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Running Tab: Whiskey Barrel Weekend, Natural 20 Brewing Co., tasty tidbits and Oktoberfest

One of my favorite annual events since moving back to town in 2019 is the Whiskey Barrel Weekend at Coeur d’Alene Resort. It if wasn’t already cool enough that the resort sends a team to Maker’s Mark in Kentucky to create its own limited-edition barrel, it also celebrates that exclusive barrel with a weekend of events.

The first in 2019 – an itinerary that includes whiskey tastings, classes, a grand dinner and golfing – was a smashing success, a sold-out affair. Last year’s event was scaled back due to the pandemic, but whiskey fans and aficionados were still out in full force, and this past weekend’s was no different than 2020’s. It was another strong turnout despite COVID-19.

Friday’s sold-out whiskey-tasting event featured regional and national whiskey labels, plenty of Southern-style cuisine and whiskey-themed activities, including wax glass dipping and a smoking whiskey demonstration. Also on-site: a Whiskey Coke Wagon.

Saturday’s three classes have become a highlight for their information presented in engaging ways. First up was chef and restaurateur Chad White (Zona Blanca, High Tide Lobster Bar) cooking charred octopus with whiskey. I’ve been eating octopus for years and love it and his preparation; however, the majority of my classmates had never had octopus, and a handful liked it.

The second class was a tasting of six whiskeys by Maker’s Mark’s Jane Bowie, who has the cool job titles of master of maturation and director of innovation. With 14 years at Maker’s Mark, Bowie is very knowledgeable and passionate about whiskey, and I love that she shines the light on the major influence women have had on Maker’s Mark whiskey.

Master mixologist Bobby Gleason of Jim Bean Suntory returned for a second year to lead a cocktail-making class featuring the highball, Old Fashioned, Manhattan, whiskey sour and mint julep to end the afternoon of education. My new favorite cocktail? Jim Beam Orange and club soda.

The signature event Saturday night, the grand whiskey dinner at Hagadone Event Center, featured carving stations of steak and lamb, oysters prepared three ways, shrimp and White showcasing two menu items and cocktail pairings – the charred octopus, barbacoa tacos, an Old Fashioned with bacon reduction and hibiscus margarita.

Mark your calendar for 2022’s Whiskey Barrel Weekend; it’s a must-attend event for whiskey lovers. Meanwhile, the resort’s exclusive whiskey is featured in cocktails at the resort’s Whispers Lounge, and bottles can be purchased at select liquor stores nearby the resort. More: (208) 209-5031 and cdaresort.com

Natural 20 Brewing Co.

I stopped by Natural 20 Brewing Co.’s new location at 13216 E. Sprague Ave. in Spokane Valley on Oct. 8, the week of its opening, and enjoyed the family-friendly atmosphere (there are board and other games galore for everyone), the casual vibe and, of course, the beer.

While the beer menu selection changes, on this particular Friday I enjoyed a Serious Gourmet (Bleep) – a caramel macchiato white milk nitro stout – and a rotating guest cider, which was a fruity strawberry rhubarb and watermelon mix.

The food selection is streamlined and simple: pretzels, fries, cheesecake and pizzas made on focaccia. I ordered a Charlemagne – BBQ sauce, grilled chicken, red onions, spinach, jalapenos, mozzarella and cheddar – and Gary’s Bacon Chicken Ranch – ranch dressing with bacon, chicken, spinach, tomato and mozzarella.

While not the first to do this, Natural 20 offers beer to go, and it can be packaged in individual beer cans created on-site. Fun! More: natural20brewing.com

Tasty tidbits

I’ve hosted family in Spokane twice this month, and we’ve been dining out a lot. News from the menus in town: eggplant and broccolini with anchovies are two new dishes at Tavolata; Vieux Carre is about to unveil its fall menu with new executive chef Jeana Pecha; and Wooden City continues to remain a hotspot for Happy Hour (is it never not busy?).

Also: Italia Trattoria has limited its hours of operation – the best thing to do is to call the restaurant for the most current information, I was told by the appreciative staff during a late brunch Sunday – and Adam Hegsted continues to reimagine his fried chicken recipe at Honey Eatery in Coeur d’Alene, where the cinnamon roll is a sweet bestseller.

Oktoberfest

Starting in 2022, Oktoberfest in Leavenworth will be moved to Wenatchee. The annual festival’s organizers said the city denied their permit for next year’s festival after 23 years in Leavenworth. Oktoberfest will be at Town Toyota Center in Wenatchee until a permanent home is located.

Oktoberfest attendees can stay in Wenatchee or Leavenworth, as a shuttle will run between the two cities. Next year’s Oktoberfest will include entertainment, an upgraded VIP area, all-imported German beer, an expanded children’s area and a carnival, organizers said.

Oktoberfest 2022 is set for Sept. 30-Oct. 1, Oct. 7-8 and Oct. 14-15. This year’s Oktoberfest, which ended Sunday, was a large street fair. More: leavenworthoktoberfest.com

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