At Rick Erwin’s Clemson, Chef Malaki Craft ushers in the fall season with an elevated pairing of whiskey and game dishes
Whiskey and wild game. It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? That’s one reason why Chef Malaki Craft picked this particular theme for his fall dinner at Rick Erwin’s in Clemson. “We sell a large amount of whiskey and bourbon throughout the year,” says Craft, who is a big fan of whiskey himself. “So I figured it would be nice to step away from wine dinners and do something different to reach a different demographic [likely more men] than the wine dinners.”
As it happened, the date for this dinner fell into the October time slot. “That’s the start of hunting season,” the executive chef points out. “It’s also a time when we can start having heartier cool-weather dishes.” Coincidentally, game proved the perfect complement to bourbon’s toasty oak and caramel notes.
The event highlights two whiskey producers: Basil Hayden from Kentucky and High West, a distiller based in Utah. The meal starts with a smooth Basil Hayden Bourbon, whose sweetness pairs well with a rich Pâté of 5 Birds accompanied by tart cherry mostarda and pumpkin puree. A spicy, full-bodied High West Double Rye sets off the second course, a smoked rabbit taco. To go with wild boar Bolognese, the chef chose Basil Hayden Dark Rye, marked by hints of blackstrap molasses. Standing up to the entrée, a juniper-crusted venison tenderloin with blue cheese fondue, High West American Single Malt is the most robust and expensive whiskey of the evening. Rounding out the dinner, Craft sourced a mild, creamy Basil Hayden-washed cheddar to present with dried fruit and truffle honey. He marries the cheese with Basil Hayden Toasted Rye, stepping down from the big single malt to mellow out the evening.
What excites Craft most about his first whiskey dinner at Rick Erwin’s? “All these dishes are dishes I’ve done before at different times throughout my career,” he explains. “Each holds a special spot with me . . . now I’m pulling them together in one menu.”
The Pâté of 5 Birds, for example, is a recipe Craft learned from Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud in South Florida during a shared charcuterie program with the restaurant where he was working. “It’s a traditional Daniel Boulud recipe,” Craft notes, “extremely labor-intensive, old-school French, and there’s a history behind the technique.”
The chef is clearly on his game for this dinner, highlighting his penchant for nouvelle cuisine through big flavors on small plates. “We’re putting the best on the plate with the best in the glass,” he proudly proclaims.
America’s only native spirit, bourbon is a particular type of whiskey. To be considered bourbon, a whiskey must:
- be made in the United States; 95% of bourbon is produced in Kentucky
- have a mash bill of at least 51% corn; it’s corn that gives bourbon its distinctive sweetness
- not contain any added flavorings or colorings
- be aged in new charred-oak barrels (to be designated “straight bourbon whiskey,” the spirit must be aged for a minimum of two years)
- be distilled to a maximum of 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume)
- be barreled at a maximum of 125 proof (62.5% ABV)
- be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof (40% ABV) and a maximum of 150 proof (75% ABV)
Whiskey and Wild Game, Rick Erwin’s Clemson, 127 Market St., Clemson. Oct. 18, Weds., 6:30pm, $135. 864.774.5037, rickerwins.com/clemson