In front of me I was staring at a glorious en plein air painting that is the sunset west of San Diego’s prime Torrey Pines Mesa. I was inside The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a 5-star craftsman-style hotel next to a golf course that hosted the U.S. Open a couple of years ago. All that was the hors d’oeuvres. I came for the main course: a cuisine and beer pairing featuring top chefs from The Lodge’s impressive Grill restaurant and the best from local brewer AleSmith.
Arriving early, I took a seat at the concise yet elegant bar tucked away behind the cozy dining room of The Grill. AleSmith X was on tap – always a treat. With full glass in hand I made my way to mingle with the other patrons on the patio.
I introduced myself to Loren Miraglia, Co-Organizer of the National Homebrewers Conference & Encinitas resident. I asked why the NHC decided to set up shop in our hometown this year. He pointed to the sunset and then added, “the economy made hotel and venue prices much more affordable, so a San Diegan NHC was a no-brainer.” When pressed for more info, he simply smiled and referred me to the NHC website.
Waiters politely hovered through the crowd, their elegant trays offering the House Made Mini Pork Corn Dogs with a tomato confit as well as fresh glasses of X to accompany. Soon, the announcement was made that dinner was imminent. We took to our assigned seats on the two long tables that were set to accompany the 40 or so people present.
Upon settling in, Head Chef and mastermind behind The Grill’s beer pairing, Kyle Bergman gave an introduction and told us what to expect:
The first dish was to be a Smokey Pork Belly Salad with various fresh leafy greens and a dressing called “Green Goddess.” AleSmith’s Nautical Nut Brown Ale was the pairing choice.
For the second course was the Roasted Day Boat Baja Scallops with Beer Tempura Eggplant and Okra “Creamed Corn.” Evil Dead Red Ale was the choice for this dish.
The third course, a slow-roasted New York Strip with Fennel, Horseradish Potatoe Gratin, Roast Cauliflower, & Bordelaise Sauce, was paired with Decadance 2010.
After Kyle’s friendly introduction, AleSmith’s Peter Zien greeted us and elaborated briefly on the beers that would be coming with the dishes. Immediately after Peter took his seat, large plates were then placed in unison on the tables. Family style, the plates were passed around, and we began to dig in.
As one of few 5 Star locations in San Diego, Torrey Pines holds itself to a high standard of quality. Having dined at The Grill & stayed at The Lodge, as well as tasted all of the AleSmith offerings previously, I thought I knew what to expect. The pairings were flawless, and I was happily blown away. Specifically, the robust carmel/coffee notes from the Decadence 2010 formed a delicious duet of flavor with the New York Strip dish. This beer pairing was out of this world. As craft beer lovers, we are so fortunate that one of the most gorgeous hotels in the world is on board with beer pairings. It’s the talk of the region.
Luckily, The Grill chefs Luca Banfi (now at Tender Greens in Point Loma) and Kyle Bergman are both fellow North Parkers, so I caught a ride with them. I was in no position to operate a motor vehicle, not only because of the ABV, but also because I was in a sort of food-coma that can only come from a really great meal. Keep this in mind if you choose to attend in the future, and I recommend you do. For October, the Lodge brew and cuisine crew are offering a Lightning-themed beer pairing dinner on the 27th. Of course, they are going to be hosting the closing ceremonies for SDBW. See http://lodgetorreypines.com/beer/ for more information.