When Foobooz posted “Like Bourbon? So Does Jose Garces,” we said, “Why yes, we do.” Tom’s birthday was coming up, so I got on the phone right away to call JG Domestic for a reservation to the Four Roses “Meet the Maker” dinner.
We arrived an hour before the dinner for a complimentary cocktail hour. We were treated to a refreshing cocktail of Four Roses yellow bourbon, lemon juice, mint, and ginger ale (if memory services correctly). We had a nice time mingling in the bar area with the other guests, and the JG Domestic staff really made us feel like VIPs. They also had an excellent spread of prosciutto, speck, smoked ham, mustard, and warm house ricotta for us to snack on while we waited to be seated. Eventually we were led back to a private room in the back of the restaurant, with two long, communal tables, and then the dinner began.
At our seats, we found small cups of four different Four Roses bourbons: yellow label, small batch, single barrel “Garces” (made especially for Jose Garces restaurants), and limited edition barrel strength. We weren’t sure if we were supposed to start drinking them right away or if they were going to be paired with specific dishes, but after awhile when the serving staff starting coming around with refills, we figured we should get started.
Master Distiller Jim Rutledge gave an in-depth history of Four Roses bourbon and how it got to be where it is today. It was interesting for me and Tom to learn that some people associate the Four Roses name with a mass-produced blended whisky that it made in the past, as we have only known Four Roses in more recent years for its small batch bourbon. We felt lucky to get to try all the varieties of Four Roses bourbon that were available this evening, as apparently they aren’t widely available in Pennsylvania.
In the meantime, the servers brought out the first course of food, which included house dinner rolls, smoked corn chowder, and a salad of Luna Farm winter lettuces. The dishes were all served family style, which was a surprise to me, but it made for more of a social experience with our neighbors, and it made the serving much more manageable, as there wasn’t room on the tables for too many dishes in addition to of all the cups of bourbon. The rolls, soup, and salad were all delicious. It’s nice, even in winter, to be able to have food made from fresh, local ingredients. It was rather dark, so we didn’t get any good pictures of this portion of the meal.
Our second course was amazing. The staff came out with big plates of St Louis spare ribs with bourbon BBQ sauce; macaroni and black kale gratin; and house-made pickled vegetables. Here, the bourbon was really able to shine, as it made for a great pairing with the meat. The meat was falling off the bone, and the macaroni-and-cheese was some of the best we had had in a long time. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it was best we could do with the low lighting.
Dessert consisted of JG Domestic’s sublime beignets, served with bourbon vanilla mousseline and Maker’s Mark butterscotch. I am cheating and posting a picture from a previous visit to JG Domestic that was taken in the daytime under better lighting. We absolutely love this dish, and so did everyone else at our table.
All in all the meal was a tremendous value. It was $55 per person, but when we got our check it was actually broken down into $35 for the dinner and $20 for the bourbon tasting. For the food, that was a total steal, and for the drinks, even more so – I think even the 2 cocktails we had prior to the dinner were worth $20, let alone the multiple refills of bourbon we sampled during the dinner itself. Hats off to JG Domestic and Four Roses for putting on this awesome event.