There are some events you just can't turn down, like when you hear Maker's Mark bourbon is throwing a dinner at Revival Market with cocktails from Anvil's Bobby Heugel. That's like Christmas and a birthday wrapped up in one and put on a plate.
The evening started charmingly with Heugel mixing up Fig Sours in vintage stemware before the group headed in to the kitchen to watch Revival's Adam Garcia demonstrate some pig butchery — removing and cleaning a tenderloin, separating the neck from the belly — while Revival co-owner Ryan Pera narrated the process.
Heugel took the floor next for a mini cocktail class. What we learned: The kind of ice you use matters.
A round of slightly sweet Bacon Old Fashioneds made with the new Makers 46 bourbon was served, the very description of which led to excited gasps and even a "Yes!" from Underbelly chef Chris Shepherd, who stopped by to watch and say hello. We walked out with summer sausage sliders cilantro slaw and Thai fish sauce to discover a table set up and dressed with a gorgeous centerpiece of sunflowers and other cheery yellow blooms that extended the length of the table.
Heugel took the floor next for a mini cocktail class. What we learned: The kind of ice you use matters. (Anvil even has fancy airless ice, and it doesn't have servers because the drinks are made to be served and drunk immediately.) Recalibrating the mix in a drink if it's off can make all the difference. What Bobby Heugel considers to be a simple recipe still has about a dozen steps.
Heugel infused Texas peaches into the Makers 46 for some approachable and refreshing peach mint juleps alongside an original julep recipe and a stringer version with Angostura bitters.
Around the table, we sampled a family-style feast, dubbed a "summer backyard picnic dinner," with a phenomenal corn, shrimp and basil salad; local tomatoes with queso fresco and oregano; mustard potato salad; a salad of compressed (less watery, more flavorful) watermelon with feta and mint; pulled pork sandwiches (delicious and now added to the regular Revival menu); house-made beef hot dogs; barbecue heirloom beans; perfectly salty and dense lard biscuits; and jalepeño cornbread.
No, all that food didn't fit on my plate (but oh, I tried) and I definitely did the Jersey Shore-approved move of eating as much as possible, giving myself a break to stuff it down, and then eating more. It's the American way. And just when I thought I couldn't take another bite, Rebecca Masson, who sells her Fluff Bake Bar pastries and desserts at Revival, stepped up. She served up a version of Baked Alaska with some Maker's Mark and meringue browned by a portable blowtorch.
We learned, we ate, we communed. It was wonderful. And I can say that with almost no sense of insider guilt, since the same sorts of gorgeously detailed dinners are cropping up from some of our favorite chefs — from Seth Siegel-Gardner's sold out Pilot Light dinner series to the ongoing work of Justin Basye and Peter Jahnke in Les Sauvages.
Sometimes it's nice to have all the decisions made for you, and to just sit down and watch people at the top of their game impress you.