By Niki D’Andrea
What does the desert taste like? What would it taste like with beer?
The answers are found at Helio Basin Brewing Co., where every spring and fall, Chef Tamara Stanger cooks a four-course equinox dinner that pairs Arizona craft beer with innovative dishes infused with locally foraged and indigenous desert ingredients. This year’s Spring Equinox dinner takes place at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 26, and features a flavorful mélange of meat, veggies, herbs and hops. Here’s a preview of the courses:
First course: Lazy Goat Chevre
Served with sourdough tortillas and neighborhood citrus (mostly orange and grapefruit), this goat cheese is delightfully creamy and slightly sweet, kicked up a notch with pinches of green herbs. Paired with the Helio Basin American Pale Ale, an effervescent example of masterful blending of classic American hops.
Second course: Wild Mushroom and Cholla Bud
Chef Stanger only very lightly cooked these wild mushrooms to preserve their soft and earthy flavor. They’re served on a crisp red romaine leaf with desert-spiced olive puree, dates, wild radish and fennel. Paired with the Helio Basin Hoppy Amber, which boasts a beautiful caramel malt flavor.
Third course: Pinon Sap-Cured and Smoked Tuna
This super smoky fish was served in a stack with bay leaf cream, pancetta, blood orange curd, rainbow succotash, nasturtium, and juniper ash. Chef Stanger says she grew up eating the latter, and it’s a great source of protein. Paired with the Helio Basin Robust Porter, a chocolate-tinged and strong porter with coffee tones on the finish.
Fourth course: Barrel Cactus Semifreddo
The best thing about Chef Stanger’s desserts is that there’s a slightly savory edge to them, and they are never cloying or overly sweet. “I like sugar, but I like flavor more,” she explains. This dessert is infused with Arizona Sake syrup, making the mousse (a lemon verbena variety) rich with a warm rice flavor. The recipe also includes mulberry sugar, creosote blossom, and a fantastically light-textured and crunchy black pepper meringue. Paired with Helio Basin’s American IPA, a piney, old-school-style IPA.
The 2018 Spring Equinox Dinner takes place at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 26 at Helio Basin Brewing Co., 3935 E. Thomas Road, Phoenix. Tickets cost $75. For more information, call 602-354-3525 or visit heliobasinbrewing.com.
For more restaurant events around town, visit our events page.