Friday, June 20, 2014

The dining room at Circa 1886 at the Wentworth Mansion

No one in Charleston presents a themed dinner like Circa 1886.  Their recent Beer and Blue Jeans Dinner, a four course dinner featuring Freehouse Brewery beers, was a real treat.
The evening began in the courtyard with passed hors dourves and tray after tray of 4 oz. glasses of Ashley Farmhouse Ale.  Guests mingled outside in the courtyard, while listening to live music, and gathered inside the bar, where it was a bit cooler.  I love when hors dourves are passed on a tray, as you don't have to interrupt your conversation to get a tasty bite to eat. The bite sized fried green tomato chunks and the romaine wedge salads on a stick were certainly tasty and were passed in abundance.
The seating for Circa 1886's themed dinners is varied, with some tables seating four guests, some six and two large tables for ten guests.  As we made last minute reservations, we were seated at a table of ten.  Although sitting with eight complete strangers can be tricky, we found the company delightful and the conversation lively.
The wait staff at Circa 1886 is friendly, professional and efficient.  We never had to wait a second for a water glass to be filled, a tray of beer to miraculously arrive just as the last glass was emptied or a course to be cleared.  With that said, it's importat to note that you are never rushed.  We arrived at 6:15 and didn't leave until after 10pm.
The four courses were veal, fish, chicken and a sweet finish, all paired with a different Freehouse Brewery Beer.  A gentleman from the brewery talked to each dining room about Freehouse beer's organic leanings and his quest to make a fine beer out of healthy ingredients and I think he made a fan out of every beer drinker in the room.
Our first course, paired with the same beer served during the social hour, the Ashley Farmhouse Ale, was a Spiced Veal Slider.  Served on a toasted brioche bun, it was accompanied by pickled okra and crispy chunked steak fries.  The veal was delicious, spiced just enough to enhance the flavor of the meat.
Our second course was, as the nice guest to my left noted,  deconstructed shrimp and grits.  Two large, firm shrimp were deep fried in a corn batter, served over succotash, garnished with pea shoots.  The coconut custard sauce complemented each bite to perfection.  The shrimp course was paired with a Belgian golden ale.  The beer drinkers at the table were split evenly on which beer they liked better, the Belgian or the Farmhouse Ale.  They remarked that both were so good, it was hard to choose a favorite.
 The Coq La Biere was a tender, generously proportioned chicken breast from Ashley Farms.  There were many comments on the presentation, over a bed of green basil bamboo rice.  The cautious among us approached the green rice dish with hesitation but were delighted and, I think, surprised by the light, moist taste.  Surrounded by grilled, glazed baby carrots and a whole roasted onion, the dish more than satisfied, accompanied as it was by tray after tray of Folly's Pride bitter blonde session ale.
The "Sweet Finish" to the meal caused a noisy, chattering crowd to become completely silent.  When the glazed Carolina Gold Rice donut holes were served, on plates swirled with local berry coulis and a center scoop of vanilla bean ice cream you could have heard a pin drop.  Not a crumb of dessert was left on the close to one hundred plates.  As our server noted, "Who can resist warm donut holes, fresh from the fryer?"  Who, indeed.  Certainly not me!
The final beer, paired with the donuts, was a London 2014 India Porter, a dark beer with a creamy head that all at our table seemed to enjoy.
Congratulations to the Circa 1886 chef and kitchen staff, as well as Freehouse Brewery, on another night of culinary perfection.  When is the next dinner?  I'm ready, with fork in hand.

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