lightweight, so after a satisfying taste I elected to return to my favorite, the Hexagenia, while awaiting dessert.
C.R. Gibbs obviously wanted this night etched in to our collective memory, and made dessert in to a group participation event. They set up a huge log with a long trough carved along its length. In the trough was a pipe that had several drilled holes, connected to propane. Our brilliant chef’s staff lit this, creating a safe but spectacular ‘camp fire’ on which to roast inside-out S’mores. What a treat! From other logs, we pulled skewers that had been dipped in a Colossus Imperial Stout-infused chocolate and graham cracker mix and frozen, then stuffed inside marshmallow bricks. Each skewer offered us the chance to roast our own, then risk fate attempting to consume the gooey, dripping result of our labors. It was communal, we laughed around the makeshift fire and inadvertently revealed personal details under the darkening night. It was unique-never have I roasted S’Mores 100 yards from a busy boulevard. It was sublime.
This whole event was one of warm, comfortable hospitality among friends. The concept was brilliant, the staff impeccable, and the company was a true delight. I’m already thinking of how to ensure I get a ticket for next year.