Chef Aaron Lawson, a Toledo native, has deep roots in the South, with family connections in Kentucky and southern Tennessee. The eight-course meal he offers up on the second Thursday of every month at Brim House is a testament to those influences. Lawson’s style takes the cuisine that was so foundational to his youth – a jar of bacon grease always on hand on the kitchen counter kind of upbringing – and fuses it with culinary techniques he has learned over the years.
Lawson explains his background involved “a lot of pickling, braising, using meats that people wouldn’t normally use. I really started to focus my style around my heritage. My focus is within the southern style, but I use different ingredients like Japanese Koshu, curries, Middle Eastern spices, anything to play with the palate that is nontraditional.”
Brim House’s Chef’s Table Dinner was certainly playful. We sat down to a table marked with our names on reproduction library checkout cards, which included the title “Dinner of the Senses.” Each course comes with a cocktail. Just to be clear: eight cocktails. Make sure to pace yourself if you want to remember dessert—a delightful bread pudding with eggnog peanut butter cream paired with a Hudson maple rye.
What’s unusual and impressive about this dinner is that Lawson decided on the cocktails first before finalizing the courses. Each cocktail incorporated a rye whiskey infusion, and the course was chosen to complement it.
“Everyone does the shaken and stirred thing. We did these infusions,” said Chef Lawson. “I didn’t want it to be eight courses of margaritas.”
At $85, eight courses with eight distinctively delicious cocktails is a great deal.
Mushrooms and marrow
Each course was incredible, but there were two that I still can’t stop thinking about one was the wild mushroom bisque.
Just before the bisque arrived in its mini cast iron pot, we were served Templeton Rye, infused with coffee, juniper, and grains of paradise. The coffee taste really shines, but the grains of paradise add some pep that paired perfectly with the wild mushroom bisque, a full reduction of morels packed with flavor. It is thick, creamy and, if it were socially acceptable to lick the inside of the dish at a fancy dinner, I would have. My favorite part? The crunchy marrow toast, which provided the ideal texture contrast. The toast, part of the Brim House regular fare, is charred to order, adorned with butter made from marrow bones.
A cut above the rest
Another item that lingers in my thoughts, that is on the Brim House menu, is the American wagyu ribeye cap, dry aged for a few days before the dinner. Crispy on the outside and like butter on the inside, this is not a cut you will find at a traditional steakhouse, Lawson pointed out. It was served with farro porridge, soy nage, shishito peppers, and a Masterson’s rye cocktail with star anise and allspice.
With only 26 seats available for the dinner, the Brim House Chef’s Table at the Renaissance Hotel is a fairly intimate experience. You’ll likely be seated with people you don’t know but, by the end of the night, you will be chatting and laughing like you’ve known each other for years. Sure, that’s partly due to the eight cocktails, but it is also a testament to how food brings us together, especially when it’s food this good.
Breakfast: 6:30-11am, daily.
Lunch: 11am-2pm, daily.
Dinner: 5-10pm, Sunday-Thursday. 5-11pm, Friday-Saturday.
Bar opens at 11am daily.
444 N. Summit St. | 419-243-7664 | brimhousetoledo.com