Toutant’s fried chicken paired with Big Ditch’s Innovation Series beer called Toutant Pilsner may be the perfect pairing. Indeed, the food and beer pairing is a microcosm of the relationship that has formed between the two establishments.
Crack through the perfectly-crisp coating of the fried chicken with your fork. Dig into the succulent meat and rip off a forkful. Abandon fork and go to town. Then, wash that mouthful down with a beer that is perfectly designed to “rinse and repeat”.
WARNING: NERD ALERT
If the experience could be represented in basic programming language, it would look something like this:
10 TAKE A BITE OF TOUTANT CHICKEN
20 TAKE A SWIG OF BIG DITCH TOUTANT PILSNER
30 PRINT “MMMMMM ”
40 GOTO 10
And much like old-school computer code, this combo will send you into an endless loop of enjoyment until you hit escape or shut down.
END NERD ALERT
Yes, there were other food and drink options at the party celebrating the one year anniversary of Toutant and the Big Ditch tap room. Hayburner paired well with the Breuben Slider. Toutant’s dessert squares of Oooey Goooey Cake combined nicely with the dark and roasted flavors of Vanilla Oatmeal Stout.
But let’s keep it real. The item that kept Chef James Roberts doing the 100-yard dash up and down Ellicott Street was the fried chicken. The crispy buttermilk batter of the chicken combined with the crackery malts of the Pilsner into gastronomic perfection.
When the fried chicken station opened, the hungry crowd swarmed like wolves on a fallen deer.
People were placed in two categories: people that had eaten the chicken before or people that had heard about the chicken’s reputation. I was in the latter group. And like Han Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens proclaimed, “It’s true. All of it.”
Passed appetizers included hush puppies, smoked sausage, spicy beer shrimp and smoked deviled eggs with candied bacon strips served on small spoons (damn it, those eggs were good). Near the closed garage doors, a trio of workers feverishly shucked oysters. At others stations scattered throughout the tap room, my wife rummaged and found a liquid cheese-filled pretzel and jambalaya.
Upstairs on the second floor, bartenders made whiskey Sazeracs and rum Hurricanes based off Toutant recipes. Downstairs, bartenders adeptly poured upwards of 10 different Big Ditch beers and local ciders, including the award-winning Deep Cut and Galaxy Red.
As I scanned the tap room, I realized just how far this corner of the city has advanced over the past year. Toutant and Big Ditch are certainly responsible for a generous portion of this success. Of course, other neighbors including Tappo, Sea Bar and Deep South Taco and others have added significant reinvention to the Ellicott Street scene.
Big Ditch tap room manager Jonathan Robare and Toutant Chef James Roberts addressed the crowd for a few moments of thanks while standing on the steps in front of the large mural labeled “Strength. Pride. Ambition.” Appropriately so.
Upon exiting the tap room onto East Huron, you are ejected back to reality. You wonder what is going to happen to the decrepit building across the street with the broken out windows. Certainly there must have been inquiries. What might that building become by this time next year?
Who knows what restaurant or brewery will open in this area next? For now there is one certainty- Toutant and Big Ditch are neighbors that pair perfectly.