While many of the restaurants that participate in San Diego Restaurant Week continue to ignore the impact of the local craft beer industry, several local breweries take it upon themselves to host events that pair gourmet dishes with their brews. Bay Ho’s Bitter Brothers Brewing Company has been open for less than a year, but they’ve gained a reputation for balanced beers that don’t necessarily live up to the company’s name…and that’s a good thing. One of the eponymous siblings, Bill Warnke, comes from a culinary background, so pairing events seem to be a natural fit for their operations.
After a successful first outing of Bitter Brothers’ “Family Dinner” series of pop-up dinners back in July, the company hosted its second tasting room dining experience last week. While the first menu featured globally-inspired dishes, the participating chefs sourced a bill of fare made with seasonal ingredients. The culinary artisans for the event were Warnke, former Ballast Point Sous Chef and current Bitter Brothers Beertender Travis Clifford, Melissa Mayer (Martini Media), Olivier Bióteau (A.R. Valentien) and Steve Brown (Cosecha). Clifford actually took the opportunity to announce his forthcoming venture, the Wanderer food truck, which should debut in the spring of 2017. Here’s a recap of the proceedings.
Kicking off the event was a passed amouse-bouche tray of brioche toast with curried goat cheese, apple compote and pepitas. Paired with this appetizer was Little Brother Citra IPA, which featured bright citrus flavors to cut through the richness of the goat cheese.
For the first served course, oysters from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans came out paired with Bitter Brothers’ fall seasonal version of Family Tart Berlinner Weisse, which was made with blood orange puree. From the West Coast, a Seattle Shigoku oyster came dressed with chocolate persimmon, toasted quinoa, basil and Thai chile. Representing Cape Cod, a Puffer Wellfleet oyster got a boost of brininess with cuttlefish ink and some funk from the addition of yeast.
Next came Warnke’s contribution to the menu, a scallop risotto with asiago pressato, purple shallots and root vegetable ribbons. There could be no better brew to pair with this rich dish than the beer named after the chef: Bitter Bill’s Pils.
With stomach space starting to wane, the first of two meat courses came to the table. For this dish, Clifford prepared duck two ways: a five spice breast and crispy confit leg served atop a layer of kabocha squash puree with huckleberry sauce and fried sage. The beer pairing for this dish was Bitter Brothers’ take on a traditional ESB, Extra Special Brother.
Looking at the menu, the one item that I mentally circled was the 72-hour sous vide beef cheek. While some might be turned off by the concept of eating part of a cow’s face, those who consume this tender trimming are treated to a unique texture and flavor that might be the best part of the cow. Accompanying the beef was a homemade spicy kimchi and a chicharrón made from fried beef tendon. To stand up to these bold flavors, Brotherly Love Dunkelweizen brought roasty chocolate tastes from the dark malt and coco nibs.
Capping off the evening was the most visually-appealing dish on the menu, a butterscotch baba (French soaked cake) surrounded by dipping sauces, marshmallows and cubes of semisweet chocolate truffle. To go with this decadent finisher, Head Brewer John Hunter presented his take on the classic Almond Joy candy bar: Aunt Joy, which is a toasted coconut Dark English Mild.