I've been to my fair share of beer dinners and wine dinners, set-menu affairs that pair food with a particular brewery's ales or perhaps a wine importer's portfolio. They are basically my preferred way of eating - food and drink just show up in front of me and I don't have to make any decisions. Easy peasy! Even better is that many of these dinners are fundraisers for great charities and worthy causes, so I be a glutton AND a good person at the same time!
Here's one concept that I'd yet to try - the cocktail dinner, a coursed out meal paired with full cocktails. When our favorite local cocktail bar, Alley Twenty Six, invited us to their inaugural cocktail dinner series, "Dinner with Friends", Harper and I were hard pressed to decline. (Full disclosure: Chef Carrie Schleiffer of Alley is also our roommate.)
The concept is similar to beer or wine dinners but with a twist. Instead of focusing on one brand or style of alcohol, "Dinner with Friends" brings in a guest mixologist (or mixologists) to throw down with Alley Twenty Six owner Shannon Healy and his team, with Chef Carrie creating courses to pair with each of the cocktails.
And we're talking like six cocktails. This is not a dinner for amateurs. These are expertly crafted cocktails paired with pretty decent food portions; go easy on your lunch that day and get ready to call a Lyft.
But it's not just about killer cocktails and great food - the dinner series helps raise money for Chef Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen foundation. You may have heard of it, the charity recently served more than 3 million meals as part of the hurricane recovery effort in Puerto Rico (far more than the US Government provided to its own citizens, ahem).
The friend for our dinner was the legendary Bob Peters of The Punch Room at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte. If you want some serious cocktail porn check out his Instagram page, but rest assured he knows his stuff. We were greeted with a tequila punch that definitely packed a punch, and then the food and cocktails started flowing. Alternating between Bob's creation and those of Alley Twenty Six, each cocktail was unique, well-crafted, and utterly delicious. Chef Carrie's plates were the perfect pairing. If we were going to gorge ourselves on food and booze, this was the way to do it.
Alley Twenty Six plans to hold these "Dinner with Friends" benefits monthly, so if the photos have stoked some sort of cocktail envy you've still got a chance to snag your tickets! The next dinner is this coming Monday, March 26th and features cocktails by Brad Farran, formerly of NYC's Death & Co. and the Clover Club.
Special thanks to the entire Alley Twenty Six team and Bob Peters for an unforgettable experience!