Beer & Chocolate Pairing: Someone has to do it…


Beer and chocolate are two of my favorite things on the planet. If you asked me to define myself in one sentence, the words beer and chocolate would probably be in there somewhere. So you can imagine my dismay when I was burdened with the arduous task of helping pair Stone beer with the innovative artisinal offerings of Eclipse Chocolat for our Beer & Chocolate Pairing event on May 3rd. But I’m not one to complain. Rather than drag my feet and mope about the daunting task ahead of me, I decided to tackle it head-on and get it over with, and so did my equally apprehensive compatriots, Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright and Brewer Jeremy Moynier.

Eclipse Chocolat

Eclipse Chocolat

We arrived at Eclipse late in the afternoon, just as rush hour traffic was rearing its ugly head on El Cajon Boulevard. Immediately upon entering the reasonably populated, pleasantly decorated dessert cafe, we were greeted by Chocolatier Extraordinaire Will Gustwiller, the Owner of Eclipse Chocolat. After exchanging customary introductions, we tended to the irksome job before us.

The first piece of chocolate that Will offered us was one of his first creations—a Lavender Sea-Salted Caramel truffle. This creamy milk chocolate delicacy is Eclipse’s most popular truffle, and it’s easy to see why. After striking out with Stone Levitation Ale, we decided to pair it with Stone IPA. Success. The prevailing salt and herbal notes of the truffle harmonized beautifully with the citrusy, hoppy bite of Stone IPA. We were off to a promising start.

Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle

Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle

Next up was Will’s Chili-burnt Caramel Truffle, a chili-infused dark chocolate truffle with a subtle, delayed spicy note. Will warned us that this would be the most difficult truffle to pair, due to its overwhelming flavor profile. We promptly assured him that we rarely encounter food capable of smothering the bold flavors of our beers, but sure enough, we were wrong. The truffle overwhelmed several of our beers before we finally stumbled upon a winner. The long-lasting bitter finish of Stone 12th Anniversary Bitter Chocolate Oatmeal Stout was the only heavy-hitting flavor that could stand up to the prolonged chili spice of the truffle. When the ooh’s and ahh’s subsided, they were replaced by talk of using this pairing as the finale of the pairing on May 3rd. And for good reason.

Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle

Balsamic Pink Peppercorn Truffle

The next truffle, Will’s Balsamic Pink Peppercorn truffle, was a definite departure from the previous offerings. If you’re thinking of the slight spicy flavor found in commercial peppercorn dressings and such, think again. Will uses actual fresh peppercorns for the filling of this truffle, resulting in an earthy sweet flavor that is enhanced by raspberry balsamic vinegar sweetened dark chocolate. Double Bastard Ale and Stone Cali-Belgique IPA weren’t a match, but we eventually found the right supplement. The smoky, roasted barley note and strong hop finish of Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale proved a perfect mate for the unique truffle.

At this point our spirits were low as the backbreaking labor began to take its toll, but somehow we mustered the strength and determination to persist. Will introduced the next delicacy, a Black Sesame Anise truffle, and we valiantly resumed. This dark chocolate ganache-infused creation comes packed with anise seed and star anise, and is topped with toasted black sesame seeds. Again we tried to pair it with Stone Levitation Ale, along with a few other Stone beers, all to no avail. At last we found a champion in the form of Stone Cali-Belgique IPA. The dense fruity note of the Belgian Yeast provided the perfect contrast to the bittersweet anise and the toasty sesame seeds.

The next chocolate was met with desperate cries for mercy as the unceasing consumption of gourmet chocolate and delicious craft beer began to erode our morale, but the painful ordeal was almost over. We knew that once we found a pairing with Will’s Macadamia Ginger White Chocolate, we could go home. So we found one in the form of 2009 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine. The sweet tang of the lemon sang in perfect harmony with Old Guardian’s hoppy finish, and the ginger in the chocolate worked opposite of the bold barley presence of the barley wine. And for all of you who think white chocolate isn’t real chocolate, let there be no mistake. White chocolate is indeed chocolate if it has real cocoa butter in it. Many commercially available white chocolates opt for vegetable oil instead of cocoa butter because it’s significantly cheaper. Will does no such thing. His white chocolate is the real deal.

Stone Brewer Jeremy Moynier (left), Tour Guide Kathryn Bouscaren, and Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright (right) hard at work

Stone Brewer Jeremy Moynier (left), Tour Guide Kathryn Bouscaren, and Beer & Chocolate Host Ken Wright (right) hard at work

But alas, there was more! Will cemented his standing as a wizard of chocolate with his last delicacy—a Banana Rum Cigar truffle. Will explained that he deftly weaved actual cigar leaf into this rare truffle, immediately dropping our jaws and leaving us mystified. Unfortunately, the Valentine’s Day rush depleted Will’s inventory, and he didn’t have enough of this spectacular truffle to finish the pairing. Thankfully, he offered to send us more so we could finish the pairing here at the brewery. So let it be known that there will be a surprise pairing in store for you on May 3rd, should you choose to attend Beer & Chocolate.

Eclipse Chocolat Owner, Will Gustwiller, now the proud owner of leftover Stone beer

Eclipse Chocolat Owner, Will Gustwiller, now the proud owner of leftover Stone beer

After nearly two hours of drudgery and copious amounts of beer and chocolate, we emerged with five spectacular pairings and one “to be announced” pairing. We would like to thank our gracious host and culinary genius Will Gustwiller for offering us a glimpse of his wildly imaginative take on chocolate. If you like Stone beer, and you like equally bold-flavored chocolate, you’d be crazy not to enjoy the fruits of his (and our) labor on May 3rd. Though we won’t discourage you from arming yourself with our tasting notes and going down to Eclipse to try the pairings we came up with, we do hope that you send us your suggestions for the sixth pairing. We’d really appreciate your help!

-Matt Steele

www.eclipsechocolat.com

http://www.stonebrew.com/calendar/#090503

FRESH! Dinner a Success

Monday's FRESH! Dinner Menu

Monday Night's FRESH! Dinner Menu

It’s difficult to write about our FRESH! Dinners without resorting to cheesy puns or distasteful allusions to outdated television programs. It’s been a struggle, but thankfully I’ve managed to abstain from phrases such as “Keepin’ it FRESH!” or “Come get FRESH! with Stone!” More importantly, I’ve avoided referring to Executive Chef Alex Carballo as “The FRESH! Prince of Stone Brewing,” thus foregoing an awkward confrontation and subsequent apology. Whew. Crisis averted.

While it’s hard to elude the trappings of bland prose, it’s not hard to convey a genuine sense of excitement about our FRESH! Dinners. They are truly one-of-a-kind, and attendees agree. If you know nothing about these dinners, get out from under that rock you’ve been living under and educate yourself. If you were there, you know that Monday night’s FRESH! Dinner was one of the best yet.

In order to give attendees a rare behind the scenes look into the FRESH! Dinner, Chef Alex and his team brought cameras with them to all the local farms they visited Monday morning to procure ingredients. The colorful pictures were projected in a slide show during the dinner, along with play-by-play shots taken in the kitchen of the actual preparation. The crew’s photos demystified the meal, giving guests an intimate glimpse into the process involved in bringing local, farm-fresh food to their table. Many guests agreed that this was a nice touch.

Chef Gordon Smith showing off his unique contribution to the FRESH! Dinner

Chef Gordon Smith showing off his unique contribution to the FRESH! Dinner

The illuminating slide show wasn’t the only new addition to the dinner. FRESH! attendees were treated to an extra special reception this time around. Before ascending the stairs to the Mezzanine, guests were directed to the cocktail section of our Bistro where Chef Gordon Smith and Peter Halmay were showing off the ocean-fresh taste of their San Diego Red Sea Urchins. Otherwise known as “Uni,” these salt-water delicacies were cracked open live and offered Sashimi style or as a shooter with fresh Stone beer. With open minds and hungry stomachs, FRESH! attendees delighted in this rare indulgence, setting the tone for a very unique dining experience.

Once on the Mezzanine, guests were presented the first course, a Roasted Baby Beet and Mixed Greens Salad with a Kumquat Vinaigrette. It was accompanied by Garden Herb Dinner Rolls using herbs taken from our very own Gardens, followed by a palate-cleansing Meyer Lemon Granité with Calistoga intermezzo. Both courses received copious praise from delighted diners. Unfortunately, Chef Alex encountered technical difficulties with the third course, a Spinach Ravioli with Wild Mushroom

Spinach Ravioli with Wild Mushroom Filling in a Light Herb Sauce

Spinach Ravioli with Wild Mushroom Filling in a Light Herb Sauce

Filling in a Light Herb Sauce, when the pasta press malfunctioned, and so did the backup. Thinking quickly, Chef Alex decided to plate the remainder of the filling alongside the ravioli to complete the dish. This decision was a popular one.

Next up was the Chicken Thighs Braised with Heirloom Tomatoes and Spring Onion Bulbs, and Roasted Chicken Breasts with Herbs and Spring Onions; both were an instant hit. They were followed by Braised Fennel, Honey-Glazed Adolescent Carrots and Braised Seasonal Greens. The finale, and perhaps the star of the show, was the Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pixie Tangerine Gelée and Lavender Spice Tuille Cookies served on flower-encased ice plates. “Divine,” “heavenly,” and “decadent” were just some of the adjectives used to describe this exceptional dessert.

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pixie Tangerine Gelée and Lavender Tuille Cookies (what a mouthful)

Vanilla Bean Panna Cotta with Pixie Tangerine Gelée and Lavender Tuille Cookies (what a mouthful)

If you were fortunate enough to taste the food (like me), I’m sure your body thanked you for treating it to a delicious night devoid of chemical preservatives and artificial food substances shipped from faraway lands. If it didn’t, you have an ungrateful, masochistic body, and you should consider getting a new one.

We want to thank all those who attended for making our latest FRESH! Dinner a memorable farm-to-table experience. We would also like to thank Chef Gordon Smith and Peter Halmay for bringing their spiny little friends to the party. I doubt that’s the last we’ll see of those prickly sea-dwelling delicacies.

Satisfied FRESH! Enthusiasts

Satisfied FRESH! Enthusiasts

We can’t wait for the next opportunity to showcase the word-class flavors of San Diego and the equally world-class talent of our Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens crew. Stay tuned for the next one!

-Matt Steele

Check out our FRESH! photo set on Flickr

Check out our FRESH! photo set on Flickr

Taking "Locavore" to the Next Level

Click to view the menu, make reservations, and get more information

Click to view the menu, make reservations, and get more information

Matt Steele
Growing up in this culture doesn’t exactly foster an appreciation for the word “fresh.” As a kid, I thought fresh meant “fresh out of the microwave,” or “fresh from the fast food window.” I grew up thinking that TV dinners, Hot Pockets, and quadruple cheeseburgers were perfectly acceptable forms of sustenance. I expected the ingredients in my food to have no less than eighteen syllables in their names, and to only be pronounceable by the highly learned. I also thought that, much like cockroaches, food should be able to survive the apocalypse (thanks to the complex cocktail of chemical preservatives graciously injected into it by men in white lab coats thousands of miles away).

I don’t blame my parents for raising me on less-than-fresh food. It was their only option for feeding three voracious boys in a fast-paced culture addicted to cheap, hastily-prepared, chemically-treated food. Thankfully, we are witnessing a slight shift in our culture’s perception of food, as it slowly changes to favor more natural and sustainable consumption habits, but we still have a long way to go. That’s why we started the FRESH! Dinner series.

Our FRESH! Dinners offer something that many Americans have absolutely no concept of: a meal in which all ingredients are picked, gathered, caught, and killed the very day they are consumed. That means no Hot Pockets, and no men in lab coats.

Executive Chef Alex Carballo, mastermind behind the FRESH! Menu

Executive Chef Alex Carballo, mastermind behind the FRESH! Menu

The upcoming FRESH! Dinner on February 2nd will be a “locavore’s” dream. Executive Chef Alex Carballo (creative mastermind behind the FRESH! Menu) and his team will rise at the crack of dawn to hit the sunny fields of San Diego. They will be on the prowl for only the freshest, untouched ingredients from local organic farms and markets. The menu* will include delights such as Roasted Baby Beets and Mixed Greens Salad with a Mandarin Vinaigrette, Spinach Ravioli with Mushroom Filling in a Light Herb Sauce, Braised Fennel, Honey Glazed Baby Carrots, and Braised Seasonal Greens. There will also be a fish or chicken course, depending on which is fresher of course! The ingredients will be procured from local farms ranging from Crows Pass Farm in Temecula to La Milpa Organica in Escondido and Eben-Haezer Egg Ranch in Ramona.

*Disclaimer: Since this isn’t a laboratory or an assembly line, the menu will be subject to change. Things may not go (or grow) according to plan, and our talented team will use their creativity to adapt to the whims of bountiful mother nature.

The mix and mingle portion of the dinner (6:00-6:00pm) will feature Red Sea Urchin, available Sashimi style or as a shooter served with fresh Stone beer that will be bottled or kegged that same day. The Sea Urchin (Uni) will also come complete with a demonstration from the local harvester, Chef Gordon Smith. After the mix and mingle, guests will be seated family-style in the Mezzanine of the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens to indulge in multiple courses of pristine natural sustenance.

Eben-Haezer Chicken Ranch in Escondido, CA, where the chickens roam free!

Eben-Haezer Poultry Ranch in Escondido, CA, where the chickens roam free!

Hot Pocket connoisseurs beware, the FRESH! Dinner is not for you. You may want to stay home in the comfy butt-groove of your couch, clutching your stale microwavable delicacy safely within your comfort zone. However, those of you willing to experience a delicious meal straight from the earth to the table, make your reservations now. We’ll prove to you just how FRESH! a meal can be.

Click here to view the tentative menu, make reservations, and get additional information.

-Matt Steele