Diner’s Notebook: ‘Dinner in the Beer Garden’

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BY ANTHONY TODD | FOR SUN-TIMES MEDIA

Every day, it seems, I get at least five press releases about extra-special, one-of-a-kind dinners. “Watch very famous chefs (and their assistants, mostly) cook tiny bites of food that you will spend at least $50 a course for,” they might as well read.

Sometimes, if you can afford to drop the cash, those events are spectacular. But for most of us, we’re looking for an experience that’s a bit more of a bargain. Look no further than Dinner in the Beer Garden at River Valley Farmer’s Table in Ravenswood, set for September 24.

The dinner celebrates the release of Lucy Saunders’ new book “Dinner in the Beer Garden,” which focuses on the pairing of food and beer. “I knew this book was coming, and I knew it was really focused on vegetables as a pairing for beers,” explains event organizer (and local food guru) Jim Javenkoski. “It was a no brainer to introduce her to Eric and Jordan Rose at River Valley.” In addition to a wonderful restaurant and market in Ravenswood, River Valley Ranch is a staple of farmers markets and is known for amazing mushrooms, asparagus and other locally-grown veggies.

For five courses, each paired with a beer, the cost is just $45 per person. But that’s not all. Each attendee also gets a copy of the book. What a deal! Dishes include things like a roasted butternut squash and beet salad paired with a Farmhouse unfiltered ale, beer-braised pulled pork with sweet corn griddle cakes paired with saison and curried couscous with shiitake mushrooms paired with American wheat ale.

“There’s more to vegetables than putting them in a salad or roasting them in the oven. The beer becomes the amplifier of those flavors and those textures,” says Javenkoski.

Tickets are available now.

NOTES

Lincoln Square/Ravenswood is the place to be the week of the 21st, and not just for beer and vegetables. Baker Miller Bakery & Millhouse, the much-anticipated venture from Dave and Megan Miller (conveniently-named), is set to open on the 22nd.

Baked-goods aficionados will recognize Dave and Megan as the former owners of Bang Bang Pie Company; they sold their share in the restaurant to open their own spot and widen their baking horizons. “We never only wanted to do pie,” explains Dave Miller, “But when you really succeed you can get stuck in a box.”

The new spot will offer a full range of baked goods and prepared foods (shots of their oatmeal in Time Out Chicago this week had me drooling). Even more exciting for local food geeks: they’ll be selling locally milled flour. The Miller’s Kickstarter campaign blew past it’s goals, allowing them to not only run a tiny milling operation, but to open an entire dedicated space to make stone-ground flour. Look for baked goods made with homemade flour, and for the opportunity to buy that flour retail at their store and at gourmet shops all over the city.

Follow: @FoodieAnthony

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