The art of the drunk snack is a trickier science than it would seem at first blush, even in a town like Bend where brewery food is at the base of the food pyramid. It's got to be salty for sure, and while a bag of BBQ Ridges or a basket of chicken wings does the trick, for the craft beer drinker with a slightly higher-grade palate, brewery menus can be a massive disappointment with more of the same bland burgers and shoestring French fries.
Deschutes Brewery's menu is aiming to buck the ordinary. And it's continuing the tradition of mixing up classic brewery food with the French Fry of the Week program, which last week featured "In Your Face" Sweet Potato Poutine with spicy corn salsa.
"When you've got 800 people a day coming through the door you've got to keep it simple," said executive chef for the Bend Public House, Brian Kerr. "It's a big audience to serve."
But Kerr insists that simple doesn't have to mean boring. And for last week's special, he took a tip from America's beer-loving neighbors to the north (Canada! Not Washington, dorkus) making a summery poutine with the help of Jill Ramseier's (the chef for the Deschutes Brewery Portland Public House) recipe. For those uninitiated, poutine is a traditional Canadian drunk-snack—French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds. Deschutes' recipe adds a local and summery twist using sweet potato fries, corn, and curds from regional creamery, Face Rock.
The "In Your Face" cheddar, peppered with jalapeno, habanero and sweet red peppers, adds a kick to the fries and won the award for best flavored cheese curds in North America from the American Cheese Society.
Face Rock Creamery in Bandon, Ore., has an uplifting underdog story. Reopened in 2011 after the Bandon Cheese Factory shut down in 2000, the company is bringing a 100-plus-year tradition and tourism industry back to the small coastal town. Just over a year after the grand re-opening, Face Rock has won several prestigious awards, including a blue ribbon for its Vampire Slayer garlic curds, just three months after opening in 2013.
For the Face Rock takeover, Deschutes not only featured the poutine, but also put on a special quesadilla and a panzanella salad replacing mozzarella with the Vampire Slayer curds. All three specials showcased the cheese, and utilized other local ingredients, keeping it fresh and simple, but delicious. I've never heard so much gushing over a quesadilla.
The French Fry of the Week program will continue with a new special each week. Recent dishes have included chilaquiles fries, dirty fries with pepperoncini, bacon and Thousand Island dressing, country gravy and scallion fries, ranchero fries, chili cheese fries, Rueben fries, kimchee fries, pork nacho fries, truffled fries, garlic butter and herb fries, and sweet potato caramel fries. Next week's fry is TBD.