It was a "barrel" of an evening when Council Oak Steaks & Seafood teamed up with Southern Wine & Spirits to host an innovative Barrel-Aged Cocktail Dinner.  Held in the Council Oak Lounge, guests were treated to an intimate Barrel-Aged Cocktail curated four-course feast, paired with a variety of Barrel- Aged cocktails and music from singer Samantha Leigh.  Diners also received their very own commemorative 2 liter barrel, filled with a Barrel-Aged Manhattan cocktail to take home and enjoy!

An ode to the humble oak barrel, a bartender's friend for centuries, oak barrels were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s for storing cocktails made in batches before they were bottled.  This aging process was popular because it extracts tannins, adds flavors and softens the alcohol, allowing it to gain complexity. What's old is new again and barrel-aged cocktails are making a comeback in the US.

Always on the forefront of the latest trends, the Council Oak Barrel-Aged Cocktail culinary extravaganza began with a passed Hors d'oeuvres trio from the Council Oak kitchen, paired with a Smoked Whiskey Sweet and Sour cocktail.  The trio of Prosecco Compressed Watermelon, Royal Ossetra Caviar and Fig Confit were beautifully presented and incorporated light, salty, fruity flavors that complemented the smokiness of the cocktail perfectly.

The Prosecco Compressed Watermelon was the star of this show. Watermelon is always better when it's infused with Prosecco and topped with silky goat cheese, pickled red onion and barrel-aged 50 Year Balsamic. It may look like tuna but it's watermelon through and through, the way watermelon should be, always. It was especially delicious with the Smoked Whiskey Sweet & Sour cocktail.

The First Course was a rich Hudson Valley Foie Gras Au Torchon, paired with an Old Fashioned Root Beer cocktail.  This plate was both a visual and culinary work of art featuring Hudson Valley Foie Gras, marinated in root beer with pickled carrot, watermelon radish, salsify, sea salt pistachios, kumquat marmalade and a homemade blackberry ketchup. The Foie Gras was like butter and each bite of this deconstructed dish was different depending on which flavors happened to hit your fork. 

The root beer flavors from the marinated Foie paired perfectly with the Old Fashioned Root Beer cocktail. Made with Bulleit Bourbon, Sarsaparilla Whiskey for that root beer flavor, an ice ball and a "filthy" cherry, it was the perfect sipping cocktail for this rich, delicious dish. 

The Second Course was Sea Bass served with a Negroni cocktail. Throughout the curated dinner, Executive Sous Chef Michael Balles emphasized Council Oak's dedication to using local, farm fresh ingredients.  The Sea Bass arrived from Chile that morning and was paired with a pillow of homemade Lobster Ravioli, Eggplant Caponata and a Smoked Tomato Brodo.  The creamy Smoked Tomato Brodo, made from yellow tomatoes, was unique and complemented the "melt in your mouth" Sea Bass filet perfectly. Let's not even talk about the Lobster Ravioli, I could eat this all day long!

This dish was served with a Barrel-Aged Negroni, a take on the classic Italian Negroni made with Gin, Vermouth and Campari. The secret to this cocktail was the use of Nolet's Silver Dry Gin. Produced in Holland, Nolet's Silver Gin is a new world style gin, known for its unique combination of botanicals. Barrel aging the cocktail makes these flavors even more intense and complex.  Garnished with an orange, the distinctive peach, raspberry, and Turkish Rose flavors from the gin made this cocktail one to remember. 

The main course was a Jackman's Farm Wagyu Filet served with a Parsnips Puree, Tomato Jam, Shaved Black Truffle and a Warm Port-Tarragon Vinaigrette.  Any dish with truffles wins with me and this dish was simply spectacular! Another deconstructed visionary and culinary work of art, the all natural, hormone and antibiotic free Wagyu Filet was personally selected by Chef Michael from Jackman's Farm in Clewiston, Florida.  The Wagyu was cooked sous-vide style and accompanied by a total of ten pounds of truffles! Combined with the creamy Parsnips Puree, the delicate Tomato Jam and a puddle of the barrel-aged Warm Port-Tarragon Vinaigrette, this dish was perfection on a plate. Move over mashed potatoes, it's parsnips from now on for me! 

This stupendous dish was served with a classic Manhattan cocktail, made with Crown Royal Rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters.  We learned from Kamran Mir, the Bar Manager at Cask Social Kitchen, the Manhattan originated from a swanky party held at the Manhattan Club in New York City in 1830.  After the party, the distinguished guests started requesting the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated as "that Manhattan cocktail".  This Manhattan was of course barrel-aged and made with Crown Royal Rye, the newest addition to the Crown Royal family. The aging process made this cocktail super smooth, highlighting the beauty of the flavors in this classic, historic cocktail.  

Our final course was the Sweet Obsession dessert course and what an obsession it was! A delicate deconstructed Chocolate Mousse paired with a sweet Coconut Micro Sponge Cake, a Morello Cherry Foam, and an artful chocolate topper, this dish was almost too beautiful to eat! The Coconut Cake was light and moist and I especially loved the Morello Cherry Foam. Again, the beauty of this dish was constructing your own perfect bite!

Our final barrel-aged cocktail was a decadent Smores Martini.  Made by aging Ketel One Vodka and Creme de Cocoa for one week and then adding a touch of Godiva Chocolate Liqueur and a graham cracker rimmed crust, this drink was the perfect sweet ending to a "barrel" of an evening.

Unfortunately, this spectacular evening had to come to an end. Guests lingered over the last of their Smores Martinis and the sweet sounds of Samantha Leigh while my thoughts turned to the next month's Council Oak dinner, a special Oktoberfest inspired menu! Make your reservations now because these monthly dinners are not to be missed!

Thanks to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, Council Oak Steaks & Seafood and Southern Wine & Spirits for another fantastic evening!