Vegan Pumpkin Porter Dinner at Four Peaks

Arizona Restaurant Week brings special menus and special events at local restaurants around the Valley. This year I actually had the chance to enjoy one: a special vegan dinner at Tempe’s Four Peaks Brewery. The menu, designed by a local vegan chef and owner of 24 Carrots, was designed to pair with Four Peaks’ seasonal Pumpkin Porter. I joined my vegan friends for this five-course meal paired with a beer for each course.

I’ve never had an issue with vegan food (except vegan cheese – yuck). However, I don’t think I ever would have thought that a vegan meal could be so flavorful, so unique, and so incredible.

The Space

We were brought to a small area set aside for the special event, toward the back of Four Peaks’ dining area near the large brewery vats. Guests were seated at long tables decorated with a cute fall theme. We were all pleased at the effort made to make this event special, even going so far as to change Four Peaks’ usual aesthetic.

The Menu

First Course

The first course was a vegan version of a classic Indian street food called pani puri. The chef brought a piece of her Indian heritage, masterfully combining vegan choices with the brewery by using beer as the base for the “water” poured into the puff. This was an incredibly fun way to start a meal. Everyone enjoyed the new experience. The light, hollow puff is tapped to open a hole. The potato based filling is then stuffed, and the fizzy and spicy sauce is poured in and over. The powerful mix of flavors and textures made a strong impression on our palates and set high expectations for the rest of the meal.

It was paired with the Wow Wheat wheatbier. It seemed almost unnecessary due to the beer in the sauce, but it was the best tasting beer next to the porter.

Second Course

A light salad followed, perhaps less exciting than the starter, but delicious nonetheless. This salad of earthy salad based mostly in kale was lightened by citrus and fall fruits, counteracting the bitterness of kale. It was dressed with the perfect amount of dressing, imparting flavor consistently without drowning the individual flavors of each component. I would have only left out the chamomile flower. Though the chef described it as edible, it carried an overwhelming perfumed flavor out of place from the salad.

This was paired with a Raj IPA. I don’t particularly enjoy IPAs, but I noticed most of the table didn’t finish the entire drink.

Third Course

As I mentioned before, I’m generally cautious of anything vegan that is said to have “cheese” in it. However, instead of fake cheese this dish was made primarily with coconut milk and pumpkin to create the creamy texture of a cheese sauce. There was the slightest hint of spice, most prominent in the “beef” mixed with spicy peppers. At this point we were getting full, but no one was willing to put their fork down or stop themselves from finishing the food on their plate.

This course featured the star beer. The pumpkin porter is a dark beer suited to the sweet addition of the pumpkin. I’ve been looking for it at every grocery store because it was so delicious.

Fourth Course

I can only describe this dish as sorcery. To take a piece of mushroom, bread it and season it to the point that it is indistinguishable from meat, is pure skill. The breading was crisp and light. The mushroom was not too dense and the flavor was savory like fried chicken. However, the waffle was so dense it was hard to cut and chew. I have no idea how the chef made the “hunny” on it, but the sweetness was the perfect complement.

This course was paired with the Chai-PA. Again, I don’t care for IPA but the chai spices added to this were nice. I would not think to pair chai with “chikun” and waffles!

Fifth Course

Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another bite, they bring out the piece de resistance, a beautiful slice of chocolate cake. The cake was perfectly moist. The frosting by itself tasted strongly of vegetable oil, but was sweetened to complement the rich cake. Paired with the crunch from sweet candied pecans and a hint of pumpkin caramel, we devoured this amazing dessert.

Porters go amazingly well with dessert. This last beer was the Double Pumpkin Porter. When I asked what the difference was, I was told this had a higher alcohol content.

Final Thoughts

My vegan friends were happy to find a vegan meal worthy of the hype for Restaurant Week. I was along for the ride and enjoying every bite. If Four Peaks ever does another event like this, I highly encourage vegans and non-vegans alike to attend. In the meantime, the chef has her own restaurant in the Valley – 24 Carrots in Tempe. I’ll definitely be visiting in the future!

Durant’s: A Phoenix Institution

The growing food community in Phoenix often focuses on new, trendy restaurants offering a variety of fresh flavors. Often overlooked is the classic steakhouse in downtown Phoenix – Durant’s. The pink steakhouse off Central Avenue serves the freshest steak in the state, usually to an older crowd that loves this Phoenix gem.

The small pink building’s facade can be deceiving. My boyfriend was surprised that I would choose to make reservations (on Open Table). Then we drove around back, since diners enter through the kitchen. The parking lot was full of cars, as was the dining room.

The decor may seem old-fashioned, particularly the velvet walls. But you know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Durant’s has been serving the best steaks in Arizona for decades. The pink hue to the lighting doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to their menu and service.

We were seated in a cozy booth in a corner. Our server dropped off their usual starter, cold, raw vegetables served over ice. The service was, as always, incredible. Our servers were attentive without being overbearing. My water was always full. Boyfriend was served a nice glass of scotch. Durant’s has a full bar with an extensive wine list. You can find any drink to pair with your meal.

Our appetizers were quite large. I ordered a jumbo shrimp cocktail. The shrimp were large, fresh, and ice cold. I enjoyed the tart horseradish flavor of the cocktail sauce. Boyfriend ordered Kobe sliders, which I thought would be smaller. The sliders might as well have been an entree. Three huge, juicy umami sliders were served on a simple platter. I don’t know if they were truly Kobe beef, but the meat was obviously fresh and high-quality. Boyfriend refused to leave them uneaten despite ordering a massive steak to follow.

Steak is really the way to go at Durant’s. This is not the place to order chicken, though you may be surprised by their seafood selection. Choose a cut then choose sides to go with them. Boyfriend ordered a 20 oz. Delmonico steak. He prefers his steak rare, and Durant’s is really the only place that I trust to cook a steak rare. His steak was served with crips, flavorful waffle fries. It seems an odd choice to serve with such a classy meal, but was a nice crunch compared to the soft, buttery steak.

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Sorry about my pictures. I was way too preoccupied with the meal.

I ordered my usual, the lamb chops. I despise the mint jelly served with it because it takes like toothpaste. However, I could eat those lamb chops every single day. As classless as it was, I picked up those lamb chops to eat every piece of meat off that bone. I focused on the tender, spiced lamb and was unable to finish the delicious, garlicky mashed potatoes I chose for my side.

When I booked our reservation, I let them know that it was Boyfriend’s birthday. They let us choose any one of their desserts from their long list. I know Durant’s is well-known for their cheesecakes, but Boyfriend has never turned down a brownie. Our server brought us a massive tower of brownie with ice cream, whipped cream, chocolate and caramel sauce, and chocolate shavings. Even though we were both incredibly full, we couldn’t help but eat the whole gooey, rich, chocolatey dish.

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After eating over dozens of meals together, I finally succeeded in finding a meal that rendered Boyfriend speechless. There’s a special awe to having a meal that is so delicious that it makes you think of your favorite meals from your childhood. Boyfriend grew up on a cattle ranch with access to the fresh beef on a regular basis. For a restaurant to serve him a perfectly cooked, fresh, and juicy steak that reminded him of home, it’s something I will never forget. Thank you Durant’s for an amazing experience.

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For more information, you can check out their website.

Price: Expect between $50-$100 per person.
Atmosphere: 3.5/5
Service: 4.5/5
Food: 5/5