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Beer, doughnuts a decadent dinner at Ella's in Tampa

Foodies, brace yourself. A restaurant in Seminole Heights has discovered the ultimate pairing: beer and doughnuts.

At Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe's latest private dinner on July 17, hosted upstairs away from the bustle of the dinner crowd, participants paid $40 to feast their eyes on six pairings of beer and doughnuts. Everything from gingerbread doughnuts with a belgian wit beer to, get this, a "cronut" paired with a chocolate beer. Didn't think the decadent croissant-donut hybrid could get any more delicious? Well, wait until you try it with a Young's Double Chocolate Stout.

Ella's — which also has a fun dinner menu and a popular Sunday soul food brunch (Bloody Marys served with spare ribs dunked in the glass!) — hosts these private food events every 4 to 6 weeks or so. In June, they did a four-course dinner paired with Belgian beers, and the next one, in about six weeks, will be a Jameson whiskey-themed dinner.

The restaurant came up with the beer-and-doughnut pairing as a way to shake things up and the boost attendance of those private events. Indeed, the house was close to capacity, with the 40 spots mostly filled. In fact, the volume of doughnuts needed slowed things down a bit; there was significant down time between each pairing.

Though there was a good reason for that: Ella's made all of the doughnuts right downstairs in their kitchen.

For each pairing, which was brought out one at a time, participants got to try about half a glass of beer and a not-quite-full-sized doughnut. First up was a gingerbread doughnut with orange and coriander glaze, paired with Blanch De Bruxelles Belgian Wit Beer. Tasty, but nothing too strong on either front, which was a nice way to start the night.

Then things got a little weird. Easily the least tasty doughnut of the bunch was one flavored with cumin and banana. Filled with a cumin banana cream and topped with white chocolate and jalapeno glaze, this one was flat-out odd. Banana is a tough flavor to work into any pastry, but paired with cumin? And white chocolate? Not good. Served with Wells Banana Bread Beer (which tasted just like banana bread, an odd flavor to enjoy in a beer), this one was a dud. Also not as enjoyable as it sounds: a bacon-infused Belhaven Scottish ale. It tasted like what I imagine licking the pan drippings after cooking a batch of bacon might taste like.

My favorite pairing was a plain doughnut dusted with black pepper (sounds weird, but worked surprisingly well), filled with almond butter filling and topped with strawberry icing and basil sprinkles. Just the right amount of sweet and savory. It was paired with the ultra-sweet Timmerman's Strawberry Lambicus, which tasted more like a beer champagne.

Alas, the event went on longer than anticipated, and I had to leave before trying the cronut. But you can bet I'll be trying that pairing on my own sometime.

Ella's didn't have an exact date or time for its next event, but the best way to get updates is by checking the Ella's Americana Folk Art Cafe Facebook page at on.fb.me/12fXpGx. Ella's is at 5119 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa. (813) 234-1000; ellasfolkartcafe.com.

Play Tampa Bay

Michelle and Katie take a tour of Seminole Heights in the latest episode of Play Tampa Bay, with stops at the Refinery and Ella's. Watch them devour some doughnuts in the video Wednesday at tampabay.com/things-to-do.

Beer, doughnuts a decadent dinner at Ella's in Tampa 07/23/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 23, 2013 3:12pm]
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