So I know, this is long past X-Mas and the Yule season. To say I have a bit of a post back-up this year is an understatement. To be fair, I really wanted to do this event justice in my recap. For those of you just joining the blog, there is a geeky fandom themed bar and restaurant in Atlanta called Battle and Brew. This establishment is host to a number events in addition to their regular gourmet and gaming offerings such geek speed dating, MMO and card game tournaments, geek trivia, cosplay nights, and as I’ve covered on here again and again: themed dinners.
These are no ordinary events. For the price of $100 a person, you are treated to an all-immersive atmosphere of decorations, music, and costumed staff members, eight to ten inspired courses with paired drinks, and personal gifts at each setting to serve as a permanent memento of the occasion. So far Chef Teddy Kupferman and the crew of BnB have wined and dined us through Westeros, Hogwarts, Middle Earth, and a Galaxy Far, Far Away. Last December, they brought us back to Hogwarts for a Yule Dinner that would certainly make the Founders wish they had Horcruxes to return and savor such earthly delights.
The doors of Battle and Brew opened to the entrance of Platform 9 and 3/4. We were immediately welcomed by Divinations Master, Professor Trelawney, who guided us through the brick wall to the platform for a photo op.
It appears Wizarding technology has caught up to modern times. Our trip on the Hogwarts Express lasted a mere matter of seconds before we were deposited at the edge of the Forbidden Forest, our path lit by pixies in jars along the short walk to the entrance where we were greeted by Potions Master Severus Snape.
The great hall was decorated with the house banners and flocks of Hogwarts letters twirling through the air. And at each place setting, we found a parchment scroll menu and potion bottle to take home with us. We sat down among our friends and no sooner than we could say “Accio dinner!”, our first course emerged from the kitchens.
Course 1: Smoke and Shimmer
First, the staff of Battle and Brew wanted to impart a little “Liquid Luck” on the guests with a cocktail aptly named Felix Felicis. This champagne-based aperitif sparkled both figuratively and literally with sweet cava and baker’s shimmer powder. Touched with sweetness by the elderflower angel, St. Germaine, I know I certainly felt lucky. It was fresh, floral, and reminiscent of pixie dust blended with ground up four leaf clovers.
To go along with such fortunate feelings, we were even more fortunate to then receive the amuse bouche for the evening: squash blossoms stuffed with button and crimini mushrooms, prosciutto, and goat cheese. The flavors of each ingredient were distinctively present and shifted as if they danced the quadrille upon the tongue so that sweet paired with savory, savory paired with meaty, and meaty paired with creamy, and not one was ever muddled out by another. And the presentation? This won’t be the last time you’ll hear me say this: it was magical.
Course 2: Gilly-Wonder
Up next to keep us from drowning in our goblets of Southern Tier’s Krampus, Chef Teddy presented us with a Gillyweed Caprese Salad featuring hollowed out local cherry tomatoes stuffed with mozzarella, topped with truffle olive oil infused pearls, drizzled with a balsamic glaze, and served on a bed of seaweed salad.
This dish was tangy, briny, and yet grounded with earthy truffle to protect one from being swept away by the currents to those who reside within the depths of the Black Lake. Overall, this was a genius composition of tastes and textures.
Course 3: Transfigured Toad in the Hole
To warm us up after a cold swim, we were then passed steaming cups of Earl Grey a la Creme with milk and honey. Professor Trelawney then reappeared to provide us with a short divination lesson in tea-leaf reading. Not sure how useful it actually was given that according to her, we all have a very short time left to live. Far be it from me to say that a dinner at a school for witches and wizards would be anything short of educational, however!
Of course Chef Teddy was there to console us on our impending, untimely deaths with the next course of English/French fusion comfort food: Toad in the Hole with a coddled egg set into a nest of freshly baked puff pastry, accompanied with Bear Creek polish sausage, then smothered with a velvety buerre blanc sauce.
This delightful dish presented a juxtaposition of rich and delicate from the flaky pastry, the creamy bergamot-driven tea, and the sausage bursting with smokiness. This course was just enough of the two to be perfect as a second course — not too heavy and just enough to further whet the appetite.
Course 4: Let’s Eat the Kracken!
Our breakfast for dinner may have been over at this point, but Chef Teddy was far from finishing with us as he plunged our taste buds back into the murky depths for the next course of Black Lake Cioppino, made completely from scratch, paired with a glass of Delirium Noel.
The local cherry tomatoes from the Caprese salad made a reappearance, this time skinned, roasted, and pureed into a perfectly balanced broth bed for a host of East Coast sea creatures. Mussels, baby octopi, clams, and even the errant yet insidious potato were simmered in a tide pool of garlic, shallots, white wine, and parsley before being tossed into the tomatoey deeps.
Course 5: Nomming on Nifflers
The Black Lake may have been a portkey because the next course on our Wizarding World tour of epicurean delights took us across the pond and even back through time. First, the staff poured us some of Three Taverns Brewery’s Cranberry Sauced. With cinnamon and clove, this brew tasted like a cranberry danish with powdered sugar, reminiscent of Kowalski’s Bakery. Second, they set down this dish to go with it: Sous Vide Niffler.
This delectable morsel with a strong resemblance to duck breast was marinated in rosemary, garlic, chipotle pepper, lavender, and cinnamon before being slowly cooked sous vide to medium rare perfection and topped with au jus, and crispy fried and pressed niffler skin. Saturated with rich, sweet and savory notes from the accompanying rutabaga puree, pops of sparkling flash-frozen raspberries, and grassiness from the corn shoots and herbs which served as an appropriate nest for this delectable creature, I think I might have learned a whole new appreciation of fantastic beasts and where to find them.
The entertainment for the evening then arrived in the form of Zanzibar, the great muggle magician, whose attempts to make a dollar dance served as the perfect introduction for a performance from a lovely Bellatrix burlesque dancer from The Hysteria Machines troupe. Images have been withheld out of respect for the performer and some of my more sensitive readers.
Course 6: A Stop at the Pub
The next course took us back to Hogsmeade with The Three Broomsticks’ Original Recipe for Fish and Chips. Made with fresh, local cod and fried in a crispy batter made with Lonerider Brewing Company’s Hoppy Ki Yay with Pineapple.
Paired with a glass of the same beer and house-made cocktail and tartar sauces, this dish was a great updated and respectful take on a traditional pub favorite. While I am not usually a big fan of either tartar and cocktail sauce, this dish made a convert out of me. The cocktail sauce was nice and spicy without being too sweet, while the creamy tartar sauce made with capers was surprisingly light and mellowed out the heavy hoppiness present in the beer.
Course 7: It’s a Wonderful Day for Pie!
To continue on the theme of treats from Hogsmeade the following course was a mixed Vegetable Pie, wrapped up and baked in a vegan empanada crust and served with a generous helping of cherry tomato aioli. The aioli really made this dish with a balanced piquant flavor that also paired well with the Hoppy Ki Yay.
Course 8: Tiny, but Fierce!
Our last savory course for the night started with a glass of Hogsmeade’s favorite Pumpkin Juice. Battle and Brew’s Tea Mistress Barrie explained that they tested and tested making this delicious brew until it tasted just right — made with house-made vanilla extract, mulling spices and thirty percent more love than the pumpkin juice made by Universal Studios’ Wizarding World.
This wonderful cider tasting of was soon replaced by a just as wonderful caramel and cocoa pouring of Breckenridge’s Christmas Ale. And set down next to it was, as Chef Teddy described, “Hagrid’s Plate”: seared pork belly served in its own jus with microgreens, and baby parsnips and radishes. In order to make you feel like everyone’s favorite half-giant instructor on the Care of Magical Creatures, everything was tiny. However, I would like to quote another series involving a modern day wizard named Harry to describe this dish: “Tiny…but fierce!”
Chef Teddy told me later how he had marinated this pig over 48 hours in ginger, garlic, soy sauce, and house-made ponzu, sous vide cooked it for another 14 and a half hours, then seared it to a nice and crispy char. The results were certainly worth the wait. This course was smoky, sweet, and again surprising light. The pork fat carried the flavors like a majestic hippogriff flying through a bacon wonderland, while the accompanying beer and vegetables provided the just right amount of bitterness to balance the sweet.
Course 9: The Dessert-ly Hallows
The last courses of the night were dessert. First up was a Deathly Hallows by Chocolate with this dark chocolate bundt cake and raspberry coulis. Served with Wicked Weed’s Silencio, I think this may probably be the first time seeing the Dark Mark is a good thing. This sour black ale aged in bourbon barrels was toasty on the nose, sour at the start, middling over roasted coffee beans, and finishing heavy with Madagascar vanilla.
Course 10: Snitches and S’mores
Before the very last dessert arrived, Zanzibar the great muggle magician reappeared and through a lot of fancy movements and slight of hand, introduced Jon Near – Master Wizard and Brewer of Southern Sky Brewing Company. Jon was more than happy to prepare us for the end with the last beer of the night: Alepocalpse. This Belgian style brew certainly lived up to its name with its notes of fig, plum, cherry, and lavender in a candy-like mouthfeel that can only be described as rapture. Besides, its walnut and graham cracker finish went perfectly with the final dessert.
I would like to call this dish S’mores on Polyjuice Potion because this upscale version of the campfire favorite is actually chocolate mousse coated in toasted meringue on top of a graham cracker crust. I was not disappointed. It….was…MAGICAL!
To finish off our evening, Chef Teddy announced that he would be sending us home each with a box of some Honeydukes’ treats: Chocolate Frogs, Pumpkin Pasties, Lemon Drops, and House Tie Cookies.
That wasn’t what drew everyone’s attention, though. Nestled in his arms was Meatloaf, his teeny pug puppy, dressed as the Golden Snitch. And while my woefully unathletic self may never get to play Quidditch, I did get to snuggle with a Snitch…LOOK AT HIM AND HIS TEENY WIDDLE NOSE!! OMGWHATIMDYINGHEREOFTEHCUTE!!!!
Once again, I really must thank Chef Teddy, his crew, and the staff of Battle and Brew. Every time you blow me away with your passion, skill, and imagination. I cannot even begin to describe the gratitude I actually feel for your efforts. As for my readers, it comes from the bottom from my heart when I say if you have the chance to attend one of these events, DO IT!
Sharing a meal like this is a mitzvah. And sharing it with this crew means you are sharing it with one wonderful, geeky, magical family.