Big Night at the Barber Shop
Right before Thanksgiving, I attended a dinner event put on by Big Night Catering. It was the third in a series of dinners hosted by catering chefs (and my old friends), Mark Hinshaw and Mike Guidry at the Barber Shop, a great, friendly brewpub in the heart of downtown Dripping Springs.
Mark worked with me in the kitchen at Clarksville Café way back in the day, starting in 1982. He later went on to work for many years at Castle Hill, where Mike also worked. The two of them have done major time in the Austin culinary scene, and Mark has always been a good friend since he shipped in from Wooster, up East. I like to be available when these guys are cooking.
The Barber Shop opened in 1924 as a wood and tin garage, and then in 1938 it received its native stone exterior. The spot pumped gas and fixed cars until 1960. In 1985 it morphed into The Barber Shop and served as a local hair cutting fixture, before it became The Barber Shop, the brewpub. It’s a homey little joint with a fine selection of craft beers as well as a few that they brew in-house. Out back on the patio under the covered roof, they set up picnic tables, and the stage in the corner becomes the outdoor kitchen. It is a great drinking and socializing spot in the heart of downtown Drip.
I sat down at the table on one of the few chilly nights we’ve had so far this fall, to find a decorated cup of cashews perfectly seasoned with rosemary and garlic, and then brewmaster John came by to deliver the first of our three pints, a rich, slightly peppery, and delicious House Amber Ale. There was a nice crowd coupled with conversation that captured interest, and we entertained ourselves until the salad/appetizer plate arrived: plump and perfectly grilled scallops wrapped in a cured cloak of prosciutto, sitting on a friseé and field greens salad, topped with a nicely balanced grainy mustard and champagne vinaigrette; lurking on the side was a cherry tomato and fennel relish. It was a very delectable starter.
John reloaded us with a new pint for the delivery of the entrée, this time with a cask-conditioned house rich porter, a low carbonation brew with notes of chocolate, coffee, and rich roasted malt; tasty suds. The entree arrived in all its glory: a tender and beefy coffee-rubbed tenderloin that had just been grilled over oak coals, topped with a rich and balanced tomato borderlaise sauce with bits of a thyme-flavored crème fraiche and smoky-sweet caramelized onions. It was served with a roasted potato salad with green beans, nicely seasoned and dressed, and the perfect match with the steak and the porter. A dynamite main course.
The dessert was paired with The Barber Shop’s Bourbon-Aged Porter that gets aged in a 15-gallon bourbon barrel from the award-winning Garrison Brothers Straight Texas Bourbon distillery, from right down the road in the tiny town of Hye. It spends about a week in the barrel and imparts definite notes of vanilla, caramel, and chocolate; a fantastic brew and radically different from the one that preceded it. It was the ideal mate to the dessert plate, a sinfully rich Guittard chocolate bread pudding, topped with a lush caramel sauce and ripe fresh raspberries.
The meal brought huge smiles and rounds of applause from the mixed bag crowd of bubbas, ranchers, and Hill Country artists. They may have different backgrounds and bottom lines, but they all know a good meal when they eat one. Mark and Mike did a good job: the dinner was excellent, service was impeccable, the ales were fantastic and well-paired, and everyone seemed amped up for the next event, whenever it rolls around. I know I’m glad I went, and it was dynamite touching base with Mark again. I'll keep you posted about their next dinner.
Mark Hinshaw and Michael Guidry, Big Night Cateringbignightcatering.com