Friday, November 9, 2018

Event Bites: Rum Socials at Oceana

Over the past couple of months, Amy and I went to a couple of Rum Socials put on by the Catamaran Resort in PB, in association with Malahat Spirits, a local rum distillery.

Tickets were $35 a person—not bad considering events like this often cost double or triple that. Located on the back patio of Oceana Coastal Kitchen, they both featured live music, a rum tasting, two signature cocktails and a seemingly endless supply of hors d'oeuvres. (I dream of one day being able to spell "hors d'oeuvres" on my first try.)

Let's get all the drinks outta the way first. To be honest, I'm not as discerning about alcohol as I am about food, but I do still think rums we tasted were excellent. The Malahat co-founder stressed to us how, unlike most other rums, theirs are designed for sipping neat, and though I can't see myself doing that, these were definitely much smoother. First was a cabernet-barrel-aged rum, simple and lightly sweet. The second was clean and bright with light citrus notes. Finally, my personal favorite was the spiced rum, full of vanilla and cinnamon flavors.

Cannibal coladas at Catamaran Rum SocialOur mojitos at the first event featured the barrel-aged rum. They were sweet, fresh and deliciously strong. The "cannibal coladas" at the second event were equally tasty and a bit more interesting. It was a piña colada using the spiced rum and mango purée. The result was tasted tropical and sweet but also pumpkin-spiced, which sounds bizarre, but somehow it worked out great.

Phew. Now that those pesky drinks are dealt with, we can get to the food.

(I know, I'm weird. I just like food I guess.)

Balsamic bacon fig endive at Catamaran Rum Social
The first event back in August was probably the better of the two. It featured a table with charcuterie board and smoked trout hand rolls. Both delicious, and I'm not even a big smoked fish fan. My favorite passed bite of the evening was probably the endive with bacon-wrapped fig, topped with balsamic and creme fraiche. There's a reason this type of hors d'eouvre is popular to the point of being cliché: They work really well. The salt of the bacon plus the fruitiness of the fig and the tang of the toppings are swept up in the fresh crunch of the endive to create a mini masterpiece.

(Fun fact: "hors d'eouvre" is not pronounced "horse dover." French is dumb.)

Dessert was a fantastic array of petit fours, but there were a couple of highlights for me. The pyramid of chocolate mousse was rich in its chocolate shell, coated with finely chopped nuts. The macaron was perfectly packed with sweet, toasty vanilla and a hint of coconut.

The second social was a bit less impressive, but still a good time. It was pirate themed, so each table had a sprinkle of chocolate coins and a sugar skull centerpiece.

The table setup served sliders with roasted suckling pig, pickled onion and sweet chili sauce. The meat was tender and moist, but the golden-crisp skin was the real star: full of melty, collagenous textures and savory flavors. The passed bites were a little less varied but still tasty. The salmon puffs may have been the best, filled with cream cheese and garnished chives, like a posh, fluffy lox and bagel. The andouille crostini was a bit dull and one-note, as the sausage was the only prominent flavor. I did like the vegetables with crisped rice, which had a nice vinegar component and a pleasing crunch from the crisped rice.

Sadly, there were no dessert bites this time (aside from the coins, which we eagerly plundered)—probably because our tickets came with a Mission Bay cocktail cruise, and they didn't want to spoil us too much. It was a weeknight, though, so we cut out early like the wet blankets that we are.

I've gotten more than a few culinary event emails hawking tickets for several hundred dollars a pop. These Rum Socials weren't exactly black tie galas, but they still let you enjoy some great food and drink while feeling fancy for a relative bargain. I certainly hope the Catamaran decides to put on a few more next year.

Score: 7.5 out of 10 (Great)

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