Farm to Fork: Stone’s Farm-to-Tableism

 

 

 

Stone has some pretty strict philosophies when it comes to food. We stand by local and organically cultivated ingredients because we know they’re better for the environment, and they taste pretty darn good, too. You can get amazing items prepared with truly farm-to-table ingredients every day at our three Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens locations, but there are a few nights out of the year where we take it to the next level of freshitude—Fresh Dinners. These feasts are made solely from ingredients procured the very same day, and some of those ingredients come from our very own Stone Farms.

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The Big Green Blog Post


When I was a kid, my mom had an old green Volkswagen bus, you know, similar to the one in Scooby-Doo; the iconic hippie-mobile. At the time I was really embarrassed by my mother’s eccentric taste in automobiles, but looking back it made perfect sense. The beads in her hair, the penchant for woodworking, and the green VW bus all pointed to one thing—she was a TOTAL hippie. Naturally, hippies were the first thing that came to my mind when I saw The Big Green Bus pull into our parking lot here at Stone on Wednesday afternoon, leaving a pungent aroma of hash browns in its wake.

The Big Green Bus

The Big Green Bus

The Big Green Bus is a full-size bus (1989 MCI Motorcoach, to be exact) remodeled by 15 Dartmouth students to be as sustainable and energy efficient as possible. The students are taking their green labor of love on a summer-long cross-country tour to raise awareness about sustainability and energy-efficient practices. And it smells like hash browns because it runs on 100% recycled vegetable oil, not because the students have a deep affinity for breakfast fare.

At first glance, The Big Green Bus looks like a glorified version of my mom’s old green VW bus, but that couldn’t be father from the truth. “We spend a lot of time convincing people that we’re not gross-smelling hippies,” said one student, “most of us showered this morning.” The Big Green Bus is much more than a meagerly-funded flower-child mobile with wicked green graphics. Along with running on biodiesel, the bus is also a mobile showcase of environmental conservation. Everything inside, from the low-energy plasma TV to the recycled bamboo flooring, is the epitome of energy efficiency.

Anna, a Dartmouth sophomore from the Big Green Bus, being interviewed for the local news. The Big Green Bus is greeted by cameras wherever they go.

Anna, a Dartmouth sophomore from the Big Green Bus, spreading her message on the local news. The Big Green Bus is greeted by cameras wherever they go.

If a summer-long tour on The Big Green Bus sounds like a great time, think again. These kids work hard. According to Kerry, it’s about 90% work and 10% play. Not exactly your quintessential summer of love. Everywhere the students go they’re greeted by news cameras and general media hubbub, and Stone was no exception. Escondido Mayor Lori Pfeiler, the folks at the California Center for Sustainable Energy, and a bevy of local media joined us in welcoming them to Stone on Wednesday afternoon.

So why did they come to Stone? Because they were hungry, of course (I guess word got out that our Bistro serves locally-grown, organic food). They also enjoyed a tour of the brewery and learned a bit about our solar array and our other efforts to operate sustainably. But most importantly, they came to fill up their tank with our Bistro’s used vegetable oil—the same stuff that our Lead Brewer John Egan uses to power his truck.

Mayor Lori Pfeiler and the folks from the California Center for Sustainable Energy joined us in welcoming the hard-working crew of 15 Dartmouth students

Mayor Lori Pfeiler and the folks from the California Center for Sustainable Energy joined us in welcoming the 15 hard-working Dartmouth students.

We’re stoked The Big Green Bus chose to stop and share a part of their journey with us, and we’re glad we could help spread their message. If you spy a lumbering green bus speeding down the highway smelling like Sunday brunch at iHop, give those hard-working Dartmouth students a honk in support. They deserve it.

-Matt Steele

John Egan Brews His Own Fuel Too


Remember last summer when gas prices were ridiculously inflated? Remember wiping away the tears while your hard-earned cash ticked away at the pump faster than our national debt? John Egan doesn’t. While the rest of us were subject to the tyranny of fossil fuels, John avoided gas stations entirely, comfortably enjoying his wallet-friendly biofuel solution. When John isn’t supervising our brewing team, managing our cask and barrel aging program, and watching over our prized special creation beers (like Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Beans), he’s indulging in his green side by converting 100% of our Bistro’s waste oil into biodiesel fuel to power his truck. So how does he do it?

John Egan’s 1999 Dodge Ram 2500, which weighs 7,000 lbs., can get up to 24 mpg using biodiesel. John also uses biodiesel in his 1980 Mercedes Benz 300D.

Every other week, John uses an electric pump powered by his truck battery to extract waste oil from a 50-gallon drum behind our Bistro. Once the oil is filled back into the containers it first came in, he takes it home, processes it in the custom-built system in his garage, dumps it in the tank of his truck, and voila!

So what does biodiesel have to do with beer? Well, according to John, being a brewer comes in handy. “There are a tremendous amount of parallels between biodiesel and brewing,” said John. “You take raw materials and turn them into something else, and quality is extremely important. Much of the same equipment is used such as pumps, hoses, valves, tanks, filters, etc.  Actually, used brewing equipment would work exceptionally well to make biodiesel with.”

While John genuinely enjoys “taking waste materials and turning them into something of value,” he admits that brewing biodiesel isn’t a walk in the park. “It’s quite involved and takes effort,” said John. “It’s not one of those things that you try out, and then decide to scrap after a few months.”

John extracting the oil from the 50 gallon drum behind our Bistro

John extracting the oil from the 50 gallon drum behind our Bistro. Before our Bistro opened in November 2006, John acquired waste oil by other means, including reclaiming the oil used to make the Arrogant Bastard Ale Onion Rings at our Anniversary parties.

Sure, brewing biodiesel isn’t easy, but it is easy on the wallet. After processing, one gallon of biofuel comes out to about $1. Aside from being outrageously cheap, biodiesel also runs a lot cleaner than regular diesel, and emits a pleasing french fry smell as an added bonus. It can be slightly less efficient than regular diesel, though still more efficient than regular gasoline.

John is obviously a fan of the environment, but he’s also realistic. He feels that biofuels are “an important part of our energy matrix as a supplement, but they aren’t the solution to our energy problems.” Sure, biofuel may not be the magical panacea for our energy woes, but it definitely helps. John put it best when he said “it feels very good to reuse things that would otherwise find their way into a landfill.” That’s something I think we can all agree on.

-Matt Steele

Check out the press release we wrote about our Delivery Truck Fleet running on biodiesel.

Egg Huntin' Stone-style


While the origins of our culture’s oddball Easter traditions are convoluted, one thing’s for certain—our egg hunts rock. There’s nothing kids like more than descending upon our beautiful Gardens in search of a thousand candy and prize-filled eggs, and there’s nothing parents like more than redeeming a certificate for some awesome Stone merchandise that their industrious offspring lovingly procured for them.

Huntin' in style

Huntin' in style (click above for more photos)

Our annual Egg Hunt & Brunch was a huge success, with over a hundred kids partaking, but we’ll let the pictures do most of the talking. Congrats to all the successful hunters, and cheers to all the fortunate merchandise-winning parents. Until next year….

-Matt Steele

Why we use Grass-fed/Grass-finished Beef


When we opened the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in 2006, we knew we wanted our menu to feature the highest quality ingredients, and beef was no exception. We knew very little about the beef industry, but once we did our homework, we chose grass-fed/grass-finished beef because it’s all-natural, healthy, and most importantly—it’s freakin’ delicious!

In case you’re wondering, there is a difference between grass-fed beef and grass-fed/grass-finished beef. The majority of cattle are grass-fed at some point, but it’s the final months of their lives that really make the difference. Most cattle are shipped to feed lots and fed grain in their final months to fatten them up, which alters their flavor. We predominantly serve beef that has been grass-fed throughout its entire life cycle, hence grass-fed/grass-finished (the one exception is our Prime Rib Melt, which uses all-natural grass-fed/grain-finished Meyer’s beef to achieve a different flavor).

All of our meat, including chicken and fish, is hormone and anti-biotic free, or never-never, as it's called in the industry.

All of our meat, including chicken and fish, is hormone and anti-biotic free (or never-never as it's called in the industry).

Today, grass-fed/grass-finished beef could draw similarities to the earlier days of craft beer. There were folks that wanted it, but distributors and retailers often felt there wasn’t sufficient demand to make it available. “Grass-fed/grass-finished was an item we were looking into anyway because of the recent industry leaning towards more naturally raised beef,” said Jonathan Sachs from Hamilton Meats, “but there was no interest from any of our current clients to justify offering the product.”

That was about to change, as consumers and restaurants became interested in grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Together with three other local restaurants, including our good friend Jay Porter, proprietor of The Linkery in North Park, we were able to raise demand enough for Hamilton Meats to offer grass-fed/grass-finished beef.

Red Buffalo Ranch, home to Tallgrass Beef's grass-fed/grass-finished cattle

Red Buffalo Ranch, "the home and genesis" of Tallgrass Beef

Most of our beef now comes from verdant pastures thanks to Tallgrass Beef, a company dedicated to all-natural, great-tasting grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Their cattle live stress-free, roaming freely and eating lush natural grasses throughout their lives. Brad Schoenberg, Vice President of Sales & Business Development at Tallgrass Beef, gave us the rundown on why grass-fed/grass-finished is a good way to go:

“The most important thing that people should know about grass-fed/grass-finished is that it is good for the animal…but the health and nutritional benefit for us is the real key. Tallgrass Beef contains a higher level of omega 3′s, high levels of Conjugated Linoleic Acids (an anti-carcinogen), and is lower in saturated fats and cholesterol.”

Brad poses an interesting question—“Can you imagine your doctor telling you to eat more beef?” While it may be difficult to imagine a medical professional advocating increased consumption of beef, it’s not difficult to imagine your tongue advocating increased consumption of grass-fed/grass-finished beef. Sure it’s healthy and at the top of the ethical and environmental scales, but just as important–it’s damn good.

- Matt Steele

The Newest Additions to our Gardens… Ducklings!


Our beloved gardener, Chili, stumbled upon a pleasant surprise this morning as he was mowing the lawn in our Gardens. We thought we would share his discovery with you…

The ducklings are the newest additions to our Gardens, which have been enjoying a Springtime boom. We’re glad to be graced with their presence, brightening an already tranquil Tuesday morning here at Stone.

At a whopping eleven ducklings, this is the largest hatching we've ever had. Check out the flickr set for more photos.

At a whopping eleven ducklings, this is the largest clutch we've had yet. Click the picture for the flickr set.

-Matt Steele

What's Growing in the Gardens?


If you read the blog about our Gardens, you know that our inventive gardener, Chili, re-uses by-products from our Brewery and Bistro in our topsoil. Buried within the accompanying flickr photo set, you may have missed an aerial mock-up of our Gardens with every single plant meticulously marked and labeled by Chili himself. It’s not a treasure map in the swashbuckling sense, but it does map out the locations of all of the botanical treasures in our Gardens. We think it’s a pretty good way to grasp the entirety of our thriving ecosystem and the plants therein, and Webmaster Mike has plans to work it into new content on our website. Also, if you plan on attending the event with Nan Sterman this Sunday, this layout offers a preview of what you’ll see and learn about.

-Matt Steele

Chili's Garden Map

Chili's Garden Map

Our Beer Gardens…Literally


If you’ve been to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, you’ve probably noticed that we have an entire acre of completely organic, fully sustainable Gardens attached to the Bistro. Some refer to them as our “Beer Gardens,” not knowing just how accurate that label really is. Truth is, we maintain our Gardens using by-products from the brewing process, resulting in real honest to goodness “Beer Gardens.”

Maintaining such a large expanse of Gardens is no easy task. So how do we do it? Meet Chili, Stone’s resident botanical wizard, and the keeper of our beautiful Gardens (he earned his nickname because he grows chilies and likes his food HOT). By reusing by-products from our Brewery and Bistro, and utilizing a few clever gardening techniques, Chili maintains our Gardens using nothing but what Mother Nature provides.

The man behind our Gardens

The man behind our Gardens

I recently caught up with Chili in his natural environment, which he lovingly refers to as his “cage.” While it’s true it isn’t exactly a window office, his “cage” is actually a fenced-off, covered storage area wedged between the Gardens and the Bistro kitchen where he keeps his desk and all of his gardening tools. Despite the jokes, Chili is quite fond of his decidedly unconventional office, and I get the sense that he prefers it to a view of Fifth Avenue. Actually, the real reason we keep Chili in a cage is to contain his unbridled passion for gardening (I apologize for that one, I couldn’t resist).

Chili working hard in his "cage"

Chili hard at work in his "cage"

I stopped by just as Chili was preparing to plant a few early yield tomatoes, and he was kind enough to share some of his secrets with me. He explained that the most important step in maintaining a healthy perma-culture is mixing the proper soil. He then divulged his secret recipe:

Chili’s Spent Grain Topsoil Recipe

Ingredients:
- 2 shovels of spent grain from the Brewery
- 2 shovels of decomposed granite (Escondido’s natural topsoil)
- 2 shovels of vegetable compost from the Bistro kitchen
- A few handfuls of nicely aged mulch from the chipper

Directions:
Combine two shovels of spent grain and two shovels of decomposed granite in a large bucket. The spent grain should contain little green specks from the hops used in the brewing process, and be slightly damp from the remnant wort (notice the desirable beery fragrance). The decomposed granite should be brown in color and have a moist dirt-like consistency. Mix together thoroughly. Add two shovels of vegetable compost from the Bistro kitchen. Make sure there is plenty of insect and worm life in the compost, and that it has a fresh earthy smell. This indicates an abundance of vitamins and minerals. Mix thoroughly with the spent grain and decomposed granite until mixture is consistent. Add a few handfuls of aged mulch (the mulch consists of fallen branches, twigs and leaves from the Gardens that have been fed through the chipper and aged in large barrels), blend thoroughly and voila! Once the topsoil is nicely mixed, it’s time to plant. Chili recommends filling the bottom of the chosen pot with gravel for drainage, and surrounding the fledgling plant with the fresh soil mix up to the first few branches. Then top it off with a bit of aged mulch, lightly water it, and watch it thrive. Once the roots have grown deep and strong, delicately transplant it to its final destination. In this case, the final destination for our vigorous little tomatoes is the Southeast nook of our Gardens (on the bank next to the gazebo/lounge/peat gravel area), where we keep a variety of seasonal vegetables. Check out a map of everything we have growing in our Gardens.

Chili’s proprietary (patent pending) soil blend works wonders in our Gardens, contributing to a fruitful year-round harvest. We’ve also noticed it makes the food taste better, due to the proliferation of essential micro-nutrients that petrochemical fertilized foods lack.

When I asked Chili why he uses spent grain from the brewery in his soil recipe instead of another fertilizer, he responded with a straight-faced “because it’s there.” I promptly reminded him that gardening is no laughing matter, and he gave me the real reason. Apparently the spent grain flourishes in the soil, creating an abundance of microbial activity and general liveliness. Chili also emphasized that it’s time proven. He’s been using spent grain since his days as a gardener at Pizza Port, and it’s worked wonders time and again.

Chili procuring spent grain from the Brewery

Chili gathering spent grain from the Brewery

Spent grain isn’t the only brewing by-product that Chili recycles. He also snatches up the used oak chips that we use to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale. These lovely, odoriferous chips not only have a beautiful deep silky brown color, but they retain their alluring bourbony smell for about a week. Chili puts them to use as a decorative top layer, propagating the pleasing smell and thick brown sheen of OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale throughout our Gardens. Their purpose isn’t solely decorative, however, as their acidity helps neutralize the alkaline properties of the decomposed granite that makes up our natural topsoil.

The fragrant Oak chips used to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale

The fragrant Oak chips used to brew OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale

Our Gardens are proof that sustainable gardening works. Aside from the occasional use of manure, Chili procures everything he needs for the Gardens here at the Brewery. He takes what would normally be discarded and sent to a landfill and re-uses it to create a vibrant, flourishing perma-culture. So the next time you see Chili sipping on an after shift beer or tending to the Gardens, be sure to raise him a glass on a job well done.

If you want to learn more about our Gardens, the plants therein, and lessons that could translate to your own garden, join us for “A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman” on March 15th from 1-3pm. Nan is a popular speaker at garden shows, botanical gardens, garden clubs, and botanical societies throughout the State, and she’ll provide insight into how we “created an imaginative garden from an ugly, hole-in-the-ground sedimentation basin.”

-Matt Steele

Check out the flickr set: Gardening Stone-style with Chili

A Stroll Through the Gardens with Nan Sterman

Click for more information about this upcoming event

Bistro Feedback – We Get All Kinds…Even Some Good


We get a lot of feedback of all sorts. We respond to 99% of it. I don’t have the opportunity to do that much of the responding…trying to do my job and all of helping Steve to run the company…but from time to time I do get the chance to have a bit of a dialog. Often, the ones that come to me are the ones that deal with the philosophies and menu choices that we have for the Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens. Since I was the main driver behind the menu and philosophies, sometimes I’m the best to respond. So, when I can, I do.

This is one such short email thread that I thought I’d share.  It has some similarities to other email conversations, so it seemed relevant.

Cheers!

Greg

From: Rod M. Sent: Tue 2/10/2009 9:44 AM
To: Greg Koch
Cc: Frank Busic
Subject: RE: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
View As Web Page
From: Rod M.
Sent: Monday, February 09, 2009 3:50 PM
To: Stone Brewing
Subject:

Had lunch today at your brewery, and as always enjoyed the beer.

That said, the food is over priced and the portions are too small. I suppose if you served normal food portions, the price might be about right. Whereas we do understand the concept of keeping out the riff raff by charging high prices, beer drinking is for the working classes also.

The thought of serving a $5.99 cheese burger lunch might send chills up your spine, but you may even get more people to show up. The dining room was 2/3 empty while we were there. I am just a dirt archaeologist, so what do I know about business (especially in today’s economic climate).

Rod


From: Greg Koch [mailto:greg.koch@stonebrew.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 8:42 AM
To: Rod M.
Subject: RE: Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens

Rod, Thanks much for the feedback. It’s much appreciated. If you don’t mind, I’ll respond with an equally straightforward response.

First off, glad that you enjoy our beer. We know that it’s quite a bit more expensive than the generic industrial alternatives, and that you’re among the relatively small percentage of people who appreciate it and are willing to pay for something better. The truth is that most don’t ‘get’ specialty beers, and don’t see the value in them. However, that fact is changing and more and more people are getting turned on to the “affordable luxury” that great craft beer represents.

Regarding the prices of our food, I can assure you that it is not overpriced. A bold statement perhaps, but I can explain. I make that statement based upon the fact that our food cost percentages tend to skew higher than is typical in the restaurant business. In other words, the cost of our raw ingredients makes up a higher percentage of the cost of the finished plate than what the restaurant business considers is the right percentage. Most restaurants’ profitability on a plate of food is higher than ours. Why? Because the ingredients we buy cost significantly more than typical commodity foodstuffs.

You see, when we decided to build the restaurant and have folks over to our house (that’s how I see it…you’re an honored guest that is coming into our home, the brewery), I felt that I should research food and the food system. So I did. I read introductory level tomes such as Fast Food Nation and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and then moved on to more weighty books such as Food Politics, and The Ethics Of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter.

What I learned was not pretty. True, I had long been on the side of the Slow Food movement http://www.slowfoodusa.org/ but I will admit that I did not know the full depth that is the travesty of our food system in the United States. And I do not use the word “travesty” lightly.

In short, I came to the realization that we could not in good conscience participate in the commodity food system. Pre-processed foods? No. High fructose corn syrup? We enacted a complete ban. Factory meats? No way! Tasteless veggies that travel countless miles to get here? Absolutely not. Instead, we opted to prepare everything from scratch in our kitchen, source out higher quality ingredients, use all-natural meats and source our produce from local, small organic farmers.

The sad fact is that once you step outside of the industrialized food system, costs skyrocket dramatically. However, we believe that the value is indeed there.

The percentage of income that we spent on food has gone down dramatically in recent years, as illustrated in this pdf: http://www.ilfb2.org/fff06/51.pdf This otherwise generic article on the subject is especially relevant as a result of the three “comments” posted by readers at the end of it: http://www.salem-news.com/articles/july192006/food_prices_71906.php Conversely, the cost of our health care has skyrocketed. In fact it’s flip flopped with food costs since 1960. What we used to spend on food, we now spend on health care.

That there’s a connection between the health of our food, and the health of our population and planet is not a terribly new line of thought. However, most of our populace still seems to either not recognize this, or not want to recognize this. Yet, there is light. There are growing movements that are seeking to reverse the decline of the health of our people and our planet.

Please know that our philosophies are not geared towards “keeping out the riff raff.” While I might admit that a lower “riff raff” quotient might be overall desirable (it’s no secret that we’re not an establishment that caters to drunkards or hooligans), our goal has always been to do what we feel is right.

You are correct that the thought of a $6.99 hamburger does indeed send a chill up my spine, but not for the reason that you may have thought. The true reason would be the slashing and burning of our food philosophy and ethics that would be required to get there. I just won’t do that to our guests.

When you came yesterday, you may have noticed that you arrived on a day of torrential downpour. As you may know, Southern Californians are wholly unprepared and uncomfortable with rain events, and especially with blustery ones. Yesterday was especially blustery. It did indeed affect our lunch business yesterday. The modest crowd would be attributed to the fact that it was the Monday before Valentines (the restaurant business often takes a slight dip before and after major dining occasions such as Valentines, New Years, Mothers Day, etc.), and raining cats and dogs.

I am happy to report that our restaurant business went up by 20% in 2008, vs. 2007. Business remains solid in the early part of 2009. While not everyone ‘gets’ — or heck, even likes — what we do, there is indeed a significant number of people who are voting with their fork and dollar, and coming. And coming often.

My apologies for the long response, but as I felt that your concerns were quite understandable, I thought you deserved to know our perspectives.

In closing, I’d like to ask you to view the Food Declaration http://fooddeclaration.org/ when you get a chance. Hopefully, you’ll consider signing it and passing on the word. The health of our nation depends on it!

Cheers,

Greg

——-

Greg Koch, CEO
Stone Brewing Co.
Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens
1999 Citracado Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92029
760.471.4999 x1102


From: Rod M.

Mr. Koch,

Thank you for your response. I respect your enthusiasm and passion. Perhaps
more importantly, I like your beer. And, I get it. Healthy food, healthy
people, healthy planet. Some of us support the farmer’s market every Sunday
morning, and buy everything available that is organically produced. By the
way, in reading the food declaration attachment I did not read in the 12
principles a specific advocation for foods that are organically produced
(and are pesticide free).

In the meantime, the baby back ribs and cheese soup we ordered, while made
from scratch and from (and in support of) local farmer resources, would
cause my doctor to give me a severe reprimand based on the saturated fat
content. But perhaps that is all I was saying, once in a while we need a fun
break, and do the things we are not supposed to do while having a craft brew
— at an affordable price. It cost the two us $55 for lunch with tip,
including two tasters and two 8 oz beers. Our lunch would be defined as a
large bowl of soup, a scoop of hummus (we shared), and the smallest baby
back ribs I have seen in my entire life. I recommend that you have the staff
inform “guests” up front that there is a charge for every taster and not
just state that yes we will happily give you a taste of any beer you want.
We live AND learn.

The upshot is that we cannot afford lunch at the brewery on a regular basis.
Perhaps we will just drink and skip the food? Thank you again for your
reply.

Rod

PS- I am sincerely happy for you that business for Stone continues to go up.

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