Pairing food made by Bradenton and Sarasota chefs with Darwin Brewing Co.'s beer is one of Matt Cornelius' passions, and it has fueled a new event hosted at Darwin Brewing Co.: Tapas and Taps.
"A lot of them happen to be carrying our beer anyway," Cornelius said of local chefs. "We figured this would be a great opportunity to spotlight that we're working with them."
Tapas and Taps will take place at 7 p.m. the first Monday of every month.
During Tapas and Taps, local chefs will prepare a few courses of small plates to marry with Darwin's signature beers. A $25 ticket gets attendees the three courses and unlimited fills in Darwin's Taproom. And since Darwin's location at 803 17th Ave. W. across from McKechnie Field doesn't have a kitchen, chefs and restaurateurs will cook in the Blue Rooster food truck parked outside of Darwin.
The food truck is also a new addition to Darwin Brewing Co. Blue Rooster, a Sarasota southern-comfort restaurant and music venue, decided in October to help out its Bradenton fans and move closer.
"People really like our fried chicken, and we noticed people were coming from Bradenton to Sarasota for our fried chicken," said Bill Cornelius, Matt's father and owner of Darwin Brewing Co. and Blue Rooster. "So we figured why not just set it up in Bradenton?" Cornelius and his wife, Ellen Cornelius, wanted to wait to launch the food truck until the beginning of the year to capture seasonal and spring training traffic.
Plus, Bill Cornelius saw a need in the Darwin's drinking crowd.
"It goes great with the beer we serve," he said. "And the people in the brewery need food."
The Blue Rooster food truck is open outside of Darwin Wednesday through Sunday, and opens at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The truck will serve up Blue Rooster favorites, including fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, hamburgers and salads. The Corneliuses plan to open the truck for business sev
en days a week when spring training begins.
The first Tapas and Taps, set for Monday, is already sold out. Chef Rich Knowles from Bradenton's enRich restaurant will prepare a "941 Wedge" salad, using vegetables from Geraldson Family Farms and O'Brien Family Farms, along with Thai pork tacos made with pork braised in Darwin's Summadayze IPA. To end the evening, Tapas and Taps guests will nosh on Knowles' enFrench toast.
The event brings together the best of Darwin and the Bradenton-Sarasota area's culinary scene.
"We hang our hat on having beers that evolve from great cuisine, and a culinary emphasis is what we're going for," Matt Cornelius said.
The next Tapas and Taps event will be on March 7 and will feature Wayne Simmons from Cortez's Swordfish Grill. Tickets are available at darwinbrewingco.com or through the brewery's Facebook page. Call the brewery at 941-747-1970 with questions.
Janelle O'Dea, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow her on Twitter @jayohday.