Every year around October, Five Crowns executive chef Alejandra Padilla sits down with a pad and paper with a goal of carving out an epic beer dinner in celebration of the almighty pig. The event, now in its eighth year, welcomed Russian River Brewing for the first time. As someone who has been more than half of these events, seeing the featured brewery switch from Firestone Walker to Russian River had me twice as excited. Love me some Firestone, but trying Russian River pub-only beers is a sure-fire treat.
Starting out strong, the stacked pork-cuterie board and STS pils had me cobbling head cheese on crostini bites while balancing a beer in the other hand. A dollop of stone ground mustard and a couple tokens of Spanish Chorizo topping the bite makes for an explosion of flavors and textures no one should miss. Head cheese is actually quite delicious…not nearly as funky as people may think. It’s basically fancy lunch meat with various textures that melt in your mouth at different intervals.
Porktoberfest in previous years seemed like the porkicity was a bit too intense, where building five courses of rich and fatty goodness was just a bit over my threshold. This year’s seemed to hone in on variety with some lighter bites and delightful sides to break up the richness.
The first course of a petite wedge salad had my table arguing over which was better, crispy fried pork ears or traditional crumbled bacon bits. Ears are incredibly crispy and hold in a massive amount of salty-smoky flavor, yet are devoid of un-rendered fat marbling. That extreme crunch, mixed with the creamy blue cheese dressing, was a perfect start.
Russian River is more than a one trick Pliny-pony, and they brought out all of their greatest hits mixed with a few sour beers I’ve never tried: Velvet Glow Helles, Temptation sour blonde, Intiction, Perdition, Blind Pig, Happy Hops IPA, then finishing with Pliny the Elder with dessert.
The al pastor rib plate was the richest dish of the bunch, but chef Padilla’s traditional al pastor glaze with tortilla crumbles on top had a tropical vibe paired with pineapple slaw and pepitas.
My table mates must have thought I was insane when I ripped chunks of the next course’s smokey bacon and gooey gruyere Yorkshire pudding and treating it as if it were naan bread, but its sponginess made the perfect vessel for scooping up the decadent creamed spinach and “prime” pork rib.
As I sit with four glasses of beer facing my ever-growing belly and dessert, I succumb to the pork. “I’m full, at’ll do pig…at’ll do.”
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Five Crowns & SideDoor is at 3801 East Coast Hwy, Corona Del Mar, (949) 760-0331; lawrysonline.com/five-crowns.