Chouffle Off To Belgium

We’ve really been negligent. We haven’t gotten the word out.

A tiny LaChouffe troll checks out a glass of Houblon Chouffe

A tiny LaChouffe troll checks out a glass of Houblon Chouffe

But, it’s not like you haven’t heard. At least, not if you’re in Dallas and you have a pulse. It’s gotten a LOT of buzz. And for once, it’s deserved.

All of which is to say, we’ve become irregular regulars at the Meddlesome Moth. It could well be our favorite restaurant and watering hole. 40 beers on tap is a start. Moreover, they proudly declare, “If you’ve seen an ad for a beer, the chances are pretty good we don’t have it.” The beers are eclectic and excellent.

The layout and decor is off-beat, slightly funky and it really makes a statement. A slick, clean and elegant statement. A large stained glass triptych from original Dallas Hard Rock Cafe depicts Elvis, Chuck Berry, and Jerry Lee Lewis. It’s delightful, and sets the stage. There is more art all around the restaurant and bar area, both highbrow and low. Mike’s personal favorites are the lovingly made reproductions of ads from the 1960’s Dallas Morning News for various gentleman’s entertainment facilities that are in the mens restroom.  Mike never saw Chris Colt, or her fabulous 45’s, but she was the stuff of fevered imaginings for many Dallas area adolescent males. She looks so wholesome in the pictures.

The chef, Chad Kelley, has put together a wonderful menu. We haven’t worked our way through it yet, but we are very fond of the Thai mussels, the Veal Sweetbreads, the shrimp and jalapeño grits, the Lamb pot pie, the lamb skewers and…. oh, we’ve enjoyed everything we’ve had.

But a real high spot is the special dinners they put on. Most recently we went to a dinner they put together with Brasserie D’Achouffe, the brewers of La Chouffe beers. The founder of Brasserie D’Achouffe, Chris Bauweraerts, spoke.

Before the four course dinner started, they made sure everyone had a glass of Houblon Chouffe, a strong Belgian Pale Ale, to get us in the mood. The ale was slightly cloudy, a light yellow/golden color, and it had a nice citrusy sort of bite. As with many Belgian ales, the lighter colored beers are higher in alcohol than the darker ones.

Then the four course dinner began. We started withDungeness Crab Cakes with a Cajun Remoulade and a salad of spring greens - Delightful! Dungeness Crab Cakes with a Creole Remoulade, and a salad of spring greens. The crab cake was delightful, full of delectable crab meat. The Remoulade was nice, but Mike thought its spiciness overwhelmed the crab cake, though Beth (who is usually not big on spices) thought it was great. This was served with La Chouffe Strong Pale Ale, which was an excellent pairing. The hops were a little more forward than with many Belgian ales, but the balance between the malt, the hops, and the citrusy notes was just fine!

Roast pork shoulder Ras El Hanout, with Pomegranate and fresh pastaThe second course was a Roast Pork Shoulder, Ras El Hanout, Pomegranate and Fresh Pasta served with McChouffe. McChouffe is Chris’ homage to a Scottish friend and is a Belgian spin on a Scottish ale. It is a strong dark ale, and it was Mike and Beth’s favorite beer of the night. The Pork shoulder was tender and delightful. Ras El Hanout is a popular Arabic blend of spices. Literally it means “top of the shop” and is a blend of the best a spice vendor has to offer. As is common, this one contained cinnamon, clove and coriander plus other tastes we couldn’t quite identify. The pomegranate seeds provided a tart, and crunchy, accent that was really delightful. We’d never thought of cooking with pomegranate seeds, and we’re filing that away for future reference The dark beer really balanced the Ras El Hanout spices for a wonderful combination. The pasta was a bit thicker, and thus tougher, than most fresh pastas. Still, it tasted wonderful, especially with the roast pork drippings on it.

The third course was Orange Peel Beef, servedOrange Peel Beef, Chinese Long Beans and flowers with Chinese long beans and Jasmine rice. The beer was more of the Houblon Chouffe, a Dobbelen IPA Tripel, we’d enjoyed as a warm up beer. The beef had a crisp glaze with a strong taste of orange peel. It was intoxicating and it paired very well with the Houblon Chouffe! We enjoyed all the savory courses, but this is the one that really wowed us! The beef was tender and flavorful, with deep, rich earthy tastes that played off the crisp, citrus layer. The Chinese Long Beans were remarkable more for their length than their taste. They are essentially green beans so long they could have coiled all the way around the plate. While there was nothing wrong with them, they didn’t call to us. (On the other hand, the next time we go to Super-H, we’ll get some and see what we can do with them.) The Jasmine rice was, well, Jasmine rice. I didn’t notice that Chad had done anything special to the Jasmine rice, but the best thing you can do with Jasmine rice is not get in the way of its natural flavors and he was wise enough to do that. The flower garnish was delightful! We really liked the plating on all the courses. We didn’t eat our flowers because we weren’t quite sure if they were edible. They lookedgood enough to eat.

Our just desserts!  Three of 'em, each prettier - and tastier - than the next.The final course was a Mignardise course. This consisted of a cranberry bread or rice pudding with a crisp brown sugar accent in it, a lovely brownie on a bed of nuts, and two petit fours that had a mint and chocolate interior with a lovely sweet shell. This was paired with some freshly made French Press coffee from Oak Cliff Roasters (we’ve had their coffee before, and it is excellent!) and a snifter of Brasserie D’Achouffe’s Chouffe Coffee with a dollop of whipped cream on top. This is a coffee liqueur made from their Esprit d’Achouffe, an eau de vie distilled from 5 year old La Chouffe beer. The taste, and balance, of this coffee liqueur redefined coffee liqueurs for us. Dark? Yes! Rich? Oh, YES! Sweet? Definitely, but not too sweet. Coffee? Oh, lord YES! The complexity and layers of flavor were light years beyond Kahlua. The deserts were wonderful and under other circumstances we’d rave about them. The coffee was wonderful, and usually we’d carry on about what a treasure Oak Cliff Roasters is. But in this course, the star attraction was, hands down, the Chouffe Coffee. We’ve seen it on line for $40.00 a bottle. We’re looking for someone who carries it locally.

Pulling this discussion back around to the Moth, if there was a down side, it was the noise levels at the Moth made it hard to hear Chris. By the fourth course, he had pretty much given up trying to speak over the crowd. A lapel mike and speaker might have helped him a lot. But what really counted – the service, food, drink and atmosphere – were wonderful, and at $65 a head, tax and gratuity included, it rocked!

Yeah, we like the Moth. Too bad it’s 50 miles from home.

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