Sliders come in a dazzling array of varieties but they tend to boil down to one single unpleasant truth — an overpriced lump of sub-par meat covered in melted cheese perched on a tiny bun, wolfed down in a few joyless bites.
Last Thursday’s baseball-themed Crispin Cider and Slider Dinner at FireLake Restaurant grabbed the by now all-but-dead concept and shook it back to life. Chef Paul Lynch of FireLake (bottom left, with Crispin founder Joe Heron) packed six wildly different flavor concepts into six different bread products, making for a highly entertaining and well-received meal.
Pictured below, from left to right and top to bottom:
1) Cold Smoked Lake Char Tartare slider. A fried quail egg brought warmth and richness to the light frisee, mustard, and gently smoked tartare filling of this burger, which was served on a potato bun. Ravishingly good; if five more of these had come out, this writer would not have complained. Paired with the dry and restrained Crispin brut.
2) Duck Confit slider. Alder plum jam, jicama slaw, and pickled starfruit helped lighten up the confit; served on an ably executed chive gougere. Fox Barrel Black Currant Cider was a logical pairing, echoing the jam.
3) House Cured Pancetta slider. A large hunk of Bent River Camembert (one of a small but growing collection of well-crafted Midwestern soft cheeses) was a bit overwhelming on this one, but all elements (including oven-dried oyster mushrooms and tomato confit) felt as though they were pulling in the same direction. Paired with a Fox Barrel Pear Cider.
4) Heartland Boar, Bison, and Turkey Meatloaf slider. Shaved apple was absolutely key to this one, giving refreshing crispness to an otherwise heavy if satisfying meatloaf. A soft pretzel bun was a good complement to brown mustard, meatloaf, and cider-braised kraut. Paired with Crispin Original hard cider.
5) Lamb Burger slider. Only here did the dinner falter — the lamb burger with feta and coriander was much closer in flavor to a conventional miniature hamburger, a bit of a letdown after the four inspired courses that preceded it. Paired with Crispin Honey Crisp.
6) Grains of Paradise Scented Cider Fritter (i.e., an apple cider doughnut cut in half with farmers cheese and maple caramel layered inside of it). Not overly sweet — the kind of dessert you go steady with, not the kind of dessert you ruin your life for. All in all, a thoughtful ending to a remarkable meal.
Learn more about this business in The Heavy Table’s Atlas of Ethical Eating and Drinking.