Appreciating the small things had a whole new meaning on January 25th. A little bit of rye, a little bit of food, a lot of overwhelming intoxication of the senses. Nearly delirious with the memory of soft scallop, creamy egg, and the friendly, sweet burn of whiskey, my husband and I could hardly find the words to discuss the incredible tastes and smells of that evening.
But let me try.
Library Pub played host to a whisky tasting with Chef Tom Meade at the reins. Walking into the bar, with its neighborhood feel and dusty books, it was an interesting blend of class and casual. Nearly 40 people attended the tasting, along with onlookers sipping beers from a mix of taps. Owner Mark Smith, outfitted in a bright Hawaiian shirt and looking more like a tourist than beverage expert, gave a preview of the evening. “Rye is the American forgotton whisky,” he said amongst the clink of glasses. “It was the most popular whisky in America before Prohibition. After drinking was outlawed, whisky makers moved south, where there wasn’t a lot of rye, so they used corn instead.”
As whisky has currently grown in popularity, rye has been a fast seller in bars across America. “Rye is spicy, with hints of cinnamon and anise, and is very flavorful,” said Smith. In order to be a rye, the spirit must be made with 51% rye in the mash, aged for two years, and may not exceed a 160 proof.
Enough chitchat, I thought, my fingers dancing on the table. Bring on the first course.
Chef Meade made his way up to the front to give an introduction of the first course. “With each whisky that was selected tonight, I made a dish based upon the flavors that stood out in the spirit,” he said. The first being Pendleton 1910 Rye, glistening gold in a spotless lowball glass. Described as “peppery, with tobacco smoke and caramel,” this Canadian rye boasted heat, and twisted my tastebuds in a sensation of delight. A small dish was placed in front of me, with a spectacular egg. A traditional deviled egg to be exact, with a sliver of pepper, and maple bacon placed across a creamy, fragrant yolk, dressed with a sticky, rich root beer glaze. “The whisky flavors were root beer, ginger snaps, and belgian beer,” said Meade. “So I reduced Sioux City Sarsaparilla root beer to make the glaze, and made a candied bacon to accompany.”
Looking more like a work of art, the egg was the perfect way to start off this incredible evening. My only complaint is there was only one, per person.
Next we moved to a Prichards Rye, my favorite of the evening. “Prichards is a small distillery in Tennessee that distills in small copper stills,” said Smith. “They are the first legal distillery in the state in 50 years.”
The nose of this whisky is fragrant and deceiving, giving a preconceived sensation of heat and overpowering spice. The taste is similar to a team of synchronized swimmers on the tongue, a merging of complexity and smoky smoothness that leaves the taster dizzy with pleasure. I couldn’t imagine how this whisky could be complemented by anything other than another pour, but Chef Meade showed us up with a salty, spicy Bay Scallop Ceviche.
Buttery and soft, this dish was colorful with spicy chiles and jalapenos, accented with blood orange, coconut and mango. “When I tasted Prichards, I found an odd assortment of flavors,” said Meade. “Clean, Kool Aid, Juniper and Salt were the flavors that jumped out at me.”
The combination of fish and oak did give an odd resemblance to gin, and I could see all the flavors except for Kool Aid, thank God.
Our third whisky was the High West Double Rye, a whisky out of Utah with a blend of young (2 yr.) and older (6 yr.) ryes. Slaps of vanilla and sugar rattled my cheeks. “My tasting notes for this rye were sawdust and vanilla,” Meade laughed.
I thought the first two dishes could not be topped, but I was not prepared for the dish that would blow every other dish out of the water. A fish oreo.
Rather, the preparation was that of an oreo. Two circles of pumpernickel bread held a mellow, savory Boursin cheese, with a smoked salmon and asian pear slaw on top. This dish was everything any foodie could dream of. Salty and sweet, the umami flavors overtook my palate and I could barely taste the whisky.
After the room recovered from this incredible assault on the senses, the bartenders brought out our fourth taster, the Hudson Manhattan Rye. “This is the first rye whisky distilled in New York in a 100 years,” said Smith. 90% of the raw ingredients in this rye are sourced within 10 miles of the distillery, and the freshness is evident with every sip. “Nutmeg, cinnamon and clove are the notes that came through as I tasted this whisky,” said Meade. “It was literally begging for cheese.”
And cheese we had. Smoked cheddar pig Cheetos, pork cracklings dusted with cheese, satisfyingly crunchy and rich. The spicy complexity of the rye was a perfect match with the cheetos, and a great way to loosen up the cheese dust in my cheeks.
As all great things do, the night was approaching it’s end, and we were all a little buzzed, a little warm, and very happy. A mexican chocolate creme brulee was our final dish, served with the Jefferson’s 21 Year Presidential Select Rye. A sipping whisky, this golden oldie was smooth and peppery, perfect neat, or with a drop of water. I chose neat, to compliment the eggy, thick, sweet brulee. The only tasting notes from Chef Meade? “It’s damn good.”
This was a worthy summary of the entire evening. Five dishes and five whiskies that would create food memories for everyone involved, even the bystanders getting a contact buzz from the excitement. Enjoying the small things, whether they be an egg, a scallop, or glass of rye, took new meaning that day, and these tastings will hopefully become a regular event at Library Pub.
5142 N. 90th St.
Hours: Noon to 2 a.m. daily