Karl Brugger and Cindy Dietz had 250 pounds of salmon and wanted to share.
About 50 people who gathered at Goshen Brewing Co. on Monday night are grateful.
The couple, formerly of LaGrange, were working construction along Lake Clark, Alaska, a spot you have to fly into. About 2.5 million salmon made their way up the river into the lake this year. “We caught a whole bunch of those salmon and brought them back and thought it would be a great idea to have a party,” Brugger said.
Brugger connected with Jerry Peters in Goshen, who connected with friend Jesse Shoemaker, who happens to be the chef at Goshen Brewing.
In addition to the fish, Brugger and Dietz had some of the beef from three grass-fed, free-range, pasture-raised cows they’d had on their farm before they sold it.
Surf and Turf was born. “Beef and fish sounds good to me. Let’s do that,” Brugger said of the party that emerged.
Shoemaker and four others agreed to cook or roll sushi. Owner Jesse Sensenig agreed to open for the private party, which cost a mere $15 a person plus any brews purchased. (Brugger reached for his wallet before I told him that I was pretty sure he didn’t need to pay given how he’d already provided.)
“Pace yourselves,” Shoemaker told the crowd Peters gathered as he presented the first dishes.
Shoemaker did what he’s good at: Adding flavor to meat and cooking it right.
Actually, the first course wasn’t cooked. Shoemaker used the beef raw in carne cruda, though the lemon juice may have essentially made it a beef ceviche.
Scott Lehman used the salmon to roll sushi. “It does have a little bit of heat,” Shoemaker said, then laughed and quickly added, “It’s probably pretty hot.”
Shoemaker made pear prosciutto bruschetta, which didn’t use beef or salmon.
Then came the ribeye, topped with garlic and herbs and served alongside yellow potatoes cooked in duck fat. A tray with more than 40 steaks made its way from the kitchen into the dining room.
Salmon was presented with bulgar wheat, fennel salad and a chrema sauce, a slightly spicy Middle Eastern sauce full of deep flavor.
Dessert was a buttermilk pie in a cornmeal crust, topped with whipped cream and raspberries.
I heard one person exclaim forcefully, even swearing, at how good the pie was.
It was a lovely way to spend a Monday night. It was lovely to be with other folks, talking and laughing and eating.
“Who would have thought five years ago we’d be eating food like this in Goshen?” said Brad Weirich.
Brugger and Dietz were thrilled at how their meat became something bigger. “It’s way too much for us to eat, so we’re happy to share it with everybody,” she said.
It’s not clear whether this will become an annual event. But I hope so. Gathering around tables like this is an idea I can get behind.