Rock in the House
The Oyster Rock’s inaugural beer dinner was perfection.
No one really knows the source of the proverb that says, “A job worth doing is worth doing well.”
But it must be on a plaque somewhere in the kitchen or bar of The Oyster Rock restaurant in Calabash because the very first beer dinner ever attempted there went off perfectly.
The food that came out of Kevin Caulfield’s kitchen was nothing short of exceptional, expertly prepared and presented, and Beer Manager Patrick Legendre expertly matched the beer to the food. The service was flawlessly efficient, and Legendre’s explanations of how and why the beer/food parings worked reflected his vast knowledge of both the culinary and “cerevisiary”* (I love neologisms) aspects of the products.
I don’t know if it’s an attitude of excellence encouraged and embedded in the staff mindset at the Callahan company, which runs The Oyster Rock in addition to The Boundary House Restaurant, Clark’s Restaurant, St. Nick’s Nacks (Callahan’s of Calabash) and Sea Island Trading, but the results speak for themselves.
I had a similar experience at The Boundary House a few months ago, which you can read about here. And perhaps Callahan’s, seeing how well-received the first beer dinner there was, decided to try a similar concept at The Oyster Rock Seafood and Waterfront Restaurant.
Whatever the reason, now two places have winning blueprints for successful beer dinners. And if guest Christa Berciunas has her druthers, she’ll be at every one. “This was fantastic!” the owner of Tap Time in OIB exclaimed between courses. “Keith and I come here every Friday, but I’m telling you that Patrick would pack this place out if he did this on a monthly basis, especially in the off-.”
Truth be told, for a Monday night in the off-season, the place was pretty packed out when we arrived at 6 p.m., and it only got busier. Fortunately, our experimental beer dinner was conducted privately on the heated patio, with six specially selected guests — all of whom have tight bonds with the state’s beer scene.
But Legendre, who began his career in Fort Lauderdale, not only has tight bonds in-state, but a near-encyclopedic familiarity with beer in the South and beyond.
Our second course of Oyster Rock’s most famous product — delicious, delectable, perfect oysters — was paired with a Nevada beer by Revision Brewing called Staff of Life. It was a juicy, unfiltered NEIPA with a wonderfully fragrant nose that promised baskets of citrus. It matched up wonderfully with the oysters, and with all three sauces — horseradish, mignonette and cocktail sauce. Though I wanted to, I couldn’t pick a favorite; they were all superb.
But what about the first course (which I cleverly skipped for continuity’s sake)? That was a no-less-than-perfect He & She Crab Soup, the name of which has nothing to do with gender equity. Made in the Old Charleston Gullah style, the Rock’s version uses both meat from the he-crab and roe from the she in a buttery, creamy, sinfully rich concoction, spiked with just the right amount of sherry on the side.
This opener was paired — again, exceptionally well — with a Helles from Red Oak called Hummin’ Bird. The crisp lightness of the Helles, made in strict accordance with the Reinheitsgebot, worked very well with the thick creaminess of the soup. When you open with such magic, you’d better deliver thereafter, and as proved above and below, Oyster Rock, Caulfield and Legendre did just that.
The third course was OR’s Deep Treasure, and like everything at this special event, readily available from the main menu. This dish includes cast iron-seared, large diver scallops with lemongrass risotto cake and lime beurre blanc.
Legendre was hesitant about which beer to use with this pairing, but for The PubScout’s money, he nailed it with 3rd Floor Tripel, a malty-multi-layered from Munkle Brewing in South Carolina. The malt from that Tripel worked perfectly with the big, rich, creaminess of those scallops — so good job, Patrick! As he rightly explained, if you’re going to make a Belgian-style beer, you’d better pay attention to the process, because Belgium is to beer what France is to wine.
I thought the third course was the pièce de résistance.
That is, until the fourth course emerged.
Called The Original Life Ring, it consisted of half of a glazed donut, topped with maple-glazed bacon and a big dollop of house-made espresso ice cream, and the whole concoction swam in an English cream sauce dotted with chocolate nibs. It was decidedly not on the Weight Watchers diet, but it was so darned good, we all swore to hit the gym the next day.
And it was made even better by not one but two iterations of Brooklyn Brewing’s outstanding —and hard to find —Black Ops, an 11.5% Russian Imperial Stout. One glass was brought out early to warm up properly, and the second came directly out of the tap. Legendre wanted the group to experience the difference in flavors that are released from the beer by warming. And, judging by the wiped-clean dessert plates, everyone was delighted with the experience.
In sum, this very first Oyster Rock Beer Dinner couldn’t have gone better. The service was seamless, smooth and efficient, and the entire process was completed within just two hours.
And under the right circumstances, with a limited number of guests, say 20 max, this event should become a regular reason to visit The Oyster Rock.
*“Cerevisiary.” I love making up new words.
So try this one: Patrick Legendre ”Cerevisionary.”